Planning our Italian Vacation

In December of 2016, my husband and I began talking about possibly going to Italy. At first, Kevin was not too keen on the idea. But then when he remembered all the art that we could see there, and all the amazing food they have in Italy, he quickly changed his mind!

We still weren't sure if an actual trip to Italy would happen, but when our friend shared about some inexpensive fares to Rome, we had to look into making the trip a possibility!

Lindsey and her husband have been to Europe four times in the last 5 years! They love to help people who have a tight budget make their European travel dreams possible. So we contacted Ciao Bella Vacations to help us get started with the planning process.

I highly recommend contacting Lindsey if you are thinking about traveling to Europe. She had us answer a lot of questions to help us plan our trip. She booked all of our Airbnb's, our flights, and most of our trains. She even suggested many additional activities for each of the three locations we would be visiting during our trip. And she provided us with a lot of great travel tips, especially since this would be our first time traveling to Europe.

Our selfie at Pompeii

We are both hoping that our first trip to Italy will not be our last!

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?

Stay tuned...I will be sharing more about our trip in upcoming posts!

Bringing a bit of Italy home to our table

After spending ten days in Italy last month, all I want to do now is learn to make homemade pasta, cappuccinos, croissants, and authentic Pasta e Fagioli.

If anyone has the most amazing recipes for any of these, please feel free to pass them along!

Over the past few years, I have made a Pasta e Fagioli recipe, but when I ordered it for dinner one night in Orvieto, the recipe I make looks nothing like this:

Pasta e Fagioli in Orvieto Italy

It was cold in Italy and all I wanted was a bowl of soup for dinner. This was so amazing! Rather than being tomato based like I was used to at home, this was more like a white bean soup filled with homemade pasta.

So I began to search the internet for a recipe that might be similar and I was happy to find one and made sure to add it to one of my Pinterest boards.

This week, I added the ingredients to my grocery list:

Ingredients for Pasta e Fagioli

Today was the day to give the recipe a try:

Homemade Pasta e Fagioli

This recipe came together pretty quickly. Since I have not tried to make homemade pasta yet, this is probably as close as I am going to get to the soup I had in that restaurant in Orvieto.

Have you ever tried Pasta e Fagioli like this?

Meet Sarah from International Blessings!

In our age of technology and social media, I love how we can connect with people across this big spinning globe of ours who have similar interests. Recently, I have been learning more about the fair trade industry and one small business here in the United States that is helping to make a difference in the lives of families around the world.

Let me introduce you to Sarah!

Sarah graciously allowed me to interview her for my blog so that I can share with all of you the great work and products she has to help each one of us make better choices as consumers.

1. Tell me a little about you and your family.

My husband and I have been married for 5 years. We have 2 kids - Nora is 3 years old and Nate is 20 months old. We live in a small rural community near my parents farm. Both my husband and I grew up on farms so agriculture is a big part of our lives. We are also active in our church and community.  My husband works for the University of Missouri as a Beef Research Specialist. I am a stay at home mom and business owner. I love to travel internationally, and have been blessed to have served in 24 countries around the world.

2. When you were a little girl, what did you dream about doing when you grew up?

I dreamed of being an agricultural missionary for as long as I can remember. I specifically remember wanting to go to Brazil on a mission trip while in the 8th grade. But my parents thought I was too young and that maybe it was just a phase!  I desperately wanted to see & experience the world, while serving and sharing the love of Christ.

3. How does International Blessings fit into that dream?

International Blessings keeps me connected to the international world. It gives me opportunities to make a difference by serving impoverished people and to connect 2 worlds, 2 lifestyles, 2 cultures so that they can support each other. And this year, it has led me back to my roots as an international missionary by taking me to Peru to visit artisans and to serve the Peruvian people. In Sept, I will also be going to Haiti to visit artisans I currently work with, create new partnerships, and to serve alongside ministries that are already impacting the Haitian people.

4. Tell me a bit more about International Blessings...how did you get started, why did you start it?

My first mission trip was in 2003, and I had just finished my junior year of highschool. It was to Ecuador, and I then proceeded to serve in Panama, Bali, Burkina Faso, Belize, Mexico, and India. While I was in Burkina Faso, I made friends with a local girl and hung out with her family. She taught me how to macrame (crafting with knots) bags and/or purses. It was here that God laid on my heart a desire to help families like hers. I saw those creative, handmade bags and thought about the impact that selling those bags in the U.S. could make on families in poverty. But it took me awhile before I seriously pursed this dream. After graduating from College of the Ozarks near Branson, Mo, I went on the World Race in October 2008.  The World Race is a life changing experience, serving in 11 countries in 11 months, sharing God's love through children's ministry, construction, prayer walks, etc, living out of a backpack, and pushing every comfort zone you have.  

Shortly after arriving home, I married my husband (we dated before and during my trip, well, as much as you can when you are thousands of miles apart with little communication!!).  It wasn't until I was married with our first child that I decided I needed to start that dream that God had laid on my heart so many years prior, and International Blessings was born.

5. How do you form partnerships with your artisans?

A few of my partnerships came from contacts that I made while doing international mission work or through the mission networks that I am a part of. I have also done a lot of research through google and social media looking for small artisan groups, specifically Christian ministries that work to break the cycle of poverty. The connections that I have made have also led to new partnerships. I went to Peru in January to visit a group called Sanyork Fair Trade, and this trip led to meeting 2 more artisan groups. And I will be going to Haiti to visit 2-3 artisans groups as well!  I am so excited to see what God has in store for International Blessings and the impact that we can have on empowering impoverished people around the world.

6. What is your goal for International Blessings?

My ultimate goal for International Blessings is to build relationships in the poorest of the poor places, to teach life & business skills, and to provide impoverished people around the world the resources necessary to start their own businesses that will transform their lives. 

International Blessings is my passion and my purpose. My heart was broken over and over at the sight of poverty, of hopelessness, and of desperation in the eyes of the smallest kids. I want to change that!  I want to give those families hope, dignity, and possibility that has a lasting affect.  This business is creating sustainable livelihoods and breaking that cycle of poverty. As Mother Teresa said, "Not all of us can do great things. But we CAN do small things with great love." And if we each commit to doing those small things, then those small things become great things that we accomplish together.

Thank you so much Sarah for the interview! And hey my friends, be sure to like her Facebook page where you can see a few videos from her recent trip to Haiti where she has been visiting with artisans and purchasing products to sell here in the United States.

Colombia Day Six: Our Final Day

Our final day in Colombia was spent at a church with the most energetic, passionate pastor I have ever met. Here is a video of his sharing with our group at the end of our day together:

So you know if he had this much energy at the end of our day together, you can just imagine how much energy he had at the beginning of our day!

Our day at this center started like many other center visits with presentations by the children. But I don't believe any of us were prepared for this (be sure to have kleenex handy...):

I know you may want to pass over the video, but don't...it is one of the most precious things I have ever watched.

Yes, God is in this city in Colombia.

And He is in many more cities just like this one.

In many more communities and countries around our world.

He is waiting for His people to do His work to share with His children just how much they are loved by Him.

I am not saying that you need to sponsor a Compassion child. 

Sweet little girl Compassion Colombia

But if you have ever felt that tug at your heart...

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
— https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+58%3A6-10&version=ESV

Colombia Day Two: Child Survival Program

Day two of our trip took us to a coastal community southwest of Santa Marta. The church we visited has been in the community for the past 20 years and has partnered with Compassion for 7 years now. Currently, they are making a difference in the lives of 340 children and their families.

CSP moms and their babies

Today, we learned about the Child Survival Program, or CSP. Currently, the Child Survival Program is in operation in all 26 countries where Compassion is partnering with the local churches. This program is a little different from the child sponsorship program. The CSP functions to assist pregnant and new moms until their child is three years of age, and it is more of a home based program.

On this particular day, the moms and their babies spent time with us at the church, entertaining us, helping us with a craft, and answering questions we had for them. The one thing that really impacted me here was one mother's answer to a question about what they are learning as part of the CSP:

 "We are learning to love our children."
Child Survival Program baby

These moms and their families are learning about the importance of the church in their community. Many of the families are now attending church...together. They are realizing the hope of the Gospel and how it can transform their lives, and the lives of their children.

Child Survival Program home visit

In the afternoon, we split up into groups to visit homes of the CSP moms. Our group visited Jamie and her family. Jamie was a gracious hostess and gladly welcomed us into her home. She told us that she likes spending time learning about God and Psalms is her favorite book of the Bible. Luis, the father of her two children, is really happy that Jamie and Luis David can attend the CSP. Jamie told us that she receives a lot of encouragement, is learning income generation skills, and is learning how to help Luis at home.

Jamie and Luis have dreams for their children to finish their studies and find a good career. They are really no different than any other family. Don't you have the same dreams for your children?

By partnering with Compassion's Child Survival Program, you can help give moms and babies a chance to thrive. And not only thrive physically, but to thrive spiritually as well. In the past year, over 4200 moms came to know Christ as part of the CSP around the world.

For $20 a month, you can help support a CSP and help moms and their babies today!