A Holy Act


by Olivia Gallagher Can sitting down to a Thanksgiving dinner be a holy act? I believe it can.

The gospels are packed full of Jesus ministering to people with one of the most ordinary things we do: eating. He demonstrates how life changing conversations can occur during normal, everyday activities. We don't have to look far to realize some of Jesus' most impactful times of ministry was over a meal.

His first recorded miracle was to refill drinks at a big event (John 2). He shared conversation with Mary while waiting for a meal, and encouraged Martha that the table didn't have to be perfect (Luke 10:38-42). He ate with people who were both easy and hard to get along with. He shared big news, and big encouragement during one of his last meals (John 13).

So lets be intentional this holiday season! Let's offer to refill drinks, or hold a meaningful conversation while the turkey cooks. Let's help mom and tell her to sit down, that everything looks beautiful and you want her presence at the table. Whether your dinner table is full of difficult people, or people you feel at home with, let's make the most of every opportunity just like Jesus did.


Love sets the table


Sarah Ortega, one of our base leaders here at Pismo, recently wrote this post on hospitality that we wanted to share with you! If you've ever been to the Ortega's house for dinner, you know how good she is at making you feel loved. For more of her writings, check out her blog at:

"Practicing hospitality right where we are with the people we love is always a good place to start giving away our love. Especially when we use what we have and do with it what we can. Whether we use paper plates or fancy china, no one really cares what the place settings look like if a person is sitting where they're loved. It's a reminder to me that we buy the plates, but love sets the table."

-Maria Goff, Love Lives Here

I remember at the beginning of 2016 as we thought about the year ahead of us, I told Aaron that my heart for the year was to have as many people over for dinner as possible. Up to that point my worry of cooking the right food and keeping a perfect home was greater than my desire for cultivating deep community and making room for togetherness. The days were too busy, I had an infant, our house was too small, I might burn the rice... the excuses were unending. I finally decided that if this was going to happen, I needed to keep it simple, keep it a priority, and keep doing it!

There is something immensely sacred about opening your home, joining together at a table and sharing a meal. That is what I came to find as we welcomed family after family, couple after couple and single after single. We broke bread with retired grandparents, college students, young families, people we had known for years and people we had met once or twice. I soon learned how to cook for every food intolerance and preference- dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, whole 30, you name it!

Before long our teeny tiny house was filled with so much love. Our community grew as did our hearts. Whether it was sourdough pizza served on paper plates in our backyard or sweet potato black bean chili around our secondhand kitchen table, it was served with love and offered with care. 

The desire that stirred up in my heart that year has become a lifestyle for us, a lifestyle of invitation, hospitality, and connection. When people come over we don't just share a meal, we share our hearts, our lives. It truly is a beautiful and sacred thing. 

How do you cultivate community? What is something you have learned about hospitality?

I'll leave you with this prompting and one of my favorite quotes from Shauna Niequist in her book, Bread and Wine.

"This is what I want you to do: I want you to tell someone you love them, and dinner's at six. I want you to throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter. I want you to light a burner on the stove, to chop and stir and season with love and abandon. Begin with an onion and a drizzle of olive oil, and go from there, any one of a million different places, any one of a million different meals. Gather the people you love around your table and feed them with love and honesty and creativity. Feed them with your hands and the flavors and smells that remind you of home and beauty and the best stories you've ever heard, the best stories you've ever lived." 

Are we there yet? Pt.2

Are We There Yet?
Part 2
By Lori Barrow
International Travel with kids: “I want to go home”
Being a missionary family, we’ve done our share of international travel with our lovely offspring. Whether you’ll be traveling with 1, 2, 3, or 4 (or more) children across the open waters, here are a few of my go-to tips and tricks for making the whole trip go a bit smoother and not hear those dreaded little words every other day, “I want to go home!”
  1. Stir Up Excitement 
Going overseas can be a bit overwhelming for kids to imagine and a little scary when they don’t know what to expect.  I try to stir up excitement for our upcoming trip in a couple of ways.
  • Research with your kids.  Google the country to answer questions like, what does it look like, what do they eat, what do the people look like and wear?   I also like to check out geography books in the children’s library so they can look over it in the weeks prior to our trip. Watch videos on the travel network or even movies that take place in your destination country or a similar culture.  This really helps create a sense of expectation in your children and will also help them feel more familiar with the culture once you land.
  • Go to a restaurant with that type of food if possible.  Going to Thailand?  Hit up your local Thai restaurant.  India, China, Mexico, etc - most of these are fairly common restaurants you can find all over the country. A benefit of this is sometimes you may even meet someone from the country you are going to you can talk with and ask questions!  Try making a local dish at home as a family activity if you don’t have the restaurant available.
  • Learn a little language.  Knowing how to say ‘Hi’, ‘Bye’, ‘Thank you’, and a few other simple phrases will go a long way.  I’ve found people love it when you know how to greet them in their own language, and I haven’t met a child yet who doesn’t love learning how to say a few words that sound so different from anything they know.  Expect a lot of giggling during these lessons.
  1. Bring a piece of home along. 
Kids need some sort of stability even when gallivanting around the world.  Bring along that favorite blanket, stuffy, lego set or toy, book, or even pictures of loved ones they can look at when they start feeling homesick.  My kids each pack their own carry on bags (with supervision so nothing is left behind) and it includes one or more of these items plus activities to do while traveling.  It won’t be home, but it’s a little anchor to home for their little hearts. (I do this for myself too!)
3.  Familiar Food
Depending on where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone, familiar food is a huge deal to kids (unless you have ones with adventurous palettes).  For shorter trips, I will pack a Costco size amount of instant oatmeal packets, granola bars, and fruit snacks.  Nut butters are good to bring along and can be really expensive overseas depending where you go. On longer trips I also budget to buy staples they like which may not be standard in the culture we’re visiting.  You’ll be surprised how much plain cheddar cheese can be, so make sure you have a bit of a bigger food budget for your kids than you would for yourself, counterintuitive I know, but super helpful for times when they flat out refuse to eat one more noodle dish or rice and beans.
4.  Establish a Rhythm
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned during longer jaunts, is to try to establish a rhythm for our days and weeks.  As chaotic as our homes are with our precious babes, they actually need structure and stability to be able to function well as little humans.  Our family traveling is usually for ministry purposes rather than vacation, so if you’re on vacation, this may happen more naturally anyway.  Our time though, is often filled with meetings, coffee dates to debrief other workers, outings for ministry, etc.  It is important for our us to give the kids a slower schedule, have a routine in the mornings and set aside time to connect with one another.  They are little people with big emotions, and living in a constant state of transition (ie. traveling) can be upsetting and make those emotions go on grand display.  We make sure to schedule in family down times and also incorporate outings the kids are able to choose to make sure they feel included in our whole time abroad.  There are still quite a few rocky moments, but the more the kids know what to expect of our day and can rely on certain things always happening, the more peace our kids have within themselves and with each other.
5.  Entertainment
International travel often means long plane rides and most of the time, lots of waiting. Many other cultures operate at a much slower pace than we do in the west, and that can be hard for kids to adjust to.  Being prepared with things for them to do will save you from the constant chorus we all know so well, “I’m bored!”
If you haven’t yet, read part one of this blog post:  Several of the activities we prepare and use for road trips, are also great ideas for long plane rides. Some don’t take much space and can be used in multiple ways, very handy when you only have one carry on bag each!
For kids who can read, I make sure to download our local library app and Hoopla, and have them choose as many e-books as they can to put on their Kindles. We also allowed them to download a few new games.  I spaced out the when they could play a new game to help the time go faster and keep the newness of the games last longer.  (*Side note: I do set time limits for tech normally, but when we’re on the plane it’s free for all).
Small Toys: For in country bribery, I mean fun, I bring along several new small toys for each child to pass out as I need. Small things like lego sets, puzzle books, figurines, and play-dough, are easy to travel with and can bring great joy and hours of entertainment when the world is falling apart and there is absolutely “Nothing to do!”.
All in all, I’m a huge fan of traveling, and a firm believer that travel helps our kids grow into more well rounded humans with a larger view of the world than we can give them through the travel channel.  When you get the opportunity to go, don’t let any fear of traveling with children prevent you from taking that leap and experiencing something only a different culture can offer you.  With a little preparation and a lot of deep breathing and patience, it will be an experience you never forget and so very worth all the momentary trials that come along the way.
Happy Traveling!

Are we there yet?

Part 1: Traveling with children and still loving each other when you arrive.
by Lori Barrow
Every summer our family practices the ultimate exercise in growing towards one another in love and good will: “The Road-trip.” I’m not sure how this event has wormed it’s way into our yearly summer vacation, but we’re four years running now, and last year we embarked on the Mother of All Road-trips; a transcontinental adventure spanning from Pismo Beach, CA to Toronto, Canada and back.
Now I know some of you are already doing the math in your head (one mini van + one roof cargo carrier+ 4 kids under ten + 2 parents + 52 hours one way + 21 days total + one wedding + one family reunion = INSANE) and you have counted yourself out! But not so fast my dear friends, I have discovered a few tips and some tried and kid-approved activities that will bring some peace to your vehicle and allow you too to experience the fun and adventure that road-tripping can be.
  1. Activity Boxes
Especially for the pre-readers - I used pencil boxes and zip lock bags and created a few activity kits to hand out throughout the day.  A few favorites:
  • Pipe cleaners and beads. Each pipe cleaner had a paper square glued to one end with a number written on it. She then had to thread that many beads on the pipe cleaner and count them out loud.
  • Oversized buttons and shoe laces, perfect for threading.
  • Chalk Board Trays: I spray painted dollar store cookie sheets with chalk board paint. These worked as drawing surfaces and tray tables for other activities. They are also magnetic which we used for another activity.
  1. Travel Binders
I created a binder for each child with age appropriate activity pages. Each binder had:
  • A pencil pouch with a dry erase marker, colored pencils (we don’t do crayons in the car, heat + wax = no good), a pen, a pencil.
  • A map of our entire trip, one page for each day’s journey.
  • Connect the dot pages, word searches, drawing prompt pages, pencil game pages, etc.
  • State activity pages for each state we were driving through.
  • Letter dot pages and round stickers.
I used tab dividers and spaced out the pages for each day. This way they were only allowed to work on the pages for that day, ensuring that there were new activities each day we were on the road. Reusable activities went into page protectors so they could use a dry-erase marker and wipe it clean to play again.
  1. Parental Sanity Tools
  • Post it notes. Seriously.These are fantastic and can be used in a variety of ways. Give a small stack to the littles for them to pull apart and put back together. Place a row of them on the dashboard with each hour written on them until your next stop (9am, 10am, 11am, etc). At every hour give the children a new activity or snack and remove the post it, helps them stop asking for things every five minutes and have some idea of how long until the next stop.
  • Little toys or snacks, for handing out at these hour intervals. Pieces of gum, toy cars, stickers, fidget spinners, anything small and inexpensive your children would like.
  • Baby wipes, paper towels, kids and adult tylenol, bandaids, essential oils/car diffuser.
  1. Audio Aids
    1. Family Play list - I asked each person to choose 2 songs and compiled a play list. This created a 12 song eclectic loop that everyone enjoyed.
    2. Audio Books - driving through the plains can be a little boring (no offense plain dwellers), and while the kids had activities to occupy themselves, I found myself going crazy staring at the endless horizon!  Thus the audio book.  Will and I have never listened to books together before and found it a bit addicting. There are several apps you can download books from, but I like to use our local library online system to borrow books for our trips.
  1. Adventure Stops
Plan your route ahead and be sure to stop at some fun places and famous land marks to take photos and get out the wiggles.  We found the best park at a random stop in Grand Junction, Co - it’s sure to be a planned stop on future trips through Colorado.
Check out my Road Trippin’ Pinterest Board for these ideas and more that I put into play last year!
Road-trips can be enjoyable, and with a little planning and preparation I think you’ll find some of the best moments and memories are in store as you load up your car and hit the road!
Tune in for Part 2 - International travel with kids.

Serving in YWAM as a family


At 18 years old I remember boarding my plane to San Jose, Costa Rica. I had just applied to my DTS in Heredia less than a month prior and little did I know that the next six months would change my life. I met my husband, Aaron on the school and as newlyweds we went on to work with YWAM in South America. We eventually moved back to California, started our family and two kids later we were pastoring a church in San Bernardino. I looked back on our YWAM years with fondness and we were always excited when the young people from our congregation felt called to do their DTS.

When our daughter was two and our son was just four months I remember Aaron telling me that he felt that God was calling us back to YWAM. I thought he was ten kinds of crazy and even though I knew of families serving in missions, surely it wasn’t for us. As a 20-something I was happy to live out of a backpack in South America but with two small children it was a different story. In the months that followed God changed my heart and gave me a peace that could only have been from Him.

In July 2013 we packed whatever belongings would fit on our cars and made our way to Pismo Beach. Since then we have staffed and led DTS’s, pioneered a secondary school, and added another baby to our family. I can't tell you what a blessing it has been for our children to grow up in this environment. They are surrounded by different cultures, languages and food and also have countless honorary aunts and uncles from around the world. Last year we took our eight month old daughter to Greece to work with refugees and at the end of this year all five us will travel to Nicaragua to lead a three month outreach.

Serving as a missionary family has taught me to have more dependance and trust in God than I ever have before. I have had to lay down my rights and walk in obedience at times when I was scared and full of doubt. We have made sacrifices and have had to say no to our own agendas.

Being a family in missions has also been the most fulfilling, rewarding and valuable experience for us and our children. I wouldn't trade these years for anything and I look forward to what God has in store for our family in the coming years here at YWAM Pismo Beach.

-Sarah Ortega