Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Concluding Thoughts - Homeward Bound

As we conclude our amazing journey we thought we would share some highlights of our trip as a final post from the Beijing Airport. Here they are:

Being together,

Visiting the Kunming infant orphanage that SCF is supporting and spending time with the babies,

Tea with a Monk at the Zhongdian Lamasery,

Visiting the school project at Tsing Yi - buying desks with money from sister Jennie and mom - Max and Jake teaching a boy about football - the first of the Wartburg Orange balls as a way to make friends and bring smiles to faces,

Hiking in the Himalayan foothills,

The beautiful mountain drives,

The "road" trip to the REMOTE village where we worshiped in a church and ate AUTHENTIC food in a village that had never seen young or female foreigners,

Spending time with the dentist and doctor at the Ren Li Clinic; delivering more dental equipment to them; and have them so proud to be using the equipment we have previously delivered and purchased for them,

Climbing to over 14,900 at the Snow Mountain Glacier,

The amazing and sometimes strange meals and food - yak, squid, grasshoppers, shark lip, fish fin, chicken tongue, quail eggs, and soft pig bone just to mention a few,

The boys becoming master bargainers in Zhongdian and Old Town LiJiang,

Walking the food markets and seeing a completely different culture of buying food and supplies - including live animals,

Learning of the success of the SCF scholarship initiatives including Orphan J who is blind,

Visiting the Education Center that SCF has helped develop,

Visiting a place of worship on Sunday,

Meeting with the "bottle man's family" to learn of their continued efforts to impact the lives of others,

Dinner with Dr. Ruth (who SCF supported through medical school) and her husband, Gao Ming, to learn of her life saving medical career to date and her vision to have her own clinic in a remote area,

The Great Wall where we indulged Scott on photo ops, had Martha's famous cookies, a Coke (and Beer), the Doctor, tossing the football, and riding the sled down the mountain,

A walk through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and most importantly,

Coming Home to those we love and who love us!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Great Wall

Today everyone was ready to call it a day after a three hour plane ride, but the group continued on to the Great Wall.

After an hour long bus ride out to the Wall we became surrounded by people attempting to sell us stuff. Ice cold water, t-shirts, and all kinds of things we didn't need. After going through the tourist trap we arrived at the gondola and arrived at the Great Wall.

We researched and found that the wall is 13,000 miles long. The group only covered about 100 yards of the wall, and Steve found the one spot with a breeze and shade.

The group was obviously getting on edge with Scott as he had many different photos he wanted to take with many different things. These included Drake Cheer shirts, the Doctor, and Martha's famous cookies. They will hopefully all be appreciated.

Be Orange.

Go Drake Cheer!

A Coke toast for Mr. Tyler.

Martha's famous cookies at the Wall.

The Doctor makes it to the Walk for a toast.

Drake Women's Basketball gets a shout out.

Jake and Max were possibly the first people to throw a football on the Great Wall. After multiple throws the ball bounced off the wall and landed in the bushes "on the good side."

Jake and Scott used their bartering skills to trade two Wartburg balls for an ice cold beer. Even though the women was decked in communist clothes, the deal was nothing but good ole' capitalism.

The descent down was one full of energy as we went down a toboggan ride. David, our interpreter, was doubtful as the first sign said "toboggan is simple" followed by "toboggan is dangerous." The ride was eventful and everyone made it down safely with safety advisors telling the boys to slow down the entire time.

After caving in to the tourist trap and buying some t-shirts the gang loaded up the van and headed for the hotel. Deciding to get room service and plenty of rest as we have a long journey ahead of us - after we go to Tiananman Square and the Forbidden Palace.

Everyone is ready to be home. Max and Jake's reflections on the Great Wall.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Relationships are Key to Changing the World

Our work in China through SCF and related projects with Rotary Club of Des Moines AM, and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, are based in trusting relationships with caring people.

On Sunday we had a full day of relationship building and site visits with numerous projects we are involved with in the LiJiang area.

We visited the new Education Center that grew from the successful homeschooling of two children to 26 current students from K-12 (US equivalent). The upper grade students will fly to Hong Kong to take their SAT and ACT tests from entrance to US colleges and universities.

We spent significant time with a friend who is helping us facilitate scholarship funding for a blind girl we met at the LiJiang Ethnic Orphanage school many years ago. She is now 16 and in a special school in Kunming and working to be self sufficient.

We met with one of the doctors we put through medical school who has some amazing experiences in life saving medical treatment. She has a dream to build a clinic in a remote area and serve those most in need.

We also went to the market where EVERYTHING you can imagine is sold - and some things you can't imagine.

It was a full day that again brought home the significance of trusting relationships necessary to have a positive impact in the world.

Pictures will follow.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Greetings from 4680 Meters

Scott Raecker sent you this message that was typed with one finger on a small touchpad

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A trip to the dentist in Ren Li

Today we journeyed to the Ren Li Medical / Dental Clinic.

We delivered toothbrushes donated by Delta Dental through Jeff Russell, and dental equipment from Dr. Dan Bartlett, the Dr. Hall Fisher family, and the last hand pieces from the Dr. James A. Raecker family.

It was a joy to be recognized by the dentist and doctor who remember us from our prior visits and delivery of equipment.

We were so thrilled to see dad's photo displayed and the knowledge that his equipment is being used and is making a positive difference in the lives of others.

Jake is in the process of applying to dental college and just finished a dental internship in Denver - so we thought it was a good time to take a look at what the future holds (in a dental chair purchased by the Rotary Club of Des Moines AM).

Off the Beaten Path there is a Church in the Wild

Today we awoke in northwest Yunnan Province.
This is one of those days that has been in the making for nearly a decade as we planned to travel to a remote village where SCF and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church have partnered on a significant project.  Also, on these trips we learn as much about ourselves as we do the people we encounter, and today was just that kind of day. 
We started the journey in two taxi vans for a trip we anticipated to take about an hour.  In about 20 minutes we had arrived at the road that would take us to this remote village.
As you can see from the pictures in the previous posts, "road" is a generous term for what was more of a rock pathway.  We decided this was an exceptional path for a donkey or horse.  Unfortunately we were in small minivans.
After the first of what were more than 50 switchbacks, it was clearly evident we were not going to get to the village in the minivans so we started to walk up the path as the vans made progress without us.
As we walked, we encountered many friendly Lisu villagers who were working hard to repair, or in places, build the road.  After about an hour the vans started shuttling a few at a time up the rest of the mountain as the path became more firm. 
Steve, Jake, Max and Scott had worked their way ahead (slow and steady wins the race was the encouragement that Steve provided several times) so they were the last to get a ride up.  In fact, Steve and Jake walked the furthest today, and after some fairly loud and demonstrative "international communication" between Scott and the driver – Steve and Jake were picked up to ride the remainder of the way in the same van. 
Shall we just say it was a ride we will never forget!   We did arrive safe and actually created history as Cindy, Max and Jake, were the first foreigners of their age (Jake and Max) or gender (Cindy) to ever visit these friendly people – in the history of humankind.
Our first stop was their new church for a quick visit before making the hike to their village home complex which includes all aspects of living including their livestock.
We entered the complex to them flushing out their pig-pen which it appeared had not been done in some time.  Timing is everything.
They treated us like royalty  fixing a very large meal. So much food that our leftovers fed the rest of this multi-generational family of many members.  We had eggs, pork, bamboo, chicken, pickled something (we think beans), and fish (Scott ate the very large eye, all on his own, and was just able to keep it down).
After the meal we went back to the church where he villagers (who were not repairing the road) joined us for worship and praise.  The Lisu sang to us – Stand Up, Stand Up, for Jesus; and we sang Amazing Grace, and together we sang Jesus Loves Me.  There was then a series of prayers, and we Raecker boys offered up our traditional family prayer.
Following prayers we presented infant quilts made by the Gloria Dei Quilters and infant hats made by Cheryl Gilg.  Of course the Wartburg Orange balls came out to make the children happy as well as Iowa pins for the elders.  We also distributed red wrist bands that say, "Keep the Faith" that have been a rallying prayer for our SCF founder and board member, Brad Peyton, who is standing strong and keeping the faith as he experiences the healing power of prayer in his battle against cancer.
We then received beautiful Lisu bags as gifts and parted our ways after a closing prayer and a receiving line of all members to bid us goodbye.
We had an uneventful minivan ride down the path in less than 30 minutes and made our way to the road for the 6 hour, or more, bus ride to LiJiang.  Which is where we are now, high in the mountains, where it is raining and our driver is doing an exceptional job.
Closing today with our family prayer that we offered at the village church and to those of you following us:
"Heavenly Father, hear or prayer. Keep us always in thy care.  Help us always to be good, and to do the things we should. Loving those who love us so, and kind to everyone we know. And bless those who are near and dear to us, wherever they may be. Amen.

More on the Road #3

Check out the wrists on our new brothers and sisters.

More on the Road #2

We thank Him that we have arrived!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More on the Road #1

On the Road

Today the team had breakfast at the Compass with Joe who is the owner.

We then went to his bakery which is called the "In n Out." He also has a shop and rents space to several others.

We then embarked on a 7 hour bus journey that would best be described as:

Jake: Scenic and the fastest 7 hour bus ride of my life.

Steve: Breathtaking. Spectacular.

Max: Mostly untouched land and completely unimaginable.

Scott: One of those - "You had to be there moments" in life.

We followed the Yangtze River and then connected up with the Mekong River and arrived in a VERY small village that we are not sure of the name.

Jake made friends immediately with some kids using the orange balls from Wartburg.

Rooms were $9.63 each so we splurged and got two. Dinner for 9 was $30.60 - and it did include three warm beers.

Tomorrow we head to an even smaller village where SCF and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church embarked on a significant project.

We are anxious to meet these friends who are Lisu.

We have found the world to be shrinking ever more as we stay connected through the iPhone5.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Challenging Roads Lead to Wondrous Opportunities

Jake and Max have again been tasked with the blog for the day - with a few additions from Steve and Scott. It would have been posted sooner except Scott had to narrow down his 590 pictures from the  day to match what we wanted to write.

Our day began with a western breakfast of eggs, pancakes, and bacon at the Compass CafĂ©, which is one of many business aspects that the Compass utilizes.  After a hearty American breakfast we set out on our next leg of our journey to a village called Tsing Yi.

David, our guide, had a small mix up with how big our vehicle needed to be.  So, we crammed nine people into a van with four in the way back.  It should be noted that the Chinese drivers seem that air conditioning is pointless as the driver, and Steve, went back and forth turning it on and off.  We found that the temperature was the least of our worriers as we embarked on the "highway."  Filled with pot holes and being a fairly narrow road we became a little on edge.  However, the good Lord looked over our driver and got us everyone to the village safely.

As we arrived in the village we were greeted by a school full of youngsters.  This school is a project of Vic, another one of our guides.  The kids were initially shy, but they began to light up as we taught them how to say Go Hawks and Rose Bowl (it was obvious Dan and Deb Timmons had not made the journey this year).  The children then became ecstatic as we handed out six Wartburg Orange balls.  After they caught the ball the children were then greeted with a high five from the big foreigners.  The kids finally got the hang of sharing and throwing the balls back and forth to each other.  This then began to cause mayhem as Max realized throwing three balls in the air at once really gets these youngsters going.

The school itself is in need of a lot of repair due to vandals breaking windows and causing damage to the school.  These vandals believe the children do not need an education to herd yak and collect mushrooms.  We were reminded of how little some people have and how things that seem to mean nothing to us make a big difference to others.  The school has so many needs for the 60 children who attend.  They have two teachers who each make $2,250 ANNUALLY! The children are taken into town once each month for a shower.  It appears that the right people are in place to enhance the basic needs of the school and Vic intends to continue to include SCF in his vision for the future of these students and this area. 

We capped off our day at the school by using funds that were donated to SCF from our Aunt Jennie - who is a teacher.  We presented these to the school teacher who will use the funds to buy new desks for the kids.

As Jake and Max left the school yard to go look at the basketball courts they spotted a younger child in the field.  Jake waved him over and he ran with glee.  They decided this was an ideal time to teach a young Chinese boy how to play catch with an American pigskin.  Needless to say he had some great coaches and the kid was a natural.  He began running routes around the courtyard.  It reminded us of the tailgates in the dental parking lot back home.

We then made our way to one of the teacher's houses where we shared a great view from their roof and not so great yak butter tea.  A large dog chained to a not so large tree seemed to bark at anything that was in plain sight.  We then left the premise and entered another hour long bus ride.

The next part of our day included  going on a hike/tour with our guide Andy who is originally from upstate New York.  He has lived in China for six years with his wife and three young boys and they all absolutely love life here.  We started the tour in his village where we had the best yak butter tea we have experienced.  We also enjoyed very good conversation with this guy who was trying to figure out his calling in life.  We then took our tour in his old fashioned Jeep coined the Beijing Beater.  He was such a great guide hat he even found a roadside stand so Scott could get a Coke in his Tyler's Bottling shirt.We hiked in the foothills of the Himalayas and enjoyed fresh air and piles of yak dung.  We saw amazing sights and it was well worth the time and money spent.

We concluded our day with a Yak Hot Pot at a local restaurant and some time spent in Old Town.  Another great day filled with the love of family, adventure, and building relationships to make a difference in the lives of others.

Tomorrow will travel 6 hours by bus to the Wexi area. The next day we can either walk an hour ad a half or ride a tractor to an area that has friends of SCF.   As small as the world has become, there are still a few places that don't have Verizon coverage so we will be off the grid for the next couple of days and catch up with you when we arrive in LiJiang.

Scott Raecker | Executive Director
Character Counts In Iowa

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