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Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far Far Away

For the past several weeks there has been a dark cloud, an ominous black fog if you will, hanging over me. It's there when I wake up, it's with me when I go to bed, it follows me down the street, and even into the bathroom. What is this black fog? Well, when you put the two together it is just what it is: The BLOG.

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know. I haven't written in FOREVER, but I have a good excuse: Okay, I have a lame excuse. What I do not have is internet. Or time. But don't worry, because right now I have both plus an extra special ingredient - stories. Man, have I got stories for you!

So a couple of weeks ago Danny and I went to the Gambia. It's a small country in West Africa right by Senegal. Yeah, we hopped on a plane one day and went to Africa. You know us, throwing all caution to the wind, rolling with the waves of life, following the stars and all that yabber.

We went to set up a one-week mission for our new project that we're doing with high schools here in Walsall. We're going to be doing a 12-week program with 6th form students (the equivalent of 12th graders in Canada) where we educate about third world poverty for 8 weeks, experience it for 1 week, and expand on what we've learnt for 3 weeks. The trip went brilliantly and we were able to set up our entire schedule for when we take our group over next April.

And now for The Story of the Week:

Danny and I met a very nice Gambian lady and her son who invited us to their home to meet the rest of the family and see their shop of carvings, crafts and other knick-knacks. Danny and I both wanted to see how all of these things were made and so we arranged to meet up the next day and visit their home.

We had a wonderful afternoon meeting the brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, and new born cousins. Then they showed us how they carefully crafted each carving with old chisles and rusty sets of kitchen knives. It was remarkable. As I perused the shop, I was struck by the detail of each creation: birds of every kind - captivating and colourful; thinking men sitting in many positions - abstract and awkward; monkeys of all sizes - a bit creepy but impressive; topless women with proportions to make Barbie blush; crocodiles detailed from tip to tail; and every animal Noah took on the ark.

The mother of the family walked up and stood beside me as I admired all the carvings.

"My sons work very hard," she said, her words laced with pride.

"These are all amazing," I complimented, "Your family is very talented."

"Thank you," she replied. "You know, the tits are the hardest to make."

Pause.

"Uh, pardon?" I whispered.

"The tits," she repeated, "they are the most difficult to carve."

Pause.

Then one of her sons came and joined us.

"Yes, the tits are the hardest to carve because you have to do each one individually," He stated in agreement.

Pause. I stood motionless, making eye contact with only a statue of a crocodile.

"Uh, huh." I said.

Then the son reached over and picked up the crocodile that I was staring at.

"You see," he said as he pointed to the reptile's mouth, "the tits are small and it is very difficult to carve each one exactly the same."

Flashback One: A Gambian girl named 'Elizabeth' introduces herself as 'Elizabet.'

Flashback Two: A Gambian student writes 'Thursday' and pronounces it 'Tursday.'

Flashback Three: A Gambian man in the market is selling souvenirs for a thousand delasi (about $10 Canadian) and quotes us the price of 'a tousand.'

'Th' sound = 'T'sound ...'Th' = 'T' ... so 'tits' would be 'tiths' would be 'teeth' would be ... oh, I see now.

"Yes," I finally fully joined the conversation, "The teeth do look hard to carve."

And my record is perfect still. Alycia 4, Ears 0.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ring ring!

Hello there, it's me. Just thought I should verify that first so you know who it is. Don't you hate it when some one hands you the phone and you have no idea who it is, but they're like, "Hi! It's me! I'm so glad I caught you..." And you're like, "Yeah, it's good to talk to you too" but in your head you're like, 'who the heck is this? Is is Jean? Or maybe Barb? I should know. Why don't I know? I can't let them know that I don't know!' You know what I mean? And then you think to yourself, 'It's Jean. I know it's Jean.' So you say, "Hey, I say your mom the other day!" and they say, "Really?" and you say, "Oh yeah! She was looking really well!" and they say, "Looking well? She's been gone for 12 years." And then you think, 'Oops. It's Barb.'

Well, that has nothing to do with anything. But here's a funny story...

On Wednesdays I occassionally stop in to one of the local Walsall churches to enjoy an afternoon of soup, tea, and talk with about 30 senior citizens. It's a great time and I love to hang out with my peeps there. Last time, the ladies at the table were asking me where I was from (which I get asked every week). They were delighted to hear I was from Canada and began to share with me all the names and places of loved ones who had moved to Canada. Yes, there was "so and so's niece". Then there was "my neighbour's son." And we musn't forget "my cousin's daughter's best friend's third grade teacher's dentist." It was a wonderful time of sharing and reminissing of the great white north.

At one point in the conversation, the elderly woman at the end of the table looked up at me and said, "Ah nee tah toilah." (I've tried to write it out phonetically so you can catch the accent.) I replied, "Oh, uh, it's just through those doors and down the hall. "No, ah nee tah toilah." I nodded, and gave her the directions again, "Just through the doors and down the hall. It's on the right hand side." The other ladies were giggling. I was obviously not in on their little joke. "No. Ah nee tah toilah!" The lady repeated slower and louder. Then I understood. I began to stand up. "I can help you down the hall if you like."

The table burst out into laughter and the woman next to me took me by the arm. "No love, she's saying 'Anita Taylor.'"

"That's the name of my friend in Canada," the lady at the end of the table said through her laughter.

I haven't been back in two weeks.

Alright, one business memo. Things are going great with our new program. We've met with schools again and we have penciled ourselves in to start in February. There's still so much to be done, but I'll write more on that next time. I wanted to break things up with a funny story for now.

That doesn't mean thought that my next email will be boring so you can just skim over it!

Alrighty then, I'll end it here then until next time. God bless and take care!

Sincerely,
~Alycia DeLong

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Winds of Change...

Oooh, I've just realized that this title might give the wrong idea considering my last blog was titled, "Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit." Well, let me assure you, the two are not linked.

The Winds of Change have blown, though, and they are directing our LifeForce UK sails in another direction. And now I will say it for the record: There will be no LifeForce UK training base this year. A team will still be coming to us from Canada during the mission period of January to May, but we will not be leading it. Danny and I will not be leading at all this year. No, we will not be hearing the pitter-patter of little LifeForce students as they rehearse dramas, or wipe their runny noses when they are homesick, or hold their little hands in a circle of prayer. No, it won't be Danny and I watching their eyes light up as we pick them up in our 1981 minibus, moving every week, waking up early to visit schools and staying up late running youth groups. Ahhhh, memories.

So, what are we going to do? Glad you asked!

We are starting a new program (under LifeFORCE, of course) where we will take high school students (age 16 and up) on a 'mission trip.' Our plan is to do a 12-week program in schools: 8 sessions of class work, 1 week of a mission trip to a third world country, and then 3 sessions of debriefing and follow-up. Pretty simple, eh?

Actually, it has come together more easily than we thought. We are already allowed in schools to run programs simply because of the experience and relationship that have already been established over the years. We also already have the connections in a number of countries in Western Africa (mainly Gambia and Ghana) to organize the one week mission schedule. We've already had people calling us asking for more information. We meet with our first school tomorrow morning!

As for everyday life, we have very exciting news! WE HAVE AN APARTMENT! We've only had two nights in the place, but it is fantastic! Now let me tell you, God is our provider! The place was a £150 out of our price range and totally unfurnished. Well, the property agent came down a £150 after hearing about our work in schools, then a friend from another charity said to come to their warehouse and see if there was anything we could use in our place. We got a double bed, a single bed, 2 sets of drawers, a wardrobe (the non-Narnia kind though, too bad), a coffee table, and a number of other shelves and little tables. All of it was practically new! In fact, I was going through an Ikea catalogue and calculating what it would of cost us to buy everything we were given and it would have been around £1000 (about $2000 Canadian). Oh, we're not even done. Other people have given us a 3-piece leather suite, a TV, a microwave, a fridge, a toaster, a tea kettle, cutlery, tea towels, I can't even remember it all! It all came together in just 4 days! We never even really put out a notice or anything that we were looking for stuff! I swear, we haven't raked in this much since our wedding! I didn't even have to use the tumor story once! Now I know I must be because I am ridiculously good looking.

On a sadder note though, our mini-bus has finally called it quits and gone to the big garage in the sky. Well, to be more accurate, it's gone to the big scrap yard in Cannock. But the way things are going for us, I'm sure it won't be long before the Lord provides something better!

Seriously, you would not even believe our place! It looks so, so, not like us! Everything matches! It's kind of scary. I'll have to get used to it actually being OUR place! We haven't had a place that's actually just for the two of us since January. We've been living out of our suitcases since then. Last week we figured out that in our 5 and a half years of marriage we've moved over 30 times (we didn't count the week to week moves. Then it would be over a hundred)!

A couple of other things going on are:

1. We're teaching drama in a local Christian school and running an after school program.

2. We're organizing the schedule for the LifeForce team from Canada that will come and tour from January to May.

3. We're involved in the youth group of our church here (Walsall Christian Centre. You can google it.)

4. I've got a couple of video projects on the go for some local church programs.

5. We have people coming to dinner tonight and I have to get groceries.

Right, on that note I'll end this entry. I'll keep you updated on our progress!

Until next time then, God bless and take care!

~Alycia DeLong

Monday, September 04, 2006

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit...

Hello and welcome to the newest update! The past couple of weeks have been filled with rain, scraped knees, and a lot of baked beans. We've been at camp in Wales. Week one was kids' camp, but only Danny went as I was still not quite 100% due to my new medication. I did get to go and visit for a day. The camp had all kinds of games and activities that were just incredible! There was fencing, rock climbing, cave exploring, fort building, abseiling (that's where you repel yourself down the side of a wall), a ropes course, zip wire rides, and more! The most incredible one was the driving lesson. Yep, for £3 a 10-year-old kid could get behind the wheel of a real car and learn to drive! When I saw this, the adult in me was like, "What?!?!? Are they crazy?!?!?" and the kid in me was like, "Wow! That is the coolest thing ever!!!!"

The next week was teen week, which I did go to. They basically had all the same activities except the driving lesson (gee, wonder why). There were around 400 youth at this camp (cry). We had just a fantastic time though and we saw so many wonderful things happen in our own youth group that we had gone with. They really bonded and encouraged one another throughout the week. The majority of our youth don't actually come to church, but they are all great kids once you get to know them. They are a tough bunch though. By the end of the week our group was responsible for 2 broken windows, 2 broken beds, a dislocated knee, an iron burn on the floor, a near concussion, a few broken hearts (wink wink), and many warnings to keep quiet after curfew. Ahhh, what a team effort it was.

And now for my cool camp story:

There was a group there that ran all the big activities like the rock climbing, fencing, cave crawling, etc. Each member is trained to manage the activitie, is equipped with first aid and emergency training, and has many other certificates in physical education. The group is not a Christian organization, but they are in the process of taking over the camp and upgrading it into some sort of super-extreme-sport camp for young people. Each staff member was very professional and very friendly and it wasn't long before we'd gotten to know a few of them. One girl in particular, Deborah, was always smiling and soon made friends with many of the youth and leaders at the camp.

On the Thursday evening there was a talent show and Deborah and I sat together to help each other through, uh, I mean, enjoy the performances. I had spoken with her a few times before, but being a member of staff with the activities company, she wasn't really allowed to visit with campers (or the customers) during the day. We were giggling and having fun when almost out of the blue she turned to me and asked, "Why did you decide to become a Christian?" So I told her and then pulled out 'old faithful' - the tale of the brain tumor. She had such a shocked look on her face that I had to use my best tumor jokes all in one shot just to help her relax a bit. [Her question: "How did you tell your family?" My Answer: "Ah, you just gotta glide it in casually with a smooth segway, like they use on the news...'My, these cookies are delicious. I think I'll have two more. Speaking of two more'...see cause two more sounds like tumor when you say it with the right emphasis...ah forget it.]

Friday night I started to get nauseous after taking my medication (which is what sometimes happens). I didn't want to, well, you know, in the evening worship service so I went up to my dorm to hide out for a bit. Danny soon came up to check on me. Not long after he left I fell asleep for over an hour. Usually, I am out cold until the next day, but this time something woke me up. That something was my stomach, or so I thought. It was about to, well, you know. I clutched my quilt tightly and prayed that God wouldn't make me get out of bed. Then the weirdest thing happened. I felt like I was supposed to get out of bed and go down to the service. My stomach gave it's rebuttal with a few ominous sounding gurgles, and I closed my eyes to sleep again. It was only a couple of minutes later when I woke up with the same feeling as before - I needed to go to the service. I clung to the quilt again and prayed that God wouldn't make me get out of bed. I though for sure if I moved I would, well, you know. But I couldn't get rid of that feeling that I was supposed to go. Fine, I decided, I'll go down to the service and probably hurl in front of everyone, but that's fine (I was kinda perturbed at this point so there were no more 'well, you know's'). I put on my jacket and started down to the meeting. Then the weirdest thing happened again. I started to feel better. In fact by the time I got to the doors of the tent where the service was being held, I felt totally fine!

I had just entered the tent when I saw Deborah. She was just on her way out and I could see that she was crying.

"Hey Deborah, are you alright?" I asked her.

"Yeah, I'm just...well, I've never seen anything like this. Where you can just come and talk to God. That anyone can." She looked around at the crowd again. "This is so real. I've never thought about it before. This really makes me question my religion."

"What religion are you?" I'd forgotten that she wasn't a Christian and so that all this church stuff would be quite foreign to her.

Deborah wiped her face. "I'm Jewish," she answered, "I went to Jewish primary school and Jewish camp and I was always taught that this wasn't true, but I don't know. Tonight, I feel like I'm missing something. That my life is missing something."

We talked for a long time after that. She told me about how she wanted to know more about Jesus, but it wouldn't be easy because she was Jewish. I told her the story of Nicodemus in the Bible. He was an important and recognized Jewish man in his time. When Jesus came along, Nicodemus wanted to know more about him, but because of who he was, it wouldn't be easy. So he snuck out to meet him in the middle of the night. There, under the covering of darkness, Jesus shared one of the most profound statements of all time with one man: "For God so loved the world He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him, will not die but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Deborah made a decision that night. Not to become a Christian, but to find out more about Jesus. Even though she knows it will be hard, and that she may have to do it in a bit of secrecy herself, she knows there is a treasure waiting there for her. And, I believe she can count on that.

One last short, funny story, just to wrap things up. After we had dropped everyone back off at the church when camp was over, I began the ugly process of cleaning our van after the journey. I was sweeping up the inside when I was joined by the 6-year-old sister of one of our teen campers. She stood in awe of the massive inside of our minibus. The rusting roof and chipped paint was as captivating to her as one would find the inside of an ancient cathedral in Rome. Finally, her heart's desire found it's words and she spoke with great wonder, "When you die, can I have this minibus?"

It's a deal, little lady. It's a deal.

May you find all your treasures this week!

God Bless,
~Alycia DeLong

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Welcome to Loserville

Do you know how angels greet one another?

They wave and say, "Halo!"

Now you know why this entry is titled, "Welcome to Loserville." Lame jokes are a sad side effect of being a loser (yes, I did make that one up) that unfortunately do not only overshadow the sufferer of losernitis (medical word) but the people around them. Just ask Danny. He has suffered.

Anyway, by now you're probably like, "Where are you going with this? Why am I still reading this? Although, her pathetic one liners do make me look like Seinfeld."

This is where I'm taking you today. First Corinthians 1:26-27..."Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." (NIV New International Version)

Now let's read it in the AWBTEV (Alycia's Warped but had a Brain Tumor Excuse Version)... "Think of what you were when you were called. Loser. Big letter 'L' on the forehead. Klutzy, insurance nightmare. Bad jokes are invented by you and blonde jokes invented for you. A bit of an embarrassment to be around, even by your loved ones. You wear sweater vests to prom. Big L - little oser. Loser. And you're just what God wants and loves in a person."

You know, I often ask myself why I am a Christian. I mean, I've always felt like kind of a loser. In fact today, as I was listening to a song about a young woman reflecting on her tumultuous teen years, my mind drifted back as well to evens in the history of my own loserness...

(Insert sound of chimes here to signify dream sequence)

When I started high school, every girl had a crush on the school council president. His name was, let's say George Finkleman (of course it wasn't that. That is a loser name. But I don't want to say his real name because with my email subscription being at an all time high, with my luck his Aunt in Toronto or something will get this call him right away and I will be totally mortified. George, if you're reading this, sorry about the loser name comment). Anyway, George was a real dreamboat. Charming, funny, kind, sincere, and as for looks - well! Let's just say he put the 'body' in 'student body.' No! I got a better one! He put the 'stud' in 'student!' Ha ha ha ha...

Loser Fact #17- Loser's always laugh at their own lame jokes for a ridiculously long time.

...ha ha ha ha! Yeah, that was a good one. Okay, so of course I was not spared from the ga-ga's whenever he walked past me in the hallway. Alas, he was in a distant senior land while I was but a lowly freshman.

One time we happened to be at the very same party at the same time. Was it fate? Or was it just a school dance? Anyway, a big group of us were line dancing to some country songs (a shame I do not speak of often) and out of the music and the mist (fog machine) came Ke--I mean George Finkleman. And he was heading straight for ME! He smiled and leaned close and told me that I was a really good dancer! GASP! I couldn't believe it! What if he asked me to dance? What would I do? What would I say? He leaned in again to speak. Was he going to ask me to dance???

Well, he sort of did ask me to dance, but with his girlfriend (she was from another school. Whatever. He apparently was too good to date someone from the very school he was the president of. Typical politician.) She really wanted to learn how to line dance. I spent the majority of the night teaching her moves to "My Achy Breaky Heart."

Loser.

(Back to me sitting in the kitchen listening to music.)

As I continued to listen to the young lady's voice and reminisce days gone passed, some of the song's lyrics were really speaking to me:

"You heard my complaints about my curfew at 10..."
- That sums up my teen years

"You saw when my room was a mess again..."
- And again and again

"You heard me when I swore..."
- I occasionally did have a bit of a potty mouth

"...that I'd never love again..."
-Oh, you weren't finished that line yet. I thought you meant, you know. You see I never
really had that "high school sweetheart" experience so I thought you were talking about...well, I mean I did have a couple of crushes. I guy asked me to dance once...almost... well, sort of...

Loser. Yep, this has shed a whole lotta light on the term "pre-destination."

To wrap this up, this is what I'm trying to say: I feel very privileged to be a loser. It's why God picked me.

And if you're feeling like a loser today, remember: You are. And God loves you for it.

Which makes you cool.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

It's Show Time!

Announcer's Voice: Hey Kids! Do you know what time it is?

Children Scream: It's DeLong Email Time!

Cue the Intro Music: "It's DeLong Email time! It's DeLong Email time!..." and so forth.

Fade to update in 5...4...3...2...

Hello there and welcome to my new blog! What is a blog anyway, you ask? Well, think of it as a spin off of my other websites. You know when the show "Friends" ended and then they started a spin off series called "Joey?" Yeah, like that. Except hopefully my blog won't be cancelled after the first couple of episodes.

On this blog you will find all my previous episodes including hard-to-find pilot email updates from the early years! Consider this your online box set of the DeLong Reports!

[Applause sign flashes]

Yes, we are sparing no expense now.

Now to the update part: You already know that we are back in England. If you didn't get that email, you can just scroll down and read it now ['ooooh' and 'ahhhhh' sound effect]. We'll cut to commercial while you do that.

[Fade to commercial in 3...2...1...]

In UK theatres this week the movie "Snakes on a Plane" starring Samuel Jackson is attracting many patrons looking for a good scare. Posters for this production are all over the place and yesterday I finally saw a preview for it. Not that I really needed to, I think that it is a pretty safe guess that the movie is going to be about snakes on a plane. Who came up with that title anyway? That question itself sounds like one of those bad lightbulb jokes - How many creative executives does it take to come up with the movie title, "Snakes on a Plane"? My guess is that that meeting happened right before or right after a long weekend.

Anyway, the nutshell of the preview was this: It started with some snakes on a plane (surprize) and it ended with Samuel Jackson wildly firing his machine gun inside of coach. Now, I am by no means educated or experienced in the mysteries of aerodynamical engineering (heck, I don't even know what to call it), but I've been on a lot of air planes and I think that I can state with confidence that unloading a machine gun inside of a plane is a really bad. Dare I say, possibly worse than snakes on a plane. How did he even get a machine gun on a plane nowadays anyway?

[Return from commercial]

I wonder if the person who came up with this movie had ever flown Air Canada? Come to think of it, wasn't there another movie about snakes on a plane? I think it was called, "Air Force One."

[CUT TO COMMERCIAL! CUT TO COMMERCIAL!]

Sorry about that. I did cross the line there. Of course, I didn't mean it, I just couldn't resist the joke!

I should really move on to actual events. I had an appointment yesterday with an endocrinologist. This was the third enstallment of a series of visits with them regarding my resent health problems. The doctors are concluding that I am having pituitary problems as a result of the radiation therapy I had 5 years ago. Anyway, the doctor gave me a prescription to try and help get me back to normal again. Poor guy, he has no idea what he is getting himself into...

Here's a funny thing about yesterday though: One of the doctor's names at the clinic was Toogood! So now when people ask me, "How was your appointment with the doctor?" I can say, "Oh, it wasn't too good." I saw some other doctor! HA HA! Get it? Of course you do.

No, I haven't started the medication yet. Why do you ask?

Alright then, I guess that's all the time we have for this episode. Thanks for joining us and we'll see you next time!

God bless,
~Alycia DeLong

SEQUEL IDEAS FOR "SNAKES ON A PLANE"

- "Hippos on a Bus"

-"Mad Cows on a Boat"

-"Lions on a Bike"

- "Peanuts in a Cab" (which would be terrifying to people who are allergic to nuts, when you think about it)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Back in The Ole' Country Again

Hello everyone!

I've given you a couple of weeks off but the break is over and it's time you wasted precious minutes reading my witty and charming anecdotes! Okay, maybe those aren't the exact words used to describe my updates, but close. Right to business then: Here we are in England. Back in sunny Walsall (and by 'sunny' I mean 'British sunny' which is not sun at all but a forecast of haze and grays). But it is nice to be back and see all our friends. I've particularly missed my dearest friend, Mr. Cadbury Galaxy Chocolate and his lovely wife, Hazel (although she's a little nutty if you ask me).

As you are probably noticing by now, I'm not completely over the jet lag. I have to admit it hit me pretty hard this time. Yesterday Danny and I woke up at about 4am. My stomach was really growling, but Danny said we shouldn't eat until a reasonable breakfast hour. Party pooper. Anyway, we played card games until about 6:30 and then I made omelets. Then we went to bed at about 10:30 am yesterday morning, woke up at 3pm, I went back to bed around midnight, woke up at 7am, returned to bed just before noon and woke up at 5:30pm. I haven't exactly been very aggressive in kicking this jet lag thing.

Boy was it great to be home for summer! After 4 long months of moving from house to house, city to city, living out of a suitcase, it was sooooo nice to come back to Canada for 2 months, moving from house to house, city to city, living out of a suitcase. Yeah, we traveled right across from Vancouver to Toronto and everywhere in between. A week here a week there. The only place we didn't really see very much of was our place. We spent 5 nights in our own home, and for me, 3 of them were on the couch. Danny was really sick and being the caring, nurturing wife I am, I thought it best if I gave him privacy and space to recover (Translation: projectile vomit plus innocent bystander equals wife spewed on in sleep. Not thanks I'll pass). Anyway, my sensitivity and wisdom was just the right prescription. Danny's all better now!

In a nutshell, here's what we did over the past few months:
- Visited family in Vancouver
- Visited family and went to ACOP conference in Kelowna
- Visited family in Edmonton
- Went to camp
- Went to camp
- Visited family in Regina
- Went to a wedding in Hamilton (saw Niagara Falls, too. Super cool!)
- Visited family in Regina again
- Went to camp again
- Re-shingled our roof in Calgary (fun fun fun)
- Visited family in Edmonton again
- Got on airplane and flew to England And that was our holiday.

So, how has your summer been?

Okay, well I think that's all I really have for now, so I'll let you all go and get back to whatever it was that you were doing, or about to do, or should do but you don't want to do, which is making me a tool of laziness. Maybe I should go have a nap for a few hours. It is about that time.

I look forward to invading your inbox for another year!

God Bless, ~Alycia

P.S. - Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Health Update

Hello there everyone! Here's the latest on my health situation. I guess I have good news and, well, no news.

The good news is that the old brain tumor is still shrinking. In fact is has shrunk another 4mm since my last MRI 2 years ago! Hooray! So that was very exciting!

The no news is that they have no idea what's causing the hyperprolactinaemia. I will have to go see an endocrinologist and have more tests. They're a bit stumped by what's happening in my brain. The MRI didn't reveal any new growths, and the old tumor isn't on the pituitary gland, it's fairly soon for me to be having side effects from the radiation, and my symptoms don't reflect that it is because of the radiation anyway. So we're back to the drawing board. We know there's something wrong, we just don't know why or how to fix this.

My next appointment with the endocrinology department is August 8 and hopefully they'll be able to find some answers, or find that I've been healed and am back to normal! (Was I ever really normal though?)

That is that, then, for now. I'm sorry I didn't have more answers, but so were the doctors. Thank you for all your prayers though - thank you very very very much! I have been strengthened daily by them and by God's gracious Spirit!

May God bless you all this summer!

Love,
~Alycia DeLong

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

It Is Finished

Hello my faithful subscribers! Okay, maybe you never signed up for this but due to powers beyond your control you have been getting my lengthy updates in your inbox and you're not sure why they aren't just being deposited in your junk mail right off the bat but for some reason you've been opening them and reading them every time. Something like that, right?

Okay, so guess what today is? We'll do multiple choice that's fun:

What is significant about May 17th?

A. First merry-go-round seen at a fair (1620)
B. Enya's Birthday (1961)
C. Last day of LifeFORCE UK (2006)
D. All of the Above

If you guessed D. All of the Above - you win! Please send us you name, address, and credit card number (don't forget the expiration date) and your prize will arrive in the mail soon. Ha ha! Just kidding! That's a good one, Alycia!

Yep, it is time to pack it up and move on from this, our very first year of LifeFORCE UK!

Overall everyone here agrees that we've had an incredible, exciting, challenging, and fun year for all of us! We've just officially wrapped everything up today with team debriefing, individual debriefing, and videoing all our new dramas that we wrote this year. Now we're packing up our bags and heading our separate ways. Some are going on to Bible college, others to university, some to jobs. Danny and I are coming back to Canada for a couple of months. I really have a hankering for Tim Horton's. We leave England next Monday and in the meantime we are swamped with all those last minute meetings and things that HAVE TO be done before we go. Ooooooh fun!

The most important thing I really have to say in this update is THANK YOU! Thank you for your emails, support, prayers, love, and encouragement! My constant prayer is that God would bless you as much and more as He has used you to bless us! You are such a huge part of what we are doing and we don't ever take that for granted! You have blessed us sooooo much! THANK YOU!!!!!!!

I think I'm going to end this email here and attach a couple of pictures of us instead.

With that, God bless you all, thank you for another great year, and may God give you all the desires of your heart!

Sincerely,
~Alycia DeLong

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mystery Solved

Hey everyone! I just got this email from the mother of a Maltese friend of mine! My sleepless nights are over!

~Alycia DeLong


Subject: Maltese

Date: Thu, 04 May 2006 15:18:36 +0000

Dear Alycia,

I'm Leah's mum. You don"t know me but Leah passed me your email about the Maltese that was talking to you about.

Believe me when I read the email I couldn't stop laughing. I know what she wanted to say. Probably this woman comes from a village because they don't use that saying in the city. My uncle used to use that phrase all the time.

We have a saying here that says that if you don't eat you won't stand. She wanted to tell you that if a sack is empty it will fall, but if it is full it will stand. She was describing the sack as the stomach and the food as a filler. So now you understand? She meant no and probably if you mention the word to her you would have embarrassed her.

Well thanks for a good laugh and if you have any difficulty about maltese please let me know.

Margaret


Well, Margie. I'm glad I could brighten your day. And I'm glad that now I can sleep at night!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

You Know What They Say

Hello everyone! Yeesh, I'm emailing you more than those abnoxious spammers! But I have a funny story. One that is fresh off the presses, as they say!

So we've all chuckled at my consistency to misunderstand people, especially those with accents foreign to my own. There was the salesman in Walsall whom I thought was asking about my 'accident' when really he was saying 'accent.' Then there was the very embarassing incident of the gentleman in Kidderminster who was inquiring about my profession. (I thought he asked, 'Are you a prostitute,' but he was really saying, 'Are you a pastor, too.') Well, today I found myself in another one of those classic 'it-only-happens-to-me' situations.

Today we were at one of my favourite schools in Malta. It is a Catholic school and the priest there, Brother Kieren, is a wonderful man who is extremely welcoming and encouraging to our teams. In fact, all the staff and students are. We've been going to that school all the years we've had teams in Malta and we always have a lot of fun there.

One of the best things about visiting the school is that they always cook us a big, delicious lunch. There is always a home made soup, fresh baked Maltese bread, and an amazing pasta dish. Yes, they really know how to treat us right!

After lunch, we went back to the hall to pack up our set and all our props then say goodbye to our friends at the school. Brother Kieren shook our hands and blessed us all before he had to run back to his class, leaving one of the lady teachers behind to escort us out. As the team went ahead, I walked with the teacher just to tell her how much we appreciated everything they had done for us that day.

"We love coming to your school," I gushed, "especially since you always feed us so well!"

"Well, we like that you come here and the students like it very much," she responded in her thick Maltese accent. It was clear that English wasn't her first language and she was struggling to put her sentences together. "We have a saying here in Malta, you probably know it and have it in your country, too. We say, 'If you have empty sex, the body will fall over.'"

A moment of awkward silence.

"Uh, pardon me?" I had definitely heard that wrong.

"We say this because you know, if the sex is empty the body will fall down." She then repeated it for me in Maltese, which didn't clear things up at all.

So I lied. "Oh, right. I see." What the heck was she talking about?

I waved good bye and quickly walked down the street stiffling my laughter. Had I heard her correctly? I wanted to ask her again to repeat herself. In fact, I almost said to her, "Look, that may be a popular phrase where you come from, but I've only been married 5 years and I don't know that one yet!"

As it turns out, I still have no idea what she was saying. I ran it pass the team and we are all totally clueless on this one. I'm writing this to you so that maybe some one out there can decipher this cryptic message for me.

Hopefully some one can tell me the meaning of this saying. I'm sure it's simple, like the writing's on the wall but I'm running around like a chicken with it's head cut off so I don't have time to stop to smell the roses. Maybe I got up on the wrong side of the bed and I'm not the sharpest knife in the Swiss Army today. Who can tell with all this mumbo jumbo. Maybe she was just mad as a hatter, not playing with a full deck, you know? I'm sure if I put on my thinking cap though, I can solve this idium.

God bless you all and be sure to let me know if you have any ideas about this! Thanks!

Straight from the horses mouth,
~Alycia DeLong

Monday, May 01, 2006

Still Trying to Get Caught Up

Hey everyone! It's me again (insert your sarcastic remarks here. Ha ha, very cute. Good one. Ha ha big fake ha.)

Okay, now that's out of the way, here's a funny story from a couple of weeks ago. We were in West Bromich doing a week with at an event called Revolution. Basically its a mission week for teens while they're off for Easter break. About 50 of them come from different youth groups and churches and we spend the week doing evandelism. Uh, I mean, evangelism. Hee hee, a fraudian slip from me. We all split into groups and then rotate from the different activities around the community. There was gardening, garbage picking, kid's activities in the park, prayer groups, and many other things. The whole goal of the week was to serve the community and show teens the benefits of serving. Being a servant is the first and foremost step in being any sort of minister for the Gospel - and it's the small things we do that can really make a big impact!

Friday was main event day. We were allowed into the biggest mall in the West Midlands to do a day's program of songs, dramas, balloon animals, puppet shows, and face painting. In fact, this year I was asked to be the official 'face painting' instructor, a covetted title. (Okay, no one else really wanted to do it, and I just love paintin beards on little kids.) Anyway, on Wednesday night the germsI had been battling won the war when it brought out the fever weapon. Danny drove me back to Walsall to recover for the rest of the week. I was so disappointed that I was missing all the fun! But I slept lots and did my best to recover for the main event on Friday.

Friday morning came and I shakily dragged myself out of bed, got dressed, and tried to make myself look not so much like I'd just escaped from the Betty Ford clinic. I whined and pouted to Danny to take me to the main event at the mall. There were so many little faces to paint and they would need all the help they could get! Finally, he agreed to take me but I was under strict orders to take it easy.

When we got to the mall no one was there except the other members of our group setting up and store workers. Our group was pretty much done: the tables were set up, balloons were filled and the puppet curtain was just being hung. There really wasn't much for me to do but sit in the face painting area and watch.

As I sat down my body reminded me of my current physical condition. I felt gross. My head was swimming and my stomach was sea sick. What was I doing here? Why had I come? I was totally useless! Was there going to be anything for me to do today? I should have stayed in bed...

Then, just as the stores were beginning to open, came our first customer! A lady and her three small children approached the face painting counter and politedly asked, "Excuse me, are you open yet?"

"We sure are," I replied excitedly. First victim of the day!

"How much is it to get your face painted?" she asked.

"Absolutely free," I was very proud to tell her.

"Oh, well that's great!" Turning to her three kids she asked them, "Would you all like your face painted?" And what kid doesn't? And they've hit the jackpot! We could paint Spidermen, princesses, butterflies, dinosaurs, you name it - we could do it!

But these kids didn't look very thrilled. They all huddled in closer to their mother and scanned us over very suspiciously.

The mother looked her children in the eyes. "It's alright. It doesn't hurt. It will be fun!" They didn't budge. "Look," she tried again, "see? It's fun! Here, how about I have my face painted first? Then if you like, you can have yours done to."

The woman's two little boys looked more nervous by this comprimize than comforted. Her little girl, only about two years old, clung tightly to her mother and began to sob, "I don't want it to go on your face!"

"It's fun! Trust me," and the she sat down in the chair. "I'd like a little butterfly on my cheek please." And with that, one of our face painters began to paint a very delicate, purple butterfly just below her eye. Her two boys barely blinked as they carefully watched over their mother and her little girl continued to sob. I tried to talk to them, to distract them, but they were very focussed on their mother's face.

"They're pretty shy," the woman said to me, "but I'm hoping that if I can show them that its alright, they'll get a bit braver."

"Well in that case, don't forget to go get a balloon animal after, too!" I said and we both had a little chuckle.

We continued to talk while she had her face painted. At first it was the usual stuff, 'Where are you from?', 'What are you doing here?', 'Do you like England?' I told her about our activities throughout the week, the litter picking and games and gardening. She was particularly interested in the last one.

"I've just moved into a new place last October and I'm trying to start a garden. It's hard to find the time to do it though. I'm a single mother." She explained.

"It certainly does look like you already have your hands full," I joked as her arms were still trying to comfort her toddler.

She laughed and then paused for a moment. It was one of those pauses that come when a person is debating on what to say next. Not only what to say, but if they should say it.

Something made this woman decide to say it.

"Actually, my husband passed away a year and a half ago," she said quietly, as if still trying to protect her young children.

"I'm so sorry," I replied. What else could I say?

Another moment of silence as she made her next decision.

"He passed away from a brain tumor."

At that very moment I knew exactly why I was there. I didn't say anything at first, I couldn't. After all, this woman was telling these things to a complete stranger! She didn't say much, but she didn't have to.

Her butterfly was finished and she said thank you to the artist as she looked her cheek in the mirror. Her kids were still anti-face paint, so she stood up to leave.

"I don't mean to sound weird," I carefully started, "but would you mind if I walked with you?"

The woman smiled graciously and invited me along.

"I'm a strong believer in Divine Appointments," I said, "and for me, this is one of those appointments! I really related to what you were saying. You may not believe this but, I had a brain tumor."

The conversation went from there for another 30-40 minutes (it's hard to tell, you know how it is when women start talking.) We talked about the depression, the disappointment, the loneliness, the questions and all of the stuff that comes with losing a loved one (as I had also lost my mother to cancer). She asked me about how I felt while I was going through my own diagnosis and what I felt watching my family worry for me. She shared her own pain that she had gone through watching her husband suffer, and the new pain now as she lived a different life without him. She told me about how hard it had been on her children. They were so scared of losing her too they rarely let her out of their sight. We talked about the good things though as well, the things we've learned, the prayers we've had answered and God. Although I never found out what her own faith was exactly. We just talked.

Our visit ended with the two of us wiping our tears outside of a Carlton Card shop. We exchanged email addresses before she had to go so we could continue to stay in touch.

As I walked back to the face painting counter I was so excited and encouraged, no germs could survive! Why was I here today? As far as I was concerned, it was for that 40 minutes with that mother and her three kids. In fact, why was she there today? Maybe for me, too! That's just the way that Divine Appointments seem to work!

So as you go into this new week, my prayer is that your days will be filled with Divine Appointments!

God bless you and take care!

Sincerely,
~Alycia DeLong

P.S.- When you think of it, please say a prayer for Jo and her three kids. Thanks.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Guess Who?

A riddle for you...

What's stinky and sweaty and hasn't sent out an email update in a ridiculously long time?

Answer: Danny. He's terrible at email updates. That's why I do it.

Greetings and Salutations to you all! Wow, it has been a horrendously long time since I wrote, but I had a shower so I'm not stinky and sweaty anymore. I guess I should fill you in on what's happening, and what's been happening over the past month.

We are now in Malta (and the peasants rejoice)! We arrived last Tuesday, April 16th. It has been a wonderful change for our team - we've all felt the thrill and excitement of a new country and a new mission! Our schedule is already full with presentations and programs in 2-3 schools a day and 2-3 evening youth clubs a week! Then there's all the extra stuff we get ourselves into!

For example today. We did two schools and then went to another radio mission based here in Malta and did some backyard labour on their building. Hence the afore-mentioned stinky and sweatyness. We've been having a blast in schools. It always amazes us how we can speak so openly about our faith and the difference Jesus has made in our lives right in an assembly!

We had a really cool experience on Friday night. The man that runs all the Catholic youth clubs in the country asked us do to some of our dramas on the steps of the Mosta Dome! I know you're like, "Wow! What the heck is a Mosta Dome?" Glad you asked!

A picture speaks a thousand words. Take a look for yourself

http://www.maltavista.net/en/list/photo/471.html

http://www.maltavista.net/en/list/photo/472.html

It seems to be a bit of a running theme for us, performing in cathedrals. Just a few weeks ago in England we did a week long program in the Lichfield cathedral. Look at this one.

http://www.lichfield-cathedral.org/

Anyway, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before Jay Leno calls.

Okay, this email is long (no surprize there) so I'll wrap this up for now with one last exciting thing...

Yesterday we went swimming and I was stung by a jelly fish! Actually, it didn't hurt that much, it was just a little one. But then, because the driver of the boat we'd gone with felt sorryfor me, he let me drive the boat! I almost capsized and killed us all! How exciting!

With that, I should go. I'll be writing again, don't you worry! I have a couple of great stories I have to tell you about, but this email is long enough as it is! So God bless you all and take care!

Sincerely,
~Alycia DeLong

P.S. - Don't worry, I didn't let anyone pee on my jelly fish sting.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Finally the Internet and I Meet Again

Hello there my favourite family! I'm beginning the enormous job of replying to an obscene amount of emails. We haven't had email access in almost over 2 weeks and it HAS DRIVEN ME CRAZY! First of all, I've wanted to send out an email to let you know how my test results turned out. Well, I passed all my tests: my thyroid is fine and my cortisol levels are normal (that's some sort of adreneline hormone.) A couple of things have come up though. My prolactin levels are still way too high, causing low estrogen levels (which explains why I've been watching sports, scratching myself and leaving the seat up), and I also have low levels of IG-1 hormones. That's a growth hormone. Basically that means I won't be having any growth spurts any time soon. It's not a big deal. It just seems that its a case of hyperprolactaenamia. Yeah, I could have guessed that. (????hyperprolacti-what??? I'll take hormones of the pituitary for $1000, Alex).

I still do need a lot of prayer. The doctors are a bit baffled by what is causing this and I'll still have to go for more tests. They want me to have my MRI first before they start jabbing me with their torture sticks again. They can do what they want, I'll never talk!

Otherwise, to be honest, I've been pretty run down. I missed pretty much all of last week, which was a bummer. We did a whole week of our program in the Lichfield Cathedral! Yeah, Europe's biggest three-spired cathedral, like 800 years old, an absolute masterpiece of architecture and history. And we did a desecrated it with our loud dramas. It was awesome, and I missed it.

I've found that I just have 'shut down' days. It's pretty much impossible for me to function when this happens, it just feels like a total energy drain. It's nothing that a quick 14 to 16-hour nap doesn't fix. It's most likely because of the hyperprolabadabadoo thingy combined with our lifestyle/stress/lack of chocolate intake. Okay the chocolate intake may not be a real medical solution. Yet.

So I do need a lot of prayer so that I can try and keep up. Danny and the team have been great to accommodate me and my health. The team doesn't know all the details about everything (it's sort of hard to explain anyway), but they've never asked any questions or judged me about my time off. And Danny has spoiled me rotten, as usual!

So his birthday and our anniversary was just last week! Thank you for all the emails wishing us the best! I didn't see Danny at all on his birthday because he had to take the team to a mission in a different town while I stayed behind an extra day for a doctor's appointment. Then we had our anniversary. Did you know that the 5th anniversary is the wood anniversary. I thought about getting Danny a popsicle, but Danny definitely won the prize for most thoughtful gift. First, he gave me this beautifully carved wooden box and inside was a very antique looking French song-book and piano sheet music! Wow! Then he surprized me even more when that weekend he took me to a hotel in Dudley (called ' The Village')! When we got to the room there was flowers, champagne and chocolates waiting to meet us there! I even had a massage there! It was just what any doctor would order.

Okay, what else did I have to say? Oh yeah, I have tragic terrible news! THE CAMERA IS BROKEN!!!!! I don't know what I'm going to do (but I'm hoping that in the rebound I will be able to console my broken heart with 5 or 6 pixel Fuji). It broke sometime last week in Lichfield. We think it must have gotten crushed in the bottom of the back pack. Usually I carry it with me everywhere in my purse, but because I wasn't well last week I wasn't able to protect it from the cruelties of the world! It is especially painful now that we are in Scotland and there has been the most wonderful snowfall here! I would be taking so many pictures if Canon A80 was here...~sigh~

On a serious note however, we had some sad news from the homefront. Danny's birth grandfather passed away last weekend. It was quite a surprize to the family I guess. We only got to meet him once, but are we ever glad we did!

Well, I've still got a million and 99 emails to respond too plus if it is possible I'll put out a general update as well!

I love you all and I miss you all! God bless and take care and hopefully I'll get to write again soon!

Love always,
~Alycia xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Hello all from sunny, rainy, hailing, snowing Walsall! Yes, it's been a funny day for Mother Nature, she just couldn't decide what she wanted to wear today.

I just had to send out this story that happened this evening. We were at a kid's club for 6 to 12 year old children at the church. We did our dramas, told a Bible story, and played some games. The kids at this group are very, how shall I say, energetic? Enthusiastic? Rambunctious? And sometimes down right menaces! But they are so sweet and it is always such a huge blessing to us to have them run and give us hugs when they see us coming.

Okay, so at the end of the evening, we had some spare time to tell one last story, which is, naturally, Danny's job. He is the master of 'one last story.' So he proceded to tell the adventure of going Go-Carting last week with the youth group. Danny recounted every detail, every danger, and every challenge and the children (and us) were enthralled. He told of his brave battle on the go-cart track, racing against vicious teenage challengers, who tried to bump him off the track, but he didn't let fear defeat him,and he finally finished victoriously in first place. Actually, it sounded a lot like "Days of Thunder" except with go-carts.

At the end of is story, Danny asked the kids, "Does anyone know why I won the race?" Why yes, of course, Danny. It's because you didn't give up.

The responses from the children, however, were as follows:

-"Because girls are bad drivers." (That boy's walking home.)
-"Because you cheated." (Thank you for your honesty.)
-"Because you ate bananas." (Where we listening to the same story?)

And my all time favourite, the answer to every question:
-"Because you had faith in God so he helped you to win." (What can I say? We know how to program the young minds of today's generation.)

You know, there are only 3 or 4 children from the 30 plus group who actually attend church outside of this Tuesday evening club. But they are really teaching them the right answers to all of life's tough questions!

Until the next crazy thing that happens (which shouldn't be too long, we have another kids' club tomorrow night), God bless you all and remember...

...have faith in God!

Take Care,
~Alycia DeLong

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day (or week for those of us who are forgetful)

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day, everyone! Hope your week has brought you many bouquets of flowers and boxes of chocolates! I’ve got no complaints myself. We’re in Stafford right now enjoying an easy going week as it is half term break for schools so we don’t have any assemblies or classes. This week’s schedule has consisted of bowling, movies, games, go carting, ice skating and tobogganing (indoor, of course). We’ve just been hanging out with the local youth group as much as possible, which has been awesome! We needed a week like this; the last two have been insanely busy with schools and events. Hey, that reminds me of a funny story…

So last week we were in Wales, Clydach to be exact. I know what you’re all thinking, ‘Hey, isn’t that by Swansea, where Catherine Zeta-Jones has a mansion?’ Why yes, as a matter of fact it is. But we never saw her. Sorry. I hope you weren’t thinking that was going to be my funny story.

Our entire team stayed in the church for the week, boys in one room and girls in the other, including Danny and myself (also not the funny story. Side note: And people are so shocked that we don’t have children yet). Anyway, we were scheduled for full days of schools from Monday to Friday and evening stuff every night. Our previous week in Stourbridge had been much the same and we were already pretty exhausted, but there’s nothing that a little coffee and a lot of prayer can’t do. We pulled ourselves back together and arrived at school Monday morning ready to go.

When we arrived we were quickly taken into one of the classrooms by the teacher who was coordinating our week. He told us that a major outbreak of the flu had broken out at the school. In fact the previous Friday recorded around 200 students absent. He asked if we’d all had flu shots (to which we just said yes) and said he’d keep us updated on the situation. We didn’t think much of it, but it was nice of the guy to tell us what was going on. There shouldn’t be any real problems because of this, or so we thought…

By the end of the day it had been confirmed that two of the students had meningitis and that they were taking emergency medical measures to stop a possible epidemic. There were staff meetings to be held, letters to be written home, public parent meetings to be arranged, staff and students to be tested, and lots of pills to be handed out. Wednesday was spent in a line filling out forms, answering medical questions, and receiving antibiotics. It was panic and chaos. Parents we taken there kids out of school, teachers were calling in sick, the media was all over the story, and rumours were flying that they were going to close down the school. It was up to us, four Canadians and two Brits, to save the day!

By the end of the week we’d seen every present student in years 8, 9, 10 and most of the other year 7 and 11 students. Pretty much everyone between the ages of 13 and 17 we had contact it. And guess what, we never even got meningitis. Not even the sniffles! Originally we were only going to see a few classes, but it seems that God perhaps had a different idea and cleared the schedule for us! On the Friday night, when we held our main outreach event, we had around 100 students and adults pack the church and enjoy a night of comedy, and at the end they heard the Gospel.
We move on to Walsall for 2 weeks after this and then we’re off to Scotland for a week, which will be fun! We had a great mission there last year, so it will be exciting to see everyone again.

Well then, I guess I’ll be off for now. I think it’s time for a cup of tea. I also want to see what’s happening on the Olympics. Men’s Skeleton was very exciting yesterday as Canada took the Gold and Silver! And of course there’s HOCKEY! I’m looking forward to what today will hold!

Until next time, God bless and keep your stick on the ice!

Sincerely,
~Alycia DeLong

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Guess Where I Am?

Hello from WALES!!!!!!! Yes, I am finally here! We are in Swansea right now until next Sunday. Unfortunately its such a busy week, I'm not seeing too much. And this is probably the only chance I'll have to do any internet stuff until next week. All of us are staying at the local church in Claduch, but it's the boys in one room and the girls in the other, so Danny and I are split up for the week. We don't have access to a phone or to the internet there (I'm at the library right now using the computers). Our schedule is full of school and classes during the day and meetings and kids club in the evenings.

So here's a funny story: The school we're at for the week is having a real flu epidemic. Out of 750 students, over 200 of them were away sick last Friday. Anyway, yesterday, 2 students were diagnosed with Meningitis. Today the entire school, including us, received free antibiotics to prevent it from spreading any further. So it's been a little crazy around here to say the least!

Other than that, we are loving it here! The church we are working with is small and mostly made up of age 60+ members - which means we are getting spoiled! The best thing in the world happened when we arrived at the church Sunday: I walked into the kitchen area and on the table to great me was a big container full of WELSH CAKES! It was magnificent (even though they aren't as good as your welsh cakes, Grampa)!

I'd love to be able to call or write again, but I don't know if that is going to be a possibility unfortunately. The past couple of weeks have been really packed. Last week we ran a youth drop in every night from 6:30 to 10:30. We were totaly wrecked by the end of the week. Hopefully we'll still be alive by the end of this one! Next week is the half term break for schools here, so it will be very laid back for everyone.

Well, I have to run, my time is up I am afraid. Everyone's leaving the library and I need to go with them so I can find my way back to the church!

God bless and Take care! Hope to talk to you all soon!

Love always,
~Alycia xoxoxoxoxoxo

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Week Three and Still Alive

Hello everyone! I know you're all probably wondering where we've been the passed couple of weeks. I missed you, too.

Last week we were in Kidderminster. We had originally been booked for a mission in Wales, but they rescheduled, so the gracious church in Kidderminster was blessed with our presence instead.

First, let's take a short trip back, back in time, to our mission in Kidderminster with our team last year...

It was a busy week in Kidderminster last February, 2005. Everyday was filled with assemblies, drama workshops, classroom presentations, and extra curriccular clubs. The church we were working with was very small and hoping to get more invovled in the community. At the end of the week, we planned a drama night and invited students from all the schools we had visited. When the event came, the church was packed with over 100 kids and parents! What a fantastic ending to a fantastic week!

Now, let us return to the present day - January 17th to 21st, 2006...

We weren't in schools very much because our schedule was put together very last minute. But when the schools heard we were there for the week, by Wednesday we were booked up for Thursday and Friday! We only visited two schools, one on Thursday and one on Friday. It was extremely encouraging that when we walked in we were recognized right away! The kids remembered every drama and every story we told! They even made special requests for their favourite sketches! We thought, 'Ah, we'll throw together a pizza and drama night and invite kids. Hopefully we'll get 30 or so.'

Friday night came. It was 6:40 and we could hear a few kids russling around the church doors as we set up inside. It was relieving to know a few did show up, even though we hadn't really advertised or prepared. At 7pm we opened the doors and there were over 100 kids and parents that filed in through the doors! It was fantastic! We had an absolute amazing time, they were a fantastic audience, and we even had the freedom to share the gospel with all who came! It was an absolutely fantastic end to a fantasic week!

This email is getting long so I'll give you a nutshell of this week. We've been back in Walsall, although we've been doing more promoting to schools that performing in them. It's all part of the procedure. But we've had an excellent response and much of our daily school schedule has quickly and easily filled! Not only for this mission, but even for the next year! They are pretty hard up for entertainment with a meaning here! I'm sure there will be many amazing stories to come!

With that I will close this installment of our adventure diary. Hope all is well with you! Thanks for the constant emails of encouragement we receive! They really make my day!

God bless you all and take care!

Sincerely,
~Alycia DeLong

Saturday, January 21, 2006

God's 2 Cents

Hello there! This is just a quick note (yeah right). Everything's going well, we've had a great week, but I just wanted to send out this little interesting story!

A couple of days ago one of the girls on our team, Trisha, was talking with her host and looking at pictures. Her host told her about how she felt that God had really called her to be an intercessor and in particular, to pray for the healing of people. Then she pointed out a few pictures of families that she had prayed for to have children and they had. Anyway, all of a sudden she told Trisha, "I've been praying for Danny and Alycia, actually. I've felt God lead me to pray against anything telling them they can't have children."

Okay, I barely know this lady and she barely knows me. If she knows anything about what's been going on with my health lately, I have no idea how. We haven't talked to anyone here about it and even our team doesn't have all the details! But, this is what she said! The freaky fact of the matter is that I have had some doctors tell me that I may not be able to have children. It's been a hard and scary thing to hear and at this point we've really just been seeking God for his plan and purpose.

And then this? Yeah, goosebumps!

So how about that? God puts in his 2 cents, perhaps? If this is the case (which, I don't know about you, but it sure looks like that to me), God's two cents is worth more than the price of all the Starbucks grande cappacinnos in the world!

Just wanted to share that and say thanks again for all your prayers! They are being answered in amazing ways already!

God bless!

Love,
~Alycia

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Another Quick Note (but not as quick as the last one)

Hello there all! Thanks for your prayers yesterday. We had a long day at the hospital, from 9 - 2. Most of the time was spent in the waiting room in between tests. All the doctors and nurses though were very nice. We played the pin cushion game, which is never much fun for me as I always have to play the cushion. My arms look a little mangled and they'll be bruising and sore for a couple of days, but the sympathy attention I get from Danny and the team makes it all worth it!

I'll be going back in about 6 weeks to meet with them again and see how I did on the tests. I hope I passed! I don't actually know what most of them were for. I was in the Endocrine department, so all the tests had to do with checking hormone level. By the end of the day I'd had 5 needles, filled six tubes of blood, and had one very nasty injection into my arm muscle to see how my body reacted. They passed on taking my blood pressure after seeing how stressed I was after telling me I had a bunch of needles ahead of me for the day!

Ooh, here's the funniest thing about the day (and it is definitely the funniest as I wasn't exactly laughing at anything else): When I first when in one of the nurses took my weight and height. When she pulled the measurement bar down to see how tall I was, it kind of klonked me on the head a bit. It wasn't bad, but it made a big clang sound. She apologized profusely and said, "Ouch! Sorry! I don't want to knock you on the head and give you a brain tumor!" She had no idea what was in my file, she was just the nurse taking some details! I laughed and laughed. She laughed too, feeling pretty good about the success of her joke, I suppose. She actually stopped laughing before I did and was looking at me as if to say, "Geez this kid is hard up for a laugh." I never told her why it was so funny to me. I couldn't. I was laughing too hard!

Well, I'd better run. I have lots of whining to do today about my poor arms. Hopefully, I'll get a couple of chocolate bars and a foot rub if I play my cards right.

God bless you and thank you all again for your prayers. I can't tell you how much I needed them (and Danny too)!

All our love,
~Alycia (& Danny)

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Quick Note

Hello there! Hope the week is treating you right. I, so far, have no complaints. I'm on my second cup of tea and things are looking good!

I just wanted to send out this little update/prayer request to a few of you. I have an appointment with a specialist in Birmingham tomorrow to try and find out more on what's happening with me healthwise. Hopefully, they'll be able to shed some more light on why my pituitary gland is acting up and how to sort it out. Even if they don't know what to do, we have Dr. Jesus who is the best out there. You never really know what he's going to do. It could even be that he wants to use me to show off to a few doctors and show them what a real miracle man can do! I'm up for that!

Anyway, if you would keep Danny and I and the doctors we will meet in your prayers tomorrow, it would be much appreciated!

Thank you and God Bless!

Love,
~Alycia

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Week One on the Road

Hello and Happy New Year!

Hope this email finds you in good form and back into the swing of things after the holidays! We are full speed ahead into our tour time and have just completed our very first week on the road. So here is the run down of what's happened this week.

It was a fantastic first week in Walsall with the Walsall Christian Centre! All week we were in Manor High School doing assemblies, Religious Education Classes, and performing our play. On Wednesday we did our play 4 times in a row! By the end of the day we all deserved Oscars, or gold medals in long distance drama performance. Every other day, though, we'd arrive at the school at 8:30am for a 20 minute assembly in the morning; then we'd split into 2 groups and do classroom workshops about basic Christianity, Faith, Personal Relationships (in which students brought up everything from dating to divorce), and all sorts of the issues we face today.

It's always an exciting time going into classrooms because the students here really aren't afraid to ask you any questions about anything. And it's exciting for us because we really have to be on our toes when it comes to responding to their questions. The two months of training really helped! The team was great. It can be very scary to be put on the spot, especially when it comes to questions about God and faith, but they really shone! That is one of the most rewarding things for Danny and me to see as leaders. The truth is that in the training time, we don't really teach them what to say when answering questions. The training time is only supposed to be a launch pad to help them discover these things for themselves. When a student in a high school asks one of our team, "Why do you believe in God," or "Do you ever have doubts?" or "Why does the Bible say that you have to believe in Jesus?" we don't want our team to have a scripted answer we wrote for them and made them practice over and over. We want them to know it for themselves. One of the greatest things I learnt from going through this training and being in classrooms myself over the years is this: God is not afraid of questions. He's not afraid of simple questions, he's not afraid of hard questions, he's not afraid of a sceptic’s questions, and he's not afraid of my questions. I think that in most cases, we are the ones who are afraid of answers.

On Friday night we did our second full play for the church youth group. We'd invited students from Manor to come and about 10 or so came. At the end of the night, we were able to really tell them about Jesus. With that, we had 4 young people decide for themselves that they wanted him to be a part of their lives, too.

Saturday morning we did a kid's program at the church and had a blast! I don't know who has more fun running around in the games, us or the kids. I think I had the most fun sitting and watching. You know, some one has to do it. One of the guys on our team, Trevor, is really good at making sound effects over a microphone and he can sound just like an entire drum kit! The technical term for his talent is called 'beat boxing.' When he got up on the stage to do it, he asked the kids first, "Does anyone know what 'beat boxing' is?" One boy enthusiastically put up his hand and answered, "It's when you beat some one up and put them in a box!" Come to think of it, I didn't see his little brother at kid's club that morning. I wonder...

Well, that wraps it up for me! We're heading out to Kidderminster for this next week, so hopefully I'll have internet access and a great story or two to send off! As well, Danny and I move out of our flat (apartment in Canadianese) tomorrow, so I still have lots of packing and cleaning to do! It's true what they say: There is no rest for the...outrageously good-looking.

God bless you all and talk to you again soon!

~Alycia DeLong

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy New Year!!!

Am I on the ball or what? I've sent out emails before, during, and after Christmas, and now here's my New Year's update already! Yes, I am the Queen of Keeping in Touch!

That is until Saturday when we pack up and hit the road. We'll be moving out of our flat and travelling with the team for the next 4 months. Ah, yes, happy days are here again! I will do my best (as always) to keep you all updated on the latest amazing, unbelievable, incredible, and embarassing tales of our adventures on LifeForce, though! We start our presentations in schools on Monday and are travelling around the United Kingdom until early April. We will then be doing the rest of our mission in Malta. This week is the try-to-remember-everything-we-forgot-over-Christmas-break week, which is always a bit shaky, but a lot of fun. It's only the third day of the new year and things are full-steam ahead!

So how is the new year treating you all? Hope everyone had a festive and blessed holiday. I spent New Year's day in the same way many British people did: On the floor of my bathroom. My reasons were completely legitamate, though, I assure you. I came down with a very violent case of the stomach flu on New Year's Eve. This is my first day out of our appartment this year (ha ha. clever.) What really sealed my doom was that on New Year's night I had some Stilton cheese with mango and ginger. We all make mistakes and have regrets, and well, I learned my lesson the hard way.

You know, this may be the cold medicine talking, but sometimes I even amaze myself at what small incidents (that should probably never be spoken of) I can turn into a paragraph-long story. Maybe I should make a New Year's resolution about that. I won't go into any more details, but let's just say that my resolution to lose 5 lbs - I've already accomplished.

Change of topic: New mailing address. Yes, since we will be on the road, exploring the wild English country and its ruggid terrain, we have established a mailing address to which all letters, cards, photos, care packages, money orders, traveller's checks, credit card numbers...oh, whoops! What am I saying? He he he, just a little missionary humour there (and the cold medicine). Anyway, if you ever want to mail us anything, our mailing address is

(drum roll...)

Danny and Alycia DeLong
1 Prince George Road
Wednesbury
West Midlands
WS10 9PZ
England

With that, I think I shall bid you all adieu and go back to bed. I think the cold medicine is wearing off.

God bless you all and may the new year hold many blessings for you as well!

Best Wishes,
~Alycia DeLong