Tag : missions

5 posts

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So you want to know what it was like to live in Guatemala for ten weeks?

Good! Read on. 🙂

I’m not sure whether this post is better described as an overview or a preview. Since life in Guatemala was so crazy, blogging was sadly not on my highest priority list, so I am quite behind on letting you all know what has been happening! I returned home on April 16, about nine days ago, and am finally getting a chance to post some photos here! Hopefully more posts will follow shortly, but I want to give y’all an idea of the many crazy, fun, and traditional things we did before I go into detail about any of them.

Let’s start with normal life….at least, as normal as it ever gets in Guate. 🙂

I help teach third grade, which has all of six students. Since it’s a bilingual school, they know a little bit of English, but it’s still a challenge to communicate sometimes…especially with the Guatemalan teacher, who knows almost no English. So I am very motivated to learn as much Spanish as possible!! I help with all the classes they have before their noon break, and during that time I also teach them reading and spelling.

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Agh, I love these kiddos. They’re so full of fun and personality!!

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Mikah and I do most of our cooking ourselves, except for a few times when we went out to a restaurant and bought Guatemalan food. Some of our endeavors flop, but most are successful! Sausage Cheese Biscuit Casserole, anyone?

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I often stay at school during lunch break and play tag or cops and robbers with the littles, which helps me get my “kid time” in while I’m thousands of miles away from my siblings. Once, as I carry my camera around snapping photos as the children excitedly chase each other around, a little first-grader, Elizabeth, stops me.

“Puedo tomar una foto con usted?” (Can I take a picture with you?) She asks. Why not?? This picture is now one of my all-time favorites from my entire stay!

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One Saturday, we hike down La Barranca, which translates as “The Ravine,” with the sixth grade students and teachers from the bilingual school at which we teach. It is beautiful, and we enjoy being able to be out in nature again!

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Needless to say, this group is a hoot. 😀

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And the food…..is…..AMAZING. Goodness, I could eat that every day and not get tired of it!

Mikah and I go on an adventurous bus journey to visit our good friend Corrie, who is doing missionary work in another part of Guatemala. It is a refreshing and encouraging weekend away, even if bus trips in Guatemala are a little hectic.

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We have a whole week-long break from school during Holy Week (Semana Santa, as they call it)! It turns out that Corrie’s plans changed and she is able to come visit us a couple days before Holy Week begins, so we surprise the teachers with the presence of a third gringa at their small-town school. 🙂 All three of us go to Antigua, Guatemala, with the Schaper family for half the week while they complete three days of language school.

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Corrie has to fly home on Tuesday, so we decide to go hike a volcano on Monday to make sure we get our tourist experience in. Aaannd, we just feel like hiking an active volcano, ya know, just for fun. Right?

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While in Antigua, we observe several Catholic parades and the huge crowds they draw…yes, that float you see is carried by probably a hundred people.

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Mikah and I enjoy taking my senior photos after Corrie leaves, and are beyond grateful for the beauty of the apartment complex and yard! Besides, not many people get their photos taken by an amazing friend while in a foreign country…I am blessed!

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Coffee….is one of the best things in the world. 🙂

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Back at school again after Easter comes and goes, we have three merit parties for the students at the school with the most merits!

One for kindergarten through third grade…

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One for fourth and fifth grades…this is a water party! Kids here LOVE getting wet. 🙂

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And one for sixth through tenth grades!

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Mikah and I are asked to sing and play for church twice, and for a wedding once. This is both fun and nerve-wracking…but it goes pretty well overall. 🙂

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The week before I fly home, all the teachers throw a surprise farewell party for me! It is a blast and almost completely a surprise! We play several fun games, including human foosball, before eating a very delicious, very Guatemalan meal. Mmmmm….

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Even though Guatemala was in its dry season while I was there, many beautiful flowers still bloomed!

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And this is just a portion of the adventures we had….did I mention anything about trying to catch some kind of banana-stealing critter that lived in our kitchen? Or going with the church youth group at 4:30 AM on a school day to wake up a birthday girl with loud singing and firecrackers? What about almost getting locked in the dog pen for the night? Or about entertaining unexpected company on afternoons that we were already worn out? Yes, there’s much more to tell than can be written in a single post.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed your taste of Guatemala as much as I enjoyed sharing it! Let me know in the comments below what you’re looking forward to hearing about the most!!

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Hello from Guatemala, friends! Today is my fifth full day here, and I am enjoying it! Coping with the language difference is definitely a challenge, but the two years of high school Spanish that I took are coming back more each day.

Thank you to all who have prayed and are praying for me! I could sense the Lord’s help the past few days as I’ve packed, traveled, and begun to adjust to this new lifestyle.

I have some fun stories to tell and pictures to show already, so here goes for update number one!

Last Saturday night we went out as a family to Cracker Barrel to have some good quality family time before I left.  We enjoyed having Charles’s good friend, Brian, from college, with us as well.

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It was also Mary’s twelfth birthday!! She got a special free dessert and was sung to by several waitresses. 🙂
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A very competitive game of checkers was in order….

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God answered a prayer of mine that night! Below is my subsequent Google+ post written later that night after returning home:

 

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Monday was my big packing day, and I had a sweet little helper!! It was so fun to spend time with Ella, and she was very helpful. 🙂
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Cutie pie. 🙂

IMG_7046I had a paper to write for my online class…..so I was occupied the entire six hours of plane time!
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I had two flights with a 45-minute layover in Dallas, but when I walked into the airport, my flight appeared to be delayed 20 minutes. I was quite nervous about the possibility of missing my flight and being stranded in Dallas, increasingly so as the estimated delay lengthened from 20 to 30 to 35 minutes. Praying helped to calm me down some, though, as did knowing that God was still in control. Since I had ten minutes or less between landing in Dallas and boarding my next plane, which took off from a different terminal, I cut in line to grab my gate-checked suitcase before literally running through the airport. I ran up and down the long escalators and stepped into the right shuttle ten seconds before the doors closed. This two minute ride gave me some time to calm down a bit, and thankfully I went the right direction after getting out…I did actually turn the wrong way at first but somehow realized my mistake before taking ten steps. 🙂 I made it to my gate and began pulling out my passport, less than sixty seconds before the guy called over speakerphone, “This is the last boarding call for Flight 1034 to Guatemala City…”

As soon as I found my seat on the plane, I realized how very shaky I was, from the panic of the moment and possibly from low blood sugar, since mealtimes were kinda quirky that day. I thanked the Lord for His miraculous provision and help! Just think about it…I could have easily missed my plane by missing the shuttle, running the wrong direction, or forgetting to get my gate-checked valet bag! I am not typically clear-headed when I’m in a panic, so I am very thankful that God gave me clarity of mind in a new place, and I know your prayers helped!!

Mikah and the Schaper family picked me up in Guatemala City, where we stayed the night before doing some shopping and heading to Jalapa the next day.

In case you didn’t know, this is the best way to transfer food from a shopping cart to a cooler on top of the car…

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Beautiful Guatemalan flowers // Ashlyn Schaper and I
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I drove the moto for the first time this week! Actually, I’ve never even ridden a motorcycle before this week. 🙂 Apparently, the motorcycle’s speed is controlled by twisting the right handlebar. I found that out a few minutes before I drove it, so I had just a wee bit of trouble trying to turn. The first time I got on, I was going the opposite way that the photo below shows, and while trying to turn almost 90 degrees to avoid the grassy curb, I accidentally gassed it up and flew right OVER the curb, almost running into a soccer goal and landing the motorcycle on its side, with my leg pinned underneath and both wheels still spinning. The only battle scar I have is a 8-inch scrape on my leg…but it didn’t even bleed.

So this week I rode a motorcycle for the first time, drove a motorcycle for the first time, wrecked a motorcycle for the first time, and I even rode side-saddle for the first time today on the way to church. 🙂
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Thursday was my first day helping out at the school here in Jalapa, and Mikah and I taught first grade all day. This is the biggest class, with fourteen children, and I enjoyed spending time with them. They’re a lot of fun! Of course communication was difficult, though, because I know very little Spanish and they know very little English.

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On Friday, I helped out a bit in first grade and kindergarten, then moved to third grade, which has six students, where I’ll probably be stationed for most of my time here. The teacher in third grade hardly knows any English, however, so that’ll be interesting. The kids can translate a little bit, and they are a fun class, so that will help.

On Saturday evening, we had several of the older school kids over for pizza, a movie, and games.

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MIkah made imitation apple-cider for everyone, but our nice little “Hannah and the cider” picture was photobombed!! Hence this face…

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Your prayers for both Mikah and I are coveted this next week! Thanks for your continual support, and I will keep you updated!

 

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Hey friends! It’s been SOOO long since I’ve blogged last, but I’ve got some news for y’all now!  On February 9th, Lord willing, I will be flying down to Guatemala and staying until the middle of April! I will be joining my good friend Mikah, who is currently teaching at a Christian school, while the long-term missionaries are away at language school. While I’m down there, I will also be teaching at the school, which will be a new yet surely enjoyable experience. 🙂

I am currently working part-time as I finish up the rest of my high school work. These things, along with many preparations for my trip, are keeping me very busy and feeling kind of overwhelmed at times. This morning during our church service, however, I was blessed by one line of the song “My Savior’s Love” that says, “He took my sins AND MY SORROWS, and made them His very own!” That reminded me of 1 Peter 5:7, where Peter encourages us to cast all our cares upon the Lord, for He cares for us. Remembering this important truth and giving my little worries and stresses to Jesus for Him to solve really blessed me today. I am still to give my all and do the best that I can, but “He’ll take care of the rest” (Keith Green quote there)!

It’s been a couple of years since my last mission trip (more on Jamaica HERE and HERE), and even then, the longest I was gone was two weeks. The nine weeks I’ll be spending in Guatemala will definitely feel like a long time compared to a couple of weeks. I know it’s where the Lord wants me, though, and I also know that He’ll be with me as I step out of my comfort zone a bit and follow His lead. I covet your prayers! If you are interested in praying for me, here some ideas:

  • Pray that preparations would go well as I finish my last high school work before I leave, as I pack, and all the little things that go along with leaving one’s home and family for nine weeks.
  • Pray that I can adjust to the new culture easily.
  • Pray for the Lord’s help with my homesickness…I know it will be coming at some point.
  • Pray for the work that is going on in Guatemala, at the school and otherwise, and that it will not be in vain.
  • Pray that the Lord will stretch me and teach me a lot
  • Pray for safety, both while I travel and while I am down there.
  • Pray that I will keep my focus on the Lord, not on my difficulties or distractions.
  • Pray for the family, as I’m sure it’s hard for them to get along without their favorite sister…………………………………………..(Oops, did I say that out loud? ….okay, just kidding. 😉 ) Pray for them anyway, since we have a big construction project going on at our house…more on that later. 🙂

I am SOOO excited about this trip!!! I am really looking forward to a new experience and the opportunity to spend time with Mikah! Yes, I do want to keep you all posted on what’s going on in the “land of eternal spring” via this blog! So feel free to subscribe by email if you want to, via the little box to the right. 🙂 Thanks for caring and reading this post, and I’m looking forward to seeing you around here some more!

Photo credit: Mikah Litchfield

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I miss Jamaica.  This week and the previous one mark my two-year “Jamaica anniversary,” so you can guess where my thoughts have been!  🙂  I am still really hoping to go back sometime, but since I have left the timing in the Lord’s hands for Him to determine, I’m just learning to be patient and to pray.

And you know what?  I’m able through His strength to truly rest in Him, knowing that His timing is perfect!

I actually began the writing process for this post several months ago, hoping to publish it sometime soon thereafter.  However, for me, writing an article about Jamaica is not an easy or quick process, especially when I get lost in my thoughts and memories and journal entries and pictures, remembering the unique experiences with a smile on my face as the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings flow through my brain.  But I also just had to tack on some photos at the end!

If you read the first installment of this Jamaica series, you already know the basics – but if you haven’t read it or forgot (I don’t blame you…it’s been a while), go read it now, then come back to this. 🙂

I was originally casually invited to go to Jamaica in January of 2013, while Grace and I were in Guyana on a short-term mission trip.  I didn’t really consider it then, but when I got an email a month or two later inviting me again (Grace was invited, too, but she decided against going), I started seriously praying and thinking about going.  I had the choice between music camp with Grace or Jamaica by myself, and I knew that music camp would be more comfortable for me.  However, I didn’t really have the same passion for music that Grace did, so I was unsure of what to do.  I made a detailed pros and cons list for each option, and through this list, Mom & Dad’s input, and lots and lots of prayer, I reached the point at which I knew without a single doubt that God wanted me to go to Jamaica.

Honestly, I didn’t “want” to go to a third-world country by myself for two whole weeks.

I would be on a team of four, without anyone from my family or anyone even less than twice my age.  This didn’t excite my introverted, steady (read: shy and NOT change-loving) nature, but since I knew it was the Lord’s will, I obeyed.  The Lord blessed me in a big way by answering my prayer that I would feel excited about the trip, which was yet another encouragement that I was indeed doing the right thing.

So I made arrangements, packed my bags, and flew off to Jamaica!  I was recently reading through my journal entries about the trip, so amazing memories are floating through my head.  🙂  One of my favorite stories is from our last evening there.  Pastor Kerron Simmonds (the pastor of one of the holiness churches down there – he actually went to Union Bible College in Indiana for a few years) took Neena and I, along with his mom and aunt, to an expensive restaurant, Little Ochie, down at the southern tip of Jamaica.  It was a two-hour drive, and after a few stops, we finally got there around 8:00 PM.  The restaurant was directly on the beach, so we ate…..(drum roll)….seafood!  They stored the fish in deep freezers, and customers would pick out their fish and bring them to the cooks.  The sight and smell disgusted me, so I was thankful when Pastor Simmonds’ mom chose the fish, and even more grateful when they offered to cut the head off of mine before serving it!

I was apparently showing my apprehensive feeling toward the whole situation, and P. Simmonds decided to take advantage of it.  We were inside a dimly lit open-air building, with rock music blaring so loud my heart throbbed and a mixed smell of raw fish and salt water in the air.  He snuck up behind me, grabbed me by the shoulders, and shook me as he shouted in my ear.  I jumped and shrieked, and Pastor Kerron laughed SOOO hard at me (and for the rest of the night)…I think he had the time of his life just watching my face.  🙂  He also teased that I “didn’t want the fish looking at me” – which, of course, was true.

It was a really good fish, though!  Its unexpected deliciousness may have been partly due to my ravenous hunger (it was 9:00 at night..), but I’m pretty sure they told me that it was one of the best kinds of fish around, “jerk fish,” I think it was called.  The blaring rock music and the obvious impurity of some of the late-night restaurant-comers did quite a bit to dampen the mood, but it was an enjoyable and most certainly a memorable evening!

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We dubbed this the worst photo that we took down there, but this was taken after supper that night. 🙂

One night as I was journaling my adventures and thoughts, I realized that God brought me there to pray.  Anyone can pray, but we all know how much easier it is to pray when you have some specifics.  There are soooo many needs in Jamaica, and so few prayer warriors fighting for them!  I wrote down all the people and things that I noticed needs in – a list I still have and use, though sadly not as much as I should.

I miss Jamaica a lot, but I’m thankful that God knows what He’s doing and He knows what is best for me.  It’s a little ironic, actually, since my time in Jamaica was not at all luxurious, and I can’t say that I enjoyed it to the fullest, due to sickness, homesickness, out-of-my-comfort-zone assignments, and more.  But for some reason I feel like I left a bit of my heart there….perhaps with the children.

One thing I know – God brought me to Jamaica for a reason, and He taught me more in those two weeks than I could have learned at home in several months.  I am soooo thankful for the opportunity I had to go, and how gracious my team members were to a naive fifteen-year-old girl!

I appreciate you reading my heart through this extended article…but since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I figured I should silence my words for now and just save y’all some time by using pictures instead! 🙂

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Sister Street leading a Bible School song

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This was taken on July 4th – I even unintentionally wore red, white, and blue that day!  It’s unusual to be in a foreign country on the July 4th, though. 🙂

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Giving my testimony publicly for the first time at the 400-member primary school!

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Now THAT is a hairpin curve!

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Neena and I among some of the many photogenic kids at a school

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These two guys were characters.  🙂  Kevin is on the right and Nathaniel on the left.

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We made hundreds of balloon animals for the daycares!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThanks a lot for reading!  🙂

{John 14:27}

 

 

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Hey, y’all!

As many of you know, Jamaica has been on my mind a lot lately.  I went on a two week mission trip in June-July 2013 (I was fifteen), and it changed my life.  I could go on and on about what went on in my mind and heart before, during, and after my Jamaica trip – God used it mightily and is still working in me through that experience.  For now, though, I want to share the summary I wrote shortly after returning home.  This is the raw report – no changes, edits, or additions.  🙂  Enjoy your raw taste of Jamaica!

Our mission team was pretty small.  Dave and Louise Street organized this trip, and Mr. Street has been there 8 times.  Neena Wilson is a VBS teacher and has been to Jamaica 9 times.  I, the youngest member of the team, am your friend (hopefully) and have now been to Jamaica once.

We stayed for two weeks, doing mission work in various schools, Vacation Bible School, churches, and wherever we got the opportunity.  It was definitely a new experience for me, traveling without any other family members and living primitively for two weeks.  But we could all sense God’s guidance the whole stay there, which was a real blessing.

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Sister Street and I giving the Bible lesson

Because of a modification in plans once we got there (Jamaican plans change almost every day), we were able to get into 15-20 different public schools in the area.  We did the same presentation at each school, sometimes dividing the students up into groups and doing it for each group.  Mr. Street would do some magic tricks and a little show with his puppet, Sister Street would lead in a couple songs, and then she and I would do a flannel graph story about Elijah.  Neena would come in with some review questions and a memory verse.   The kids loved it, and we loved them!  I made quite a few sweet little friends at one of the schools!

In Jamaica, the motto is “No Problem!”  They are much more laid back than Americans, never in a hurry to do anything or go anywhere.  We worked with the Jamaican Holiness churches down there, teaching Sunday School at one and VBS at the other.  Due to the school year being extended a week longer than expected, we decided to have VBS both Saturdays (two sessions each) and the first Sunday we were there.  We got a pretty good turnout, considering the late and lack of advertisement. 

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Pastor Simmonds giving Neena and I “bunny ears!” :)

Mr. Street told us about several young people who truly gave their hearts to Jesus last year.  They loved the Lord and were sincerely trying to follow Him.  However, partly because of the lack of discipleship and follow-up, they have backslidden since then.  A couple will openly admit that they are not Christians anymore.

If we look at it from man’s perspective, the spiritual future of Jamaica does not look encouraging.  There are many people “serving Jesus,” but their spiritual lives are built on emotions or what others think of them.  However, we serve a living God who is all-powerful and has a plan for Jamaica.  He has several true servants in that country, people who are TRULY loving Him and willing to follow Him, no matter what the cost.

I feel that God led me to Jamaica so that I can come back here and pray.  Prayer is so powerful!  It is easier to pray specifically now that I have been there and understand the needs better.  I am also very thankful for all the opportunities I got there to witness and serve.  I know that God used this trip to show me that only He can fully satisfy.  Praise the Lord for being with me through all and giving me the privilege to serve Him.

In the email I sent out before I left, I asked for specific prayer for myself and the team.  Thank you so much for praying and for letting me know you would!  While I was down there, the thought came to me that I should have asked you all to pray for the Jamaicans instead!  I would greatly appreciate it if you would continue to pray—not only for me, but for those who don’t know Christ.

And as an added bonus, here is a short description of our living habits that I wrote to a friend soon after our return:

We stayed in a four-room mission house (two bedrooms, bathroom, and living/dining room.  All the kitchen we had was a refridgerator/freezer and a small table area to put food on.  
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A glimpse of the “kitchen” and living room

It was challenging, as there were ants everywhere.  One morning I poured some cereal into my bowl and was about to go on preparing it when I saw it was moving!  There were ants ALL over it and in the rest of the box!  That was a little disapointing!  Another time they got into the peanut butter jar…yuck.  🙂 
Pretty much all we lived on there (besides little things here and there) was peanut butter and tropical fruit!  The mangos were delicious, but they turned my blue braces green.  We also took cold bucket baths each day because the shower head didn’t work.  
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This was during one of our school presentations…my favorite school for obvious reasons!

To be continued…

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