Tuesday, December 22, 2009

With only three days until Christmas . . .

I grew up with a mountain of Christmas traditions, some of which being typical of most families and some being specific to mine. I loved these traditions growing up, baking Christmas goodies with my mom while listening to Christmas music, decorating the tree, and watching all of the classics. I loved that every Christmas Eve we eat our customary chicken noodle soup and cinnamon roll dinner followed up with the most delicious pie in the world – grasshopper pie. But seriously, who eats ice cream pie in December? My family! So this year is definitely strange since I’m wearing tank tops in place of parkas, and we will be going to beach instead of going sledding. Needless to say a Christmas Eve BBQ is going to be replacing the chicken noodle soup and cinnamon rolls, although I think that watching a few Christmas classics will still work out this year. As I think through the many changes of the past year, and how Christmas is going to be as different as everything else, I realize that the thing that is so wonderful about Christmas is that even if it is being celebrated differently, it is still celebrated. The meaning of Christmas doesn’t change with the traditions, climate and location in the world. Christ still came into the world as a baby in a manger, and today is celebrated by Christians around the world. So the most familiar part of Christmas ultimately stays the same, the only difference being that I’m singing Noche de Paz in place of Silent night.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” - Isaiah 9:6

Friday, December 18, 2009

Back in Lima . . . again

Yesterday Elsa and I made the long bus trip back to Lima. The trip went fairly smoothly and with only a few delays. We arrived back to town hot and tired. It's still completely strange to me to be celebrating Christmas in beach weather! Today I am sitting at the Starbucks near our apartment in a tank top and drinking a Frappuccino. So strange. I know it’s a pain to drive in, and can be so uncomfortable, but it just doesn’t seem like Christmas without the cold and the snow! Anyway, Elsa and I made it back fine and spent the evening with our long lost 4th roommate, Raquel. It was hard to leave Raquel alone in the apartment when Meredith, Elsa and I moved to Tarma, but there weren’t really any other options there. We had a fun time together, and decided to go to the movies. This is a treat for Elsa and I since there is no movie theater in Tarma. The next two weeks are going to be a combination of vacation and work. Obviously being away from Tarma limits certain aspects of ministry, but there is still a lot of planning to be done in the coming weeks and months for our next move in bible studies. I’ve been praying a lot for clear direction from the Lord, and will be continuing to seek his will while in Lima. For now, I am cathing up on a lot of reading and enjoying the fact that I can spend an entire afternoon at a Starbucks  Oh the simple pleasures!

Monday, December 14, 2009

1 down, 1 to go

That is the mentality of the team today. Yesterday we completed our second neighborhood children's event, and tomorrow we have our final Bible study celebrations night. It's been a little crazy planning two big events only two days apart, but we are hanging in there :) The children's event went really well although we had fewer children in attendance than our Noah's Ark event in October. Still, we sang a few Christmas songs, plays some games and Meredith, Elsa and I shared the responsibility of sharing the message: Wordless Book Style! The kids really enjoyed themselves, and we are satisfied that we presented a clear gospel message to them. We cleaned up and were done with everything by about 1:30, and then got to work on preparations for event number two.
Today and tomorrow will be busy days of planning, decorating, making trips back and forth between our house and the venue where we will be hosting the event. I am in charge of the celebration slideshow, and putting together video testimonies to present in the middle of the program, so I will be spending my day today working out the kinks and taking some final video. We are hoping and praying for a really good turnout, that many non-believers would come to Christ and be able to celebrate his birth with new meaning in their lives. Please be praying for this event as it is the culmination of our past six weeks of Bible studies, and the last thing we will be "officially" doing in Tarma until February. Things are coming together for the event, and we are all pretty excited to see how it all turns out. I'll be keeping you posted!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The end of a rodeo

With just one week left in our current ministry in Tarma, things are both speeding up and slowing down at the same time. I finish up my English classes this week, and have already finished my Spanish tutoring for the year. That will be something I will start back up in January. Right now the team is focusing on two major events we will be hosting before heading back to Lima for Christmas. The first is going to be a neighborhood children’s event, one similar to our Noah’s Ark event in October. This is to continue a strong presence in our neighborhood and continuing to gain the trust of parents by blessing their children. The second event will be our big “Celebration” for all of the bible studies we’ve been hosting over the past six weeks. This will be our “final act” of this year’s ministry, as we gather together to celebrate the completion of Advent (a little earlier than normal), and celebrate what God has been doing in the lives of the Tarmeñans. We will have a slideshow featuring pictures of all of the groups, a few video interviews, Christmas singing, and a presentation of the Gospel message. We will be celebrating with the traditional Peruvian Christmas treats, Hot Chocolate and Paneton. The hot chocolate is made with bars of chocolate that have cloves and cinnamon added to them – so the taste is a lot richer than the powder mixes we drink at home! And Paneton is cake-like bread that has dried fruit in it. We are trying to make this event as special as possible, to invite non-believers, and to encourage those that have been attending our studies to want to continue next year.
I confess that there is a large part of me that is ready to be done with these studies, so that we can move on to the next thing. I am ready for 2010 with gusto, and right now getting through the holidays away from home is my next hurdle. I may be somewhat childish here, but this will be my first Christmas away from home, and it is hard to not be with my family in my hometown, sharing traditions that I love. I am praying that God will allow me to experience the joy of his birth in new ways this year, and that the meaning of the season won’t get lost in all that I am “not” able to do for the holidays. The meaning of Christmas doesn’t change just because there is no snow in Tarma.
Anyway – we are at the end of a rodeo of sorts, beginning the process of tearing down the arena and packing up the horses. January will be a quiet month of planning, praying and preparing our next moves in Tarma. I’m glad to have some time to evaluate, to problem solve and make some changes in how we live and operate in this town. My personal prayer is that God would be very specific with what He wants us to accomplish in 2010.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Personal Retreat Day

Every month each ReachGlobal staff member is supposed to take what is called a “Personal Retreat Day”. The point is to allow you one full day away from team and ministry responsibilities to re-align yourself with God’s plan for your life and ministry. To spend time in prayer and in His word, to get away from the phone, email and people that need you on a daily basis. Yesterday I decided to take my PRD due to having been gone for the previous week, and having returned to the ministry far from focused.
We have two weeks of Bible studies left that will culminate to a Celebration Event on the 15th. After this event we will be traveling back to Lima for a few weeks for various conferences, meetings and health check-ups. Beyond the desire to “finish well” this series of Bible studies and this year of ministry, I am beginning the process of seeking the Lord’s specific direction for what He wants me to do in this coming year. Yesterday, as part of my PRD I watched a few sessions from a DVD of Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit from 2007. Bill Hybels spoke on the topic: A Vision To Die For, and he posed the question: “What does God want my ministry to look like 5 years from now?” Obviously this won’t directly apply to my situation since my ministry here in Tarma is limited to one more year. But it was an appropriate question to ask myself as we are closing out this first year, and will be entering the second: What does God want my ministry in Tarma to look like one year from now? This has been a question that I’ve been pondering over the past 24 hours and will continue to pray over in the coming weeks. We as a team have been making plans 3-4 months at a time, but I’m starting to wonder if I need to have a decent idea of what can be accomplished in one year’s worth of ministry, in order to actually accomplish it.
Overall, this past year has been one of transition, one of trusting God in the high’s and low’s of change, learning how to be a roommate, teammate, a foreigner living in a foreign land, and realizing how much God had blessed my life in the States. If I’m completely honest with myself and with all of you – I haven’t accomplished anything of kingdom value in this first year of missions. The nature of transition, of my own selfish nature and of circumstances has brought me to this place of re-evaluation. We moved to Tarma on August 5, and in the past 4 months, God has given me the grace and time to get used to life here. But now, with a ticking clock, and a down-hill motion of passing the half-way mark, my heart and mind are rallying to seek God’s one-year plan for me in Tarma. It is possible to accomplish great and incredible things if the Spirit would move and God would chose to bless our ministry. So this is where I am, finding myself at a defining moment. Will I work hard for the kingdom? Or will I just exist doing nice things for people for one more year in Peru? I pray to my Father in Heaven that He will use me for purposes more significant than that.
Be praying with me as I wait upon God’s direction and His plan for my final year in Peru.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Moments with Jim

If there is something that I appreciate in this world, it is someone God has blessed with a mountain of wisdom. I love questioning these people about their own experiences and ask their opinions on what I should be doing differently, or what I could be doing differently. One of these people that I appreciate so much is Jim Panaggio – ReachGlobal missionary of 10 years here in Peru. Jim has been helping our team through the process of getting to Tarma, casting vision, problem solving and simply doing ministry here in the provinces of Peru. He is a man of many years of ministry experience and cultural understanding, he is a husband and a father, and his years as a pastor have given him a very interesting and unique perspective of what we are trying to do here. He has been very helpful. Jim arrived in Tarma with me Monday, and has spent the last couple of days observing, counseling and encouraging us in our work here. One thing I appreciate about Jim is his desire that everyone is working within their own strengths, and emphasizing that everyone in our team has different strengths, so it doesn’t make sense for us all to be doing the same thing.
One of the things that I have been praying over this past month is my involvement at the English Institute. As much as I have enjoyed teaching classes there, the outcome has not been what I had hoped, nor does it seem to be lining up with our overall vision. I will be spending the rest of this month evaluating, but one thing that Jim suggested was taking my “strength” of knowing English to the streets. Instead of teaching in a classroom, I could use my ability to teach English as an “in” of sorts, with individuals. There are many girls at Chichos who have a desire to learn English, and I could use English to motivate them to spend time with me, and thus be able to grow relationships and talk more with them about Spiritual matters.
Not yet sure how I would go about doing this, but it something that I will definitely be praying about. Jim’s visit has definitely been encouraging, and it has helped me get back into the swing of things a little easier after having been out-of-the-loop for a week. I confess I’m a little anxious to finish this round of Bible studies, to get through Christmas and start afresh in 2010. I’m ready to see what God has in store for my second year on the field. So let’s get started with it already!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The highly anticipated week has already flown by

Yesterday morning I put Jason on a plane at 4:30am and hopped an 8:00am bus to make the trip back to Tarma. Fortunately I didn’t have to make the trip alone as Jim Panaggio, one of the ReachGlobal missionaries in Lima, was planning on spending a few days in Tarma with the team. The trip felt longer than normal, but we actually arrived in good time. I was exhausted from not having slept the night before and from having another emotional goodbye at the airport. As much as I am glad to be here in Peru doing what I am doing, it is rather difficult trying to do the long-distance relationship thing alongside :) My time with Jason was wonderful and we were able to do a lot of fun things together, most of which centered around eating! We made the trip to Tarma together where he was finally able to meet my team, and we spent Thanksgiving day together. Thanks to a few people from home, we were able to put a delicious and traditional Thanksgiving meal on the table. Meredith impressed us all by cooking a golden 12lb turkey, stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, and the rest of us helped out with the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans and pie. Jason and I spent some time touring the city and meeting the people from our neighborhood and bible studies. Jason really made an impression on a group of youngsters at the bus station due to his rather large frame! The rest of our time was spent in Lima, which included a birthday celebration on the ocean, and a typical Peruvian church service. The time went too fast, but I suppose that was to be expected. Jason made the trip home okay, and now we will be finishing out the year doing what we’ve gotten so good at doing: email!
As for me, I am back in full swing with my team finishing up the Christmas bible studies and planning a final Celebration Night to finish off the study. It is going to be on the 15th of December which will mark the end of our trial run of small groups. We will then spend the week of Christmas and New Year’s in Lima, and come back at the start of January to begin our second round of ministry.
The strangest part about it being December is that it is getting warmer, not colder! We may even spend a day or two at the beach! Who would have thought that a Peruvian Christmas would involve drinking hot chocolate on the beach!

Monday, November 30, 2009


"The Sacrifice is great for a heart which tenderly loves his parents, family, religious brothers and the land where he was born. But the voice which invites us, which has called us to make the offering of everything we have, is the voice of God Himself. It is our Divine Savior who says to us as to his first apostles; "Go, teach all nations, instructing them to observe my commandments . . .".

-St. Damien of Molokai

Friday, November 20, 2009

Trains, planes and automobiles

In about two hours I will be hopping on a bus bound for Lima. It is a beautiful day in Tarma, and I hope, a perfect day to make the 6.5 hour bus ride. Tonight I will be spending time with my third roommate Raquel, that Meredith, Elsa and I left in Lima when we moved here to Tarma. She is a high school counselor and family therapist in Lima and has just finished writing her dissertation to receive the Peruvian equivalent to a Doctorate. It has been a few months since I’ve seen Raquel, so I am really looking forward to spending a few days with her.
Tomorrow will come with a long to-do list which includes: buying new children’s ministry material for Elsa (all of hers was lost in our house fire in Lima, and thanks to a few donations, we are going to replace what she had and then some!). I will also be looking for material myself that will help with my English classes and spending time with young women. Beyond that – it is grocery shopping, cleaning, and awaiting the arrival of . . . Jason! Excitement upon Excitement, Jason will be arriving at midnight Saturday to spend a week with me in Peru. This will be the third time I will have seen him this year, so of course I am completely thankful for the time off, and the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with a familiar face. Our plans are to spend a few days in Lima, travel to Tarma, then we will spend the remainder of our time back in Lima. So, if you don’t hear anything from me in about a week or so - - this is why ;)
I hope you all have a most blessed Thanksgiving, safe travels, and that you all enjoy the pumpkin pie!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A second go-around

This past Tuesday we had our second go-around at the neighborhood Bible study we are trying to get off of the ground. It was definitely encouraging as we had a total of 4 women and 4 children present, and they participated well. We have discovered that many Peruvians don’t feel comfortable sharing and participating in large groups, so we are trying to keep the groups rather small. It was a beautiful combination to have the adults and children together, taking turns talking about the aspects of Christmas that mean the most to us and lighting the Hope candle of Advent. The Advent tradition is something most people here have heard of, but have never practiced. It is something unique that we are able to use to capture their attention, and it is also a visual representation of the Christmas story. We have also discovered that most of the people here are visual learners and do better with analogies, and physical aids. We are adapting, and hope that at the end of 5 weeks, we will have a decent understanding of how to meet people’s needs with these Bible studies, how to lead them in a way that the people will benefit from. We still have lots to learn, but we are on our way!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Advent Wreaths and Baby Showers

November has been a fairly busy month for us as a team. We’ve started our Christmas Bible studies that are focusing on Advent and the meaning of Christmas, and are advancing week by week through the candles of advent. This has been a rewarding yet tricky process as many hosting families cancel the day of their study due to circumstances. But we are gaining ground with a few of our groups and are encouraged with the interest shown by the members. I’ve said before that we are treating this six-week study as a sort of “trial run” and we are already trying to do a little problem solving with aspects that haven’t worked out well. Tonight will be the second week for our neighborhood bible study and we are hoping for a few more people to come this week.
In addition to our studies we’ve been given the opportunity to love and care for one of the girls that works in Chichos. She is pregnant and alone in Tarma, and after having a few complications with the pregnancy, we’ve been able to care for her in a way that her own family has not done. We are praying with her and for her, encouraging her to draw closer to God and His plan for her and her baby girl. Due to the complications, Elizabet is supposed to be on bed-rest, but her circumstances are making that difficult. We are praying that God would keep the baby in the womb until she reaches full term and that the delivery processes goes well. One of the things we were able to do was host a baby shower for Elizabet. Last night Chicho and his wife along with about 15 of the girls who work there came to our apartment for the shower. Meredith led a short devotional, and I had a craft planned, and we shared delicious food and watched while Elizabet was blessed with wonderful gifts by her friends and employer. Please be praying for Elizabet with us as we continue to show God’s love to her and draw her closer to Him.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Our First Visitors!

This past week my team and I were blessed to have some visitor from the mission come to visit us and see our ministry here in Tarma. This team consisted of five men who were a mix of experienced missionaries and international leaders with ReachGlobal, and their short stay in Tarma was both an encouragement and a blessing. This was the first time we've have visitors, and what joy we experienced in sharing the vision of our ministry with them. We were able to spend a day taking them around Tarma, and introducing them to many of our contacts, including a sit-down meeting with the mayor! We had team sessions with the group and learned a lot about working and living as a team.
This was a particularly encouraging week for me as I was given a lot of wisdom and truth that explained some of the difficulties I have been having here. Who knew that Culture Shock could hit six months in? I sure didn’t, so the counsel given to me by these men was need and appreciated. The visit of this team was well timed, and I’m thankful that God continues to be faithful to meet our needs here in Tarma.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Surprising Pumpkins

I had decided a couple of weeks ago to do a pumpkin carving activity with my English classes in order to teach them some fun new vocabulary and learn a bit more of tradition and culture of the US. So I went in search of Zapallo, a big greenish looking pumpkin, and in process I stumbled upon white pumpkins! I was overjoyed and bought three - one for each class. I prepared a teaching lesson on carving the pumpkins and taught the first class last night.
Now, I really should have learned by now that even though some things appear to be the same here as they are at home, they usually turn out to be completely different. I should have expected the same with my white pumpkins. After teaching my basic lesson, my students and I got to it - and after a struggle to get the top off, I was amazed to find that these pumpkins were not hollow inside. No indeed, they were full to the top with pulp and pumpkin meat (which is also why they were so dang heavy!). I immediately began to worry because my classes are only an hour long, and I didn't know if we would have time to scoop out all of the insides and carve the face. But with determination, my 11 year old student Joe made a nice hollow column inside the pumpkin, and we got to work drawing and carving the face. In the end, the lesson was fun, a little messy, and a unique experience for my students.
I also decided that in order to save time, I would go ahead and cut the tops of the other two pumpkins and take out the insides at home, leaving just the carving to be done in class. This will help with the time and mess problem. Still overall I am happy with how my first class went, and am hoping for even better results tonight and tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two steps forward, One step back

This past Saturday, my team and I hosted a little Halloween party of sorts for the neighborhood kids, taking the focus off of Halloween and putting it on God. We hosted a Noah’s Ark themed event for all of the children of our neighbors. We have often played with the kids in the street, but in an attempt to gain trust and develop relationships with our neighbors, we decided to start by loving their children. All of the kids were to come dressed up as an animal and their costumes were to be homemade. We too dressed up and represented the bunnies, the cats and the roosters. Noah was also among our party! We sang, we played games and Elsa told the story of Noah and his love and faithfulness to God, and how God in turned blessed Noah. The even reminded me a lot of the VBS that I helped with in Mexico, and the kids were wonderfully excited to play and receive prizes. I pray that this will have honored God as well as allowed the neighbors to trust us a bit more. We hope to host a neighborhood Bible study in our home once a week and are currently trying to establish a day to do it.
Although our event with the children was a success, we are still working through many of the difficulties of relating in another culture. Even Elsa and Julio come across problems as the culture in Lima is really different from the culture in Tarma. We still run into a lot of problems with preparing and praying over company that never shows up or classes where the students don’t show up, or mainly people not showing up in general. As we make progress in one area we still have problem-solving to do in other areas. I suspect that this is a natural part of cross-cultural ministry, and we are waiting on God to open our eyes to what we should be doing differently.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Waiting on God

In two weeks I will have completed six months in Peru. In two months I will have completed one year away from home. Looking back it is amazing how the time has passed, while enduring each day has been both a blessing and a challenge. Now, almost half way into my commitment I'm waiting on God for some direction. When I left home almost a year ago I was excited and ready to go and do what I had worked so hard to get to do: international missions. God had been preparing me for this for several years with short-term teams, with language study, with campus ministry and discipleship opportunities. I have loved the Lord since I was a little girl, and my heart so desperately wanted to serve him and make him proud of me.
Nothing about this job has been what I expected. I suppose that should be an understatement - there is really no way to understand what it means to leave your life to go and make disciples of all nations. Still, I was excited to go and make those disciples, I was ready to go and love the people of Peru. It's practically my personality to love people. But one thing I didn't expect was to not love people. I don't mean that I hate them, nor do I dislike them, but not naturally loving people was unexpected. I've been struck with a frustrating complacency toward the people here, and my job seems to have become nothing more than a job. I log my work hours, I complete my goals for the week and my scheduled responsibilities - but I do these things because they are my job, not because I am passionately broken for the people I'm around.
So I'm waiting on God, and praying incredibly hard. This has been the most unexpected thing of all I have experienced. I never anticipated the apathy. I know that God has a plan and a calling for me – it’s just that I’m no longer sure of what that plan or calling is. I’m praying that God would reveal his plan to me, that He would show himself to me. I would appreciate the prayers of anyone willing to pray with me. And in the meantime, I continue to wait on God . . .

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Initial Group

As many of you know the long-term goal of our ministry here in Tarma is to come along side of national believers to develop, empower and release them back into their own community. Last Saturday we made great progress in this goal by hosting our first meeting with a small group of Christians that have shown interest in being part of this ministry and vision for Tarma. The first of four planned meetings with this "Initial Group" went wonderfully, and we as a team were encouraged by the enthusiastic response of the Tarmeños. Over the next three weeks we will meet with this group of believers to instruct them in the vision of our ministry, to explain the differences between the traditional church and the cellular church, to emphasize the importance of the Holy Spirit in our work, to explain the spiritual gifts and assist the group in discovering what theirs are etc. We want to equip them for some leadership, while not leaving them on their own altogether. The plan is to start small group Bible studies in homes and businesses, starting the first week of November. The role of this Initial Group is to host the Bible studies, and invite friends, family and neighbors to attend. We as the Tarma team will be responsible for the actual teaching of the studies, at least for now, as we begin this process of developing and empowering more intentionally. Our second meeting with the Initial Group will be this coming Saturday, and we are in the midst of putting together a 6-week Bible study on the meaning of Christmas, maybe even incorporating the celebration of Advent into the study. This will lead us up to Christmas, at which we will break from the studies until after the New Year. In January we will re-group and start something new. I am encouraged by the progress we have made, by the grace and power of God. We are continually praying that His Spirit will go forth and prepare hearts for the gospel. We continue to build and make new relationships with people daily, as well as plan for the coming weeks and months of strategy. We are growing as a team and are finding a rhythm within the ministry. I continue to take each day as it comes, and am clinging to the Lord as we enter into the Christmas season. My major hope and prayer is that He would be glorified through this first-attempt at teaching the Word in Tarma. I love your prayers for this as well. Thanks.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Meat. Have you ever felt like a piece of it?

Everyone has their good days and bad days. I’m discovering that certain things that can really get me frustrated/annoyed here in Peru can cause a good day to turn bad. Specifically, the cat-calls. It is very common here for men to be very vocal and forward with beautiful women. In fact it’s pretty opposite to what I experienced in the States. There, boys are often too worried about rejection to risk showing interest in a pretty girl. Not here. Whistles, cat-calls, kissing noises, and expressions of love are the norm. You do get used to it after a while, but it still makes me uncomfortable. Especially when walking around alone. Most of the men are harmless and don’t do more than call.
Today I was especially frustrated because it felt like I was the only woman on the street as I walked to my Spanish lessons. Because I’m a foreigner with light hair and green eyes, I attract more attention than I would like, therefore attracting more calls. I do the only thing that I can which is to not make eye-contact and to ignore the people calling at me. But today, I felt like running all the way to my lessons just so that people would leave me alone. It’s interesting to me the differences in cultural norms that exist between my culture and the Latin American culture. While I love the history and culture of Peru, there are a few things that I’m not going to miss when I come home, the cat-calls being one of them. Goodbye, I don’t want them.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Answered Prayers

When I was raising support one of the main things I prayed was that God would do immeasurable more than I asked or imagined. God answered that prayer and I was fully supported after 5 months of support meetings. Asking people for money, even for something ministry related, has never come easy to me, nor is it enjoyable. So I began to pray that God would work beyond my own inabilities and discomfort to bring in the money needed to bring to this place of ministry.
It occurred to me the other day that the power of this verse didn’t end when I reached my support goal. And I decided to continue to pray that God would do immeasurably more than I ask or imagine for this ministry. Yesterday I spent time in prayer before going to my English class, and I asked the Lord to give me opportunities to get to know my students outside of class, that I would have a chance to explain what I do and why I am here in Tarma, and that I would have opportunities to invite students into my home in order to spend time with them and share our ministry with them. After I was done praying, I packed up my lesson plans and went to class and taught my students the names of occupations and how to use these nouns with the verb ‘to be’. I am really enjoying teaching, something that rather surprised me. And I am very impressed by my student’s eagerness to learn. After the class was over, I realized that one of my students,( Junett, age 30) lives near me. So we walked home together, and she asked me what else I do besides teach English, and why I came to Tarma. She asked when we meet, and I was able to extend an invitation for her and her daughter to come to the house sometime.
When I got home I realized that the Lord had answered my prayers within two hours of praying them. I am overwhelmed by his grace and encouragement as I continue to do relationship building in a way that isn’t the most comfortable for me. He is working through my hesitation and inabilities so that the glory goes to Him. I am excited to have Junett and her daughter Grecia over to the house next week – I think we may bake cookies :) Please be praying for her and her daughter, that if they don’t already know Christ as their savior that the Spirit would open their hearts and ready them for the gospel. Pray as well for the rest of my students, that I would have opportunities to pursue them outside of class, and that they would be receptive to spending time with me.
Thank you so much for your continued support and encouragement.
God Bless.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What I missed telling you.

Sometimes I feel that if I don't have anything interesting, or incredibly funny to write to you all, that it's better just to not write. Sorry about that. Due to a very "normal" week, well as normal as normal is here, I have failed to keep you up-to-date on the workings of our lives here in Tarma. Now . . .
I have officially been teaching for two weeks now, and am getting to know my students bit by bit. I am finding that I really enjoy teaching, and it is a very cool experience to watch kids learn. I find myself wanting to get creative, to change the way we do things everyday so that the kids don't get bored, or maybe it's just so that they won't realize that I've never formally taught before :) Beyond my classes I am spending time developing short devotionals and bible lessons, I have lesson plans to write now for my English classes, along with reading and material that we as a team are trying to develop as we get on with our plan of ministry. Things seem to be coming together bit by bit.
The idea of having a formal bible study running is exciting. It is to be a study of Christians, with the underlying purpose being to develop them in their knowledge and understanding of Scripture, as well as to develop their ability to lead and carry one the study without us. How cool is that? To see this vision realized would be the most satisfying accomplishment of this past year. And this is our goal to spend the rest of 2009 developing this group of believers so that come 2010, they would be ready (or a step closer to being ready) to lead friends and family in other studies of the Word.
As we pursue developing these believers, the goal is not to disregard those that have not yet made the choice to follow Christ. We want to continue to build relationships with those that don't know the Lord, to bring them closer to knowing him, and to eventually get them involved in these Peruvian led Bible studies. God continues to challenge me in this area. Making an effort to carry on conversation with girls that I don't know well, or to gain their trust is tricky, especially since I am an "outsider" of sorts. People don't always understand why I'm here. They question why a young girl from the United States would choose to live in Tarma. It would be like the Queen of England all of a sudden deciding to live in Geneva, NE. Now, I am by no means comparing myself to the Queen of England, but merely trying to describe to you why people would be suspicious of my intentions. This doesn't necessarily close doors in my face; it only means that the time to gain trust will take longer than a "plan of action" would appreciate.

All this to say, that while we are progressing, the rate that we are progressing is slow. We have been here in Tarma for just under two months, and with a commitment of a year and a half, it is okay to be progressing slowly. I am interested to see what God will choose to accomplish in this year and a half, and to see if this ministry commitment will be extended at the end. I am fairly confident that the church we are planting won't be anywhere near completed by the time our commitment is up, and I'm not talking about a building. Most church plants take years to get to the point of self-sufficiency. But for us, we have our vision, and we have our two months completed in Tarma. We are trusting that the Lord can still do miraculous things if we are only faithful to do the work He has called us to do. Step by step, day by day . . . and maybe by the time I pack my things to go home, God will have performed some miracles.

Friday, September 18, 2009

1,2,3 . . . Go!

That's how I feel like this week has played out. All of a sudden I have gone from no direct schedule to something stable every day. Starting this week I began a regular schedule of teaching 4 English classes and one English Bible study every week. I have begun teaching these English classes as a way to get to know more young people, establish more contacts, and to have a presence in one more "legitimate" business in Tarma. This first week of teaching was both an encouraging and an interesting experience, especially since I have had no formal training in teaching. But God gave me strength and peace about starting something new, and I am excited to continue. I have 10 students that range in age from 11 to 30, and I am praying for opportunities to get to know them better. I'm realizing that there is a danger involved with me teaching these classes, as it would be very easy for me to stray from our vision and purpose in Tarma as my focus shifts from teaching Bible and drawing people closer to Christ, to teaching English. I'm praying that God would have a very specific purpose for me as I involve myself in these classes. I am praying for opportunities to connect with these students on a level outside of English. I know it will take time, and for a while I may have to focus on the subject matter as I learn how to build trust with these students. Please be praying for me in this area, as I continue to learn each step, one at a time. God is good, and I am thankful to have a schedule again :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stage Fright

I've pretty much always been extroverted to some extent. I was never phased by being in a room full of people I didn't know, or welcoming the new kid into our youth group. This was a great personality trait to have in the sorority during my college days, especially with new freshman every year. But when I graduated something changed, maybe I mellowed out some, or maybe I just got used to not being around people all of the time. I developed into more of a balanced introvert with a few extroverted tendencies. I think at home this is a somewhat natural thing, to pass through stages of super socialness, and homebodiedness.
But what I'm realizing here is that I've turned into quite the introvert, and while I still love to spend time with women, while I still have a strong and passionate desire to seek out, love and disciple high school and college aged women, I'm finding that I've arrived to Peru with stage fright. I've never really had problems talking to people before, finding those things we have in common and elaborating, or coming up with all sorts of interesting and creative questions to keep conversation going. So it has been somewhat surprising to me to find myself tongue-tied and silent when we go to visit the girls at Chichos, or come across families that we are deepening relationships with.
This realization has both frustrated and fascinated me. Frustrated because it isn't normal. Fascinated because I'm having to rely on God to help me do something that has always come easy to me. It's so incredibly humbling to have been potty trained in something for years, and then one day realize you've digressed back to diapers. This is kind of how I feel. I go to Chichos, or see someone on the street and immediately have to start praying that God would give the words to say, the questions to ask and the ability to show how much I care about these girls. I hesitate sharing too much about myself when I'm aware of what a good and blessed life I've had, a caring and loving family that brought me up in the Lord and cared for all my needs. These girls come from abusive homes, extreme poverty. Some are single moms and teenage moms at that. They don't really know what it feels like to not have to worry about tomorrow. So I often feel like I am inadequate to meet their needs, not having any relatable experiences. Yet at the same time, I don't question that God has a plan for me in the lives of these girls. So my prayer right now is that God would take me through this season of stage fright, that he would be glorified in allowing me to connect with these girls on a deeper level, and for now, that we would give me the ears to listen and the words that these girls need to hear.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Every Monday morning at 9:00am, Chicho (owner of the Peruvian $ store here in Tarma) has a meeting with all of his employees, and he has invited us to come each week to open the meeting with a short devotional. This is an incredible opportunity, not only to share the things of God with these girls, but to begin establishing an atmosphere of trust with them. This morning I was given the opportunity to share part of my testimony with these girls, since I had not yet shared much about myself. I had spent a good deal of time last week preparing what I would say, and practicing so that I wouldn’t just read off of my notes. It was interesting to wake up this morning and find that, I wasn’t nervous to say what I had prepared, but I was nervous to simply speak, knowing that I would have to reference my notes from time to time, and realizing that I will most likely make many mistakes with my Spanish. But my prayer for the morning was that God would send his Spirit to move through my words and that His will would be accomplished by our short time with these girls.
So we arrived and I began by telling the girls how I came to accept Christ as my savior, and about my first experience in another culture. I told them about the first time that I had prayed out to God in faith that he would respond, for a boy I had met in Mexico to know Christ, and shared with them 1 John 5:14 which says:

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”

I then explained how God touched me with this test of faith, and explained how this was the start of my growing desire to share my faith and my life in missions. I explained the reason that I am here in Peru, and encouraged them to come to us with questions they may have, or desires to know Christ better or his word.
Overall I felt that the time went well, we really only have about 15-20 min. but I felt like I was able to share a bit of my heart, even in the midst of making some grammatical mistakes. My prayer is that what I said connected with one or two hearts in that room, and that God would allow me to begin developing a few more intentional relationships with the girls. I know that I still have a lot to learn, and maybe they can help me with that. I’m excited to see where this leads, and I hope that God will continue to work through my inabilities to bring glory and honor to Him.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Clothesline how I love thee

When we were in the midst of our moving preparations and still living in Lima, God blessed us with a team that came from the states and bought us a washing machine for our house in Tarma. We are continually thankful for this blessing because we would otherwise be washing our clothes by hand. Because the weather is typically sunny here in Tarma, and because they are expensive to own and operate here, we do not have a dryer. Clotheslines are not rocket science, there is nothing extraordinary about them, but for some reason, I am loving hanging my clothes to dry on the line! Weird, I know. Our apartment in Tarma has an open roof, with several lines strung about. And because the sun is so strong here, things dry really fast. I washed my bedding and hung my sheets up on the roof and they were dry in 30 min.! Anyways, this information is really random, but I thought I would share with you how much I am enjoying our clothes line!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The art of building relationships

I say hello
you say hello too
I kiss your cheek and you kiss mine
I ask about your mother
And you comment on the weather
I exclaim how long it has been and we really should catch up
You say "absolutely"
and we exchange numbers
I respond with "look at the time, got to run"
and you nod your head in agreement
I say goodbye
you say goodbye too
I kiss you cheek and you kiss mine

The art of building relationships

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I made a plan, but Peru didn't like my plan

It’s a fascinating thing: flexibility. One is often encouraged to be flexible, yet we grow up in a culture where you are pressured to have a plan. I love making plans. I love check lists, and that utterly amazing feeling of being able to cross things off of that list. I love how satisfying it is at the end of the day when I realize that I’ve accomplished everything I had set out to do that day. So sweet.
At the beginning of each week we sit down as a team and discuss our goals for the week, or in a sense, we make a plan for the week. But as I am quickly realizing, Peru doesn’t seem to like plans. In fact it seems like every time I make a plan, Peru decides to change that plan, sometimes within hours of my making it. Flexibility is fine for a week. Maybe even two weeks. But when you are someone who likes to make a plan and much of your sense of accomplishment stems from completing that plan . . . well then Peru is not for you. Yet here I am 
I’m learning that flexibility and selflessness go hand in hand, that it is difficult to have the one without the other. I am learning that when I said I wanted to come and serve, it meant that I had to give up my “right” to serve my way. When I make plans for my day, and ministry happens, I find that there is this internal struggle of wanting to stick to the plan that I had made for the day, and wanting to do what I came here to do. What I’m finding hard is learning how to use my time when it’s available. I may decide, “I will spend tomorrow morning studying and preparing a bible study”. But later will receive a phone call from someone who wants to get together tomorrow morning. I want to study, but ministry is knocking on my door. As a missionary I don’t have the privilege of a 9-5 work day. I don’t get to “leave work at work” as they say, nor are my evenings and weekends free to do as I choose. Therefore, what I am now learning to do is have my list of goals for the week, and accomplish them as I can. What I cannot do is decide, “Monday I will do this, and Tuesday I will do that”, because I wind up frustrated when I can’t check off everything from that day’s list. I am learning that I am way more selfish than I had ever perceived myself. Isn’t that a funny thing to read? I never knew the extent of my selfishness until I arrived here and have been faced with the daily decision of doing my job the way I want to do it, and doing my job the way that it needs to be done according to the Peruvian culture. Thus, I am learning flexibility. Who knew that it could be so difficult?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Market Day.

Upon arriving “home” to Tarma, I am quickly jumping back into the routine of meetings, planning, and cooking rotation. Since I’ve gotten out of almost two weeks of cooking, it is my turn to start out the week. Because I still haven’t learn how to cook any typical Peruvian dishes, I’ve been forcing my teammates to eat good North American cooking, and have cooked things like Chili, Tacos, Baked Pastas and Pizza. So tomorrow’s menu is going to be a breaded baked chicken, ranch-style potatoes and green beans with an apple crisp for dessert. Because of our lack of refrigerator and pantry space in the kitchen we tend to buy our groceries the night before or the day that we cook. And because Sunday is one of the two biggest market days of the week, I went out to buy my groceries today. The market experience continues to fascinate me. Think about quadrupling the size of Lincoln’s Farmer’s market, and then imagine that Hy-Vee and Super Saver don’t exist and you have to go buy all of your food at the market. That’s what it’s like here. I started out at the fruit stand and bought 1 kg of apples for $1. Then I moved on and bought a half kg of green beans and 1 kg of the Peruvian yellow potato, both totaling $1.20. I bought butter and parmesan cheese at the imports store for $2, and finally went to one of the many chicken stands and purchased six chicken breasts for $4. Just to give you a little perspective on the economic difference here – a full meal with dessert for 4 people cost me $8.20 to make. Sometime I’m going to go and take pictures of the chicken stand for you all. Or better yet, I’m going to take a video of the butcher cutting the whole chicken apart and filleting the meat! It is definitely a change from getting the frozen boneless and skinless chicken breasts that I grew up on. And over all, this way of buying chicken is neither good nor bad . . . it’s just different!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I do not know the difference between a Llama and an Alpaca.

This is what I discovered during our trip to Cuzco and the famous and historical Machu Picchu. We saw a lot of llamas or alpacas or both, and frankly I could never tell the difference! Our trip was so much fun, and once again I am praising God for the simple blessing of familiar faces. My friends and Jason arrived at 1:00am last Saturday morning and three hours later we were boarding our flight to Cuzco. After catching up on some sleep, and enjoying the Indian market (who knew that alpaca hats, scarves, and mittens were in such high demand!), we made our way to the small, slightly touristy town of Ollaytaytambo, which is a mandatory stop for all that want to travel to Machu Picchu. We spent two nights there, hiking the mountains, visiting ruins, eating delicious food and taking a lot of pictures (see below!). Finally our day to see Machu Picchu arrived and we took a morning train to the base of the mountain, then took a bus to the entrance of the park. We bought our tickets and saw what turned out to be one of the most incredible views I've ever seen. I confess that I wasn't way excited to see Machu Picchu, thinking that it was a cool thing to do but that it couldn't be that cool. I was wrong. Seeing the structures that were built thousands of years ago, still standing and in good condition was surreal. Earlier we had received some advice from a 20 year old, pot-smoking tour guide that we should climb one of the mountains called Wynapicchu - which turned out to be one of the best decisions of the trip. Apparently the park only allows so many people up the mountain each day, and by the time we arrived, they were refusing to let through. Fortunately for us, the guys at the gate were perfectly willing to accept a bribe, and pretty soon we found ourselves making our way up the trail! It took us an hour and a half to climb to the very top - and the view was breathtaking. We could see all of Machu Picchu and the surrounding areas. Getting back down the mountain was a little trickier, as there were plenty of opportunities to go plummeting off some cliff edge :) But we made it back down, safe and sound, and started the process of getting back to Ollaytaytambo. Our last night there was beautiful; we shared a delicious meal, and talked about the top 10 days of our lives. For many, our day at Machu Picchu was included.
Jason was able to stay one day longer than the rest of the group, so I enjoyed taking him around certain parts of Lima, giving him a tour of our apartment, and introducing him to new foods. It was so much fun to have my first visitors in Peru, and I am looking forward to more in the future!
God Bless.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Friends, boyfriend, and Machu Picchu

This is my week starting tomorrow! I am so blessed to have Jason and some dear friends from home coming to Peru for a quick visit. Tomorrow night I will be meeting them at the Lima airport to take a short vacation before officially starting my ministry in Tarma. We will be flying to Cuzco to spend a few days seeing Machu Picchu and the surrounding areas, then back to Lima for just one day before they all go back home again. So this is my last little post for the week, and I^ll catch you all on the flip side!

Monday, August 17, 2009

A day of fasting and prayer

In our preparations for ministry, we as a team decided to spend a day in fasting and prayer, that day being today. It has been an incredibly neat experience to worship the Lord together as a team and to experience him in different ways. We have each led one hour of the day, sharing with the team what God has been teaching us, how we want to grow as a team etc. Fasting is not something I do often, but I have found that as a spiritual discipline, it can be a beautiful worship experience. We talked about and prayed over various themes today: love and obedience, humility and prayer, as well as suffering as Christ suffered for the sake of his church. We prayed individually and we prayed as a team, and at the end of the day we broke our fast over veggie omelets and dulce de leche filled croissants. It has been a wonderful day, and I believe that we have grown as a team and have progressed in our preparations for ministry. We are discussing the possibility of doing this on a monthly basis, as a manner to bring us back to the heart and vision of the ministry God has set apart for us here in Tarma.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Our Landlords

So our landlords here in Tarma are 67 and 72. The cutest elderly couple I’ve seen here. La Señora got married to the Señor when she was 16 years-old and together they have 9 children, two of which still live in the home. This couple is super impressive to me. This morning I watched from my window as the Señora hand-washed clothes in the backyard washing sink, while the Señor climbed up a rickety old ladder to white wash the building next to the washing sink. I was tickeled to hear the Señor express concern for her “Viejo”, old man, as he scaled up to the roof. I wish I could have taken a picture without disturbing the beautiful scene, just to visibly show you why I was touched. The Señores live very simply, hand washing clothes, weeding the garden, fixing broken doors and white washing the home. They are hard workers, yet you can tell that life here hasn’t been easy. This is why they are impressive to me. They work well and joyfully because they know no different. I think a lot of us could learn from our landlords.