Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Life" Begins

Where The Sidewalk Ends

“There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins
And there the grass grows soft and white
And the sun burns crimson bright
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.”

-Shel Silverstein

This is a poem that comes from a book that I read often as a child in grade school. In fact I don’t think there is a person my age who would not remember Shel Silverstein’s “Where The Sidewalk Ends”, and the vivid poems that stretched our imaginations. I mention this now because each day I am stepping further away from this carefree and creative childhood to fall into this new role of “adult”.

Forgotten Language

Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
And shared a conversation with the housefly in my bed.
Once I heard and answered all the questions of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers . . .
How did it go?
How did it go?

-Shel Silverstein

I’m noticing changes in how I think, how I used to look at the world, at my faith. I’m fascinated by the path God has taken me on, from being a kindergartener praying for a sick friend every night before bed, to sitting in team meetings strategizing and casting vision for the most effective and biblical way to begin a new church. Though the process to get from kindergarten to Peru has taken 18 years, there are moments when I still feel like a kindergartener trying to convince everyone that I’m a “big girl”. This is fascinating to me because I don’t remember when I made that switch from simply loving Jesus and desiring to know the Bible well, to being passionate about His church and seeking not just the meaning of scripture but the authorial intent. How have I gone from practicing multiplication tables, to writing analysis of the importance of hermeneutics? Crazy, yet natural, this processes of progression. And it continues on I daresay, continues and continues until, one day . . .

The Little Boy and the Old Man

Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man, “I do that too.”
The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
“I do that too,” laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”
“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems
Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
“I know what you mean” said the little old man.

-Shel Silverstein

Monday, May 25, 2009

Small Victories

This past week has been a week of "small victories" these are the moments when I have completed something, or achieved something all by myself, or have overcome a fear in trying something for the first time. Meredith and I have this little joke that each time I am frustrated about my complete dependency upon my roommates, that I am learning to live life here "poco a poco" or, little by little. It is true, yet for having lived fairly independently in Costa Rica, I have felt as though I've regressed back to elementary school. But as I said, this week has been overly encouraging as I am finally starting to "expand my territory", as my roommate Elsa described it, and do things on my own. For example this week I have:
-Taken both a bus and a taxi by myself to various destinations
-I have purchased items at an electronics store by myself
-I have gone to a Home Depot of sorts and asked a nice man to cut me a piece of wood 56cm deep and 82cm wide for a shelf that I want to put in my closet
-I have sat through a Sunday sermon in Spanish and understood the entire thing!
-I made coffee for my roommates this morning for the first time - in a french press coffee maker.
Small victories completed by the grace of God, who is ever looking out for me as I live in a strange place with a language I'm still learning. It is good for me to look back upon these little things and remember that God is with me even when I feel very much alone and inadequate here. I'm falling into His grace as He gives it. I'm also making goals to help with this progression. Learn one new bus route each week. Learn how to get to all of the ADIEL churches before we leave for Tarma. Figure out how to get to and from the airport - this one is handy for when people want to come visit me!
I have come to really appreciate my roommates who have all helped me in turn, and in a way, it has allowed me to get to know them in different ways. Raquel is a teacher/counselor at one of the high schools here, so she is very instructive in showing me things. Elsa has been great about pointing out different places of town, explaining a little of her history as we pass by barrios where she used to live. I'm enjoying this learning process, even though I get frustrated at times. I am blessed to have been able to jump right in and live with three fantastic women. There is a lot that I can learn from each of them, so I hope to take advantage of that fact daily!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

CHE training and a funny story

Meredith, Elsa and I just spent the past three days attending CHE training – Community Health Evangelism, which is a program based on working to prevent disease, promote good health, and spread evangelistic teachings of the abundant Christian life. This is a program/platform that our team is considering using to open the doors for our ministry in Tarma. This is a program that is based on meeting both physical needs as well as spiritual –is exactly how my heart is wired! The last three days we have been learning about the importance of multiplication, that our goal is not just to teach, but to transfer these healthy living practices in a way that once learned, the people will then transfer on to their own community (not altogether unlike the vision of ReachGlobal: multiplying healthy churches among all nations through developing, empowering and releasing national believers). We also learned a lot about the diseases of the area, and how the majority of diseases are preventable with good hygiene and basic health knowledge. Apparently this is actually a 5-day seminar that the leader squeezed into 3 because none of the attendee’s could give up that much time. The majority of attendees were pastors and American missionaries. There was actually a pastor and a missionary already from Tarma that attended so it was fun to get to know them a bit. The whole thing was in Spanish, which I was actually enjoying, but after a couple of hours I had to concentrate on concentrating on what was being said. It was just too easy to daydream and let my mind wander after a few hours of listening.

Now for the funny story – on the last day of our training Meredith, Elsa and I were going to have to leave a little early, and we were just planning on catching another bus back to Jesus Maria (the province where we live), but one of the guys attending, Carlos, had a car and offered to drive us back! He was there with Nabe, a 21 year-old Japanese kid who was doing a 6 month missions trip with Carlos’s ministry. I found out that Carlos (a native Peruvian) had lived in Japan for a few years and knew how to speak Japanese, and Nabe who was just starting to learn Spanish, had already learned a lot of English in school. So here are the five of us driving through rush hour traffic, and the three of us are speaking Spanish with Carlos, English with Nabe and listening as Carlos and Nabe spoke Japanese to each other. What are the odds of this ever happening again!?!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An encouraging day

Today was an encouraging day. I was able to sleep in (I still get tired a lot, I think mainly from all of the changes and transitions going on) until 10:00am and then use the morning to prepare for our EMT (Equipo Misional Tarma – Tarma Team) Meeting in a casual manner, meaning I stayed in my PJ’s for most of the day. Soña, our empleada (maid) came today to clean and do laundry so we chatted for a little while and Meredith cooked lunch for us all. At 4:30 today Meredith, Elsa and I went to the “office” to meet up with Julio for our team meeting. This Sunday we will be making the first of five presentations, one to each of the five churches in the ADIEL (the Evangelical Free Churches of Lima), to present our ministry and the financial need of Elsa and Julio. They are in the support raising process, and we are asking each church to partner with them. This is a big deal because this is the first time the ADIEL have been in a position to send their own as missionaries into their own country. Essentially, Meredith and I are partnering up with Elsa and Julio to do ministry in Tarma, but part of our job is also to develop and train these national missionaries to continue on in ministry. As we worked together to talk about the presentation, the vision of our ministry, my heart started beating faster and I was reminded of the passion I felt for our vision of ministry when I was raising my own support. Please be praying for Elsa and Julio during these next two months as we are working together to raise the funds needed to do ministry well.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A foreigner's observations

It is pretty much impossible to descend into a foreign culture without consistently comparing it to your own. This in itself is not a negative thing, and I have come to believe that it is only natural. But in my travels I have experienced (or maybe better said is, “overheard”) such a wide range of observations made about cultures, based on cultures, with attitudes of joy and bitterness. I’ve noticed that one’s reactions to that which is different results not from an over abundance of difference, but of the state of the heart. “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” – I am often reminded of this verse as I sit and observe foreign culture, and foreigners within a foreign culture, and I find that these words of scripture are altogether true. I’ve tried to be disciplined in how I observe these new cultures I am being blessed to rent time in. I try to observe with a pure heart, not with bitterness or in longing for home, but to seek valuable interpretations of this culture in a healthy manner. This being said, I want to share with you some of the things I’ve observed in my two weeks living in Lima.

-Because all of the walls and buildings here are made out of concrete, it is often colder inside my apartment than outside, even in the midst of winter here.

-Toilets here do not come equipped with toilet seats. When you are lucky enough to have found a toilet with a seat, it is most likely to be uncomfortable. I have yet to try out a toilet in Lima that is cushy for my tushy.

- There is a courtesy in this world that defies culture. Example: I went to the grocery store tonight to buy juice and sprite for my tummy, and it was incredibly busy and lines were long. I got into a line that only had carts in front of me, the immediate one being used by a very precious elderly couple who had filled their cart to the brim. Upon noticing me and my two items, they insisted that I go in front of them. Though they had waited their turn, they touched me with a selfless love that impressed me so much that I had to tell you all about it.

That’s it so far. I’ll keep you posted as I spend more time here and meet more people and make more observations.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My new room. Yay!

Yesterday I "officially" moved into my new room! It is so nice to have my own space in the apartment after bunking in with Meredith for the past week. My room is small, it actually used to be the breakfast nook off of the kitchen, but when the girls moved in they added a little drywall and a door to make it a bedroom. So my door opens into the kitchen, which is great in the mornings! I get my own bathroom, but the downside is that it's the only one on the main floor. So that also makes it the guest bathroom whenever people are over, which in turn means that people have to go through my room to go to the bathroom. But all in all it's a pretty nice little space. Tomorrow Meredith and I are going to buy some plastic bins and shelving, because there is no storage space, and my closet is the size of a typical hall closet. I will enjoy the process of making this room my own, even in the midst of preparing to move to Tarma. Tomorrow I will also be looking for a bed that I will take with me to Tarma, and some other furniture that I will need up there. Apartments here do not come furnished, not even in the kitchen - no stove/oven, no microwave or refrigerator. So we will have to furnish everything from scratch. We will be returning to Tarma at the end of the month for another 4 day trip with ReachGlobal missionary Carol who has been church-planting in Venezuela for the past 20 years. Our hope is that we will be able to find an apartment during this trip so that we can move a little bit at a time, each time we make the trip to Tarma between now and July. Please keep this in your prayers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Team Tarma

Today was the first day back on my feet after being sick with the . . . well I'm still not exactly sure what I had, but I'm glad it's over. And just in time too, for today was my first meeting with the Tarma Team! WhoooHoooo! Two of my teammates are also roommates, Meredith and Elsa, but I still hadn't met our last team member Julio - so today I did. We met at the ADIEL (The Evangelical Free Church of Lima) office and had a six hour long meeting discussing church planting strategies, schedules, prayer letters, support presentations, preparations for our next trip to Tarma, and material we are going through as a team on healthy missions. Did I mention this was all in Spanish? Claro que si! Actually it was nice to jump in and realize that I understand a lot more than I think I can, but it was also extremely exhausting to maintain my focus for such a long period of time. By 4:00 my brain was shot, and I was glad that we were calling it a day. In my eyes it was a really good first team meeting. I'm anxious to see how all of our personalities and experiences will mesh together. We are all single, and with the exception of Meredith this is all of our first experiences with longer term missions. Elsa and Julio don't speak any English, I am not yet bilingual and Meredith is really the only one with much experience and training,so at this point we are all pretty much learning "the ropes" as they would say. I'm looking forward to these two months to continue to grow and learn as a team the strategies for church planting, for healthy ministry, and just to continual to break the cultural and language barriers and get to know my teammates on a personal level.

What you all can be praying for right now is a clear and definable vision for this ministry. We are in the planning stages of the "how" of our ministry, but we can't do that well if we don't have a specific end goal. Please pray that we would be able to give a clear and reasonable vision, without limiting the power of the Holy Spirit to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Don't drink the water . . . Want to guess what this post is going to be about?

Yep you guessed it! This morning I am laying in "bed", home alone at the apartment with a temperature of 100 degrees. Bummer. I am officially "enjoying my first sick experience away from home. I am told that Peru hates people's bodies and that it was bound to happen at some point.
Yesterday, Meredith, Bethany Leach and I took one of Meredith's oldest Peruvian friends along with her husband and mother to a restaurant called El Cascasal, which is a basically a little dinner theater that features buffet style Peruvian dishes and a floor show of typical folk dances. It was a fabulous experience, especially since I enjoy dance so much. Throughout each dance the performers would go out into the audience and bring people back out on the floor to dance with them. We were sitting on the second floor and I was thinking that I would be safe from such a display of humiliation. Oh no, I thought wrong. During the second dance one of the dancers ran up the stairs and came straight for me! All in all, it was pretty hilarious since these are dances I've never seen, let alone danced before. Later on in the show Bethany Leach got pulled out onto the dance floor, so we were able to laugh about the experience together.
All was going fine when about 3:00 I started to feel all achy and was chilled down to my bones, after a while my stomach started acting up and I had to high-tale it to the bathroom. Luckily I did not throw up at the fancy restaurant - gracias a dios. Meredith had plans and meetings for the rest of the day so about 4:30 Bethany Leach and I made our way home where I promptly went to bed, where I still find myself almost 17 hours later. My roommates have been so gracious to check up on me and bring me water, Meredith went out to buy me a hydrant since I gotten pretty dehydrated with all my trips to the bathroom :)

So my plans for the day are to hydrate, sleep, and maybe I'll try to get a little work done. I used to dread the first time that I would get sick away from home, without mom's little touches and cares that seem to make the world of difference. But God has graced me with kind and caring roommates, and this is sufficient.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A long way from home

Where do I even begin? I suppose I will just say “Thank you” for being so patient with me since it has been nearly three weeks since I have last updated you all on my travels and experiences. And what a whirlwind these past few weeks have been too!
The six days in Dallas flew by more quickly than I imagined, and I’m still pretty impressed with how much we packed into those six days  Armed with a giant shopping list and two suitcases of dirty laundry, I arrived at DFW Monday evening after my original flight from Houston to Dallas was canceled due to weather. But I arrived safe and sound with all of my luggage (praise God for those small graces!). The week was spent with family and friends in Dallas, shopping and replacing items that wore out while in Costa Rica, re-packing, and eating a lot of delicious food. Mom outdid herself in making sure I got all of my favorites before leaving again. It was difficult to divide my time between all of my loved ones, especially since Jason was able to come down with my parents, and I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could while home. We were blessed to be able to attend Jason’s nephew’s 2nd birthday party while in Dallas, which was so much fun and a wonderful opportunity to spend time with his family. But by my last night there, I was wishing that I had a couple of more days – but then I suppose if I did have a couple more days I would just wish for a couple more after that, so I suppose God works all these things out for the best, and Sunday night I prepared to say goodbye a second time and board a plane that would take me a long way from home.

On May 4th I flew from Dallas to Miami, then on to Lima and arrived in Peru at 10:00pm. I had so many people praying for me as I passed through customs, which always makes me a little nervous. In Peru they use this random traffic light system where, after you’ve picked up all of your luggage, you pass through another line until you reach this post with a red and a green light. You push the button and if the light shines green you can pass through and make your way to the airport exit. If the light shines red, you are escorted off to the side to have your luggage searched. Thank you all who were praying for a green light for me, because after packing my luggage to the brim, I was worried that if they searched through it at the airport, I wouldn’t get everything packed back into my suitcases  But again, the little graces from our Lord – I received all of my luggage, (3 suitcases, a backpack and a computer case) loaded it up onto a cart, passed through the line and received a green light. Meredith McAllister my teammate was there waiting for me when I exited the airport, along with Bethany Leach, a short-term intern that has been with the mission for the past two months. We loaded my stuff into a taxi and made the journey back to the apartment I will be sharing with Meredith and our two Peruvian roommates for the next 2-3 months.

When I had informed Meredith of my flight details a month ago, she warned me that they had already planned on making the six hour trip to Tarma the day after I arrived. So long story short, I got “home” around 11:30pm Monday night, had time to repack my duffle, went to bed, and at 8:00am Tuesday we were on the bus to Tarma. I feel like “whirlwind” is the adjective I will use to describe these few days I have spent in Peru. We were in Tarma from Tuesday thru Thursday, meeting with the people Meredith has gotten to know from here many trips there, teaching English classes, and looking for leads on potential apartments. Because we didn’t have internet, it has taken me a lot longer to get my blog updated for you all. While it was crazy to arrive in this new country and right away make a three day trip six hours from Lima, I was really thankful for the chance to visit the city where our ministry will be focused. I quickly fell in love with this quaint little town that reminded me so much of Lincoln. Obviously the culture and appearance is about as different as you can get from Lincoln, but the size of the city, the small-town feel was a breath of fresh air after living in San Jose (population 1 million) and now Lima (population 9 million). I am excited to get settled and begin our ministry. The next few months will be transition months as little by little we get ourselves from here to there. We got back from Tarma Thursday around 4:30pm and the last couple of days have been spent getting acclimated to the city, meeting the pastors of the ADIEL (the Evangelical Free Churches of Lima), getting meetings set up and learning about the ministry. I will admit that these last couple of days has been information overload for me, but after this weekend things will settle down and hopefully I will be able to catch up with myself. Part of the problem is that Bethany Leach (the intern) has been living in the room that will be mine, but she doesn’t leave until next Tuesday to go back home – so I have been sleeping on the couch and living out of my suitcases. I tend to like to settle and organize myself, so until I can unpack and settle into my room – my brain and life feels cluttered and unorganized and it is harder for me to be at peace because I have this big thing that needs doing, but I can’t do it yet. Does that make any sense? Maybe I’m a little weird here.

Overall, the week has gone well, and quickly too. I am so thankful that I am finally in the place that I have talked about going for so long. God was and is so faithful to bring me every step of the way, to provide for my needs and to grace me with His love and affirmation. I look forward to keeping you posted (more regularly) on the coming weeks as I get more settled here. Thank you all for your many prayers and your emails of encouragement.

In Him,