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 TarmeƱans. 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!