Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy New Year . . . 3 days early

Since the time-honored tradition of making resolutions for the approaching new year is upon us, I figure I’ll try to get a jump on the sentimental moments and start hashing out what summed up 2010, and what I promise-to-myself-that-I-will-do-no-matter-what in 2011.

2010This was a year of all things unfamiliar. It was a year of firsts, a year of overcoming insecurities, fears and doubts and a year of having to depend more upon God than I’ve ever had to do in the past. This was a year of changing relationship and learning how to deal with that change. This year I, among other things,taught 96 English classes, traveled between Tarma and Lima 7 times, got sick twice, helped receive 3 short-term teams, learned how to cook Peruvian food, marched in my first parade, and taught a workshop in Spanish to educated adults, owned my first pet (Pacha), and lived in a land where yes means no and birthdays are about more sacred than life itself. It was a busy year full of ups and downs and in the end I had to work hard to get through this year. I praise God for giving me strength for each day and for remaining faithful to me as I try to remain obedient to him. So with all the pleasure in the world I say out with the old . . .

2011By this time next year I will be turning 26, I will have been married for 6 months, and I will hopefully have a job doing something that I will hopefully enjoy. I could be living in an apartment or a duplex or a house, and I will most likely be enjoying the small aspects of life such as, carpet, instant hot water, bathtubs, Subway, the change of seasons, and the ability to nest (as in stay in one place for a long time, not actually build a nest). In 2011 I would like to see myself using my Spanish on a regular basis in some form, I would like to have an idea about what I might like to “do” long-term and have started the process of making that career happen. I would like to take each day as it comes and never end a day without thanking God for his blessings. I want to learn how to cook a turkey and how to tile a bathroom. And if possible, I want to take a vacation to Boston, a city I’ve never been to. I suppose I ought to include the self-help goals of losing weight and working on character flaws and such, but really I figure God is in charge of molding me and shaping me so I’m more or less content to sit back and allow him to make me better than I am.

So out goes one year in comes another, and as I sit here and joke about our traditions and obsessions with the new year, I reflect on the consistency of God’s grace and faithfulness, how he has taken care of us and brought us through another year of life on this earth. May we all glorify him more, serve him better, and reflect his love more fully in the year that comes.
God Bless,

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How does God call people to give their lives in missions?

John Piper says, “He does it, along with other influences, by the mysterious and wonderful awakening of fear-conquering desire for the work through the preaching of his word. He does it by helping us count the costs so there is no romantic naiveté about missions. And he does it by filling us with a longing to know these blessings to the full”. I would say that this is an accurate description of how God moves in the heart and draws people to the special calling of missions. I would also say that this is how God moved me so many years ago, first through the ministry in Mexico, later in Argentina and ultimately in my sorority in college. All “foreign” lands, all needing the love and truth of God and His word.
I was recalling this morning my commissioning the Sunday before I left home to give two years of my life to this calling, when I was asked, “Why do this? Why give two years of your life to this work?” I remember my response clearly – that beyond God moving circumstances and drawing me to this ministry, the greatest reason was that 60 years from now I didn’t want to look back on my life and wish I had done more. I used to be passionate, full of vision and possibility, not thinking about the risks but of the blessings. Maybe my response to Brian’s question two years ago was cliché, but it was true in my heart.
Now with only five weeks remaining in Peru I look back over my time and can’t help but to reflect and give an account of the two years I’ve spent in this church-planting ministry. Someone asked me once not long ago to describe in a nutshell my time in Peru. And as I thought about the question and gave my response, I couldn’t help but feel a bit discouraged at how I summed up my time here.
My missions experience in Peru has been passionless obedience, for the sake of obedience, to God’s call and God’s design on my life.
Where did that wide-eyed, passionate and visionary little girl go? Deep down I believe she is still there, but why did she leave me when I most wanted her to be present? As I think over my time here I have to admit that I am somewhat ashamed of my selfish grumblings and negative attitude driven mainly by dissatisfaction with where I am now that my formal ministry responsibilities have ended. I’m tired, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually and when it comes down to it, I just don’t want to be here anymore. How’s that for a super un-spiritual confession?

This morning I listened to a sermon by John Piper entitled “I Am Sending You Out as Sheep in the Midst of Wolves”. He preached on the passage of Matthew 10:16-31, and addresses the dangers, and the blessings of living out a calling to frontier missions. As he spoke and dissected the passage, as the blessings greatly outweighed the dangers I was convicted of my selfishness and lack of desire to be here. He notes that the first blessing is “The Blessing of Being Sent by Christ” – what a great privilege to be called by Christ and sent by Him to do a good work. What a great privilege. How must Christ feel by my dissatisfaction of this great privilege?
I was speaking to my mom the other day and was struck when she reminded me that God’s timing always has purpose, that there is always reason behind when we leave and when we come home. She was right, and I needed to be reminded of that. I have five weeks left and I now am faced with a choice to continue living these last days grumbling about how I would rather be home with my family, friends and fiancé for Christmas, or I can remember the blessings of being here, I can pray with all my might that God would reignite the passion I once felt for missions and I can move forward in forgiveness and grace remember that God has reason behind His timing.
I humbly ask for your prayers in these final weeks that I would choose to be “the better man”, and press on in spite of missing my loved ones during the holidays, in spite of being tired, and in spite of feeling unworthy to be here. Pray that I would take every opportunity to share the love of Christ with those I am around and that I would not waste a single minute that I remain a missionary of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Celebration

This past Monday night the ADIEL Tarma team (my team) hosted our end-of-the-year Christmas Celebration to end the “official” Bible studies for the year 2010. It was the best turnout that we’ve had all year with a grand total of 59 people in attendance. We held the event at Chavin, a local restaurant where we have given studies this year with the owner and her family. We played some games, sang Christmas carols, a sketch, testimonies and a short wrap up of our studies on forgiveness at Christmas. We celebrated with paneton and hot chocolate, the typical Christmas food of Peru, and welcomed several guests who have never attended any of our events before. We as a team are very satisfied with the turnout and the event in general, and it was a great way to end our official ministry for the year.
So what now you might ask? Well, Meredith and Julio are taking some vacation time this month, which leaves Elsa and me to visit contacts, invite people over for lonche, and celebrate the season together. While the official ministry is done for the year, we are no means done with personal ministry, unofficial bible studies and discipleship. We are also making plans for the 2011 calendar year and already have another University Internship week planned for the second week in January, this time opening up the week to both university students and adults. So we keep plugging away!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Biggest Surprise of My Life!

Boy does good news travel fast! Even though most of you have heard the news, I figure I might as well post something to make the announcement a little more official. This past weekend, Meredith and I traveled to Lima (to Chaclacayo, a suburb just outside of Lima) to the house of our fellow missionaries, the Bruggers, to spend Thanksgiving with them and the ReachGlobal missionaries in Peru. I was excited to go mainly because it was going to be my last few vacation days of the year, and after the last short-term team I was ready to take a few days away from Tarma. Meredith and I arrived Thursday night and enjoyed all day Friday at the Brugger’s house, relaxing, and enjoying the quiet. Because Thanksgiving is not celebrated here in Peru (makes sense since the pilgrims didn’t land down here), the Bruggers had to work Thursday and Friday as usual (they are school teachers in Lima). So our official Thanksgiving celebration wasn’t planned until Saturday.

The entire morning was spent getting the turkey ready, making stuffing, guacamole, spinach and artichoke dip (thanks to my good friend Andi’s amazing recipe), pumpkin pies, pecan pies, cheesecakes, and other deserts. I was in charge of preparing the garlic mashed potatoes, and had just started mashing them in the giant pot on the stove (there were going to be 20 of us at dinner) when, out of the blue Denise Bruggers asks me to take a tablecloth up to the room where Meredith was setting the table for the kids. I will confess that I was confused and a bit annoyed that she asked me since there were 15 other people around not doing as much, but I took the table up to the roof anyway. Meredith was nowhere to be seen, which only frustrated me more, so I threw the tablecloth on the table and turned around to make my way back downstairs, only to come face to face with Jason! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him standing there with a huge grin on his face.

You have to understand that Jason and I had talked about the possibility of him coming down to visit me one more time this year around Thanksgiving, but in the end both of us decided that it would be wiser to just wait since I’d be coming home soon after. So he wasn’t supposed to be there, yet there he was! Overjoyed by the coolest surprise ever, I sounded like an idiot as I kept repeating my unbelief over and over again. Pretty soon we sat down and Jason started explaining all the reasons he had come. He wanted to see me, he wanted to help me move some of my things home, he wanted to spend Thanksgiving and his birthday with me, but the biggest reason was that he had a question to ask me – one that he had been wanting to ask me for over a year now.

That is when he got down on one knee and explained that Proverbs says that a man who has found a wife has found a good thing, and he had found a good thing in me. He asked me to marry him, and in my excitement I said yes before he could even get the ring out! I didn’t care, because his presence and his proposal was the best surprise of my life, and one of the happiest moments of my life.
It has been difficult to be apart from the person you love, especially for as long as we have been apart. But God has been so faithful to maintain us, to be our strength and our hope. And now we can celebrate in two joys: that I will soon be home and we will be together once again, and that we can now start planning our lives and future together. Thank you to all of you who have been supporting us through this season of separation, and who can now celebrate with us as we close this season and begin a new one.

We’re engaged!!!

Jason stayed the entire week with me here in Peru and we split our time between Lima and Tarma. Meredith organized a bit of an engagement/birthday party for Jason in Tarma, and we continued to celebrate with friends and contacts throughout the week. Now I'm down to my final two months in Peru, and am even more anxious to finish up and get home. I still have a lot of goodbye's ahead of me on this end, and I do want to finish up well. The time will go fast and I'll be home again before I know it, celebrating with all of you!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

8 Weeks

This past week my ReachGlobal “Boss” or, church-planting coach, came to visit Meredith and me in Tarma. It had been a year since he had been here and it was fun to show him all that we have accomplished in 2010. We spent time talking about the future and what we as a team would like to see happen in the next 5 years or so. We talked about my transition as I finish up this season of ministry and head home to start a completely different season of life.
Today marks the start of my final 8 weeks in Peru. People have asked me if the time has gone quickly, and the answer always seems to be yes and no. Each day of transition into a new culture, of learning how to live on my own, doing ministry in different and sometimes frustrating ways made the time seem like it was crawling by. Being away from my family, my friends and Jason has been difficult as well. Yet now that I’m standing here a mere 8 weeks from home, I do wonder how the two years I committed to ReachGlobal has gone. My church-planting coach asked me a series of questions a while ago to help me process through the upcoming change and transition. He asked me:

Where do I want to go before I leave Peru?
Who do I want to spend personal time with?
What is the mark I want to leave on Tarma?
What can I do to help my team before I leave them?

These were valid questions that I have spent several weeks thinking through. The places I want to go are generally restaurants so that I can eat the typical food of Peru that isn’t widely found at home. The people I want to spend time with is a small group since I still do not have personal friends apart from my team and my tutor, Diana. I do anticipate that the hardest goodbyes will be with Stephen Hawking High School and my 60 students for whom I have come to care deeply.
When I think about leaving a “mark” on Tarma, my mind really draws a blank. How can one person really “mark” a community in just a year? What would that look like and how would it be accomplished. To be perfectly honest, I’m not all that concerned with leaving my mark on this place. What I want most of all is to have done all I possibly could to help this team and this ministry advance and grow. I want to come back three or four years from now and see that what I helped start has developed into a consistent, solid and God honoring ministry that is changing the lives of the people of Tarma. Could that be called a “mark”? I suppose. It is really the only mark I am interested in leaving.
As far as helping my team, I have discovered a few practical ways that I can spend these last weeks as I phase out of ministry responsibilities and start packing up my things. The house that Elsa and Meredith and I rent is a three-bedroom, without any closets. When we moved in we realized that we would need some place to store our suitcases, boxes and ministry materials. So we decided that in addition to our apartment, we would rent one room from the apartment next door that would serve as our storeroom. Obviously once I leave Tarma, there will be no need to rent the extra room since there will be one in our own apartment – so one of the things that I want to help my team with is to move out of my room and help move all of our ministry supplies and extra stuff into an organized space in the soon to be spare bedroom. It seems like a silly way to spend my last days in Tarma, but I thrive on organization, and I know that this is something that I can leave my team and my roommates with - something practical.
So there you have it, the grand plan for the final weeks of my life and ministry in Peru.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stop! Oh wait, oh please Mr. Postman!

Well this is your official notice – To those of you who have taken it upon yourselves to encourage me with boxes of goodies and letters sent to our P.O. Box here in Tarma, I thank you from the deepest part of my heart. Getting mail is always fun, especially when you’re far away from home and when it’s not junk mail. But due to the few weeks that I have left in Peru, the Christmas season being upon us, and the general slowness of the Peruvian post, I would like to ask that no more letters/ boxes be sent to me while I’m in Peru because - - - I may not get them! Last year my Grandmother sent me a box the last week of November, and I didn’t get it until my birthday in mid-January. So unless you are okay with just my team receiving your goodies, I thank you for your generosity and love these past two years, and inform you that there is no need to send anything more :)

Monday, November 15, 2010


When I think of the word ‘satisfied’ I think about the many ways we use it. I am a satisfied customer. I am satisfied with the work. Or in Spanish, estoy satisfecha, to describe that I’m full and don’t want any more food. When I think of this past week of ministry with the Faith E-Free team from Wisconsin, I think of the adjectives happy, pleased, content . . . satisfied. The adjective ‘tired’ comes to mind too, but mainly I am satisfied.
It was an interesting change to go from working with youth teams to working with a team of adults, but I will confess that overall I enjoyed the adult team more. Maybe that is because any ministry we would do with an adult team fits better into where we are as a missionary team at this point in the Tarma ministry than a team of youth. The 6 days of ministry included cooking classes, basketball seminars, workshops on Administration and Finance, English classes, visitations, a painting project and workday as well as a final event. Our goal was to use this team of professionals to reach out to the professionals of Tarma, and in some ways, announce our presence. In the process of all our activities we got to know 3 English teachers from a public all-boys school in town that we had not had the opportunity to meet before. As a result, Meredith and I will be doing our Christmas Bible studies with them in English. We also met and have begun to coordinate with two social workers that work for the city who are dedicated to the graduating seniors of poor and broken families, to teach them values, finances, good decision-making skills and the belief that they can rise above their situation and circumstance. Because of the team and these events we are now able to coordinate with these social workers to give values classes and teach on the love and forgiveness of Christ in the schools of Tarma.
As the week went on I was able to spend time with and get to know individuals on the team and I was encouraged by their willingness to help and serve where we needed them to serve. They were very gracious with me as I learned how to lead in this context, and they were patient with me as I made mistakes. We worked hard together and by our final event we had made several new contacts and reinforced some old ones. It will be interesting to see how many new Bible studies will be started as a result of this team.
As I enter into my final two months of ministry and life in Tarma I hope that “satisfied” will be an adjective that I can use often. We haven’t seen an overwhelming amount of fruit yet in the ministry, and I’m almost certain that I will leave Peru and not know the full impact of my presence and time in Tarma until years later, yet I hope and pray that regardless of visible fruit, I will leave this country, this job and this season of life, satisfied.

Friday, November 5, 2010

When life hands you a new job description . . .

. . . can you still make lemonade? I'd like to think so because a nice tall, cold glass of lemonade would accompany well the hustle and bustle of preparing for a short-term team.

Back when we were preparing for our last team in July, Meredith told me to pay attention as she was planning on putting me in charge of preparing for, organizing, and heading up this team from Wisconsin. I paid attention, but didn’t really know what I was getting into until I started the work of preparing. List after list after list left my brain overly scattered and my calm shaken as I worried and stressed over forgetting important details like food, shelter, ministry. Okay, those were not things I really worried over, but let me breakdown for you the detail that goes into covering all the bases to host a ministry team:

- Coordinate transportation from airport in Lima to hotel.
- Coordinate hotel stay for one night in Lima
- Coordinate transportation from hotel to the bus terminal in Lima.
- Coordinate purchasing bus tickets for trip to Tarma.
- Coordinate hotel stay in Tarma.
- Coordinate three meals a day during stay in Tarma.
- Coordinate enough ministry activities to full a week spent in Tarma.
- Create and print a million flyers, invitations and brochures to advertise said ministry.
- Check to make sure you didn’t forget to invite someone who will get their feelings hurt by being forgotten.
- Double and triple check that you didn’t forget to invite someone who will get their feelings hurt by being forgotten.
- Run through every possible scenario to try to have all bases covered such as: power outage, thunderstorms, obnoxious drunks outside the door, uninvited guests trying to crash your event, etc.
- Coordinate snacks for ministry events
- Buy enough water to keep team hydrated during week spent in Tarma.
- Try to anticipate and provide for any medical needs or emergencies.
- Coordinate translators to be present at each and every event.
- Remember to write thank you notes to all contacts that helped out or allowed us to use their buildings, restaurants, spaces.
- Have a “follow-up-plan” ready to put into action the moment the team leaves.
- Coordinate purchasing bus tickets for trip to Lima.
- Coordinate transportation from bus terminal to airport in Lima.

I think that covers most of the bases, although at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if I did forget to schedule lunch one day, but thankfully I’ve got my team helping me out, and Meredith at the ready to remind me of something I’ve forgotten.

Despite the more stressful preparations on my end, I’m really looking forward to this team because this is one of the first weeks of ministry we will have dedicated solely to adults. We have invited over 300 people to attend workshops on administration in the workplace, developing your work team, finance, time-management, ESL, cooking classes and basketball clinics for coaches and P.E. teachers. We have invited school staffs and administrations, professionals and businessmen and women in Tarma, along with a few of our more faithful contacts. Our hope is to use this team to basically advertise the presence of our team and what we do, and hopefully spark some interest among adults and professionals to start a bible study in their homes and/or businesses.

Please be praying that the Spirit would move in people’s lives and hearts through the presence of the Faith E-Free team from WI, and that we would have new contacts join and commit themselves to the ministry. For me, this is my last flung effort to help the ADIEL Tarma team attract adult participation before I wrap up here and head home. We are teetering between faithful perseverance and discouragement about our lack of adult commitment and the standstill of our ministry. Pray that God would do miraculous things this week. Thanks.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Final Events

As Stephen Hawking’s anniversary events started to wind down, they did so with a bang-of-a-final-show. Last Saturday night hosted the closing events for this year’s anniversary season. The students have been preparing for a month now, each grade to present its own performance of cultural dance. The event started off with a parade through town to advertise the show, with yours truly front and center holding the school’s banner (I’m convinced this became my role when not enough teachers showed up on time). Once we all got to Tarma’s coliseum we put on the finishing touches to the decorations, sound and lighting and waited for the people to arrive. And boy did they arrive. A third of the coliseum was filled by 7:00 and the show began. Along with the students of Stephen Hawking a group of talented college kids from Cesar Vallejo University of Dance (from Lima) were also present to perform various cultural numbers. Impressive doesn’t even begin to describe the night.
I felt like the proud mother of a baby who is first learning how to crawl. My kids performing with grace and cultural pride brought me close to tears several times. The pride in the room was contagious, and I was more than proud of how hard my kids had worked to perform their dances that night. For someone who comes from a culture of mixed cultures, there is a subtle sense of sadness when you see the long-standing history and tradition of another culture. We don’t have these traditions and dances and stories in our history, but it’s nice to appreciate those of someone else’s.
So the night was a huge success and all my kids were happy with the outcome. In order for you to experience the longstanding tradition of dance in Peru, I’ve put the videos of my student’s performances on youtube for your viewing pleasure:


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Great Pumpkin Carving

Well as promised, here are a few pictures of my first attempt carving zapallo with my kids at Stephen Hawking. Overall I would classify this year’s attempt as a complete success! I think that the kids had fun and I enjoyed watching them stick their hands inside the zapallo and dig out the pulp, draw on an original face design, and cut it out piece by piece. I’ve really enjoyed sharing parts of our culture with the kids as I’ve taught them English this year. The point of this lesson was to learn six new verbs: to carve, to scoop, to put, to remove, to draw, and to light; and to learn the form of giving directions. We practiced the six steps to carving a pumpkin (zapallo) and then we put those steps into practice. I also took a few minutes to share with the kids the fable behind the Jack-O-Lantern. If you’ve never heard it, here it is for your reading pleasure (courtesy of Wikipedia):

A History of the Pumpkin
An Irish Fabel: One story says that Jack tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree, and once he was up there Jack quickly placed crosses around the trunk or carved a cross into the bark, so that the Devil couldn't get down. In the myths, Jack only lets the Devil go when he agrees never to take his soul. After a while the thief died, as all living things do. Of course, his life had been too sinful for Jack to go to heaven; however, the Devil had promised not to take his soul, and so he was barred from hell as well. Jack now had nowhere to go. He asked how he would see where to go, as he had no light, and the Devil mockingly tossed him an ember that would never burn out from the flames of hell. Jack carved out one of his turnips (which was his favorite food), put the ember inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth for a resting place. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern", or Jack-o'-Lantern.

In America, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween.[5] The poet John Greenleaf Whittier, who was born in 1807, wrote "The Pumpkin" (1850):[6]

“Oh!—fruit loved of boyhood!—the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Busy little bees

I’m getting busier and busier and this is a good thing. In the last 4-6 weeks life in Tarma has been pleasant and (as we say here)tranquilo, and I was content doing the day-to-day of team responsibilities and not having an overwhelming amount of lists on my plate. But as the seasons are changing, so is the amount on my plate – and I’m actually welcoming the coming weeks of busyness more than I thought I would. I’m in charge of planning the upcoming short-term team from WI that will be arriving in Nov, and it has been an exciting new responsibility. The team will be here in 4 short weeks, and there is still a lot of planning and organizing to do. In the midst of the planning we are having our “end-of-Bible-study-Celebration” event tomorrow night which we are hoping to change from marking the end of s study to a monthly unified celebration (or worship service) where all of our separate Bible study groups can come together as the body of Christ. This has been a challenge because people generally don’t like to mix circles here in Tarma, and in the past, we’ve had few people show up to our celebration events. We are hoping to promote the event as we are trying to move forward with the church plant and will be having celebrations both in Nov and Dec as well. If people can learn how to interact better with each other, then there might be hope of regular unified services at some point in the future. Beyond this we are still taking the work day-by-day, praying that the Spirit would move in people’s lives and change people’s priorities.

In other news, next week I will start my 4th quarter at Stephen Hawking high school, teaching English. And to kick off the quarter I will be repeating the cultural lesson I gave to my students last year at the Instituto Americano, and teach the North American tradition of carving pumpkins. Those of you who remember the fiasco last year will remember that I discovered the hard way that the pumpkins here in Peru are not hallow, and it was more work than it was worth. So this year I’ve decided to use the zapallo – a pumpkin shaped squash, with hopes of a smoother carving process. I’ll have stories and pictures and maybe even some video to post next week. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Life as I know it

Today is another day in the “normal” life of me. Just kidding, I don’t think normal and me should go in the same sentence, nonetheless, today is about as normal as it gets here. I’ve spent the morning working on my to-do’s for the week, exercising, preparing for my class at Stephen Hawking etc. This afternoon consists of said class, and a Bible study with some neighbors. The only abnormal thing about today is that Meredith is leaving for Lima to attend the annual ADIEL leadership conference. Elsa is already in Lima because she’s taking a week of vacation that will end with the conference, and Julio will be leaving tomorrow to attend as well, which leaves me alone in Tarma for the next 5 days. Why you ask? Well here’s my new “Life as I know it” summed up in one thought:
Each day that passes brings me one day closer to the end of my commitment with ReachGlobal, and that affects every decision, every rationalization, every strategy from here on out.
This weekend is Stephen Hawking’s one-year anniversary as an institution, and the weekend and month in general are going to be filled with celebratory activities and exhibitions throughout town. At this point in my term, it made more sense for me to stay and participate in these events, to continue to spend time with my students and fellow teachers, rather than to attend a leadership conference where I will learn things I would only have a few months to put into practice. So my team is off to Lima and I am content to stay here and continue on with life and ministry.
I had a very encouraging conversation with my church-planting coach this week, and I confessed to him that I’ve felt guilt because I’ve not been 100% focused on Tarma in the past couple of weeks. I am an incurable planner, and with my time quickly coming to an end here, I find it hard not to think ahead and plan for the next stage/season of life. As a result, I haven’t been 100% here. My coach encouraged me not to try to be. I am now entering into a time of transition and having a divided focus at this point is fairly common. I can’t tell you all how relieved I was to hear this. Because these days I’m having a hard time not thinking about home and the future life that awaits there. Bit by bit I’m closing one season of life and I will soon be entering another. But until then, I will do my utmost best to remain as diligent to my call, to work hard to do all that I can before I’m gone. And for now, that includes spending time celebrating the one-year anniversary of Stephen Hawking High school.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Am I a bad missionary? Maybe. Or maybe I’m just human.

I caught myself thinking it last night, and my first reaction was guilt. My second reaction was justification, and my third reaction was defeat. We were sitting in our living room minutes before our neighbors were to show up for our weekly neighborhood Bible study, praying over the lesson and the time we would be spending with them. Out loud I prayed that God would bring the people, that He would move in their hearts to give them a desire to spend time studying His Word and grow in their understanding of who Jesus is. Inwardly I was hoping that nobody would show up so that I could go to bed early: guilt, justification, defeat. Does this mean that I am a bad missionary? Maybe. Or maybe I’m just human.
I find it interesting that we as Christians so often model our lives, our perspectives and our ideas of good and bad in the same way that the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day did. I mean, how many of our beliefs and standards and practices are really biblical, and how many do we just think are biblical? When it comes to attitude and contentment, is it biblically wrong to be dissatisfied with situation and circumstance? I think some would say yes and others would say no, and I am honestly unsure of the correct response. But I do know, or at least I have come to know, that God is bigger than my humanity, and he won’t leave me alone to struggle through it. You see, it was my turn to lead the study last night, to ask the questions, to guide the discussion, to suffer through awkward silences when no one had an answer or wanted to answer, and frankly, I was just tired of having to try so hard to pull a good discussion out of thin air. So inwardly I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to.
But then, the door bell rang, and in walked in two neighborhood moms and 5 neighborhood children. Sigh. Here we go. Plaster on the smile and do the job, because that is why I’m here after all isn’t it? To do the job. And what is the job exactly, to plaster on a smile and teach about Jesus’ love? To some extent yes, but lately I’ve been learning that the job is less about me and more about Him. Yes, I know that this would seem obvious to any mature Christian reading this post, but understanding it in theory and understanding it in practice are two different things. Why? Because who wants to come out and say that they don’t want to share the gospel anymore? Who wants to take the responsibility to admit that maybe they don’t like ministry? Didn’t Jesus ever get tired of dealing with people who couldn’t understand his message? Didn’t Paul ever get tired of being away from “home”? We don’t really see these things in the scriptures do we, so our tendency is to think that what we read is all there was. Paul, the soldier of the gospel, God’s man taking the good news to the nations, never tiring, never hesitating, never frustrated with culture, always content to be living out of his trailer . . . I mean tent, and never putting down roots anywhere. Is that really how it was? I hope not. Maybe I’m in the wrong here, but I’d like to think that Paul, while an extraordinary believer and a gifted evangelist, was human like any other missionary or ministry worker. I’d like to think that he got tired, that he got frustrated by cultural barriers, and that some days he just didn’t feel like preaching the gospel. And maybe I’d just like to think that so that I’ll feel better about myself when these thoughts and feelings creep into my being. Because admitting that you’re tired of being a missionary is unbiblical right? But you see, these are the moments, precious moments when I struggle against what I think to be true and what I know to be true, and at the end of the battle I rest in the grace of my Lord. Because then it becomes less about me and more about Him. Last night I would rather have watched TV and gone to bed early than teach a Bible study to my Peruvian neighbors. But then God stepped in. He worked in spite of my attitude and tiredness, and He used the power of His word to speak into the lives of these women and their children. And I walked away encouraged, because I was reminded yet again, that nowhere in the Word does it say that I am responsible for saving everybody I come into contact with in Peru. Nowhere does it say that I am not allowed to admit when I am tired or discouraged or feeling defeated. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 12 that God’s grace is sufficient, that His power is made perfect in our weakness. So we boast in our weakness, we delight in our weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on us. So does wanting to watch TV rather than teach a Bible study make me a bad missionary? Maybe. Or maybe I’m just human, human enough to be used by the Lord, yet human enough to need him.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The “Go” of Renunciation

“. . . someone said to Him, ‘Lord I will follow you wherever you go’” ( Luke 9:57

Luke 9:58 are words that destroy the argument of serving Jesus Christ because it is a pleasant thing to do. And the strictness of the rejection that He demands of me allows for nothing to remain in my life but my Lord, myself, and a sense of desperate hope. He says that I must let everyone else come or go, and that I must be guided solely by my relationship to Him.

-Oswald Chambers: My Utmost for His Highest

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stephen Hawking

So in the past few weeks I’ve had a few great opportunities to interact with my fellow teachers and the students of Stephen Hawking High School. Two weeks ago on Saturday the school hosted a “Family Day” at a park outside of town. There were games and relays all morning, picnic lunches and a kite flying contest in the afternoon. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to spend time with the kids and meet their parents, to spend time getting to know the other teachers outside of the classroom. I will confess that after six months of teaching, this was really one of the first moments that I felt part of the school and part of the staff. I helped organize games, judged contests and laughed a lot as I watched my kids enjoy a day with their families and friends. This was also one of the first times I have seen the family emphasized since being in Tarma, and I realized what a cool thing I have the opportunity to be a part of when I think about this school. In the first year of its existence, I have seen the teachers really care for the kids, both academically and personally. I have seen the administration emphasize values and healthy growth. And I’ve been impacted by being a part of it all.
Another opportunity I’ve had to spend time with my kids has been through a series of tea-parties that I’m hosting for the girls of the school. I’m inviting each grade over at a time (generally 8-10 girls) for food, games and a craft, to spend time getting to know them better and hopefully opening doors for future involvement in their lives, even after I go home. Last week I held the first tea-party with my first grade girls, and although only two showed up, we had a really good time. Maritza is one of the girls I’m trying to get to know and hopefully disciple at some point, and Noelia is one of the other first grade girls who has participated in a few of our team events. My next tea party is scheduled for this coming Friday, so I’d prayer for the evening and my conversation with the girls.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

To-Do Lists and Social Engagements

Well I feel like I need to apologize once again for not having updated anything in the past two weeks. August (like so many other months) has been busy with a lot of abnormal activity. After our week hosting interns, we packed up to head back to Lima for a while. I had a college friend coming to visit, and the timing matched up with an intensive course at the ADIEL Institute as well as our inevitable move from our hazardous apartment in San Felipe. Our lease ended this month, and instead of offering us another lease to sign, our troublesome landlords decided they wanted to move back into the apartment. So we have been spending the past month trying to figure out where we could move to, and when we could actually make the move. Ely, our 5th roommate that is only in Lima 10 days out of the month (she works in Cuzco) decided to buy an apartment. But the problem was that it is in a newly constructed building that won’t be finished until late October. So having to move out in August and not being able to move in until October was presenting an obvious problem for us, especially since we can’t keep going back and forth between Tarma and Lima for moving purposes. Finally a solution presented itself a during our week with the interns: a missionary family that has a house close to our apartment in Lima went back to the States to raise support, so we were able to move all of our stuff into their garage as a sort of storage unit until Ely’s apartment is finished and we are able to move in. Moving in Peru is a complicated process as there are no U-Hauls, or moving services. It is also difficult because you have to keep an eye on the driver of whatever privately owned truck you’ve been able to rent to make sure he doesn’t take off with some of your stuff! Needless to say we were all very thankful to get everything safely moved from the apartment into the garage and be done with it . . . at least for now.
During the process of finding places to live and making plans, I realized that I really no longer needed an apartment in Lima since I won’t have a reason to go back until I’m passing through on my way home. So I was then able to pack up the two plastic boxes of items I had in the Lima apartment and store them at one of our ReachGlobal missionary’s house for the next few months in place of paying rent for an apartment I will not use. So in a sense, packing up the Lima apartment was nicely timed.
Anyway, all that to say that we were crazy busy in the days we were in Lima. Meredith and I got back to Tarma this past Monday, and since being back I’ve been full up with to-do lists and spontaneous social engagements. It always takes me a few days to re-wrap my head around all I have to do after a trip, so I was thrown back into my responsibilities here in Tarma with little time to readjust. Teaching classes, having team meetings and trying to organize a new Bible study that we hope to start next week has been all I’ve been able to handle. Fortunately things are getting done in between all of the random birthday parties that we’ve been invited to at the last min. Peru is a very “in-the-now” country, and most social outings/parties/invites tend to be organized the-minute-of, which is hard for a personality like mine who likes a schedule and advanced notice when I’m going to have to go to a birthday party that starts at 10:30pm and ends at 2:00 :)
But I am back and should be in my rhythm again come Monday – hopefully with more regular blog posts again. I’ll just end this one saying that I am very thankful to be back in Tarma with no plans to travel to Lima for a while. I’m looking forward to being able to put my all into the work here and see how God continues to move this ministry along.

Monday, August 9, 2010

End of Internship

Well yesterday marked the end of our second official university internship and we sent the kids back to Lima with feelings of satisfaction and success. We did a lot in this week and I think that the students were given a basic and clear idea of what the missionary life looks like. Like I mentioned before, we had some workshops prepared to present to them, a few devotionals and discussions. Beyond that the kids helped us prepare a youth event, an all-day field trip to the country, and this weeks’ “Hora Feliz”. They also helped prepare a Sunday worship service that we had in our living room yesterday morning. It was neat to hear the kids (I say kids when really they are ages 18-29) share about what they liked about the week and what they learned. And all of them said that they wished that they could stay another week. We’re hoping to have a two-week to one-month internship put together for the future to be able to focus more on the daily life and the ups and downs of culture and team work. But for now, we are satisfied with the 6 students who came and lived and learned in Tarma. Here are a few pictures from the week.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Happy Anniversary Tarma Team!!!

Well today officially marks the one-year anniversary of our ministry team in Tarma! One year ago today we began the journey of planting a church in this quaint little town, and sharing the gospel with all who came across our path. It is strange to think that one year of full-on ministry has passed and to look at where we are now and all we have yet to accomplish. At the end of a year I just have to sit back and thank God for his faithfulness. He has been our strength and our vision, he has given out amazing grace and mercy, and I know that we have only gotten to this point because He is a good God. We are blessed to celebrate this one year of ministry with the university interns who might one day be part of this ministry as well – what a cool though!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

University Missionary Internship

First of all I want to thank all of you that have been praying for me and my health over these past few weeks. I am happy to report that with the exception of just a tint of yellow at the corners of my eyes, I am back to normal and healthy once again. I’m still not eating out, and have stuck to a pretty limited diet, which I will probably continue for another week or so just to be safe. But really it means so much to me to know that I have this kind of prayer support behind me. I was nervous about this disease lingering on and on like it often does, and keeping me out of the game for an extended period of time. Fortunately God saw fit to heal me just in time for the team to host its second University Missionary Internship! Last January, we hosted two university students (Diego and Sayuri) for a week of training, workshops and practical experience for the missionary life. We covered topics like cross-cultural servanthood, the importance of being grounded in spiritual and biblical truths; we practiced sharing testimonies and the gospel, and brought them along to Bible studies and events giving them their own set of responsibilities during the week. This time around we were blessed with six students from Lima and we are having a blast. These are students who have leadership roles in their churches and have an interest in serving the Lord on a more formal level once they graduate. We have taught many of the same workshops and devotions, but have a few new events that the students will participate in. We will be hosting a youth night tomorrow night, and all day Saturday we have a field-trip/family day planned for all the people that have participated in our Bible studies. It’s a full week, but I am thankful for the activity and the energy to take part once again in the ministry.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Learning to cook Peruvian

So as Elsa and I have been alone all week; and as I’ve been sick, we haven’t been doing a lot of cooking. But thankfully each day I’m getting a little better and my energy and appetite have returned and now I’m just waiting for the rest of the yellow to leave my eyes so that I will once again look like a normal human being. As part of the Fiestas Patrias celebrations, yesterday was the great Military Parade in Lima that hosted the president and all of the countries grand officials and military officers. So Elsa and I sat on the couch yesterday morning and watched the parade together for a few hours. Afterward there was a morning program that hosted a local chef who was preparing a new twist on an old dish: Pasta a la Huancaina con Bruchettas. Translation: Huancaina pasta with Shish kebabs. Elsa decided that the dish looked good, and I was in the mood to cook again, so we decided that we would try making the meal for lunch today. Elsa left this morning to go buy the ingredients that we lacked, and we spent a lovely afternoon cooking together. Huancaina sauce is a typical sauce of Peru that is made out of egg yolks, aji peppers and cheese that is typically eaten with potatoes. But in this dish it was the sauce eaten with spaghetti and chicken shish kebabs with grilled peppers and onions. I’ll just go ahead and tell you that this was one of the best meals I’ve had in a while and I’m looking forward to cooking it for my family once I get home. The chef made his shish kebabs using tuna meat, so I assume you can use beef, chicken or seafood. The problem is the Aji pepper. It’s a pepper specific to Peru that I had never heard of until I got here. I don’t know if you can find it in Lincoln, let alone the States. So I will be on a mission when I get home to locate the aji pepper so that I can continue enjoying the delicious Peruvian cuisine that I am learning to prepare. In case any of you are adventurous and want to try making the sauce with a different pepper or perhaps you find some Aji someday, I will share my new recipe with you. Good Luck!

Huancaina Pasta & Shish kebabs

Huancaina sauce:

• 4 hard-boiled egg yolks
• 5 medium fresh Aji peppers
• ¼ kilo fresh cheese
• Lemon juice
• Milk
• Oil
• Parsley
• Parmesan Cheese

Remove seeds from Aji peppers and boil in water with a tsp. sugar. Blend the egg yolks, chopped cheese, milk, lemon juice and oil and Aji until it has a semi-thick and creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Boil 1 pound spaghetti noodles and set aside.

Shish kebabs:

• Red and Green peppers cut in chunks
• Onion cut in chunks
• Preferred meat (beef/chicken/seafood) cut in chunks and seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano or your favorite marinade.

Cook vegetables and meat in a sauté or place on skewers and cook on the grill until done.
In a large pan pour the Huancaina sauce to boil, add spaghetti and parmesan cheese; mix well. Serve on plates topped with parsley and parmesan, place shish kebabs, or open meat and veggies on top of the mound of spaghetti. Serve hot.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Parades, Lonches and Yellow Eyeballs

Today is the local celebration of two holidays: Tarma Day (26th) and Fiestas Patrias (28th-29th). The festivities are beginning this morning at 11:00 with a parade of all of the local schools and institutions, including my school, Stephen Hawking. Today I was going to be in my very first parade. I had to buy a tailored skirt, a blouse and vest and black heels for this event, but it was going to be well worth it to experience the joy that my students were exuding by being able to parade with their school. Unfortunately Hepatitis A is apparently quite contagious, so I’ve been quarantined to my home for the next couple of weeks. Okay, quarantined is a little dramatic, but the doctor said I should be teaching and making contact with large groups of people. So, being a little disappointed, I am staying home from the festivities today. Actually, I’ll be going out in a couple hours for my follow-up appointment at the clinic to see if the doctor has anything new to share.
Apart from the festivities I was going to participate in, I was also hosting a lonche (a dinner/tea/part) for my freshman girls at school. I had invited them over to share fun food, games, and some scrapbooking activities with me this evening, which of course now I will also have to cancel. All in all, this lonche will be fairly easy to reschedule, but it is difficult for me not to be able to do much right now. I feel fine apart from fatigue and having freaky yellow eyeballs, but I’m not supposed to over-exert myself, nor spend time around a lot of people, which in the end kind of prevents me from doing my job here. Please be praying for a quick recovery so that I can get back out there and finish the work I came here to do :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Heart Check

“This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6

Over the past two weeks I’ve had a lot of time on my own to meditate on God’s word, and on my own spiritual life. It’s been an interesting process to turn over the rocks in my life and see what is really living underneath, where people can’t see. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’ve become a different person here in Peru, and I’ve had to deal with some of the more negative side-effects of being here. For example, while I’ve gotten past culture shock and learning how to work with a team of personalities that are very different from mine, I’ve still maintained an attitude of frustration and a lack of grace for the people and situations around me. My natural reaction to most things is, “What is wrong with people!!!!” which, I will admit is not the holiest mindset. So I’ve spent some time reflecting over the above verse and the entire book of 1 John to remind myself what it truly means to love.
I can’t say that I’ve had a great revelation, or that I’ve turned a 180 in my attitude and mindset, but little by little I think God is softening my heart to the circumstances around me. I think I’m more aware of my failings which, then allows me to make a change, and hopefully face these final six months with a joy and a peace that passes all understanding.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Common Courtesy, oh how I miss thee

I woke up at 7:30 this morning to a horrendous pounding noise that was shaking the house. I look outside and see Don Dario (our landlord) pounding away at a cement slab outside Meredith’s window, trying to make a hole to take out a wooden telephone pole that lives there. I’m pretty sure he’s waken up the whole neighborhood, and while I’m convinced that sleeping-in is a concept that most people of Tarma do not practice, I was still annoyed by the ruckus so early on a Saturday. I miss common courtesy. I lament the lack of it every time I inevitably compare something annoying that occurs here to the basic knowledge that people back home have of not doing that specific annoying thing. For example, Pacha (our misbehaved dog) likes to wake up at 6:00am every morning. She likes to wake up and PLAY PLAY PLAY! Playing of course involves barking, and barking outside your bedroom door at 6:00 in the morning involves you getting woken up. And a dear roommate who can’t stand to have the dog sleep outside at night, that gets up with Pacha to play with her outside our bedrooms early in the morning, involves me lamenting the lack of common courtesy.
Speaking of Pacha our misbehaved dog, last night I came home to her having escaped her caged-in back balcony after having ripped a bunch of newspapers and a cardboard box to shreds. I was so mad that I decided to discipline her by not giving her dinner and making her sleep outside last night. I put her box out and then tied her leash to the metal railing so that she could move in and out of her box ( in case she needed to go to the bathroom), but was out of reach of anything she could possibly destroy or make noise with. Success! I think I’m going to put her out there for the next couple of nights, at least until the girls get home and the dear roommate starts to coddle her again. I might have been able to really sleep in this morning if it hadn’t been for the pounding. Oh well, such is life in Tarma.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Back in Tarma

Well after two weeks of going back and forth between Tarma and Lima, I’m glad to finally be home in for a while. It’s been a whirlwind month and I’m glad for a slower week to get my head around the responsibilities of July. After being gone I tend to feel a bit disorganized and have long lists of “catch-up” items to take care of. Due to my English classes, I have come back to Tarma sooner than my roommates and will be here alone for the next several days. I’ll admit that I’m glad for a little bit of alone time after having been around people constantly for the last three weeks. Now that I’m back I have plans to get on top of homework assignments that need to be graded, and I also need to write my semester exam to give my students next week. I also need to organize some Bible study material for our upcoming book study on 1 John and catch up with a bunch of emailing!
Part of the reason that I’m excited about a few days of solitude is that in the busyness of the last month, my time with the Lord has been hit or miss, and I’m longing for some deep time in the Word and in prayer over a number of different things. I’d appreciate prayer over the next four days; that God would reveal himself and his will to me through his Word and through time meditating on his truths. I want to get on my knees in prayer over the ministry and the future of my team in preparation for our one-year review with the pastors and missionaries of the ADIEL. I also want to begin praying over some possibilities for life once I get back to the states. I am hitting the 6-month mark and know that these last months will go by incredibly fast. I’d love your prayers as I’m seeking the Lord about these things! Thanks!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

They came, they stayed, they went

Wow, what a whirlwind week! I can’t believe the days have flown by as fast as they have and I am sitting in my Lima apartment this morning, alone once again. At 6:00 this morning I said goodbye to my parents and my brother at the airport after a fantastic week together in Peru. It was hard to say goodbye since I would have loved to have had more time with them, but I am thankful that they were able to come at all. It was a busy week and now that I’m at the end of it I’m finding myself a little bit exhausted and thankful that I’ll have a few days to rest before heading back to Tarma. In all my family and I spent two days in Lima, two days in Tarma, and two days on a bus traveling between the two cities. I felt like I was able to give them a good picture of my life, and though the time was short, I think they now can understand what it means when I say “I went to the market and picked up a couple of chicken breasts” (see picture above).
The week started out with a Lima church service at La Viña del Señnor Church (The Vine of the Lord) followed by lunch with my roommate Raquel and the pastor and his family, Cesar, Gabi and their almost 2 year-old son Nicolas. We went to my favorite restaurant in Lima called TANTA, and my family liked it so much that we went back at the end of the week for another meal! In Lima we walked around various parts of the city, did a little shopping and for my Mom’s birthday I took the family to a nice restaurant out on the ocean called La Rosa Nautica (The Nautical Rose), for a fancy dinner. The wait staff sung Happy Birthday to my mom and we all enjoyed the spectacle.
Once we were in Tarma the days passed by a little more calmly. I took the family to the market and it was great to show them what grocery shopping was like. Mom and I spent an evening making pizza together in my little kitchen in Tarma, and I loved watching her washing dishes in my little sink! We had lunch with my team one day, and mom, dad and Daniel came to a couple of my English classes. My brother taught some of my 12 year-old boys some self-defense moves, and we did a little country swing dance expo for them as well.
For me it was a blessing to have my family experience what I do on a day-to-day basis. I can explain my life here all I want, but you can only grasp so much of my reality without experiencing it yourself. I’m so thankful that God provided the means for my family to come and share in my ministry and life here. They encouraged me, uplifted me, and gave me wisdom to chew on in the days to come. I hope you enjoy some of the pictures of our week together!