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!