Saturday, November 17, 2007

Anger Management

Here's an interesting article from Fox news:

Vince Hogg of Wormit, Scotland was arrested after tearing out the hair of his live-in girlfriend and slamming her against a wall. The Daily Record reports the two apparently have had a stormy relationship and he became incensed because a leaky shower was causing the carpet to get wet. All of this has caused Hogg problems with his job, as an anger management counselor. But Hogg is still on the payroll of the National Health Service, which runs the "zero tolerance campaign" against domestic violence, where he worked. Hogg was, however, demoted and reassigned.

The article can be found at:,2933,312006,00.html

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day

I'm a fan of veteran's day, because I'm a fan of vets. It takes incredible character to put your life on the line to serve others. So, thanks all you vets out there!

My dad is my favorite vet. He served in WWII--including spending 9 months in solitary confinement in a prisoner of war prison. I'm also proud of my brother, Jan, who served in in Viet Nam. I came of age during a time when we weren't at war. I'm one of the blessed who has been able to enjoy the fruits of other people's sacrifices. So, thanks Buster, Denny, Jon, Terry, Paul, Nathan, Andy, Frank, Dawn and all the rest of my noble friends. I'd salute you, but since I was only a cub scout, it would look a little silly.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


You know how some actors are really good at playing the bad guy (i.e., James Woods). We might say something like, "They picked that actor because he likes playing the bad guy." That's the kind of conversation we had recently. Except, when you speak two languages it's easy to get your languages confused. The word "moleste" in Spanish, means "bothered" or "bugged" in English. So, even though it sounds just like "molested," it is not what it sounds like. Recently, we were all watching T.V. and there was a girl on the screen who looked bothered--a little bit angry. Consequently, Colton said something like, "Boy, they must have picked her because she likes looking molested."

There was a moment of silence, then I said, "I think you mean she likes looking bothered."

Ah, we make those kind of mistakes in Spanish every day!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Questions about a missionary's life

Our good friend Jonette McMasters leads the BGMC (Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade) group at Akron-Springfield A/G. She's teaching the kids to have a heart for missions. We are grateful for Jonette's friendship, support and the legacy she's building in the kids. (Thanks Jonette!) In order to educate them about missions, the kids wrote some questions to Lena. Here are a couple of her answers:

What is Costa Rica like?

Costa Rica is a really lovely place to learn Spanish. We live in San Jose, which is about halfway up the mountains, and it is almost always in the 60s y 70s. We can drive 2-5 hours to the beach once in a while, but most of the time we stay here and do our homework! We live in the city, so we don’t get to see all the cool animals who live in the jungle much, but that is pretty normal for a Costa Rican, because they don’t normally have the money to travel and see their beautiful country the way we do! Most Costa Rican people don’t earn as much in a week as a poor American does in a month, and cars are way more expensive here. We take taxis everywhere, and they mostly don’t have seat belts, so that was a big thing to get used to—not being able to put my kids in car seats. I pray a lot more now when we go somewhere as a family!

They eat a LOT of rice and black beans here, and I have been perfecting my version of it. Why? It is really cheap to eat rice and beans—and many Costa Ricans eat it for every meal and only get meat once or twice a month. And Costa Rica is one of the richest Latin American countries.

Would we rather be missionaries or billionaires?

Missionaries! I think it is more fun.

What made us want to be missionaries?

When God calls someone to be a missionary, He lets them know! He speaks to your heart and is very patient. Every person’s story is different, but we felt the call in our hearts first, and had it confirmed many, many times, in ways that were little miracles in our lives. It was a very exciting time. God wanting us to be missionaries made us want to be missionaries.

Do missionaries get killed telling people about the Lord?

This is definitely something that everyone who decides to become a missionary has to think about. It is true that people sometimes give their lives for the gospel, but more of them die because of difficult or unsafe conditions in the places they live. The biggest risk for us in Peru will be the traffic. There are very many car accidents in Peru, and we will have to be very careful. The air is really dirty there, too, because the air isn’t able to go over the mountains, and the pollution stays in the city. Sometimes we will go to the jungle, and that will have other risks, but most of our time will be in the city. We will need your prayers for our protection from thieves, too, as this is another real danger.

(The picture at the top is of our family in a traditional Costa Rican cart. The picture at the bottom is one I took on a city street in Lima. You can see how compromised the air quality is. Perhaps even more dangerous, though, is the taxi. It's a 3-wheeled motorcycle with a tent on the back!)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What's that smell?

I'd be the first to admit that a men's bathroom might need an air freshener, but strawberries and cream is not a fragrance I associate with the bathroom. Nonetheless, this is the fragrance that sits atop the urinal in the men's bathroom of our language school. This is an example of culture shock. Culture shock is what happens when you spend all day asking, “Why do they do it that way?” Culture shock leaves you wondering if you'll ever be able to embrace it or if, as a missionary, you’ll just endure it. I have experiences of this nature every day--experiences that seem incongruent with my north American sensibilities. This is especially the case with fragrances. Latinos love strong fragrances. They wear a lot of cologne and buy cleaning products that smell more like bubble gum or flowers than bleach. Being North American, I want my bathroom to smell sanitized. I want a bathroom that smells like harsh chemicals. Latinos want everything to smell beautiful. Neither preference has any effect on the actual cleanliness of the toilet.

Just as I was contemplating culture shock and my inability to embrace a strawberries and cream bathroom, in walked one of my professors (Alex Garro). His expression said it all—it wasn’t culture shock and Latinos don’t like strawberry scented urinals! It just happened to be the air freshener that was around when the air needed freshening. Mmmmmm, that smells sweet.

Note: Alex’s expression is a reenactment. No actual bathroom usage was taking place during the photo journalistic phase of this blog entry.

How we are

We're at an interesting place in this process, we're able to communicate (which makes life much easier), but we're also aware that another huge move is only 6 weeks away. As such, on the outside, we're happy and content; while on the inside, we're fairly anxious. I’ve observed how all of us missionaries have responded to culture shock, and I've concluded that it is a horrible experience no matter how prepared you think you are. Anger, anxiety, depression, low self esteem and negative interpretation are the daily fare here--and they're confounded by the late night hours spent doing homework. After 9 months in Costa Rica, we're beginning to feel more comfortable. But, it is a short lived comfort, since we’re moving to Peru in January. I no longer think it will be a smooth and easy transition. I suspect that we’ll have a repeat of some of the same emotional and physical responses. It's ironic to feel stress when the weather is so nice. I've learned here that being a missionary in a lovely place is still very stressful. No matter how beautiful the place, the missionaries still pay the price of being far from family and friends. You can't quickly replace friendships that were forged over 20 years. So, beautiful weather aside, being a missionary is emotionally costly. If we didn't have a personal relationship with the living God, then it wouldn't be worth it. But, since our call to Peru has been so miraculously confirmed, then we have to believe that these light and momentary troubles will produce eternal fruit!

On the bright side, I preached my first Spanish sermon for the students and staff this past week and it went so well that I was invited to preach at a church this Sunday. Just before I went up to preach this past week, I became emotionally overwhelmed. The reality of fulfilling our call felt very near. We received the call to Peru four years ago. Preaching in Spanish became a realization of the nearness of fulfilling that call. By grace, it was a great experience.
(The picture, above, was taken just after my first Spanish sermon (this week). I'm chatting with one of our professors, Rosita. Lena is behind me, chatting with our friend and fellow missionary, Sherri Mattix.)