Thursday, March 27, 2008

Potato bread & the cost of living

During our time in Costa Rica, I was shocked at how high our food budget was. I thought Costa Rica was just expensive. When we went back to the states during the holidays, I realized that it wasn't just Costa Rica--it was everywhere. Our move to Peru has not lessened the sticker shock at the grocery store. If anything, it is worse. A recent CNN news article on the world-wide rise in food costs reported, "Partly because of the cost of imported wheat, Peru's military has begun eating bread made from potato flour, a native crop."

That's a bummer because it is motivated by high costs, but the good news for me is that I love potato bread. But, I'd love it even more if it were cheaper. The CNN article quoted Brian Halweil of the environmental research organization Worldwatch Institute, saying, "All countries are tied enough to the world food markets that this is a global crisis."

The increase in food costs is doubled when you consider the declining value of the American Dollar. The attached chart shows the decline of the dollar against the Peruvian Sol, over the past 6 months. All the missionaries that I know are concerned about their loss of purchasing power. But, it's also one of those problems that is a blessing. While I'd prefer to have cheaper access to goods and services, I'm not so enamored with it that I want to leave. To be called as a missionary is such a blessing and honor, it is worth eating beans and rice, instead of meat. If it's for the King, then it's worth it. The good news is that we have a heavenly reward coming, which has already been paid for! Amen.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

San Cristobal and our 2nd tour of Lima

Last week, we joined a local Assembly of God youth group on a tour of Lima. We visited San Cristobal, the Parque de Armas and a park of fountains. Hannah has put together a slide show, which you can see at right. Or, click here to see this new show and all our photo albums:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Unexpected Comforts and the Power of a Lawnmower

From Lima:

One of the surprises I have encountered here is exactly which things bring me comfort in the sense of familiar things. I missed my garlic press, and I was too cheap to replace it for a year in Costa Rica. Love my bedspread from home. The familiarity of the quilts I have made through the house. But the most powerful instant comfort I have experienced here has been the hum of a lawnmower.

We were getting settled in, and as you have probably read here before, we live over a private park, when I noticed something, and without even realizing what was happening, my soul did a little, “ahhhh……………” I stopped, because it was a curious feeling of familiarity. After a second of attentive quiet, I realized that alongside of the sound of jackhammers and construction (they are building high rise apartments on either side of our building), there was the hum of a lawnmower. Summer in Ohio. Sending the kids out back to play. Watching them leave through the back fence to the cul de sac with their friends. Kids screaming as they run through the neighborhood with water guns. Much farther back, I see my dad in the front yard, yelling at us to gather up the sticks in front of him as he mows. We roll around in the grass and throw big handfuls up in the air. It feels like deep-pile carpet and looks freshly vacuumed from the rows he makes with the mower.

What a silly thing to carry so much power for me—so many good memories that help me feel at home here. I am thankful for each moment like this, and the unexpected comforts of Lima.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wash your hands!

Last Sunday night two people got saved. (Praise the Lord!) I preached a message and then asked for those who want to give their lives to the Lord to signify it, "All you have to do," I said, "is lift your hands!" But I didn't say "lift," I said, "Wash!"

They stared at me, so I repeated myself, "If you want to live with the Lord forever and received forgiveness of your sins, then WASH YOU HANDS and let me see it!"

O well, they eventually figured it out.

What a Croc!

I wear crocs--those ugly, plastic clogs. A few weeks ago, while standing in line at a hardware store, I ran into a man who is mentally challenged. He didn't appear challenged at first, so I was suprised when he walked up to me and said, "Que bonito zapatos!," which means, "What pretty shoes!" He immediately tried to put my crocks on while I was still wearing them. I kept stepping back, while he tried to stick his foot into the small space at the top of the shoe. It was unnerving. I saw him again today. He didn't remember me, but as soon as he saw my crocs, he did it again. I had to hold him off and say "No!" very forcefully.

There's only one man who can wear my least while I'm in them.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Contentment and Maturity

When you move to a foreign country, there are a lot of problems to solve. Foremost are your unmet desires and expectations. We tend to get used to the idea that if I can just have my coffee at 6:00 am, I can be happy. In regard to this exact example, I'm a thinly veiled version of Dustin Hoffman in the movie "Rainman." In one scene, he frantically chants, "Five minutes to Wapner! Five minutes to Wapner!" He was addicted to "the Peoples' Court" and had to watch it everyday; otherwise, his world fell apart and he threw a major hissy-fit. Well, there's no Judge Wapner in Peru. There also isn't peanut butter (!), Frosted Mini Wheats, "The Amazing Race," or the major network news programs (e.g., ABC or NBC) from the states. As for T.V. news, we have CNN, which I watch but don't enjoy. (Is it me, or does Wolf Blitzer keep saying the same things over and over?) As a news junkie, I've been forced to develop a contentment strategy. As such, I read the news on the web and in our local (Spanish) newspaper. I'm learning to enjoy CNN in Spanish; which, thankfully, doesn't spend all day tallying how many delegates Hillary needs to catch up with Obama. Of course, missionaries 10 years ago didn't even have CNN, so I'm "content" with what I've got. Content is a key word, because it's a major part of maturity. One aspect of maturity is the ability to be content when you can't get what you want.

Paul, writing one of his supporting churches, said this about the missionary life in Philippians 4:10-13: "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Paul also wrote to his disciple, in 1 Timothy 6:6-8: "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."

Today, I can say in all honesty and without any struggle that I am more than content. I'm bordering on a full fledged happy. Of course, we're still eating the peanut butter we brought from the states. I believe that before we run out completely, I'll have matured sufficiently to endure it with contentment and aplumb.

Monday, March 03, 2008

You are here

Lima is a big city. As such, it has some dangerous parts. We are happy to say that we don't live in one of them. We were blessed to find (actually, "be directed to") a beautiful apartment attached to a private park, where the kids can play without fear. We're also about 4 blocks from a park that overlooks the ocean. Colton and I have roller-bladed to this park many times in order watch the sunset. We feel truly blessed.

Unfortunately, I can't figure out a way to show you where we live. In the real world, there are no "you are here" arrows, like on the map at the mall. So, I'll describe it verbally: Go to the center of the map and go strait up. When you reach the diamond shaped park, we live at the top of the diamond. The white stuff on the bottom left corner are waves in the ocean. The green strip above the waves are mountain cliffs. The yellow line is a side-walk we roller-blade on. The blue dot on the left is a sports stadium.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Name that food

Seafood is a big part of the Lima identity. Consequently, every restaurant (except McDonald's) sells "mariscos" (i.e., sea food). The interesting thing about the phrase "sea food" is that it doesn't tell you what kind of food--only that it comes from the sea. There are a lot of edible things that you can hoist out of the great deep. In Lima, they like to combine them in various, nondescript forms for your dining pleasure. Knowing this, I decided to dive in and order "Arroz con mariscos" (sea food with rice). It was fabulous! I could eat it every day. I suspect that the samples below are octopus or squid. I've eaten both before. I like squid best when it's battered and fried. Octopus is, in my opinion, tasteless. Both are like eating industrial rubber bands. The bottom picture is how the meal looks with the identifiable stuff removed for inspection. After taking the picture, I dutifully ate the evidence and went back for more.