Monday, June 30, 2008

The Cross of God

There is a large lighted cross that sits atop a big hill in the Lima suburb of Chorillos. You can see it at night from the highway that runs along the Pacific coast. It's so bright that it hurts my eyes. The other night while driving along, Willy said, "Look! It's the cross of God!"

Today, Abi said that the God in the sky loves us and that's why we don't need to be afraid. She went on to say, "He died on the cross of God, but he got up by himself."

I said, "That's right, he did get up all by himself."

She said, "Yea, ... and he looks better now."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gotta Dance

So we were preparing to close the meeting, a little bring-a-friend tea at my apartment, and one of our friends from church leans over to one older lady in particular who was a guest in our meeting, and says, “Would you like to receive Jesus as your Savior?” Sarah (our missionary assistant) and I both had to cover up a wave of culture shock, as back in the States, we tend to make our altar calls a little less “outing.” Then the relief came when she said, “Yes!” Then not only her, but 3 others after her. Wow.

The whole night was a series of cultural shock moments for me. Hosting a tea in Peru was a bit of a risk, as I had only been to one so far, and it was less formal. I was mostly guessing with what to serve and how to do it. I had good help from the ladies, but there were moments when I felt like I was on another planet. How do you serve? Can people help themselves? How do you politely help people to hush? How direct can we be? How do you pray for people in a group setting when there are visitors?

I found myself thinking a lot through the night about part of the teaching I had prepared for the evening. I was talking about what it means to be truly beautiful as a woman, and I told them about Abi’s ballet class, and how all the girls there were so sweet, and their feminine beauty was showing, even as they were trying (and mostly failing) to do the little jumps and follow the teacher. One was crying because she didn’t have a plush toy to dance with. Another was sulking because she didn’t want to dance. They were less than graceful as they bumped into each other and made lines that looked more like squiggles.
Anyone watching them could see that they were only beginning and that it would be some time before they would do anything that looked like the graceful ballet they aspired to. Still, with time, the squiggles will straighten, and graceful gestures will replace the awkward ones I saw that day.

It is the same way for me. I found myself doing something I love to do—talking to women about the things that really matter in our lives in a small group setting. Yet, in this new culture, and with this new language that sometimes leaves me grasping when (as women do) someone gets emotional about what they are sharing, or speaks through tears. I feel sometimes like I am dancing ballet with steel-toed work boots. It’s awkward. I am unsure of things that come easily in the States. With time, I’ll work my way out of those work boots, but the only way to get rid of them is to wear them out. There is no other way to get to the place I want to go without taking the risk of dancing a pretty crazy- looking Swan Lake. If you want to dance in a new culture, you gotta dance. It isn’t possible to learn any other way. If I am the one who doesn’t get the plush toy, or someone knocks me in the head, or I can’t seem to do the little jumps how I want to, so be it. I am going to dance. And people are going to meet Jesus, because He wants to meet them, and because we were willing to look a little silly to risk it.

Wanna dance, too?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What Is In a Gift?

What is in a gift? I have thought about that a lot as I have carried out one of our very enjoyable jobs of purchasing birthday gifts for sponsored children on behalf of their sponsors. I agonized over the pink purse or the rust-colored one (earth tones are very big here), which scrunchies to go with them, what to get for a 14 year-old boy, and all the same thoughts one has when buying for a nephew or a birthday party for one of your kid’s friends.
I thought a lot about my mom through this process. My mom was an orphan who had the blessing to be born in the US, where we have a fairly adequate system for dealing with such delicate matters. She received her first birthday present when she was 16, from the daughter of her foster mother. I remember Mom talking about it like it was the most incredible thing at the time—I think it was a necklace. Someone thought about her, and it made a difference. She always talked about it—and it came up quite a few times—with tears in her eyes, and much love for the sweet young woman who had bought it for her.
And I have been thinking that although most of these kids are not orphans, the majority of them do not live in easy situations. If I was their mother, I would be thinking about how to get enough money to feed them, not if there was sufficient funds to take them out to a movie to celebrate with their friends or buy them something pretty that makes them feel thought about. These gifts may be the only ones they get to celebrate that they were born. How incredible, too, that it comes from someone they don’t even know, who does it in the name of Jesus. I think you can say a lot with a gift. You can say, “You matter to someone.” You can say, “Don’t give up.” You can say, “Jesus loves you, and I do, too.”
Buying gifts for these kids--it’s a good job.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Like a seed

The #1 question I get is "How are the kids doing?" The kids have handled this transition very well, in spite of the challenges. Living in a foreign culture where you struggle to speak means that you are always two steps behind the rest of the crowd. Willy's experience is an example. We put him and Abigail in a pre-school, so that they could meet friends and continue learning Spanish. Willy's class had planted seeds as a science experiment some time before he joined the class. After a couple of weeks, the other kids plants were sprouting, but Willy's was nowhere to be seen. He compared their plants to his dirt and was sad. I was sad, too. It was an image of his life in Latin America. I encouraged him, saying, "Don't worry Buddy! The other kids got a head start on you. Your plant is coming. Just wait."

When I left, my heart was breaking. I felt his pain. At times, I'm fed up with waiting. People do not want to wait for us. They understand social situations and speak quickly. So, one minute you are with a group of people in a circle and you are thinking, "I'm starting to fit in." Then, they all laugh at joke you didn't understand, then they all turn and leave at the same time. Everyone caught a social cue that it was time to do something else. You're left standing alone, wondering, "What was so funny and where am I supposed to go now?" That is tough for adults, but it’s twice as tough to watch your son go through it. Why couldn't his plant grow like everyone else’s?

Time passed. We had to travel to Southern Peru and Chile, in order to complete the kids' residency papers. When we returned to Willy's class, his eyes opened wide and he ran to the window sill. His pile of dirt had become a lush, green plant. It took time, but it happened. He was so happy. I silently prayed, "Thank you, Father, thank you!"

In Hebrew (and in Spanish) the word for wait and hope is the same. Isaiah 40:31 says, "those who hope in (wait for) the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles." By faith we are waiting and hoping for the day when God makes us truly fruitful in this foreign soil. He has called us and is faithful to do it.

(By the way, Willy is doing very well in school. Thanks to all who ask!)

Science Projects

Hannah and Colton did some science projects this year.

Colton's was on the effect of fat (in the form of butter) on Snicker Doodles. He made batches with 1/4 cup of butter, 1/2 cup and 3/4 cups. As you can see, they get flatter, darker and stickier. 1/2 cup, as the recipe called for, is the way to go.

Hannah won second place for her grade. Her study was on the effect of High Fructose Corn syrup on Hamsters (named Sydney and Vanessa). The result: Vanessa lost 30% of her body weight. Who knew Hamsters don't like corn syrup?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Iquitos 3

Final pics of our trip down the river. Please visit our Picasa on-line photos album for some great pics and captions. The pictures here are of Ceasar--a wood worker on the Amazon River, who also has served as a Pastor of a River/Jungle church. On our web album, there is a video of Ceasar making sugar cane juice. Click here:

Sunday, June 01, 2008

4 salvations

I feel very blessed today. I preached two services this morning. Preaching in Spanish requires a lot, since I have to write the sermon in English, translate it, have it corrected by a friend (Thanks Pablo!), then read/memorize it. Today's sermon came off well. The best part was the end, when 4 people gave their lives to the Lord. I was a bit shocked, since my altar call wasn't very emotional. So, I said, "This is for first timers only, not just for those who feel guilty when I preach." The four looked at me, their hands still in the air, and shook their heads yes!

Thank you, Jesus!