Friday, February 27, 2009

The Big "Can You Cross Cultures Successfully" Quiz

Lena here. I have a little quiz for all our friends out there that find the thought of living cross-culturally to be intriguing. This will separate the seriously cultural experience-craving from those who just like to try a little curry on their chicken once in a while (if you only eat macaroni and cheese, and it HAS to come out of a little blue box, DON'T EVEN TRY).

OK, now you are curious.

If you are hanging out with some friends, and someone turns to another mutual friend, and calls them (and this is an exact translation) “Little fat one,” you:"

a) launch into a hysterical tirade on how damaging that is to your friend's psyche.

b) decide to do the cultural thing and call her, “little dark one.”

c) make a mental note to ask a close friend who is a cultural native about this practice next time you are together.

This has been one of those things that us Americans walk around scratching our heads about. In our country, you will almost go to jail over this sort of stuff. Here, they are affectionate names. “Gordito,” “Negrita,” “ Flaquito,” (fatty, dark one, skinny). They even do the racial thing and if someone has a more Asian look.

So, if you answered "a," you probably need to stick to your curry or consider not taking a big jump until you are a little more cross-culture experienced. If you answered "b," you probably need to not be too hasty lest you jump to familiarity too quickly (or make a really big mistake!), and if you answered "c,"you will probably do just fine.

I am not sure if we will ever understand it, or if there is even anything to understand, except for to recognize that it just isn't interpreted the same in this culture. I am just really glad that no one has called me, “Little Fatty” yet. Gotta keep an eye on that one.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What makes your Strawberry Yogurt red?

The answer: Carmine

From "According to the FDA, this red food coloring (also known as cochineal extract) is made from dried, ground bugs . The Dactylopius coccus costa insect is native to Peru and the Canary Islands, where it feeds on red berries. The berries accumulate in the females' stomachs and in their unhatched larvae—which is what gives the extract its red coloring. Carmine is one of the most widely used coloring agents, and food manufacturers routinely use it to turn foods shades of pink, red or purple. Chances are it's what makes the color of your strawberry yogurt or that cranberry drink look so appealing."

I've seen this bug many times. The picture of the cactus and spider, here, was taken by Sarah Olejarz on one of our trips to the Wari Ruins, outside of Ayacucho, Peru. In the lower right side of the picture, you can see white stuff on a cactus leaf. That's the cacoon of the Dactylopius coccus costa spider. The people take it out of the cacoon and smash it's guts the way we used to smash lightening bugs to make a glow in the dark paste (a sad fact that makes me feel very bad for all those bugs from my past). The people then use this gunk to die things. They've been doing this for centuries and it's a part of the vibrant red fabric we all think of when we think of native south american garments. I just never thought about eating it.
Tomorrow, we'll discuss what makes your coffee brown...

(You may read more on this topic and other gross food facts at:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thanking God for Growth

I preached tonight at a church in a desert community outside of Lima. Hannah, Colton and I sang. It was a lot of fun, since the music sounded great. Hannah has a great voice and Colton is really getting good on the cajon--a wooden box you play like a bongo. (It's a joy getting to make music with your kids.)

Lena and I ministered at this church exactly one year ago. It was the second church we preached at in Peru. I remember it as a nervous time--we had been here one month and had no idea how to get to the church. When we'd stop for directions, people would say, "You're going there! OK, but make sure that you lock your doors and windows and don't stop to talk to anybody. It's dangerous there!" When we got there, we thought it looked dangerous and that everyone spoke Quechua (the indiginous language of the Inca indians). It was a dramatic experience of culture shock. Now, a year later, we didn't have to ask for directions and we weren't afraid. It was just a small town outside of Lima with really nice people. There were, by the way, many Quechua indians there. The difference is that I'm now accustomed to them.

The whole night was a victory for us, given the amount of growth that has taken place over the last two years. When we left the states, Hannah and Colton were too young to sing and play with me in a service and none of us could speak Spanish. Now, Hannah leads worship, Colton knows how to creciendo (a musical term that takes it's root from the Spanish word for "to grow), and I can give an altar call in Spanish. At the end of the service, many came down to the altar for prayer. Hannah, Colton and I kept playing music, while Lena and our friend, Phyllis Rose, prayed for people. It was the realization of many of our dreams.

I thank God for the "blessed adventure" of being missionaries.

Healing in Chorrillos

In July, we hosted a missions team from my home church (First Christian Assembly, in Cincinnati, Ohio). At the end of one of our services, we prayed for a young girl who had constant headaches which were caused by a brain tumor. When the team prayed for her, she was healed! Apparently, the girl's family has known for some time, but nobody told the pastor until recently. When he asked her when it happened, she said, "I was healed the day that team from the states prayed for me."

Praise the Lord -- He answeres prayers!

The picture at top is of the missions team dancing at the church were the healing took place. The picture below is of the whole team.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Prayer request

Lately, a couple of friends have written saying that they felt the Holy Spirit knudging them to pray for us. They wrote me asking for an update. Here is part of what we're up against: On Sunday, walking home from church and one block from our apartment, we were harrassed by a thug on the street. He told me that I had offended him and that he would get revenge. He also said that we were in his area and that if we didn't leave, he'd run us through. When we got home, very shaken by the experience, we found a letter under our door from an angry Peruvian, making false accusations against us. I said to Lena, "This feels like a spiritual attack!"
We are also making plans to host some missions teams, in March. We've got two teams coming back-to-back. When I shared about the thug with some friends here, they asked, "Are you about to engage in an evangelism focus?" I said, "Yes we are!"

Please pray that many would get saved, that God would smite the enemy, anoint our heads with oil and make our cups to overflow!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

I Need a Hero

While we were in the States, we were blessed to get the chance to see the movie, Bolt, about a dog actor who doesn't realize he isn't truly a superhero, and what happens when he faces the real world. We all really enjoyed it, and I expected the happiest camper to be my 6 year-old son, Will, who loves everything superhero. That is why I was completely taken by surprise when my superboy began to weep on his way out of the theater. We, of course, came to the rescue and asked him what could possibly be disturbing him—maybe an action scene or the big fire-- but instead, he poured out his little soul, and between sobs told us how horrible it was that Bolt wasn't a real hero. Even when he barks to save his beloved owner in the end, that “It was just a normal bark!”

Such bitter disappointment from such a little soul. He wanted to see real superhero action. He wishes with all his heart that he had a superhero, and I wish with all my heart that I was more like one in real life. I think a true-to-life hero is really someone with a lot of courage. I have been thinking a lot about courage lately—and even my lack of it. I want to have superhero faith to believe that no matter what the circumstances, God will get me through it, and I don't want my resolve to be moved by circumstances or the opinions of others. I want to be steady in resolve, risk for the kingdom, not weaken in the face of bad news.

The book of Revelation has something to say about courage (or the lack thereof): He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers,....----their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfer.” (Rev. 21:7-8, NIV). The very first in the list is the “cowardly.” Our american culture doesn't talk much about bravery unless we are talking about our veterans, but it is time that we were all thinking about this. Times are becoming more trying on the face of the earth, and especially in the US, and we need to ask ourselves if we have the courage to serve the Lord, even to the point of suffering. Now are little tests. We tighten our belts, cut out cable, work on having a meatless meal once a week-- these things are just little tests that make us strong so that when a true test comes, we can do what is necessary. We really don't know what might be ahead, but courage might very well be a necessity to those who choose to continue to follow Jesus. We may not be superheroes, but courage is at least a start.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Cleaning the rug

Lima is in the coastal-desert. That means that it is very dirty. Desert sand is everywhere. But there's also fog from the ocean. That makes the sand stick to everything. For this reason, very few people have carpet. In our apartment, we have hard-wood floors and a few big area rugs. This pic is of the rug in the dinning room. It takes a beating, since we eat every meal there. It's also in a major traffic area. (You can see the original color on the left bottom side of the picture. That's where the leg of the dinning room table was.) The rug was so dirty that we thought it was unsalvagable. Nonetheless, we tried. Lena cleaned the whole thing twice with water, vinegar and the shop vac. Then, Colton and I went at it with laundry soap, a broom and the shop vac. This picture is half way through it's 3rd cleaning. You can see the line dividing what we've cleaned and were yet to clean, under the brush. Colton, Lena and I vacuumed out gallons of yuck. It took us all day. It was hard work, but we're happy to say that it looks like new. Now we have to do the one in the living room.
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