Friday, May 29, 2009

Happy Shavuot!

I received a greeting card today, from a friend of mine in Israel. The card read: "May the joy and blessings of this feast of Shavuot be yours! This High Holy Day celebrates the gift of the Torah, given by God to His people, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the gift of the barley harvest. Truly it is a precious time in the Land of Israel."

Celebrating the day God gave His word is a great idea. God's word (both the Jewish scriptures and the New Testament) have changed the world. When Elizabeth Elliot went to the Guarani people in the jungles of Equator, after they had killed her husband, the Guarani woman that Elizabeth had been discipling spoke to her people. She said that God has written a letter on bark telling the people his will. She said that God does not want them to kill one another. The Guarani Indians responded in complete surprise, since no one had ever told them that before! When I heard that, I thought that we take so much for granted in western society. We fail to acknowledge the power of the Torah in the development of our own culture. The Guarani Indians killed Jim Elliot because they had no moral guideline telling them not to murder. One of their tribe members lied about the missionaries to cover up his own sin of adultery. That’s three of the 10 commandments. If it were only the 10 commandments, that would be immeasurably significant, but it obviously goes far deeper than that when we consider God's teachings on love and social justice. God's word has formed us.

In Latin America, we are confronted with a society in which God's word has not had as strong an effect. The Conquistadors told the Indians that they were Christians, then they robbed them, raped them, murdered and enslaved them. It sent a mixed message. Add to that a society of illiteracy, where no one could read the Bible even if they wanted to, and you get a culture in which people use a lot of religious sounding words without an understanding of the biblical message. That is why our ministry, Latin America ChildCare, is so significant. We're teaching the people how to read. More than that, we're also teaching them the Word of God. Because of this, many of the kids are getting saved. But, even when they don't get saved, there is a huge benefit to society. The Word of God is like yeast--just a little bit of it will eventually work its way through the whole batch of dough.

So, I agree with my friend and want to take this opportunity to say, “May the joy and blessings of this feast of Shavuot be yours!”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Celebrating with friends

For Resurrection Sunday (I hate the name Easter), one of the ways we celebrated was by enjoying an afternoon meal and a walk to the park with friends. I took some pictures with my phone and thought I'd share a few with you. The picture at the top is of Colton and his friend, Ladd Erickson. They're standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The picture immediately above is of my friend, Jens Erickson. He's grilling what turned out to be a fabulous salmon. The picture below is of my lovely bride, who's laughter is a huge source of strength for me.

After the afternoon meal, we walked to the park. Abi is doing some kind of pose, below. Willy is flying a kite with Jens. I love the shot of Willy, because every new activity is an adventure for him. His joy is also infectious.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

What's in your Chicken?

When you buy a chicken in the states, you never know what's really inside. Did they inject it with growth hormones? Was the processing plant sanitary? We'll that's not a problem at the local market here! Just in case you were longing to relive your high-school biology class and dissect a frog or something a little larger, here's a shot of the local chicken retailer near our apartment. As you can see, Willy is a chicken connoisseur.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Laughter, Language and Culture shock

Last night I preached at the anniversary celebration of a church in Lima. The Pastor asked me to preach on the family. I opened with a funny story about a wedding in which the Pastor accidentally reads John 4:17-18, "You've had five husbands and the man you are currently with is not your husband." I got no laugh from the congregation. In fact, I got no response at all. I told them that it was a joke and that it failed miserably. Usually, people laugh at that. This crowd just stared at me. Then, I told them the joke, "Why did the chicken cross the road? ... To get to the other side." They burst into uproarious laughter.

You can know the language, but that's not the same thing as understanding the culture. The concept of what is funny is cultural. In Costa Rica, the people do not find fart jokes funny. When we go to the movies, the Peruvians laugh at things that Americans don't think is funny. One thing we have noticed is that they like slapstick humor--people falling down, etc. So, for my next sermon, I'm going to have to fall off the pulpit and get hit in the face with a pie. This falls under the category of doing whatever it takes to preach the Gospel.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why we're here

Recently, I saw a proverb spray-painted on a crumbling brick wall. It read: Literacy is social justice. It struck me to the core. Millions of people in Peru are oppressed, because they can't read or write. They can't find a job, because they can't read the classifieds in the newspaper. They can't sign a lease to rent an apartment. They can't even read the prices of food in the grocery store. Consequently, everyday, people take advantage of them. They are without hope.

That's why we're here. The love of Christ compels us.

Peru has the worst education in all of Latin America. Our ministry (Latin America ChildCare) is a sponsorship ministry. Willing sponsors help poor children to go to a quality, Christian school, where they get a good education and hear the Gospel. Those two (education and salvation) change the future of a family forever.

The on-line journal Living in Peru reports,
“According to a report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) … out of 131 countries ranked in the world, Peru was in last place in the quality of its elementary school education and in 130th place in the areas of math and science.”(1) The World Bank reports that the predominant issue of education in Peru is one of quality verses quantity. According to Daniel Cotlear of the World Bank, Peru increased access to education “by lowering the standards, so that what you ended up with was very high levels of coverage, but very poor quality.”(2)

[1]“Peru Ranked Last in the World in Quality of Education,” Living in Peru Web site. Available from, Accessed 8 November 2007.

[2]“Finding Quality Education in Peru,” The World Bank Latin America & Caribbean Web site. Available from,,contentMDK:20983999~menuPK:258569~pagePK:2865106~piPK:2865128~theSitePK:258554,00.html, Accessed 28 September 2008.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Colossians 2:14

Years ago, my friend Mike Olejarz, asked me to do a series on the Apostles' Creed. That was a major event in my life and sparked a series of teachings on defining what we believe or what one needs to believe in order to be saved. As such, when reading the Bible, I put a little "c" next to passages that define our theology. The "c" stands for "creed." I've continued this practice in my Spanish Bible. I have three Spanish Bibles, the basic Spanish equivilents to the King James, the NIV and the CEV (Contemporary English Version). The latter is a simplified English version that I believe has been oversimplified to a dangerous level. The Spanish version of this translation (TLA - Traduccion en Lenguaje Actual) is a better translation and I read it most of the time. Colossians 2:14 (TLA) says "The Law was against us, but God put an end to that via the death of the Messiah on the cross."

The CEV says, "God wiped out the charges that were against us for disobeying the Law of Moses. He took them away nad nailed them to the cross."

I like the TLA because it says that "the law was against us." I also like the creedal explanation that "God put an end to it through the means of the death of the Messiah on the cross." That's a good explanation of what we believe. In biblical translation, I believe that clarity is to be preferred over poetry and impact. ("The Message" is an example of a translation that emphasizes poetic beauty and emotional impact. Sometimes it's effective. Sometimes it's just odd.) The CEV does a nice job of catching the emotional impact of this verse when it says that God took the charges the Law of Moses had against us and "nailed them to the cross." That reminds me of Martin Luther nailing the 95 theses on the church door.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

This morning's Devotion

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I parked the car on the boardwalk, where I could see the ocean. The morning fog was rolling in off the Pacific. The air was fresh. I opened my Bible and began to read. That's when my cell phone rang. Lena said, "The water heater burst into flames and the fire department is here now."

Monday, May 04, 2009

Wilmington College XA video 1

Cuy 2

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Eating Guinea Pig (Cuy)

A missions trip to Peru is not complete without eating the local delicacy--Guinea Pig. Here, we call it Cuy (which is pronounced Cooooeeeee). In these pics, my friends Tara Lydy, Ken Lydy, and my son Willy are chomping down on some tasty Cuy--head, claws and all!

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Paragliding over LIma

Last September, I had the chance to go paragliding over Lima with our good friends Mike, Barbara and Sarah Olejarz. Paragliding is when you strap on a big parachute and let the natural winds take you up. The picture here is of the highway and the coast. My fingers are in it, because I was afraid of dropping the camera on the cars below!

This is my favorite shot. It is a picture of me, reflected in the windows of the Marriott hotel. It's about 20 stories high.

Here I am strapping on the parachute and pondering my fate.

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