Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What I Love About My Country...

This from Lena:
Periodically, in our ministry, the sponsored children write a note on a given theme to their sponsors, letting them know a little something about who they are, and what their lives are like. It is my special job—which I really love—to translate these little slices of Peruvian school children’s thoughts, hopes, and dreams. I laugh at their honesty, cheer them on in their dreams and hopes for the future….Frequently I am touched by their fervent loyalty to their family--their desires to make a future for their children and provide for their parents.
This time around, they were assigned to write about what they love about their country. Many of them talked of the great diversity of climates here in Peru (the only country with coastal dessert, mountain, and rainforest), their undying pride in Peruvian cuisine (Peruvians are certain that their food is the best in the world—and they may be right!), Machu Picchu, and the Amazon River. Some spoke of the struggle here-how Peru has fought to make progress, and how they long to be a part of that. More than anything, they spoke of how they were simply born here, and their parents were born here, and how that makes it home. The intensity of how they spoke of Peru fascinated me—as though there could be no better place in the world—isn’t that obvious? Pretty similar to my own feelings about the US—if I am honest about it and what goes on in my own heart. I love Peru, and I love God more, but there is a little American flag waver deep down inside me, and she just never goes away.
It made me think about what home is to me. There is something about the place you grew up in—some sort of programming that sticks with you, and the sights and the smells are something you long for the rest of your life. Rich Mullins, in the song, “Here in America,” says, “Nobody tells you, when you get born here, how much you’re going to love it….” It isn’t always so dramatic, what you feel when you miss home. Usually it is something you live with if you are far away, but every now and then, there is a pang, and you know you are not home, and for a little bit, you just really feel the longing for a snowy fir tree, or a green, green rolling hill, or silly things like a rest stop on the highway or a Dr. Pepper.
Why I love my country... Snow. Thunderstorms. Pine trees and brooks and tons of green. Water you can drink from the tap. Memorial Day parades with my dad. Garage sales on Saturday mornings, and my brother-in-law walking in while we are still not quite “presentable.” Ice cream. Stupid pop culture jokes. Soccer games that give us an excuse to sit on lawn chairs with a cup of coffee and talk to the other parents. Picking blueberries in late June. My mom and dad and sisters are there!!!!!!!!! So many good friends….The idea that a person should be given medical care, whether or not they can pay, because they are human beings! (That one is precious!) The general attitude that even if someone has lowly beginnings—and sometimes even because of it—that they deserve a shot at success.
These are just a few things I love about my country, but maybe there is no better reason than the one our sponsored kids gave—that I was born there! And I definitely never knew--"when I got born there"-- how much I would love it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Quality untrusted by animals

On my last trip to Iquitos, in the Amazon jungle, I forgot to bring the charging cord for my cell phone. (I'd like to interrupt this blog entry to say that the idea of using your cell phone in the jungle is pretty funny right from the start. When I was itinerating through Pennsylvania, my cell phone frequently had no coverage; but in the heart of the Amazon Rain Forest, I get perfect coverage and have even called my mom in the states. The conversation begins like this, "If the call cuts off, its because I'm in the jungle and the monkeys like to steal cell phones.") On this occasion, I was going to be in Iquitos for a week and I was worried about my battery going dead. I have very strong LENA needs and have to check in for some romantic chit-chat with my wife on a regular basis. As such, I stopped at an out-door market to find a replacement charger for my cell phone. They guy found a suitable charger right away and gave me very helpful advice. He said, "Don't leave it plugged in for more than an hour or it'll explode." That made me worry a little bit, but I felt much better when I got back to the hotel room and read the box. It said, "Quality Trusted by People." That worked for me, because I'm a person. It's also good to know that I don't have to worry about the monkeys trying to steal my new charger. Apparently, monkeys don't trust that brand.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Resistance to "foreign" water

A friend of mine is in Haiti. He asked if it's possible to build up a resistence to bacteria and parasites in unclean water and food. I all this the "foreign water fallacy." People often think that your body is used to the water in your area, but not in other areas. The truth is that your body prefers clean water. I've read much on this subject, since we deal with it every day. The basic answer is that humans do not build up resistance to e.coli or parasites. I'm guessing that the fallacy has been enabled by anecdotal evidence of friends getting sick on trips (which is definitely correlative) and the idea that we build up resistance to viruses. The truth is that people in 3rd world countries do not build up a resistance to unclean drinking water; rather, they have parasites. Here in Peru, many Peruvians also believe this fallacy and assume that Americans just have weak digestive systems. The truth is, they shouldn't be eating or drinking unclean things either--but they're unwilling to change their hygiene habits. For example, they may know that they have to get their drinking water from a clean source. Unfortunately, they don't use a clean bucket to store it in. Another common practice is boiling the water they use to make fruit drinks, then leaving it on the counter all day. The water was safe when they made the drink, but millions of bacteria grow during the hot afternoon. (This is also 100% true for southern sweet tea sitting on a kitchen counter in Georgia.) The good news for us is that God has designed us to survive, in spite of the aliens trying to live off of us. That being said, God also gave us doctors. So, I'm continuing to take my parasite and salmonella medicine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Crazy White Lady Up Front, Trying to Speak Spanish

Last month, Bill was in the jungle when I got a phone call from the head of Women’s Ministries for the Assemblies of God of Peru. She was asking me to come speak at an event—clearly there had been some scheduling conflict, and the national superintendent had recommended me. I was in total shock. No Bill. Two days to pull it together. Obviously an important event. How many times have I preached in a church on my own? (not counting the very forgiving crowd of Chi Alpha students)—that would be never. Lots and lots of Bible studies. A few retreats. A number of ministry workshops--never a conference as a general session speaker on my own. I wasn’t even clear what sort of event it was! I had heard something about a prayer event, and thought maybe there would be about a hundred or 150 ladies there.
When I arrived-- nervous but spiritually suited up—there were about 500 women there. Full-fledged women's conference, complete with fancy pink tulle draped across the front. I made myself comfortable and started to change my cozy speaking plans to large group in my mind. I enjoyed the speaker so much, and I was so new at this stuff, that I forgot entirely to check in with the leaders, and they put the next lady on because they thought I was late!!
Well, I think I did fine. It was quite the rush—both emotionally and time-wise--but I made it. When I got to the podium, it was incredible to look out on the sea of Peruvian women—and know that God had called me to reach them—and see how God plopped me in front of them to speak. And I think He did it on purpose while Bill was gone, to show me that He is sufficient. And I had a blast!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yea, Parasites!

From Bill:

This is a follow up to the "Secretions" post. I took the medicine and had some minor relief for two days, then the secretions returned. A friend called and asked, "What kind of secretions are you talking about?"

I said, "You know ... like mucous."

"You mean, like, from your nose?"

"Yea. Like from my nose, ... only not from my nose."

I started to be afraid. I had ulcerative colitis 25 years ago. I was miraculously healed in 1988. The symptoms I have been experiencing lately were exactly the same. I knew that parasites mimic the colitis symptoms, but in the back of my head there was a nagging fear.

I went to the doctor. He pushed on my belly in three places. Two of them hurt. I pointed to the two spots where it hurt and asked, "What's here?"

He said, "Your large intestine."

"Why does it hurt?"

"It's inflamed."

I was worried. He said to me, "Here's the address to a lab that specializes in jungle ailments. You'll need to drop off some specimens. When you get the results back, bring them to me."

"The specimens?"

"The results."

So, I delivered three "specimens" at the lab. It's important to deliver your "specimen" while it's still hot. Parasites like a warm and moist environment. It was funny thinking about getting robbed on the bus, on the way to the lab. The robber would say, "Empty your pockets!"

I'd say, "You don't want what's in my pocket."

"Quit stalling, buddy!"

"Well, OK, but be careful, because it's still hot."

I had to deliver my specimens to a very pretty, young lab technician. She was professional and didn't try to make chit-chat, when I handed her a warm cup in a plastic bag. I had to do it three times over a 5 day period. (One of my specimens arrived on Sunday afternoon, when the lab was closed.)

The good news? I don't have colitis; rather, salmonella and parasites! This may be one of the only times in history someone honestly said, "Thank God its parasites!"