Saturday, December 22, 2012

Belen fire thoughts

Here are a few random thoughts about the fire in the neighborhood of our LACC School in the Belen district of Iquitos.

1) Ironically, Belen is Spanish for Bethlehem. As I shared previously, I was in Iquitos to give Christmas gifts to the kids in our LACC schools. The gifts were supposed to arive four days prior, but were still on a river barge when I landed in Iquitos. The shipping company said they wouldn't be available until Monday (Christmas eve). We begged and prayed and the gifts became available on Thursday. We were at the shipping company when we got the call about the fire. If the kids in our school in Belen had received their gifts that morning, as was planned, the gifts would have burned in the fire.

2) The day before the fire, I took photos of the street because we were in negotiations to buy some of the houses next to the school. Then the fire struck. After the fire, I took hundreds of  photos and various videos of the site. I wanted to show everyone the before and after shots, but they were all lost. Something happened to corrupt the files on the card (perhaps the security X-rays in the airport?). I was (and still am) really upset. I've never had anything like this happen before and feel doubly frustrated by such a loss at such a critical time. By God's grace, I had copied photos from Pastor Jose's camera and also had photos on my phone. I definitely feel that the enemy does not want to bless the people of Belen. Destroying my pictures was just one more way to hinder our mission work there. May the Lord turn their ashes into something beautiful that gives Him glory!

3) Since we didn't have the gifts to give out on Thursday, I took some of the High School Seniors and teachers out to lunch to celebrate their graduation. When we got to the restaurant, I saw that some of the Seniors hadn't come. It was because they didn't have 30 cents for the taxi ride and they were too embarrassed to tell me. I would have paid for their transport, but they don't have cell phones so there was no way to tell them that. I felt horrible. Nonetheless, with those who did come, we had a great lunch at a Chinese restaurant. I sat with the Seniors and talked with them about their dreams for the future. It felt great getting a chance to talk with them personally. I've watched them grow up over the past five years. We had no idea what was about to unfold.

4) For those who are able to help, donations can be made payable to "Peru ChildCare"
in the check memo line, please write 8481046 Class 46
Send to: Assemblies of God World
1445 Boonville Ave.
 Springfield, MO 65802

Fire in Belen

On Dec. 20, a fire destroyed the community surrounding our LACC school in the Belen district of Iquitos. Over 1000 people have been displaced. Thanks to all who have expressed concern and are praying for Belen. I just got back from there and need a bit of time to pull it all together. Here are the main points of interest:

1. The fire broke out because of a propane tank explosion. The community thought that two children died, but (thankfully) they were found the next day.

2. About 1000 people have been displaced and are using our church and school as the relief centers.

3. The biggest needs are food, a place to sleep/live and clothing. We do a feeding program at the school, so the members of the church are now using it to feed the community. Some of the people you see in the photos, feeding the community, are the very ones who lost their homes. There is no gas, water or electricity in the community, so they are cooking the food over the wood scraps from homes.

4. We have enough food on site to serve about 500 meals for about 10 days. The government is also shipping in food--though the people like ours better! Lena Shrader, Emily Sandoval and Ron Smith (along my kids and other friends) shipped 120 boxes of food yesterday. It'll take about 14 days to arrive.

5. I had $1500 in my ministry account in Peru, I gave it to Pastor Jose to buy mats that the people can sleep on, to buy some meat (to go along with the fortified rice and vegetables we had on hand) and to buy emergency supplies. I told him that more money was on its way.  (Please see the post below, from Phyllis Rose, for the account number and address.) When we get the money transferred to Peru, I'll be able to transfer some to Pastor Jose for immediate needs and also negotiate purchasing things in bulk from Lima. Iquitos is in the jungle and does not have the infrastructure to just buy what you want.

6. The president of Peru visited the site, yesterday. I missed him by a few minutes. He's promised every family two sheets of plywood and some tin. I think I didn't understand the translation very well, because everyone seemed to think that was excellent news. I asked Pastor Jose, "So, people are going to build a house with two walls and no floor?" His response was (and I'm not kidding), "They're pretty big pieces of plywood." He also said the president was going to outlaw thatched roofs--which is like blaming the conditions of a refugee camp on cardboard.

7. I've asked Pastor Jose to give me a plan and a budget. He's working on it, but is mostly preoccupied with handling emergencies. We can't start rebuilding yet. I'll post an update when we can start rebuilding.

8. Clothing is a big need, but it cannot be shipped in easily. The Peruvian government is very strict about this. It will likely be easier to buy it here and ship it down. I need to work this out with my missionary colleagues who have more experience in disaster relief.

For those who want to come and help right away, please be patient. Jungle culture does not move as quickly as Americans do. At the same time, the people in this community are not complaining as much as Americans do, either! It is amazing how they are not complaining. They just went out and started collecting the remaining wood to save it as fire wood.

I'm currently coordinating different aspects (and just got to see my family). I need to make some calls and get more information. So, I'll post more in the very near future. Thanks for your prayers. Many of the displaced people are the kids in our school and are my friends from the church. As such, your concern is a great comfort to me and has enabled me to encourage them that help is on its way.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Transformation in a young girl's life

I'm editing blog posts that somehow never got published. Here is a video that I (Bill) took three years ago of a girl (whom we'll call "Laurie") in one of our Latin America ChildCare (LACC)  schools in Lima. Here, Laurie is in the computer lab that LACC helped to purchase for the school. Laurie's story is an excellent example of the Gospel in action. She was kicked out of all the other schools in the area. Her parents put her in our LACC school as a last ditch effort. When she entered the school, she was more than a handful – kicking and biting the students and teachers. She would throw temper tantrums, forcing the teachers to hold her down. The director told me that the teachers would hold her down and pray over her until she settled down. The teachers began a concerted effort to pray for her outside of class and in their meetings. After time, her attitude began to change. Now, she is a model student. After she changed, her mother came to the church. She gave her life to the Lord and is attending regularly. The father also attends, though I don't know if he is a believer--yet. The family loves the school and the church. This story is a testimony to the power of the school and the church working together to change the destiny of a whole family!

Hannah dances the Marinera

This from Bill: 

I've been going through our blog and found some articles that we never posted. I'm not sure why this one never got published, since I'm the one who wrote it and I love the subject; that is, the beautiful dance "the Marinera," and pictures of one of my favorite people in the world--my daughter Hannah!

One of the beautiful cultural traditions of Peru is the Marinera--where a couple dance to marching band music, waving a handkerchief. The dance is a little flirty and involves hiding a fake kiss. These pictures are a few years old and are of Hannah and her friends doing the "girls only" part of the dance. Hannah goes to a Christian school, so there's not even the hint of a fake kiss on this stage. As the parents of a lovely teen-ager, we're fine with that decision.

Posted by Picasa
Here's a post that Lena wrote some time back, for Resurrection Sunday:

Jesus' death and resurrection was all about reconciliation.  That is a fancy word for making-up.  We were in a place where we could never, ever pay for what we had done, and Jesus paid the bill.

Have you ever felt that way in a relationship here on earth?  Sometimes we get so far away from each other.  It starts with an offense.  Maybe the offense grows as the "offender"  continues to hurt our feelings, or maybe it just grows inside of us as we mull it over and let it take root in our hearts.  For whatever reason, a gorge begins to grow into a chasm that is bigger than we can imagine ever jumping over.  We have done something, or have had something done to us that will never seem right.

I have heard so many awesome ways people are trying to make Resurrection Sunday (some of us are trying by changing what we call it!!) more meaningful.  They all are awesome!  I love feeding the homeless, doing outreaches--being creative with how we love.  I would like to add another idea: take the steps to be reconciled to someone.  If you don't know how to begin, start with crying out to God!  He may start doing some things in the other person's heart that will surprise you as a fruit of your prayers.  Be humble and take your part in the offense without insisting they do the same.  Do it because He loves you and forgave you EVERYTHING.  You might change someone's life by putting on Christ-like selflessness, and you will certainly be better.

Maybe it will be a gesture of love--God will help you see your way through.  I am learning that words aren't always the most important way of communicating.  No matter how it is expressed, it will bring life.  Even if the gesture is not openly received, it can be freely given, and God sees it all.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Day of the Dead in Peru

This from Bill:

November 1st is the day when Peru celebrates “the Day of the Dead.” I never gave a great deal of thought to the Day of the Dead in the states. In the past, I often went to cemeteries to pray--because they are peaceful and beautifully landscaped. As such, the idea of going to a cemetery for a picnic lunch, remembering your past loved one(s), seemed morbid, but not that far out of the possibility range. But, in Peru, the idea takes on a much different meaning than merely remembering your past loved ones—it is a partial reenactment of their ancient pagan ceremonies. Prior to the Spanish conquest of Peru, the Incas worshipped their ancestors by setting the mummies in a prominent place and then having lunch with them. Clairvoyants were employed to receive messages from the dead. The people would set out food and pour out beer in the mummy's presence, so that the mummy could enjoy them and, in return, pass on blessings to the living.  The beer was (and continues to be) a big part of the celebration. I envision the clairvoyant’s conversation going something like this:

"Your great grandfather is here and he thanks you for the ham sandwiches and the corn-nuts, but he will not give you his blessing."

"Why will he not bestow on us the blessing?"

"Because you're stingy with the beer and you’re only serving him the cheap stuff!"

The Incas were not stingy with the dead. When the Spanish conquered Peru, one third of the country’s food was being offered to the dead, which resulted in starvation among the tribes the Incas had conquered. In the pagan ceremonies where they partied with their ancestors, the Incas poured out so much beer (for the dead), that it ran out of fountains and through channels that lined the streets of Cusco. Because of the influence of Catholicism, most Peruvians do not offer meals to the dead directly, anymore; but they do continue the practice of eating and drinking in the presence of the deceased. And the beer continues to flow—though nowadays, it does not flow through the streets; rather, it flows through the family members who use this day as an excuse to get drunk and attach some kind of generally religious notion to it. 

The pictures below are from an NBC news photoblog, detailing the practices of some of the families in Lima. The photos are beautiful and serve as reminders of the need for the Gospel in this stark and barren land.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Turning the Last Pages

This from Lena:
Back when getting lost in a novel for days at a time was a normal practice for me (I was an avid reader as a young girl), I had the feeling often. I would lose myself in the characters and their private struggles, and as I would near the ending, I dreaded it. Sometimes, I admit it, I peeked at the end. The better the book, the stronger the regret as I flipped the last few pages, dreading the moment when I had to leave the little space in my mind that I had created to hold my hero and all their defeats and joys.

What I am feeling now feels a lot like that, but the hero of the story is my oldest daughter, Hannah. For those of you who have already launched some babies, I guess I have to plead a little patience. It is just that I have been forced to realize recently---through the onslaught of college applications, talk of financial aid, and the rest---that I am in the last pages of this book of daily-present parenting.

I am among the most fortunate of parents. The hardest things ever got with my girl were just totally normal things—practically rites of passage. We did our best to train her. We held her in our laps, we worshiped with her, we brought her to so many ministry events that she started to believe (and act!) like she was already a minister of the gospel! I remember chuckling that it was probably a good thing we were taking Hannah to the mission field when she was 12, because she often had something to add to her dad's teachings to the college students, and I didn't relish having to ask her to hold back a bit.

So the thing that I am feeling right now doesn't have much to do with worrying about her being able to cope (although I have all the normal concerns). It is mostly that I will lose the dailiness of our relationship. I will lose the moments when she feels like talking and sidles up next to me on the couch, signaling me that it is time to chat. I won't know as often if she had a good or bad day, or know the personalities of her friends so that the stories of her day take on that novel-like space in my mind, so that I can delve into the story with her.

And very selfishly, I will lose all the pride that fills my heart when I feel the Holy Spirit rip through an auditorium or a little shack-of-a-church in the countryside when she opens her mouth to lead in worship. I will SO miss that. I vividly remember the first time I realized the gift that was on her. We were at our home church in Cincinnati, and she had a song to sing in Spanish---she was only 12, and she barely knew what she was singing at the time, but the gift was evident, and I was embarrassed by the flush of pleasure that raced through me. I had had my suspicions—but that day they were confirmed. What a gift. What a special gift!

A dear friend of ours had a dream about Hannah that she shared with us yesterday. In the dream, Bill had been training her to do a special dance for church that involved her dancing over a map. She was still learning the dance. At one point, Bill could no longer see her doing the dance, but she could, and Hannah was touching people and walls and prophesying to them, as she danced all over the map. She wanted to tell Bill that yes, she was doing the dance and it was beautiful, even though he couldn't see it. She learned the dance.

Tears streamed down my face as she finished telling me the dream. The part that hurts is the not seeing. We are so blessed that our pain is that of missing victories, of skipping chapters that we would have liked to savor. It could have been tears of disappointment or fear that her life would be fraught with consequences of poor decisions, but she is so grounded that I highly doubt it. No—much more likely that we will simply miss out seeing the dance.

I am slowing down a little in these last pages, taking it all in. I am being a little more selfish with my time with her, savoring the words as I deliberately turn the page instead of hurrying on to the finish. All too soon, she will be a continent away. We bought the expensive leatherette coat for her birthday-- I didn't even care that it wasn't on sale. We look for holes in the schedule where we can separate family time. We are thinking about what we will regret not having done in two years that we can do something about now. Family vacation? How many more opportunities will there be for the six of us to be all together? Pages are turning, and I can feel the weight of the spine shifting to the front with each turn.

The sequel is going to be good, I can tell. I probably am going to have to content myself with reading the reviews, but that doesn't make the book any less a good read—it just means I won't know first-hand. Regardless, I will always be thankful for this one that I have enjoyed thoroughly, drinking in the characters and crying and laughing out loud through it all.
Pictured above:  Hannah (15)preparing to dance the Marinera (a traditional Peruvian or Chilean dance, depending on which you happen to be) for a school event.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Calling Sponsors into Being That Are Not as Though They Were

This from Lena:

There is a dynamic in the Christian life that doesn't make any sense, but is very real. When we pray, we are instructed to pray believing that we will receive what we are asking for--as though it was already ours. When we do this, we become a bit like our Father in heaven, “who calls things that are not as though they were.” Nothing plus faith equals something. We become participants in God's response to our own prayers by demonstrating faith that He hears and wants to respond to our faith-filled prayers.

Twice a year, LACC does a special project in which the children write a paragraph about a given theme. This gives them a chance to connect with their sponsor and give the sponsors a window into their lives. The first project this year was “My prayer for you...” The children were to write a little prayer that expressed their heart desires for their sponsors. Now, it is our office's policy to have all the children—those with sponsors and those awaiting a sponsor—to do a project, just in case one of the children is assigned a sponsor while a project is active. My heart fell as I began to read the prayers the children wrote to sponsors who did not yet exist. I felt the irony, but I know that something powerful happens when we do something in faith---like write a letter to someone who doesn't exist yet, but is an answer to our prayers.

Some of the kids were quite specific:

“...and please send me a sponsor who is good and handsome!”

Some appealed to their imagined sponsor's sense of justice:

“I would like God to move on your heart and that you would be my sponsor, and that you would help me in my studies, so that I can be a professional one day and escape the poverty we live in. To the person who reads this—thank you very much and may God bless you richly. Thank you. Good-bye.

Some shook the heavens:

“Help me to have a person from You who is kind and good who can help me to be like you with the very poor people who live around here. Help me to study hard to be able to keep going. Thank you, Sponsor. I am going to have a sponsor. Thank you, Lord, for blessing my sponsor for choosing me. Thank you. I am sending you a hug and a kiss.

I want you to know that for some reason, we had probably the biggest jump in sponsorship since that project was written that we have ever seen.  In fact, I KNOW that it is the biggest, from all of the first letters I have been translating!  There are circumstances that we can explain that with (we have a staff member on itineration currently, which really helps!!), but why now? There have been months in our own itineration when very few children have been sponsored. Maybe it was because some kids took a step of faith and called a sponsor into being who wasn't as though they were.  And just so you know---all three of these got sponsors!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bus Singer

People do all sorts of things to beg in Lima. Often, little kids get on the bus and sing for loose change. This was the first time I've heard opera on the bus. This guy was incredible! I gave him 1 sole (about 35 cents) and asked for another song. If riding the bus in the States was this classy, more people would take the bus!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Girlfriend's Guide to Lice Annihilation

Let's just say hypothetically that maybe there was a mom somewhere in the world that woke up to a whole new world of fighting head lice.  She was innocent at first--didn't even recognize it when the first of four started scratching....but then she got wise really quick.  Maybe a majority of the house-dwellers in her house came down with them, ok?  Said mom would within days become something of a specialist in head lice annihilation. She might even feel the urge to start a social action group against head lice and start distributing fliers about head lice annihilation best practice.  These are maybe a few things that she would put on said flier:

1.  Fifty-ish men tend not to get them.  Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide.
2.  Moms who spend the whole day OCD-ing over finding one more up their odds of one of the little buggers migrating to her own precious locks.
3. The first sighting of a live little squirmy thing weaving through your kids' hair is the hardest.  Make sure that if you find a little colony of them squirming around, that you show your spouse so he may feel the passion of the cause.  After this moment,  it is sheer hatred that drives you to kill them.  Onward Christian soldier.
4. Moms who find out they have "visitors" in their own scalps after fighting it all day on the heads of their little ones can get a bit cranky.  A lot cranky. Pick through her hair super gently and act like you know what you are doing, even if it is just to humor her.
5. Killing the bugs themselves is easy.  Pinch, gently remove from scalp, then smoosh into oblivion.  Or, you can just kill them with your shampoo poison stuff and then pick them out.  They are just the tip of iceberg, Girl.  Hold on to your hoodie, 'cause there's more.
6. The eggs.  At first you are like, "I don't get it.  I am sure there are eggs here somewhere."  You are right.  You have been combing right past them for two days now.  Don't panic.  Just take your time and take it one fine-tooth comb swipe at a time.  That stuff you thought was dandruff?  It wasn't.  Now is a good time to go get another cup of coffee and brace yourself for a long ride.
7.  Check in the morning, every morning, for a long time.  Like two weeks.  The eggs can live 7-10 days, so even if you last saw a live one a week ago, you can still have a fresh one popping.  When you check an area that has had a large cache of eggs, you want to go nice and slow through there, and wait to see if something wiggles.  Ick.  But true.

So there you have it.  There is so much this mom could say about head lice---for example, head lice warfare philosophies, head lice trivia, all sorts of head lice analogies for the spiritual lice that invades our souls....I am sure she has had plenty of time to think about it all as she picks more lice off of her kids than monkeys pick fleas off of each other.  But, there is only so much room on the flier.  So there.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Momma Lena Got Keys...Divine Irony in Motion

This from Lena:

I cried in front of the tester the day I took my driver's license test.  I was 24 years old.  I slept less the night before I took that test than I did the night before I got married, a few months later.  My wise fiance had challenged me  to finally kill the beast and get my license, thus making me a more equal partner in the marriage rather than someone he would have to cater to.  I knew it was the right thing.  I was petrified.

I had never parallel-parked successfully.  Ever.  The evening before I spent crying out to God for help. I went to my prayer closet a desperate woman.  I remember hearing one thing in my heart--that I was to cast out my net one more time, like Peter when he had fished all night and had not caught anything.  One hour before my scheduled test, I went out to the driveway gripping my cones, full of grim determination.  I managed to pull off one successful park, and then it was off to the exam.  I cried so hard in the car when the tester corrected me that he asked my if my boyfriend beat me.  Oh my.  I don't even know why he gave me the license, because he could have flunked me.  But I got it.

I wanted to tell you this story, because I want you to grasp how extremely ridiculous it is that God sent me to a city of 9 million people,  teeming with 20-year-old minivans with doors that don't even close anymore that dodge in and out of traffic, and buses doing the same, not to mention taxis that make it impossible to take a right turn from the right-hand have to see it to believe it.  Or live in Africa or India.  Or Mexico City.  Someplace like that.   There is nothing in the States that comes close.

Divine Irony.  His power made perfect in our weakness.  It has taken me close to three years, but I am no longer paralyzed by the thought of driving in Lima at night.  I drive about an hour in Lima traffic Wednesday nights to our dear church, located in an area where you don't tell taxis you are going, or they won't take you there.  The further out I get, the more mototaxis there are, which I call buzzy bees, because that is the sensation they create as they zip through traffic.  Sometimes something a little scary happens, but mostly I am just so thankful not to be petrified anymore to do it.

I am not telling this story to make you think I am courageous or special.  It is just the opposite.  I am telling you because it knocks my socks off that the Lord has taken me this far.  I still can't parallel park for beans, and I stink at judging whether I can fit in a parking space.  I know I look like a dork at some point most days, wielding my huge minivan through the streets of Lima, and I wonder if my kids' friends are like, "Are you SURE you want to ride with Mrs. SHRADER?"   If the angels get a good laugh watching me run the streets of Lima,  I suppose that is fine with me as long as they keep me out trouble.  And if the Lord gets special delight out of watching his timid little Ohio driver take on traffic so she can be a worthy partner with Him, I am alright with that, too.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hunger Flames

This from Lena:
OK, so the title is totally contrived, but it got you here, right?

An alumni from our Chi Alpha ministry years ago (for those of you who don't know us very well, we cut our ministerial teeth In Chi Alpha Campus Ministries and loved that ministry dearly) just celebrated his birthday.  I found myself thinking about what it was that delighted me so much about this person.  When I comb through the archives of my mind (and Spanish acquisition has diminished them considerably), what sticks out is one of the first times he came to our meetings.

Now, you need to understand that we were Jesus Culture when Jesus Culture wasn't cool.  We were (are!) die-hard Pentecostals.  This does not mean that we jump.  It means that we love the presence of the Holy Spirit, believe that what He brings is worth waiting in the upper room for.  That what He brings is going to equip us to make a difference in this world, and that without His move, we are powerless.

Our worship times were characterized by a deep sense of the presence of the Spirit.  When this particular student arrived, he took to it like a fish to water.  Like Mozart to a piano.  Like Justin Bieber to the heart of pre-adolescent girls.  He laughed, he cried, he acted like a hungry man who had just found a KFC in the middle of a desert.  And it affected all of us.  His hunger was palpable, and it drew the rest of us deeper in, made us value His presence more.

Have you ever been in a supermarket next to someone who is excited to find some great fruit?  One person starts looking, sees that maybe the mango is just right, and lets out a little squeal of culinary anticipation.  Pretty soon all the housewives are acting like they got to have some mango, or they are going to die.  One person's hunger or anticipation of something good coming affects everyone else.  Everyone around them starts thinking, "If I don't move, I am going to miss out!"

Hunger for God is like a fire that shoots out sparks all around.  It is infectious.  It makes spiritually bored people wonder how they got to be so disenchanted with church life, and makes them long for the first flush of love with God in which they were willing to do anything, go anywhere.  Those sparky people stir something of longing inside of us.  How I love them!

So I want to dedicate this to all you sparky people out there, whose hunger for God fans into flame passion inside the rest.  Keep flame-throwing.  There is bound to be some nice, dry wood around just waiting for a spark.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Blue-eyed Barbie Longings

This from Lena:

I have a very clear memory of the day I went to see Aladdin. I was with Bill, and without any warning, I started tearing up. When I looked at this Disney princess, I was seeing something I had never seen before in a princess movie. I was seeing someone who looked like me! Dark, full hair, darker skin, dark eyes---and beautiful. But even more than that, by being made a heroine, her beauty was receiving collective cultural approval. Valued. Wanted.  The power of it surprised and embarrassed me.

So often when I walk through the streets in brown-eyed, brown-skinned Peru, people stop me to tell me how beautiful my daughters are. They are absolutely right! My daughters are fabulously lovely. They will exclaim, “She is so beautiful! Just like a Barbie!!” And they will say it with a starry-eyed, dark little princess at their side. Usually the little one joins in on the adulation, so culturally adapted to this “white is beautiful” idea that it doesn't even occur to her to be offended that she is being overlooked. I imagine that she is carefully considering what she can do to look more “Barbie”--fully knowing that her own eyes can't change their color, that her hair won't take the blond color well. I often reply, “...and your granddaughter here...she is very lovely, also!” It doesn't really change anything, but it feels right to say.

Most of the time, you cannot even find a single Barbie in the store here who has some color to her skin. The only place you can find a doll who looks like a native Peruvian is in the tourist areas, and in general, Peruvians don't go there to find dolls that look like them. The message is clear. Barbie is beautiful. Lovely young women with thick, raven-dark, straight-as-a-rod hair longing for it to be blond. Creamy, clear skin—and wishing always that it were lighter. 

It seems to me that this makes about as much sense as a daisy wanting to be a geranium. All day long, the daisy says to her Maker, “Why didn't you make me a geranium?!! I could have been pink or coral! But here I am, stuck with white! Who wants to be just plain-old white?!!” It feels bad to even write that, because God clearly loves to create diversity of beauty. He can't even seem to stop Himself! His creation itself seems to resists the boxes we try to put them in. (Example: try to explain to me exactly what a platypus is.)

I so want to cry out against this way of thinking, but I only have to scratch beneath the surface to find traces of this sort of thinking in my own life. I am an American, and for many years now we have collectively chosen—and rightly so—to declare all colors beautiful. But I still have geranium longings. “God, I love all this daisy stuff You gave me, but can't I have some geranium leadership skills? I want to preach like that rose over there. You couldn't have made me a bit more like that patient gardenia?” Thinking this way utterly misses the point. God loves His garden, and He makes no apologies for not making every flower exactly alike. To demand to be made different from His original plan is sorrowfully thankless—a rejection of His great loving design and unique favor over our lives. A fresh bouquet thrown in the trash. I am not as far from blue-eyed Barbie longings as I sometimes think.

I want God to so impress me with this truth that I stop insulting His goodness to me.  I want to get to a point where I am so well-aware of the blessing I have been given in my own design that it hurts me (because it hurts Him) before I even finish my inner complaint about how I am not like this or that one.  I want to let thankfulness take it's place, and be able to appreciate my own unique beauty, even as I marvel at what He has put in those around me.

I am including a shot of a beautiful garden of beauties in this post. God hand-picked his palette for each one.  It was taken in our garden this weekend as they were preparing for a banquet. It just seems right!

Friday, March 23, 2012


But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.  (Matt. 6:6)
When you go without food, wash your face and comb your hair, so that others cannot know that you are fasting—only your Father, who is unseen, will know.  And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.   (Matt. 6:17-18)
I never saw it before.  The Father, who is unseen. 
I started thinking about why it mattered to say that the Father was unseen in this teaching.  Obviously, we know that we don’t see God all the time.  Given.   So why does it matter so much in this passage?
Jesus is teaching about things he wants us to do in secret:  giving, praying, fasting.  They are disciplines that Jesus wants us to keep under wraps-so that even our best friends don’t know what we are doing.  Why does it matter so much?
As I reflected on this, I realized all the blessings that fill my life daily, carefully planned out by my unseen Father, that go unnoticed.  How many times has the Father snuck into my life to throw me a little (or huge!) blessing, and I went on my way, completely oblivious?  The right door opens up for a job opportunity, a word of encouragement from a friend just in time, a little extra cash in a really tight month that comes from an unexpected source,  a trip to the doctor’s that “accidentally” finds something they weren’t even looking for that is in the early stages of developing instead of the last…..there are unseen blessings everywhere that reflect the unseen Father.  Unnoticed.  Undetected.  Overlooked.
And so it seems that Jesus is telling us that we should try to do things the way the Father who is unseen does things.  It might be an anonymous detail that touches the heart, or even something huge and costly that absolutely no one knows about.
It feels like He just wants us to walk a mile or two at His side.  To understand for a moment what it means to do something that brings us nothing except His pleasure-to totally erase the flesh factor from an act of devotion.  We religious types can get confused as to why we even started down this road.  The flesh can learn to masquerade as ministry with a little practice.  So in some of the most flesh-costly acts—prayer, fasting, and giving—He asks us to just out-and-out kill any possibility of getting a kick-back to our ego or reputation.  Don’t even put it on the books.  Slide the money into the basket in a blank envelope.  Don’t explain to anyone why you have to get up at 5 or 6. 
I personally have a long way to go on this one.  I think I need Unseen 101, the remedial track, so don’t call me for advice on how to live this one out.  And I know there are those of you who are out there who are really good at this, but you won’t say anything.  You’ll just smile and move along.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bakersfield First Assembly Missions Team

A missions team from Bakersfield First Assembly came down and worked in the Catacaos, Piura, heat to raise the walls of a new high school and bring healing to sick families. Thanks to all of them for joining us in the mission of spreading the good news of Jesus to Peru and blessing the poor through Latin America ChildCare.

Please click the link to see photos of the team: Bakersfield First Assembly Missions team

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dancing the Marinera

While the Bakersfield First Assembly team was working in Catacaos (a suburb of Piura, Peru), the pastor asked two individuals show us the Marinera. It is a traditional dance from that region and is supposed to be two chickens courting. I love it!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Severe Pruning

Our journey into missions started with a bang!  We had prophetic words from God, incredible excitement, great vision deep in our hearts, and an assurance that God was up to something big!
We had no idea what we had just stepped into.
I won’t bore you with the details, but I can tell you this--- I was not prepared for the gut-wrenching trial that we were about to step into.  We went through relational trials, legal trials, relational trials….did I mention relational trials?  I loved our new world, and at the same time, I feared it, that it would take me out before our adventure had even had a chance to take root.  Never in my life had I undergone what I will call such a severe pruning.  The kind of pruning where you look at the bush you just hacked and wonder if it can survive with so few leaves left.  
We landed back in the States like people jumping off a train—still rolling, rolling, rolling.  You stop a second to ask yourself if you can get up or if you need to wait for the ambulance.  You find that, yes, you can get up, and you start doing normal things.  I painted the house for two months straight.  I was very, very happy to just paint the house, if you know what I mean. 
We came back to Lima, not sure how we would be there.  We got settled in, and things felt pretty good.  It felt pretty normal.  Bill and I both started pressing in to the Lord, finding that place with Him that is the bedrock of everything that we build—just a place of communion.  I started praying in the Spirit a lot.  I started seeing branches sprouting on my little bush of a life, and before I knew it, I felt good.  Really good.
Severe pruning over.  Thank God it is over!!
But I will tell you, that as scary as it was for me, as deeply pained as I felt, I can tell you that the branches that are growing back are thicker and healthier than I have ever seen on my little bush.  When all my precious leaves were taken from me, and I sat barren for what seemed like such an unbearable time, wondering if I would ever be the same again, something was happening deep inside of me.  In the middle of excruciating pain, we can quote the passages of hope, but we don’t usually feel them.  It takes such a long time, but one day, it is there.  It is over, and we are not the same.  We are better.  We weren’t sure we would even survive, but there it is.  Buds are everywhere.  EVERYWHERE!!!  THANK GOD, THANK GOD!!!  EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!!!!
I am so thankful to my God the Gardener,  who watered my little bush faithfully, put some manure down in the right season, and waited patiently for his work to be seen. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bill and Colton's Ayacucho trip - Part 2

Bill and Colton travel back to Lima from Ayacucho, Peru. This video shows lovely shots of the Andes Mountains, with a soundtrack from the Movie RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous) dubbed into Spanish.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bill Gates advises against helping Peru

Recently, Bill Gates gave an interview in which he advised against giving foreign aid to Peru. (

Gates states that Peruvians have a per capita annual income of $10,000. I believe that, because I've seen more filthy rich millionairs here than anywhere in the U.S.  The problem is that the gap between the few individuals who are filthy rich and the multitudes who are filthy poor is as wide and deep as the grand canyon. 25% of peruvians live on $1 per day! Another 25% live on $2 per day. Of Peru's 28 million residents, 14 million earn an average annual wage of $547.50. (A person earning minimum wage in Ohio earns that in 9 days.) So, if half the country is earning $547.50, those on the higher end of the food chain are bringing home some mighty thick slices of bacon. That is, someone is earning a lot of money to bring the average up to $10,000.

Peru's problem is one of resource utilization. Peru has minerals which are highly valued in the world's industrial markets. It also has large deposits of natural gas. Very little of the wealth generated from these natural resources trickles down to the masses, but it can be seen in infrastructure. In order for international mining and banking corporations to siphon off the wealth of Peru's mineral deposits, they need roads, water, electricity and internet connections. The resulting infrastructure enables economic growth for the remaining masses. It also enables me to have internet. But the greatest resource in Peru is completely untapped; i.e. the intelligence of its hard working people. "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   (Peru Ranked Last in the World in Quality of Education,‖ Living in Peru,"

So, I agree with Gates that Peru does not need foreign money. But it still needs aid--in forms that develop the minds and souls of its people. That is the power of Latin America ChildCare--the ministry which we represent in Peru. By ministering to the poor through the impartation of the Gospel and education, we are transforming the lives of those who live in abject poverty.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bill and Colton's Trip to Ayacucho - part 1

Bill and Colton Traveled to Ayacucho, Peru, to give Christmas gifts to Latin America ChildCare children. Here's a taste of what they experienced. The best shots of the mountains are in the "Part 2" video.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Top 10 of 2011

The Shrader Family’s 

Top 10 of 2011

Greetings Friends & Family!

Dr. Bill & his lovely bride
Each year it is Lena’s practice to put together a Top 10 list of the year.   As we say goodbye to 2011, we have much to celebrate:

10.  Bill graduated with his doctorate in Leadership and celebrated his 50th birthday with a rollicking, crazy, bigger-than-our-wedding party.  Our dear friends and long-term supporters, the Wolfs, hosted it all, and made several runs for more food.  Many friends came from far away, and it was such a touching moment in our lives.  We will never forget it.

9.  The Shrader Family made it back to Peru on time and by the moving of God’s hand in our favor.  Though our missions support was below our projections, God spoke that we were to trust Him to get back on time and by a miracle.  We did and He did—using our circumstances to put His “amen” on our return.  I am so thankful for a God who takes us to the rollercoaster edge of faith and then comes through.  Thanks, also, to all who have partnered with us!

Bill with LACC kids in Peru

8.  We were home through all of the crucial moments in my dad’s illness and in his consequent home going.  It is hard to explain to anyone who has not lived overseas how excruciating it is to think that important family moments are clicking by without you, and that you are missing your own history.  Of course, God is in control and brought us home at just the right time.  I was with my dad, Sam Bellitto, when he went to meet the Lord.  His last words to me were on his birthday, February 17th.  I had plopped myself on his bed in a funny way to try to lighten up the situation, and he responded with a fuzzy, “Hi, Honey!”—the way he always did.  Never, ever, ever have I questioned my dad’s pleasure in my presence.  Now I know what a gift that is.

7.  Bill and I celebrated 20 wonderful years together. Our marriage, like our calling, has been a blessed adventure.

Colton & Hannah
6.  Hannah continues to soar musically.  Hannah continues to grow musically and makes us very proud with her accomplishments.  We love to hear her lead worship—she ushers in the Presence of the Lord in an amazing way—displaying an anointing that goes beyond talent.  I think of the days when I twirled her around during worship because I wanted her to love experiencing God, and my heart overflows with thanksgiving.

5.  Colton becomes a handsome young man, but “keeps his head on straight.”  Colton has grown into an enviable adolescence.  He got a lot of attention from girls in the States, but kept his eyes on the Lord and had a great testimony in our public school system.  He is a wise young man and uses his gifts to influence others for the Lord.  He’s also passed the requirements for the President’s physical fitness award.

4.  Will survives two school transitions and displays great rhythm.  Will enjoys riding his brother’s skateboard and displays natural rhythm playing the bongos. He loves to read (especially super hero stories and Calvin and Hobbes). Previously he struggled to speak Spanish, but he has good comprehension—surprising us when we heard him translating a Spanish children’s book for his little sister.

3.  Abi holds her ground and re-enters Spanish world.  Abi was the best Spanish speaker in the family when we left Peru for the States, but she suffered the most upon our return—having forgotten most of it.  Our first Sunday back in Peru, she had tears streaming down her face and said, “I don’t understand what they’re saying!” She has been a trooper and is regaining much of the Spanish she lost. Nothing touches me like when one of our kids does something brave. 

2.  The Shrader family got to enjoy being home—including snow, blueberries, and American food—but mostly FRIENDS AND FAMILY! 

1. The Shrader family got to return to Peru—including sand, llamas, and Peruvian food—but mostly the blessed adventure of walking with Christ! We’re excited about what God is doing as we preach, teach and direct Latin America ChildCare in Peru. Thanks to LACC and the Wonderful Ohio Women (WOW) of the Assemblies of God for raising funds to build a new High School in Catacaos. Thanks also to the many teams who are coming down to join us in the blessed adventure that is shaping up for 2012!

With much love in Christ,

Lena & Bill Shrader

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Yellow Underwear and a Lucky New Year!

Years ago, a friend asked me if it was true that Peruvians wear yellow underwear to celebrate New Year's. The answer: Yes! It is supposed to bring good luck, though whenever I've worn yellow underwear it's been because of unlucky circumstances. Perhaps being below the equator reverses all of that. Yesterday (New Year's Eve) we went shopping and saw underwear vendors out on the streets, hawking their "wears" for all those needing some fresh luck for the new year.

May God bless your new year regardless of what you're wearing!