Saturday, November 09, 2013

God's Got Your Numbers

This from Lena:

Every once in a while these days, I slip up and count out 6 plates instead of the 5 our family now requires.    We left one of our best legacies (our 19 year-old Hannah) back home in the States this past summer.  I hate when I miscount, because it usually brings with it a pang of missing my oldest  daughter, my no-nonsense, type-A extrovert sunshine.  My Peruvian motherly friends are wonderful for consoling me, as most of them find the thought of sending their sweet baby birds out into the world for the sake of education a ghastly proposition.   Still, like the rest of my American Mom friends, I believe in the value of giving that little birdie some help out of the nest. 
Almost ten years ago, we had no plans to go full-size on the mini-van.  Our cap family-size number was 5—a very practical number that we had settled on because at the time there was a three-child cap in missions of the Assemblies of God, and we felt that we would go into missions some day, and wanted to go with the Assemblies.  We decided to plan 2, and leave a little room for a surprise, but something had happened years earlier that planted a tiny questioning seed about whether our numbers were going to line up with God’s.
Years earlier, when we were trying to get pregnant with our second child,  we received a cryptic phone call from a member of our church. 
Prophetic Lady: “Pastor Bill, do you know whether or not that baby your wife is carrying is a boy?”  (She did not know that we were trying to have a baby, and for all we knew at the time, I was not pregnant.)
Bill: “My wife isn’t pregnant.”
Prophetic Lady: “Oh, I see.   Well, you do know the families___________and___________---do you know that I prophesied their babies?” (This is not an exact quote, just so you get the drift).  “Well, Pastor Bill, can I ask you how many children do you plan on having?”
Bill (read in slightly uncomfortable tone): “Uh…two?”
Prophetic Lady: “Why not four?”
That phone conversation never left us completely; especially because just a short while after, we found out we were indeed pregnant, and we were having a boy!  We laughed about it through the years, how surprising it was that our sister knew before we did that we were pregnant with a boy, but never in a mocking way, as if the entirety of that word might not be true.  Bill and I both believe that God can and does at times speak prophetically into the lives of his children.  We also understand that the best-intentioned child of God needs some room for error, so we weigh these things against the Word of God and what actually comes to pass.
Years passed (around 6 of them), and the desire to go into missions grew, and it went into overdrive when we received a prophetic gift of two alpaca sweaters (you will have to read about our call in this blog for THAT story!).  The day we received that gift was within 24 hours of us finding out that we were going to have Abigail.  The fourth baby.  The not-planned baby.  The baby that would disqualify us for missions with the Assemblies, arriving at the same moment as the call.
Except for it didn’t disqualify us.  We didn’t even know, but at that time the child limit had been lifted.  We also had not taken our age into account, because previously we would not have qualified because we were over 35.  Over 35, four kids….and headed into missions.
When I think of how all of that converged, I am in awe of His math. He knows all our numbers….the happy ones and the sad ones.  He knows how many kids we will have, the day we lose our parents, the day we graduate from college.   He knows how many houses we will live in, and even the house addresses.  He knows the day you lost the baby, and that that same baby is now safe and happy with him.  The mature among us acknowledge that all those numbers are best left safely in his hands, without us trying to cajole Him to a pre-mature release of information. He shares what will be to our benefit, and we trust Him with the rest.

When I think of what I would have missed if my plan had been the end of it, I am filled with thankfulness.  I can’t imagine life without our little number 6, and I can’t help but wonder what other mysterious un-planned numbers He holds that I wouldn’t ever choose for myself, but will treasure some day.  Those mysterious numbers can be like a gift so well-chosen, and yet you hadn’t thought of before….and over time, it becomes one of your favorites.  

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wood Piles and Sweaty Little Scripture Books

This from Lena:
It was the wood in the garage that did me in.  It pulled me out of denial, basically. The wood is stacked every which way in my parents’ garage.  It is evident that my dad thought through how he was going to keep all that stored…there is a sort of order to it, even though the overall appearance is chaos.  Piles and piles of it.  What was it that he was planning on making?  He clearly had enough lumber to make a tree house, a tool shed, AND replace the picnic table he made 30 years ago.   Interspersed are dry, stripped   chair frames with a broken leg or lacking a seat that he was going to fix and refurbish for someone so long ago that we don’t remember who owned them.
Emotionally, people generally deal with belongings of their departed dear ones in one of two ways.  They either cling to it for dear life, as if it actually WAS the person who is now gone from this earth, or they robotically pitch it the day after the funeral because it hurts to look at it.  I lean toward the pitch (to the frustration of my more sentimental momma and sisters), dreaming of what I would do if I had 24 hours and free reign to purge, but the wood did something else in my heart besides propel me to throw it to the curb.  It tore a hole in a veil of denial in my own heart.
My dad was an awesome guy.   He was happiest when he was downstairs in his workshop , working on a piece of furniture.  My dad was a printer who worked in a constant drone of heavy machinery, and often arrived frazzled and exhausted—and yes, crabby-- to three giggly girls.  The three of us knew to leave him alone if he was reading or in the bathroom (we fought over who had to interrupt him to ask him something many times) but we also KNEW that if Dad was downstairs in his workshop listening to jazz music, it was the best time of all to talk to him.  When the conditions were right, one of us would feel the change in the environment and head downstairs for a heart to heart.  He was his best there—kind,  thoughtful, wise---and contented.  He loved furniture, wood, the smell of varnish.  At the root, I know exactly what my dad was thinking when he lovingly gathered each stick of lumber.  Each one was a little creative dream that was brewing in his heart.  Those dreams started small, but grew.  There are woodworking magazines in the house, bookmarked with the seeds of a project.  I don’t really know if he ever started preparing to make these things.  I just know that there is a ton of wood out there, and that somewhere in my teen years, most of the wood dreams slowed to a narrow trickle.
I do the same thing with quilting fabric.  My rate of production as a quilter is similar to some plant in a botanical garden that only blooms once a decade.  I take pictures of Spanish tiles in Peru that I want to reproduce in a quilt.  I page through Pinterest when I am bored and look for ideas.  I have three quilt projects that are undone and sitting to my side, untouched for at least a year.  I totally understand the wood. 
I also understand---and this awareness has come through the pain of losing my dad---that the dreams we will have on this earth will end.  In my 20s, I lived like life was an eternal proposition.  I was full of dreams, but the push to see them come true was somewhat vague, and seemed far off. 
Now in my 40s, I have lost my dad, whose dreams are still out in the garage, untouched.  My back hurts and it takes a few seconds when I get up to work out the kinks.  I wear progressive lenses and sensible shoes.  OK, so I have always worn sensible shoes, but that is beside the point.  I don’t really want to be inspired anymore…I want to be confronted.  I want to dangerously rip the rest of the veil off that I caught a glimpse of in the garage that day, because if I don’t, I might die with way too many bins of fabric.  I don’t want my kids to rummage through my belongings with sadness for all the things I dreamed of but never dared attempt.  And that is a real danger—much sadder than trying and failing and dragging a wood pile to the curb.
 I want them to treasure just a few things of mine.  I have been working for the last year on Bible memorization, one book at a time.  I am not fabulous at it at all.  Every verse seems to be a fight.  But when I die, my goal is to have a huge stack of these little booklets I use to memorize as I walk, and that my kids will be tempted to fight over them because of the meaning and perseverance it produced in my life--although if they don’t, I will understand, because they are really sticky and gross!  But you get the picture.  I want them to want my recipe book, because I put a lot of care into making them good meals.  I want them to even HAVE enough quilts so that each one can have one (as of today, only Hannah owns one)--a few things, and not too many wood piles.

So, I am carefully examining my wood piles these days.  I am fairly confident that some of them will be thrown to the curb, because not all wood piles are created equally.  Some I would have liked to do, but the time has passed.  Some I have tried to get rid of, but they keep on finding a way back into my heart and announcing their permanence in my life, the way a truly God-breathed wood pile does.  It hurts to tell myself the truth about the things I have delayed, as though God would just drop them into my life without my investment, but truth is always harder at first, much more fruitful later.  When I think about what I want my kids to find in the garage at the end of my life, the answer is:  a car!  That would be fabulous.  A few woodpiles aren't the end of world, especially because that means I was still dreaming when I went home.  But mostly a car.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Crying Like a Baby in Moquegua

I cried about 10 times each day of our clinic health outreach with HealthCare Ministries of the U.S. Assemblies of God and sponsoring missionaries Chris and Debbie Bowser.  We were in Moquegua, Peru, where our friends and colleagues are planting a church, and wanted to do something to bless the people of Moquegua.  Moquegua, like so many small towns in the countryside of Peru, has limited healthcare.  Anything that requires a specialist means a 4-hour drive to Arequipa.  I primarily worked the optical room, which was surprisingly dramatic. These are the reasons why:
1.       Smiling Aymara. The mountain people of the Andes are stoic, to say the least.  It is often very hard to get them to smile at all when there is a camera around.  They have very hard lives, many just barely meeting the most basic of their needs.  Many of the older Aymara people would come with an intense desire to see.  There were maybe 10 older saints who came with a burning desire to read the Word of God.  As they would try on the reader glasses, the smallest hint of a smile would begin to spread across their face as they read in Spanish John 3:16… “For God so loved the world (cue the start of a grin) that he gave his one and only Son (cue the tears—more ours than theirs, but sometimes together).  Outstanding.
2.       The blind see. One boy came in who was 19 years old.  Right about Hannah’s age.  He also had another thing in common with Hannah.  He was practically blind without glasses.  Once we began the exam, it was obvious that he needed a super-strong lens. He also told us he had never owned a pair of glasses (we were told over and over again by the people of Moquegua that most of them cannot afford to buy a pair).   My daughter has had a pair of glasses perched on her nose or lenses in her eyes for 15 of her 18 years.  All those years, this boy who needed it just as bad as she did went without, and somehow managed to learn to read and write.  I asked him if it was the first time he had ever seen that clearly.  He said “Yes.” No emotion.  I had a complete breakdown and had to fight to pull myself together.  Dear Jesus, what must it be like?
3.       Just-in-time medical counsel.  One lady came in with her 4 year-old son.  He was a little charmer, but with a lazy eye.  As our time together unfolded, she admitted that he had been to see an ophthalmologist, and that he had counseled her to have an operation done right away.  She was worried that her son could lose her sight in the operation (before you judge, you should know that we saw a number of patients whose operations for cataracts and the like had been botched and left people blind), and wanted to wait until he was a teen.  We were able to be strong in advising her that if she waited, it would be too late and he would become permanently blind, like several other patients we had seen that week.  I told her that it was a God thing that she came to us, because it was clear that she was headed in the wrong direction.  We don’t know what she will do, but she at least knows. 
4.       The chance to be the hands that bring desperately needed relief.  One man offered as we were fitting him for glasses, “You know, I come from WAYYYYY far up in the farmland!” We asked him how he found out we were there.  He said that his family, who lives in Moquegua, called him when they heard about our clinic on the radio, and he rode 8 hours to get to us.  He had a family member standing in line (which by the second day started forming at 3 in the morning) to save a place for him.  Can you imagine wanting a pair of glasses so bad that you would do that?
5.       The Spirit of God was amazingly present, and He used us over and over again to share the gospel, call the backslidden back home, and sometimes just to speak a simple but powerful word of encouragement.  I felt the power of the Holy Spirit many times throughout our week in Moquegua.  I felt like a pump that had been seriously primed.  The awesome thing about ministering hours on end is that your soul also prospers in the middle of it!  Many moments there was a prophetic spirit that took over as we ministered.  One lady came back the next day to tell our counselor who led her to the Lord that she felt a strange heat in her body, and that she had come back to life again!  God is SO good.
6.       We had unknowingly walked into one of the most desperate health concerns of the people of Moquegua.  This mountain town is dry, sometimes windy, always dusty, and relentlessly bright with sunlight. It is ideal conditions for the development of cataracts and something called a pterygium, which is a fleshy growth over the surface of the eye that begins as the body’s self-defense against the sun and wind, but can end in blindness.  We didn’t count, but Jenny (our nurse optical team leader) and I are fairly certain that at least half of the people we saw over thirty—probably more—had one or both of these conditions.  By God’s amazing grace, we had a ton of eye drops to ease the dryness and sunglasses.  What a wonderful thing to be the means of relief for someone in pain and discomfort (almost all our patients complained of a lot of burning and pain).
I came home exhausted, but full--cried out, but still so moved.  There were tears of relief that we found anything at all that helped (only a few went away with no improved sight), tears of compassion when we listened to their sad stories,  tears of joy when a soul found it’s way home to the Father.  It was a great, sobby, sappy week.  So glad I went!
Jenny our optical team leader in action.

I had to have a pic with this lady.  She was a hoot along the lines of the woman with the unjust judge and begged us for help when we told her we didn't think we had the right lenses for her grandson. Praise God, we found something that worked!

The mayor of Chen Chen (burb of Moquegua) officially thanking us for coming at a Mother's Day event just outside of his office which we transformed into a clinic for five days.  He also joined us for our end-of-clinic banquet.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


This from Lena:
Our first term in Peru was a whirlwind of adjustments.  New language, new culture, new everything.  We were blessed to have formed many new friendships that showed promise of taking root, even in the midst of the chaos that characterized those first two years.  We left for the States for itineration exhausted, yet certain that we were on the right path.
Now we are half-way into our second term, and as I contemplate the last two years, one word that jumps to the forefront of my mind is “deeper.”  Peru feels closer in every way…closer to that core that I consider my own heart, much more vulnerable.  Friendships have gone to a level where it hurts when there is dissonance, where real ministry, real honesty is taking place.  We are taking ministry risks that we didn’t the first round.   We struggle with how much of the beliefs we hold deeply are truly Biblical, and which ones are just truly American. Much of the free time that we spent in the past in the missionary community has been limited by the increased investment in Peruvians (this is really good, although we miss our other friends!).   We take the bus to scary parts of town.  I drive 50 minutes on Wednesday nights to be with the young women of our church (where taxis won’t go if you tell them honestly where it is), and I have dings all over our Speed-the-Light van to prove it.  There are even babies being named for us! 
Sometimes I fear being rejected by the Peruvian church over non-core issues of how we express our Christianity.  Sometimes I fear that I will be judged for my own sinful ways, which are all-the-more obvious through the eyes of another culture.  We Americans are boisterous and opinionated.  We laugh, we cry—so much of what we feel and think is right out there all the time, and I am a perfect specimen!  Peruvians are much more reserved, only trusting their heart with a few.  I wonder how odd I must seem, how often they have to extend grace to me, and I think that is what hurts the most….That I have come to bring grace, and instead, I find myself coming up short, and very much in need of grace from my dear Peruvian friends.
One day in particular, I was struggling with this issue.  My self-protective instincts cried out for shelter.  My flesh just wanted to run.  There are ways to still be a missionary and hide.  You can stay active in ministry activities, and no one has to know your deep heart.  You can keep it superficial if you work at it.  Don’t mix your lives with theirs.  Don’t open your home and all you do or don’t have to others.  Keep corners of your life insulated. 
But I can’t.
Jesus went all the way.  If the Father had given him a pep talk before He came to earth, I can imagine it might have gone like this:
“Ok, Son, this is going to be hard.  You are going to make yourself completely vulnerable.  You will always walk the earth knowing that they have no idea who you are, and when you teach, they are not going to get it.  Some people will start to receive you, like they were waking up from a long sleep, but that will be as good as it gets.  The rest will be ignorant and frightened of you—they will go straight to self-protection and attack you verbally and physically.  In the end, even the ones closest to you will abandon you.  But hold on, because what you do on this earth will rescue them in the end.”
I don’t at all claim to have walked in this sort of rejection, but my frail human soul fears it.  I confess that I am the kind of person who struggles not to analyze the small talk after the party.   (“What did he mean by saying I looked healthier?  Was he saying I looked FAT?”)  I hate feeling misunderstood, and I hate even more being understood perfectly and being wrong or sinful.
Deeper is harder.  Deeper is an emotional rollercoaster.  Deeper is unknown.  It is also an adventure.  When I risk going deeper, I feel like I am doing what I was sent to do.  When I don’t, I am miserable. 
So deeper it is.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

My devotional life

This from Bill:

Recently, a friend asked about how much time I spend in prayer and how I do my daily devotions. Here's what I wrote:

The answer on how much time I spend praying is: Not enough! My daily devotional regimen is 1) listen to the Bible in Spanish while working out on the elliptical at 6:30 Am. Usually for 20-25 minutes. I usually listen to one or two chapters. 2) Listen to or read 1 chapter of the Bible in English with my kids at breakfast, while discussing it's historical or literary context, proper interpretation and how to apply it to our lives. That's about 15 minutes 5-6 days a week. We leave for school at 8:00 AM. 3) After I drop the kids off, I read the Bible in Spanish out loud (so as to practice my pronunciation while edifying my Spirit). I usually read 1-2 chapters. In English I read much more, but I can’t pull that off in Spanish, yet. I believe it is important to read whole books of the Bible and not skip around from one chapter to another in a disjointed manner. God wrote Ephesians with a specific intent--whch is interpreted correctly in it's context. Therefore, I read the books from beginning to end. I do jump from New Testament to Old and back, but always reading complete books. I outline the chapters and write notes about the book's general argument and how that chapter ties into the book’s theme and also, how it applies to my life. I also journal and pray in English/Spanish and/or tongues. The combination of reading, journaling and praying usually takes about 1.5 hours--except on Mondays, when it's about 3 hours. How do I do that and work a regular office job? First, my hours are flexible. Second, I put in plenty of time in the office. I'm usually in the office between 9 and 10 AM and I work until about 7:00 PM. After dinner, I may put in 1-2 hours more. I try not to work on Saturdays, apart from leading the Young Adults group on Saturday nights. Sometimes that means I have to do sermon prep on Saturday afternoon.

I can't tell you how much time is spent in prayer, versus Bible study or journaling; since I don't separate them much in my brain. When I'm reading the Bible out loud, I think of it as one form of prayer and praise. When I'm journaling, I'm often writing out a prayer. My goal for the whole process is to be honest with God. I see that as an important step towards hearing God's voice. That is to say, often we already know what God wants, but we have to be honest about our own motivations and desires before we can even see clearly. So, on a normal day, I spend a minimum of 2 hours in Bible study and prayer. In addition to that, a few days a week I go out for walks at night, during which I pray in tongues and English. This is in addition to the times when I'm praying while in transit or doing repetitive tasks. For example, when I'm riding the bus, I'm praying in tongues very quietly. (Here, a white guy on the bus looks pretty silly, since white guys drive luxury cars. So, a white guy mumbling to himself is just one more notch on the odd scale!)

Another strategy/tactic for one's devotional life is memorizing scripture. Lena does this every morning while going on a long walk. That way she gets the Word in her and she gets her heart beating. I do this sometimes on the elliptical. Be cautioned, this takes commitment. It bares incredible fruit, but at the cost of being very dry. Once you get the Word in your memory, you are much stronger in your faith and convictions. It is the primary key to hearing God's voice.

All of the above is somewhat separate from the practice of worship in my life. Worship (singing to and about the Lord) is a form of prayer--especially in that my goal is to open myself up to God's presence and enjoy the experience of His intimate presence. I do this in the car, sometimes with the help of a CD, but often just acapella. I also do it with the guitar. It used to be a daily practice, but now that I'm out of XA ministry and spend more time in an office (working with Latin America ChildCare), I don't do it as regularly. On Saturdays, we do family worship. Here I train the little ones to give their all in worship, and I train the big ones how to lead worship. We talk about the theology of the words and music, how to transition successfully, what kind of response we're looking for from the congregation, how to help people experience God's presence, how to do a good job without becoming puffed up, how to lead a Pentecostal/charismatic worship or a non-tongues and prophecy evangelical service. Of course, we have a general objective of experiencing God's presence and learning to be proficient on whatever instrument we happen to be playing that day (e.g., drums, guitar, violin, piano, percussion or bass). This is about 1 hour long for the little ones (who just want to watch TV) and goes longer for Hannah, Colton, Lena and Myself.

The final aspect of our daily devotions is sharing what we're reading, praying about, journaling about and what we think God is saying. Lena and I talk about this every day. We also share it with the kids, when it's appropriate. The community factor imperative in discerning the Spirit. God speaks to us when we bring things out into the light.

In terms of church activities, we all attend at least one Sunday service. The kids have chapel every week, as well as their respective Bible studies. Lena is in two women's groups. She and Hannah also help me in leading the Young Adults/College age group on Saturdays. I also preach/teach/lead worship in other churches on a regular basis.

I usually advise students to shoot for a 30 minute quiet time as a bare minimum. That should include some degree of Bible reading (two to three chapters a day), journaling and prayer. I don't do all three every day, but I do try to do all three every week. That is, some days are mostly reading and some are mostly prayer or journaling. One important goal for all of it is listening. Being able to adjust what you do enables you to respond to your current needs and gives you another option when the process gets boring. The goal must be to hear God's voice, know God's will and/or have God's perspective. That is very rewarding and takes much of the drudgery out of the discipline.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Update on the Belen Fire

Thank you to all our friends who have asked for an update on the fire in Belen, Iquitos! On December 20, a fire broke out in the neighborhood surrounding our Latin America ChildCare school (Victoria de Jesus) in Belen. Over 150 homes were destroyed and over 200 families were displaced. We began feeding the people on the first day, using the food from the children's feeding program (provided by Feed My Starving Children).

The people had nowhere to sleep, so we put them up in our school and in the Assembly of God church associated with the school. We also bought bedding, mattresses and housing supplies.

In January, the rains came. Every year the pueblo of Belen floods when the Amazon river rises. This year, the flooding came too quickly for the families to begin rebuilding their homes (which are really shacks on stilts).

Now, the rains are receding. Thankfully, it is early in the season to see dry ground in Belen. Normally, the flooding lasts through April. But, as you can see below, the waters are going down and we can once again see the first floor of our school.

That means it is time to work. The school lost part of its roof, all the furniture and the bathrooms. So, there is much work to be done. Unfortunately, we won't be able to get it all done before school starts next week (the 2nd week in March). But, as you can see below, Pastor Jose is already preparing the walls for paint.

Please keep us in prayer as we try to recuperate what was lost in the school, while continuing to bless the community. Also, if the Lord leads you to help in the cost of repairing the school and purchasing new furniture, please send your offering to Assembly of God World Missions, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65802. For Bill Shrader - Peru, Acct # 248382.

Thanks, also, to Peoples Church (Cincinnati, Ohio) and the LACC emergency fund for their generous support!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

50 things we don't do?

50 Things We Don't Do Anymore Due to Technology

Courtesy of: Mozy

The list, above, is interesting and (in part) a good indicator of how much has changed in a very short time. But, for those of us not living in the U.S., it is an example of how different life is outside the U.S. I completely agree with numbers 1, 4, 6, 9 and 10. I don't call theaters for movie times, directory assistance or the phone company to set my watch. I also don't carry a Sony Walkman. But we frequently visit a travel agent's office and occasionally use public telephones, print photos and hang classifieds in windows. In fact, in the jungle and the mountains, we do those things every day! In fact, the majority of the rest of the list are things we do here on a regular basis. Here's my list of the things we still do, with a few comments regarding some of the others:

2. Visit travel agents - Yes! (Especially when booking travel for teams.)
3. Record on VHS - Not since it broke. But we don't have DVR.
5. Use public phones - Yes -- especially to call the U.S. when I'm away from home.
7. Print photos - yes
8. Put a classified in a store window - yes (especially outside of Lima)
11. Handwritten letters - yes. (Many here do not use e-mail.)
13. Change for pay phones - no, instead we take change for taxis or the bus!
15. Pay bills at the post office - Sort of ... we pay them at the grocery store.
16. Use an address book - Yes! It is a staple of Peruvian business culture. BTW - they all have Blackberry phones, too!
17. Check a map - everyday!
18. Collect Calls - Yes - here we do it with cell phones when we out of minutes.
19. Go to the Bank - Yes!!!
21. Own an encyclopaedia - No, but I still like thumbing through the real thing.
22. Renew car registration at DMV - Yes.
24. Yellow pages - no, but I feel guilty throwing it away.
25. Use a real dictionary - almost daily.
26. Remember phone numbers - often, I can't even remember my own.
27. Watch videos - yes, all the time.
28. Have pen pads, write letters - yes.
32. Buy CD's - yes
33. Pay by check - yes. I use them to pay for stuff in the States.
34. Make a photo album - no, but we always plan to.
35. Watch TV shows when they're shown - yes.
36. Warm drinks on the stove - yes.
38. Try on shoes at the mall - yes! There's no down here.
39. Hand wash - yes. For many of my friends, it's the only way.
43. Buy flowers from a florist - yes and they're much cheaper and better than in the states!
44. Use a dictionary to find out how to spell something - Yes, everyday!
45. Personal diary - Yes! It is invaluable for a successful devotional life
46. Send Post Cards - yes!
47. Buy Newspapers - Every Sunday.
48. Hang laundry out to dry - yes, it is the norm here.
49. Keep printed bills - yes. Many still do not recognize digital statements as a legal receipt.
50. Visit yard sales - I wish! We miss that part of American life.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hands of Jesus - Video

This is a video produced by my friend Curtis Smith of Smith Cinematic ( He shot the video while working with a mixed medical and construction team at our school in Catacaos.

Thanks, Curtis!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lena's Top Ten of 2012

Every New Year, Lena writes a Top 10 summation of the year we’ve left behind. Here’s her summation (in no particular order) of the best of 2012:

1)      Construction in Catacaos: Another way to say this is--The Shraders get to be a part of making an educational dream come true in Catacaos, Peru. When we came to Peru in 2008, Pastor Walter Carranza showed us his plans to add a high school to the existing Latin America ChildCare (LACC) elementary school. We didn’t laugh at him out loud, but we knew at the time we didn’t have the funds to help him.  Well, our Isaac was born this year as we are completing the third floor of a four story high school. Thanks to the churches and teams from the U.S. who’ve given time, money and sweat to see this dream take form. Thanks to LACC and the Ohio Women’s Ministries for helping us raise the funding. We couldn’t—and didn’t—do it alone. 

2)    Hannah (age 18) prepares to launch into her college career with some kickin’ SAT scores and a ton of intensive scholarly pursuits.  Hannah took an AP History course solo and completed it by sheer grit.  She’s maxed out the number of Spanish credits one can apply toward colllege and got an “A” in Stats.  She is amazingly dogged both in her studies and her pursuit of the Lord. If she could major in “Soaking in the Presence of God through Worship,” she would have picked her major a long time ago.  We know she is ready for college.  The question is, “Is college ready for Hannah?”

3)      Will busts into Bible-reading. Will (age 10) wakes up early—often an hour before the rest of the family. Bill challenged Will to put that time to good use and read the Word.  Since then, Will has read many of the books of the Bible, including Revelations and Song of Songs.  Will had great insight into the latter two books, which is crazy-exciting for Bible geeks like Bill and I.  He called out while reading Song of Songs, “Hey, Dad, is this book just about being in love?”  Good questions, smart boy.

4)      Abi continues to blossom as resident artist and Hannah-in-training.  Abi continues to surprise us with her gift for artistic expression.   She draws things that make you feel something, and we love seeing her latest creations.  Her favorite color is all of the rainbow, and she has a great eye.  She also shows signs of budding vocal talent and imitates Hannah in everything but fashion sense (Abi is much more flowery than Hannah’s sporty style). 

5)      Colton shows promise in developing musical talent and growing facial hair.  Colton has been working on mastering the drums, as well as picking up the bass guitar.  He has come quite far already with starter hints from Dad, video tutorials, and an occasional lesson from a friend.  He continues to be a sweet young man who is known for his character at school.  He also passed up his dad in height this year and, every day, looks more like someone who needs to get a job instead of someone who needs to go to high school. 

 6)      Bill and Lena take on working with young adults in our home church and it feels really good. Twenty plus years in XA left serious grooves in our ministry style, and we have very much enjoyed getting to work with the young adults of our church.  We don’t have the same time to put into it, but we so love those chat times after church with young people, praying for them, and teaching them to find God’s will for their lives.  When they come to our house for a cookout, our old XA selves get all happy. 

7)      Bill hosts 7 missions teams, a bunch of visiting missionaries and assists in hosting a major international educational conference all in one year.  The amount of planning and prep that go into a successful missions trip on this end is equal or surpasses the prep stateside.  For our friends who have led trips, they will remember how much work that was for them.  Now multiply it by 7 and stick a big conference at the end.  It was a HUGE undertaking for Bill, but had great returns.  Hundreds received Christ as savior, thousands received medical care, the school in Catacaos took shape, many received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel was preached in the mountains and at University, and we made a lot of really good friends!

Avon Christian Heritage in Cusco (with Colton and Hannah)

Capital Christian Center (Sacramento) medical team

Brown University XA in Ayacucho.


8)      In addition to ministering in churches and working with Latin America ChildCare, Lena becomes president of the PTO at our International Christian School -- and loses the capacity to separate Spanish and English in her brain. This school year brought growth and increased diversity to the International Christian School our children attend in Lima. Lena accepted the position of president of the PTO and has enjoyed the challenge of leading—which involves a lot of Spanish and team building.  Participation this year in PTO has grown significantly and she has enjoyed being in the middle of it all.

Lena giving out Christmas gifts to LACC children.

9)      Bill gets serious about seeing Peru moving in the Spirit. Unfortunately, many members of the Peruvian Assemblies of God have never experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit or even heard teaching on it. One of our Peruvian pastor friends strongly encouraged Bill at the beginning of this year to preach on the Baptism wherever he goes.  Bill has taken that challenge seriously, and we have seen many people receive this year.  The Peruvian culture considers public embarrassment or exposure of weakness something to be avoided at all costs, so helping people get to the point of receiving and trusting can be a huge challenge. But, many Peruvians are also serious prayer warriors and lovers of God. It is a great pleasure to help people who have yearned for this for so many years to finally receive. 
Bill and Hannah help lead worship at Quechua speaking adobe church.

10)   Bill and Lena are honored by having two Peruvian babies named for them. I (Lena) have always wanted someone to name a baby after me.  I just thought it would be fun.  I gave up after leaving lots of little unsuccessful hints to our XA alums.  Pastor Walter Carranza and his wife, Sonia, wanted to name their baby after a missionary and surprised me with this honor. Sonia assures me that little Lina (preserving the pronunciation over the spelling) is a remarkably peaceful baby, always cheerful, and only complains when she is hungry (we definitely have that in common!). Another couple in the church (Gerardo and Maria, who are incredibly humble servants) were pregnant at the same time. What a surprise when, one week later, little Billy was born! Now there’s a Lina and a Billy growing up in the same church.  Maybe they will grow up and fall in love!

The Shraders doing some very serious ministry at the beach

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2012 LACC Christmas in Peru

Each year we  are blessed, getting to distribute Christmas gifts to the children in our Latin America ChildCare (LACC) schools. Here are some of my favorite photos from this year.

Every time I take a picture of this girl it turns out great.

The children from Ayacucho presented me with Christmas gifts.

The gift is upside down, but the smile on this girl (from Iquitos) is perfect!

It's great to get a race car in Iquitos.

I love taking photos of the little girl on the left!

I stitched three pictures together, to get this shot of the kids in Ayacucho. When you stitch photos, sometimes you lose some minor details. If you look closely at this composite photo, the girl in the forground has no head. It's hard to go to school without a head; but, it is apparently not impossible.

I call this one: Cut kid with race car in Iquitos.

Lena presenting a gift to a kindergartner in Catacaos.

Boys displaying their basketball game at our school, Luz del Saber, in Iquitos.

Hannah and her friends, from the International Christian School of Lima, wrapping Christmas gifts for the LACC kids.

Kids in Catacaos doing a display of traditional Peruvian dances for their Christmas party.

Lena with a student in Catacaos.

Nothing says Christmas like wearing a rodent on your head!

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

All the Single Ladies

I have been watching the awakening happening for some time now.  I remember my daughter’s  14 birthday.  She wanted to have a “mixed”  party.  I remember watching her shyly inviting a group of boys to our home for the gathering, and then marching down the street to the Revlon store to buy the long-awaited make-up.  It was a rite of passage we had set in place years before as a moment when she would pass from the world of little girls to that of young ladies.
Four years later, the tones are more serious, but the heart is the same.  Most of us ladies—apart from the occasional peaceful soul—have to accustom ourselves to a certain ache and longing that is part of being a single woman.  I wish it wasn't so, but my memories are so clear.  There were days when I just had to fake it to get through.  There were plenty nights in tears, crying out to God for relief from the feelings that were customary to those years for me.  Even worse, my single lady friends all assure me that it doesn't ever really go away.  We are wired for romance, to respond to a single noble man who recognizes our value and beauty.  And to make it worse, we have precious little control over it. 
We Christians don’t talk much about this…but it is there.  I want my daughter to be able to function, to pursue her personal goals, to be a focused, mature person, but I can’t promise her that there won’t be dark days when her heart is breaking and she has to take the final anyway, or has to go to work, even if that means a few trips to the bathroom to wipe her eyes and try to pull herself together.
 I know there is an option.  She can try to turn it all off, and some do. Some of us Christian parents, in the interest of protecting their hearts, encourage our daughters to ignore what is happening in their hearts, and instead of keeping them from pain, we end up training them to be distant with men.  I don’t ever want my daughters to turn their hearts off to the possibility of finding love, to the beauty of walking through life committed to loving someone and knowing someone else as deeply as is possible in a good marriage. We can't be slaves to our wayward hearts, but neither can we pretend like they are machines controlled by pressing a few buttons.  Love is crazy, messy, and sometimes defies logic or circumstances. Love makes life rich, even when it is at the same time disappointing. 
All the single ladies (and even the married ones!) have to walk through this and learn to pour out our feelings at Jesus’ feet.  In my single days---days in which I really didn't believe I would ever marry—I started imagining myself dancing with the Lord in a white dress.  I had to make Jesus the one who met those needs.  Even when I knew the ache would return later, I could pour out my feelings and find relief.  Now my girl is joining the single ladies, and she will have to learn to do the same thing.  I am so thankful that He is able to keep her, the Lord of crazy, risky love.  He understands.