Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pictures Worth a Million Words

I have been having trouble uploading pics...so here are a few to catch you up: Incendio the Great, Mother's Day at the beach, and Flor and me in the pool. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Volkswagon Beetles and other Bugs...

Sorry everyone…I realize it has been almost two weeks since my last update…I don’t know where time goes, but if I did, I would figure out a way to recycle it.

Our activity with the kids from the orphanage was a success. We divided the kids into two groups, the younger ones, along with the three special kids, and the “youth”. I was paired up with my girl, Flor! They loved the pool, though most of them clung to their “friends” because they couldn’t swim in the deep water. I kept Flor in the kiddie pool, which turned out to be a good idea. She loves the water! It was funny to watch her splash and flail about, hollering at the top of her lungs, but I had to stay right with her because she would submerge her face and nearly drown with excitement! It was so rewarding to see the kids laughing and acting like kids – without a care in the world. We brought them back to the apartment, where they all ate at least three sandwiches, listened to the gospel presented in a kid-friendly manner, and then watched a movie. By the time we started the movie, at least half of them were asleep! Once again, it was difficult to send them back, wishing we could fix their situation. The only thing we can do that will really make a difference is to show them the love of Christ which we have for them and let them know that they are valued. Most of us cannot even come close to knowing what they feel like, having been abandoned by their parents, with little to no chance at being adopted.

Mother’s Day with Mercedes was enjoyable and relaxing. We woke up early and headed for the beach for some time alone with the Lord. It is so refreshing to be able to sit in the midst of one of the crowns of His creation. For me, there is no greater pleasure than listening to the sound of the water, feeling the fresh breeze, and basking in the Glory of my God. We took our leisurely time to find a place to eat some breakfast and spend the rest of the morning walking the beaches and swimming. It was overcast, so there was no danger of getting sunburned. We returned to the hotel to shower and catch a nap before leaving to get some fish for lunch and then head for the bus back to Guayaquil. I made it home in time to have supper with the roommates (Sharon and Tabitha), and hang out with my pals. SIGH. I love the Sabbath.
I think I mentioned recently that my head was itching, and everyone thought I was allergic to my shampoo…nope! Turns out I contracted head lice! I am pretty sure it was due to the fact that when I was cutting all the kids hair at the orphanage, one of the girls was combing my hair with the comb she used on all the others. Mom, if you are reading this, please don’t turn me away when I come home, I promise I have treated it several times…just to be safe!

On Monday morning I traveled back to Cuenca. This time, since Seth and Tabitha (OM friends) were heading to Saraguro, so we traveled together. We saw my admirer at the bus station, but managed to avoid any soap opera drama, thanks to the newspaper I kept in front of my face!

The rest of my week was filled with phone calls, emails, skype sessions, meetings, and the like. I have been much more encouraged this week, and have allowed myself to rest in the normal tasks people do every day, such as exercise, clean the house, cook, play music, enjoy people. It is funny how relaxing and de-stressing it can be to have to do the dishes. I mean, it is kind of pain, but it is an easy, mindless chore, that allows me to sing, reflect, pray, or just BE, without feeling pressured. I am beginning to give and gain trust, in order to form some deeper relationships, which seems to have been more difficult here in Cuenca. I drove a classic, orange VW beetle the other day. It was my first time to drive in Ecuador, and, of course, everyone was shocked that I could drive a manual…or that I could even drive! There are many people here (especially women) who just don’t ever get their driver’s license.
There are a few solid leaders rising up who have been connecting with other churches to get more people involved with the vision of Cristo Vive. Saturday I had my last group meeting until I return in August. I made a giant chocolate cake because one of the guys here was complaining that the oatmeal/banana cake is for Grandmas. I think he ate half of it, and I keep telling him he had better not be coming to the meetings just because of the food! They are finally taking the initiative and responsibility for Cristo Vive Cuenca upon themselves. We have adjusted the calendar and there is now a day camp planned for July 10 (please PRAY for them!!!!).
I am working out the details for the August team from the US (anyone interested???), and there are three people interested in coming down for longer short-term volunteer opportunities. Craziness. I have only about two weeks to wrap things up here, then I will head home for a couple months! I am really excited to come back and see everyone. Getting used to being so far away from my family and friends has been more difficult than I had planned on.

This last weekend, my friend Lorena asked me to sing a mother’s day song with her, and to help lead worship at the daughter church here. Singing Spanish music and reading the Bible in Spanish has really helped my language skills. I am starting to think in Spanish instead of having to translate in my head before I can figure out what someone said or what I want to communicate. Sermons are coming easier too, which is encouraging, because, I need as much of the Word as I can get.

Ok, now for the real news! The inevitable has happened, and I have to tell you all about it. Just a few weeks ago I was saying how I was sick if Ecuadorian guys, and then, though I never thought it would happen, I fell hard for one! He is dark and handsome, small, and a bit hairy (very typical Ecuadorian). He is needy, but makes me laugh. He keeps me company when I am lonely. He is very intelligent and has learned he had better take me seriously. I am torn up about leaving him here for two months. He has a lot of energy, is very social, and likes to run with me…on a leash! His name is Incendio (which means “fire”), because he was rescued from a burning building. He is a little orphaned pup, some kind of mixture of German Shephard. Some girls from the church adopted him, but live in a small apartment and were gone most of the time. My friends brought him here, and it was all over! I wish I could bring him to the states, but he doesn’t have a passport. He technically lives with the pastor here, but Freddy’s never home and has no clue how to deal with a puppy. So, I had compassion for him and have been bathing him, feeding him, training him – I even cut his hair, because it was all matted and gross. (I know, I know, he’s just a dog! As I said, I fell hard!) He has been a blessing, since I spend a lot of time at the house by myself. (Sorry I keep toying with you...and if I raised anyone’s hope that I was involved in a real romantic attachment!)

Proverbs 16:3 “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

*** Happy Mother’s Day…to all you mommy’s out there! You are by far the most important people in the world!! I mean, think about it, every great man or woman, King or Queen, doctor, scientist, writer, teacher, musician, or missionary was nurtured for nine months in the womb of a woman, who then bore excruciating pain in order to give innocent little lives a chance – is that not incredible?!?! In my opinion, motherhood is one of the highest callings a person can fulfill in this brief lifetime. It requires responsibility, total commitment, superhuman love, and inexhaustible patience and energy. I can only hope that one day the Lord bestows upon me such an honor. My very own mother is a woman of great strength, grace and determination, and though she has endured heartache and trial, she has always been able laugh in the midst of it. She has an eye for decorating and has been known to rip out walls and transform a house into a work of art! Her clients and coworkers at the beauty shop get more than they pay for, because she listens to their problems, and openly shares the truth of gospel, more boldly than most. Her fountain of joy and wisdom comes from her morning coffee dates with the Lord and His Word, where I know the whole family gets a good dose of prayer. I am so thankful that the Lord has blessed me with such an outstanding example. Love you Mom! ***

I have been reading this book called “And I Will be Found by You,” and the Lord has used it to remind me that my works have NOTHING to do with my Salvation or the love the Lord has for me, but that His pleasure is aroused as we seek His presence. Francis Frangipane, the author, was going through a time when he had been asked to leave the church he was pastoring because he had confronted sin in the church. He could barely provide for his family and they were living in Iowa during one of the coldest winters on record. He wrote: “I repeated again my abiding prayer: ‘Lord what do you want of me?’ Speaking directly to my heart, He said, ‘Love me where you’re at.’” The Lord assured him: “‘this is all I will ever require of you.’”
The question is: what does it mean to truly love Him? I have been focusing so much on my ministry tasks, that my identity, and my relationship with the Lord have been wrapped up in the results (or lack thereof) of what I am doing. It is not that He doesn’t want to use to show His glory in the world, but His source of joy comes from those He loves (us) loving him so much that we cannot help but seek His face, and in so doing begin to become more like Him.

Ok...and now for the update:
Since I last wrote you, I went to Saraguro, which is a very much unevangelized, rural, traditionally Catholic area. The OM team did a medical outreach there a couple of weeks ago, and now the goal is to follow up with a discipleship program and help the two struggling churches there to form cell groups in order that these people don’t become like so many who are evangelized, and left to themselves, without a clue of where to go from there. I helped get things started at the end of last week, because only one person was able to go. It’s just good, old-fashioned missionary work. We hiked in the highlands in the rain in order to find the women we were intending to visit. They were grateful for the visit and interested in more Bible study.
We had a Cristo Vive meeting planned for last Saturday in Cuenca, so I hopped on a bus for a three hour ride home. I immediately went to the grocery so I could bake something for the meeting. It was time to begin, and only one person showed up. Another guy came about two hours later, and no one else had heard whether the other folks were going to show up. After a good, honest chat with the guys that did show up, I had a good, honest chat with the Lord about what I should do, and the conclusion: ‘Go with the flow.’ In order for things to happen the way I want them to, I would have to change the culture, and that is not what I am here to do. So, I keep praying and letting go of my frustrated plans. On Monday, I had a meeting with Henry, who is interested in assuming the role of leadership, and we are going to move forward with presenting the ministry to the other churches in the area, and plan on having a team-building event on the 15th instead of an activity for the kids.

On Tuesday I went back to Saraguro. I got a later start than I had planned because I had to wait to receive a package from Quito and I wanted to spend a little time with Jessie, the American girl who lives with us, because she is having to go home unexpectedly next week. I finally got on a bus at 11:30 am, and we weren’t even out of Cuenca, when we encountered a roadblock. A group of people had gathered to protest a water law (apparently the government is trying to take water from the indigenous people who live in the highlands, and they obviously don’t like that idea). In order to communicate their disapproval, they stand in the middle of the road. After sitting for about forty minutes we were able to continue. I finally arrived in Saraguro at about 4:30 pm, and headed straight for my hostel. There was a European couple on the bus and because I they thought I looked like I knew where I was going, they followed me! Come to find out, they have been travelling for 8 months, through Canada, Washington, Mexico, Central and South America. They are from PaĆ­s Basko…technically Spain. We spent the rest of the day together, getting to know each other and Saraguro, since Darren (the guy with whom I am working here), was somewhere high in the mountains visiting people. Darren finally arrived at about 8:30 (he had been waiting for a ride, getting drenched in the meantime). Marcos and Miriam (my Spanish friends) came to Saraguro with the intention of experiencing how the indigenous people live, so they asked if they could join us for our visits. It didn’t quite work out, since we were late getting back from our morning visits. They seem like very “open” people so it will be interesting to see how things progress from here. I’ve made some new friends that I will one day need to visit in Spain, and of course, I am praying that they will come to know that Jesus is the Truth. Friday morning I left Saraguro, stopped off in Cuenca, and boarded another bus bound for Guayaquil. Our bus stopped three times for extended periods (once because we blew a tire and had to change it). I love buses. It is Saturday morning and we are getting ready to go get all of the orphans from the orphanage. We are planning to take them for a swim at a local pool, watch a movie, feed and bathe them. I am so excited to see them, especially Flor. I doubt they have ever been able to do something like this. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Tomorrow, Sunday, I am planning on spending the day at the beach with Mercedes, my “Mami Ecuatoriana.” On Monday, I will return to Cuenca to spend one more week building up ministry potential there.

I close with a prayer from the book I mentioned earlier:
“Lord Jesus, The revelation of Your love has swept me off my feet. Lord, You have drawn me and I run after You. Master, even in the mundane things of life, I shall express my love for you. Consume me in Your love.” AMEN