Today I had two women crying on my couch and one practically jumping out of her skin with joy (none of these at the same time). A mounting debt, an impossible family situation, and a fabulous new job. At least it's not boring around here.
Please pray that we would be filled with the Holy Spirit as we strive to minister to our friends and neighbors with wisdom, love, grace and humility. I'm not sure I've ever felt so inadequate or so blessed in my work.
Yesterdays strawberry pie pockets were a bit of a disaster. I tried it again today incorporating a few changes and it was a great success. Mom I even figured out the secret to the flaky crust. Due to Mary's request I thought I'd share the recipe.
Pye Pockets (for 6): (peruvian spelling)
Fruit Filling: 2 cups of sliced/chopped fruit (strawberry, apple, peach, blueberry, etc) 1/2 cup of sugar 2 Tbsp of flour 2 tsp of cinnamon 1/2 tsp nutmeg 1/2 tsp cloves 1/4 tsp all spice and/or cardamon (optional, but great for sweet fruit)
Combine all ingredients together and let sit for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally till the juice/sugar form a syrup.
Dough: (you can use whatever pie dough you normally use) 1 cup flour 1/2 cup butter (as cold as possible) pinch of salt 1 tsp sugar (optional) 2-5 Tbsp of ICE cold water (this means put ice in it)
Combine sugar, salt and flour. Cut the butter into little pieces and add it to the flour. With your fingers, mix the flour and butter till it small pea size balls form (if you've never done this before, it is kind of a combination of squeezing and pinching the butter pieces to blend them with the flour). One Tbsp at a time, drizzle the cold water over the mixture and stir it with a fork until you can easily form a ball with the dough. Chill for 5-10 minutes. (If you chill the dough for longer and it is hard when you take it out, let it sit in room temperature for a little bit to soften).
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Divide the dough into 6 equal balls. Using plenty of flour roll them into approximately 6 inch discs (if your discs are more like squares that's fine just fold it along the diagonal and people will find it more exotic). Becareful not to roll them out to big or the dough will be too thin.
Place 2-3 Tbsp of fruit filling on one half and make sure not to overfill- TRY TO AVOID PUTTING THE SYRUP IN THEM. Fold the dough over and roll up the edges, use a fork to make the design and seal up the edges. Rub a cookie sheet with as much butter as possible, place the pies on the cookie sheet and brush the tops and edges with melted butter (you can also use beated egg whites). Cook for 25-35 minutes until the crust is light brown and flaky.
***Quick sidenote, I don't really use recipes or measurements so this is all more or less a guess - but I feel really confident about it. Feel free to change it around as much as you like, especially with the spices and fruit filling. Mary let me know how you got on.
The topic of other religions surfaced in a discussion Sunday night. They want to know what we think and what the Bible says about how people get to God, and if it's possible that maybe we're all worshipping the same God in various ways. A good question, really. We tried to answer it not from our instincts or opinions, but looking at verses in the Bible (since we claim that the Bible is the authority in our lives). I think it's important not to teach "doctrine" (as in "you must believe what I say") but to show people what the Bible says and let them make their own interpretations and judgments.
Anyway, the real point of mentioning this was to share the humor that when they said "other religions," they meant Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons. Other than atheism or agnosticism, those are your options.
I hope to see more of these around here! This particular batch I bought from a man bicycling around with a cart. Tim made what I have fondly named "strawberry hot pockets" and we've been eating them raw, too.
Monday, by the way, has been lovely. I am doing all the normal things I do on Mondays- planning the menu, writing a grocery shopping list, looking over what I have to do this week, resting. So normal! We took the dogs to the beach this morning (the first time in a while) and they are spent. Much to the relief of my slippers.
The public library, for free legal movies and also feeding my voracious reading appetite
Spending time with friends (probably more than anything else)
Eating out, from Starbucks on up
King of Kings (my church)
Plaza Midwood (my neighborhood)
Tim being able to bring me home a DQ Blizzard or Mr. Goodbar or something
having "working hours"
Josh and Molly (I'd say Vivy, but it's hard to miss what you never really had, right?)
big bookstores and their coffee shops
Decent white wine (and better)
Living in the same state as my mom
DeBordieu and Little Diamond Island
Now that I've started it seems like I could go on forever. At the same time, I keep looking around and thinking of lots of things to put on my "things I will miss if we move back" list. Maybe I'll tackle that tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm going to relish a few romanticized memories of NC.
I'm feeling a little better today, probably in part because I had nothing to do (a beautiful feeling, I must say). In my lounging this afternoon, I stumbled across these two blogs you might enjoy.
Twenty Two Words- Abraham Piper's "experiment in getting to the point" as he addresses faith, culture, parenting, and anything else that comes to mind.
Smitten Photography- Got here through the Slate's blog (friends and missionaries in Ireland), but ended up watching wedding photo slideshows of a couple of people I met in Davidson and Charlotte! Beautiful images of families, couples, babies, etc.
Tim weighed Ellie today (not an easy task). She's 60-65 lbs, about half her adult weight.
I've been sick since Tuesday. I kind of wonder if God isn't keeping me incapacitated for my own good. Today I've barely left the bed.
Tim is running Alpha solo tonight. The topic is "How can I resist evil?" I think it will be a poignant message for two reasons. One is that I think we have several new believers in our group who I'd guess are dealing with this issue of temptation and spiritual warfare. The other is that I've had some interesting conversations this week about superstitions and witchcraft. It's real here. I promise.
Yesterday I led Sierra's Bible study for the first time. We looked at John 1 and got into what is the difference between the law of Moses and the grace of Jesus. The big question they all had was "Does God punish people for doing bad things?" In a legalistic culture like this, it was exciting to share with them that if they have put their faith in Jesus' work on the cross, their debt has already been paid-- past, present, and future. They don't have to wonder if their cold is punishment for the lie they told this morning. They don't have to fear God in that sense. Perfect love casts out their fear.
My "anonymous friends" (Al-Anon women) took me out for a birthday dinner last night. It was a sweet gift. I appreciate having a place in my life where I'm not a leader, and they're a generally jolly group.
For 7 or 8 years I have been dreaming about coming to a Spanish-speaking country to help people connect with God. For me, that begins with understanding the offer and opportunity we have through Jesus, but it's more than just a decision to change. There's a process of growing spiritually, learning to lead and serve, and passing on what you love to others. Lots of people have recognized that process before and have named it a few different ways. The two main ones I've heard are Evangelize/Establish/Equip/Export (Campus Outreach) and Membership/Maturity/Ministry/Missions (Saddleback Church). They're the same thing with different words.
Anyway, I came here with the desire to help people grow in those areas, and this week I dreamed up a potential plan for addressing that. In some ways, we are already working on Step 1 (Evangelize/Membership) through the Alpha Course. I think our team would like to make a specific 4- week class, though, to work people through clarifying what Jesus is all about (what it means to follow Christ), the difference between works (good deeds) and faith, what Christ-followers believe, and what Christ-followers do (spiritual disciplines like prayer and service). We would like to make a plan for that class in the next month or two and then run the "class" twice before the new year. Because it is the introduction, we want it to be fairly low-committment and accessible for anyone.
This week I have been working on a plan for part 2, which I am super excited about. My hope is that in January, we could offer it to people who have been through the intro course and that the four of us (Cesar, Grace, Tim and me) would teach the course and connect one-on-one with each participant. Grace has already written (in Spanish) a study booklet on this part 2, and I'm excited to use it. Anyway, click here to check out the "syllabus" if you're interested.
Have you been around anyone with new faith recently? It's so refreshing! Our neighbor that has recently turned from drugs to God helped Tim paint today (volunteered in fact). He was bemoaning the problems of Puerto Supe, so Tim asked him what ideas he had for change. Our neighbor said that the men of Puerto need to change, which is so obvious it's funny but also precious. He said they need to turn to God, that he's been inviting his friends to come to Alpha, and that so far they feel nervous. I wonder how much he's told them about what's going on in his life. Anyway, we're hoping that some of his friends come to the next Alpha Course (starting sometime in September) and that our neighbor will be a helper on the course.
There was our trip to Lima a week and a half ago, always fun but resulting in some piling up of undone work. Because of it, I missed my lay-around-and-do-nothing-but-recover Monday. Then there was my birthday (last Tuesday), which ended up being a long day of cooking. Thursday was Sierra's nutty going-away party. Friday was crying about Sierra leaving and then the South America Mission Summer Team arriving. The weekend was a blur of Summer Team stuff (particularly for Tim- heading up meals and preparing for them to paint) and Alpha Retreat. Since the weekend, Tim has spent the week finishing the painting work. With the Summer Team here, I missed my Monday again. I think because of that, the "normal" week I'm having feels absolutely not normal. We've been physically and emotionally exhausted, and I've been feeling sick over the last two days. When I think about the work I need to do between this moment and my next Monday, I think I might faint. And yet it's important stuff. I don't want to let go.
What's the answer? Maybe my body is telling me. I'm not sure. At least if you're actually sick, you have to take a "sick day" no matter what's on your schedule. Perhaps you should pray I get sicker (just kidding!!). Anyway, if you pray, pray for us.
Have you ever wondered what short-term mission teams do when they come down here? I know, probably not. But just in case you're interested, here's the plan we've been cooking up for a team of young professional type people coming to Puerto Supe (from Wheaton Bible Church) over Christmas.
We had a remarkable day yesterday on the Alpha Retreat. I don't know how to tell about it concisely, so bear with me. Out of the 11 people who regularly attend the Alpha Course, these 4 (3 neighbors and my housekeeper) came on the retreat.
Our first two lessons were "Who is the Holy Spirit?" and "What does the Holy Spirit do?" After that we had a discussion time together. Besides talking about the Holy Spirit, we discussed the idea of a conversion experience and I told them some about my story. We came back again and again to the idea that this life Jesus offers them really is about life and not rules or being a good person, a concept they and others here are very very slow to understand.
After the discussion, we sent them off to reflect. I gave them some questions to think about in case they didn't know what to do during that time, and it was sweet to see them all thinking and writing (we had given them pens and notebooks as part of a pack of retreat presents). At the end of that time, my housekeeper said to me, "Everything I wrote was from the heart." The visiting South America Mission summer team (college age people) fixed and ate lunch with us and afterward played volleyball out on the beach with the group. I think it was a good time for the Alpha people to connect with other Christians than Tim and I and to see that they could have fun together. They were "in."
After volleyball (during which I napped!) we watched the lesson on "How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?" We ended the retreat after the video with a time of prayer. We let them pray on their own for a while and then went around and asked each of them how we could pray for them (and did it). Three of them were in tears by the end of it, the guy in the front of the photo included. Based on what he's said and the changes we have seen in him, I'm pretty confident that he's made a decision to leave his life of drugs, parties, and self and to follow Jesus. Remarkable.
After the retreat, we went directly to the Comunidad worship service, which the Summer Team was "putting on" while they're here. Mr. Front of the Photo came along, his first time I think. It was neat to see how his connection with the Summer Team during the day made a bridge for his to come to the service. We sang "Mighty to Save," which we've done in Alpha and he knows, and then Cesar spoke for a moment on Galatians 5 (dealing with the Holy Spirit). Coincidence? No. I was in tears myself thinking of how precious this God is that He orchestrates all things for His purposes and was using all these fun ways to reach out to my neighbor.
We are exhausted but so happy. I find it surprising every day that God would let even me be part of this and see people's lives being transformed.
Today is all about shopping and preparing for the Alpha Retreat tomorrow. So far I've made flower pens (pens with fake flowers attached), personalized notebooks, deviled eggs, stovetop popcorn, cocoa krispy treats, caramelized popcorn, and frosted pecans. Up next: peach drop cookies, chocolate chip cookies, humus, guacamole, toast points, coffee cake. Also watching the last two videos. I'm already exhausted and wishing I had started this yesterday. Part of the trouble of all this is that I am making up for lots of things we don't have (microwave popcorn, rice krispies, corn syrup, peach jam, chocolate chips, pre-made humus, tortilla chips). Lots of improvising, which seems to take longer. But when else would I have ever made fresh jam and homemade humus?!
As I'm cooking, I've been praying for this retreat. We'll be together tomorrow from 9 am- 7 pm tomorrow (Sunday). Here are some ways you can pray for us.
Pray for all the right people to come and to be at my house before 9:30 am so that they can ride over together. Pray that they wouldn't deterred at the last minute by fear, family, laziness, sickness, etc.
Pray that our time "away" would help them see things more clearly and make important decisions about what direction their lives are going in. Pray specifically for our housekeeper, our druggie neighbor, and our carpenter friend, all of whom seem to be on the brink (or over?) of a big leap of faith.
Pray that our guests will experience God.
Pray for growing friendships.
Pray that our time together would be fun and that everyone would be enthusiastic and alert. Pray that we would feel comfortable together.
Pray for the logistics, particularly as we hold this retreat in a location other than our home and have another group of people preparing the lunch.
Pray that God's grace would be on Tim and I to give us peace, strength, energy, confidence, and joy.
Sierra left at 4:30 am. We are missing her sorely this morning. The house feels empty and sad. My housekeeper and I have been crying. Tim is looking for someone to discuss his ideas with.
Last night we had a goodbye party for her that turned into total chaos, although I still think people enjoyed themselves. In our living room and dining room I'd say we had over 50 guests at once. Maybe more like 75. It was sweet to see how much people value and love her-- children, teens, people our age, "grown-ups" and wiser.
I think this next season (week? few weeks? month? we'll see) will be challenging as I adjust to living and working without her.
For some reason I've been especially anxious over the last few weeks. When I try to think of why I don't come up with anything particularly serious or stressful. Most of the time it's bearable but today I feel pretty crummy. Maybe it has to do with Sierra leaving tomorrow morning? Maybe the Alpha Retreat this weekend? Maybe my confusion over the big picture vision for our team's purpose and vision here in Puerto Supe? I'm not sure. What I know is that my back hurts (too much moving furniture the other day), I miss the sunshine, and I feel lonely and a little lost.
I look at my to-do list and my overflowing email inbox and I'm not sure exactly what to do next. Chocolate and a nap sound rather enticing.
I think the Lord sent me sunshine today for my birthday. We're in the middle of winter, but today couldn't have been cooler than last year's birthday on Little Diamond Island (Maine). I wore a tank top and sweatpants all day. It was gorgeous.
We had fish tacos and chocolate cake for dinner, both of which took all day to prepare and neither of which worked out quite right. As many of you already know, birthdays are dangerous events for me-- too much anxiety, expectations, inevitable disappointment. Several times today I reminded myself that it's not that big of a deal to be born and that today didn't have to be the best day of the year. I was successful in avoiding a melt-down, which felt like an accomplishment. Too bad it's taken 27 years. Anyway, all that to say that today I felt the "sacrifice" of living here in a small way. The only way to eat tasty food on your birthday in Puerto Supe is to make it yourself. Oh, for Cabo Fish Taco!
The real joy of the day was re-arranging my office (partially inspired by birthday office supplies from Tim). I mean that. Planning and organizing are some of my highest delights, and I am indeed delighted with my new office set up. Maybe someday I'll get some photos of the house up here. It's looking good.
We just saw this movie in Lima, and now I'm dying to show it to my friends here in Puerto! Like lots of other movies before it, Kung Fu Panda tells the story of an ordinary guy (well, panda bear) who becomes more. Or maybe it's the story of an extraordinary guy trapped in a boring life and then set free into his real destiny. Depends how you look at it. Regardless, the idea is pretty relevant for Puerto Supe. Have you ever dreamed of being more than noodle folk?
Once again Friday night's Alpha course went quite well. Although I don't think there were any major breakthroughs, but we learned a bit more about the culture and some of the people.
For whatever reason several things came up about various superstition. One in particular is the evil eye. For those of you who aren't familiar with it you can learn more here . In particular several people were suggesting than one woman was having headaches because someone had looked at here with envy. The other mention of it came up as Hannah was telling some of them about how people would sort of sing over Taza complients about her being cute or precious when we first got her. They then reminded Hannah that she ought to be careful with Taza because of the evil eye. There were a few more issues such as this in the women's group.
Another observation was that it seems many of the people here see God as a human with more power. Meaning that God was jealous, vengeful and to be feared because if you make him mad, he's going to take it out on you. Although we believe this issues need to be address and talked through, we're still not sure how to do it other than talking to people one on one about what is true of God and even then they seem to be quick to agree but slow to believe.
In my group we talked a bit about how God guides us and it was quite interesting to hearing some of the guys talk. Most of them said they never really thought of God guiding them, having a plan for their lives or really anything to do with them until they started coming to Alpha. This amazed me. Even though they have grown up in a Catholic culture they really never thought anything about God. On an interesting side note, one of them were telling about an evangelical who used to live in Puerto and in the end he said, "you know, it was kinda like your religion." I realized that this man in particular is coming just because he wants to learn about God, the Bible and christianity and really has no idea about religion, churches or denominations. It was kinda refreshing.
The topic this week is “How does God guide us?” I don’t have many specifics for prayer today, but here are a few ideas:
1. Pray for our Alpha retreat next Sunday (July 20). Logistics, attendance, changed lives. 2. Pray for our regular participants-- that they would “get” grace, that they would give their lives to follow Jesus. 3. Pray for our discussion. I’m excited about this week’s topic and think it should be good. We’ll see.
Here's what I do in a week. Right now all the mornings are starting with reading John with my housekeeper and then going to the beach with Tim to walk the dogs.
MONDAY. My day off. I rest, read, watch movies, plan for my week, write my weekly menu and grocery shopping list. In no particular order.
TUESDAY. Shopping in the morning. Eat lunch at 1. At 2, my friend A comes over and we read Captivating and talk about it for an hour or two. I attend Al-Anon (6-8) or a women's Bible study (5-7) on alternating weeks. The weeks I go to Bible study, we also have a Comunidad Cristiana Board meeting from 8-10.
WEDNESDAY. Catch up on life etc. in the morning. After lunch, my friend M comes over to study John at 3. Knitting club from 4-6. Prayer meeting in our house from 7-8.
THURSDAY. Team meeting in the morning, usually from 9-12. I attend Sierra's Bible study from 4-6 and after this week will be leading it. Al-Anon from 6-8.
FRIDAY. All day Alpha preparation (food, set-up, discussion). Alpha from 7-10.
SATURDAY. Recover from Alpha. Maybe have a movie night.
SUNDAY. Watch "church" with our team online from 8-9:30. Rest, eat lunch, rest, rest. Attend evening worship service in Spanish. Sometimes lead discussion afterward.
It's funny how there's no real line between life and work here. All the in-between time is both. I think I like it that way.
Today began a little rough. I took both dogs to the beach by myself, and on the way we had some trouble. In front of the market, there was a moment when cars were passing and stray dogs were drawing near. In all the hubub, I got tangled up in leashes and wiped out. I was frustrated, embarassed, annoyed with myself that I would be embarassed about something so simple. By the time I got to the beach I also noticed that my engagement ring had broken from the friction of the leashes I guess. In the back the platinum just broke down the middle. Ugh.
I was glad to be on my way to the beach, and when I got there took the time to talk out loud with God about how I was feeling. Where would I be without him? I'd hate to know. This morning I needed to hear the voice of Jesus reminding me of all the things I know to be true, including his remarkable love for me demonstrated on the cross. So many good things have been going on in and around me recently, but there are hard moments as well. The redeeming truth is that in the hard moments, God is not changed, and I have the same opportunity to draw near to him.
I got home and read through Psalm 139.
O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in-- behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
It's the prayer of an ex-pat I think. Even if I settle on the far side of the sea, He is here and will guide me. I am so glad to know it.
Our phone line hasn't worked for about 2 weeks. During that time, our internet has rarely worked. Maybe 2 hours per day and we never know when or how long. Tim called today (from someone else's house) to find out what the heck is going on. The operator told him that the phone number we claim to have is not actually ours. It belongs to a business in another city. How and when did that happen? And what the heck can we do about it?
By my own choice in part, most of my job has to do with attending meetings. Even my relationships center around the 1-2 hours a week I have scheduled to meet with that person. Probably sounds sick to a lot of you, but for right now, it's working wonders in my life and ministry.
Every once in a while I have to go to a long or boring meeting. The only way to combat this problem is food. I am definitely of the opinion that almost all meetings should involve snacks (and usually sweet ones). In preparation for the Comunidad Cristiana Board of Directors meeting tonight, I made Martha Stewart lemon squares. They were pretty easy and very successful. If you have any boring meetings coming up, I'd definitely suggest them.
In the last 24 hours, I've had two really encouraging moments I want to share.
One part of the weekly worship service that I'm gladly responsible for is the Alpha discussion. We've been watching Alpha Express videos for the sermon part of the service, and afterward, I lead the discussion. This week, the message was on prayer. Afterward, I explained one way to pray called "Palms up, Palms down." The idea is to turn your palms face-down and tell God all the things you are letting go into his care-- your sins, your anxieties, your responsibilities, your work, etc. Then you turn your palms face up and tell him all the things you are receiving gladly from him-- forgiveness, a new character, peace and joy, the Holy Spirit, blessings, his will, etc. It has always been a special way to pray for me. To make sure everyone got the idea, we first made a list on the whiteboard of all the kinds of things you would let go of and receive. They understood far more quickly and better than I anticipated. The prayer time was sweet in that it felt intimate and genuine. I was in my element-- leading and teaching in a classroom/workshop type setting about things that matter deeply to me.
A second moment. Since our Alpha conversation on the Bible on Friday, the "Biblical illiteracy" of this community has been heavy on my heart. On Sunday, I developed a "Reading Guide" booklet for the Gospel of John that I hope to use in a number of ways. It divides John into 54 short readings (about 20 verses each) and has 1-3 thinking questions for each reading with space to write answers. This morning my housekeeper and I started working on it together, beginning with John 1:1-18. She was super enthusiastic and says she wants to read the Bible but doesn't find motivation or make sense of it on her own. The questions for this passage were "What does it mean to 'recieve him' or 'believe in his name'?" and "What is the difference between the law of Moses and the grace of Jesus?" (both coming out of the reading). We had a great conversation about the two, and she really seemed to understand well how Jesus opened up a new way for salvation for us apart from the law. I for one was excited. We are planning to spend 10 minutes at the beginning of every morning reading and answering questions.
I am still in awe of what God is doing around and through me here in Puerto Supe. I feel like these were all the things I always wanted to do, both at Davidson and in Charlotte, but found so much difficulty in pursuing, both because of my timidity and the responses of people around me. I think in part I have been living in communities over-saturated with "religion" (although maybe not real faith) until now. In Puerto Supe, no one has anything to do, for one, so they're thrilled to come to a prayer meeting. Also they just haven't had the opportunity before to learn about Jesus. It's something new, and people are eager to find out what all the hubub is about.
After going about 10 years without setting off fireworks, this last Friday I decided to buy some fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July. Every month or so we hear a few fired so I figured they were relatively easy to find.
As always I started asking where I could find the fireworks by talking to a few taxi drivers. Finally one told me to ask the fat man who drives the red taxi in Puerto, that he knew where to get them. I found him and he took me to a nearby town, stopped and pointed to house and told me they were in there. I knocked on the door and an old lady answered and mumbled something about her son now working in Supe (not Puerto Supe) and that there were no fireworks in the house. The taxi proceeded to take me to another house and after knocking a few times and no answering, a boy was yelling at me that the guy was down the street and then ran to get him for me.
When the guy finally showed up, he started asking me what kind of fireworks I wanted. I had no idea what to call them in english much less in spanish so I asked him if he could show them to me. He then began to describe the different ones and the prices for them. Still being a bit confused, I asked him if I could just see what he had. He said ok and took into his house into a room full of cardboard boxes, bags of gun powder and cardboard tubes. I then realized why he seemed a bit concerned when I told him I wanted the fireworks the same day. He had to make them all by hand. The photo above is of his shop which is open to his bedroom.
He showed me a few different parts of the fireworks to try to help me understand what I would be getting and then showed me a few piles of different gun powder and asked which I wanted (it turns out they had to do with color and I think type of explosion). I finally just ordered based on price thinking the cheaper would be puny and the more expensive would be larger. So I got a few dozen of the cheapest and medium priced fireworks.
When I went to pick them up a few hours later, once again I was surpised. I'm used to fireworks being 18"-24" tall and shooting them out of glass bottles. These were huge! Each one was at least 4 ft tall and had a bamboo shoot for a pole.
That night we went over to the Cubas's house and shot them off of their roof. It was pretty exciting and although there a few that exploded pretty close to the ground, no one got hurt. The next day the fireworks seemed to be the talk of the town and almost everyone I ran into were asking me if I'd shot them off (this include mini-market owners and random people I didn't know). I think I may have shot off a lot more than was normal for people around here.
I'm already scheming of another show on Christmas eve (that's the time of year they shoot off fireworks down here) and hoping to get people to donate to it so we can buy a few hundred of the big rockets and do a show off the end of the pier and everyone can come down to the beach to see it. We'll see.
Last night was fairly good until the discussion part. We were talking about the Bible and realized it's a pretty hard topic to address with this crowd. The truth is that they haven't read the Bible and aren't really interested in it. To them, the Bible is somewhat irrelevant to their lives, even their lives of faith. It's boring, hard to understand, and really long. Makes me think of Tim's Flash MX 2004 Bible (computer nonsense). I think this view is pretty much shared by the believers in town as well, which becomes more problematic. Maybe it comes out of the Catholic doctrine that normal people can't understand the Bible and need the priests to explain it to them. People just don't read it themselves.
What can we do about this? To me, this community (and the individuals that make it up) will never grow up to be mature, self-sustaining and independent until the people are both "Bible literate" and regularly reading the Bible. It makes me think I'd like to start a "read the New Testament in X amount of time" campaign in a few months or so.
My housekeeper says she doesn't read the Bible because it makes her fall asleep. She also says she likes for people to read the Bible to her. I'm considering asking her if she would like to read a short passage with me every morning and pray for the day. Not to discuss it but at least so that she hears something. I think part of the problem with the perception of the Bible here is that no one has ever tried it, or if they have, they started in Leviticus or something.
On another topic related to last night, my friend C (she and her husband are the only "churchy" people who come to Alpha) would not stop talking last night in the discussion. She just went on and on with stories that to me seemed irrelevant. After the meeting, she and her husband told me that they wouldn't be attending the day retreat since I mentioned they couldn't bring their 4-year-old. They don't like to leave her with anyone (ever).
I was a little miffed at first thinking that I don't understand this culture with children. It seems crazy to me that their daughter is only ever with them or at school. She comes to every single meeting they attend, which means that someone has to watch her there or she gets into trouble (latest shenanigans- writing on Tim's blackboard with permanent marker). Anyway, then I realized that for the two of them not to come to the retreat is a real blessing for the others. I think it will make everyone else more comfortable to be themselves (however "not religious" that may be) and will give other people more time to talk now that C isn't monopolizing the conversation. By the way, everyone else says they are definitely coming to the retreat! I'm amazed and thrilled!
This week we’re learning about “How and why do I study the Bible?”
1. Pray that our guests would all come and feel comfortable together. We are going to split them up by gender again (very successful last week). Pray that the Lord would continue to draw them to himself.
2. Pray that everyone would be able to attend the retreat. We are giving them all the information tonight and know that it is likely they won’t all come. We think the retreat is super important and will be a time for a lot of them to sort out what they’re going to do about everything they’re learning. The retreat is during the day July 20.
3. Pray that we would get everything prepared today and still be peaceful tonight. There are quite a few “extras” this week and I for one am feeling a little overwhelmed. Pray for sorting out retreat details, the food (Pat McB’s spaghetti salad), set-up, and discussion preparation.
We feel ourselves living in the power of your prayers. Thank you for your dedication and love.
The truth is that I love planning. It was one of the highlights of my teaching job. If I ever return to public school education (2 more years in NC for retirement benefits!) I hope to do it as a planner more than a teacher (curriculum development?). South America Mission seems to love planning, too, since they "require" that each missionary fill out a Monthly Planning and Review form with his/her supervisor. Tim has never done one. I'm crazy about them. They give me a sense of purpose and direction and in a way let me off the hook. I no longer have to take over the world this month. All I have to do is complete my month's goals. I won't bore you with all the details of my MPR, but here are a few of this month's goals that I'm especially excited about.
Set up both of my guest rooms for use. Hospitality is one my life's great joys, and with some of Tim's family coming at the end of the month, I have a great opportunity to get to work!
Hold the Alpha Retreat July 20 and coordinate the South America Mission Summer Team's involvement. We're hoping they'll fix lunch and play beach volleyball.
Start weekly prayer meeting and explore possibilities for starting 12-Step Recovery Group in Puerto Supe (Celebrate Recovery?).
Continue meeting one-on-one with two girls and begin leading Sierra's small group when she leaves July 18.
Last night we opened our home for a short prayer meeting. I expected to have 3 or 4 people. Instead I had 20 and was scrambling to make space for the chairs (luckily between ours and the ones Kyle gave us when he moved, we now have 18 dining room chairs!). I think it turned out really well for a number of reasons. One of our main goals was to make sure it was worth coming back to, as we intend to repeat the meeting every Wednesday night. With that in mind, we insisted that people pray very short prayers (one sentence) at a time so that it didn't turn out long and boring. We also insisted on starting at 7 (Peruvian time: 7:30) and ending at 8 (exactly, American time).
I think some of those boundaries made a difference for people who aren't used to being around "religious folks." I was happy to see that there were quite a few in that category. A good chunk of our Alpha group came (and stayed to chat when everyone else had gone) and also Don F! I gave him an invitation yesterday but was still pleasantly shocked when he was the first one in the door. The town social worker, who helps us with our charity cases but is openly not interested in our spiritual teaching, showed up as well. It's my prayer that some of the new folks will have a chance to experience both Christian Community and God through these meetings. We'll see.