After about 2 years, I thought I'd finally make some changes to the appearance of our blog. Unfortunately, there may still be some kinks in the template I'm using but hopefully they'll be fixed soon. So bear with us if something seems out of place.
If you're interested in going beyond the standard templates as well, check out http://btemplates.com/. Some of them may be a bit complicated to use, but they're fun to play around with all the same.
This week's homework for our discipleship course involves taking a spiritual gifts test. As we tried to explain how to read each question and then put 0-3 in the appropriate box, we realized that people weren't understanding the directions at all. We scheduled a separate night (last night) to help people with the test.
It's funny how different things are here. We read all 112 questions out loud, rephrased each one, and gave examples. I was filling out the form for my illiterate friend, and for each question, I had to repeat the "definitions" for numbers 0-3. People still had a fair amount of trouble with the test, and it was pretty exhausting. The first half took 1.5 hrs. We kind of rushed through the second half-- maybe 45 min.
I read recently that spiritual gifts tests can be inaccurate because a mature follower of Christ shows strengths in areas that aren't necessarily his or her gifting. I think we ended up on the other side-- these less mature (but earnest!) followers of Christ don't yet show strengths in the areas that I expect could be their gifting.
Most people landed on the same three gifts-- faith, mercy, and intercession. I think it's because those questions were easier. Maybe also strong cultural values or at least values of this particular subculture.
So what does it mean if this spiritual gifts test didn't yield accurate results? I don't mind so much. The goal of this exercise was to encourage people to start serving God and others. This week in our discipleship course we're going to talk about how to exercise these gifts. As they do that, I think they'll begin to see where they're stronger and weaker. Regardless, they'll have a chance to practice obedience to God in service. I know they will be blessed in the process.
I knit a sweater! Who knew it could be so easy? I intentionally knit it for a 4 yr old I know and not for myself so that it would go more quickly, but I am now inspired to try grown-up sizes some time in the near future. Today was cool and crisp, but with yummy sweaters on the way, I'm a little less scared of the coming winter.
Most of the pain in my life over the past year and a half has been from culture shock, not digestive problems. It comes and goes, manifesting itself in all different ways and different strengths. In the past couple of months, I have been acutely sensitive about sound.
We live in a world of concrete, and every noise made echoes through the streets like a cannon shot. Add to that the very close proximity of the houses (they're all connected), the total absence of anything green to absorb the sound, the lack of insulation in the construction, and the difference in the way people view privacy and "noise violations" (no such thing here).... It's a nightmare in the making.
The last three days I've woken up to music I would have expected to come from a vitrola, very nice but not when I'm sleeping.
I generally go to sleep to babies crying or exceptionally loud music (which at least drowns out the babies).
Everyone in town loves to sit on the stoop outside our living room (6 feet from our couch) and carry on in loud voices. It's getting to the point that I can't sit in my own living room, and I'm pretty sure it would be culturally inappropriate to ask them to leave.
There's the banging of construction, my neighbors yelling all day in the street, vendors hawking their brooms and bread, the volleyball game in front of my house, my housekeeper baby-talking and oogling my dogs all day.
Tim thinks the music (which can come very loudly at any hour of the day or night) can't possibly be that people enjoy it that loud. Inside their houses, it's got to be at least as loud as you would hear at a club. He thinks it's related to showing that you can afford enormous speakers.
I know this sounds silly and fairly trite. Let me just say that you most likely don't have the imagination to picture how noisy it is around here!
This is a new problem. Why? Was I less sensitive before? Did people stay inside more when it was colder (and not sit on my stoop)? Did people hang out at the beach more when it was warmer? Do they feel more comfortable around us now and less careful not to bother us?
I don't know. What I know is that a few times this blasted noise has reduced me to tears and nearly daily it has me whining to some degree. I miss peace and quiet. Pray that God would give me wisdom, peace, and love.
PS- The phone bill is now paid (without the hour bus ride!) and we have a phone line again. Still waiting on the internet.
1. Take the bus 1 hr to the "local" phone company office.
2. Take a taxi to the town next door and pay at the bank. They'll transfer your payment for free.
3. Do it all online from your house with the bank's online billpay.
The problem is that to use the online features at our Peruvian bank right now, you need to have a new USB key thing. We have tried half a dozen times to acquire said USB key. The last time we tried, we were informed that the bank is out of the things nation-wide and more are being ordered from the US. Meanwhile it's been at least a month since we've been able to use online bill-pay.
The other problem is that when we went to the bank recently, they couldn't find any record that we owed the phone company money. No bill to pay.
That was apparently an error, because our phone and internet were cut off yesterday. Suprise! Tim is off to the town next door to try the bank method again. If that doesn't work, he'll hop on the bus to go to the phone company's office. Oh boy.
I'm glad Grace and Cesar have wireless internet and are willing to share it with me, but I'm still putting off longer emails for a few days I think. If you need me, send me an email and be patient. We have no phone access (home or skype) until this gets resolved.
Do you know about the Flat Stanley Project? The girl I was a nanny for in 2003-2004 is now in first grade and just sent her Flat Stanley to us for a Peruvian vacation! We are excited about taking him to the market tomorrow. Here's his trip to the corner store.
My first successful non-rectangle knitting project! It was quick (a few hours) and so much easier than I ever dreamed. You can all be expecting hats for Christmas.
This is the Lifted Twill Hat from the Winter 2008 Interweave Knits magazine Marty sent me a while ago. A perfect fall (remember, I'm in another hemisphere) craft.
No normal task in Peru goes without a good story. Here's the one for this hat. I needed special double-pointed needles to finish it, which I've never bought before since I'm such a fan of rectangle knitting. There were no double-pointed needles in the market, so we bought regular ones, snapped them in half, and had the knife-sharpening guy (still in the market) whittle the broken-off ends. He did it with a grinding stone being spun by a leather belt and a bicycle wheel. I now have 4 size 11 double-pointed needles and am remembering (again) that I really ought never to leave the house without a camera.
"Homework Hour" was so outlandish today that I was just itching to get home and tell you about it....
1. Two of the four of us chose verse 6 of Psalm 5 as their favorite verse: "You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors." What?!
2. For the second time today (first from my housekeeper), I heard that if you're bad, you suffer. Bad people's children end up pregnant outside of wedlock, or bad people suffer more pain when they're dying. Both times today, an example was given where someone was mean to a dog and then God punished them. I was told that one woman had to go ask forgiveness from the dog so that she could get relief from her suffering. I disagreed with their theory, but they weren't interested.
3. Yesterday Friend #4 didn't want to pray aloud for the assigned person. Today she volunteered to pray and explained that it was because today's assigned person deserved to be prayed for (in contrast to yesterday's). I told her I thought that if she couldn't pray for the daily assigned person, she should use her prayer time to pray that God would give her more love and understanding.
4. One woman said it was okay to pray silently. Another argued against her with gusto. The first said she meant that some mornings she wakes up with a sore throat and can't talk, so she prays silently. I kept silent myself.
5. After this explanation, everyone agreed that the woman with the sore throat needed to go to the doctor (which she said she had). Friend #4 said it was definitely her thyroids. The "sick" woman reported that the doctor had said it was not thyroids. Friend #4 is insistent: it's thyroids. I'm always amazed at the bizarre perspective on medicine here-- it's clear that they're familiar with the home remedy world and think that scientific medicine is no different. It's all about intuition.
Another exciting afternoon in Puerto Supe. And it's only 4:02.
The first day I went to my illiterate friend's house to do our homework together, another woman also showed up. I didn't mention it in my last post, but there have been three of us gathering every day at 3. My initial thought was that since the third woman also knows how to read, I was unnecessary. Nonetheless, since I had committed to come every day this week, I'm sticking with it. I'm glad.
Yesterday a fourth woman showed up! She wanted to do the homework together, too. I was nearly speechless. Friend #4 is a very quiet woman who participated in our first Alpha Course and has been hanging around the fringes since then. She's inconsistent about attending our meetings, and I have heard her speaking negatively before about the the two women who I've been doing this homework with. You can imagine, then, why I was pretty shocked to see her walk in the door at 3!
Our homework hour went super well, and it was Friend #4 who left me the most encouraged. I've seen her move from mostly uninterested in God to curious about God to excited about God and now I think to committed to God. It's thrilling also to see her love for God transform the way she interacts with other people, these two women in particular. I think her judgment has given way to love, or at least something like it.
"Homework hour" is turning out to be a lot like most of the things that are going on in my ministry these days. Leading up to them, I'm filled with an odd sense of dread. I'd rather just bake cookies and watch movies. When I get there, it's a whole new story. Being with people and loving on them have become the deepest joys of my days and weeks. And remembering what a liar my dread was about the previous event helps me to combat it for the coming one.
One of the changes we're pushing in this second level of our discipleship course is homework. It's pretty minimal, but it involves a daily Bible reading, praying for the members of your small group, and a few reflection exercises on the previous lesson. We're hopeful that the extra investment will reap extra growth.
A problem: one of the members of my small group is illiterate. We talked about this is in our group last week. I explained the metaphor of the church family as a body, that each part of the body helps and supports the others. I suggested that each person dedicate a week to helping the woman with her homework. They responded well (so far) and I think it's going to work!
I volunteered for this first week and have been going by her house to read the Bible with her every day after lunch. While the homework takes 10 minutes (read a psalm, pick out your favorite verse, pray for your friend), you can't visit someone for 10 minutes in Puerto Supe. I stay for about an hour and then excuse myself.
Home visits are definitely not my strength, but this week (and this season), I sense that it is my calling. It's been a powerful blessing as well. There's something that feels so right about sitting with this woman, listening to her tell the stories of her life, responding to her questions, being together. I'm grateful for the experience.
It's 10:16 and feels like at least 1 am. What a day! Our friends John and Heather Chapman, along with their 3 month old, 2.5 yr old, and 4 yr old kids, arrived just in time for lunch. We had a full afternoon and a full house. The two dogs (Ellie at 120? lbs) and the visiting cat certainly added to the craziness.
After dinner we ran down to the Comunidad for the kick-off night of Level 2 of our discipleship course, Nueva Vida en Cristo. Attendance and enthusiasm were both high. The lesson tonight was more complex and meaningful for me than some of the basic lessons of Level 1, and I'm excited to see the growth I think it will facilitate for our participants.
I was also pleased to see more sincerity and vulnerability from the women in my small group . Sometimes when we get to questions like, "What things are displacing God in your life?" they want to give the "right" answer and say that they don't have any weaknesses. Tonight I saw them open up and share a little more about how work, family, TV, etc. can become "idols" in their lives.
It started with Ellie barking from 3 to 6 am one morning last weekend. Then a cookie left out on the counter and nibbled. We set mouse traps, but only to find our bribes stolen and no captured mice.
Grace and Cesar have loaned us their cat for the job. Ellie is nervous and excited. The cat hissed at her. Taza is giving the cat the silent treatment and acting like she could care less. I'm not sure yet how this is going to work out.
Tim just recounted to me a conversation with a friend (from earlier tonight) that leaves me jolted, uncomfortable, disturbed on a deep level. Why do these things affect me so much? Not sure, but I sense my sleep tonight-- if and when I get there-- will not be peaceful.
It was the guy with the verse in the window again. As Tim talked to him about that particular verse in fact, it came out that the guy believes that every time you sin, you are cut off from God until you confess that sin. If you die with any unconfessed sin, you will spend eternity away from God.
The discussion left Tim baffled and sent him studying. I, on the other hand, am just shaken and very very sad. I'm too tired right now (and discouraged... and sad...) to write all the reasons I 1) disagree with this guy and 2) think this is a significant, foundational, gospel-undermining problem. If you're curious, ask me another day.
For all you apologetics types, I'm sure Tim can handle this question on his own but equally sure he would be happy to receive help. Leave a comment or send us an email.
As I write, I'm smiling to the lyrics of a new-to-me hymn playing on my iTunes:
Tim is making profiles for all the SAM ministries in Peru. Here's a sweet photo he got for the missionary kid school in Pucallpa. So 80s in a vintage, classic way! Just loved the picture and wanted to share it :-)
We're in Lima for one night, partly to pick up my passport with its new visa stamp and partly to hang out with our friend David before he leaves for 4 months in the US. We went out to the most amazing restaurant (La Bodega de la Trattoria)-- a casual sister to our former favorite restaurant (La Trattoria di Mambrino), now deposed as king.
Anyway, the highlight of the night wasn't the food; it was the friend. As I look backwards and forwards, I see God is surrounding us with connection-- Jeff Orcutt and then my mom and brother visiting in December, the Listros visiting in January, my dad coming in February, JJ and Amber coming up to Puerto for a weekend in February, hanging out with them and the Chapmans when we were in seminary, SAM conference in March, seeing David before his furlough, and the Chapmans coming for an extended Easter weekend.
Loneliness is one of our greatest battles here, but these last few months I feel like we've been winning. I'm glad the Cubases are back in Puerto Supe, for one. I'm grateful also to our friends for giving their time and energy to visit us (or at least let us visit them!) but even more to God, who I am convinced is orchestrating this all. I know we can't do this alone. He does too.
From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:16
I picked up a big box of books from the post office today-- almost all marriage books we ordered from Amazon three weeks ago. Tim and I are devoting the next how-ever-many-months-it-takes to reading books and listening to tapes and watching videos on marriage, discussing what we learn, and putting good principles into practice in our lives.
I mentioned Saturday that we've already started by listening to Rescue Your Love Life downloaded from iTunes. I also got a sneaky start on my own with Boundaries in Marriage (a perennial favorite) and Intimate Allies (borrowed from Grace). The rest we're keeping to read/listen to/watch together.
Mostly read. The "listening to" included two recent sermons from the Trial series at Mars Hill Church in Seattle: "Men and Marriage" and "Women and Marriage." The "watching" is the 5-part video series for Love and Respect, again gratefully to-be-borrowed from Grace.
What you really need to know is that Simple Secrets of a Great Marriage is the cutest darn book I've ever seen. I think you should buy it for the next person who's getting married.
I love routine. My routine seems to change every month or two, but that feels good, too.
Every morning (recently at least) I get up around 7 to spend my first hour of the morning with God, reading the Bible, praying, and just being with Him. After that I take the dogs for a walk and pick up my groceries for the day-- a couple of vegetables, bread from the lady with a cart on the corner, sometimes flour, sugar or rice. If Tim is up, he takes one of those two jobs (groceries or dogs).
At 9, my housekeeper arrives and Tim and I sit down with breakfast (coffee and fresh bread with smashed avocado and salt) to read the Bible together and right now, to listen to an audiobook on marriage: Rescue Your Love Life by Cloud & Townsend. It's my favorite part of the day-- a quiet refuge before I dive into fixing lunch, doing errands, or preparing materials for work.
Tim is generally wary of routine (something about the responsibility it requires I think). January 1, nonetheless, he joined me for the first day of my Bible-in-a-year reading and has quietly slipped into the pattern. I think he's glad. For 2009, we're reading from the Message version, at least for this half hour in the morning.
I'm grateful today for these steady and full blessings-- fresh bread, cheap avocados, time to read the Bible together, a husband who loves me and loves God. Things are not always easy down here, but they're generally good.
Did you know that people here don't sing "Feliz Cumpleaños"? They sing our English version, but with their own accent so that it comes out "Hoppy Bethday." There's a round going on across the street right now.
Half an hour ago I had a disturbing encounter with this same birthday party. On my way out the door with the dogs for an evening walk, I earned some unwanted attention from a pack of 10 year olds (?) hanging over the 2nd floor porch of the house.
They were practicing their English on me. It started with "Hi! How are youuuu?" and within seconds progressed to derogatory and lewd language that I wouldn't repeat, much less post on my blog. Thanks, TV. I had no idea what to do. How do you confront a pack of giggly children (out of arm's reach, nonetheless) in a meaningful way?
I find it disturbing that I can be made vulnerable and victim so instantly. It's a vulnerability of gender (you may disagree) and probably aggravated by some of the unfortunate twists in my own history. A much more serious and complex topic than I will dare attempt tonight or here, but let me just say that I hate the way that I am mistreated by (some) men and boys here. The words, the looks, the noises, the gestures, the rare but terrifying touch. Enough time on this thought. I'm starting to feel sick.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."
Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:1-3
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses enturst to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Timothy 2:2
I've spent much of the last two weeks praying about my desire to mentor women in Puerto Supe and asking God for direction about how to flesh that out. It's funny how much the idea has changed during that time. I'm grateful for the way God has reshaped "my plan" and I hope it now reflects "His plan" more closely.
With some nervousness, I finally went to visit a friend today and invite her into the adventure. Remember the one who had the verse in her window? She wasn't my initial idea for a fun mentoree, but through that situation and others, I have felt God leading me to talk to her about the possibility of an apprenticeship-type relationship where she can grow deeper in her relationship with God and be equipped with the tools and know-how she needs to start leading and serving here.
I told her I thought it was time for the cheerleaders in our church to be game players, to get into the action, and that I thought she was a great candidate for that. We talked about the end goal-- that she would be equipped and mobilized to be a leader of leaders and that she would be part of generations of new life. We talked about the process some and the expectations on both ends. I left her to think about it, pray about it, talk to her husband about it, and get back to me later.
It's funny that it took a year here to have this conversation since this has been my plan since I first dreamed of coming to Peru. Today it feels right, and I'm glad I didn't rush it. I'm happy too for the step I took today and hopeful about putting this kind of ministry into action here, whether it be with this friend or another one. My job is the offering; God's job is the outcome. He does His job perfectly every time.
This is now my second batch of bagels since Monday. I'm still working out a few of the kinks but they're tasty! My first batch were huge, about 6 inches in diameter, so I made these half the size. What kind are they do you ask? plain, onion, chocolate chip and cinnamon-raisin.
They're actually not that hard to make, I just run into a few problems getting the water to boil and the oven won't cook hot enough...you learn to live with it.
Creativity in cooking is a real low point around here (in my opinion). They have their recipes and they don't alter them ever. If you add carrot to fried rice, it's no longer fried rice. It needs a new name.
The problem is that all the dishes have meat, and the families can't always afford to buy it. It sounds to me that the result is rice and a fried egg for lunch every once in a while. Being a vegetarian cook, I can tell you that there are a lot of other meatless options out there. Last week my neighbor told me she'd like to know what I make.
My housekeeper and I are jointly working on four meatless, inexpensive recipes that might fly with our neighbors. I'm choosing and typing up the recipes in Spanish. She's cooking them and telling me if they're worth distributing. My ideas for now are
Grace's Lentil Chili
Mexican Beans (the bean part of vegetarian tamale pie-- no ovens so they can't make it "right")
Garlicky Black-Eyed Peas and Greens
Sweet Potato Pancakes (like latkes, not breakfast)
I'm laughing to myself imagining how this will look. I would serve Sweet Potato Pancakes with a tasty fruit smoothie and a mango avocado salad. They'll serve it with rice and brothy soup. To each his own.
If it works, I hope this endeavor will give my friends some new options when they have less than 2 dollars to prepare a lunch (their main meal) for 6 people. We'll see.
We just got home from a short (24 hrs) trip to Lima. Ellie definitely gave me a look as I left. The whole purpose was to 1) pick up my new (renewed) passport at the Embassy and 2) drop it off at the paper-pushers who will get my Peruvian visa stamp transfered to the new one.
an overnight in Lima
8 hours in buses
3 hours in taxis
We ended up getting to see Gran Torino with the Schmidts last night and eat pizza dinner with them and the Brinkerhoffs (all SAM missionaries who also happened to be in town for paperwork). It made the trip delightful instead of dreadful. God knows what we need. I'm so grateful for the little points of connection and blessing that He puts in our lives.