Announcing a new photo blog! Not a replacement for this but an addition, which will give me a chance to explore photography with my super photogenic, patient doggies and give people who aren't interested in them a chance to read more (here) about mission and culture and less about dogs.
I've been publishing daily photos of Taza and Ellie at sitstaysmile.wordpress.com for two weeks now. You can see the past posts under Archives and see new ones daily (or that's my plan) on the main page.
Tonight we met with two students from the local university who are leaders in a small (8-10 members) Christian group that meets weekly on campus. Their purpose is both to strengthen believers and reach out to spiritual seekers. It was exciting to see their heart for their peers and consider how we might be able to support them. Tomorrow afternoon we're attending their meeting and will get to see what all this is about.
This particular meeting is another piece in a gigantic and growing puzzle of what we're doing here. The uncertainty is especially trying for Tim. Please pray that God would encourage us, guide us, and strengthen us in this pursuit.
Tim just called from town. He's on his way home from another meeting with a local pastor. We (well, mostly he) have had a handful of these recently, and they've been surprisingly positive.
I say "surprisingly" because we really aren't confident social butterflies, and taking strangers out for ice cream is not our strong point. Yesterday after church, we both felt like slipping out the back. Instead, we ended up going out for Chinese food with the pastor, his daughter, and another prominent church member. Besides being super excited about our ideas for university ministry, they had tons of great contacts for us! It was a delight.
When Tim called just now, I was in the middle of praying for his meeting and asking God that He send some encouragement Tim's way. Instant answer! Tim says the guy he met with this afternoon was really interested in the Alpha Course and maybe wants to use it in lieu of his Wednesday night service. That's exciting to us because we love Alpha and are convinced that more Alpha means more people coming to understand the news of God's amazing love for them.
I'm sure this week will hold more meetings, and I hope they will be filled with other bits of light and encouragement. We're plodding along, learning a lot, and trying to remember in all of this that God's will is good, pleasing and perfect.
3. Sun-dried tomatoes. Maybe it does get easier, because this one took just about no work. I quartered ten roma tomatoes and left them in the oven on the lowest setting all night long. They came out deeeelish! Some people say to add salt and pepper, oil, or herbs. I didn't do a thing, but I can imagine those would be good too.
4. Almond Tart, also from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I realized after making this that it's a copy of the should-be-more-famous Tarta de Santiago sold in Santiago de Campostella, Spain. We sampled it when we visited several years ago. I love almonds!! Bittman says this would work with any nut. I'm looking forward to trying it with peanuts (dirt cheap), a chocolate tart crust, and chocolate drizzled on top.
Nut Tart Crust (look up basic instructions on making crusts if you don't know how): 3/4 c flour 1/2 c ground almond (food processor or blender) 2 T sugar 1/2 t salt 10 T cold butter 1 egg yolk
Filling: 6 eggs and 1 c sugar, beaten together until thick and light in color 1 1/2 c ground almond 1 c chopped almond 1/2 t cinnamon 1 t grated lemon zest powdered sugar for dusting
We need your prayers. Certainly there are a lot of things we need prayer for-- a healthy marriage, fervor for God, perseverance in our work, safety, making friends-- but in particular I'm asking this evening that you pray for us to find the "right" church.
The clock is ticking and we have about 9 months left until our planned return to the US next April. We're not here to build a ministry that revolves around us and needs our continued presence; we're here to equip and mobilize Peruvian leaders to reach out to others. In particular, we're interested in passing on our passion for the Alpha Course and whatever wisdom and resources we have related to university ministry.
Our strategy for achieving that end is to identify and partner with a solid, enthusiastic church that cares about people currently disconnected from a life of faith.
We've visited 4 churches in Pucallpa so far and are planning to visit 4 or so more. Would you pray that God would lead us to the "right" church for us? We're not looking for the "best," the biggest, the loudest, or the brightest (necessarily). We want to find a church where we can connect with people and contribute in a meaningful way, a church where we could comfortably invite others (and particularly college students), and a church that could partner with us to birth new ministries.
We've committed to choosing a church home before the beginning of September. Until then, we really can't move forward in our work here. Please pray for this super-important, foundational step in our journey here in Pucallpa. Thanks in advance! We'll keep you posted.
One part of our new job has to do with providing support for and getting the word out about existing South America Mission ministries. Here's an article Tim and I wrote together recently about some pretty awesome work going on in Brazil. Thought you might be interested and encouraged....
It’s said of gospel ministry that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Craig and Mary Delille are showing how much they care about at-risk families in Recife, Brazil and earning the right to speak truth into their lives. In 2 ½ years they have built homes for 24 families, and they’re busy planning the next 6 homes that they hope to complete before the end of the year.
The Delilles have been working in Recife since 2004 and joined SAM in 2008. Their home-building projects are just part of the larger holistic ministry utilizing a youth center, food bank and recording studio as well. In October 2006, the Delilles built their first home in response to the specific need of a family of 7 connected to their existing ministry. In the process they uncovered a hidden community of people living in sub-human conditions and determined to expand their ministry to address these high-risk situations for the sake of Christ.
Through prayer and careful research, the Delilles choose home recipients who most need the help, people living in houses that are unlikely to survive the next rainy season and are literally crumbling down around them. With funding from US supporters, they buy the materials needed and hire 3 Brazilian laborers who also value this ministry. Each home costs around $3,000 to build. The construction takes from 3 weeks to 3 months, depending on weather and access to materials.
Upon completion of each project, the family receives the keys, a Bible, and a prayer. The home is entirely free to the family. Further spiritual support is offered by those involved in the various ministries in Recife. Because of their presence and ministry in the community, the Delilles see and speak to most of the families on a regular basis. Many receive other support from the local food bank and soup kitchen. Some participate in worship services, and others have opened their homes for weekly Bible studies.
With plans and funding to continue building homes at least through 2010, the Delilles aren’t stopping for a breath in their race to reach physically and spiritually needy people with the love of Jesus. In their own words,
Meeting the physical needs of hurting people is a very real way to express God’s love…. When you go out of your way to reach out to a forgotten community and provide for their needs with no strings attached, you stir their curiosity to know what it is (or Who) that would motivate someone to invest their time and money in them. It is from this perspective that we develop very real relationships with the people and earn the right to speak to them about our faith, what it has done in our lives, and what it can do in theirs. They begin to want to know more about this God who could motivate someone from so far away to “give up” everything and follow Him.
If you would like to learn more about their ministry, you can contact Craig and Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org. To contribute to this ministry, please contact Sarah Kerns, Donor Relations for South America Mission, at email@example.com.
It's early early morning, still dark, and I'm wide awake for some unknown reason. The chorus of roosters perhaps? Not sure. Taza is sitting on my lap as I write and the first signs of color are painting the horizon.
I'm just checking in, really, because there's not much to report. Tim has been busy on the computer-- researching university ministries in Latin America, designing a new logo for a local Bible institute, and doing bits and pieces on the SAM staff website.
To be honest, most of my time recently has gone into cooking, cleaning and laundry. All of those things take immeasurably longer here, but each has its own little delights. I'm throwing around ideas about how I can contribute here apart from the university ministry (which doesn't have much for me in this stage). The options still basically boil down to the Crisis Pregnancy Center and SAM Academy, but I'm in the waiting room on both.
As I make my way back into some form of normalcy, I'm finding a host of feelings bubbling below the surface that I didn't have the strength to deal with before. I don't want to spend my life analyzing myself, but I know I need to address some of this, too. Please pray for balance, wisdom, and grace.
Six AM exactly and light is flooding through the place. I'm off with the doggies.
This afternoon we visited a friend from Puerto Supe who is about to complete one year in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center here in Pucallpa. Seeing him today-- healthy, happy, and sober-- made me remember that our God is a miracle-worker. The center is run by a SAM missionary who has been in Peru for ages and is making a huge difference in the lives of addicts and alcoholics.
In addition to seeing our friend, I also got to see enough animals to qualify as a petting zoo! There were turkeys, ducks, and goats roaming around plus some very chunky pigs in pens. Somewhere on the property they were hiding over 1000 chickens, which they raise to generate income. I think we could probably drop off our dogs someday without much notice-- Taza looks just like the baby goats and Ellie resembles the pigs.
The SAM pilots have had some problems with the network in their office recently, so Tim volunteered to go look at it today. We left at 7 am to trek out to Cashibo, the SAM Air base where the pilots and mechanics (and their families) live and work. As it turned out, Tim says the network problem was mostly solved by turning the router off and on again, but it was an interesting day nonetheless.
While Tim was playing with computers, I hung out with Laura (babysitting the K kids) and visited Stephanie. Stephanie is one of the women who is starting the new Crisis Pregnancy Center and she threw out a couple of ways I might be able to help out there. By the end of the day, I also got to take a quick ride in the float plane!
Tim ended up chatting with one of the Peruvian airplane people, who has two children in the local public university. He was extra enthusiastic about our proposed work with university students and wanted to get together (with his kids) to talk about it. The three of them came over this evening. It was a good opportunity to ask questions about the university culture here.
Now we're eating birthday cake and watching West Wing episodes, exhausted but glad to be busy.
Thanks for all the birthday wishes on Facebook and in my email inbox!
I'm 28 today, which didn't seem weird until it occurred to me that I graduated from high school TEN YEARS ago. Impossible! Tim fixed me the most delicious birthday lunch ever (with a little help on the menu selection). I couldn't think of one way to improve it. Next time you want to treat someone-- and without a lot of work I might add-- try this.
We met with our boss on Friday to discuss what we'll be doing here and specifically in the next few weeks. Our July goals are:
Begin researching existing university ministries with experience in Latin America (like maybe Campus Crusade or something).
Identify existing ministries in Pucallpa geared toward university students (we think there's one that's sort of a club for Christians-- different than what we're hoping to do).
Explore options for teaching or taking a class at a local university.
Continue SAM staff website maintenance.
Find out if any of the Pucallpa ministries want help with designing websites or print materials.
Visit a new church every Sunday (scouting out a permanent church for our time here).
Explore options for involvement at the SAM missionary kid school, either special projects or teaching.
Explore options for involvement at the new Crisis Pregnancy Center (and sign up for the upcoming counselor training).
Meet with pastors to gauge their interest in establishing a university ministry at their church and/or running the Alpha Course as part of their outreach.
Stay healthy-- physically, spiritually, emotionally (really, that's on our list).
Those are a lot of items, but it's actually a reasonable list of things to do before the end of the month. We're excited about having such clear expectations!
On Sunday we visited a church called Divino Redentor and Tim scheduled meetings with the pastor and the youth pastor (youth meaning under 35). It's been kind of fun for me to watch him get his "work clothes" on and go be serious.
In the meantime, we're trying to wrap up all our home improvement projects so that we can be 100% focused on our work here and not on buying shelves and hanging curtains.
I wish I could also insert my new favorite sound, which accompanied us along the way: wind in the trees. I didn't realize until yesterday that I hadn't heard it in who knows how long. No trees in the desert really. Last night I just had to close my eyes and soak it in. Lovely.
1. Taza went bolting through the grass in a yet unknown area of our complex and accidently ended up swimming in a lily pond. Somehow she managed to scramble out of there. Wish I had a video of the moment she realized that the grass ended and the pond began (but couldn't stop her forward momentum). Yes, this is her third water crisis, following a pool dive at age 10 weeks and the giant wave and rocks last December.
2. This guy is cutting the grass of our whole complex (large) with a weed-eater and making quite a racket. So much for peace and quiet. As he got closer to our house, we had to put in ear plugs. Remember that we live in a glorified gazebo. The ear plugs certainly didn't block out the sound, but now it's more like the neighbors are using a weed-eater and I'm inside an insulated, glassed-in house.
3. We finally made it out this morning to look at a table and chairs (no space for the 12-seater we had in Puerto). The chairs were the real problem, all astonishingly uncomfortable here. Someone needs to tell the carpenters that two flat surfaces at 90 degrees are not the best option.
We happened to find 2 folding wooden chairs that looked better than the rest and were decently comfortable on top of that. We've ordered 6 (the other 2 were already sold) and are supposed to pick them up Friday. Tim offered the guy a tip if we actually can pick them up Friday. Unlikely. The table is being lacquered and we're picking it up this afternoon. We think.
The best neighbor prize definitely goes to Dave and Rachael. They live right across the street from us and are SAM missionaries. The first two days we were here, they fed us (and it was tasty). When our SAM prayer meeting on Wednesday was cancelled due to the strike (no one could get to the location), they invited us over for a 4-person prayer meeting at their house. Today Rachael took us shopping with her so that we could see all the best places in town.
Besides the fact that we just like them, Dave and Rachael are a fantastic resource for us. They have been missionaries since the year we were born and have lots to say about the job, Pucallpa, etc. I'm super grateful to have them across the way.
The laundry dries a lot slower here, no surprise. Just as in Puerto Supe, we need to iron the clothes (and sheets... and towels...) to keep them from being stiff and uncomfortable. That's a hot task in the jungle. We also seem to be going through clothes quicker because of the heat and sweat.
Today there is a strike and we're advised not to leave our community. We hear this is common for June and July. All kinds of groups organize and strike, and when the mototaxi drivers get involved, it can get violent. This morning they were patrolling the streets to slash the tires of anyone daring to defy the strike and leave home. Most stores are closed to avoid potential looting.
We are stocked up with all kinds of non-perishables and for today and probably tomorrow have enough veggies besides. I'm not worried, but I feel like I'm living in the wild, wild west for sure.
When they said "dry season," they didn't mean exactly what I was expecting. I think I've seen some form of rain every day since I've been here, and for the last hour, I've been surrounded by a deafening downpour.
One year in the desert leaves me loving everything about this (from inside my house at least).
Is it transition or am I just crabby? It seems like everything has gone wrong today. It started yesterday, actually, when we locked ourselves out of the house not once but two times. This morning the dogs' whining and my bug bites woke me up before it was light outside (something like 5:30 am I think).
I'm sure a few other things were off today, but the main problem was that the power went out at our house (but no one else's) while we were shopping this morning. As I may have mentioned before, it's hot here. Not having a fan all day was a real pain. Good thing we have neighbor friends and Tim could go plug our blender in for a second over there. We had another friend over for lunch and managed to proceed as normal (except for that blender).
I'm so tired of not knowing where anything is, and I'm tired of everything breaking. I don't want to live in a house where things are rigged to work in inventive ways. I miss my home in Charlotte today.
It seems like I've been fighting all day not to break down in tears or lash out in insults. I spend half an hour regaining my composure only to lose it again in 5 minutes. How many times have I been through that cycle today? At least 4. Am I going through culture shock all over again?
The power is back on after 7-8 hours. I'd better go start the laundry over again. It turned off in the middle of some cycle and has been sitting wet all day. Please pray that God would give me freedom from this irritability and doomsday disease.
A couple of days ago Tim came across this recipe for a tasty and refreshing non-alcoholic drink. Just what we need for our first week in the jungle! We made the lemon juice/ watermelon puree/ syrup part and are keeping it in a pitcher in the fridge. Then when we need a special treat, we can pour equal parts of that and sparkling water in a glass (so that the sparkle is fresh). So tasty.
The recipe (copied below) and photo come from one of Tim's favorite cooking blogs, Smitten Kitchen.
Makes enough to fill two glasses withice cubes; we quadrupled it to fill a pitcher. We already need more.
1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh-squeezed lemon juice 1/2 cup (4 ounces) fresh watermelon puree, strained through a coarse strainer to remove seeds 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) simple syrup* 3/4 cup (6 ounces) cold water
Stir it all together and serve over ice. Garnish it with a thin watermelon or lemon wedge, if you’re feeling fancy.
Spritzy variation: I have never met a beverage I didn’t think would taste better bubbly, thus, if you’re looking for a spritzier version of this, swap one-third (1/4 cup) or more of the water with seltzer or sparkling water.
Boozy variation: My husband thinks this would taste even better with a splash of vodka. I am not one to argue.
* Make your own simple syrup: Please. I see it sold in stores and it just boggles my mind. Simmer one part water with one part sugar (I did a cup of each and ended up with more than I needed for a quadruple batch) until sugar has dissolved. Let cool. Or, you can use my speedier method where you simmer one part sugar with half as much water and once it has dissolved, add the second half of the water, cold, which cools the mixture down faster (when you like nothing to slow your pace to the nearest mocktail).
We had a chance to connect with our neighbors yesterday, and yes, cheese was a significant topic of conversation.
It started with Taza running around the yard. Their two towhead 2-year-olds (twins) were thrilled and curious. We had learned in advance that this family was nervous about Ellie, so we jumped at the chance to introduce at least one of the dogs to them. Before long, Tim was asking them about the cheese they order from a local woman (also info we had gathered in advance) and they invited us in to try some.
The cheeses, by the way, were surprising both in quality and variety.
For the first time in a while, I'm feeling positive about the possibility of connecting with people here (in Peru). That's a significant step and one that gives me hope. I don't know if we'll get to be friends with these neighbors or not, but even the movement of my heart toward loving people for Christ's sake is a big deal to me.
While we are settling into our life here just fine, please continue to pray that God would open our hearts and eyes to the work He has here for us. I think we both feel a little burned (more than burned out even) and need some tenderness from Him.
These photos are leaving and entering our community (in that order).
Due to the tremendous hospitality of our neighbors, today was our first day preparing our own food. We took a mototaxi to the market, which was much smaller than I would have guessed. Glad I'm not claustrophobic. Here's what I learned today at the market and otherwise.
1. Things cost much more here. Some of the non-perishables like boxed milk cost only 10% more, but vegetables were more like 100%+ more. That's because they're all grown on the coast and arrive in Pucallpa on trucks. On my way to the Barranca market I used to pass by fields of asparagus, red peppers, squash, etc. You can even walk out to the fields to glean (legally) if you want after the harvest.
2. You need to wear sunglasses in a mototaxi. The dust is crazy! The mototaxis here (unlike on the coast) are open-air because of the heat. Dust and heat are both becoming major parts of my life. I'm sweeping at least as much here as I did in Puerto Supe (several times a day). The dogs' paws don't help.
3. Dogs aren't normally allowed in our gated community, and our landlady didn't know we were bringing two until we showed up. Good thing she likes Tim so much! Fortunately our scariest dog is also our sweetest. We're training her to go to her crate when someone comes to the door. Today (day 3 of training) she did it once on her own when I didn't lead her there and lock her in! I'm not sure if it was her genius or a lucky accident.
4. A papaya-banana shake is infinitely better with a little maple syrup. 2 apple bananas, 2/3 c papaya, 1 c fresh squeezed OJ, 1/4 c natural yogurt, 1/8 c maple syrup, a dash of cinnamon, and some ice cubes. Yum for 2!! I know that recipe isn't super easy at home, but maybe you can improvise.
5. My closest neighbors are a Chilean and German couple with 2 little blond kids. I'm hoping to strike up a conversation over cheese sometime soon.
Chicks for sale
I'm not sure if this is a shaman stand or a natural health place (and what the difference is). Can you spot the small dried alligator? The dried snakes?
Despite some scares with getting Ellie through the cargo process onto the plane, we arrived on time to Pucallpa yesterday at 11 am. Our SAM team has been incredibly sweet and welcoming-- helping us get moved in, feeding us, preparing a welcome basket, dropping off goodies, arranging for things we need. We are excited to be a part of this community. Our landlady (who has 6 names by the way) seems to have taken a particular liking to Tim and has been very helpful and enthusiastic as well.
It's hot but not as hot as I feared. Nighttime and dawn are lovely, and daytime is about 90. When I woke up in the middle of the night and sat on the couch to ponder life, I was a little cold actually. The main problem with that is that we don't have air conditioning, so we're moving a little slower than normal in the daytime.
Despite all the warnings we got about the house, we think it's charming! An open floor plan, a cozy space, and screened windows everywhere. I know my standards in housing have changed so I'll only mention that I no longer mind things like a concrete floor with much evidence of plumbing work underneath, barred windows evoking a jail cell, somewhat rustic bathrooms, etc.
We're living in a gated community with 16 homes and 1 10-room hotel. It's beautiful, very green, peaceful, and quiet. I'm pretty sure the dogs think we live at the park. It's possible that our good friend David from language school will be moving in 2 houses down when he comes back in August, which has us praying fervently that the current tenant will move. Another SAM family that we admire and enjoy lives right across the street. Hopefully we will get to know some of our other non-gringo neighbors soon, too.
Here are some interesting things we've seen in the last day:
one 4-ft long iguana
roosters (not that interesting to me, but Taza was fascinated)
rain on one side of the house only
a completely naked man walking through town (apparently crazy)
More to come. There is so much going on that I can really only process the superficial right now. Bear with us and pray for us!
A jungle view in all directions! It's hard to take photos in here because the light is so bright outside.
Our front porch and the garden beside our house
Ellie likes to look out the front door.
This is the other side of the living room. It's a pleasant view into the garden while dish-washing. Nothing fancy, but a definite step up from our kitchen in Puerto Supe.
PS- If you've ever been to summer camp, you might have an idea what this is like. Summer camp, minus the other 16 girls in my cabin, plus a job, more freedom, and a husband.
We'll be leaving the house at 6 am tomorrow and embarking on our next adventure. I'm sad to see this limbo stage over, actually. It's been strange but wonderful, 9 days of quietness, privacy, rest-- something like a vacation minus going out to eat or seeing new sights.
It was different being in Lima like this. All of our friends (only 2 families) have been out of town this entire trip, which means we haven't seen anyone we know since the day we left Puerto Supe. I guess that's part of what makes this so surreal; there's no one to share it with.
The transportation company called at 7:30 am to say that our furniture had arrived and they wanted to deliver it ASAP. When we told them we wouldn't be in Pucallpa until tomorrow, they were unhappy. Tim arranged for our landlady to be at the house to receive all the stuff, although we haven't paid for it yet and don't even know how much it will cost (really, not even a ballpark figure). It works out well for us since we'll have one less step to deal with tomorrow.
When I think about Pucallpa, my thoughts go to our home. Will it be sweet? Can we make this work? I know living in Pucallpa will be about much more than that, but I guess that's all I can process right now. Unpacking from a move is one of my specialties, actually, so tomorrow should be fun. With our furniture already there, I feel fairly certain we'll be completely unpacked by bedtime.
As I think about that moment-- going to bed in an unpacked house-- I already feel a sense of gratitude toward God. I'm really not one for transition, but this one has been much smoother than I ever imagined. I feel His strength filling in my weaknesses. I'm glad.