Tonight we had dinner with a handful of other SAM families, and midway through dinner, as we were all cracking up about Todd's latest entrepreneurial scheme, I realized that I was genuinely enjoying myself.
The reason that was such a surprise has to do with our year in Puerto Supe. There are good things I could say about it, but one of my major struggles was that I felt so fake. It seemed like every time I left my house, I was putting on a happy face-- pretending to enjoy people's company, laugh at their jokes, delight in their stories. I was unhappy and so sick of pretending otherwise.
The comparison is striking and leaves me deeply grateful for what we have here. To sit down for dinner with 8 friends and be genuine, genuinely happy but also free to be sad or scared or frustrated. It's a freedom I cherish and hope I don't take for granted too soon.
It's funny how often Tim ends up talking to people about God, because it's really not a topic he would choose to bring up himself. He feels inadequate I think (although I don't think he is inadequate), and sometimes I wonder if that's not exactly what makes people approach him. They feel reassured by the fact that he's not aggressively pursuing the conversation.
Maybe some of you remember the taxi driver who had a life-changing moment driving through Lima. Or our druggie neighbor who wanted to be a missionary like Tim. Then there was the carpenter who, after finding out that he could have a relationship with God through Jesus, wanted to go tell everyone he knew about the news! Sometimes these are friends; other times they're just people curious about the tall blonde guy.
I don't think our neighbors are curious about the tall blonde guy (many of them are German, after all), but some seem to be curious about God and want to talk. A lot of Tim's approach to these conversations comes from Alpha-- listening, not refuting everything he might disagree with, encouraging reflection, building a relational bridge that can bear the weight of the gospel. The bottom line is that Tim likes our neighbors and wants to be friends with them, and I know that sincerity is evident.
Please pray for our relationships with our neighbors, and especially some of the conversations Tim is having. I'm convinced that when people start asking questions about God, it's because God is drawing them to Himself. We'd love to be a part of that process.
I submitted the three photos of Ellie to the contest today, and Tim submitted "Footsie," "Pink Hoodie," and "Bedtime Story" for Taza. I had fun keeping up with the poll and seeing what everyone thought. Thanks for participating! I'll let you know if any of the photos are winners.
I took Taza and Ellie to the vet this morning, Ellie for a check-up on some funny spots and Taza for a bath and haircut. The first person we talked to thought Ellie was a lab. Not very confidence-inspiring. When the actual vet came, she didn't seem to have a clue what was wrong with Ellie and then told us she is overweight. Tim thinks its possible; I think she just doesn't know what a mastiff looks like. Those rolls on the floor when Ellie was lying down aren't fat-- they're loose skin.
Anyway, when Taza was finally ready 5 hours later (normally it takes an hour or two), I picked her up. From the beginning, it was obvious that they didn't follow my instructions and give her a short "jungle cut," but on the way home, I realized that they hadn't cut her hair at all. Just a bath. Sigh.
At this point a year ago, I probably would have turned around and gone back, demanding they fix my problem either by cutting her hair or refunding my money. I didn't do either. What I've learned about customer service in Peru is that it's different (that's special lingo from my cross-cultural training). And by different I mean non-existent. Sometimes they argue with me. Sometimes they ignore me. Generally it doesn't work out well for me.
So I went home. Next time I'll go somewhere else. I'm not miffed. This is just the way things go. I'm finally learning to let it go.
*Note: I think this only works for me when I haven't spent a lot of money. For a $10 bath, I'll move on. When I pay enough money that I think I should be getting good customer service, I'm still a pill. Room to grow.
Yesterday afternoon we had our first and very successful neighborhood parillada (BBQ)! We have a great group of neighbors and definitely enjoyed their company. In attendance were two other American SAM missionaries, an IMB missionary family from Rock Hill of all places, a German couple, a German/Chilean couple and their precious twins, and a German/Peruvian couple with their two cuties. I love hearing all these kids speak German!
We're hoping that this is the first of others. In addition to good company, the pot luck sides were tasty! We've always wanted to be able to share more of our lives with the people living closest to us, and I think gatherings like this will definitely open doors. Tim and one of our German neighbors are getting together to play chess this afternoon.
By the way, it's kind of interesting how much affinity we feel with some of these neighbors. I think there's something about all being foreigners in a world that isn't our own. And in all fairness, part of it might come from having a similar education and being from wealthier circles (pretty much any foreigner is wealthy in Peru). As far as shared experiences go, Tim ended up talking to one guy yesterday about walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. We did just a few days years ago, but this neighbor has walked the whole thing.
What a cutie, huh? We love having these two as neighbors. Hearing their giggles and shrieks makes my day.
Last night we got together with three other SAM families to make sushi! There is definitely no sushi bar in Pucallpa (although tons in Lima) so the food was a real treat. Even more sparkling was the company. As Tim reflected this morning, "I just like those people." Having a community of friends is still novel and awesome (although we'd like them even if it weren't!).
The first highlight of the night was probably watching N, my little Peruvian student, eating her PB&J with chopsticks. She is a picky eater and brought her lunchbox to dinner, but she didn't want to miss out on the fun.
The second highlight (well, the first really) was hearing about the national motocross race (racing motorcycles on a bumpy track) that took place in Pucallpa yesterday. As I've mentioned before, one of our missionaries is a former motocross superstar, and he and others have a ministry called Motociclistas Por Cristo that reaches out to other racers.
The MXC ministry was fully present at the national race yesterday with a free medical station, free mechanics station, and definitely free evangelism station. I haven't heard how the medicine and mechanics went, but apparently the evangelism was explosive. Church leaders from Mil Palmeras (mostly relatively new believers) talked to interested people about life and faith in Jesus, and 49 people decided that it was for them! We're not a Billy Graham crusade here, so that's pretty remarkable!
What I love most about all this is that sharing our faith in Christ isn't so that we can build bigger churches or convince others to be good. It's about passing on what we love and deem valuable, like telling others about our favorite restaurants but so much better and so much more important.
Tim and I are hoping to go to the second day of the race today and see all of this in action. We'll report back if we make it!
My first poll! Do any of these photos look like winners to you?
Tim's going to submit three of Taza, and I'm going to submit three of Ellie for the Pampered Puppy photo contest. After all, we think they're the cutest things around. I had three clear choices for Ellie, but I just can't figure out which of Taza to submit. What do you think?
Last night was the second of 10 Alpha sessions. The topic for the talk was "Why did Jesus have to die?" The good news is that lots of new people came, some Sunday church-goers but even more folks who haven't darkened the door of an evangelical church before. "Evangelical," by the way, is everything that isn't Catholic. And actually, they all are pretty much evangelical. You almost never see mainline Protestant denominations here.
Anyway, the bad news is that the awkwardness was excruciating. This has generally been true in our experience, that the first three nights of Alpha are awkward. Part of it is Peruvian culture. It seems that it's more acceptable to sit silently eating your food and staring at the floor than it is to ask the person next to you what their name is.
During the discussion time, the leader of our particular group seemed not to have grasped the jist of what Alpha group time is all about. He did a lot of instruction and for talked as though everyone in the group had the same beliefs and experiences he had, despite the fact that the majority of our group was new to the church and Alpha last night. His questions were awkward, and he seemed to answer them all himself, in an awkward way of course.
I will admit that part of this awkwardness was me. I cringe during awkward scenes in movies. Last night it was all I could do to stay in my chair and not run away. I'd love to have the inner stability to accept all this, but I'm just not there yet.
More good news? God is bigger than any awkwardness and can definitely work in spite of it. I'm counting on that!
Mayonnaise in salad may be the potluck classic, but somehow I missed out on it growing up (along with soda, chips, and prepackaged cookies). Actually, I avoided mayo at all costs until it found its way into my favor somehow in the last year.
I've moved away from green salads in Peru because lettuce is such a pill to wash and dry. Lucky for me, there are millions of more-delicious lettuce-free salads out there! Here are two mayonnaise dressing salads that I am loving these days, plus two other lettuce-free (fruit) salads.
1. Carrot-raisin salad I tried this recipe but thought it was too bland, so I added ingredients until it tasted good. My variation is basically a couple of cups of shredded carrot, a handful of chopped raisins (I only like them in small bits), a chopped green apple, 1/4 to 1/2 c chopped toasted almonds, "enough" mayonnaise, a spoonful of honey, copious pepper, and juice from one or two limes. Tasty.
2. Broccoli salad This is one of the tastiest things I've eaten in a while, and I'm pretty sure it's the bacon! The one problem with this guy is that the dressing is a little runny. I'll manage. Make sure not to overcook the broccoli.
3. Chili-lime fruit salad Fresh fruit has become a major part of my diet here, and while plain usually works just fine, sometimes it's nice to spice it up a little. I've done mayo-yogurt dressing before with great success, but I was looking for something new recently. This chili-lime "dressing" is delicious, and it gives the salad just enough tang to be a serious part of the meal and not just fruit on the side.
Yesterday we had this salad with orange, mango, and peach (very orange!) but I accidently put WAY too much cayenne on it. Tim was dying. Today we had it with mango, strawberry, grapes, and just the slightest hint of spice. Perfect.
4. Watermelon salad We eat so much watermelon here that I had to find a way to make it grown-up for special occasions. This is a surprising and fun alternative to plain. The mint leaves are pretty, but I don't think they're necessary.
Tim and I just finished up the first of two mini-units we will be teaching for the SAM Academy high school Bible class. The theme for the year is marriage and relationships, and our first week addressed the differences between men and women. It has been fun partnering with Tim to teach, and the kids made class discussion plenty interesting. One of the big surprises for us was that 2 of the kids (Swiss and German) speak good but not amazing English. "Lingerie," for example, was a word that needed some explanation :-)
On Wednesday we start our second mini-unit on how the media portrays and influences values. This is a topic that I'm particularly interested in, and I'm curious to hear their insights. Next week we're planning on watching an episode of 30 Rock together to evaluate its messages. Tim and I picked a random episode to preview, and boy, it sure does have messages. I think I forgot what TV is like.
In other school news, my Spanish class has gotten very very small. At least a third of the school has had the flu in the last week, and today I only had one student, my new German girl. It was good to be able to work one-on-one with her and to see a little more of what she knows and doesn't. It's also fun to teach her because even though she doesn't understand Spanish all that well, she understands less English, so I stick to Spanish and let her have the immersion experience.
Speaking of language learning.... In the absence of movie theaters, NoDa gallery crawls, city festivals, and other date-ish material, Tim and I have decided to learn French in our free time. We have been working with some decent Podcasts, and I think we have a chance of actually getting somewhere! Fortunately we have a few people to practice with here, including our French hairdresser. Now I'm dreaming of a trip to Paris in 2011!
I took a clue from the dogs this afternoon and stripped down for a nap on the concrete floor. It really was the only decent option, and made the hottest hours of the afternoon pass by quickly. In the Age of the Internet, we don't have the same quality stories as missionaries did just one generation ago, but I'm putting this one on my list.
In case you're wondering about those stories, let me just tell you one as a point of comparison. My neighbor Rachael grew up as a missionary kid in Brazil. Her family came in from the jungle every quarter to do their shopping and pick up mail. Since their freezer couldn't hold enough meat for the entire quarter, some of the meat they ate in the meantime was from her dad's hunting escapades. One time they ate taper. She says it was slimy.
Then there was the time Cesar tied a visiting missionary onto the roof of a train so that he could make it the entire trip (12 hours? 20? I can't remember.) without falling off. He would need to sleep after all, but he had to get back to the city for an emergency asap. Or the time Cesar had to give his pet ocelot to the zoo because all his cats were "disappearing." Really Cesar could write a book with all his stories.
Olga and I were supposed to teach a second workshop this morning on sexuality and abortion, but when we showed up at the school, they told us there was some other event in the auditorium and we'd have to reschedule. I don't think either of us was particularly surprised or bothered. Maybe next week.
I learned two things this morning that give me a clearer sense of urgency and value with regard to this ministry.
First, Olga told me that one of the girls in the class of 11- and 12-year-olds we taught last week is a client of the Latidos de Esperanza (Heartbeats of Hope) Prenatal Center. After she was abused and impregnated by an uncle, the family took her to an illegal abortion clinic hidden in a motel. She's recently been in counseling at Latidos about all that she's been through.
Take a look at these kids in their sweet school uniforms. They're young and need our protection. We can't be in their homes or choose their friends, but we can talk frankly about sexuality, choices and self-respect. I hope it will give some the courage to speak out and stand up for themselves. There is a training conference in Lima in November for people working with this far-too-prevalent issue. I would like to be able to attend.
Second, I found out that one of the girls in the high school class we were going to teach today was found in a similar motel abortion clinic this weekend. I didn't get the whole story, but I know that she and her boyfriend had sought out the abortion without the families' knowledge. I think the police were involved in a sting. Abortion here is illegal, after all.
How much information did she have about sex before she wound up pregnant and in this sketchy "clinic"? How much information did she have about abortion and some of the alternatives? I hope we can give our workshop to her class soon and give these kids the information they need to make healthy, responsible choices.
In the meantime, I'm asking the Lord to soften my heart and give me a love for these kids and this ministry. I know in my head that it's important, and I think I can do a good job with it. Nonetheless, I want it to go past my head to my heart, to become work that I long for and love to do.
Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Philippians 4:8, the Message
I'm reading Linda Dillow's surprising and thought-provoking book Calm My Anxious Heart, which is so far about contentment, not anxiety (good, because I left all my anxiety behind in Puerto Supe). It's from there that all these rumblings of my heart are coming. I'm trying to read the book slowly (not my specialty) and answer the questions for each chapter. This week had a particularly good activity.
Write lists of the positive and negative aspects of the circumstances God has allowed in your life at this time.
awesome dogs (I can hear Eliana right now singing her "Awesome dogs!" song....)
financial security, great supporters, living where things are cheap
priceless relationships with friends and family
warm community here and in the US
the luxuries of the internet, email, and Skype
an opportunity to travel South America
Tim and I both working from/at home (surprisingly not something I love)
doing dishes without a dishwasher and laundry/ironing without a dryer
constant heat and humidity
never-ending house cleaning
living in a dirty environment (the town more than my house!)
constant harrassment in public
missing family, friends and stuff available in the US
Which list do I dwell on most?
Actually I think I dwell on the first list more, partly because of the stark contrast between life in Puerto Supe and life in Pucallpa. Perhaps I'm still in a honeymoon phase of sorts. I'm certainly feeling "tickled" (as David would say) by the joys of my new life in the jungle.
Nonetheless, there are a couple of things on that second list that I dwell on individually more than anything on the first list probably-- heat and housework. And is dwelling on them doing me any good? Not so much.
Here goes week 2 of the Great Contentment Challenge, retraining my brain to focus on list 1 and not list 2, to "forget" heat and housework (while not fleeing from them!) and remember to "count my blessings" instead.
I wrote one week ago about imitating the "prescription for contentment" of a missionary in Africa. The greatest challenge for me was to stop complaining, even (and especially) about the weather. I've been practicing these past 7 days with limited success but great joy.
It's not always easy to stay cheery with sweat literally dripping off my body. It's darn hot here. As Tim and I talked about this issue in more depth, I realized that no matter what the weather in your city is, most people spend a lot of time complaining about it. I'll have weather to complain about my whole life, not just this short year in the jungle.
Perhaps this year will be the hardest in terms of weather, especially since we don't have the luxury of air conditioning. Will I spend the next seven months whining about the heat? It almost never changes, so it would give me a steady and predictable topic of conversation.
On the other hand, maybe this season could be a chance to learn contentment. After all, I've got a daily opportunity to practice. Will I waste it? Waste this sweltering heat on whining when I could be using it to learn joy? I need a new motto: Don't waste your pain.
I love that Paul says in Philippians 4:11, "I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances." Is it possible that even a whiner like me could learn this lesson? We'll see. As I sit still in this classroom of contentment, I'm turning to a new part of the lesson, the alternative to weather-whining. Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Philippians 4:8, the Message
For years I've had a sensitive left ear, and have learned to avoid water at all costs, or else spend a couple days not being able to hear. About a couple of months ago I started having another missionary give me swimming lessons and tried to be really careful about using earplugs and what-not to avoid the inevitable.
But alas, while in Mazamari, water finally entered into my ear. At first it wasn't a problem but for over a week now I've had liquid running out of my ear, walked around in a daze and asked Hannah to repeat everything she's said (she's been a good sport about it and we kinda see it as good practice for old age).
Despite my avoid-doctors-at-all-cost attitude and pure fear of the Peruvian medical system, I went to an ear, nose and throat specialist last night. After ten minutes of vacuuming out my ear canal, he looked in and kept repeating feo, feo, feo...(ugly or probably nasty would be a better translation). So it looks like I have a very large hole in my left eardrum (about 1/4 of the eardrum) and it's currently infected.
The doctor said due to the size of the hole, it must have been there for a long time. I've suspected I've had this problem (although not quite so severe), but considering I've never had a doctor notice it, I haven't worried about it. In order to correct it, in need a tympanoplasty, which is a skin graft onto the eardrum.
It turns out that the time of the discovery couldn't have been better. Every year a short-term ear, nose, and throat team comes to Pucallpa with SAM to do surgeries (they bring doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, etc). This year they'll becoming the first week of November which gives just enough time for the infection to clear up in order to have the surgery. I've already been put on the list for a surgery, and it looks like it will be free with the exception of some minor lab work I'll have to have done at the hospital here (I suspect it will cost $30-$50).
Here's an "article" I just wrote for our staff website about an inspiring woman who is retiring this year from SAM. I hope to use my life as well as she has used/ is using hers.
Hudson Taylor once said, “If I had 1,000 lives, I’d give them all for China”. Herta Plett has mirrored his commitment with her own life given in faithful service to God in Peru. Last night the missionaries on the Peru field gathered to celebrate her 43 years of ministry and to honor her on the occasion of her retirement from South America Mission. Craig Gahagan recounted her exploits and accomplishments in Tournavista, Pucallpa, and Iquitos, and many of her colleagues—both current and retired– shared stories of her dear friendship and lasting influence in their lives.
Herta began her missionary career in 1966 in Tournavista with the Mennonite Brethren. When they reassigned her four years later, she applied to South America Mission so that she could return to Peru. She taught at SAM Academy in both Tournavista and upon its relocation to Pucallpa.
In her own words, the Lord kept opening new doors of opportunity for her to serve, and she was soon spearheading a campaign to offer evangelical religion classes in local public schools as an alternative to the required Catholic religious education. Herta continued this ministry in Iquitos, where she trained evangelical Christians to serve as government-paid teachers in the public schools.
Having empowered national believers for the teaching ministry, Herta turned her own focus to church planting and leadership development on the rivers around Iquitos.
As Herta “retires” to live with her sister in Canada, she has no intentions of slowing down. As she announced last night, “When I’m busy, I’m happy.” She hopes to volunteer at a nursing home in Canada, and looks forward to sharing her faith with the elderly residents (“older than me,” she says, with 73 years of wisdom under her belt). She has already connected with a Spanish-speaking church and a Filipino church, where she intends to encourage new missionary endeavors. With her passion for the Lord and for missions, she has set her heart on recruiting a fresh generation of missionaries.
Herta’s legacy of faithful service is an encouragement and challenge to us all as we seek to honor God in our lives with similar perseverance, enthusiasm, and love. Please lift her up in prayer as she embarks on a new era in her life and leaves behind a remarkable life of ministry in Peru.
A few month's ago I spoke with some SAM missionaries in Bolivia, the Masseys and the Kienzles, about running an Alpha course in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I didn't hear anything for a while and suddenly they called and told me they had ordered everything and were about to begin it.
Tonight is the Alpha invitation night in Santa Cruz at 7:30pm eastern time. I just spoke with the missionaries and two of their helpers, Laura and Walter, were robbed out gunpoint while they were handing out invitations. Fortunately no one was harmed, just some cell phones and a little of money was lost. Please pray for the leaders and helpers, that God would continue to guide and protect them through this process and that he would use them to lead people in a relationship with him. Also pray that people would come, be excited about the course and enter into a new relationship with Christ.
This Thursday will be the first normal week of Alpha in Pucallpa. Please pray for all of the logistics involved, that the setup, food and TV will work. Also pray that more people would come and the leaders and helpers would be friendly, inviting and welcoming to everyone who shows up.
If you don't know what I'm talking about and would like to read some of our old posts about Alpha, click here. Also you can check out the Alpha website, www.alphausa.org.
Since watching this big black bug drag the hairy spider across my porch this morning, I've learned some interesting things. My neighbor thinks the black bug is a tarantula hawk wasp and the spider is a tarantula. I'm inclined to believe that identification after reading about them both, although my wasp didn't have the brown-orange wings that seem to identify tarantula hawk wasps. Check out this gruesome but fascinating description from Wikipedia:
[The female tarantula hawks] capture, sting, and paralyze the spider, then they either drag the spider back into her own burrow or transport their prey to a specially prepared nest where a single egg is laid on the spider’s body, and the entrance is covered. The wasp larva, upon hatching, begins to suck the juices from the still-living spider. After the larva grows a bit, it plunges into the spider's body and feeds voraciously, avoiding vital organs for as long as possible to keep it fresh.
An unfortunate side story is that something happened to Ellie this morning that left her whining, limping, and out of sorts for a while. Since it happened right before we saw the tarantula hawk and spider, I suspected that the bugs might have something to do with it. I am definitely more convinced after reading this description of the tarantula hawk's sting, also from Wikipedia.
The sting, particularly of Pepsis formosa, is among the most painful of any insect, but the intense pain only lasts for 3 minutes. Commenting on his own experience, one researcher described the pain as "…immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one's ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations." In terms of scale, the wasp's sting is rated near the top of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, second only to that of the bullet ant and is described by Schmidt as "blinding, fierce [and] shockingly electric".
I have rarely seen a more beautiful morning than this one. We're in the midst of a cold front here in the jungle! Yesterday we were in long sleeves and long pants and still a little chilly. We had to put a blanket on our bed last night, and the fans are definitely not in operation. A welcome relief after a week with the hottest nights we've experienced yet. Whew!
While yesterday was rainy and almost cold, this morning dawned sunny and fresh. Tim and I did our morning coffee-and-Bible-reading routine out on the porch and luh-huved every moment of it. These rocking chairs are rocking my world. Couldn't be happier.
The fact that this is my third post today should be an indication of how busy I've been (well, not busy enough not to blog, but busy enough to have plenty to report). The Alianza Rosales church just had their invitation night for the first Alpha Course in Pucallpa! We had some tasty tamales and chicha (purple corn drink) and then watched the intro video, Christianity: Boring, False, and Irrelevant?
I think it went over pretty well, although we were a little disappointed in the number of new faces. There were maybe 10 people there who weren't course leaders. Six of them had come to the church for the first time ever. I hope they had a good time and will come back next week! We're encouraging everyone to continue inviting new people as well.
This morning Olga and I taught a workshop on sexuality at a local public school. We had about 60 kids ages 11 and 12. I was very nervous for some reason, but it turned out much better than my fears warranted.
Olga talked about the Crisis Pregnancy Center that she is starting, Latidos de Esperanza (Heartbeats of Hope) and gave a comprehensive explanation of pregnancy, abortion, and its consequences-- physical, emotional, and spiritual. I talked about teenage sexuality, the risks of pregnancy and STDs, and the option of sexual abstinence until marriage.
The kids seemed very receptive, and the director of the school invited us back to teach two other workshops in the next two months. Now that I feel more comfortable with the idea, I hope I can put a little more heart into this presentation and perhaps some of my own story. I'm glad to have a chance to tell these kids that there is another option to the one the culture is suggesting and to encourage them in that direction.
Last night I returned from my 5 day adventure in the high jungles of Peru. Although the town itself resembled pretty much any other small town in Perú, the area was quite beautiful. Below you'll find a few photos of the area and I'll try to post some additional ones of the Bible institute in the coming days.
Thanks to SAMAir, our trip to Mazamari took only 1 1/2 hours rather than 2 days!
Mazamari is also home to a Paratrooper training base. Shortly after arriving, 3 military helicopters landed. I talked with one of pilots about giving us a brief ride. Although it's possible, the guy I needed to speak with was on vacation till Thursday, so I was told to come back then. I also found out we can take military planes from Pucallpa to Lima. I can't wait to try it out.
The "pet store" of Satipo, the largest town in the area about 45 minutes from Mazamari.
Monkeys carved from coconuts.
Indian women washing their clothes in the River.
A typical house in Mazamari.
We did a quick flyover of Mazamari upon leaving. The town was surrounded by some beautiful mountains and apparently during the rainy season there are waterfalls everywhere.
Yesterday I read a "prescription for contentment" from a woman who served God among African pygmies for 52 years:
Never allow yourself to complain about anything-- not even the weather.
Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.
Never compare your lot with another's.
Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.
Never dwell on tomorrow-- remember that [tomorrow] is God's, not ours.
My first thoughts were admiration. Imagine never complaining about the weather! This woman had to bring her thermometer inside some days because it couldn't go past 120 F without breaking. And I thought it was hot here!!
Then I remembered what I read in 1 Thessalonians 1 just hours before, a reminder about the role of imitation in a life of faith. Paul writes, "You became imitators of us and of the Lord.... And you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia." Yes, we are called to be examples, but also to follow examples.
I had been on the look-out all day for things to imitate in others, but the real bang came with this short list. I just wanted to enjoy the story, but I know God calls me to more than that. Have I grown stagnant in my pursuit of holiness? Here's a remedy for sure!
I imagine it's also a remedy for stagnation in the pursuit of happiness. I can't change the heat, but I know I can change my attitude about it. Surely changing my attitude will bring more joy and peace to my day. As Paul wrote in another letter, "Godliness with contentment is great gain."
Too good to be true, except that it was true. I threw a cup or so of chocolate milk, a handful of frozen banana chunks, and a tablespoon of peanut butter in the blender this morning. Out came something remarkably like a chocolate milkshake-- plus potassium and protein! Thanks to Mark Bittman's recent NY Times column "Exploring Peanut Butter's Potential."
"Just make a chocolate milkshake if that's what you want," you think. A good idea, except that my little freezer is too full of frozen chicken feet (dog food) and big bags of nuts (from Lima) to fit much else. Plus, I don't think chocolate ice cream would last long in my house, and somehow this morning's "smoothie" felt a little more legit than a milkshake (probably just my imagination).
Smoothies have been a refreshingly cold daily snack since we got here, so the blender stays close by. My usual recipe is 4 frozen strawberries, 1 apple banana, a large splash of OJ, some amount of plain yogurt, and a teaspoon or so of raw sugar (or syrup if I have it). Standard. This new chocolate goodness will be an excellent addition to the repertoire, although it decidedly more like dessert that it's fruity cousin.
All my blender concoctions are made more accessible by the convenience of milk here. Right now I have four kinds of milk in my refrigerator. None take up much space, although none compare in taste to the jug of skim milk you bought at Harris Teeter either. Milk here comes in cans and boxes, both stored on the shelf at the grocery store, unrefrigerated (along with the eggs!) until opened. Canned milk normally needs to be diluted, although I keep it concentrated to add to coffee. For drinking, I go with boxed milk. In addition to my new chocolate milk, I've got skim for cereal or drinking and whole for cooking. Since it's sold in small containers (1 liter) and doesn't go bad so quickly, that's a reasonable endeavor.
I'm all ready to chill out with my new rocking chairs! They're made of rebarb and plastic, but boy are they comfy. You can actually buy these much prettier wooden ones for half the cost, but after doing a sit-test on the rocking chairs, I wasn't willing to forfeit the comfort factor.
Anyway, I just finished reading Olive Kitteridge, but the dogs and I have some lazy afternoons planned with other reading material and at least some cold watermelon juice (for me, not them). My potential book list includes Till We Have Faces, Truman, The Things They Carried, and A Tale of Two Cities. I won't get those all read before Tim gets home on Tuesday, but I'm excited to dive into them anyway.
They made it! Dave Powell, Dave Speyers, and Tim are now safely in Mazamari.
Originally Tim and Dave P had planned to fly to Lima and take group taxis all the way inland to Mazamari, which would have entailed 2 days of travel each way. Thanks to Dave Speyers for offering to fly them straight to Mazamari, and in particular his willingness to stay with them through their time there! Dave S's generosity thus cut the cost of the flight in half and made it affordable to do the traveling via SAMAir. Their travel time instantly went from 4 days to 2 hours.
While they are in Mazamari, they guys will be checking in on the Ashaninka Bible Institute, which serves pastors and church leaders from the Ashaninka tribe (50,000 people in the jungle regions of Peru). Last year the Ashaninka Bible Institute couldn't operate due to lack of funds, but with generous contributions from some American donors, they're up and running this year with an extra-large class (20?). The students contribute by paying for their transportation to the school (sometimes days or weeks on the river) and a small fee.
I'm a little lonesome here at home but so glad that Tim has the chance to go visit Mazamari-- a new area of the world to explore and an exciting ministry to witness. I can't wait to see the photos and hear the stories! I told him to take notes for a future blog post :-)