Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Colombia: Week One

We have been living in Cali, Colombia for exactly a week now. Living together. For the first time. I am typing this in the living room of our apartment while Ethan, Isaiah, and Lucas are playing with cars on the floor. Aric is napping on the couch, and Jaci is clearing Hadasa's stuff off the table. I'm wondering if maybe I stepped back in time twenty years.

I'm calling this "humidity chic."
Junior, Jaci, and Hadasa are the newest members of our family. Junior and Jaci are our pastoral couple. They are the spiritual mentors of our team and the bold leaders of our new church. Although the rest of us will be moving back to our own homes in 2017, Junior and Jaci are committed to pastoring our new church in Cordoba for at least four years. Their daughter, Hadasa, is 5 years old and gets along great with our little Bidwell boys. Back in Quito, Lucas's favorite imaginary game was baking pancakes. Hadasa and I were playing restaurant one evening and I asked what her favorite food was. Pancakes. Go figure.

Junior and Jaci are from Brazil, so they bring a third language and culture to our apartment. Since they have lived in Argentina for the past seven years, their Spanish is very strong, but Portuguese is their first language. I'm fairly convinced Jaci is secretly a fairy godmother because she looks great in purple eye shadow and smiles and sings ALL the time. They are perfect.

Our apartment in Colombia is perfect as well because we are all together. Rachel, Ashley, Celeste, Damaris, and I get to share a room that is always full of laughter and clothes. In Cordoba, we will have a whole house to live in, and the pastors will have their own house. This is our crucible moment, and so far we are melding together very well.
Here are the numbers of our living situation:
16 people (12 adults and 4 kids under the age of 7)
4 bedrooms
3 1/2 bathrooms
9 bunkbeds
6 fans
15 waterbottles
20 bibles
innumerable hot wheel cars
0 air conditioning, hot water, or Internet

Tour of our apartment, I was distracted by my coffee and forget to point out the boys' room on the right at the end of the hallway.

Our responsibility here in Cali is to learn as much as we can about the Master's Plan. We usually wake up between 5 and 5:30 for personal devotional time and exercise. Our team devotional is at 7 and breakfast is at 8. Our hosts here are the Cork family. They live about a block away and furnish all our food, laundry, and Internet needs. Classes are 9:30-12:30 and lunch at 1. Homework in the afternoon and services/meetings/trainings at the church after dinner.

Everyone eating at the Cork's house
The "church" is the House of Prayer Church of the Nazarene. With 14,000 members, it is the largest Nazarene church in the world. It started in 1983 as a church of 38 people. Thirty-eight every week for eight years. Pastor Adalberto was at a loss, so he started praying. He got up at 4:00am to pray every day. Eventually, his wife joined him, then some members of the church. Once a week, they prayed for the church from 8:00am to noon. Prayer became their priority, and the church began to grow. By 2003, they had a membership of 1,000 people. In the past 12 years, that number has been multiplied by 14. They have a very organized structure of discipleship known as the Master's Plan. The pastor and his wife each have 12 disciples. Each disciple has 12 disciples who have 12 disciples. You can probably think of many benefits to this structure. One that I hadn't realized until this week was the effect this has on the pastor. Pastor Adalberto is now 60 years old. He has been pastoring the same church for over 30 years, and now preaches six sermons every Sunday. And he's not burned out because he is really only pastoring 12 men. Everyone else is being guided, encouraged, and taught by someone else in the church.

Damaris and me
I got the brunt of the confetti
at the forgiveness celebration
The beginning of this process is an event called An Encounter. It is an intense weekend of classes on what it means to have a relationship with God. We got to go to an Encounter for women last weekend. It was incredible to watch new Christians soak in the truth of God and His will for their lives. It was also a joy to see their passion and commitment. They have to take two classes before and five classes after their Encounter weekend. This sets them up to take a course on discipleship and eventually be ready to lead their own House of Prayer (small group Bible study with their own disciples). There were about 110 women attending this Encounter. Most of them had been attending the church for less than 3 years.

Me, Ashley, Krista, and Rachel
Krista is our nurse. She and her husband are training with us in Cali

We will use the Master's Plan to start our church in Cordoba. A huge part of our responsibility as missionaries will be leading Encounter weekends and Houses of Prayer. Please pray with us that we and our disciples will have the same joy and commitment as Pastor Adalberto and the women of the Encounter. Pray that we will be people of prayer who earnestly desire the gifts and the will of God.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Jungle that's not a Jungle, a Soup that's not a Soup, and a Family that's not a Family

A week and a half ago, several of us visited a town called Mindo for the weekend. Mindo is a gorgeous town surrounded and infiltrated by a jungle that's not a jungle. Many of the trees have leaves spanning at least two feet across and flowers of various shades of yellow and red. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and lizards are everywhere. While we were there, it constantly rained this soft kind of rain that draws people to it rather than sending them indoors. It's the jungle. Unless you live there. Ecuadorians consider it a forest. Our best guess is they want to differentiate this section of the country (the sierra) from the jungle region. Two months ago, we actually went to the Ecuadorian "jungle." It did not look as jungly as Mindo. And yet, this jungle of Mindo is not a jungle. But it's definitely a jungle.

Kensley, Matias, me, Ashley, and Rachel (Aric took the picture)
When we arrived on Saturday, we were hoping the hotel would have an extra bed because we brought six people for only five reservations. They were booked solid, but they offered us a house a couple blocks away at a discounted price. The hotel manager was very apologetic because this meant we had to walk to the hotel for breakfast and activities. A perfect three bedroom house with balconies and big windows within walking distance of the hotel and downtown? We were heartbroken. We dropped our bags, grabbed a quick lunch, and went out to find some waterfalls. Our taxi was the back of a pick-up truck and a cable car above a deep canyon. We hiked up and down hills, over bridges, and through the rain to four different waterfalls. Everything was gorgeous. Later in the afternoon a couple of us toured a chocolate factory. We learned all about the 25 day process from tree to candy bar. The second best part was seeing that they use a giant marble slab to cool the chocolate, just like my brother, dad, and grandma. The best part was tasting the pure, bitter chocolate with different spices and syrups. Actually the best part was the brownies. 

Sunday morning, the rest of our group went horseback riding through the mountains (and the rain). I volunteered to watch the house and listen to the rain instead. There's nothing quite as relaxing as reading in a wooden house when it's raining. Of course, reading on the ledge of a balcony in the jungle is pretty great too. When they returned, we grabbed another quick lunch, and Matias and I headed back into the jungle for some zip lining. After some brief safety instructions in Spanish, we flew above the trees into the jungle. Our group included tourists from Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, and Germany. We took about ten different lines of varying heights and lengths. On a couple, we were far enough from the trees to go with a guide who helped us ride upside down or on our stomachs. It was pretty hot, but I favored heat over bug bites. Even with bug spray, shoes with holes was a poor choice. The bites were well worth the experience. We got back to the house just in time to grab our bags and run to the bus.

On the morning of Good Friday, we canceled class but got up early anyway to make a soup that's not a soup. It's called fanesca. It's a traditional Good Friday dish made with 12 different types of beans (representing the twelve disciples) and fish (representing Jesus) and pumpkin, hard-boiled egg, fried dough, cheese, empanadas, and fried plantains (representing nothing). It ends up being a very thick chowder eaten from a bowl with a spoon. A soup. Unless you are Ecuadorian, in which case it is certainly not soup. Kind of like chili. Except not because chili obviously is not soup where fanesca obviously is.
So, there are two types of beans that need to be peeled before they go in the fanesca. Two out of twelve. Not too much. Unfortunately, we were making fanesca for the entire seminary. And the community church. Seven of us peeled beans for an hour and did not finish. At that point, we gave up, threw on some sunscreen (well, I put on sunscreen) and went to the parade. The parade of men walking barefoot carrying crosses (some large, some small, some of cactus, and some wrapped in barbed wire) up a hill to the church as penance for their sins. It was delightful. Afterward, we returned to the seminary for the finished fanesca. It was delicious. It was creamy and earthy and you could hardly taste the fish.

This third thing actually happened the weekend we were in Mindo, but I saved it for last for illustration's sake. Last week, we had to send a team member home. She was hurting the team and unwilling to change, so we had to send her home. During the past three months, our team has become a family. We know the sounds of each other's laughs, and, especially now, the sounds of each other's cries. We know how to make each other smile and how to drive each other crazy. We eat together, play together, learn together, and pray together. Sending someone away was extremely difficult because we are a family who will be starting a church, and families and churches should never send people away. However, we are a family that's not a family. We look like a family and feel like a family, but we are a team. A team with a purpose. Our purpose is to make disciples to the glory of God. We must be a unified force for our church and our disciples. This means we cannot be a family. As strange as it sounds, this has not stopped us from being a family. In fact, it has made us more humble, vulnerable, and compassionate with each other. Our purpose and desire has been clarified: we are here together to serve God's will for the people of Cordoba, Argentina. We can laugh and tease, but we cannot tear down. We can work hard, but we cannot stand alone. I am incredibly privileged to lean on, lift up, and learn from this wonderful family that God has given me.
Our team leaders Aric and Kimberly

Their oldest boys Ethan and Isaiah
me, Lucas, and Juan
Damaris and Celeste

me Ashley, Matias, and Rachel

Dani, Rachel, Ashley, and me