Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Prophecy and Maté

The missionaries: From top down: Dani, me, Rachel, Ashley
Celeste, Damaris, Juan
Well, while you are preparing for Halloween next week, Argentina is slowly slipping into spring. Celebrating Halloween is a big no-no in South American Christianity, so we North Americans have by-passed it completely and have been blasting the Christmas music all week. Some of us may be a little homesick. The Stringers, the pastors, Juan, Dani, and I will be here in Cordoba through the holiday season, so we have been discussing how to combine all our favorite traditions into the most epic American/Argentine/Brazilian Christmas ever. I’m sure it won’t compare with seeing the lights in Locomotive Park.

Juan, Dani, me

Unlike many missions organizations, Extreme Nazarene has a full time wellness team of counselors to help keep us going. Last week Sheli and Trevor came from Boise to do a two day team building seminar. It was fun and helpful. My favorite part was one exercise on the second day about speaking from the heart. We were first challenged to tell our partner what our heart would want to tell us if it could speak. Not our brain or spirit, but the part of us that is pure emotion, what would it say? What would it want me to know? My heart often gets neglected. I told my partner my heart probably would tell me to express its emotions more often, to love others better, to be led by my emotions more. It was a different and good way to think. Then things got weird. Sheli asked us to share with our partner what we thought their heart wanted them to know. ? My partner (Dani) and I looked at each other with disbelief. We have very different personalities and perspectives. How could we possibly know each other’s hearts better than our own? As Sheli described the expectation, we began to understand better that reading the heart of another has very little to do with us. What has God created in this person’s heart that they haven’t seen yet? God lives in this person’s heart, what does He want to say to them? It could be something very similar to prophecy. I looked at Dani again and heard God speak one word to me. Dani looked at me and I knew God was speaking to each of us. As we shared God’s message for each other, we were surprised at what God told us, but we were more surprised at what God told through us. We got to see each other with God’s eyes. Dani told me I have a very big heart and I have a lot of love for people. I still have a hard time being completely convinced of this, but Dani knows it’s true. We were able to understand each other better than we understand ourselves.

Practicing sharing and communicating well

This creating truth with words has been a theme. Jaci is an expert at it. Within minutes of meeting a new friend, she will call her “woman of God,” whether she is or not. It’s a training; you hear something often enough and you make it true. It’s creation; creating something new by speaking it. She does it often with me. She has been telling me for weeks that I am the source of creativity in our partnership. She’s told me enough now that I actually believe it. What’s more is I make it true because I am more willing to believe in the creative ideas God gives me. I have become the creative strategist Jaci told me I was. Parents and teachers have been using this technique for centuries, but do I use it with my friends? My disciples? Do I speak God’s truth into their lives? It’s more than encouragement. It’s seeing the potential and speaking it as truth. It’s creation God-style: speaking reality into existence. What a privilege!

Cultural extra: So we drink maté. It looks like drugs and it tastes terribly bitter, but we drink it and like it. Unlike tea that is steeped, the yerba plant is poured directly into a cup. The cup is then filled with hot water and drank through a special straw with a strainer at the end that (hypothetically) keeps the yerba grass parts out of your mouth. The straw is also special in that it is (hypothetically) germ resistant. Ok, that’s a lie we tell ourselves because maté is usually drunk in a large group where everyone drinks out of the same cup with the same straw. The maté master prepares the drink with fresh water and sugar (never enough) and passes it to someone in the circle. That person drinks all the water and hands it back to the preparer who refills the water and sugar and hands it to the next person. Yes, really. And all the time, anywhere. In the living room, in the park, in the street, at work, at church, morning, noon, and night. We drink maté.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Clamor

After growing up with brothers, since college I have lived with several different groups of wonderful women. A few months in to each new living situation, my mom gets a text along the lines of “These girls and their emotions are making a mess. I know I have the emotional range of a toaster, but really they just need to get their act together.” (Yes-she got one of these texts tonight.) This strange quality of being distant and cold hearted is also what makes me stable, strong, and persevering. I’m not driven by passing passions or bursts of emotion. When I get knocked down, I allow myself to be picked back up because at the end of the most horrible of days my hope rests in the all-powerful, eternally faithful God. Amen.

But most humans are not like me. The Old Testament describes the people of Israel crying out to God, raising a clamor to His ear. We sometimes have prayer sessions like this as a team. We all pray out loud at the same time. Some people cry or sing. I talk. I talk out loud, but I struggle to get impassioned. God’s hears what I say no matter how I say it, so why can’t we just have a nice chit chat? Nice, calm, logical. It is logical for me to have faith in God because He has proven Himself to be faithful. We’ve had some rough times already in Cordoba, but God obviously worked out a few miracles to get me here so I know He has a plan. He has big dreams for Cordoba. Someone once pointed out that if the Israelites hadn’t kept a record of their failures, we wouldn’t even have an Old Testament. We, the Cordoba team, have failures on our record. We have sin, rookie mistakes, and well planned attempts that simply bombed. After four months we are revising our revisions and still coming up empty handed.

I felt the full weight of this about a week ago. Beaten down, optimism waning, no change in sight. And then I felt it. Desperation. It feels like heaviness. It’s the feeling that accompanies the logical understanding that we can’t accomplish our goals without God. We can’t accomplish anything without God. Our goals or His. And I started to raise a clamor. I started to cry and plead. “God, do something! What we’re doing isn’t working.” There was no lightning or parting of waters, but that heaviness has stuck with me. I think I found an emotion. I don’t mind it.

English class
At the beginning of last week, Jaci and I set a goal for how many new people we wanted to meet and start talking to about God. And then the week started. Jaci ended up in extra meetings during the first part of the week, and then Hadassa got sick limiting our opportunities to go out into the city together. I tried to find ways to help or seek help from my teammates, but between our different meeting and class schedules, it just didn’t work out. Bible studies, English classes, discipleship classes, personal visits, church services all went really well, we just didn’t have much time to meet new people. However, when we got to the end of the week, we found we had more than surpassed our goal. In fact, after putting in fewer hours focused on making new contacts, we had one of our most fruitful weeks so far. Now doesn’t that sound just like God?

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. Psalm 127:1

Dinner with friends
This week we have scheduled some times to meet with these newest of friends, along with another goal of new people to meet. Please pray for these women: Fernanda, Eugenia, and Maru-a former Jehova’s Witness and her Catholic mother and friend who want her to find a “new spiritual walk,” Marta and Daniela-a mother and daughter in a large family with large needs, and Tamara, Magali, Daniela, and Natividad-young women searching for love, purpose, and success. Thank you for all your prayers for our team. We are really trying and really failing and really seeing God fight for these souls. Thank you for your faithfulness.

Our first men's group, but Javier wanted to bring his girlfriend
so Jaci and I went too and then we held hands in a picture.
Side note: Ashley, Jaci, and I were sitting in the church Friday afternoon waiting for some new furniture to be delivered (thank you Lewiston First!) when this woman walked in. She explained that she had been walking by when the Holy Spirit told her to come in and introduce herself. She is a member of the largest Christian church in Cordoba and she lives nearby. She had seen our sign one day from the bus and God had told her that this place was “a door to heaven” (not like a secret portal but more like a place that is full of God’s presence). She said she wanted to pray with us, but she kept getting distracted asking us questions and giving us advice. Eventually, she started to get a vision and interrupted herself by switching into a prayer. She thanked God for what He was revealing to her-that He is going to use our church in powerful ways. She slipped into tongues and then back into Spanish, “Que fuerte! Que fuerte!” (this vision is so strong) She thanked God again, blessed us, exchanged phone numbers, and left. It was an unusual but powerful and timely confirmation of what God has already told us: no matter how we feel, this project is going places because it is His project.

Bible study