Friday, December 18, 2015

White Butterflies

If work were a beach, teaching would be a beach covered with a million stones. You have nine months to move all the stones. Most of the time you feel like you’re behind schedule and the job will never be done. Starting a church is a beach with one stone that weighs a million pounds. We have two years to move the stone. We know that God called us to this task, so we go out everyday and pray for the stone. We look at it, walk around it, dream up and carry out ways to move it, push it, pull it, chip away a bit each day. And pray a lot. Teaching is harder because it’s labor intensive and constant. Being a missionary is harder because it’s just impossible. In my years of teaching I moved emotional and spiritual stones and built emotional and spiritual muscles: perseverance, faith, determination, hope, integrity, muscles that now help me chip away at the rock and, more than anything, stay on the beach. Because people have walked away. One of our teammates chose to leave the project in November. Losing teammates makes the labor harder, but it doesn’t make an impossible task any more or less impossible. Only God can move a million pound stone. God can move it with a breath, a wink, a thought.

Since Celeste left, Ashley and I are now work partners. Well, we were for a week. Then Damaris went home for vacation, so Ashley, Rachel, and I were all partners. Then Damaris came back. Then Ashley and Rachel went home for vacation, so Damaris and I are partners. This is why I haven’t written a blog in so long. Being without the North American girls has been excellent for my Spanish and horrible for my English. Please excuse any speling or gramer errors in this post.

Last week I lead Ashley’s house of prayer without her for the first time. Due to a cold, I had about a third of my voice and was tired, my brain fogged over by mucus and ceaseless coughing. And then two new women came to the house of prayer. Go figure. I was excited that our host had invited some of her friends, and that they had come, but I was nervous because that week’s lesson was ten points on how to forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful theme for pre, new, and experienced believers, but ten points in thirty minutes is not conducive to a positive first experience in a house of prayer. To make things just a little more difficult, the host’s very active three-year-old was not napping and very determined to take over the conversation. We dove into the topic using Matthew 18 and some help from an effervescent vitamin demonstrating God’s work on our pain. As I was explaining what I thought were the five or six more applicable points, I got that feeling—that wonderful feeling of Spanish words and phrases and sentences flowing from me effortlessly. My improvement in Spanish is an answer to many, many, many prayers, but sometimes that steady trickle becomes a river of coherent speech signifying that God is working in my mouth to speak and in the hearts of the listeners to understand. I explained that without God, our love and forgiveness is limited. We can be kind or ignore small offenses to a point, but we will quickly run out. With God, we are constantly receiving more love and forgiveness and can eternally give love and forgiveness. One of the girls, Yami, started crying. She’s twenty years old, friendly, and out-going, but feels full of hate and bitterness. At this point I excused myself to take the three-year-old to the other room, so Damaris could listen and pray with her. Both girls (Yami and Caro) want to know more about God and came back to this week’s house of prayer. We have plans to get together with them for a more private conversation after Christmas.

Beatha, Francis, Yami, Caro

Active three-year-olds are great! So are naps!

I guess my point is, God loves us very much. He didn’t abandon us on a beach with an impossible task. He loves us so much He gathered us from all over the world to watch Him move a million pound stone.

It’s been a long month. Last night I wrote in my journal that I feel like I’ve lost my joy (my joy is my magic). I prayed God would share His delight with me. Today, Cordoba was covered in white butterflies. Everyone said it was the weather, but I know it is for my delight. What a God we serve!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Laura, Face Painting, and Puppies

One of our first committed disciples was Laura. I don’t know why it took me so long to write her story, but I want to have it here. Junior and Jaci (our pastors) met her at an ice cream shop. She’s a single mom and was there with her four-year-old Sofi. While Sofi and Hadassa played, Jaci and Laura chatted about life and the church. Jaci told me about her the next day, and we tried for weeks to get ahold of her. We exchanged texts a couple times, but I was fairly convinced I would never see her in person. Then she showed up at a house of prayer (Bible study). She talked really fast, and I still didn’t understand Spanish very well. All I kept thinking was how much she looked like an angry kitten. She’s a small person, and she sat back a little ways from the table with her arms crossed. She spoke barely above a whisper which made it sound like she was spitting—spitting fire. I didn’t understand what it was that had evoked such wrath, but I knew I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of it.

Laura and I at our house of prayer
Apparently Rachel takes pictures during prayer
She came back the next week full of anger and bitterness: THOSE people, THAT man, how DARE they. The third week, I watched Jaci’s reaction wondering when we would have to have the forgiveness talk and confront all this anger. The incredible thing is that we never did. We kept teaching, she kept coming to church and reading her Bible at home. As God continued to fill her with His word and His presence, the anger just melted out of her. After a couple months, she was, and is, a different person. She still doesn’t talk very loud, but she always talks with a smile.

And it’s not because her life has gotten easier. If anything, her circumstances have become more difficult. As the problems with her ex-husband and in-laws subsided, problems with her brother (who she’s living with) began and her mother’s health has declined. Work is difficult and raising a four-year-old is always a roller coaster. She lives pretty close to us, so we like to go for walks together in the evenings. I’ve seen her exhausted and seeking solutions for her problems, but I’ve never again seen a hint of the rage that use to consume her. Her favorite verse is Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not look anxiously about you, for I am you God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with y righteous right hand.” God has certainly kept His promise to her.

It’s taken to raining here in the evenings, which has frustrated some of our evangelism plans. When we do have decent weather, we like to go to a nearby plaza and paint faces. It started with the question, “How can we attract people to us?” In a big city that’s been over-evangelized by Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the prosperity gospel, how can we attract people to us in a way where they feel comfortable having a full conversation with us. So now we paint kids’ faces for free. The only caveat is that they have to bring their parents to the table to give permission. Then we explain to the parents that we are Christians, and we’d like to pray for their child and their family while we paint. It’s been a great way to talk with people about prayer with the added bonus of being fun and giving the opportunity to pray for Cordoba’s children. Usually some of our regular church attenders come by to help or hang out. It’s starting to feel like a real church family.

We did a lot of Elsa crowns.
Emilce and her son Ignacio. We met them at the first
face painting event. They came back for the second one and
have been attending the church!

Although Rachel and Ashley are in the States visiting their families, the house has not felt empty. Right before they left, Genna and Julianna got two Yorkshire puppies. If you’ve read my past posts or know me, you know how I feel about pets. Caspian and Aslan are very cute and friendly, but Rachel and Ashley are pretty cute and friendly too. Plus they know how to use a toilet. I can’t wait for them to come back.

I just wanted a selfie, but Caspian needed to pee. You
might think, "Oh, how kind that he didn't want to pee in
your lap!" but after I put him down he ran straight to my
bedroom and peed in the hall outside my door.
It's his spot.