Thursday, June 30, 2011

Padre nuestro...

So here in Peru (and probably lots of places in Latin America) the Lord´s Prayer - they call it Padre Nuestro - is something that EVERYBODY knows. Four-year-olds can quote it, older ladies and gentlemen have it posted in their little stores, but how many people really understand what it means?

Tuesday afternoon this week, we went to Utcuyacu, and as we´ve been teaching through the Sermon on the Mount, this week´s lesson was about the Lord´s Prayer. I was so excited to get to lead because this is what we had been learning about through RUF at school last semester. So Humberta and Jordan and I sit down with about six ladies in the middle of the field - in the sunshine of course since the wind is so cold - and you know that verse that says don´t worry about what you should say but the Holy Spirit will lead you? Yeah. I completely felt that verse. I got to explain to these ladies how much MORE this prayer can mean than just repeated words. We can come to God as our FATHER, the God who at the same time is holy, set apart, pure, and so much higher than we are... We pray for His kingdom to be shown in our lives, for His will to be done as we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, not conforming to the world... and we pray that He will provide for our physical needs and for our spiritual needs, drawing us closer to Him as we trust Him more and more.

What a beautiful sight to see these ladies nodding along, adding comments, asking questions, saying how new the prayer feels and how they understand it so much more... and how it refreshed my heart and reminded me of the same things... to truly pray that God´s will would be done in my life... that His love would be shown through me... through US as a team...

And how cool is it that my home church who are having VBS this week were praying for me at the exact moment I was leading Bible study?! Thank you for your prayers! They are felt. God is answering. His Spirit is here and is moving. And the beautiful thing about God is that He is there where you are too - guiding you, comforting you so that you can comfort others, teaching you, drawing you to Himself.

Learning to love Him more... learning to trust Him more... learning to obey Him more... His will be done.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Now THAT´s attractive.

¨Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall RUN to you, BECAUSE OF THE LORD YOUR GOD, and of the Holy One of Israel, for HE has glorified you.¨ - Isaiah 55:5

Isaiah 55 was practically my theme passage when I came home from Peru last summer in my attempts to describe my time here last year. And this verse has kept coming back to my mind. It amazes me every time kids come running up to us and beg us to ¨sing that song about God¨ or ¨tell us another story from the Bible¨ - absolutely, we´d love to!

I´m constantly reminded of how God is drawing people to Himself just by our presence in Recuay. This work is NOT our own. It is not about us or our English classes or our goofy personalities. We want Him to be seen in everything we do.

And how beautiful is it, that when we go into schools, teachers ASK us to teach their students how to pray, to teach them virtues from the Bible, to teach them how to love God with all their hearts?! Our God is opening doors in amazing ways in Recuay.

And more than in Recuay - the Holy Spirit is moving all over the place - most notably in Utcuyacu. We go to teach English in the school there on Monday and Thursday, and we go for Bible study on Wednesday afternoons. The women and children in this village are absolutely HUNGRY for the Word. You can SEE it in their eyes. Three precious little girls meet me at the entrance to the village every time we go - Sarai (8), Lisett (7), and Elisabeth (4) - and they stick to me like GLUE, and this week as we taught the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and talked about the importance of worshipping the One True God and what it means to love Him with all our hearts, they asked me to teach them how to pray. So in my broken Spanish, I pray and they pray, too. And we talk about the Lord´s Prayer since they have it memorized and what it really means that God is our Father - hallowed is His name...

Even on the combi ride into Huaraz this weekend, some girls sparked a conversation with three of the 22 people on the bus and talked about what they do for enjoyment - what makes them happy. The two women responded that they loved going to parties where they could get drunk, dance, and worship images. The man responded that he was a believer, and he knew that those things were not glorifying to God. The women seemed to think that was a big joke. They laughed and said of course they worshipped God, too! But they also worshipped the trees and the rocks and the sun... We explained how we worship the Creator, and not the things He created.... how they should seek Him because He can satisfy them more than any party or drink ever could... but what lostness is here... Our eyes were opened really for the first time...

But please know - we summer missionaries are NOT in the least bit perfect. Our focus gets skewed by the things of this world even here in Recuay, Peru. REAP North focuses on planting churches in these areas in Peru, and while we have been teaching English classes for kids and using that as an opportunity to share the Gospel in stories, we haven´t necessarily been thinking about what that means in the future - how will these people continue to grow? So this weekend in Huaraz, we were encouraged to reach out to adults and young people. Some of the people from the church in Huaraz are coming this weekend on Saturday evening to lead a Bible study with us in hopes of starting a community of faith in this town that needs it so desperately. At the same time, we were reminded that this work is not our own. The Lord is moving. He will fight for us. We need only to be faithful, seeking His Spirit, obeying His Spirit, loving the people around us. And realizing that the more we are working for Him, the more we will NEED Him.

So pray for us. That we would be sober-minded and single-minded. Focused and alert. Seeking the Lord in every moment - making disciples AS WE GO - even on combi rides and market runs. Pray that the Holy Spirit would lead us to people who are ready to hear His Word and that He would draw them to Himself. That it would be obvious that this work is nothing of ourselves but all to bring glory to the God of the universe. May they never remember us if only they remember Him... He is the truly attractive One.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

He is faithful... He will surely do it.

Mmhmm. Our God is surely faithful.

So after a crazy first week of ministry here in Recuay, we girls got a weekend break with our supervisor Mindy in Huaraz. Beautiful weekend! We played the Name Game over some delicious American-ish food in a nifty little cafe, we muted cheesy Spanish soap operas so that we could create our own dialog, and we enjoyed wonderfully hot showers, comfy beds, phone service to call home, and chocolate-peanut-butter-oatmeal no-bake cookies. Mmhmm.

Saturday, we made the three-ish hour trek to Llanganuco Lakes above Yungay where I served last summer. As we pulled into town, I felt as if I were coming home after being away for ten months. There was a wedding procession just coming out of the Catholic church in the plaza! Pilar has snazzed up her restaurant and now has a HUGE place on the corner. And Yungay now has STAIRS and HANDRAILS to cross the street. Crazy. Movin´ on up! It was all I could do not to RUN through the market to the Iglesia Biblica Bautista where Joel and Hilda live. I got one block away from their house, and I burst into tears, as usual for me. The closer I got to their house, the more children´s voices I heard. I wish I had words to explain just how full my heart was to see kids who had started coming to our Bible classes last summer THERE with Joel and Hilda, playing soccer inside the church, knowing that they had accepted Christ since I had seen them last. They sang for us two of their favorite hymns - Trust and Obey being one of them - and to see them crowded around Joel as if he were their dad... wow. What a beautiful family I have in Yungay.

Sunday we went to church in Huaraz, got to encourage the believers there, and met some college students who want us to come hang out on Saturdays with them at their Bible study. Super exciting! And our whole team was just generally encouraged by the community there in Huaraz - singing familiar praise songs in Spanish, having great Biblical teaching, being fed (literally and spiritually) with brothers and sisters in Christ... and it´s beautiful to see how that church has grown since last summer too! Christie and Alexis - we got to have a snack with the church family up in your old apartment! Oh, what memories!! :)

So now we´re back in Recuay - and it was beautiful to hear my teammates saying Sunday night as we returned and had our family meeting that it felt good to be home - even with the colder temperatures here and the less reliable hot water and our crazy ladder-less bunk beds... It´s good to be home. So pray for us! For continued unity, which has been such a blessing already! For continued focus on the work God has us here to do. For health. For abounding love for one another and for everyone here in our home for the summer. And pray for the people we´re working with here around Recuay... especially Nelly, a 13-year-old who we met on our first day here... and for Miriam, the 14-year-old from Ocunan who accepted Christ last week...

And read 1 and 2 Thessalonians. The Lord has been using it to speak volumes into my life these past few days. I would write it all here, but my time in the internet is past gone! :) Love you all! Continuing to pray for all of you as well!!! Remember... He who has called you is faithful. He will surely do it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Stand in awe...

There´s so much to write about since my last post! Days here are FULL, even if they are laid-back and always 30 minutes late for everything.

Saturday, we went to a Bible study in Huancapampa, a little village about a 15-minutes´ walk from Recuay´s plaza. It was really the first time since I´d been here since I felt community and unity among Peruvians - it was our first real ¨church¨ experience and it was beautiful! The pastor was teaching about how Christ brings joy and peace and perseverance into our lives to a group of 10 or so men and women and probably around 25 children in a small building (with a squatty potty, by the way). Afterwards, we got to share the story of Jonah with the kids - true Bible storytelling style. My teammate Mary told the story twice (with help from Noemi) and then we acted out the story with the kids. Then I asked a few questions about what the story means, what we can learn about God and ourselves from the story, and how we can share the story with others. Then we asked a few kids to share the story in front of everyone else, and finally each of the kids got a chance to share the story with a partner. It. Was. Amazing. Truly putting into practice what we´ve been taught and teaching these kids to know the Word, believe the Word, obey the Word, and share the Word.

Sunday was another absolutely gorgeous day of community. We went with Humberta to a church where her friend goes. This friend is one of the very first believers in Recuay. How beautiful is that?! We sang songs in Spanish (learning the tune as we go), Jordan shared her testimony that was so encouraging and beautiful, the pastor read Psalm 33 - Let all the earth fear the Lord and all the inhabitants of the earth stand in awe of Him!!! - and Humberta´s friend basically prophesied over us. She read Psalm 133 about brothers living together in unity and encouraged us that we will share the Word - that it will go out on different types of soil but that it will yield a harvest of 30, 60, and 100 times as much - it will not return void but will complete everything that God intends for it to do. BEAUTIFUL. And we sang How Great Thou Art in Spanish. One of my favorites. :)

Then Monday, we started the craziest of the crazy weeks so far. We sent a group to Otcoyaco to set up our teaching English classes in the schools there twice a week, and the rest of us washed clothes - by hand. :) We went to the school in Recuay to teach English - first graders (which is the American equivalent of kindergarteners) - and boy what a challenge that was! Ha! Even for the elementary education major, it was tough. Then we had a kids´club on our street for kids who wanted to learn English and Bible stories, and five kids came, so we shared the story of Jonah again, and it was so great to see even more kids learning the story!

Today, we taught second graders who had not had a teacher all day at school. Can you imagine six and seven year olds who have been on their own all day sitting down to learn words and phrases in English? Mmhmm. Neither can I. But by the grace of God, it happened. They listened. They learned. It was incredible!!! We were so thankful!

And BEST PART - later today we went to another village across the river - by crossing a swinging cable bridge - TERRIFYING - and Olivia shared a Bible study in the middle of a bean field about the Beattitudes - how Jesus turns our worldview upsidedown - so beautiful. There was a 14-year-old girl there named Miriam. Olivia asked if she knew the story of Jesus - she answered no. So Olivia shared the Gospel with her, how she could have a relaitonship with God through Jesus Christ, and she asked if Miriam wanted to pray to accept Christ. Miriam did. So Miriam prayed. Mmhmm. Today is the day of salvation - in the middle of a field on a mountainside in Peru. I asked Miriam what she thought about the story of Christ and about the decision she had made. She said that she thought it was beautiful - how true, sister. So I shared with her the things that I find most beautiful about relationship with God - how the God who created the stars in the sky loves US so much that He wants to be in communion with us all the time. How He wants us to know Him through His Word. How He wants to know our every thought, everything in our hearts, and how we can trust in Him and pour out our hearts to Him because He is our refuge. We encouraged her to start reading the book of John to learn more about Christ, and she said she would. So pray! Pray that we would continue this relationship with Miriam, showing her what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Pray that she would continue to work out her salvation, seeking to know the Lord and love Him with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. And pray for her family - that they would support and encourage her decision to follow Jesus.

The rest of this week, we have much more to do - more classes to teach, more Bible studies to lead, and finally a weekend off with Mindy at Llanganuco - some beautiful lakes about two hours from here. So pray for rest for the team - that we would take advantage of time to spend in the Word while still being intentional about reaching out and building relationships around where we live. We saw Elida and Nelly (the girls we met on our first day here) today, but didn´t get a chance to hang out for long.... so pray that we would treasure these precious relationships with these kids, knowing Jesus Himself desired for the children to come to Him. And pray that we would be faithful in spreading His Word and obeying His Word, becoming disciples more and more ourselves. Most of all, pray that our focus would stay on Him, that we would stand in awe of who He is and how much He loves us...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Putting it into practice...

What an incredible three days so far in Recuay.

After a seemingly short 8-hour bus ride to Huaraz (thanks to Dramamine and an INCREDIBLE original story by the amazing Andrew Harper), we got settled into our hostel and went out to dinner in a city that is SO different from last summer I can´t even begin to explain it. Last year, Huaraz was a place of darkness and oppression... The spiritual warfare there was so PHYSICALLY evident... And this year - joy. light. peace. I´m constantly amazed at the difference prayer makes.

On Tuesday we took a combi (think 15-passenger bus with at least 22 crammed in) to Recuay - only about 30 minutes away - and as we were moving into our home for the summer, three little girls and two boys came up and said HOLA! and we introduced ourselves and said we were here for the summer to teach English and tell stories about Jesus. I asked if they wanted to hear a story right then, and they enthusiastically said YES! So, we plopped down on the curb and started telling the story of how Jesus told His disciples to let the little children come to Him. It was beautiful. They were spellbound. and I KNOW it wasn´t me and my broken Spanish. Praise the Lord for His Holy Spirit who gives us the words to say when we need it! We sang songs and danced and played a game with their volleyball (which we accidentally lost in the stream a couple of times) - that´s what ministry in Peru is all about. Just meeting people where they are and sharing stories of God´s love.

Our team dynamics are incredible. These girls have become some of my best friends already. We compliment each other and build each other up constantly. Each night we meet together for prayer and singing praise songs and debriefing the day. We have a Post-It note calendar on one wall of our living room area (and by the way - when I say living room, I mean, blank room with a blanket on the floor as our ¨sitting¨ area. Couches are noticably absent here.) and each day we take down the Post-It note for the day and write words that describe the day as a reminder of the SHORT amount of time we are here - to make the most of every moment.

And speaking of making the most of every moment, please pray that physical sickness and homesickness would NOT distract us from the work God has us here for. Several on the team have already been struggling with stomach problems and with sinus infections - it´s HOT during the day and FREEZING at night - and that makes focusing on the mission at hand pretty difficult. So pray! God has been so faithful already! Today we are ALL feeling so much better than yesterday thanks to PRAYER. So keep it up!

Also pray for our willingness to be uncomfortable. Peru is very different from the United States - in some beautifully refreshing ways and in some potentially distracting ways. It´s great to have such a laid-back atmosphere to serve in, but that also poses a challenge in being intentional and feeling like we´re not doing anything of importance some days. The sun is gorgeous here and the skies are almost always blue - but that also brings with it some pretty annoying sunburn. The food is delicious... but I´m sure you can imagine that it is pretty different from American food and therefore sometimes wreaks havoc on our systems. So pray that as we are uncomfortable we will remember that we are NOT called to comfort. The life of a disciple of Christ is not meant to be easy or painless. So pray we will DAILY deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him - whatever that means.

And pray for FOCUS. For the countless opportunities to serve here not to overwhelm us. That we would have discernment to SEE where God is working and JOIN Him wholeheartedly in that work. That we would not waste our time on vain pursuits but would run passionately after the Lord, desiring Him alone.

And this is my prayer for the summer - for us in Peru as well as for all of you... That we would sing as David did,
Oh God, YOU are MY GOD. Earnestly I seek You.
My soul thirsts for You.
My flesh faints for You as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory.
Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live. In Your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips,
When I remember You upon my bed, and meditate on You in the watches of the night.
For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to You. Your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:1-8

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Here in His Presence there is peace...

What an incredible summer it is already turning out to be.

So. I´m kind of at a loss to even know where to begin this update. God has done so much here in Peru already - and we´ve only just been in Lima four days. Over these past few days, the REAP North team here in Peru have been preparing us for sharing the Gospel and making disciples in this culture that is so different from our own. We´ve talked about the worldview here and what it means to make disciples in any culture. We´ve learned how best to share stories from the Bible in a way that is meaningful and memorable so that people can spread the Word themselves. We´ve gotten to bond as teams - and let me tell you - my team is stinkin amazing. I love every single one of these girls. It blows my mind every time I try to imagine the foreknowledge and sovereign plan of God in putting us all together in such a complimentary way. Jordan is passionate and energetic and such a bold go-getter, I´m sure she will challenge me to leap out of my own comfort zone this summer in thousands of ways. Olivia is so intentional and relational and genuinely curious about people - such a beautiful gentle and quiet spirit. Karen is brilliant and deep and quirky in all of the best ways - she sees things that other people miss, and I definitely need that insight. Mary is absolutely hilarious and incredibly good-humored and has some pretty great boldness to step up and share what the Lord is leading her to do - crazy amazing girl. Lynnlee is beautiful and honest and so courageous - she has already challenged me to seek out being more intentional in opening up more myself in this team. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship for the six of us.

Noemi meets us at the hostel tomorrow and we take an 8-hour bus ride to Huaraz where we´ll meet Tommy Smith, the missionary in the state where we´ll be serving this summer. Then Tuesday we´ll head on to Recuay, meet Humberta, get settled, and start living life with the most beautiful people in the world. We´ll have opportunities to teach in schools, lead ladies Bible studies, hang out with a group of university students, build relationships with teenage girls, and generally just reach out to the community around us, getting to know people and sharing stories from the Word of God, knowing that His Word does not return void, and through His Spirit, He will draw people to Himself.

And I have never felt such peace about any summer in my entire life. I know this is exactly where God has me this summer. He has already begun opening doors for service in Recuay and the surrounding villages. He has already unified this team of girls - which is sometimes an almost impossible feat. And satan has already noticed and is already bombarding us with spiritual warfare - that is sometimes a bit more physical than I´d like. Yep. I´ve been sick already. Haha! It´s lovely, I know. But God is so faithful! Prayers and support from my beautiful teammates and some rest and I feel absolutely back at 100%. In addition to these physical trials, my teammates and I are already facing tinges of homesickness and crazy distracting dreams, so please know, YOUR PRAYERS ARE SO NEEDED.

Pray first and foremost that whatever comes this summer God would be glorified. He is the reason we are here. We long to see the nations worship Him for who He is. He is so worthy.

Pray also for this team. For Jordan, Olivia, Karen, Mary, Lynnlee, and I, as well as for Noemi and Humberta, our translators. For Tommy and Mindy, our supervisors. For Pastor Victor and his wife Filipa. and for my ¨family¨in Yungay from last summer - for Joel and Hilda and Maria. That we would first be disciples ourselves - denying ourselves. taking up our cross. following Him. unified and showing His love. And while you´re at it, we wouldn´t mind your prayers for health and safety - that nothing would distract us from this task that the Lord has given us.

Pray for those who God is drawing to salvation in Recuay and all throughout the Huaylas Valley. Pray that we will have discernment through the Holy Spirit to see them and to have the words to say to lead them one step closer to Christ.

¨Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.¨
Ephesians 3:20-21