Volunteering and traveling in Argentina to proclaim God's great love, and hopefully not getting sick along the way.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Under the wire

A quick recap of God's blessings to help my November blog quota go up one more.

Woke up extra early to make a torta for the boys' institute. Unfortunately couldn't go with them because I had to go to the dentist. So Eva and I walk to the local Odontologia only to find it's.. not open. So I come back, read some pleasant mail (see below), watch some Erwin McManus, and tie together some friendship bracelets.

A little while later, the folks come back to say that we have to wait to hang out with the boys until tomorrow. Sweet! I didn't miss getting to hang with them!

Then it's lunch, and I ever so slowly attempt to chew my way through some empanadas. Later, I work on some Bible studies for Escuelita in the future as I wait for Andrea to take me to the dentist in the afternoon. I proceed to miss out on going to the girls' institute instead, which is a bummer, but I'll live. Sarah said that it was a good time and twas nothing too exciting.

Andrea and I go to a house. You know, like the neighborhood grocer, everyone's gotta have a neighborhood dentist. The woman opens up her home where there is one operating chair. I sit down, and explain that it just needs to be glued back down.

"Yeah, but what is it?" She asks.

Um.. it's a retainer, because I had very crooked teeth. She finds some "cemento" and begins to glue it back down. Nothing is as bad as it seems. It's quite lovely to walk in, not have to fill out any paper work, and just get started. We're done in about 15 minutes too.

She talked with Andrea during the operation, and they noted how still and patient I was. When I had a moment, I said, "Of course! I want to eat!" They laughed.

Andrea timidly asked at the end how much it would cost. 40 pesos. 40 PESOS!! Ten bucks!! How great is that?

Chau.

Aww shucks

On a day where I could be sad because I have to go to the dentist, who should arrive at our door but the mailman? And what should he bring but not one, not two, but THREE letters for me?!

God has perfect timing. Encouragements from California, Texas and Michigan. I'm working on the replies, but for now I just want to say thanks.

Dentist Update: They were closed this morning. I will have to try again this evening after siesta time. My hope is they can glue it back on and it will stop sticking out uncomfortably. If they're not there tonight, I get to try again tomorrow morning.

Random Update: Finally watched Crave: The Documentary from Mosaic Church. If you have 30ish minutes today, make a point to watch it. SO GOOD!!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Didn't predict that one, didya?

So when I left the dentist in the US they said, "Hey, you won't have any problems for the next two years!" (Given of course that I continue to brush my teeth, not overwhelm myself with sugar and caffeinated beverages, and floss.)

What they meant was no wisdom tooth fears, no cavities.. no impending teeth surgeries to be accounted for overseas.

Who would have guessed that I would make a healthy evening snack choice of a carrot and cause the destruction of my permanent retainer? I sure didn't!

The bad news is that it's near impossible to eat. The worse news is I miss out on hanging out with the boys tomorrow because I have to go to the dentist tomorrow. Pray for me--sleeping might be a little uncomfortable.

The good news though is that I have the Spaniard lisp down perfect now! :P Chau.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

When God translates

It's often difficult to explain something in another language. How do I explain that I didn't come to a lunch because I was busy going to a funeral on the other side of town, for a baby that died most unexpectedly this past Wednesday? How do I explain why you can't just ask us to do something and then scrap the idea the minute we show our hard work?

Sometimes you have to take the hit. Sometimes you can't say anything. Sometimes you're going to offend people even when you don't mean it. How do you trust God during these moments?

I had an intriguing experience over this last week where God did the translating. You see, some of the people we serve have had very difficult lives. This makes them very cold-hearted and they do not have patience for us gringas who are trying our best to show our love to them. It's important to remember God's grace in moments like these: moments where they make fun of me for trying to speak in castellano, or moments where they say mean things (palabras malas) just to prove that they are better than me.

Really, I can take it from them. How can I persecute those who have not received the love of Jesus the way I have graciously received such love? I've got to turn the other cheek in such moments, and pray for patience and enduring love for them.

What's hard is when my own team mate laughs at me with them. This sort of example is not a positive one, but again, how do I explain that? And when they make fun of another, one can not just join in on that sort of joking either. We are here to be different, even if we're far from perfect.

So one week, I was made fun of a lot, and I have to admit, I struggled that day. I know they're just words. I know that these people don't know me. But sometimes it still hurts. I was greatly encouraged by another team mate on the need for perseverance. I praise God for that reminder!

Then this week, God created an opportunity for the team mate to experience the same as I had the other week. Eyes were opened to see how we can't just let the joking continue, and how we have to be careful when we laugh. Teasing can go too far; causing some very hurt feelings!

I felt so sad that the team mate had to be hurt in the same way as I was. And yet, if the person hadn't, we might not ever have been able to discuss the issue clearly. It reminded me of a woman who told me about a time when she had wanted to lose weight and join a gym. Her husband said that he loved her the way she was, which was cute and all, but she still wanted to lose the weight for health reasons. Not too much later, the husband was in need of carrying some extra books home for a long period of time. After the exhausting trip he finally understood his wife's desire to shed the few extra pounds.

It's a silly example, but it's what came to mind. We need to truly understand what it is to walk in one another's shoes. A story that we've heard a million times, and should never get old. May we pray for each other even more in times like these. May we be ever compassionate within the body of Christ--lest we cause one another to stumble! Thank you Father for translating for me. May my own ears be opened to the times I need to recognize my need for repentance in other areas as well.

Chau.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fiesta prep

I can not begin to tell you how long the creative process took for Sarah and I to figure these out. They're called Centro de Mesas, or center pieces. You don't see it? That's okay. It's for a Quinceniera, or 15th birthday party, for one of our girls at the institute, and it's kind of a big deal. So the design is simple, but intricate at the same time. What you see includes several scraps of wood that we've painted and stacked in fun ways. Then we found these flowers, which are actually the tops of pine cones.
Pretty sweet, huh? I had a lot of fun mixing the paint in addition to painting, and I think overall they're sort of a modern twist on the traditional. I might be adding some accent dots later, but we'll see. We've also added a giant, and yet tasteful, "15" on corrugated board. Hard to explain, but hopefully I'll have another picture later. I sorta like them just as they are.
Después, we needed to make souvenirs, or party favors for the girls. We were told that there are 15 girls coming, so we needed something for all of them. I then googled images of what souvenirs are supposed to be for this culture. After perusing several hundred photos I saw a really cool key chain. But then I thought, "What good is a key chain for these girls?" So I switched it into a necklace.

Javi helped us find a good bead and thread store, where we came up with these:
And here's the best part. In total, because for the center pieces we used what we had, 20AP. That's 5USD! I love making the most of what we got, and making something beautiful out of it too! I just hope the girls appreciate it, especially the birthday girl--Maria Eugenia!

Hermano Rodrigo (dos)

At the boys institute this week, I was blessed with some more great moments with Rodrigo dos and his brother Fabrizio. These two absolutely love playing soccer, so I'm grateful to God that he has healed my knee, especially for moments like these:
I am hardcore. I will windmill kick you in the face...
So what really happened was I went for a kick and slipped, against all laws of physics, BACKWARDS, due to a patch of mud that had been created by the previous days' rain. Praise God that I have reflexes like a cat, and prevented my face from hitting the same patch of mud.

Surprising.. just the other day I had gone for a run. I was going up hill and had to weave through two people. I was getting pretty excited to pass another person, and was singing, "Just as I am, without one plea.." in my head when BAM! to the cement. Again, face safe. Just a little scratch on my hands and knees.

Maybe I'm more of a clutz than I'm willing to admit. The song, one might also add, was quite perfect for the moment...

Any way, Rodrigo uno also got to play with us a little before leaving for school. The rest of us, new Dario included, enjoyed an extra long game of fútbol that wore me out, but every moment was just plain wonderful. I had lost the ball due to a ridiculous turning trick that I can't do, but pretend that I can, and Fabri and I had a great laughing moment about that. Rodrigo dos and I practiced our secret handshake.. It was just a God send kind of morning. I feel like their older sister sometimes. Now I just pray for more moments of boldness with God's word! Chau.

Why we need more Colombians in our life


Twice now, Johanna and Jenny have stopped in the middle of our walks together. Although some may find their musings crazy, it really has to do with them missing home.

The first time occurred when Johanna spotted the berry tree (we still don't know what kind of berries they are), and next thing we knew, even though we were headed to Grido, we were munching on these berries for a good few minutes. Just picking away at the mystery fruits, fingers stained and dripping purple. Inspiration for their gift to us the next week.
This past Thursday, Jenny stopped and looked up. I followed her eyes to those bulbous green somethings within a tree. Its branches stuck out past the fence, so we figured that meant free reign on the fruits(?) that extended our way. I assisted Sarah to reach the ones the Colombians deemed worthy (madura--ripe).

We came home for J&J's English lesson, while Jenny prepared these.. things. It required some boiling water, sugar and cinnamon. With those ingredients, what could go wrong? The answer is nothing :)

It makes me think that everyone needs their own Colombians to teach them how to make every tree edible. Just like Scarlet, you'll never go hungry again! Chau.

Friday, November 19, 2010

God, you crazy!

I was washing a bowl used for our afternoon of painting flowers with the girls at the institute. Well, only two girls. As I scrubbed, I looked at the two faucets, each extended by part of a hose since the sink itself is much lower. I whispered to myself, "God, I just will never understand you, will I?"

Part of the reason I didn't write either Tuesday or Wednesday was because the good morning transformed into a very frustrating time for me. I will not go into all details because I do not want to become bitter, but I'll just say I almost broke into tears several times. The struggle began when I tried to help Dayana, one of the girls at the institute, on Tuesday. I think I mentioned that we are now going on Tuesdays and Thursdays--Tuesdays for computer lessons.

The lesson seemed easy enough, as it was mainly just filling out the details of a job application or resumé. I was paired with Dayana, who insisted on making her font bright pink, and asking me questions so rapidly I had to have her repeat herself. Except, she was often unwilling to repeat herself and just threw her hand as though swatting a fly, "Ah! You know nothing!" she would say. She would turn to our other leader for help, a native Spanish speaker.

Sometimes I would understand her, and would begin to explain or show her on the computer her answer. Impatient, she expected that I wasn't answering what she wanted, would exclaim her favorite epithet and turn to the other once again. I found myself explaining things multiple times only to be followed by blank stares. When the leader gave her the same answer as I, she refused to give me any credit.

I could judge her. She has two kids, one that is a restless sleeper unless he's held, and he isn't held often. The other, a daughter of 2 or so, who has a bad attitude similar to the example set before her. She sat before her computer cradling the boy, if you could call it that, and smoking a cigarette, skin showing between a tight tube top and yoga capris.

Yet, who am I? I doubt Dayana has ever met a Spanish as a second language person. I don't think she comprehends the importance of slowing down speech, even just a little bit, so that one can understand better. It can be frustrating to work with me, I'm sure.

And take an extra moment to consider her situation. Where she lives--I had entered one of the rooms to hand a Bible to Jessica last week to find a long room with partitions between beds. Each bed hardly furnished, and some had a crib or a desk next to them. These partitions are only about 3 or 4 feet tall. Dayana has not one, but two kids to fill this space with her. Where is her hope except to be the leader of the pack. Indeed, she has a knack for getting the rest of the girls to follow her lead. She had even said something not so nice, looked at me, and everyone laughed. One giggled quietly as she looked over, unsure if I could comprehend or not.

I ran into Andrea on our walk home and she said she would pray for my heart. She reminded me that they are trying to see if I will be consistent, if I am who I say I am. Actions must match what I say, especially what I say about Christ.

So this Thursday came, and I was in charge of sharing a little message from Scripture. I had brought paint supplies so we could paint flowers, and was then to use the "lilies of the fields" passage in Matthew to encourage them to seek God and find peace. Two came. Dayana and Gladys. Deep breath.

Last week had not gone so well when I had brought fruit for the girls to draw. All they had wanted, if you'll remember, was to draw a basic outline and then eat. So this time, I said, "Let's use our imaginations and think of the most beautiful flower and paint away! If you need more paper, just let me know, and we'll just paint."

The time was...

peaceful. Both took time to paint their pictures, and I think that they appreciated me not telling them what to do (although I would like for them to become better painters, they just aren't interested in that). Then something else happened: Dayana started asking questions about us. She asked simple things, the basics such as if we had boyfriends, and a little about her family. Then she looked at me.

"Why are you here in Córdoba?"

I imagine my eyes widened, but I said it. "I'm here because I wanted to serve God in different parts of the world."

That was it. She didn't have much else to ask about that, and turned to Jenny to ask the same question. Jenny, from Colombia, answered similarly. "Hmm," nodded Dayana, who then scolded her daughter for touching her painting and continued.

Praise God for a glimpse of an opening heart! Surely there is spiritual warfare going on here, as moments later Dayana found a radio and blasted Cuarteto. We talked a little about that, but the music was loud and that made it hard to hear. So I painted to the rhythm of the music, hoping to express my liking of the music and to create a bond of common interest in it.

And then she left, before I had a chance to share what I had come to share.

Is it strange that I wasn't disappointed? I was so glad to have had a positive conversation with her. So grateful for a FORTY-FIVE minutes of doing a project, the longest length of time any of us had had with those girls. To end the time, we talked a little with Gladys and then cleaned the table. I returned to wash the bowls we had used and just thought in awe of how God works. How He changes hearts, and yet guards mine as well for the future. It will still take more time. And there are always other obstacles for the Lord to overcome.

Chau.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

El abrazo

What a blessing this morning has been. While the entire walk to the boys institute threatened rain, there was none. It wasn't until after we began playing soccer with the boys (this time only with Rodrigo y Fabrizio) that the rain came. Which honestly, was a lot of fun. And as Javi told me, "It's a dream for the kids to play soccer in the rain. They love it."

Javi had also pulled me aside before the game started. He said that we should win this game and give them our prize (for fun we played for the bottle of Coca Cola we always drink at the end of our games) as an example of grace. Immediately my mind saw 2 thoughts about this. The first being that we have never won against the boys because, yes, they are that good. Second, how will they respond to losing?

But the competitive part of me agreed and as we began I asked the Father if He would help us win if we were supposed to.  Next thing I know, Sarah blocked not one, not two, but several goals! Sin cuenta, which sounds like cincuenta, if you will. One means "without count," while the other means "50." Either way, a lot of goals. Sarah is not athletic--this is quite the feat!

At one point, I had stolen the ball and just barely missed scoring. The kick too, was with my right foot. Rodrigo (dos) ran up to me to give me a giant hug and said "Good try!" I was shellshocked. Never before had one of these boys shown such innocent affection. It was adorable, and he felt like a little brother in that moment.

We ended up winning, although it was a close match. Sure enough too, the boys did not like losing. Javi tried consoling the boys but Fabrizio just walked ahead. Rodrigo however remained by Javi's side, so Sarah and I prayed for the conversation as we walked behind. There is always hope.

And another thing, before we left, I was able to teach Rodrigo a fancy little handshake. More than just a "pound it", but with a little explosion thrown in. Very Jack Black-ish.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ode to the stray dog

You smile at me, and sometimes I know it's your charm,
but sometimes I wonder if you're just waiting for me to pass
so you can chase me as soon as I'm not looking
to infect me with whatever disease
has inspired the loss of hair on your back legs.

You smile, and I see the red rims of your tired eyes
as a sign that you're a spawn of Satan.

You smile, and sometimes I really do think
that maybe there's this bubbly personality
which finds gratefulness to any scrap of food
left for you by the neighbors.

I see three dogs every now and then,
each with similar spots.
Are they brothers?
By sharing our crumbs are we just encouraging the procreation?

You smile, wagging your tail as if a nod to my questions.

Then there was the time when I saw one of you get hit by a car.
The event happened so quickly, and I honestly couldn't tell you
who was at fault.
Yet your kind walked, ere, trotted away,
tongue hanging to the side in a smirk.

But what could I say of the plume of smoke
from the side of the road near our neighborhood playground?
After inquiring, I was told that one of you didn't make it;
so someone set the flame to best rid
the world of the infirmities of the rotting body.

The children thought you smelled like carne asada,
the adults all covered their noses
and made vows not to eat meat for a week.

You smile, but your end is coming.
While the Vikings might consider your send off glorious,
we just hold our nostrils together.

Look. I like dogs, really. Just better when they're on a leash, spayed/neutered, and clean.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This is chaos

This post will mean nothing if you omit the final part.

With the girls institute, I had planned to draw some fruit with the girls. We had talked the week previous about the desire to spend some time drawing, so our OM team thought to practice still life--fruit--and use that to talk about the fruit of the Spirit in the Bible.

The girl most interested in drawing was in a fight with the three other girls. Intimidated, she didn't join us. The remaining girls feigned interest and were only wanting to draw the outlines of the fruit, as well as eat it when we finished. While I tried to teach how to shade (changing my entire lesson plan on the spot), it was to no avail.

We visited Maria Elena on Thursday night instead of Friday, because she wanted me to make fajitas for her again. She's busy this week with a fair, but offered to buy the food and to help (or have her friends she invited over in addition to us help) a little bit.

Unfortunately, they diced the onions. Not that big of a deal, but it's hard for the flavoring of the meat. It's better to keep the onions in long strips. Then there were the tortillas which Sarah and I worked hard on, but they needed more flour and so the women had to redo about half of our work. Oops.

Finally, there's el Refugio, at which I got to join Heather today for her dance class. Only one kid, Santi, showed up for the first 40 minutes (out of an hour), and then about half a dozen kids appeared with the expectation of learning what we had already practiced.

Three boys in particular were most adventuresome, wishing to yell and fight and run around without paying attention.

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry," comes to mind. But I kept remembering something through all of these apparent failures. My God is bigger.

At the institute, I was able to find Jessica and give her a Bible. She seems interested in studying it together, which I might be able to do on Sunday afternoons, but I have to get permission with the director first. She showed me some of her drawings she's working on, and I remembered how sometimes when I read the Bible I think of drawing illustrations for it. A possibility.

At Maria Elena's I honestly didn't care as much. The food was given from the heart, and the redo on the tortillas just proves I have more to learn. In the end, delicious comida, and great conversation (only in Spanish!).

Finally, el Refugio. After coaching 20 young'ns basketball this past summer, I remembered some of the tricks for maintaing their short attention spans at a somewhat reasonable rate. In fact, I had a lot of fun with the challenge, as it were, only 3 boys who were most bothersome. We played about 5 different games in a 12 minute period before it was time for them to go again. While we still had a little horseplay, and I even had to wrestle one kid to get my house key back, I would say over all it went well.

"Chaos is often a prerequisite to new creation in Scripture. When we try prematurely to regain control of something chaotic there is a good chance we could undercut the very thing God is doing among us." Chau.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The schedule changes (again)

I began writing the monthly newsletter, remembering the inclusion of an approximate schedule in the last one. Not only did my horarios, or schedule, change last week, but it changed again today!

You see, we planned on going to the girls' institute today, to teach them how to make a resume on the computer. Only two girls came, yet again, and the same ones from last Thursday. That's a good thing, and a bad one as well, if we want to pursue relationships with the other girls in the institute.

So we met with the director. Or rather, she called us in to the office and it had felt like we had gotten into trouble with the principal back in grade school. After waiting for an extensive period of time, we explained everything, and now are meeting, still on Tuesday, just at a later time. If you didn't like commas before, how about now?

The great news is we had a fun time with the boys in the morning, and I was even able to capture a couple photos that I wasn't supposed to take. Voila:


Really, all I wanted was to give you some faces to the names, albeit just a few. In the first photo, you finally get to meet Chechu!!

Then, from left to right is Fabrizio, Rodrigo dos and Franco (the guy in brown is Javi). BAM!

Praise God for another great week. I'm looking forward to seeing the girls again on Thursday! My prayer right now is not only for endurance in prayer for the boys and girls by name each day, but also for a boldness to share the gospel with words and with my life! Schedules can change, I surrender to a God who doesn't.

Chau.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The (spiritual?) discipline of focus

The idea came while listening to a certain Los Angeles based podcast. I was cleaning my room, packing some things away, writing a letter, checking myself out in a mirror, juggling, and listening to the podcast all around the same time.

"The more we multitask, the less we will be able to do one thing really well," or something like it, I heard.

"It's so true!" I thought, as I remembered a time when I was talking Skype and typing to others all at once.

I've also noticed times when I'm reading, will think of perhaps a chore I need to do, go do that chore, then return to--oh hey! I should do this... An hour or so later, I finally pick up the book again. I know I've never been officially labeled as having A.D.D., but oh no way! There's another stray dog outside my window...

Why do we think we can do a lot of things at once? The reality is when we try, we force our brain to switch directions, and it can not complete one task or the other to its greatest potential. I even caught myself again, this past Sunday. In a time meant to be devoted to prayer, I couldn't remember one sentence to the next, thinking of all sorts of people, or all sorts of other things I wanted to accomplish within the day. It was frustrating to catch myself distracted during a time so precious!

For the past several months, since hearing this simple suggestion from the podcast, I've been thinking about how necessary it is to give full concentration to one thing at a time. I've had practice in devoting time to reading, completing house chores in one turn, Skype for conversation alone, and other menial tasks.

What does the Bible say about our concentration?

The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul. The Israelites were commanded not to stray from worshiping God by going to the right or to the left. We are asked to not only let every part of ourselves focus on God, but to not get distracted by the little gods that try to prevail either. A call toward focus, and a call away from distraction.

In utter honesty, focusing on one thing is a fight, and I even feel my fingers tempted to check my email, and/or to pull up a recent picture of my nephew. However, having started with these little tasks listed above, I press on to other things in life. Mainly, my call.

If I want to serve Córdoba well, I will need to focus my energies even better on the ministries laid before me. First, is the call to Christ. To love him with every part of my being and to be in constant conversation with him. This has currently developed into a daily devotional routine I treasure greatly. Second, the combined effort toward learning Spanish to the best of my ability, and to place the needs of the Argentinians above my own.

Let's face it, people know when you care about them. When you're actually paying attention to the things they have to say (even when there are times when you can't completely understand due to language barriers), when you're actually looking into their eyes and aren't concerned about what's happening next, they'll be more open to you. I was privileged to experience this again just yesterday.

And another fun fact: when you focus, you finish faster. This blog post for instance, less than 20 minutes to type! Now off to try to read more of The Three Musketeers in record time as well! Chau.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Precious gifts

I think I've finally come to terms with what language speaks love to me best: that is, words of affirmation and receiving gifts. I want to talk most about the latter, because it's not just any gift. It's something thoughtful. Usually simple. Completely applicable to my life.

First example is seen to the right, from my dear friend Christi. Ketchup is severely lacking here. While I did find some regular Heinz '57 at a rather hefty (but somewhat affordable) price, it's just really sweet to receive something from home, carrying remnants of the wonderful Chick fil A as well :D
Next, you will find a memoir to my blankie growing up. I had received the blankie from my Uncle Johnny, and it was falling to pieces when I left for college. I didn't take it with me to Argentina either, though I did contemplate whether I should. This little gem, created by my pops, is more than sufficient, as it is made with just as much love as the original.

Finally, the one that may have drawn questionable looks. To the left you see a gift from Jenny and Joanna from yesterday. The bowl is filled with a homemade jelly from these fruits you can pick from trees. I still don't know what they are, but my favorite part is that you can just walk along the road, think, "Hmm.. I can use a little refresher," pick some of these and BAM! you're golden. The sisters had sensed Sarah's and my appreciation for these mystery fruits and brought us the jam.

They had also noticed that we were getting a little pink in the skin. This was primarily due to a day in a nearby village called Tanti, but also because of the oncoming summer. They picked a couple leaves from their aloe vera plant to share with us!

I like the gifts that take time, as well as the ones that require below the surface thinking, so this post is mostly an "I'm grateful for you!" shout out. Additionally, I am challenged to think how I can show that same love for others. Then there's the reality that not everyone feels loved in the same way. We can thank Gary Chapman for opening our eyes to this (though admittedly, I never actually read it!).

Over all, any expression of real love will require more thought and effort. You have to get to know a person, and see what makes them smile (perhaps take note of what makes them perturbed as well--knowing what NOT to do is just as important as knowing what to do. What is it that you do, do, any way? ;) ). Then do more of that. Sounds simple, but it's not. Es la vida, and pretty much all I have to say about that. Chau.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Consistently inconsistent

While we had hoped to go to the zoo with the boys this week, it didn't work out. On the upside, we had a great game of soccer!

We had more boys than usual this time. I finally met Brian, and Franco came. Chechu's brother was there too. And you know what? No fighting, hardly any cussing--we were blessed with such a great morning! Well, except for this one time where I might have strained one of the ligaments in my knee and couldn't walk too well. But all is well now (thanks to some ice, elevation of the said knee, and a little ibuprofen).

I kept thinking on the bus ride home how much we would not have understood how great today was had we not had bad weeks. We wouldn't have been able to see how much Rodrigo uno has to work at being obedient, nor would we have seen his new respect for JD, the one he calls Gringo, had he not been so difficult beforehand. The reason stars shine so bright stems from the great contrast to the surrounding dark space after all.

Wednesday's adventure to the girls' institute was short-lived, as another group had taken our place for Wednesday afternoons. "Can you come tomorrow?"

"Ok."

Wednesday we had also scheduled a Spanish lesson, one that had been originally planned for Tuesday. Then we arrived at Romina's house only to find that we would have to move it to the next week.

Then there was alfajores day. Only Maria Elena was too busy this week (and I had every intention of coming to help her until I may or may not have hurt my knee) to be able to lead, so that was cancelled too.

We had a good time with the Jessica and Laris at the girls' institute though. Jenny and Joanna gave manicures, while Sarah played with Maria Luz (Laris' child), and I shared a story from the Bible. We simply spent the time getting to know each other since we were so few, as one of the girls was hospitalized due to pregnancy complications and the other girls were visiting her. We asked about some of the things we can do in the coming weeks, and we found out that they are in need and in want of Bibles. Perhaps God will open up more in depth studies from that!

It's easy to get frustrated at changed plans. Particularly when this isn't the first time. Sarah and I had both had a feeling that Wednesday wasn't going to work out any way, even before we had arrived. We couldn't explain why we felt that way, we just did.

Once again, I'm used to it after working so much with teenagers over the past years. It's the nature of things--as there is a great enemy trying to foil plans and intentions. Praise be to God that His plans shall not be foiled!

Something to think and pray about. Please continue to pray for the boys, and for the girl, Natia, who is in the hospital. Pray for our hearts to always be prepared to give an answer when the Father does provide an opportunity to share about Jesus, and that Satan's schemes will continue to be quenched!

Chau.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Día lleno

1. Escuelita. I woke up a little cansada--tired. We arrived home late last night after a meeting at the church with the youth group, and then going to Maria Elena's for dinner. I.E. a 2am bedtime. Approximately. I might have checked to see if the Rangers were playing or not. Oh, and I read more of Mansfield Park... any way...

Escuelita was interesting. Last week was missed due to the trip to Villa Dolores and I heard there were a lot of kids who came. They came back. Ultimately it was all the kids that have been sort of coming from week to week, now being consistent. I only had to learn a few extra names, and the total had to be around 20 or 25. Great news when we have more leaders to take care of the chaos, but only average as more of the time is spent on crowd control.

We had a small devotional about Halloween, and I as impromptu as you can get, asked to lead one group. "Uhh... sure!

"¿Porqué no?"

The kids helped me with translation, as I told the back story as to why I've never celebrated the holiday. This was actually beneficial as it forced the kids to pay attention to what I was trying to say. We also had two sheets of paper with the information about the dreadful history of Halloween, and one gal in particular was concerned. After all had ended, God provided an opportunity to talk with her more about the choices and convictions we have. On the childish level, she really just wants the candy, but she was disturbed to learn about the Celtic rituals and how scary they truly are.

Sharing the gospel is different here, have I mentioned this? Everything I've encountered thus far is much more straightforward. It reminds me of Peter's sermon during Pentecost. "You killed him (Jesus)," he essentially says. So too, are the Bible lessons with kids, adolescents and so on very much pointing to the sin that brings Jesus to the cross.

I like it because it's true, but I also question the timing. I don't mean to step on toes here because I want to say I will follow my leaders who understand the culture much better than I do. Maybe this way is best--this straightforward, a little scary way of showing people how much we need Jesus/need to be careful about our convictions when it comes to celebrating Halloween.

"Whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached and because of this I rejoice."(?)

Something I'm praying about, nevertheless was blessed by the conversation I had with young Sophia. I tried to explain the verse in Corinthians that says everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. I have personal convictions that I live by, I told her. "But I don't expect everyone to live the way I do. I choose to do or not do certain things for the sake of others and what will benefit them more than me."

2. Youth group. We (Maria Sol and I) met at 4pm to find that we were too early. I was told to come at this time, and still came a little late to try to stay true to Latin time. Honestly didn't need to come until 5:15pm though. The fairly large group of us set out to a local plaza filled with children and their parents playing and naturally, enjoying maté. The youth group had been all talk about how excited they were about the opportunity, but when we actually came to the plaza they seemed more a deer in headlights.

So I just walked to the other corner and began juggling. In about 15 minutes, I had a small crowd of children around fascinated and it brought two things. First, the desire to be even better at juggling. Second, the rest of the youth group with much more boldness to begin their various forms of sharing the gospel (such as with these cute vests that have the different colors of the wordless book method).

Since they had a good group going, I then went to another part of the plaza and juggled some more. Here, I made a friend, a little guy named Alex. Another young man came, and he brought even more of his friends over. I began to teach them the basics of malabares (juggling), but things were starting to get out of hand. The small group of boys (other than Alex) were starting to throw the pelotas at each other. I began to pray immediately because there was nothing I could do.

Gracias a Dios! Thanks be to God. Right in that moment of prayer, two young men from the youth group were walking by, so I looked at them and exclaimed, "Ven aca chicos, y encuentre mis nuevos amigos! (Come here boys and meet my new friends)." With perfect understanding of their cue, they began to share the gospel with the group that had gathered around me. In that time, I was able to put my things away, and even began talking with Alex's parents who were nearby. I was able to share with them the reason for being in Córdoba (Jesus), as well as other details about life as a whole. They seemed intrigued, but were also hindered because the wife is Jewish and the husband Catholic. If they couldn't resolve their different religions, how could they pick one church to go to?

This made me sad, however, I was still grateful to talk with them about how important Jesus is in our lives and I hope and pray they will make it to a Jesus following church. Thanks be to God once again, as He provided every word, and gave such perfect timing.

Off to part 3 of the day--Luz Urbana.

3. The night was meant to be filled with many college age kiddos who were to enjoy a time of games and short films that centered on a Facebook theme. Lucas, Joy and I had gone to Patio Olmos, an important weekend hangout to invite people to come. Despite our enthusiasm, only a handful came at all.

The upside was meeting Gabri. We played Uno in a large group, and got to talking about his desire to learn English. Luz Urbana happens to have English classes every Tuesday night (and it's expanding to Thursday evenings to have English talks of a spiritual nature), so I invited him to come. He seemed interested. Although he did not come the following Tuesday, we are, haha, Facebook friends now, so I hope there is another opportunity to invite him.

Arrived at home around 2:30am. Welcome to ministry life!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fitting in

Can't get much more Argentinian.

A day trip to the Sierras. Met at the bus terminal. Hiked up and down a river. Sunbathed WHILE sharing maté. Spoke mostly in Spanish (well, sorta). Was almost a victim of a stray dog fight. Drank some Fanta. Ate sandwiches with some salami-slash-pepperoni meat. Bus home. Walked through the streets to Maria Lena's to share more maté, eat duranzos and make alfajores maicena. Reloaded on my cospeles. Bussed home again. Chatted with the neighbors.

Short post due to a great need for sleep for the coming few days. Still hoping to update about this past weekend--it was so great!