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

Friday, March 30, 2012

What I see

just a little glimpse of what we are making together.
Don't get me wrong. I am enamored with my time at the girls' institute. It is an absolute pleasure to visit those girls three times a week and teach them new tricks such as bracelet making and cooking. I also enjoy simply chatting, sharing mate and playing cards.

God has also been blessing the conversation, as there have been some intimate moments of sharing of our lives. More than that, two of the girls came with me to my church. My tiny, neighborhood church that also happens to be my house.

And get this... they want to come back this week!!

??

But what I continue to see are these teenagers, and some who are older women, who have no idea how to take care of their children. Obviously, I am no expert as I have never had kids. But I have this gut feeling that hitting your kid.. screaming at them.. neglecting them.. these actions make the list of what NOT to do.

And while I am excited for my friends to join me at church, it's painful to hear how they don't want certain other girls to come because they don't like them. Or even one who refused mate after seeing one of the other women drink from it.

How do I respond? What I see are hurting women who continue the hurting by discriminating against others. I see hurting children who lack a positive father figure.. a father figure at all.. who lack a mom who shows them the cariñoso kind of love that they also need.

Father, help me to stay positive. Help me to see my role in the lives of these young women. Thank you for all the doors you have opened. I continue to seek your wisdom and guidance as I traverse this unknown territory. You are good; your love endures forever. Amen y chau!

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's time for another...

..you know you're in Argentina when...

Everyone is amazed that you (a girl) are playing soccer. Yeah, yeah, I've mentioned this before, but this is significant. You see, last Friday, the older boys of Las Violetas came during the middle of soccer time. While Cleto and Adam were playing with the young'ns. After a few minutes, apparently the boys just entered into the middle of the soccer court (because it's made of cement) and started bullying the young ones until they left. Discouraged.

About three fourths into our playing time today, the same pre-teen and teens entered the club.

I was on the sidelines at this point, serving some mate. Adam had mentioned how last week the boys wanted mate, and I am getting more and more used to serving it not only at home, but with my gals in the institute. So I brought my mate, bombilla, some sugar and the house thermos with water prepared.

It actually makes me laugh, thinking about the walk over. Two of the younger boys, Johnny and Colorado (as is his nickname, given for his red hair), walked with me. Johnny, ever so curious,

"Seño, me gustan tus ojos. Son tuyos? Son reales?"

"Teacher," he was saying. "I like your eyes. Are they yours? Are they real?"

"Of course," I tell him.

They both looked at my thermos, and started asking if I had brought mate.

"But isn't the water cold?" they asked.

"No, I boiled the water just before coming here!"

"Grosa!"

Johnny then said I was beautiful, but I couldn't tell if it was from the eyes or because of the fact that I brought mate.

But there we were, about an hour later. Older boys making their way. They saw me and paused, looking at each other, looking at me.

"Dame uno?" says one.

"Serve me the mate."

They sat next to me on the sidelines. They refrained from bullying the kids, and instead waited their turn to play. I know it has everything to do with God being gracious to us, and partly to do with their incapacity to comprehend a girl, from the States, playing soccer and serving mate. They began to ask me lots of questions in between game play and after.

Then there was David, who abandoned his team at one point just because we were out of water. While I feared I might have to pay for a new house thermos, he came running back a few minutes later. "Can I serve the mate now?" he shouted.

Like I said, you know you're in Argentina when...

Chau!

post dato: it was an additional blessing to get to pray for them in the end. One of the older boys was behind me while I prayed, smoking a cigarette. I then explained to them how I am selling bracelets to help a friend pay for a crib for her baby coming soon. Precious Johnny said he would buy one as soon as he came up with the money. "Come and explain to my mom why you are selling them, and maybe she will help me!" he said. I was just happy to see where he lives and meet his mom. Who knows what that sort of encounter might lead to...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

They came!

Do you ever get excited about something, but refuse to say anything about it until it actually comes to pass?

You don't want to get your hopes up for it only to be let down.

Because when you get let down, and everyone you had told was expecting something too, you feel like the whole world is looking at you.

So it was with Ale. I know I had mentioned her pulling me aside to ask if she could go to church with us, but I didn't know if it was something she actually wanted. I was equally surprised when I talked to her on the phone the following day, and she had asked if the new girl, Giselle, could come too.

Nevertheless, I refused to get my hopes up. Some might call this lack of faith, but at least I was praying throughout this time of doubt.

On this ever so rainy evening, they had called three times to make sure we were still coming to pick them up. "Of course!" I told them. The kids came too, which made for much disruption, but at the same time, I couldn't help but smile. Step one, come to church. Check.

Now to keep this energy going. I will need more faith, and more courage to see how to keep the conversation going. I am praying for their attendance for our special Easter service. I am praying for transformation in their lives. I am praying for wisdom and action. Chau.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

It has been a year

Obviously, it has been longer than that. There are a lot of dates to remember.

I've been in Argentina for a year and six months.. just shy of seven really, but I don't know if I should count my time in the States or not.

There are two months until I turn 26.

Johnny, my younger brother here, is turning 18 in a matter of weeks.

But today, today marks a day very special. Last year, I remember celebrating the young Fer Yñiguez' birthday at his home out in the middle of nowhere with all of the other teens from Santa Rosa. There was singing, and I watched with mouth watering as everyone ate these amazing garlic burgers.

Lent will get you every time. haha. (Menos mal este año tuvieron pizza.)

I remember that birthday being amazing because of the testimonies everyone shared for Fer's life. Everyone in a circle spoke of how influential the young man is for their walk with Christ.

And this year, he continued in stride by inviting his friends from school. The intention was for Raul to share about Jesus, and then Fer would share his testimony. As Fer talked about how he himself had never dabbled in drugs or going to boliches, he knows his life has still been full. Better than if he had gone the other route. I admired his courage, and was so glad that the girls from my neighborhood could come to hear his story.

Last year's fiesta was the beginning of some solid relationships with those teens from Santa Rosa. I can't believe that 365 days since then have passed. I am so very thankful.

Chau.

Monday, March 19, 2012

For that smile

I am trying on a new hat. The hat of artesan, specifically in terms of making pulseras, or bracelets. It comes with perfect timing too, because not only have I found an easy to read website that offers step-by-step instructions, but Ale from the institute wants to learn more patterns so that she can make them and sell them.

"To buy a camera for me and my son," she told me today.

I had been working on a couple designs this weekend while at camp (more to come on that), and had made one earlier last week to give to Gaston for his birthday.

He shares his birthday with my mom, the 17 of March. I couldn't be there to celebrate, but Adam and Cletis were there to play soccer and give him my gift. Upon arrival however, he didn't want to play at all.

"Fine," Adam told him. "I guess that means you're not going to get your present."

Eyes widened. "Nah, mentira," he said. ("No.. you're lying!")

Adam expressed how sorry he was that Gaston thought it was a lie. Gaston begged for the present in that moment, but Adam was quick to say, "Only if you come to play soccer with us."

He finally conceded. I'm told they had a good time. And Gaston had gone home without even thinking twice about the fact that a present was waiting to be given to him.

Adam went to Gaston's house before leaving for the day to give the bracelet to him. I wish I could have seen his face as Adam had described it--happy, surprised. Smiling.

Today was an interesting one with the boys in Las Violetas. I had fun, but our team wasn't doing very well. It has a lot to do with the fact that they aren't so good at passing, but so the story goes. On our way home, we ran into Gaston.

"Did you like your present?" I asked him.

"Nah.." he tells me. "I threw it away."

Disheartened, I asked, "Really??"

"Really! I threw it away."

"Oh. I had made that just for you. For your birthday," I tell him.

"Nah.. mentira!!" He smiled.

I mean, really, truly smiled. Pearly whites and all.

"It's just I wear it on my ankle, not as a bracelet." He pointed to his bare foot, but adorned ankle. Then he smiled again.

I will live and re-live this moment because it feels like the ice is finally breaking! Keep praying for Gaston!!!

Chau.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Voice

"Igual, yo te entiendo siempre! No sé porque los demás no te entienden!"

This quote proceeds from my dear friend Sol. She is saying that she always understands what I am saying (when I am speaking in Spanish of course!). She doesn't understand why others don't sometimes. This comes from a time when we had met with another group to prepare for the youth camp we are having this weekend; a combined church effort to take kids out of the city so they can be more receptive to the words of God.

The voice of God.

I listened to another sermon from Mosaic church this morning that impacted me quite a lot (I have re-typed/edited this sentence over and over, and it remains as bad as it can be. Sorry). The pastor was talking about Genesis three, specifically the part where Adam and Eve are afraid of God. They confess of their nakedness, and he says to them:

"Who told you you were naked?"

The pastor explains that there are many voices out there, and we have got to be sure we are listening to the right one.

"Who told you you are not worthy of God's love?"
"Who told you that you are not pretty?"
"Who told you that life has to be this way?"
"Who told you that you're too young?"

There are too many to name. There are too many lies out there, just waiting to vanquish us. Or sometimes, we hear a voice, and know something is not right.

"It is the voice of Jacob, but they are the hands of Esau.."

And then it got me thinking again about Spanish. Sol told me another funny thing while we prepped for the games. She talked about her sisters not listening to her; how they respond to her with contempt because she had a boyfriend at their age. It's the classic, yeah-i-dated-but-i-had-done-it-all-wrong-and-just-want-to-make-sure-you-don't type of thing. But they resist.

"Fine," she told them. "Go ask Sharayah what she thinks."

They quieted. Oh blessed teenage rebellion. We would listen to anyone outside of family during that time, no? (Some of us still don't listen very well.)

It's more than this. It's more than knowing whose voice to listen to. You can know a voice, but do you recognize it at all times?

I used to be able to find my mom in a crowded room through her cough. It's very distinct, I tell you!

And the closest friends I have here I understand the best when they speak. I have grown so accustom to their voice, that I can even pick out those little intricate details of their accent (Cordobes, or porteño, for example). But if I go for a week or more without hearing their voice, I lose the ability to understand them as clearly.

And sure, there are still moments of bad understanding, but it's because they use new vocabulary with me, and I have to ask about it. I have to pay attention, and do my part to make sure I get it.

The voice of God is a lot like that.

When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Chau.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This Monday in ministry


God has been blessing the time in the girls' institute and time with the boys in Las Violetas each Monday. That is to say, there have yet to be any fights, too many bad words, or major misunderstandings due to language barriers.

Though I am not opposed to when those things happen, it's just that getting to have good conversations is what I love most. Which is what keeps happening with Ale and a couple of the others in LV.

I have personally challenged myself to learn more bracelet patterns and to use each Monday in which I am currently working alone until Sol gets off work, to teach the gals. The idea in the back of my mind is to encourage them to build on a talent. Often we get caught up on variety when maybe what they need is to latch onto something they're already good at, and let that something grow. If that makes sense.

So it is with Ale and Maria Elena, as Gladys goes to school during the morning hours.

In LV, we ran into Ulises on the way to the soccer field. He only had a towel to cover his waste, but was eager to greet us. "I'll meet you there," he told us.

Then I stayed behind in the street to chat with a handful of the kids, and one girl who wasn't interested in playing, but I wanted to get to know her a bit. After a few, I joined the rest to find that the group had grown significantly. There had to have been around 24 kids if not more!! I'm glad that Pablo and Nelson had come to help control the crowd.

I sat with my long time friend Elias and he told me about how he goes to school and that he has a job with the horses as well. A little dumbfounded that this tiny one could be working already, but I suppose it comes with the territory.

I know I've mentioned the social bias toward Las Violetas, but it drew even more attention from me when my good friends answered a question I had posed as part of a game. The question: have you ever lied to anyone to make a person like you, and what was the lie?

The immediate response: "I said I was from Las Palmas."

A couple girls had come too to check things out. Turns out they had gone to the cooking classes all last year on Thursday mornings. It was lovely to meet them, and I hope to keep in contact.

We gathered everybody in the end to say thanks for how well everyone behaved and to pray. May we pray for this continuing ministry, as they meet each Wednesday and Friday as well!

On our way home, we ran into Ulises. He was finally ready to play soccer. "Ulises!" shouted both Adam and Cletis. "It took you nearly two hours to put on some shorts?!" haha. Great moment.

Chau!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Painful, but hopeful

Last Friday, I had stayed in the kitchen to intentionally get some one on one time with Ale. She is very strong-willed, but you would be too at 16 and pregnant with your second child. At least I assume so. She has gone through a lot.

I had to pray fervently for the words and questions to come during this time in the kitchen. I honestly don't  know what to say most of the time in these situations, with the boys in the other institute neither, but I will always try. I asked about her brothers and sisters, about what she likes do, simple things... to get to know her and try not to cross lines of intimacy when we haven't built as much trust apart from being consistent. (But even in that regard, I have only been back to visit the girls for two full weeks--nothing.)

Yesterday God had already blessed our friendship. Ale pulled me aside to sit with her during merienda and we chatted for about half an hour. She asked about the US and we got to talking about the danger and violence in the cities. She asked if I knew anyone who had been robbed, or anyone who had been violated, and I thought about it.

"Yes, actually." I proceeded to tell of a close family member that had suffered before. "Do you know anyone?"

She looked at me. "Did you know that my first child was from rape?"

I was certainly wondering, but based on her explanations about her present boyfriend, the father of the current child in her tummy, I figured it might be the same guy. Then again, the math doesn't work, because Luciano is three. I repeat, Ale is 16 years old.

I wanted to cry for both her and Lucho. I told her how sorry I was that she had that experience. At the same time, I was thankful for the opportunity to talk more openly about her past. This moment opened up more talk about her parents as well, how they have never been in the picture until just last year.

More to pray for; more to think about. Thanks God for the opportunity. Chau

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Practicing the bloom

The other day, Laura interrupted me during my devotional time. With desperation she looked at me with wonder. "These stories you tell, about sharing the gospel with people... how do you do it???"

I laughed. She was referring to the moments in Ushuaia and 30 de Agosto, but other stories I've told her before as well. Experiences that are pretty crazy, but experiences rather natural as well. As natural as getting on a bus for instance.

So I asked her, "How will you become a good guitar player?"

"By practice," she said.

I turned to read my Bible, but only jokingly. It was a very Confucious-teaching-student moment, but I don't say that as if I'm on any high horse here. It's obviously God at work in me, but I have to make certain choices for anything to happen.

The best way I can describe it is how I heard someone preach it in Colorado. There's a baby on the side of the road in the middle of winter. A group of Christians pull over and gather around it to pray. They pray for someone to come and take care her, we'll say it's a her. Then they get back in the car and drive off.

Prayer is powerful, yet this moment not only called for prayer but for action as well. What we need are eyes to clearly see this, and hands willing to get messy. I explained to Laura that learning how to share the gospel for me, came at a very young age. I think it was even in middle school when I began the F.A.I.T.H. class that would visit people who came to our church for the first time. We brought cookies and tracts. The vision was to converse, get to know them, eat cookies together if possible, invite them back, share the gospel, etc. etc.

I was clear to admit that motives weren't always the best during this time. "Sometimes, and I regret to say, it was all about numbers--how many people did you visit tonight?" I explained. "And worse, sometimes it was just about getting to spend time with some boys that I liked." She chuckled with me this time.

And yet, as we read in Philippians, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. Because of this, we rejoice. Naturally, I have qualms with just leaving this sentence here. I think of the fact that there are evangelists who completely miss the point of Christ. I want to believe that what Paul was saying here was that when "Christ was preached" it encapsulates the need for only Jesus to save us from sin and death and to give us new life NOW. Thus, we are forever transformed when "Christ is preached."

Aside from this, what I really learned from F.A.I.T.H. was how to begin the evangelical conversation in the first place. How does one get from a conversation about someone's boyfriend, to God, for example?

In time, I was able to get into what it means for a relational experience in evangelism--to not just preach Christ, but to live out His example of walking beside someone for discipleship. Yet, I am also aware of Bill Bright's (thank you Cru) theme, "Five minutes with someone is five minutes of opportunity" (my paraphrase). Sometimes you just won't get another moment.

As you can see, this is a complicated subject.

Then today I was convicted of my lack of deeper conversation with the girls in the institute. Not that I don't try ever, but often I forget and get lazy in our conversations together... Things like that. Nieves and I intentionally prayed before entering today that God would help us with our words. And we ended up being more open with each other. I got to know more of the latest addition, Maria Elena's, story.

I praised God for answering our prayer.

Then I came home to figure out how to fix the shower. I had to run to the local hardware store, and in the process, ran into one of the girls from the bakery. We chatted, and next thing I knew we were talking about God. She had to go a little later, but when I came to the hardware store, the female attendant said she was thinking of me.

"I have a whole box of wooden figures and flowers and the like," she tells me. "I know you meet with the children in Las Violetas, would you use anything like that to paint as a hand craft? I would like to donate them."

Blown away. And part of me thinks it's because they know I'm a missionary, so they expect the conversation to steer that direction. Part of me thinks it's because God has trained my eyes and hands to see.

Because then..

..that's right, it's not over..

I went to the neighbor's house across the street to help figure out a way for them to contact Heather. They were very close with Heather and JD, and are excited about her having a kid in a few months. This led to further conversation, which led to a possibility of meeting someone who lives a block away but is in great need. It's difficult to explain, but I just kept feeling that it's an opportunity that I must try and take.

Just like 30 de Agosto. A "why not?"

An interruption.

A "who knows?"

A "Just do it."

And because of this we rejoice. And because of this, your life will be much more of an adventure than you could have ever planned. Believe me.

Okay, now I'm late for dinner with Maria Elena. Chau.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fútbol en LV

So every Monday, a group goes to play soccer with the kids in Las Violetas. At first, when I heard about it, I wanted to go, but already had plans at the time. Now that I'm making my own schedule, Monday evenings are fairly free. Last week was the first, and it was fun, but I particularly liked last night.

For one, a storm seemed to be headed right for the neighborhood if not right for the cancha, or soccer field, on which we would be playing. Then, a miraculous strong wind came that seemed to blow over the thunderstorm completely. Plus, due to the ominous weather, no one was playing when we arrived.

Free territory.

I played for awhile with the boys. Even scored a little golaso (hehe), but once another came eager to play, I let him take my spot. I figure it's better that the boys play, and I be a female presence for any girls that do come. Also, and sort of more importantly, I have a personal challenge and his name is Gaston.

I know I have mentioned Gaston before. He is a hardheaded kid that doesn't seem to want to let anybody in. As I sat with him on the sideline (he wasn't playing due to a hurt toe) I prayed inwardly. 'God, every time I talk first, he doesn't want to talk. I want to trust You with this time we have here. Let me know when to say something, and when not to.'

Thirty seconds later, Gaston made a comment about the weather. I responded, and he even talked a little back. A good sign. But then I had to wait some more. Every now and then he would chime in with a comment. I got a little more courage with my own comments, and was surprised to see him say something back. But I tried not to push it.

When all was said and done, Gaston left early. I suppose a little sad he couldn't play due to his foot. But as we passed him on the street I made sure to wave and say good bye. Miracle number two with him.. he acknowledged me with a nod of the head. ha. The boys can be so proud sometimes...

A new kid came this week. Er.. someone who hadn't come last week, and I deduced his name through what others would yell. Manuel. That name seemed so familiar, and not just because of our local meat man. Sure enough, he looked at me and said, "Wait.. you're--how do you say it?"

"Sharayah."

"That's right," he exclaimed. "Do you remember me??!! You taught me how to juggle last year!"

It was a good little evening. On our way home, three girls were walking past us and I overheard them say something about wanting to play soccer. "Come on with us next week," I told them, and asked them their names.

"REALLY??"

"Of course!!" though in the back of my mind thinking to still bring cards just in case the boys are mean about it. Got to start praying about this one pronto!

All that to say, a good time! Chau!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wait for it

I have been reading the minor prophets lately. Just sort of going through them over and over and over again. Trying to keep in mind the historical context, but also understand more of God's character. The bottom line will make this post pretty short, but let it not be something that gets left for another day.

You have to wait for it. God needs to judge sin. He needs to get rid of the mess, because He is a holy God that can't stand the presence of sin. But restoration is coming. He will not forget His promises, nor will He not provide a way out of all of the pain. Jesus is part of the proof that the end will come. But you have to wait.

For example, some of the verses that all seem to come at the end of the prophets' words:

I will heal their waywardness, and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. Hosea 14:4


In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the Lord's house and will water the valley of acacias. Joel 3: 18


In that day I will restore David's fallen tent, I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be.. Amos 9:11


Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the Lord's. Obadiah 1:21


How many times did you read "will"? The time of reconciliation, of peace, of no more guilt will come. We need to trust this, and more, live like we do. I know it's not easy (and I say this thinking of a certain teenager from Colorado) to read about the judgment and wrath of God in the Old Testament. However, in order to be fair upon the character of God that is given to us through inspired Word, we have to trust this part of the story. Maybe it will give us a little more peace of mind believing in the coming restoration. It will be legen--