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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Appreciated

I am a words person. That is to say, when someone pays me a compliment, I take it to heart. I might turn red, and act like I didn't want to hear it. And obviously, there is the reality that whatever good thing I did really is because of something God did in me. So I can't and shouldn't take all the credit. Nevertheless, it IS important to hear that what you're doing, or what I'm doing, is on the right path, if you will.

So it made me smile to hear Flor tell me that whenever she spends time with me she feels alleviated. That all of the other parts of life stop and she's not as worried anymore. She is happy and free. That's a pretty amazing compliment.

After my time with her, I checked my email only to find a message from Noemí. It was her birthday this week and while I was invited, a slight knee problem hindered my attendance. I had sent her a text to explain, but she responded via this email.

This email which told me that when we first met, she was going through a hard time: "Tu cariño y amistad me hicieron mucho bien a mi vida," she wrote. Once again, it's to say, that I'm not always the kindest and most helpful person. God makes me that way.

God was the one to put both of these girls on my path in the first place. And having just listened to a sermon about the parable of the talents, I suppose God is showing me how to make the most out of a little that God has given me.

It's not that we are meant to see outcome/fruit/results of what we do. Ever. But it can be nice to see some of those things every now and then. To feel appreciated. :)

Chau!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The temptation

When I fell on Monday, all I could think about was the couch in my home in Lewisville. A blue, ever so comfy couch we had bought on sale from Rooms to Go. On this same couch, I spent the summer after my junior year of high school, recovering from a surgery on my ACL.

It was a long summer. I probably watched more movies during that summer than in my lifetime up to that point. And now, with less easy-access to movies, perhaps more than for the rest of my lifetime..

It was a depressing summer. I tried to learn to crochet, and failed. I tried reading, and couldn't finish a book. I wanted people to visit, but when they did, I was cold and resentful. I remember having a conversation with my mom about how no one visits me, but the reality was my eyes were closed to those who had.

So when I fell, and felt the same pain in the other knee as what I had felt at the end of my third year in high school. I screamed from frustration more than anything else. Yes, it hurts, but the idea of staying at home, alone, is worse for me.

The boys in LV were scared when I screamed. Then I made them even more nervous by almost crying during prayer time. Again, I was thinking about what I would be missing out on because rest is simply mandatory for injuries like this. And it hurt. Ok, I admit it.

I need prayer because my temptation is that I will become selfish in this. I need discernment on my limits: when do I participate in a ministry or when do I need to stay at home and rest. How long do I rest?

I need prayer to make the initiative for people to come and visit, but without being upset if they are unable to make it. I need creativity in things to do (although it seems to be going well so far!). I need prayer because I am scared I will fall without it.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful' he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can endure it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Where to begin

I know. They say the beginning is a great place to start. And yet, I want to start...


.... here.

She's coming to church with us. She has bought a baby crib. She sold 300 pesos worth of bracelets or other knick knacks to do so. She shares her secrets with me.

Then there's her friend, who has already left to live in the city. Who wants to thank us for helping her son get better (although obviously, that was all God). Who wants to visit the institute whenever I am there.

And then we go back to the original she who sometimes just calls to see how I am doing. Who collaborates with me. Who holds onto my arm when we cook on Fridays all together. Who leans on me when we are sitting next to each other at church.

I leave the institute with a flood of thoughts. The most common is "Praise God." The second most common, "I get to be a part of this??"

"You include me, God???"

Thanks. I pray for endurance. For wisdom. And love.

Chau!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

El tiempo vuela

Each day, it seems time is going by way too quickly. I only have so many hours in a day and I want to get so much accomplished. Such as writing in my blog. Or writing an update letter for that matter.

Hmm...

There is much to tell, especially when it comes to Ale and Giselle. And meeting up with Romina and Noemí again. And another girl I had met last year.

At least I have time to continue to share my love for a certain jugador. I hope they crush Chelsea today!!!!

Love and chau!

Friday, April 13, 2012

El tema es..

Whenever I hear this phrase, I know an excuse is coming. In a way, it reminds me of the need for creativity. As a speech I listened to this week reminds me, let's stop thinking linearly, and let's start seeing that there are multiple ways to achieve a successful result. Let's remember that a successful result may not look the same for one person as it does for another.

And this makes me think about God. When we have faith in his provision, in his goodness, we have to remember that we don't always have the same definition of "good" as God. We often think "good" is if he gives us what we want, when and how we want it.

Today at the girls' institute, we made trenzas. They are a fashionable hair accessory that you can make similar to the bracelets we are already making together. Instead of hanging them on your wrist, they hang from your hair. It was something Ale had suggested we do a couple weeks ago, and we were finally able to make it happen today.

In the middle of this time together (after I had spent part of it working with Gladys in the kitchen--that was quite fun), Giselle tells us her son, Martin has some sort of infection on his skin.

"I've already been to two doctors," she tells us. "Both of them couldn't do anything for me."

They had recommended a dermatologist, but couldn't give Martin a cream or anything to help stop the infection from growing.

I explained what I could do, which was first pray, but then also see if our team doctor, Andrea could do something about it. "I know you've already seen two doctors, but who knows?"

El tema es...
The thing is...

She can't go to the hospital by herself.
She is waiting for her "husband" to come to take her.
We aren't allowed to go, nor do we have a way to take her (the team car is being used).
She doesn't want to wait until tomorrow for Andrea to come, because she knows the rash is getting worse. At the same time, she doesn't believe that her husband will be coming.

All of this, I think I understand. And I'm sure, I would be in more of a panic in her situation; if it was my kid.

We gathered around in the kitchen to pray for her. It was a beautiful moment to see Gladys and Maria Elena (another of the women) join us. We prayed for Martin's health, for trust that God hears us, and for wisdom in what we should do.

We left, and all I could see was doubt in Giselle's eyes. Doubt and hopelessness. I want her to witness a miracle, and for Martin to be cured. But I don't know if that's God's will, because I don't know if that's what Giselle needs in order to put her faith in God. On the walk back, I prayed for God's will and that it would lead her to him. Would you pray with me?

Chau!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Moments in LV

It seems there is always a little anecdote to share after futbol Mondays. This week comes two:

1. Sitting, passing around the mate with Manu and Carlos. Carlos yells at Nelson to give Joy (girlfriend) a kiss. He then turns to Manu and talks about how crazy it is that they haven't had sex yet. After a moment's pause I say, "Do you guys not see the importance of waiting to have sex?"

They laughed. Manu even jokes that he had enjoyed last night for instance.

(Enter the difference between pre-teens from Las Violetas and from say, my hometown...)

Which leads to them asking about my experience. "Nope," I tell them. "Still waiting!"

"For what?"

"A guy that's worthy! And more importantly, I plan on getting married first!"

This time they're interested in what I have to say. "What makes a guy worthy?"

"Well," I tell them. "It's pretty important that he loves God first and foremost, and that he has the desire to serve God in other countries, as God directs him."

Manu looks at me. "So let's say I have the desire to serve God, would I make your list?"

I laugh. "Bro... you are way too young for me!"

And after trying to convince me he is 18 (which don't worry, is way too young as well), he finally says. "All right... do you have a sister?"

2. At the end of our time together, we call everyone to the middle to pray. Eventually they all come, and for the first time they sit. I again thank them for playing together, and plead with them to try not to fight next time. One of the kids, David, asks me to pray in English, and have Adam translate. I try to keep the prayer simple, but Adam struggles. So we pass the baton to Nelson who does a pretty great job. But when he lacked the words, finally David says, "Yo produzco, yo produzco!!!"

He used the wrong verb. He meant to say "Yo traduzco." And instead of translating, he just repeats what I say in English, which also was quite funny. Everyone enjoyed it and we hugged each other goodbye.

Chau!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Testing, testing, 1, 2

This (Friday) morning I had written in my head what I wanted to say for this post. It is only 6pm and enough has changed, and I wouldn't be surprised if more does, that I have a more complete story to tell.

You see, it began with the saxophone. I am playing more, and so I was invited/put the idea out there to play this Easter Sunday as we will be in a larger setting and the instrument will not be so loud. The band practiced together in the house for the first time this morning, while I was outside figuring out the notes to every song (the only problem with playing this instrument--being tuned to E♭). So there I was, waiting for the rest of the band, already nervous for how this would go. It's Friday. We are playing on Sunday...

Then Mariela is there and I comment on how I missed her on Wednesday. I remember the conversation with Sol on the walk back from the girls' institute about how Mariela can't just not come, she needs to let me know ahead of time. "Tendrias que retarla," she tells me. "You ought to rebuke her... challenge.. reprimand her.."

This word is hard for me, but I know it is true. I stop to think about the types of challenges that work best for me. The ones that do not arouse my spirit of rebellion, if you know what I mean.

Mariela tells me she doesn't plan on coming anymore for Wednesdays. Just Fridays. Which leaves me alone for two out of three days of visiting. I already feel defeated. "Por?" I ask her.

She doesn't have a reason; one can see her own recognition of lame excuses. But I don't say anything to her because it's early and I'm more agitated about the practice that's about to happen. Even though I know God is good. Even though I know the sax will work out in time.

We have a team meeting where hardly anybody comes because it's Good Friday; I assume that everyone assumes we won't meet because it's a holiday. I sneak out a little bit early to prepare the bag for things to do while we are with the girls this afternoon. In the midst of this, the woman in charge of giving the lesson for Escuelita Saturday morning comes in. She tells me she was sick this week and didn't have a chance to prepare the lesson. "Can you do it?"

I almost want to say yes just because I'm exhausted, but I say no. "What about earlier this week? There was not a single chance to prepare something??" I remind her that it's only 10 to 15 minutes of lesson time. I remind her that figuring out what to talk about couldn't be easier right now--it's HOLY WEEK!!!

She leaves.

Mariela comes, but without her sister, so I call Flor to join us. Mariela puts her headphones in for the entire walk over. In the institute, all the girls make comments wondering where they have been. "Why are they so inconsistent?" I hope it sinks it, but it also hurts me to hear it.

On the way back, it feels like Mariela is a different person. I didn't get a chance to see what she was doing, as I stayed in the kitchen helping to make pancakes, US style (which were a hit, by the way), so I have no idea if she was doing okay or not. I thought that maybe that could be a part of the issue, that I give too much freedom in how things are run in the institute. Yes, I could be better at this...

But as I said, she is a different person. She is smiling, and she has put her phone away. She is talking with Flor about how she enjoyed today with the kids. (Sigh). Flor parts for her house, leaving Mariela and me a chance to say what I had been praying about all along. And it couldn't have come at a better moment--at the peak of her excitement for doing what she knows she wants to do long term.

"So if working with kids with these needs is something you enjoy so much, why give up coming on Wednesdays?"

She smirks, a look to say "I knew this was coming."

"It's just when I'm in the house," she tells me. "I don't want to leave. I'm lazy."

"And I understand that. If only we could remember how we always leave with a sense of accomplishment, like we're doing what we were made for, to help us get out of our chairs," I say.

She agrees, and being the dramatic one that I am, I added one more question. "Just answer me this, Mariela. This decision: is it for your sake, or was it God's idea?"

She laughs. "All right, all right. I'll come. I don't know what I was thinking before."

Phew.

A few minutes later, I get a call from the woman helping with Escuelita. "I've got something prepared," she tells me.

What could have happened had I not said anything? Had I told both of them, "Ok, I'll figure something out"? Sometimes it's a test of leadership; sometimes it's a test of realizing as the body of Christ how much we need each other. How much we really should be depending on each other.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Galatians 6:1


Important implications involved in these verses: that we must be walking in the Spirit. That we must be careful ourselves. But over all, that we must say something, even when it is difficult. Take heart, God is with you!

Chau!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Jumping eyes

When you want to say that something pops.. something shines.. in Spanish, you are going to use the verb Saltar. Which makes sense when you think about it; it "jumps" out at you.

For instance, as I make bracelets with Ale and Giselle (and now another woman, but I don't remember her name just now), we are talking about the designs we use. We want certain colors to jump out at you, so it is important to use the "dull" colors to help make that happen. It's art. There's also the highlighter, called here a resaltador.

So I go to visit Maria Elena at the fair in the center of town. I sit by her table and help when I can, which often means serving the Catamarcan version of mate. That is, amargo, or bitter. I also pass it to our vending neighbor, who exchanges one of his sweets for the favor.

Then a man comes over with a microphone discreetly hanging by his side. He looks at the goods that Ma Elena is serving and then looks at me, enjoying my turn for the mate.

"And where are you from?" he asks.

"The United States--"

"THE UNITED STATES... You came all the way from there to sell these sweets???!!!"

I correct him immediately. "No, no. I am here supporting my friend."

"Oh.. okay." But then he pauses. "Can you do me a favor? Can you stay here for a moment? We'll come back with the video camera to ask you a few questions."

The neighboring vender pressed his finger to his eye. It's a body expression here that says "I'm watching you. Behave yourself."

Ha. Anything can happen when you're a foreigner...

Later that same day, a door-to-door vender came to our house. I open the door--

"Hellooo.. WHOA... you're eyes are really jumping out..."

I thanked him for his time after a persistent, yet defeated, effort to sell some lotions and perfumes. When I closed the door I looked at what I was wearing and it finally clicked. I have this bluish green tank top that sort of brings out the color of my eyes. But twice in one day for that kind of attention just made me laugh. I changed, and got ready for the girls' institute for the afternoon.

Chau!