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

Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Jesús, llevame con vos"

Thus were the final words of Marta Rodriguez.

I can't begin to tell you the rollercoaster of emotions that followed. I can't begin to describe the cries of desperation for their mother; the sobs of grief mixed with a quiet prayer from Nieves I was blessed to hear:

"Te amo, Dios. Te amo."

Thank you God for being our consolation in times of suffering. May you continue to comfort the Rodriguez family in this sad and perhaps confusing time.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Time

Marta has been given hours to live.

I must say I don't even know where to start praying. I had a feeling a week or two ago that I should start petitioning for recovery. And yet, to see her pain this past Monday, I also don't want her to suffer.

Then there are a flood of events that seem to be converging at the same time. I just don't have enough time to do everything, to please everybody.. I didn't go to youth group again tonight so that I could finish the lesson for Escuelita in the morning, and make drastic changes to the Cordoba Immersions schedule (that begins on Tuesday!).

Nevertheless, we always make time for the things we love. Cough cough.. BATMAN.. cough.. the saxophone.. etc. etc.

In other news, I have been reading, and lack but one chapter to finish, Scripture and the Authority of God by N.T. Wright. It is a challenging read, but has brought me to an interesting new consideration about God's rest.

"[John] Walton insists that in the ancient world anyone reading about something being built by a god in six days or stages would know that it was basically a temple, a dwelling for the god himself or herself. And what the god would do after the six days of construction was not simply to stop working and have some time off. The god would enter the newly constructed house and 'rest' there--in the sense of 'taking his ease,' taking up residence and being at peace in his new home. This gives quite a new perspective on the Genesis sabbath institution. If Walton is right, it has to do with the creator's enjoyment of his world, his celebration of heaven and earth as a dwelling for himself."*

Which means Jesus entered the world to dwell or "take his ease" just like the LORD God had done in Genesis. Jesus became the new Sabbath in whom we find rest. We look at time differently. We look at space differently too. Taking the temple concept and what we read about our bodies being the temple, we realize that God is now dwelling inside of us.

I can't seem to write this eloquently, but I want to mention that I have this gut feeling that it was God's plan all along. His timing is perfect. Do we trust him?

Chau.

*p. 148

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Just another week

Have I lost the "wow" factor for these blog posts? Sometimes I wonder if I'm getting lazy, or things are just getting so normal, I don't know what to tell any more.

I mean, there's the story of being sick, but how God still gave me enough strength to swim in the morning, and I was able to share Jesus with a woman in the lane next to me (as well as meet a fellow Christian in another lane!).

And there are the constant changes I see in Luciano. How he behaves so much better these days, and is even more enthusiastic to give me besos when we finish our time together. I have a current dream of teaching him some instrument so that he can have something to focus on. Which instrument, and who exactly will teach him? Still two questions to be resolved.

Next week begins Cordoba Immersions camp, Lord willing. It is going through some rough patches these days, but we will remain faithful. May God use the camp, and us who work in it, to make his name great!!!

The Rodriguez mom is still fighting. I went to visit the family on Monday and it was truly tough for me to see her so weak. I don't know what counts as good or better in cases like these, but she's there. I talked with Mariela today about it and she is tired. She is struggling to find the strength to keep supporting her mom from moment to moment (although to be clear, everyone is helping out, but it's a large task, obviously). And as for the dad, he hasn't been able to sleep a lot lately.

Things to be praying about.

Umm... yeah. That's that. Chau!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Se salió

I've had this bracelet, if you can call it that, around my right wrist for several years now. You know the people who save those bracelets you get at conferences, trying to see how long they last without having to cut them off?

This was similar. And successful in that I literally never took it off. But now, it is done. haha. So grave sounding.

I put it on during Mark Poshak's wedding back when I lived in Colorado. I was about to embark on a new journey, not just because it is what led me to Córdoba, but because it was the first day of singleness after the last boyfriend.

It was a purple ribbon, because purple was the other color for the wedding, and there was something that was said during the speeches that I didn't want to forget. In fact, I even wrote a little bit about it in the moment. So you can read on here in this blog, or you can just read the other version--it's still pretty valid.

But I guess what's new is that I'm okay with losing the bracelet. While it was a constant reminder to love well, I must confess of many moments in which I haven't. Period. And just because a bracelet no longer will stay on the wrist, doesn't mean I have forgotten the truth of our need to do the best that we can to love others, and have the grace to forgive ourselves when we don't do it so well.

The cool thing about being in Argentina is the trendiness of wearing bracelets. I am now adorned with plenty of others to remind me to love others--2 from Alejandra, telling me how thankful she is to be my friend (I am more thankful, I think!), one from Gladys who continues to ask me to give it to her as a gift (so funny), and one of the colors of Argentina, to think of the many ways in which God has brought me here. He is so faithful!

That's all I had to say about that. Chau!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"You make things lighter"

Sole is one of the workers in the institute. She greeted us with a smile, and introduced us to her friend. Before I get to into this, let me bring you up to speed. Not only are we selling bracelets, Ale is selling figurines of porcelana fría:

..and now we are selling what we cook each Friday. It began with pastelitos (which the girls then sold again, when I wasn't there, having used the money they earned to buy the ingredients), then pasta frola, and yesterday--empanadas arabes.

Cooking and selling has been my plan the whole time, but the girls usually just eat what we make. So I made the most of it by enjoying the various conversations we've been able to have in the kitchen, or serving mate while we wait for the food to cook. It's always been a blessing. 

The girls themselves finally "came up" with the idea to sell. And of course, I used Amanda Kingry's famous phrase, "we can make that happen."

Yesterday was most intriguing in that this time, the girls called ahead of time with their plan of action. I bought the ingredients, and Ale even came over earlier in the morning to pick them up, so they could get started before I got there.

When I arrived, we just had to stuff the discs (made from scratch!) and cook. Oh, and did I mention that they had already talked to buyers, so all that was left to sell on our own was one dozen (out of 6). Impressive.

In all of this, I am most encouraged that I don't have to do too much other than show up. We laugh and talk and play together (the last one mainly is applicable to the children obviously), and every now and then, we get a deeper conversation. Yesterday, I also realized how much the girls will make fun of each other, so I am currently praying for a way to encourage positive words.

Aside: Gladys is funny when it comes to positive words. Every time she says "Please," she looks at me to say, "Teacher, you taught me how important to say please for things." Chuckle.

And so here we are, greeted by the smile of Sole and her friend. Sole had helped with the making of the empanadas before I got there--very grateful to her for that as well as many other things! She turns to her friend, "We love it when Sharayah comes to visit." Then she looks at me, "You make things lighter around here."

I was abashed. "Well, I'm not so sure about that," I say. "But it is a blessing to come and be with you guys!"

What a concept though. Obviously, this is a colloquialism, because I have never heard a person from the States give that sort of compliment. I suppose it has to do with the weight of the world, and when someone comes and you forget your troubles, you certainly feel a bit lighter. Kind of beautiful the image, no?

So I am thinking that this is the person I will strive to continue to be. Although we live in a world of pain and suffering, much more than we can ever bear, let us carry each others' burdens, and make things lighter for one another. Sounds biblical to me! :)

love and chau.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"el cuerpo está confundido"

It started yesterday when I went outside in shorts. Now to you North Americans reading this, that doesn't sound so bad. But when you remember that I'm south of your hemisphere--that it is winter time here--you then begin to understand the insanity.

I must say, it wasn't too cold (thank you four years in Chicago), but it wasn't a day to be wearing shorts even if I made up for it with the jacket.

Then today, I continued to learn "Pecho." For those of you who don't know, with the knee issues, I have decided to take up swimming. No pressure on the dear rodilla, and a form of exercise that is quite fun.

As of late, I have been working on resistance; trying to swim 50 meters non stop. My profe (as we call her) has taught me better form in the freestyle ("Crol" which translates to crawl) and the backstroke (simply put, "Espalda" or back). On Friday, we began the basics of the breast stroke (ahem, "Pecho").

There is a LOT of coordination that goes into the breast stroke. Breathe - kick - 3 seconds - stroke - raise up above the water and breathe, etc. etc. So after 350m (with a few breaks) of the first two styles, the profe said it was time to work on the breast stroke again. I laughed to myself when she said she wanted me to do an entire vuelta (50m) and see how it goes.

Which is why, when I returned and she asked me how it went, I told her that my body is confused.

Everyone laughed and I felt like my job had been done. haha.

Chau.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Would you rather..?

Do you remember these questions? I remember a trip to Busch Gardens in Virginia with a truck full of teenagers, and one of the boys reading question after question of whether you would rather fart pink smoke or sneeze blue bubbles (or something outrageous to that affect).

Thankfully, some of the questions were more serious. We would find ourselves in conversations about death and how we live. Jesus himself has a really great would you rather question that I would like to take some time to discuss. It goes like this:

Would you rather follow me and find life, or gain the whole world and forfeit your soul? (See Matthew 16:24-27)


The bottom line is I don't want to miss it. Then again, who does?

Let's consider a situation I had this weekend where I missed it.* Every Friday, I go to cook with the teenage girls in the institute. They are now not only learning to bake or cook, but learning how to sell what we make so that they can save money to buy various items for their children. Which means that it is helpful that I don't go alone. Someone is needed to teach; someone is needed to play with the kids; someone is also needed for those who can't help in the kitchen due to space, to pass the time drinking mate or chatting or playing cards.

A cultural issue to be conscious of is not only do most volunteers not arrive on time, but they are inconsistent. I have found myself, ahem, consistently, trying to develop the need for faithfulness to commitments the volunteers have made (even if the title volunteer might express otherwise). So when I received the phone call from the girls that they couldn't come, I used a phrase I had learned from my mentor, "Then who will help?" It is a question aimed at the desire to make the person(s) aware of their commitment.

I asked them to pray for someone to come in their place. When I hung up, I went into a mini panic mode seeking someone to accompany me for the visit that would take place in less than 2 hours. The same answer was heard from every person. "No."

I stopped to pray in my room. "Peace, Lord. I need peace."

In last resort, I asked the brother of the sisters who normally come with me to take their place. He said he would talk with them and see. In a few minutes, he told me he would come. Exhale.

At the same time, while I was asking him, my mentor happened to be close by. She grabbed my arm, lovingly, and says, "Their mom is really sick today." Now, I know that Friday is the day for chemotherapy for Marta, the mom of this family of persons who serve so much. But I didn't understand why she told me what she did. Of course she is sick! She has cancer!

But he said yes..

.. only for minutes before leaving, he tells me no. "I am so sorry, but I have to go to the hospital now."

I was frustrated because I needed, or thought that I needed, someone to come with me. On the bike ride over, I was praying for wisdom on what to do. It's not like I haven't gone by myself plenty of times, but this time felt different for some reason. Then a prayer, coming from what seemed out of nowhere, escaped my lips. It was as if straight from that verse in Romans:

We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26)


My prayer was, to my surprise, "God, don't let Marta die this weekend. Don't let her die the same weekend as Sol's birthday. I don't want Sol to have any bitterness on a day meant for celebration."

I continued on my way, and the time at the institute turned out to be nice. In fact, I had a rare encounter with a sad Gladys. Her aunt had promised her to spend the weekend together, but she didn't come. I reaffirmed the permission for Gladys to come with us to church on Sunday, and this seemed to make her happy for the moment. Poor girl, as if she hasn't had enough feeling of abandonment in her lifetime.

Overwhelmed from the day (Fridays are full from morning to the middle of the night), I decided to stay home and just read and study the Word. The week in general had not allowed too much time in Bible study, so I wanted to make the most of what few hours left in the week to do so.

In the middle of this time, the girls called again to talk with Laura. I had a chance to ask how things went for them, and to tell them that I had been praying. "Thanks Sharayah, yeah, everything went well." Secondly, Sol texted me to say that there would not be a party for her birthday on Saturday after all; we would celebrate another day. I called her to make sure everything was okay. I was more insistent than usual, because for the first time, the situation felt more grave than I had imagined. "No, no, everything is fine," she tells me again and again.

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. (Psalm 4:5)


Went to the girls' house for a Bible study in the afternoon, and decide to stay with them for awhile longer. We made pepas, played cards, laughed..

The doctor came over to check up on Marta. The doctor also happens to be my mentor. She mentions to someone else who had come for a visit, "I didn't think Marta would make it to today. She was hanging by a thread." That was when it hits me that the situation was much worse than what everyone had been communicating to me. Or at least, how I felt that everyone was communicating with me.

Because no one wants to deal with death, so no one says how they are really feeling. I can understand that.

Equally difficult is pointing at one or the other and say, "You are in sin, and that's why this and this happened." Or even say, "You are right to do this, because.." I try to include as many details as I possibly can to help us all realize that every situation is very complicated.

We are messy people who just have to admit that we were wrong. Ahem.. I was wrong. I missed it.

I don't want to miss it.

Which is why I come back to Jesus' question of "Would you rather..?" I would rather have been more aware of the situation; to not have been so stupid in being angry with those who told me they couldn't come. To realize the prayer that the Spirit instilled in me should have made me more gracious with my friends.

I don't think Jesus' question points only to the choice between following him once and for all. I think it has to do with our daily act of being aware of his kingdom here and now. Will we be aware of what God is doing among us as we read/type/breathe? Aware of the greatest commandment to not only love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and stuff**, but to love our neighbor as ourselves?

I would rather be ignorant of the material world, and aware of the needs of my friends. The stuff of life will never love me the way that my friends will. Even if their love is imperfect, it is much more satisfying than my computer, bicycle, saxophone, or even less tangible, knowledge. If I pour my life into these things, I will most certainly have forfeited everything that matters at the end of the day. At the end of my life.

What about you?

Chau.

*The more I am in ministry, the more I am made aware of my mistakes. I thank God for answering my prayers to see those very mistakes more clearly, even if the act of seeing them does not always make me feel good. How important it is to remember "The Lord disciplines those he loves.." In addition, to remember that God is willing to use someone as broken as myself to complete some pretty amazing tasks. I don't understand it, but I am thankful.

**After more study of the Shema, it seems that a better translation for "strength" in this verse would refer to possessions, even money. To love God in showing responsibility for that which he first gave us. If that makes sense..

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Two. More. Years.

I was telling Nieves and Mariela the news. I loved Nieves' reaction, "MORTAL SORAYA!" haha.

Nonetheless, it can be a bit overwhelming. I was drawn back to this quote though:

"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. If only we had the eyes to see the emerging order that, while alien to our sensibilities, is nevertheless present."

Because here is where the chaos enters. There's the support raising, the visa renewing, the balancing of work and rest. The emails, the phone calls, the airplane rides.

And yet this promise of new creation is comforting. Dios, todo está en tus manos. Te confío.

Gracias, amor, y chau.