Thursday, January 31, 2008

If I speak in tongues of men...

"If I speak in tongues of men and angels but have not loved, I am only a clanging cymbal..." is a present I received from my sister to remind me that LOVE is the goal. God had to reminder me today that love is not always a spoken language.
El Sendero closes at 10 but we usually start closing things up at 9:45. At 9:45 one our regular s walked through the door. He's a kid from one of the churches who usually comes in with a big group of kids, but tonight he was alone. I brought out his drink and said hello, but he wasn't his normal cheerful self. He looked like he could burst into tears at any moment. As he told me what was going on in his life, all I could do was nod my head and attempt to understand. I only caught about 1/3 of what he was saying... he was a believer but was struggling with living the Christian life. As I listened, I wanted some wise words to tell him, but I couldn't figure out how to speak spanish from my heart. So I just sat and listened. As I sat there I cried out to the Lord, "Give me something to say! Give me understanding!" But all I could think about was that verse in my room... if I speak in tongues of men and angels but have not loved I am only a clanging cymbal. In my listening I attempted to love. And even though I did not understand everything he said or have some wise word to tell him, I pray he heard my love.
Is my Spanish getting any better? Some days, I actually thinks its a little worse, but I'm attempting to learn the language of love.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Why are you here?

I thought I knew. I thought I knew what I was supposed to do here and what I definitely DIDN’T want to do here. I wanted to come and work at the café, make friends, learn Spanish. I didn’t want to help with English. I want to learn Spanish!

I first met Luis at the English conversation class. He’s a University student majoring in some sort of computer programming and seems quite good at it. After class he says to me, “Simple as pie?” He was learning English slang and phrases. The other great one was “I have a hot bod.” Where do they learn these things?

Last night we had El Noche de Fe (Night of Faith). It’s a sort of Bible discussion that is completely bi-lingual. I didn’t realize how many people will come to ANYTHING where they can practice there English. Luis was there and had a lot of questions. “What does the inside of an Evangelical Church looked like?” and what was this word, “redemption.”

To be honest I didn’t think that I would get to be involved in these kind of conversations for a long time, but somehow God has allowed me to use my ENGLISH of all things to talk to people about him.

Why am I here? I am here to glorify him. No more, no less.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I've never been SO at a loss for words...

Lately there has been a battle of wills… mine verses God’s. This has become a moment by moment ordeal. Will I do what God is calling me to do or will I do what “looks” right to me. The later is rarely BAD… just not what he is calling me to.

God has had to take me and show me that HE is central. I must live every moment of every day saying, “Jesus, you are central. Whatever you want me to do today I will do it – whether that means washing dishes, scrubbing floors, smiling at someone, or talking to someone about you.

Today God gave me a conversation that I’ve been wanting for a while, but it was different than I expected… while at the café today, I was doing just what I was talking about earlier… trying to keep Christ central. Washing dishes, making food, smiling at people and then He opened a door.

One of the girls that I work with, Susi is the only believer in her family. Today her cousin decided to come to El Sendero with her 2 friends and I just happened to walk up at just the right time to get introduced. All three girls were 16 and very talkative. They wanted to practice their English and I told them I would love to. We talked about where they lived, how old they were, where they went to school, the boys they like (of course, because girls will always default to boys) and then they asked me a prime question, “Why are you here?” I explained to them that I used to work with teenagers, hang out with them, love them and talk to them about my relationship with Jesus and that I was here to work at El Sendero and make friends.

Por su puesto (meaning ‘of course’… my new favorite phrase in Spanish J) they asked me if I was religious. And I told them no. I didn’t like religion because it was a set of rules… what I had was a relationship with God. That peaked some interest and so we started talking about what each one of them believed. One girl, Toa is Bahai because her dad is from Iran. The other two, Estaphanie and Amyna are both Catholic because their families are. We talked a little more and then they had to go to English class but promised they would come back and visit more.

As I sat there talking to them, I felt so helpless. I usually know what to say, or what to ask… but to be real honest, I felt speechless. I want to form a relationship with these girls, but we are worlds apart. How do I even start?

All evening I have been plagued by this thought. I know the “right” answer… to love them. But to be honest, I wonder if its enough. My heart is broken for them and I desperately want them to be loved by Jesus through me… but I think to myself, ‘Who am I?’

Even as I wrote that, God brought to my mind a conversation I had with my roommate, Kate this afternoon. We were talking about a part in Corinthians when it says that we are Christ’s ambassadors and God makes his appeal through us.

That thought blows me away… I am not a worthy vessel, but my prayer for my time here is that GOD would make his appeal through me to these people that he loves so deeply.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Strength and Beauty...

A small hand with broken fingers and weathered skin reached up to the sky. A streak of grey ran through her black hair. I could barely see her 4’10” frame around the other people in the church, but her hands stretched upward without regard for anyone around her.

The sights and sounds around me seemed to fade in comparison to this woman. I was close to tears as I watched this seasoned woman hold both hands outstretched for over 20 minutes without so much as a tremble.

This is strength and beauty; a woman whose worn heart is devoted to the Lord. Some see age, the Lord sees a true worshipper. Others see weakness, the Lord sees one who has trusted despite all odds.

As I stood there, I asked the Lord if one day my hands could look like that.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Yo soy una barista...

Things are never as they appear are they? This past 5 days has been so interesting. I'm slowly trying to learn about culture, people and just living life here in Ecuador.
I've learned that Lojanos are all about appearances. I don't know if I told you this before but in Ecuador it is culturally unacceptable to be barefoot. I don't know if that's a problem for you, but it is for me. I hate wearing shoes. On a positive note, I can wear sandals. Does that make sense? It didn't to me either until I found out why.
The indigenous people are too poor to wear shoes, so if you're not wearing shoes you are looked down upon because you are saying you are too poor to wear shoes. Interesting isn't it?
This is just one of things that you learn the hard way... another is how similar two words with completely different meanings can sound.
I knew from the moment I decided to come here that I would end up making a fool out of myself with my spanish... and here is story #1.
Yesterday, one of the guys in the shop asked me what I did before I came to Ecuador, so in spanish I explained to him that I was a youth minister and a barista.
Those both sound like normal jobs right? One of the women in the kitchen (Gloria, who I absolutely LOVE, in the picture to the right) got SO excited. She was jumping around and waving her hands. I could not figure out what was going on. She kept saying, "barista barista!" and waving her arms, smiling and jumping.
It wasn't until later that another missionary and I looked up some words in the dictionary and realized that what she was really saying was "malabarista" which is... a juggler.
She thought I was in the circus and I was a juggler. She was pretty disappointed to find out that I just made coffee... but we did have a good laugh and I'm sure there will be many more to come.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What would you miss the most?

What did you wake up to this morning? I woke up to the sound of children laughing, workers hammering, and a tornado alarm (which turned out to be aschool bell). As I sit here writing this in my room, I think of all the great things that I never thought would be here: a beautiful room, wonderful girls to chat with, a great café to hang out in, and so many people to meet! With all the things that are wonderful there are also those things that you forget are different in other countries… let's take the internet for one…Who would have guessed that speed and accessibility of the internet would be something one would miss so much? Today I tried my hand at an internet café. One of the girls I live with, Gabi took me to one that works… sometimes (meaning more often than the other ones!) There I met a cute lil' lady named Carmen who ran the café. It took me a good 15 minutes just to get into my gmail and another 15 minutes just to send 2 emails! Carmen was so cute! She refused to make us pay anything for the time we spent there since it didn't really work. Last night as I was praying before I went to bed, I prayed that the Lord would help me find a café that (a)works J (b) has people I can connect with and (c) I can use my internet phone at! I made one out of the three. Maybe the rest will come later. (So if it takes me a while to respond to your emails PLEASE don't take it personally.. i'm working on it!)Then there's clean water… I was at a restaurant the other day and asked fora bottle of water. I twisted off the cap and took a big swig only to realizethat I forgot to say "sin gas" so it was a carbonated water. Quite a surprise to the taste buds that are expecting normal water! Then there are just the little things like flushing toilet paper and speaking English! Even with all of that, I am so excited. The longer I am here the more excited I get about what the Lord has for me here in Loja. I've been told that there are some high expectations for me since I have previously worked in a coffee shop. Please be praying for me as I learn Spanish… my first lesson is on Friday with Maria, my cute Spanish teacher who I met last night. Please also be praying for relationships with nationals and with other missionaries that the Lord will lead me to the people of peace. Pray for me as I start working at El Sendero tomorrow. And finally pray that I will have appropriate expectations for myself. So what do I miss the most? All of you. Thanks for listening to my heart…

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I'm Here!

Thank you for your prayers... I have arrived safely in Quito, Ecuador. I leave for Loja in a couple of hours. Getting to Quito was quite the experience though... here's how it went:
Leaving Denver I had to pay $125 for my extra bag... which wasn't fun, but kinda expected. I flew into ATL from Denver and had a 4 hour layover. I was supposed to arrive in Quito at 9:45pm, but God had other plans. We approached Quito about 3 times before they came over the intercom and said that there was too much fog so we were going to go to Guayaquil and refuel to try again. I was NOT happy about this due to the fact that I'd been up since 4am.
But as usual, God has other plans. While waiting in the airport in Guayaquil, I met Lilly, a traveling nurse from the states. We hit it off and ended up sitting together on the plane talking the entire time. We exchaged emails and I think she may come and visit me in Loja!
Even more interesting than than was getting through customs. We decided to wait for each other, get bags together and go through customs together. Little did I know that this would end up helping me out a ton. I had 3 BIG bags and two carry ons. She only had 2 bags and 1 carry on... so when we went through customs, she looked back at me and said, "Do you need help with the bags?" And I THINK the customs officials just thought we were together and that between two of us, we didn't have too much luggage :)
So that extra several hours of air time saved me the $100 extra baggage fee coming through Quito. How many times do I get impatient with the Lord when he is really just trying to give me what I ask for??
Needless to say, I arrived at the guest hour at 2:30 this morning and I'm leaving for Loja in a couple of hours. Keep praying... and I'll try and keep you posted on stories.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Only One Door Left...

Here I am standing at the open door. The rest had their turn and they are now shut. Each one represented a friend, a job, a good laugh, a tear shed. Each one was open at one point, but over the past months had to be shut in order to move on to the last door in this hallway. Shutting those doors are never easy. It's saying goodbye. The last door is shut, I am ready to walk through and see what doors await me in the next hallway of life.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

January 2008 Prayer Letter

January 2008 Prayer Letter

What's New in the Coffee Shop...
“Fear and God shouldn’t go in the same sentence,” said David, a new believer I met in a coffee shop. “I mean think about it. You serve God and he knows what’s around the next corner. Why should we FEAR when the guy we’re living for knows what’s coming next? Instead I like to think of life like an adventure!” The simplicity of it could only be captured by a baby believer.

Living in Colorado for the past month and a half has been eye opening. I have had to slow down, meet new people, and wait on the Lord. As I look back on 2007, this is the common theme: slow down and wait. I had to slow down after leaving Prince of Peace youth ministry and then wait to see what the Lord had next. I had to slow down when I left the comforts of Dallas to be in Colorado and then wait EVERY DAY to see what the Lord would have me do. When I am forced to wait, I must answer the question, “Do I really trust God?”

Coffee Shop Talk...
Harry was the most interesting person I met in the past month. An intelligent man in his 60’s who laughed in my face when I told him I believed I could have a relationship with God.

Again the theme of “waiting” came up. I had to sit and listen as he openly bashed all I have ever believed or held to be true. The aggression towards God was evident with every word he spoke. “Christians act like they know everything. I asked my evangelical aunt one time ‘What about Buddhists and Hindus?’ and she said, ‘They’re just wrong.’ Why do Christians think they are the ONLY ones who know truth.” I just sat there nodding and kept praying, “Lord tell me something to say!” But I got nothing… and so I waited.

After listening to his heart, the Lord spoke to me “You will seek and find me if you search for me with all your heart.” (Jer29:13) And so I said, “Harry, I pray that you keep searching for truth.” He just smiled and looked at me like I was crazy. As he got up to leave I just prayed that the Lord would reveal the truth of Jesus Christ to our friend Harry. (To read more about Harry and other adventures, check out my blog!

What's Coming Up...
As of today I have less than a week until my feet touch Ecuadorian soil. I have said my goodbyes and am packing my things wondering what the Lord has next. I leave January 14th at 7:30 in the morning and will prayerfully be in Quito that night. I’ll be staying at a SIM guest house and then off to Loja the next day. What’s next? I have NO IDEA, but one thing I can say with certainty, I am walking with the one who knows what’s around the next corner. Adventure here I come!

Time to Pray
Pray that I would have a safe travel to Ecuador
Pray for goodbyes that they would be sweet and not too sad
Pray that I would get all my stuff in my luggage and that I can get my 3rd bag all the way to Loja without having to pay extra (might as well pray for the impossible!)
El Sendero Café—that the Lord would draw University students to himself… in search for the truth
Pray for Maria and Susi, two women who were baptized in Loja this month. This is a big step as it publicly identifies them with Christ.
Pray for my Spanish —that the Lord would make my brain a sponge

*Praise that I’m at 100% of my support!
Praise that my brother and his wife are having a baby.
Praise that my time with my family was wonderful.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Are you a Liar?

"I'm fine." The cop out answer to what's REAL. What would you do if you asked someone how they were and instead of giving the normal response of "I'm fine" they said, "My life is in shambles and I don't know how to get out of bed in the morning."
We have accustomed ourselves to LYING to each other. What is the body of Christ if not a sasfe place were we can love and be loved?
So body of Christ, this is going to be a place were I will be honest... when I'm in Ecuador I promise there will be many days that the above statement passes over my lips. I pray that you will listen to my heart through the junk.
Needless to say, this continues to be the weirdest time of my life. What do you say when someone asks: "Are you ready? Are you excited?" Here's what I normally say, "Yeah... it's a little crazy but I'm excited." If I were being completely honest, the answer would sound a little more like this: "AAAH! I feel like I'm about to jump out of my skin and my heart is about to explode. Am I ready to leave behind my friends, family and everything I tangibly know about life? No... I don't know if I will ever be ready for that."
I heard a speaker driving to San Antonio yesterday and he spoke about Abram and God's call for him to go to a land that he did not know. When God spoke to Abram He called Himself "El Shaddai." El meaning "God". Sha meaning "who" and Dai meaning "is sufficient." God has been continuing to confirm for me this very statement. God who is sufficient. Was Abram ready to leave everything he knew? No, but he did know that God, who was leading him was sufficient for his ever need. Am I ready? No, but I step forward knowing that God is sufficient!