Thursday, March 20, 2014

Testimonies of God´s Love

Berta was one of the first people to welcome Oikos to Pacifico back in 2010. When Ronald and I joined Oikos in 2011 & 2012, we knew Berta as the woman who stood down by the bus stop in Pacifico, selling her plates of homemade food to the bus drivers and passengers who hurried by. She was always complaining of some physical ailment and suffered from terrible depression and anxiety, amongst other things. In 2013, she unexpectedly became pregnant with her third child, and suffered even more severe depression and anxiety. During that time, she became completely desperate for God and reached out for Him like she never had before. Team members prayed with her, called her and spent nights at her house. We began to see God change Berta´s life before our eyes. Not too long ago, Berta was all but begging for us to hold one of our weekly meetings in her house. We now have a weekly gathering in her house together with a group of women.  Berta has changed so much since we first met her- she now greets us with a smile on her face and although she still has days when depression or anxiety try to overcome her, she chooses to focus on God in the middle of life's storms. Please lift up Berta and her three children {Gustavo, Dana and Abraham} as we continue to see God's restoration and love at work in her life.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

¨God has set things in motion, taken a step back and sometimes sporatically chooses to intervene in our lives,¨ She says between wrinkled lips and kind eyes. She had the kindest of intentions, but I sit still, sat before her fragile frame

The God I know interacts with me on a daily basis, he speaks to me and tells me secrets and trivial things- my God is so very present in my life, and he intervenes in the smallest of ways

But I can not help wondering Dad has suddenly lost over 50% of his hearing and the doctors have told him there is neither an explination or a cure. I can not help but wonder when
I see healing all around me. I have seen God heal hearts, legs, and arms right before my eyes. But when God doesn't heal my family, I take it personal.

Tears well up in my eyes, partly because of the onion I have just finished cutting, and partly because I am silently repeating ¨God is good,¨ but somehow my heart trips over Daddy´s hardened ear drum, and I can´t reconcile the fact God has told me that it´s not time for healing yet.

Another track is running through my head. The one that realizes that I have forgotten to thank God for the 59 years of open ears and converstations that weren´t full of the gracious ¨parden?s¨ my dad´s become accustomed to say.

The 3,358 miles that separate us tempt me to call them the culprit, but when I hear Mom telling me that insurance won´t cover it, and talk of hearing aids, I realize that I can´t fix this no matter how hard I try.

¨Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
Daniel 3:16-17 MSG

Monday, March 17, 2014

Testimonies of God's Redemption

Meet Jordan: A 19-year medical student whose family lives two houses down from ours.  Jordan's family is Catholic (as are the majority of the people we come into contact with). Two years ago, Jordan spent the whole summer talking with me (Ronald) about questions he had about God, and expressing a desire to know Him in a deeper way. Jordan ended up giving his life to the Lord that summer, but a few short weeks later, he had to leave to go to college in a town about six hours away. To be honest, I felt discouraged because I had spent so much time with the young people in our neighborhood and in the end, I thought it was in vain, because they all left or were forbidden by their parents from spending time with us because we were Christians.

Well, about a month and a half ago, someone knocked on our door. It was Jordan, and the change in his life is incredible. He is so in love with Jesus and it's evident that he has a close relationship with Him. He has started his own band and composes Latin American songs about life with Jesus. He has completed two years of his medical degree and he has told us that he talks about Jesus to many of the patients he encounters. Jordan has since gone back to where he is living and going to school, but we are looking forward to continuing a relationship with him in the future.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What Has You? (Peruvian Transportation and Worrying)

¨Surrender it to Me.¨ 

I hear the familiar voice once again as I sit in the rickety seat of the public transport bus. 

The spring breeze is blowing in through the open windows as the sweaty ticket collector behind me yells out the destination of the bus, trying to persuade bystanders to board.

I grip onto my thoughts as I grip onto the handrails in the bus. 

This is the millionth time I've ridden a public transport bus since I moved to Peru almost three years ago, yet the fears are still the same. The scattered worries attack my brain like the fruit flies attacking the fresh produce in the open-air markets we pass.

What if I get robbed? 

They keep attacking with each jolty squeaking stop, with each person that boards. 

Robbery is quite common here in Peru, but really mostly the pick-pocketing-kind of robbery. The annoying-but-not-necessarily-life-changing type of robbery.

On two different occasions, a desperate soul has tried to snatch my phone, but neither attempt was successful, and I've never had any other encounters with robbery here.  However, the thoughts invade my mind like the robbers themselves, and if I'm honest, it's these thoughts that result in the shortness of breath and the near panic-attacks I'm feeling now as I sit in the ratty threadbare seat of the transport bus. 

I tune my ears to better concentrate on the voice I've just heard. It's a familiar one, and I begin to answer back: 

¨But I have surrendered everything to You! (Hello, I moved to Peru!)¨

¨No, you haven't,¨ 
is the simple response. 

"Why would you be worrying so much about your material goods being taken if you'd truly surrendered them to Me?"

Which, now that I think about it, is a little humbling. IF someone did get a hold of my bag, they'd only find two English books (one of them being the Bible), a notebook full of scribbles and a pen. 

If they somehow got a hold of what was in my pockets, they'd have a mini ipod with a cracked screen, a hand-me-down phone, eleven soles (the equivalent of about 3 dollars) and an American credit card (okay, granted, that might be worth something....but anyways). 

The inner battle continues. 

What was I so worried about? 

"Okay, God, I REALLY give you all these fears AND all my material possessions."

"No you don't
I hear again.

I was holding onto these things as tightly as I was gripping onto the bars of the bus as I slowly pull myself up off the seat, trying (and failing as always) to keep perfect balance. I mention to the ticket collector where I need to get off, and the bus jolts to a stop.

"Okay, God, fine, what do I need to do then," 
I think as I prepare to get off the bus. 

I've "felt" the most "surrendering feeling" that I can muster up, and attached it to the distant words "I surrender it to You,", and it still isn't even coming close to what He's calling me to do.

Doesn't matter what you have, it only matters what has you.
-Kris Valloton, Bethel Church

About that time, I realize that I'm trying, once again, to do this whole thing in my own strength. Like a child failing miserably to make up some "faked" confession because he's been caught in the act, I am trying to fake my surrender because I've been caught worrying once again.

 "Holy Spirit, come and help me, give me the heart of surrender," I  pray. 

I realize that these worries will only disappear as I fully surrender every aspect of my life to Him. 

Real, genuine surrender.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Family Covenant Conference: Pucallpa, Peru

Several times a year, we travel to Pucallpa, Peru, an Amazon Jungle city, to spend time with the families and churches in our Oikos network there. The churches that have partnered with us there are continually growing in number and are known as "Oikos Selva," or "Oikos Jungle." 

Normally, we are able to make a one-hour journey on plane to get from Lima to Pucallpa, but this time, things worked out a bit differently...

After getting up at 2:30AM to make it to the airport on time to catch our flight, we find out 20 minutes before takeoff that it has been cancelled due to inclimate weather, with no other available flights going out that day. Our only other option was to take a 14 hour bus that would get us to Pucallpa at 5:30 am the following day.

So, off we go!!!

Thankfully the busses had 180° seats that kinda felt like beds...
Mark taking full advantage of the bus-bed, or "buscama" as they call it here

So, as scheduled, we arrived at 5:30 Tuesday morning and begun the conference at 9am that same morning. 

Dennis and Charmian (the couple pictured second from left) also joined us in Pucallpa to be a part of our team for the week.

After each session, we broke up into small groups to discuss how to practically apply what we had just learned.

For many of us, leading a group meant speaking in our second language (Spanish) and someone else translating it into the native language, Shipibo.

The church..

With the help of a love offering, the Shipibos were able to construct the pillars and roofing that you see here- a necessary measure for the strong storms that happen almost daily. 

Rosa, (pictured second from right) is originally from Pucallpa, but she is studying and working with us as a part of Oikos Lima. She always comes with us and translates when we go to Pucallpa. Many of her family members are a part of Oikos Jungle.

Some of the Shipibo girls playing

Dennis and Charmian teaching about the marriage covenant. Rosa translating.


Heading back to the house for a quick break...

After the marriage talk, we split into groups of women and men to address the more specific issues. Here are the lovely ladies...

And the men...

Time for the routine afternoon storm!!! This time it was a strong one!

Cold and windy!! Thank the Lord for a roof!

Excitement of the storm!

Heading home the second day after the storm. The church is located on the right off this main road.
Banana tree!

Third day: Praying for and ministering to one another. 

What an amazing time we had. We heard testimonies of people having incredible encounters with the Lord, and even some coming to know the Lord for the first time. Pictured above is Nehamias, a 10-year old boy who was a part of the conference. He touched my heart with his hunger for God and his enthusiasm to participate. 

Friday, we had some time to spend looking around the city itself. Here is a closer look at Pucallpa life. 

Typical houses

Typical boat used to come up and down the Ucayali River. One church even travelled for three days on a boat like this to be with us during the conference. What sacrifice.

Look what I found!

***First Shipibo Wedding***
Friday night, we celebrated with our friend, Erling, as he and his bride Maritza tied the knot. In true Shipibo form, Mark, who married them, is dressed according to the occasion...

Mark and Marsial, who heads up Oikos Jungle. This is the formal traditional Shipibo dress. It is all hand-embroidered, and worth 500 soles, or about $200.00

Florencio and Casilda, also leaders in Oikos Jungle, dressed in traditional clothing.

The bride and groom.

Wedding party

Wedding party

Shipibo Dance Team worshiping the Lord during the service. There were many praise songs sang throughout the course of the night. 

The groom, changed into formal attire and ready to finish up the last half of the ceremony!

Groom and his mother

Waiting for the bride to enter in her formal wear...

Groom at first side of the bride in her dress...

Bride and her father

Time to celebrate!!! The night ended with a nice sit-down dinner and much dancing and praising the Lord. It was a night to remember. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

On Laughing and Joy

Mind jumbled full like scrabble letters waiting to be made into words. Beginning, middle and end parts of the day's activities scrambled together like the eggs I still needed to make for breakfast. 

The day is young, but but already exhausted by the broken record playing over of all the things needing to be accomplished by the time my head hits the pillow in exhaustion at the end of the day.

Then it hit. There we were, gathered there, praying one for another, and it hit. 

With a sense of mischief, a smirk.

"I want to play with you. Enjoy life with you." 

He knows I am playful. That I love more than anything to goof off, make jokes, laugh. 

It's one of my strengths, really. For most of my life, I have been known for my laugh.

The serious came later, with the grim looks and pointing fingers.

The serious was learned with time. The other thing- the joy thing-simply was.

One uncontrolled spout of the water-joy bursting up from the well of my soul, and every judgement, fear and insecurity is disarmed in a second. 

A simple thing that I often don't give a second thought.

And the most sought after treasure of the enemy of my soul. 

With time, I began offering You Cain-gifts instead of Abel-gifts. 
Gifts of labor and toiling instead of the offering back to You the very best of what You gave me.

And just as it was easier for Cain to give you something that he had done in his own strenth, it is easier for me to give you loads of freshly washed laundry, a to-do list fully checked, a ministry not lacking in personal effort, relationships fully invested in....

The truth is, I'd rather give You all of these things.

I 'd rather offer up these things to You than to sacrifice the perfect spot-less lamb that you first gave me.

That spot-less joy that I did nothing to deserve but that is so easily lost in the piles of dirty laundry, to-do lists un-checked. less-than-polished ministries, and imperfect friendships.

And so when the temptation to give you my works arises, I choose instead to give you my being. My time, all my attention, and to simply laugh with You.

I choose to laugh with You in the deep-down satisfaction of knowing that Your pleasure in me has nothing to do with what I have or have not achieved. 

I choose to offer You the sacrifice of joy, and in that joy, I am offering You my very being.

A painting I started working on a few days ago...still in the beginning stages.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thanksgiving: Blessing the Empty and Thin

There were ten offerings of bread in every Thank-offering of the Israelites.  
The first were like crackers.
The second like wafers. These were known for their thinness. 
This was the order of thanks. 
The thanks began for the thin things, the wafer things that almost weren’t, and the way to give thanks for the people of God is first to give thanks for even the meager and unlikely. 

-Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience

To give thanks for the abundance, the plentiful, the overflowing. 

To give thanks in all things good, and all things full, blessing the harvest. 

But what about the empty fields? 

Two seasons, sometimes three seasons before Fall, when all that is seen is empty? The thought of thanking God and in doing so blessing the empty spots in our lives...

Thank you for empty, because in empty, there is faith that You will once again make it full. And in seeing the first rain drop, there is faith that it is only the first of many- that you not only fill the bucket, but that you make it overflow.  


And that in the seasons to come,  others will also receive from what was once empty. 

So, I thank you for the empty. For the seasons when my relationship with You feels empty. For the seasons when I don’t feel Your tender presence close. Thank you for empty bank accounts, because I know that You have told me that they will not always be this way. I know that many will be fed both spiritually and physically out of these same bank accounts, in Your time.

Thank you for empty in my heart- when I feel that I have nothing left to give, because I know that You always fill empty, and if my heart is empty, and You fill it, then what I am offering can only be of You.


Thank you for thin.

...because it is not empty. 

Thank you that these places are thin, because it means that they will be the areas that I have to lean on you most

Thank you when ministry seems thin in places, because I know you are faithful. Thank you for thin, because in thin, I cannot lean on my own understanding. In thin, I come back to the Maker of all things, knowing that He never comes up thin.

And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Thank you for thin. When all I have to hold onto are your promises. The things that are in Your heart and mind. 

I will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. Deuteronomy 11: 14

Thank you for time that so often seems thin, because it brings me back to You, asking You what your plans are for the time You've given me. 

When I look back, and all my greatest efforts and ceaseless workings only add up to only "thin."

I come back to the fullness that is You. Because I know that thin, now matter how stacked together it is, can never fill up the deep of my soul.