Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Love For the Fatherless

I have really gotten into reading the archives from The Journey...


God has put in my heart a passion for the parentless. So I agree whole-heartedly with Katie:


I begin to think of the children who do not have a mother or a father. Where will they learn love? Who will tell them bed time stories and dance them around the living room? Who will teach them that they are loved and valued and cherished?

Oh, yea. The body of Christ. Each person who calls themself a follower of Christ takes up the reponsibility to love and care for the fatherless. It is not some special, specific calling. It is the duty of all who call themselves Christians. There are ONE HUNDRED FOURTY SOMETHING MILLION fatherless, motherless, parentless children who are not shown unconditional love by another human being on a daily basis. How will we then tell them that Jesus loves them? I am certain that God did not mess up and create too many children and not enough people to love them. The body of Christ is responsible for sharing His love with the people that we are also responsible for making destitute.

Please join my broken heart in praying for the fatherless, but more than that please pray about how YOU can be instrumentall in loving the fatherless. They are not just in Africa, they are right in your own community.


We visited an "orphanage" in Cusco where 40+ children have been taken in to a family. Many of us in my group were greatly inspired by this, and want to go back there. Some of us want to make that our life in the future.


And the truth is, this is the call of God:


to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.


Like Katie said, we can ALL be instrumental in loving the fatherless in our very own communities.

Monday, August 30, 2010

You Will Explode

Just wanted to share a story from The Journey...


"Mommy, if Jesus comes to live inside my heart, will I explode?"

"NO!" I proclaimed as my ten children and I headed to the Nile River to be baptized yesterday.
And then I thought about it.

Yes.
If Jesus comes to live inside your heart you will EXPLODE.

With love. With compassion. With hurt for those who are hurting and joy for those who rejoice. You will explode with a desire to be more. To be better. To be close to the one who made you.
Sometimes I sing. Sometimes I dance. Sometimes I laugh and sometimes I cry. And usually I can't tell you why, other than to tell you that the grace and goodness of our God is so BIG that I can't contain it and it literally EXPLODES out of me.

Yes, my little daughters. Jesus is coming to live inside your heart. Get ready to explode.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Love is the Movement

The name of my blog is "Love is the Movement," but I've never taken the time to explain what that means for me.


I stole it from a Switchfoot song of the same name.


Here's what I know about religion: it gives us rules to live by, based on the beliefs dictated by said religion.


Christianity isn't really a religion. Because all of Christianity comes down to love:


"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40)


And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)


And love "is bigger than cold religion. It's bigger than life. Love is a movement. Love is a revolution."


We are called to love. That's how the world will know we are Christ's disciples. It's like we bear his mark. And his mark is love. 


And when we start giving love in the same measure we have received it, IT IS A MOVEMENT. It's contagious. It can't be stopped.


I have had kind of an internal debate going on since I got to Peru. During our orientation before coming to Peru, our director Brian said, "The most compassionate thing you can do for a person is lead them the the foot of the cross." I was the only person who argued this point, simply by saying that the gospel is holistic, so we must take care of physical needs as well as spiritual needs. But he maintained that the MOST compassionate thing anyone can do is to bring someone to know Jesus Christ.


So for me, I have still debated in my head this point, going back and forth.


But if I really loved people and really believed in a place called hell, how could I do anything else but introduce them to my friend and savior Jesus Christ?


At the same time, if I really loved people, how could I do anything but help situations like this
because this is real, and it breaks God's heart, because Nabakoza is a daughter of God, who at the age of 23 might  die because of neglect and malnutrition. She weighs 37 pounds. How can I love my neighbor as myself and not want to do something about this? 


I feel like I'm getting off on a rant, and that is not what I want, but I do want to make a point: the love that we have received from the Cosmic God of the universe should move us into action. It should move us to tell others about this incredible love we have undeservingly received. And it should move us into caring for our neighbors. 


It should break our hearts to know this is happening. 


We should have a holy anguish to know that people are perishing separated from God. 


Love is a movement that changes things. 


It changes us. 


It moves us.


*(For more information about Nabakoza in Uganda, visit The Journey or Be "The Hands and Feet")


--Since I wrote this blog post about Nabakoza about 4 days ago, and before I got the chance to post it, she passed away.--





Saturday, August 28, 2010

Why and How?

Taken from Donald Miller's Blog...
America is a how culture. We ask almost exclusively how questions, because our commercialized culture is not interested in why. If we really started asking why questions, our entire economy would collapse, and honestly, we wouldn’t care because once we answered the why questions, we wouldn’t want all the stuff in the first place.
So what does the Bible say to the Average American? It says this: You are asking the wrong questions.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Recklessness

"What, therefore, is our task today? Should I answer "Faith, hope and love?" That sounds beautiful. But I would say - courage. No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth. Our task today is recklessness. For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature... we lack a holy rage - the recklessness which comes from the knowlege of God and humanity. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth... a holy anger about the things that are worng in the world. To rage against the ravaging of God's earth and and the desruction of God's people. To rage when little children must die of hunger, while the tables of the rich are sagging with food. To rage at the senseless killing of so many, and the madness of militaries. To rage against the lie that calls the threat of death and the strategy of destrustion peace. To rage against COMPLACENCY. To restlessly seek that recklessness that will challenge and seek to change human history until it conforms to the norms of the kingdom of God."


-Father Kaj Munk, 1944

Comfort

Yesterday, I received an email update from Cafe 10/40.


Cafe 10/40 is a program for college-aged students to study and live in a country inside the 10/40 Window in preparation for missions work. It is not a missions-sending agency, but teaches its participants how to do missions in the context of a closed country.


And it is something I would DEFINITELY consider doing after Peru.


So anyway, I received this email, which included a "testimonial" from a former participant.


And one of the things she said was, "Did God ever intend for us to have a comfort zone? Or is it something we have just created for ourselves because we don't trust Him enough?"


Woah.


That hits you.


Hard.


I was never intended to have a comfort zone.


I was created to trust God completely with my life, following him wherever he would lead, with no regard to my own comfort or well-being.


That is what it means to pick up my cross.


And that hits me square in the chest because I grew up with training in achieving the American dream.


College.
Job.
Nice house.
Marriage.
Kids.
White picket fence.
Send kids to college.
They do more than I did.
And so on...


Now if my parents hoped that I would do more than them and partake even more in the American dream, I must be quite a disappointment.


Seriously, I am a college drop-out, for all intents and purposes.


I don't have a paying job.


I will probably never own my own home.


Marriage, the good ol' MRS degree, is not really a priority of mine.


And the majority of my priorities in life don't line up with the American dream.


I must be quite a disappointment.


But all those things that I grew up believing are the things that make me a success in life create my comfort zone.


I was comfortable in college. Seriously, my dad used to joke that I would be a professional student. I am comfortable with academics.


I know I would be comfortable with a white-picket-fence-life. Husband, kids, minivan, that would certainly make me happy and content.


But I would not be picking up my cross and following Christ where he has called me.


I feel like a comfort zone is the enemy to the call of God.


Think about it: we weren't meant to have them. And they are a convenient excuse to not do what God has called us to.


There is a song that I have fallen in love with by Carlos Whittaker called "We Will Worship You." The chorus says:


Save us from these comforts
Break us of our need for the familiar
Spare us any joy that’s not of You
And we will worship You



Let that be our prayer. Lord, save us from our comforts. Break us of our need for the familiar. Give us the strength to step out, away from comfort and anything familiar, to just follow You with reckless abandon towards the amazing things You have for our lives.


It is worth it.


Because guess what?


I am NOT a disappointment.


I am a volunteer missionary. I take cold showers and eat rice multiple meals a day every day. That isn't what I'd call comfortable. But I am also a part of leading people to the foot of the cross. I am sharing the gospel of grace every day. I am living in the center of God's will. I am learning what it means to be completely satisfied in God.


And it is better than indoor heating, eating Chipotle all the time, having money, and pursuing the dream I once had.


It is better.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More from Cusco

Come on, you didn't think I could tell you all of the amazing things God did in Cusco in one post, did you?

CHOCOLATADAS


A chocolatada is a hot chocolate night. We had a couple of them in various communities in Cusco. The first one was held in the new church, aka the first floor of our house. So last Sunday afternoon, we went out and started inviting people to have free hot chocolate in that three-story building on the hill. (It stands out a little.) While walking around the plaza, around 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon, there was beer everywhere. Lots of drunk people or people on there way. But we had about 100 people come to the hot chocolate night, and watch a film about Felix Vargas. And 40 people gave there lives to Christ!



We did the same thing in Oropesa, one of my church plant sites. About 80 people came and drank hot chocolate, and after the video, when Ester gave the call to accept Christ, about 12 adults committed their lives to Christ. And I got to tell them that we want to get to know them and visit them and share about Christ with them.

MUSLUMAN

I have written before about my call to unreached people groups. I know that I am exactly where God wants me, but part of my heart is being pulled toward the 10/40 window, and reaching people who have no access to the gospel, especially Muslims.

Now Peru is a Catholic country. So who would have thought I would meet a Muslim here?

But I did. At my house in Cusco. At the hot chocolate night.


A man raised his hand to accept Christ, but when Ester went to take his information so that we can follow-up with him, he told her he was Muslim. 

So Ester came to tell me, because she knows my interest in Islam (we did a class project on Islam), and told me I should go talk to him.

So when I got there, Alex was talking to him, and we all prayed together. And I continued talking to him.

And I tell you, it was like Jeremiah 1, with God himself putting words in my mouth.

I have never spoken Spanish like that.

But I shared with him what the gospel actually means, and where the differences are, and what the grace of God means, and how Jesus Christ is the Son of God and God the Son!

And he said he was curious, would visit the church, and we are going to keep talking so that he knows the gospel!

COMUNIDADES

On Friday, we went to visit our communities where we are going to start churches!

Now Cusco is a very small team. We were supposed to have six pairs working there, planting three churches each. But now we only have three pairs. And there is a lot of work to do in Cusco. But we are a very determined team, and know we will plant more than nine churches in Cusco.

All that to say, when I talk about my church plant sites, these are the three I am officially assigned, as of now. But I will be working in many more sites, wherever God will use me!

Everyone always talks about what a hard mission field Cusco is.

It is true.

All the pastors there have had really difficult times. It is a land flooded with darkness. There are strongholds there that have existed for generations. There is Catholicism, but it is grossly distorted and mixed in with Incan beliefs.

For example:
This is a very common site in Cusco. At the top of most people's homes, there is a cross with two bulls, Incan images of protection, on either side of the cross of Jesus Christ. In many cases, the Spaniards built Catholic churches or monasteries on top of Incan religious sites. But instead of replacing one religion with another, the two are now mixed (this is called syncretism). 

So, I visited my church plant sites with a couple of short-termers to pray and anoint the ground.

We started in Oropesa...

Then we carried on to Larapa, a part of San Jeronimo...

Larapa surprised me. You see, I generally picture myself hanging out with people in slums. Hanging out with the least of these. But you won't find them in Larapa.
In Larapa, you will find a residential zone with lots of nice apartments and houses. There was construction going on in nearly every corner. It is a beautiful, up and coming, prosperous neighborhood. This is where the well-off live in Cusco, most likely educated people. It definitely wasn't what I had imagined. Because Ester and I had developed a plan. We were going to start a consultorio (where she could see patients and offer medical help) and an english school. Being so close to our house/church in San Jeronimo, we were going to run this out of the church. But guess what? People living in Larapa have the money to go to a clinic. They can send their kids to a nice school where they can learn English. So there goes our plan. But if one of the pairs is going to start a church in Larapa, it has to be Ester and I. Ester went to university and had a career, so she will be respected here. So we are just praying for God to give us a new vision for how to reach the people here.


And we finished in San Sabastian...

San Sebastian is kind of the middle ground between the rural class in Oropesa and the upper class in Larapa. It seems to be a commercial part of town. And we already have several contacts there who we will follow up with, and they could be the beginning of the church there.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wishin' and Hopin'

I have a new address in Arequipa. This will be my address through the end of October:


Cailyn Stevens
c/o Extreme Nazaren Ministries
UrbanizaciĆ³n Primavera, Entel Peru D7, 
Yanahuara, Arequipa, Peru

And people always ask me what I would want in a care package or whatever. So I decided to dedicate a blogpost to my wishlist.

But let me preface this by saying, I love Peru. I love my life as a missionary. 

But there are some things I miss. 

Like Chipotle (the restaurant). 

I think about Chipotle nearly everyday, and one night even spent about fifteen minutes googling Chipotle recipes (and I can't wait to try them!) I would possibly give an arm for a Chipotle burrito bowl with rice, no beans, chicken, tomato and corn salsas, cheese, and guacamole (which in Peru is called palta). 

And there are a few other things I miss too. Or need but can't buy in Peru or simply can't afford on my budget. 

And I have people who are extremely generous and want to provide. 

So this list is for those people, who might need ideas...

  • Gummy bears
  • Kit Kats
  • Nutella
  • Double stuffed Oreos
  • Clif bars, fiber one bars, or other granola bars
  • Brownie mix or Funfetti cake mix
  • Salsa
  • Instant oatmeal (especially fruit and cream)
  • Twizzlers
  • Reese's
  • Ramen noodles or easy mac
  • Pop tarts
  • Instant pudding
  • Buffalo Wild Wings barbecue sauce (asian zing or caribbean jerk)
  • Taco seasoning
  • Starbucks Via Instant coffee, or real coffee
  • *Bobby pins and hair ties (especially scunci brand)*
  • Covergirl AquaSmooth Foundation in Classic Ivory
  • Dove body wash, or other
  • Crest white strips
  • *Dandruff scalp treatment (such as: Kimble)*
  • Dove deodorant
  • Loofah
  • Face wash
  • Mechanical pencils/ pens/ highlighters
  • post-its
  • Hat 
  • Hat
  • Hat
  • Shoes (Size 6)
  • Sweater (Size L)
  • T-shirt (Size M)
  • Amazon Wishlist
Thanks for your generosity and support, and for the best gift of all, prayer!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Seek His Kingdom

My mom wrote an article for examiner.com about her time in Peru and what God is doing there in Cincinnati. Who says you have to be in a foreign country to extend the kingdom of God?

Guess what?

YOU DON'T!

Find your mission field.

Go where God is calling you.

Do small things with great love.

Seek first the kingdom of God.

And you know what happens? All the other things, the things you worry about that keep you from giving your resources away, that keep you from sharing the gospel, that keep you in a job you hate...

*They will be added to you as well*

Seek his kingdom.

Get inspired to find your mission field, and do what God is calling you to do.

And read my mom's article: http://www.examiner.com/christian-spirituality-in-cincinnati/where-is-your-mission-field-part-2-what-i-m-going-to-speak-about-this-sunday

Because you know what?

Jesus didn't promise it would be easy. As a matter of fact, he promised it would be hard. But he promised  that he would be with us.

I experienced one of those sacrifices of missionary life last week. Aunt Do passed away August 12. Besides my parents and brothers, she is pretty much my closest relative. And while I pretty much said goodbye to her when I left for Peru, I wanted another chance to say goodbye, to pay my respects to an amazing woman who greatly influenced who I am today.

But that wasn't possible. So I missed her funeral. I was here in Peru.

So a lot of people would call that a sacrifice.

But let me tell you what I did on the days of her visitation and funeral:

I went to a women's prison and showed those women the love of God. I gave hand massages to women with tough, dry, leathery skin. And I shared with them the amazing love story we have with Jesus Christ. I invited them to recommit their lives to Christ.

I went to a hospital and prayed with people. I spoke to a mother whose son can't walk because of a car accident. I heard of her struggles, with her family, money, and her broken heart over her young son who spends his days in a hospital. And I told her that God cares about her struggles. And together we gave them over to God.

I went to a preschool. I watched three and four-year-olds struggle with the concept of musical chairs. I watched their eyes light up over receiving a balloon and some candy. And I saw them dedicate their lives to Christ for the first time.

Some people would call missing things at home a struggle, a hardship, a sacrifice.

But look what I got to do instead.

I am seeking first the kingdom of God. And God is adding WAY more than I ever imagined or asked.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Cusco Family









Cusco

So, I went to Cusco last week.

It was amazing.

I didn't want to come back.

I actually volunteered to join the construction crew so that I could stay there, helping to build my house until I could move there for real.

But alas, we are back to school. And it is two months 'til we move to Cusco and start our churches.

Until then, I will hold on the the stories from this week...

LUCRE

Lucre is the name of a small town outside of Cusco. We know this city because, six months after the major flooding in Cusco, people in this city are still living in tents, living with nothing.

Monday, we went to Lucre to do an impact day. We brought clothes, kits (which consist of toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, razors, feminine hygiene products, etc.), balloons and other stuff to have a kids festival.

As soon as I stepped off the bus, a woman began asking me for help. She said, "Please help us. My husband and I are living in a tent. We have nothing. We need your help..." She took me by the hand and led me off to see her "house." The Municipalidad has given her and her husband a little bit of land and a tent. She took me in to her tent, literally something you would use for maybe four people to go camping in. There was a mattress on the floor. A few pots. It was clean, but there was hardly anything inside. She continued asking me for help. She and her husband both began to cry as they told me how they had been living this way for six months. How they lost everything because of the floods.

My heart broke with them. I told them that God loves them very much, and that so do we, and that is why we were there to help. I told them we would help them in any way we could.

The people began forming a line as we prepared the clothes and kits. They waited patiently. Do you know how rare that is? People who wait patiently in a line for more than an hour, without complaining or line-jumping. That never happens!

So we 40/40s started to sing to them. We sang songs like "Eres Todopoderoso" and "Here I Am to Worship." And they waited patiently an heard to hope we have in the Almighty God.
And so we gave them clothes and really simple things like soap. And they were extremely grateful. 

My Prayer:
"Heal my heart and make it clean. Open up my eyes to the things unseen. Show me how to love like you have loved me. Break my heart for what breaks yours. Everything I am for your kingdom's cause, as I walk from earth into eternity."

CARCEL

Carcel means jail in Spanish. On Wednesday, we went to a women's prison right down the road from our house in Cusco. Different teams have gone to this prison before, and each woman gave her life to Christ during Love Extreme. This was my first time there, and we decided to give a devotional to the women to follow up with them. We also gave massages, painted fingernails, and did worship with the women. Ester and I gave the devotional. I did all of it in English because there are several women who are from South Africa and other countries who speak English. I also told parts of the devotional in Spanish. We shared about the metaphor of marriage in the Bible, which I have shared many times on this blog. We also took communion together, recommitting our lives to Christ. The girls of Cusco are going to continue discipling the women here.

JARDINES

A "jardin" is a preschool in  Peru, and during the week we visited several. Kids are a great way to begin, because 1) they are the future of the church and 2) you can connect with parents through their kids. So we saw MANY kids come to know Jesus Christ, and many of the preschools would like for us to come back.

ORFANATO

We went to visit an orphanage fairly close to our house our last day in Cusco. It is difficult to define the word "orphan" in our context here, because many children living in orphanages have parents. But many of the children are abandoned, or they give their children away voluntarily, or they simply neglect them to the point of severe malnutrition and disease. There were more than 40 children living in this home, with a couple that they call mom and dad. This couple also has nine children of their own.

I love being around kids. I also feel that God is calling me to adopt someday. This place has so much love. But the stories also break my heart. Like the little girl I played with and held, Patricia. She is almost three but is the size of a one-year-old. When she came home with the family, she just had a big belly and sticks for arms and legs. All of the children are too small for their age, because of malnutrition and poor pre-natal health, and generational problems, and a million things.

One of the saddest stories is of Marcos. He is ten-years-old. He can't walk on his own. His family would just leave him to sit alone all day. He has both physical and mental disabilities, possibly because of vaccines or meningitis, combined with malnutrition as well. So his tibia is the size of that of a two-year old. Ester, my partner, a physical therapist, spent most of her time doing exercises with him to help him to walk.



Each one or the children has a story. And each one is precious in the eyes of God. And a family like this shows a beautiful picture of the family of God. We are adopted heirs, brought into the family of God by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Raising up Leaders

The last weekend of July, we had our second spiritual retreat for new believers. As with the mega-event of Love Extreme, this will be one of the things I think about when I need encouragement of our being here.

We had the first spiritual retreat the weekend after Love Extreme and the crazy week of consolidation. And God definitely moved and it was an exciting time.
But I feel completely different about this retreat. There were way less people, but from the beginning, we all knew that the seven of them are leaders, that they will be the ones to continue the movement.

So, first of all, with such few people and considering the cost, they didn't need as many guides as last time. They asked a couple of Peruvian 40/40s (who currently don't have partners) to go as guides. And during the pastors meeting they were talking about who could lead the section for women about sexuality. Well, interestingly enough, they picked Ester and I. My first reaction was, "Are you serious? What do I have to say to married or single women?" But then I was just really excited about it.
So there were four 40/40s there, as well as pastors and local church leaders to serve as guides (I was the only gringa! Love it!). And each guide was assigned a person to get to know, talk with, spend time with, and pray with. Ester and I are considered one person (we joke that we are married for 2 years!), so we were put with Elsa and her baby girl, Angelit.

During the retreat, there are different themes that the pastors touch on, such as repentance, a new life, sexuality, forgiveness, money, and family. And those in attendance are given the opportunity to turn various things over to God, and we the guides are there to pray and counsel them.

My favorite part was in-between themes, we did a couple of "games." During one, each person had to pretend they were at their own funeral giving a eulogy. And in the next, they had to say why they deserved to be saved in a lifeboat. It was just awesome to hear each person say how they lived their lives for God, preached the gospel, and pointed others to Christ. My highlight was after I said that they should let me in the lifeboat so that I could go be a missionary to the unreached places of the earth, I sat down and Juanita, the 16-year-old new believer sitting next to me said, "I'll go with you!" and we high-fived. These really are the future leaders of the church!