Thursday, March 31, 2011

How I Long to Be Broken

“Come to my help, O God; Lord, hurry to my rescue” (Psalm 70:1).

"This little verse, I am saying, proves to be necessary and useful to each one of us and in all circumstances. For someone who needs help in all things is making clear that he requires the help of God not simply in hard and sad situations but equally and amid fortunate conditions. He knows that God saves us from adversity and makes our joys linger and that in neither situation can human frailty survive without his help."

You might note from the last several posts that I have been reading some pretty good devotionals lately. These come from the book Devotions for Lent, and I have been really glad to read them during this Lenten season.

Last week talked quite a bit about dependency. Now before coming to Peru, I would most definitely have described myself as one of the most independent people in the world, or at least one of the most independent people you would ever meet.

Fiercely independent.

That´s me.

Even to a fault.

But I will give you a little piece of advice: if you want to break yourself of independence, become part of a mission organization with a rule that you can´t go anywhere by youself, and be assigned a partner that you will do everything with.

Let me tell you, it works.

I am being broken of my independence.


But I think when it comes down to it, God is the one breaking me of my independence.

I was honestly too independent for my own good. I thought I could do everything for myself...never needed help... didn´t need anyone else...

A lot of the time, I forgot to even rely on God.

But when you come to the end of your rope, when you can´t do anything for yourself, and when everyone else lets you down, you realize that there is a reason we are not in this on our own.

We need God for our very survival in every moment. The sad, difficult, even impossible situations...yeah, we need God then. In the joyful, mountaintop, over-the-moon moments...yeah, we need God then, too.

I must call out to God, ¨Hurry, Lord, to my rescue.¨ The times when I don't...yeah, I pretty much fall on my face and need his help getting up anyway.

He made us to be dependent. He even models dependency in community because, well, he is a community: three-in-one. That´s how it is supposed to be: relying on him, relying on each other. That is why the early church shared everything, and provided for one another.

We already have these models. So I´ve gotta ask: why am I so stinking independent? And an even better question: why do I take so much pride in my independence?

Well, that´s why God is breaking me down, leading me into this life of dependency. I rely on him for everything that I do on any given day. With my partner, I have to rely on her in everything we do in this work. And I am part of a team, and without any one of them, we are missing something.

We need each other. That honestly still pains me to write, but it is true. And I´m learning.

“Come to my help, O God; Lord, hurry to my rescue.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Show Me the Suffering of the Most Miserable

Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people’s plight.
Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.
Help me to take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.
Give me honesty and patience;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.
--Cesar Chavez

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Great and holy God
awe and reverence
fear and trembling
do not come easily to us
for we are not
Old Testament Jews
or Moses
or mystics
or sensitive enough.
Forgive us
for slouching into Your presence
with little expectation
and less awe
than we would give a visiting dignitary.
We need
neither Jehovah or a buddy—
neither “the Great and Powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”
Help us
to want what we need…
and may the altar of our hearts
tremble with delight
Your visitation
--Frederick Ohler

Monday, March 28, 2011

He Who Has Ears to Hear...

I stand up in front of nearly one hundred men, women, and children, and try to explain grace.

Others are just passing by. Maybe they stop to listen.

We had passed out 500 fliers, telling people about the event. A few of them actually come.

And we just had a great time with about fifty kids. Balloons, games, and a drama about salvation. Many of them leave to invite their parents.

And we set up all of our equipment to show a movie in an open air plaza in one of the largest districts of Cusco.

The movie is about a man named Felix Vargas. He worked for the drug cartel in Colombia, a trained killer. But his wife shows him the love of Jesus Christ, and his life is never the same.

And there I stand, in front of those men, women and children. And I try to explain something that took me years to understand, something I still struggle to grasp: the amazing grace of God.

Some hear, but leave.

Some listen attentively, but decide it isn’t for them.

Some say they want to change their lives, but in the last week, the going has gotten tough, and they return to old ways…leopards and spots, you know what they say.

But maybe a couple listen, they pray, saying, “I believe in you Jesus. Come change my life.” And maybe these couple of people will continue following Christ, all the days of their lives.

Only God knows.

But we did our job. We presented the message. And Jesus knew what would happen:

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

This is my prayer before each of the events we do: “Whoever has ears, let him hear. Lord, give them ears to hear and eyes to see.”

And God is in charge of the results.

It can be so easy to stress out about numbers, but in the end, God is in charge of the results. Now, I don’t want to use that as a cop-out to not give my all, because, “God will take care of the results.” I must also give everything I have. But as long as I keep planting seeds, God makes them grow.

And that is a cool thing to be a part of.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It Happens Sometimes

Yeah, so remember how I was talking about coming together as a team through the Daniel Fast?

Well, we also took a trip to do a little team-bonding.

Sounds cheesy, I know. But we did get a trip to Puno out of it.

Now if you remember way back, I was originally supposed to be a 40/40 in Puno. God and Extreme changed those plans, but I still have wanted to visit. So we headed on a six hour bus trip to take a tour of Lake Titicaca, and at the end, we got to visit our friends in Puno.

Yep, as rare as it is, we got to act like tourists for a couple days.

We started out getting on a boat to head to the islands of the Uros. They literally have these floating islands built from reeds. It’s pretty cool, but VERY touristy.

We then went to another island, (like a real one, not a man-made one) where we ate, hiked, went to a party, and spent the night with families.

The next morning, we went to another island. You know, I’m not sure if this is interesting or sad, but on each of these islands, they have a Catholic church, and Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses. No evangelical churches.

We ate some trout and then headed back to Puno city.

Now I can’t really capture the awesomeness of this trip in a simple, brief blog post, but I’ll hope these photos will give you a glimpse.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's Like a Vegan Diet, But More Restricted

It is no secret to you, especially if you are a regular follower of this blog, that over the last year the Cusco team has been through quite a few changes.

We are still down a member, because I still don’t have a partner (but pray for my new partner who is joining me in June), but we have a new member in the family (Alex’s partner). So we took a journey together to unite us as a team and to refocus on our Savior and the mission before us.

We embarked together on what is known as the Daniel Fast.

Daniel 10:2-3 says, “At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.

So for twenty-one days, we ate no meat, sugar of any kind, leaven, artificial or processed foods or chemicals, or anything that tastes good. (I’m just kidding about that last requirement.)

This left us with eating a TON of fruits and vegetables, legumes, and quite a lot of flatbread.

We did this to focus on our spirituality, spending more time in prayer and Bible study, reading Daniel as a team during our morning devotions instead of good ol’ Ozzy Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest).

God taught each of us a lot during this fast, and brought us together as a group. There is power in solidarity; doing the fast as a group made it easier to stick to the fast, avoiding temptation.

For more info, check out

Friday, March 25, 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

A path lies before me
I am the only one who can see
I wonder silently
Groping along in the dark painfully
Is it just my own hesitancy?
Is it the presence of insensitivity
to the wonder of what lies before me?

There is an obvious path in front of me
But now it seems to be
that an obstacle lies in wait for me
to step out of myself, towards dependency
I think of myself as a dignitary
More special than I ought, I see
only my needs, my wants, selfishly.

A path lies before me
But I stand still, bound unmercifully
Fettered, I am, awaiting expectantly
a help, an aid to rescue me
More than ever, I want to be
moving forward toward a life lived freely
A life spent living abundantly

On the path I wait, questioning deeply
Who is it that will come and set me free?
And I believe, more importantly,
what will it require of me?
To give of myself recklessly?
A rock higher than myself there must be
on which I can stand unwaveringly

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Day I Became a Legend

Carnavales: Part 2

I already alluded in this blog a little bit to what the festivities that take place during Carnavales are like; but nothing prepared me for Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

I was invited to participate in a Carnavales party in Coya, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet new contacts and build relationships with my existing contacts.

Margot told me we would be heading up a mountain, that there would be some dancing, and that it would be a really good time.

I had no idea what I was getting us all in to…

We, a group of eight North Americans and Kathy, arrived in Coya shortly after 9 am, to be met by Margot, and to begin our hike. She had said, “up the mountain,” but I understood that to mean, well, a short distance up the mountain. I did not realize that it would mean hiking five kilometers up a couple thousand feet.

But that’s what it meant.

When I finally made it up to the top, the merriment had already begun; there was dancing, various food and beverages being offered, and foam being sprayed.

I was almost immediately asked to dance. Over the course of the day, we danced, ate and drank, three different men asked me to marry them, and we talked to many different people.

Then it was time for the descent.

They lined us up behind the Peruvian flag, told us to take hands, and we started booking it down the hill. We eventually dropped hands, but continued at a steady pace down the mountain. I was thinking from the start, “Oh my word, I am going to fall. I am totally going to fall.” On the way up, I actually joked about how it would be significantly easier to just roll down the mountain on the way back.

But I was JOKING.

The joke became reality when I slipped head-first, rolling/tumbling down the mountain.

Did you get that? I FELL DOWN A MOUNTAIN. This is what I meant about becoming a legend. Everyone was talking about the gringa who fell down the mountain. Years to come, they will still be talking and laughing about the year the gringa went up the mountain, and fell back down it.

I was rolling down the mountain, and knew I had to stop myself, so I tried to grab on to anything to decrease my velocity. Fortunately, there was a somewhat level place where I was able to stop myself, after falling about twenty feet. Almost immediately, one of the North American guys and a Peruvian man were at my side to help me. I was then accompanied for the rest of a descent by a man on each side, making sure I didn’t fall again (which was a real possibility).

At the bottom, everyone was waiting, continuing the party, and eating and dancing some more, and I might add that they were there for a while before I arrived. But when I did, there was applause. Everyone who joined the party at the bottom had heard about me, including one of my contacts who came to find me to make sure I was alright.

So now, I am a living legend when I go to the Sacred Valley. I have actually had people come up to me to tell me that they saw my fall. But the story actually serves as a great icebreaker when I am meeting new people in Coya. So God is using it for his glory.

And I can’t actually tell this story without giving all kinds of praise to God. Because it could have been SO MUCH WORSE.

If I had fallen anywhere else, there would not have been that level place for me to stop; I would have kept falling.

Everywhere else along the path, there were tons of rocks of various sizes that I could have hit my head on, but not where I fell.

I could have gotten a concussion, I could have broken bones, I could have been bleeding. I was up there with a paramedic, but we were still a long way from the bottom. If any of those injuries had occurred, how would they have gotten me the rest of the way down?

Do you want to know what injuries I did receive? (I mean besides the barely-able-to-move-because-muscles-I-didn’t-even-know-I-had-hurt-so-bad soreness that I had for two days.) When I got home, Emily had to help me pull thorns, which had been there all day, out of my legs. There were three of them, one of which was just over an inch long, and they left some pretty nasty bruises. But that’s it.

God protected me. I have no doubt about that. And I am so thankful.

And yeah, rolling down would have been SO MUCH faster.

Monday, March 7, 2011

When I talk/think about culture shock, especially in relation to my own experiences, I cannot help but think back to my first month in Peru, and our initiation into Peruvian culture with the special tradition known as Carnavales.

I still vividly remember Brandi and I walking from our host family's house to a Valentine's Day party thrown by some other missionaries. I believe it was week two in Peru, so life was still surreal and blissfully serene.

This serenity was unceremoniously interrupted when an entire bucket of water was dumped on my head.

And I remember saying, in a borderline-disgruntled tone, "I hate Peru!"

This was my most intense culture shock moment.

And this time of year is upon us once again: Carnavales.

And in Cusco, this means getting soaked...buckets of water, water balloons, water guns, any manner possible is used to get people as drenched as possible.

This past Sunday, on our way to Lamay, there were lines of people headed out to the Sacred Valley to participate in the festivities. In the lines, there were people selling aerosol cans of spray foam, also used to spray on innocent (sometimes) passersby.

Emily decided to take part in the revelry as well. These pictures will tell you the story:

This time of year isn't over yet, and tomorrow will be a big day in Coya, one of my church plant locations, so I will tell you more soon.