Monday, January 21, 2008

All Is Fair In Love And Spanish

Denise and I took a test in Spanish class the other day. Taking a test isn’t a problem, but having your wife score higher than you…that is a big issue. Well, she did. The profesora said that I had a larger vocabulary, but Denise spoke with more clarity and could understand Spanish better than I could. GGGGRRRRRRR. ¡ Yo Estoy Muy Furioso!

I had to do something to even the tables. If I could not beat her fairly…then I would cheat. I remembered something. Denise has said repeatedly, that when she is pregnant she loses brain cells. She cannot remember or articulate things as well as when she is not pregnant. So…I began to plot.

Suffice it to say, that by this time in September-ish, I should be well ahead of her in Spanish. I am going to be learning how to speak and preach to Bolivians, while she is going to be learning how to give birth to one.

Yep. Denise is expecting, or as they say in Español, “Mi espousa es embarazado, ella tiene un bebe. Vamas a tener once hijos!”

Here is a photo of what the little Bolivian probably looks like right now.

Isn’t God GREAT!!!

Leia Mais…

Equipping Long Distance

God has brought me an opportunity to begin, in a pretty significant way, mentoring pastors, even before I fully learn the language.

My pastor has a heart for training other pastors. He has a ministry that includes using the internet, hosting pastor’s conferences, and having training seminars. His internet based ministry uses video, audio, and graphics, as well as conventional newsletters. Each week he sends out an email to over 4,000 pastors throughout South America. This email is in the form of an encouraging word, advice on leadership, or sermon samplers. This week, Pastor DaRonn invited me to write for this newsletter. I can write as much as I want to, and my writing will be translated and then sent out. Do the math…if only 2% of the pastors each week benefit from what I have to say, then I am helping 80 pastors a week!

One of the things that excites me about this is that I am able to easily use things that God has already taught me through ministry, education, and most importantly the school of hard knocks. Please pray for this to not only impact the pastors on the email already, but for it to expand to thousands more!

Leia Mais…

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Country Wide Water Balloon Fight

The Warriors On Their Chariot!

This is going to hurt! Look at the expression on Ben's face!

Bolivia has a, in the words of my teens, really cool tradition. Some time later, I will tell you the pagen roots of it, but here is what happens. From the middle of January till the end of February, there is a country wide water balloon fight. Teenagers chunk balloons at cars and other teenagers. They even hire taxis to drive them up and down the street to throw waterballoons at pedestrians. This is such an accepted norm that there are people sitting on the corners of the streets at intersections selling full water balloons for a little less than one penny each.

Today I took the kids, all of them, water balloon chunking while Denise lay home sick. We only have one window that opens, so they were taking turns throwing. That is, until we drove down the strip. All of you know what the strip is. It is where all of the teenagers hangout. We drove down in our gringo-mobile, and hundreds of teens were pegging us with water balloons. It wasn't fair, with only one window to throw out of. So I went around the block. I put the teenagers on the roof of my truck after buying five more bags of balloons. We made two more trips up the strip, with them on top in a strategic location for 360 throwing. Unfortunately, it also make them the primary target. Without exaggeration, there were probably 200 people, from a kid that looked like a three year old, all the way to a man in his sixties, trying to knock the socks off of the teens on the roof. I went around the block again, only this time I plotted against my teens. I rolled up my window, and as soon as I turned onto the strip, I started honking my horn. This made sure that everyone on the street saw us....and saw the sitting ducks on the roof. It was like storming Omaha Beach.

We survived...but with many injuries. They were probably hit by 30 balloons. I had a great time just knowing that they were being pelted...I mean that they were having fun.

Leia Mais…

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ever Feel Like This?

I was looking for an image to use for Moses and the Burning Bush...and for some reason this cartoon came up under that search title. Oh Well, I could not resist putting it on my blog.

Leia Mais…

More Microscopic Insights

As a follow up to my advice from an amoeba…well, we have been in school learning all about them. Not the head type knowledge, but the head (think Navy) type knowledge. Denise had to be admitted to the hospital for dehydration. Denise has an amoeba, a parasite, and a bacterial infection. She is a delicatessen of disease at this moment.

I was praying for her, and thinking of all the damage that this little guys can cause, and I thought of James, where God says that the tongue, although it is little, can be extremely destructive. This started my mind wandering…

An amoeba is microscopic. You can’t even see it. Yet look at what it is doing to Denise. It has eliminated appetite, changed digestive patterns, and made her bed-ridden. How much bigger than the amoeba is Denise? This little thing has ‘changed’ a really big thing. Changed it for the worse, but changed it.

The bacteria is also microscopic. It is way smaller than Denise. Yet it has changed her body temperature, made her weary, and actually reversed her stomach muscles. This little bitty bug is making a big difference.

One thing that the Doctor has given us is ‘good bacteria’. We mix an envelope of stuff that taste like yeast into an ounce of water, then slam it down before you gag. The idea is that this bacteria will strengthen Denise and help her fight off the bad stuff.

Folks, how does an amoeba and a bacteria change something as big as a person? How can they reverse muscles, elevate temperature, cause weakness, and even force this big person to change locations? It shows the power of community. It isn’t one amoeba, or one bacteria. They multiply. They bond together. They form a little village, then a town, then a city. Then..they send out scouts to go to other places and start little villages…etc. They make such a huge difference, for the worse, by sticking together. If a bacteria working together in a mindless mass can do so much, then what can we do when we as Christians with the Mind of Christ come together in community? Maybe you think that one person can’t do much…but if that one person, you, influences someone else, and then the two of you are able to reach others, and so on, then what happens? You reach a neighbor, then a neighborhood, a block, a community, a town, a city, a county, a state, a nation, a world. Isn’t this what Jesus did? He called Andrew. Andrew got a couple of guys. Before long there were 12. We then read about 72. After the resurrection we see 120. On the day of Pentecost there were over 3000. Now look at the world. I am writing this from Bolivia because of what happened through the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the power of community taking that message out to the world.

It needs to be done again. The message of Christ hasn’t permeated all the world, or reached everyone. The message of Christ is still being carried into other places. I thought to myself…this is what I want to do in Bolivia, with your help. I want to be a spiritual bacteria, the good stuff in the envelope. I want to connect with pastors and church leaders, and as they know God better and love Him more, then they influence their church members who reach their neighbors. Through the power of community, you can I can spread the love of Jesus Christ through a sick and dehydrated world. A world that needs the Water of Life. Jesus said it this way. “He spoke another parable to them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." (Mat 13:33) Lets change a world!!!

Leia Mais…

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Continual Drizzle

We are full throttle into the rainy season here in Cochabamba. It is an adjustment to make. You see, in the past we have lived where there were seasons, and within those seasons there were various elements of weather. There was a saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute and it will change."

Here, it isn't like that. You have two seasons. The dry season which means no rain for about 8 1/2 months, and the rainy season in which it rains every day, many times all day long for the rest of the year.

I was chatting with my daughter Patience the other day, and I realized something. She thinks that it is always going to be stormy. She can't hardly remember it not raining most of the week. On the days without rain, she wanted to know if it was going to rain tomorrow.

I realized as I was trying to tell her about the rainy season, that I am just like that with God. I am immature and shortsighted. Whenever I experience storms in my life, I tend to forget when it wasn't so bad...and I start to expect it to always be this way. My Father has a much greater memory, and an infinitely larger perspective of the future. He reminds me that although I am soaking wet one time I was dry...and at some time in the future I will be dry again. He also gently explains why we need the rain...nothing grows without it...not even me.

So...if you are experiencing a continual drizzle...remember, continual isn't equal to eternal!

Leia Mais…

Advice From An Amoeba

One of the things that we have had to do since moving to Bolivia, and as I write this we are still in the process of doing, is two-fold. First, we have to adjust to various bacterium that our bodies did not get to know until now. We have become intimately acquainted with a number of new travelers visiting our digestive hotels..most of them just...passing through (grooooaaannn).

The adjustment process is pretty simple. You do nothing except what your body tells you to, and if the traveler decides to become a squatter (another groooaaannn), then you call the medical police and they evacuate him (yet another long groan). (I could do this all night, but don't worry, this too shall pass.....)

The other thing that we have had to do is to learn how to protect ourselves. The thing about Amoebas, Parasites, and various other little critters is that they are indeed little. I cannot see them. I certainly had no idea that the scrumpcilicious hamburger that I was eating had lettuce on it that the microscopic bugs hitched a ride upon. I have been here for 8 months, and I have never planned on getting an amoeba, or a parasite, or a bacterial infection. I have had other goals in mind: Fun, goofing off, meeting needs...etc. Another thing is that I usually don't know about the infection or invasion until I begin to experience the consequences. Even then, many times it is not obvious as to what happened, or when.

So, to protect ourselves we have a system. Part of the system deals with our home. We have installed a water filter, and all water--even for brushing our teeth, is first filtered. The filter gets all the bad things out and lets us experience the clean water God intends for us to have. We also wash all of our fruits and vegetables in a chemical like bleach. The bleach cleanses the food so we can eat it. The great thing about this is that it doesn't take long...just a minute or two and we are safe from days/weeks of pain.

The other part of the system is to maintain watch. We don't just grab food out. We are careful about what we let into our system. We go to places that appear clean, and/or that others have told us about. We don't eat cold food when we are out. This is because the food may look and taste good...but if it hasn't been filtered, washed or cooked correctly, it can rumble through your system like an internal volcano. Another thing we try to do is eat off of disposable dishes. Even if we are eating in, sometimes we will ask for the food to go. This is because many kitchens are not truly careful about how they wash and clean their plates.

I was literally sitting down the other day and thinking :) and a little amoeba gave me some great advice. These amoebas, parasites, and bacterium are a great illustration of sin. As believers, we rarely get out of our beds with an intent to sin. It isn't our goal. We had other things in mind. But something happens, and along the way we are tempted and we sin. Many times, we don't even know that we were tempted...or sinned...until the consequences hit us. That person said something rude to me, or started to gossip at the office...and I never FELT the temptation to respond rudely back, or to carry on the gossip. I just did it. Then, when the effects of the sin come full circle and hit me, maybe a long time later, I can't even remember when it happened. I just know that I don't like the consequences. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a parasite of worry. I don't even know that I have it...all I know is that my faith, trust and hope have been eaten away and I am constantly wondering about what if/when....

How do we avoid living an infected Christian life? The amoeba whispered to me. Protect yourself and be on guard. Sounds a lot like watch and pray doesn't it?

We need to filter the thoughts/attitudes of our lives through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Let God cleanse our hearts and minds with the washing of the water of the word. Allow our responses to first flow through Calvary...then speak the words that come out on the other side. This requires us to be in constant communication with Christ.

The next thing the amoeba instructed me to do is to always watch out. Just like learning how to eat in another country, we can learn to identify danger areas (maybe your computer at night?), and avoid them. We can look out for things/people/places that might have a tendency to carry a contagious sin, and at least be on guard for it. Listen to the Holy Spirit as He nudges and teaches us. When we are with our friends that don't know Christ, we can seek to be the bleach that helps cleanse them, or as the Bible says, Salt and Light.

God wants us clean and healthy. Lets pay as much attention to our spiritual vitality as to our physical comfort!

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Spiritual Spelunking

Ben turned 13 on December 27th, and as per our family tradition, I took him to a hotel. We had a great time, and talked about what it meant to be a man who truly loves God. Unlike the previous three boys, we could not go to the Embassy Suites, so we went to a nice hotel in the mountains south of Cochabamba. If you hike up the mountain from the hotel, there is a cave. The cave just screamed "Come inside" to we went in...with my 10 million candle flashlight. (really...10 million candle...thank you Costco!

Inside the cave it was pitch black. We literally could not see anything. And although my mind knew it wasn't true, I could 'feel' the mountain crashing in on me. I was borderline claustrophobic. I was scared. But then, we cranked up the powerhouse spotlight and a neat thing happened. The cave changed from scary to cool. The weight of the mountain was lifted. The path became clear, and I didn't bump my head on the low ceilings. We could see where we were going, and where we had been. After we left the cave/tunnel and were walking up the mountain (we went to a little over 10,000 ft high), I talked to Ben about the difference being in the light meant...both in the cave, and in life.

I have been thinking about that a lot since then. Walkng in the light is more than just knowing Jesus, it is letting Him direct your path, show you where you are going, reveal to you where you have been. As a missionary in a country where there are some very real socio-economial-political situations on hand, I have had people ask me about fear, and how we feel living here, and are we returning to the States. If we were walking in the dark...we probably would feel the illusion of the mountain's weight on our shoulders and worry about what lie ahead. But, we are walking in the light. The weight of the fuutre is not on our shoulders, it is in God's hands. Fear is like the is dispelled by the light. And why would we return when the light is pointed ahead?

How about you? Are you walking near the light...or in the light? Are you following Christ, or opinions?

Yes, the celebration with Ben was a highlight of my life...but what I learned from the Holy Spirit as I was trying to teach my son is probably going to help me the rest of my life. The place to be is in the light!

Leia Mais…

Monday, January 7, 2008

Ending The Year By Doing Something Dumb

When is the last time that you did something, and when it was over you thought to yourself, “Well, that wasn’t too bright.” It is like the famous last words of the redneck, “Hey, Bubba, watch this!” This happened to me on the last day of the year. Let me give you some background information. Traffic in Cochabamba follows no discernable rule. Every intersection becomes a multilane highway with drivers all trying to get the jump on each other and edge out the competition. The goal is to always advance by one car...period. You can achieve this goal by doing just about anything that you want to. You can turn left from the right lane, turn right from the left lane, make a one lane road into a three lane road, go the wrong way down a one way street….whatever…just get in front of the guy in front of you. As a great example of this, I laughed out loud at an intersection a couple of days ago. I was on a one way street with two lanes in it. There was a bus in the left lane, and a taxi in the right lane, side by side. When the light turned almost green (literally, people go when the opposing light turns yellow), the bus in the left lane turned right, and the taxi in the right lane turned left!

Anyway, the only real rule in Cochabamba traffic is that bigger usually has the right of way, and the purpose of driving is to pass as many people in as many ways as possible. I am usually okay with this. It is even funny to me. I will pull up at a two-lane intersection, and watch as cars pull up on both sides of me and the two lanes have become a four lane drag strip waiting for the light to change. Across the intersection, there are parked cars forcing the four lanes back to a two…so the race is on! Invariably, I fold and just mosey on up after the dragsters and am content with last place. But this wasn’t the case on December 31st! Denise and I were driving downtown, and it was horrific traffic. We were having to wait at each light for more than one turn, people were blocking the box, forcing us to miss 'our turn' and it was bumper to bumper. I was on a one-way street, with cars parked on my right, when a taxi tried to zoom between two parked cars and jump in front of me. I honked my horn and did not let him in. He tried it again the next time there was an open parking spot on the right. I honked and didn’t let him in.

Now here is where the dumb part kicks in. For some reason ( I wasn’t angry or suffering from road rage), I decided that on this particular day, this particular taxi wasn’t going to get in front of me. I don’t know why, but I decided that when this race was over, I was going to be the winner! So…the let the games begin! He tried to maneuver in front of me, and I did not let him. Time after time. He was determined to beat me. I was grinning to myself as I kept the angry tiger at bay and maintained my pole position.

Then, it happened. We came to a traffic signal, and I was in front. I was turning right, and so was he! No problem…I am still in front. But then, a bus blocked the box. I turned and had to stop with my bumper right at the back fender of the bus. The taxi driver turned in behind the bus, also blocking the box, but moved up so that he was bumper to bumper. I could see the writing on the wall! I had been out maneuvered due to a silly bus blocking the intersection.

I was watching the taxi out of my periphiel vision, wondering if there was a way that I could still win. The driver moved forward, and in an automatic response, I gave it the gas….and RAN RIGHT INTO THE SIDE OF THE BUS! LOL! Here we were, just sitting in traffic, and I rammed the bus. :) I really did. All traffic stopped as the bus driver, understandably angry, came out of the cab to find out just why in the world this crazy gringo rammed him. As he and I looked at the damage to the bus, I REFUSED to look at the taxi driver. There was no way I was going to make eye contact with him. (I had to reserve some dignity :)) But I could just imagine his laughter. I bet I made his day, and he has told hundreds of people about his come from behind victory under the yellow flag. I talked to the bus driver, apologized, accepted blame, and ended up giving him $13 for the damage to the bus, and shook the hand of a happy man as he climbed back into the cab. You see, the damage was a mere scratch on top of an already dented fender…so he was not even going to report it. He makes about $20/week, so I gave him almost a week’s wages and a humble apology. (I actually carry $40 with my license for events like this).

The moral of this story? I dunno. It was just a funny way to end a pretty good year, and now I am an official driver in Bolivia…I have been imitated by hitting a bus, negotiating a deal, and humbly accepting defeat. Since that day…I am back to meekly crossing intersections and letting the race go to the professionals.

Leia Mais…