Monday, December 20, 2010

Aliens and Strangers "at home"

Strangers. Aliens in a foreign land.

Actually, citizens of this land... born and raised here... should be home, right? Hmmm. Sometimes it feels like home, and sometimes it doesn't.

We don't understand smart phones, smart cars, or smart anything else. We had to step aside and watch/learn how to use the video rental box thing. Same with the photo printing machine - we had to finally ask for help after spending several minutes trying to follow the instructions on the machine, only to be treated like we were complete idiots by the "customer service" girl. Really, a lot of our coming back transition has been very much like our first days after moving to Costa Rica and Peru. We do a lot of watching and trying to learn how things are done. Sometimes we look like fish-out-of-water to everyone around us.

We have spent time with friends and family as we visit and reconnect. Last week, we had the pleasure of spending time and eating lunch in the home of our good friends who were missionaries to South Africa for 8 years... oh, how special that time was! They completely understand our re-entry issues. They were able to really connect with us and speak some sanity into our confused feelings. This weekend, we had coffee (which turned into a 4 hour visit) with another missionary friend and a friend in ministry... again, we found peace and sanity and understanding in people who have also experienced the same issues. So glad that there are other "aliens" and fish-out-of-water that we can lean on!

This re-entry is difficult. If you see us at the store and we look lost, we probably are. If you see us in town and our eyes seem glazed over, we're just a little overwhelmed. If we seem confused or strange or out-of-sorts, just know that it's not you... we aren't sure exactly what it is, but it's probably not you. We can't really put our finger on it or name this feeling yet... we aren't tired, and we aren't depressed, and we aren't crazy... we're just here, trying to figure it all out. Be patient with us.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pregnant? Old?

So, the other day, Sarah and I are waiting in line to buy groceries. I think everyone in Huancayo had the same idea... to go and buy grocieries at exactly the same time, making about 15 check-out lines with about 25+ people in each one! Billy left us in line in the store while he went off to the bank. We waited, and waited, and waited, and waited... We watched other people (a favorite grocery store activity), we chatted with some folks standing around us, and we waited some more... Finally, we arrived at the front of the line. It was finally our turn!

As I began to reach into my cart and put things on the counter, the check-out girl says, "Are you pregnant?" Okay, now I don't have to tell any North American that THAT IS NOT A CULTURALLY ACCEPTABLE QUESTION! You don't ask any woman if she is pregnant, no matter how round or tired or frazzled she might be! Then I thought, "Maybe I didn't hear her correctly. Maybe my translation skills are too tired today." So I tried to clarify - "Excuse me? What did you ask?" Again she asks, "Are you pregnant?"

So now I'm feeling pretty pitiful. I mean, come on! I've been watching my intake and I've been doing my Rodney Yee yoga and my Jillian Michaels Shred... how on earth could this woman think that I'm pregnant? On top of that, I'm obviously past normal child-bearing years. I don't love to admit it, but I even have gray hair! I have two college-age sons. Let's get real here!

"No, I'm not pregnant," I say to the teenaged checker. So she replies, "Well, you're not old and you're not pregnant, so you need to leave my line." At this point, I am totally confused and thinking that there is obviously a big communication breakdown. "Pardon me?", I say again. "I don't understand."

So she points to the sign that I hadn't noticed (maybe because I had been standing in lines with hundreds of other shoppers who are also 5 feet tall - maybe that's why we didn't see the sign that hangs about 15-20 feet above our heads!!! - Just saying, it's tough being "altitude-challenged"!) The sign reads that this checkout line is for Pregnant people and Old people. After reading the sign, I looked back at her and said, "Seriously? I didn't see the sign. Do I really have to change lines after waiting all this time?" Yes, she was serious...

When Billy returned to the store to try to find us, he was a bit confused to find us in another line and STILL waiting to check out. He was even more confused when I announced to him that, "I'm not pregnant! Neither am I old!" His face was priceless!
Just another fun day in Peru... :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Going Away

We are currently in the mad rush to get things finalized, packed, and ready for us to leave Peru for our 4 month "furlough". I really detest the word "furlough" right now... I guess from being raised in a military family where the word evokes images of R&R (rest and relaxation), shore leave, fun, time off, and vacation... it means nothing of the sort for us! In theory, we are supposed to rest and debrief and reflect while in The States -- but we are supposed to do that in between running all over kingdom come doing speaking engagements and dinner appointments and fundraising ventures! Some of our missionary friends are also on their "furlough" in The States right now, except their mission agency has changed the name to Homeland Mission Assignment (HMA) because in truth, we are "home" but still doing ministry and still working and still on assignment. Our friends say a more accurate name would be HMA = Hurridly Moving Around. I'm starting to agree with them... our calendar looks like anything BUT rest or relaxation!

Not that we're complaining. We are very excited to go "home" and see our boys and our families and our friends. We are very excited to be home for Christmas for the first time in several years. We will be home for Thanksgiving dinner. We will ring in the new year with friends. We're pretty excited! But we're pretty worried and stressed, too. Re-entry Shock is rarely pretty or easy and it is a very real issue for people who are out of the country and out of the culture for so long. Thankfully, there are people at home who are aware of this and they are already putting things in motion to ease our re-entry... people who have arranged for our short-term housing, groceries, transportation, etc. We thank God for these good friends!!!

Leaving here (Peru) won't be easy. It has become our home. We love the people we live and work with. We love the ministry work here. We are tightly connected to our students and the community. It will be rough. Friday, the communities of Iscos and Patarcocha combined in an effort to give us a going away party... see the photos for the story.

1. cookout

2. Mama Elva gives a going away speech

3. The children and moms danced and sang

4. We played party games

5. We had a "who can design the best outfit out of newspaper and toilet paper" contest

Friday, September 3, 2010

Being a witness in the world

The following are excerpts from my devotional readings this morning. While reading them and trying to discern how to apply them to my life, I was struck with the thought that I needed to post them to my blog. Sometimes God puts ideas in my head that seem a little crazy to me, but I try to comply and follow-through, so here goes:

From the devotional My Heart-Christ's Home Through the Year...
"Jesus' disciples will need to look more saved if I am to believe in their Savior", says Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher. The world is looking for followers of Christ who look like Jesus. The world looks at believers not only for right belief but also for a distinctive Christlike lifestyle, a faith expressed through action. They are saying, "Show me your faith by the way you live and serve in this hurting world." Service exemplifies the way Christianity is supposed to be lived. Believers who visibly and actively serve present Jesus to a watching world.

From the book More Than Conquerors, A Call to Radical Discipleship by Simon Guillebaud...
What happened to radical Christianity, the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside down? What happened to the smashing, life-threatening, anti-institutional gospel that spread through the first century like wildfire and was considered by those in power to be dangerous? -What happened to the kind of Christians whose hearts were on fire, who had no fear, who spoke the truth no matter what the consequence, who made the world uncomfortable, who were willing to follow Jesus wherever he went? What happened to the kind of Christians who were filled with passion and gratitude, and who every day were unable to get over the grace of God?

I want to play my part in turning the world upside down; I want to be fearless, bold, uncompromising and passionate in reaching out to the lost on behalf of the King of Kings; I never want to get over the grace of God; I want to be prepared to follow Jesus wherever he went; and I invite you to join me in this pursuit. As C.T. Studd declared, "If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him." So may the God of grace help you and me to rediscover this dangerous, revolutionary, earth-transforming message, and translate it into our daily living.

So, do with that what you will. It made a pretty big impact on my devotional time and I'm still "chewing" on it and rolling it around in my head... What would the world look like if Christians were like these two passages? Incredible thought...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Shepherding 101

Shepherds are a DAILY part of my life here. Almost everyone I know is a shepherd... maybe their only animals are not sheep, but they own sheep, too. In fact, it isn't uncommon for many of the people that we are around to own two or three cows, a dozen chickens, a couple of pigs, a donkey, and a handful of sheep. They generally herd them all together in a different kind of "flock" (which is actually a really good description of the community that we work with... they are definitely all different and yet they make up a very different kind of "flock").

When we first came to Peru, I have to say that my entire experience with sheep boiled down to petting some at a petting zoo, and taking pictures of them at the county fair. Other than that, I knew absolutely nothing about sheep. So the descriptions in the Bible and the stories revolving around sheep (more than 700 references!) completely eluded me. I knew the stories of the Good Shepherd, the Lost Sheep, etc... but they really didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. They were just stories. Until I came to Peru...

So now I am learning a lot about sheep and shepherds. And it is beginning to make so much more sense to me! Recently, I was searching for a Bible study for the summer months for the interns to work on while they are here. I literally stumbled upon (okay, we know that there are no coincidences.... God led me to this) a bible study called "Scouting the Divine" by Margaret Feinberg. She looks into the themes of sheep/shepherds, farming, vineyards, and beekeeping in the Bible and connects them with real people from today and the modern practices of these "jobs". She also brings in the history and culture behind these themes. We are learning so much!!! And I'm now connecting so much more with sheep and shepherds in my daily life here - serving the people of Peru.

Just today, we watched a small herd of sheep and their two shepherds... the sheep managed to get away from the shepherds (who were walking behind the sheep) and take off down the mountain, at which point the shepherds began yelling and running after them. A little while later, here they came again, back up the mountain, this time being LED by the shepherds and everyone (the sheep) was following in line and behaving. Hmmmmm..... It was a great illustration of some of the things we had just studied this week about good and bad shepherds and how sheep react to being pushed vs. led.

I highly recommend this Bible study... even if you don't live in Peru or spend time daily with shepherds or farmers! I think you will connect with the Bible a little bit better if you dig deeper into these themes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Moment in the life of the Stream

Yesterday, we spent the day with some great Peruvian friends. They happen to have a house that sits "on the stream" that goes through town... literally, their house is not 10 feet from the stream. The good part is that they sit "above" the stream about 10 feet, too, on a little ridge. So, from their backyard I had a really good view of the comings and goings at the stream all day. Now, that might sound all romantic and nice, but reserve your judgement until you read all of what happened at the stream in a matter of 2 or 3 hours...
  • I watched two young girls take baths and wash their hair in the pool in the bend of the stream. (no, they weren't naked! They bathed the exposed parts of their bodies while wearing shorts and tank tops.)
  • When the girls left, I watched a woman bring the breakfast dishes to the same pool and do dishes.
  • About 15 minutes after the dishwasher left, a husband and wife came to the same pool and proceeded to wash mystery meat parts. At one point, they washed intestines by pouring stream water through the intestines MANY times... all the while, the dog sat below them in the stream and caught any stray meat parts that were washed out.
  • Upstream from the meat washers about 10 yards (at the same time the meat washers were working) 4 little boys decided to wash all of their muddy toys.
  • A few minutes later, a woman came down with a broom. Her pigs have been tied up about 15 feet from the stream all this time. She proceeds to sweep the pig area and tidy up the place by sweeping all of the pig-ness to the stream.
Are you getting the picture? And my friends live toward the bottom end of town, so this stream has already passed through much of the village. No telling what has occurred upstream from my where I was perched... Is it any wonder that we have so many complaints of stomach issues, intestinal parasites, e.coli, etc?????

PS - Did I mention that this town has no public sewage / drainage yet?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


We went camping this weekend... You have to understand that our family is of the mindset that unless you backpack for miles and unless it is super primitive and unless you have to suffer greatly for the privlege of being alone in God's wilderness, then it just isn't camping. We raised the boys that way. We have made fun of the "sissies" that camp with air mattresses and pull up in their fancy campers and hook up to the electricity at the campsite and complain because the water in the shower isn't hot enough. That is NOT camping! In the States, we have some friends who actually complained that their microwave broke during their "campout" and that they were so happy that they had a DRYER in their camper! We quickly informed them that they were not campers... they were on a rolling hotel vacation.

So, back to the weekend. Yes, we did backpack to our site, although it was not a very long hike in (we are, mind you, backpacking with a 6 year old ballarina princess). And, no, we did not have electricity or water or bathrooms or showers. We did have to cook on our backpack stove, and it was VERY cold at night, and we did not have lanterns or any conveniences. But it was still very mild compared to our past camping experiences. The boys would have said it wasn't good enough, but they are "Indiana Jones/National Geographic/Jeff Corwin" type campers... if you're not muddy and bloody when it's over, it wasn't camping :)

But the point was to get away for a day or two and for Sarah to have a great time in the country, and we accomplished both of those goals. We had a roaring fire (Thank you, Jesus, because I think I would have frozen to death without it). We looked at the stars and planets in a near-perfect sky. We were amazed by owls flying and hunting near us. We managed to surprise several shepherds who obviously are not accustomed to random gringos setting up tents and starting fires in the country. It was a lot of fun!

In the morning, after breakfast and coffee (and after Sarah made friends with a grazing sheep she named Margaret), we decided to hike back in a different direction. We took off over the first hill in the direction of a nearby town. The views as we hiked over the mountains were fabulous! We hiked past shepherds and through fields of wheat and other grains, past a group of farmers harvesting and sorting potatoes, through streams and beautiful valleys of wildflowers... I was so great that when we arrived at the town, we decided that we just weren't finished with hiking yet! So we decided to hike some more and head over the next mountain to the next town. Again, breathtaking views and incredible wildflowers, rock formations, etc.

I can't wait until the next campout...