Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Overwhelmed by Beauty

To My Most Amiable Readers,

I've not written but I've been full of thoughts. Maybe that's a sign of the things which truly impact us; they leave us grasping for words to describe it and we seem to fall short at every attempt. We did nothing spectacular. We wanted to show our rowing kids who are meeting with us to study Jesus' life something of what Jesus would do; and what we should do if we are truly His hands, His feet in the world.

We developed a plot with Fredi Solis; a wonderful, wise friend who grew up in an orphanage in nearby Osorno. Let's bring these Jesus-seekers to some kids who really need His touch, His smile. We got together around a cramped table with our rowing youth and together created 33 Christmas cards in a flurry of glue, glitter, paper, and budding inspiration. We felt our hearts going into each card; almost like a prayer.

We were much fewer than the full group as we headed to the orphanage. Unexpected events took away all but two of them; Felipe and Coni. I wish that you knew them so that you could rejoice with me in their willingness to do this; needless to say they are not yet in love with God though He's chasing them relentlessly.

Arriving at the orphanage, Coni was overwhelmed. Just looking at where these young boys live with no mommies and daddies watching over them broke her heart. We all were on the verge of wide smiles and/or tears as we caught glimpses of little ones. We went to a small mass with the children. I sat beside Mario, who said he'd lived in Mi Casa for eleven years. I asked how old he was. He said "fourteen". Since he was three...so young to be left in a brand new world.

Then we toured their home, played with them, and waded through alternating waves of sorrow and joy. We helped serve the children their Christmas meal; chicken with rice. Sophia LOVED being the life of the party at her table. She literally amazed us with her wise-crackin' Spanish and social ways. We then watched as Santa Claus (a former orphan of the home) slid down a slide that's welded to the side of the house as a fire escape, delivered gifts to the children one by one. The Tios, grown-up orphans from the home, called "uncles", helped distribute and belted out lots of "HO HO HO's!". We then gave out the cards we'd made along with board games for the orphans to play when it's rainy outside (which would be 80% of the year).

Like I said, we did nothing spectacular; if pressed for the reason of my absolute certainty of the success of that evening I could not explain it to you. But it was one of those rare Joy Baths; where Heaven pours over you something thicker than happiness, something that makes you equally susceptible to laughter or tears. Felipe said it well as we drove home, "I felt so much pain for them, but at the same time so much joy; it was so weird!". Coni said, "Sarah, that was so beautiful." I agree.
And on the homefront, our little barrio "neighborhood", has been filled with the mischief of God. Doors are being opened every day to share more about the God we love. As I wrote this post the man in the left of this photo, Christian, just accepted Jesus into His heart in our living room alongside Voni and Dustin, who are studying the Word with him every week. Praise be to God! I'm overwhelmed by the beauty.

Your Most Devoted,

Sunday, December 14, 2008


We did it!!!
Yoya and I won the women's doubles 500 meter race this past Saturday the 13th.
Needless to say, we're pretty psyched!

In my second race of the day, we raced mixed doubles (one guy, one girl). Daniel and I lost by about three strokes! All in all a fun day and one more opportunity to
invest in the lives of these amazing youth. Please keep us in prayer as we live out a life of love among them.

Our rowing kid's Bible study group has agreed to our crazy idea of visiting an orphanage in another town on the 22nd of this month to bless the 33 boys that live there. We're going to make Christmas cards and goodies for them and hope to have lots of time to play with them at a local park. Please pray that our youth would be challenged by this experience to walk more closely with our Lord.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Gift of a Day!

To My Most Amiable Readers...

Sometimes in life we run into days that smack of joy; this was one of them. I was far from thinking that today would be such a day. We had rowing exams today which involves rowing as hard as you can (sustainably) for 2000 meters on a rowing machine, with (hopefully) enough strength within the last 300 meters to kick it in hard. If this sounds relatively easy (we row up to 21 km on an average day), it isn't, not even close. It's around eight minutes of heart-slamming, aerobic, muscular, and mental torture. My stomach hurt this week whenever I thought of the trial awaiting me Saturday!!

My day started with some fresh Chilean bread, spread thickly with Nutella, and a cold glass of milk; eaten standing in my kitchen as my appointment with Senor Ergometro (rowing machine) loomed large. I knew I'd need the sugar, protein, and carbs for what awaited, but had to force the food down. After kissing my babies and Dustin goodbye, I hailed a taxi. The sun was already beating hot and heavy at 9:20, when I existed the taxi and began the walk to the club. I was wondering why I was wasting precious strength on the long walk (I could have taken a bus nearly directly there), but I was glad to get limbered up.

Arriving at 10:00 at the club, I noted several omminous signs: no brackets outside ready to receive boats, no youth filling water bottles at the hose, and a distinctive WHOOOOSH! sound (Senor Ergometro's). The tests had begun.

We gathered around our ancient rowing machine as one by one we were called to warm-up before our exam. After warm-up, I was called upstairs to where Felipe, the trainer, had set up a lovely Senor Ergometro that we borrow from a guy whenever we need to do exams. I honestly had to use every ounce of self control to enter that room and not turn around and run away!

It was boiling hot in the room; the sun beating down on the aluminum roof and no windows to bring in a breeze. Felipe started entering the data into the machine's computer and I sat and prayed. I prayed for strength, perseverance, and that I would not feel desperate as the pain set in hard.

Felipe said I could start whenever I was ready. And then something incredible happened. I had the strength. I pulled hard. I was breathing well (one can fall into shallow panting as pain hits). I was not feeling wildly desperate (like last time I'd done this test). And I kicked it in at the end. Felipe was all smiles. "Buena!!!!" He showed me that I'd improved 30 seconds over my last exam! Wow!

I would have gotten up and danced around that musty room, but after 2000 hard meters your body can't stand up right away. Not to mention that you're heart's slamming and your breathing sounds berserk. I sat until I could get up, praising God with all my heart that He brought me through this. I walked out of that inferno dripping with sweat, hobbling on tense muscles, and smiling wide.

When exams were done we went out on a 45 minute run in the intense heat, out to a hotel on the peninsula and back. Yoya, my doubles partner, and I ran side by side and endured together one more test of strength that day : ).

Arriving back at the boathouse we went down to the docks to see catch the breeze on our hot faces. The water looked so invitingly cool. "Banamos?" (swim?) I asked Yoya with a twinkle in my eye. Before we knew it our entire club were in the water (clothes and all). We all decided to swim out to a buoy way out. We spent probably an hour out there, trying to climb it, swimming under ropes attached to it, being crazy clowns. A fellow club's instructor came by in a boat to see all the "lobos del mar" (sea lions) : ).

I rode home on the bus dripping wet and smelling like canal and totally happy. Arriving home I showered quick and headed over to our neighbors where Dustin and the other guys had prepared a huge bowl of ceviche de salmon...YUMMMM! We passed a few hours there talking and joking, until the toll of the morning's exercise hit me. I stretched out on our couch near the open window and took a hard siesta.

What a gift of a day.....

Your Most Devoted, Sarah

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Current Events...

Sophia's ballet class had their final exam for the year. She's learned so much and is really enjoying her classes and new friends! Now her class is practicing for an end-of-the-year gala December 19th.

My crazy kids. We're all loving the warmer weather and the springtime fruits!

Sophia fishing in Lago Chapo. We went with two neighborhood families to a cabin for a weekend of fishing and fun times. Seventy salmon later...; )...

Edison the pijama-ed cowboy with his trusty horsey/golf club : ).

Happy Holidays!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Three Rascals

Reuben, sweet smiling Ruby Tuesday, Toos, Roobs (he goes by many names!), is enjoying life. He's learning how to walk; five steps at the most (well, the last two are usually in a falling fashion), and has a favorite game, "uh-oh". In "uh-oh", he drops stuff. Says "uh-oh" and laughs. And I pick it up. And he drops it. Ad nauseum ; ). He also says "nana" for anything that looks good to eat (from "banana" which he LOVES with all his baby passion). He's at a very crazy age as he can get into everything and yet doesn't know that buttons are not for eating, one shouldn't play splish-splash in the potty and so on. He keeps me on my toes!

Edison is enjoying his homeschool curriculum, "Fiction, Fun, and Fairy Tales" and now spends vast stretches of time sitting on the couch looking at his story books. He is very good at entertaining himself and has an active imagination. My favorite things he says to me are:

1. "Mommy I just want to watch you." -he loves to sit at the peninsula in our kitchen and watch me chop, cook, and even wash dishes; peppering me with questions, singing me songs, and making conversation. He's also a first-rate garlic clove peeler!

2. "Mommy, I want to hold you!" -not, "hold me", but "hold you!" I love it, and I'll be very sad when he learns to say it properly.

3. "Mommy, you're locked." -This is said when he has wrapped his little toddler arms tight around my neck when I hug him goodnight in his bed. Only serious tickling "unlocks" me! He's so sweet!

My sweet Sophia is growing up so fast! She too is enjoying homeschooling; I've been delighted to see how she's relating her new knowledge to the world around her. She loves to draw and her and I make coloring pages relating to the stories in her curriculum. She is such a social creature and is recently learning that Edison won't play with her if she bosses him around (he's content to go play alone), so she's out a playmate if she isn't kind! She's enjoying her ballet classes and her Chilean friends in class and in the neighborhood. Her Spanish is improving by leaps and bounds. Soon she'll be speaking much better than we do!

Hope you enjoyed this glimpse of the wee Gingrichs : ).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Mathematics Of It

I am a most terrible mathematician. Even straightforward long division requires complete focus, total silence, and a substantial eraser. The oddity is that I actually like math. When I get it, that is. Otherwise I am a ball of impotent rage, begging my late-twenties brain to remember foggy concepts from high school days.

I didn't get the church split; the division. It seemed so contrary to all that had been worked and hoped for in the last few years. And worse yet, it was long division. Not a squabble to be mended, a wound to be patched up, but a permanent rending. Considering the multiple exhortations in the New Testament, and Christ's own prayer for believers, that we would be "one", this seemed disastrously out of step with God's will.

Nearly a month ago Steve Shank and Antonio Ulloa traveled here to listen. They met with each family involved in the church. They heard their hearts, their hurts, their dreams for what is next. After meeting with all involved, they called a meeting of the former church. This in itself was quite a stretch as some of them have disagreed sharply and hurtfully with one another. Words have been said that were not easily forgotten. And some frankly resented EMM and wondered what we could possibly think we'd have to say to them.

Beneath the veneer of courtesy and charity, tensions were high as we gathered for that meeting. Many of these people had not spoken to nor seen each other for months. Steve and Antonio spoke. They addressed what passed here. They addressed how we've failed them in certain ways. They addressed forgiveness. They spoke about how it is important to close this fellowship in an honoring, forgiving spirit, so that, they can go on with clean hearts to their next area of ministry and fellowship.

Then they left it open for a final "airing out"; it words needed said, let them be spoken. What followed were outpourings of confessed resentment for past hurts, people asking forgiveness for their parts in what happened, the giving of blessing one to another, tears, smiles. Steve spoke something to the effect of, "Guys, I think what we're seeing here is not a division...but a multiplication". To that effect we gathered round and prayed for another, blessing each family's work in the kingdom; extending the love and acceptance that bitterness had sapped.

A multiplication. I get that. I finally understand a bit more Paul and Barnabas's dividing quarrel. These very gifted, strong minded people were pulling in different directions. Steve used the example that they were like horses trying to pull a load together, but each having a completely different direction they thought they should go. Hence, lots of annoyance and not much pulling.

In this equation, Dustin and I lie at a neutral point. We work with Eduardo and Juanita in the church plant in the mountains. We work with Voni and Gigi and Kati and Marcelo in a church plant in Puerto Montt. Eliana has joined me in my rowing club ministry, woohoo! And to the rest we are friends.

There's been some astounding developments as of late in this multiplication. Eduardo and Juanita have teamed up with Ricardo and Eliana and the municipality to do an awesome kid's club every Saturday on Isla Tenglo. Eduardo and Juanita are organizing a church in Alerce (a poor neighborhood), where they plan to move within a year. Two men came to the Lord on the last mountain trip Eduardo and Dustin took, and the believers there want to build a church building! My rowing kids have agreed to study the Book of John with us each week and brought family along! Dustin and Voni and Marcelo are doing a men's Bible study with our neighbor! Four people have come to know the Lord through Gigi's work with the Animal Protection Society and through Cole's work, and are now faithfully coming to fellowship with us.

I think I'm getting it now. God's mathematics rock. Praise be to Him, who doesn't think as we do, whose ways are different than ours.

Your Most Devoted,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Rather Alarming Tale

To My Most Amiable Readers,

As I type this my fingers sting with the pain of new blisters, but I'm far from complaining.

Yesterday I arrived at rowing just in time to avoid a major deluge. Felipe, the trainer, and I stood under the shelter of the boathouse watching the rain pound down mercilessly. He turns slightly and says simply, "Zapatos de agua" (water shoes). This means we're going out on the water rather than working weights. I raise my eyebrows. "In this?" Considering, he says that we'll wait a bit to see if it passes.

Meanwhile he explains to me that I'll be learning "dos sin" (sweeping) today, a form of doubles rowing where each rower has one gigantic oar each. It's notoriously difficult to do as it's very hard to maintain balance in the boat. Plus one arm and isolated muscles in your back get double work; I'd compare it to a skier learning snowboarding (ie. lots of ouchies).

The rain stopped and we carried the boat down to the water and carefully boarded. This was the first time I've had to lace-in my feet to a boat. It had large shoes mounted on the foot board which I managed to squeeze my water shoes inside and laced them up semi-tightly. My thoughts were very much occupied on that point; I wanted them to be firm, but I wanted to know I could get out of them if something went wrong.

It was awkward going at first. I was in front, setting pace, and Felipe was in back, doing navigation and coaching me through technique. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I got a feel for it; arcing the heavy oar through the air and flipping it out of the water with a snap of my hands at my belly. We did 6 km. of slow rowing and then returned to the boathouse so that another of the experienced rowers could observe from dockside how I was doing.

We did a slow motion race for him and to my great delight he pronounced that I was doing it very well and only needed to snap the oar out of the water with a more pronounced movement. I was basically happy as a clam with this praise, as often it seems to take me a long time to learn new things.

Felipe told me we'd take one more 6 km. loop and go in for the day. In the last turn in the canal, we were making good progress when all of a sudden Felipe starting yelling "ROW! ROW! FASTER FASTER!" I obeyed, though I feared we risked tipping if we pushed the velocity too much on my first day sweeping.

Odd, we were suddenly in a shadow. Sneaking in a glance over my shoulder, all I saw was blue. The huge blue underbelly of a fishing vessel bearing down on us. My mind was confused, "Why aren't they stopping?". I could have slapped the boat with my oar, we were so close. Situated as we were, they were like to split our boat in half. Felipe continued to shout and I rowed with as much velocity and accuracy as I could, as did he.

At the last possible moment we pulled free from the nose of the ship, and it glided by us, rocking us in its wake. A man on the back deck looked perplexed to see us there, so close to the ship. Boatmen up and down the harbor were gawking at this near fatal accident. It is likely that it would have been. Our boats are not strong in the least. If you stepped hard on the bottom of one you'd break through it. We'd likely have been pulled under, and depending on whether we could escape our shoes, drowned.

Our reaction as we rocked in the wake was surely triggered by adrenaline and nerves. In short, we laughed ourselves silly. We laughed so hard we couldn't row. We just sat there and laughed and repeated several phrases over and over: "that was close" "I can't believe that just happened" "they never saw us" "that's never happened before". Shakily we rowed back to the boathouse and reported to the others what had happened.

Rowing in general is not a dangerous sport; but like any sport, strange things can happen which can endanger life. This situation was very unusual in that the pilot was never aware of our presence (even though our boat is painted bright yellow and is super long), and that Felipe never heard the boat approaching, nor saw it in his habitual navigational glances. The only thing we can think of is that the ship was taking care to avoid the small vessel that was crossing the canal at the same time.

I've received a lot of flak from loving family about this; "You've got to be more careful! Don't ever do that again!", and such. But imagine how silly that sounds; it's like if you got smashed into by another driver and people started lecturing you even though all you were doing was driving, safely and normally like anyone else, when some yo-yo decided to plow into you.

The redemptive note in all of this was the opportunity to have a good talk with one of the rowing moms; talking about death and fears and heaven. I truly have very little fear of death, and much anticipation about Heaven, and that's what I got to share.

Anyways, I give thanks to God for deliverance from death for me and Felipe. Apparently God still has work for this little rower to do ; ).

Your Most Devoted,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Shooting From the Hip

It seems I've two main writing styles. One would be methodical; bubble diagrams and echoes of the Jane Schaffer writing method weaving coherently together my thoughts. The other is like words burst forth from a mouth without any attempt at order or loveliness, truth as I see it, unfiltered. Shooting from the hip, so to speak.

I can imagine I'd be a fairly terrible pastor. I'd do okay maybe with methodical sermons, though I always have a knack for being fascinated by and passionate about things which, on the whole, are not those which fascinate or provoke passion in others. If I shot from the hip I'd likely alienate/offend half the congregation each Sunday morning. If the board wanted to build an addition I'd probably declare something impertinent about giving the money instead to world hunger relief.

So, anyways, my blog hasn't been as frequently updated as of late; there's a few reasons for this. One, I sometimes sink in the black hole which is called facebook. Wordtwist games and tantalizing voyeurism beckon in those free moments which used to find me forming profitable thoughts or simply shooting from the hip. Or napping. The other is that I am extraordinarily occupied by my three wonderful kids. I'm homeschooling Sophia and Edison, and Reuben is in training to be the world's fastest cabinet emptier.
Then there's parks to go to on these lovely spring days, flower beds to weed and mulch, rowing two days a week, ballet classes, clothes to hang on the line, food to cook, book to write, emails to respond to, ad nauseum.

Which brings me back to writing. There's so many things going on that I despair of writing out carefully composed blogs about them. And shooting from the hip on a continual basis gives me the odd sensation that I've forgotten how to communicate and am a mere barbarian barking out "ME FOUND DEAD BUFFALO. ME EAT IT. MEAT BAD. ME SICK NOW".

All said, I wish to convey that though the posts may be fewer and farrer between, don't despair, one of my two modes will bring the news from Chile and the life we love here.
Blessings, Sarah

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Happy Birthdays

This is always a fun, busy month for our family with Edison's birthday on the 19th and Sophia's on the 24th. We had a lot of fun preparing for their parties; we made decorations and the kids picked themes they liked: for Edison-a 'fishy' birthday, and for Sophia-a princess one. I became a first-time pinata maker, which actually worked out nicely. I really love spending time with the kids doing creative things; when they see me getting out craft supplies they always ask, "What are we going to make?".
Above are Sophia's birthday party guests: Edison, Javiera (a ballet friend), Jasmine (a neighbor), Sofia (another neighbor), and Vicki (along with her parents Voni and Gigi, friends of ours). We had Polynesian meatballs, mini pizzas, and french truffles : ).
Below is a picture from Edison's party. The fishy theme extended to the cuisine, including cajun tuna spread on bread and salmon and dill canapes. Oh, and gummy sharks and octopuses! We had Gigi, Coni, Cole, and Vicki over and enjoyed watching Edison play with his new doctor kit, tool set, and racecars!
Both kids are growing so much; I just love being their mom. We start homeschool September 2nd and I ask your prayers that I'd do a good job teaching them. We're using Sonlight Curriculum and I'm really impressed with the books. For each day there are also ideas of activities to do that correspond to what they're learning; field trips, art projects, even baking! I'm pretty excited and a bit nervous!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Thoughts Within the Brute

To My Most Amiable Readers,

Entering the bus which looked as though it had rolled down a few unforgiving slopes in its day, I braced myself for the lurch forward while I thumbed through my change for the driver. My cold fingers somehow grasped the itty-bitty receipt from his hand, and I surf-walked my way to a seat. Sliding into a row, the bus lurched and I banged my knee hard against the seats in front of me. Yowch!

Realizing from experience that I liked the view on the other side better, I hobbled myself to the other side of the bus and slid into an equally cold, hard seat and gazed out the fogged window. The bus, which I came to call the "Brute" in my inner dialogue, lurched and groaned its way through the darkening streets of Puerto Montt. If it ever had springs I'm sure they've since given up the fight. Some buses are nice, bright, shiny, new. Some are not, some festively not with lots of fringe trim around the front window, skeletons dangling from the rearview mirror which itself is decked out in stickers of the Holy Mother. This had no such attentions...ah, except one Tweety Bird sticker on the ceiling....The Brute (went my mind)...Birdy and the Brute. Such are the quality of my thoughts after a particularly punishing workout at rowing.

I had caught a festive brute on the way to rowing and got off, as is my habit, at the bread store about a 1/4 of a mile before the club. I get off there as it has an enormous speed bump in front of it which slows down traffic enough to make a safe crossing. Crossing safely I turn right and head up a slight hill, passing a fishing dock, a shack that smells to high heaven of 5-day old shellfish, and a huge green dumpster which hogs the sidewalk. Further up and I'm near my friend Yoya's house, and the family business of another rowing friend. By now I've received the honking compliments of quite a number of enthusiastic motorists; welcome to Latin America. I'd just listened to Coldplay on my mp3 player and the words "open up your eyes" were still going through my head as I took in the sights that have so long been normal for me.

The sidewalk is gradually dissolving, down to about 8 inches across at one point, crumbling down a slope toward a house nestled amongst trash and overgrown patches of grass. Most of the houses have tin siding, tin roofs, and a whole lot of mold and mildew. The houses are stained brown at the bottoms from all the rain splashing up. Some people lay down crushed seashells to keep the mud covered. I walk past the calm streetdogs that I've walked past for years. I walk past the "god house", the little doghouse type structures which people pray to their ancestors at and place candles within. I notice how the fake foliage some devotee has placed has turned odd colors over time. Then the vicious ankle-biters come running out of their yard. So much bravado in such little dogs. I yell "SALE!", no not sale like "shoes on sale, half price!", but sah-ley, Spanish for "GET!". They scurry then come back for round two, nearly getting me this time. I have to wonder where they get their rage from.

At rowing the trainer, Felipe, tells me that I need work on building up pain resistance. Oh happy happy joy joy. Apparently this is done by going through lots of pain. After jogging myself into a lather, he sits me down at the rowing machine and barks out orders: 15 hard fast strokes, 5 slow, 15 hard, 5 slow....etc. I literally think I'll throw up from the pain and burn in my muscles....and I'm a cross-country veteran...I know pain. Okay, so maybe I forgot.

About an hour of rowing machine behind me I felt like my back was going to hurt FOREVER. I sat and stretched on the pitted concrete floor, and bravely managed a smile for my torturer...er, trainer. I did it! He reminded me to go do the 100 sit-ups and push-ups. I think my smile faltered a bit then. We then had a discussion about demons, ghosts, and the power of Jesus' name. Felipe is a Christian, but doesn't know too much yet about God and the spiritual battle going on around us. I share as God gives me opportunity.

Finishing my work-out I signed out in the big, dusty rower's log and hefted my backpack onto my aching back and set out for the rest of my work. I'm helping my rowing friend Coni with her english, and her family business is just a bit up the road. We sit at the little table in the back of her family's business and go through pronunciation. The majority of english teachers in Chile don't know how to pronounce english; odd, no? Arriving at the store her mom tells me Coni is out, so we chat for a while and she tells me I'm a doll (she always fusses over my looks, and I admit that it buoys me a bit). Leaving with big kisses on my cheek, I head over to Yoya's gate. Going through it I descend down a steep slope on seashell pathways, willing my fatigued legs to match the uneven lay of the steps. I'm greeted by an array of dogs and cats and the sight of Yoya's home.

If I showed you a picture of it, you would likely pity her and her family. Irene, her mom, is the mother of seven, grandmother of two, and dear friend to me. Many of the childen still live at home. When I arrive I see that Irene's aged mother is visiting and I immediately wonder how on earth she navigates those steps. Welcomed with hugs and kisses into the kitchen/dining/living area, they offer me a warm stool by the woodstove. Laundry hangs to dry on a rack over the stove and I recognize Yoya's quirky hat. Yoya's sister fills a baby bottle with water from one of the huge aluminum teapots on the stove at all times. Little Vicente tottles toward me, his almond-shaped eyes sizing me up, his black hair shining in the dim light. Conversation flows. I almost fall off my stool amid much laughter. We air our woes, our happinesses; I painfully answer questions about the church. It was getting dark, time to go while I could still catch a brute. Lots of kisses and hugs and off I trudge, up the steps and onto the busy street.

Walking briskly amid much honking (the motorists get bolder as the sun goes down) I make my way back to the bread store where I reward myself with some broken underpants. Yes...calzones rotas...their name for sweet bread twists ; ), and some peach juice to wash it down. Then I wait for my brute.

I wonder if you'll enjoy this everyday bit of life. Maybe I want to paint a picture for you of what I mean when I say, "I'm involved in rowing...".

This, even this, is God's kingdom advancing where the devil has had his foothold too long. Please remember this work in prayer; our enemy is awfully busy.

Your Most Devoted, Sarah

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Around These Parts

Reuben peeps out at the frosty world.
The kids and I makin some beautiful creations with homemade clay.
My crazy boys and one sweet Sophia.
I forgot to post this before; here's what we all look like these days, plus Dustin's sister Michelle, her husband Chris, and mom and dad. Ok, I should write more, but I just got home from rowing and am exhausted............!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Fredi and The Giant Pig Leg

To My Most Amiable Readers,
Here's our friend Fredi. Fredi lives up in the Cordillera (Andes Mtns.) and when he comes to Puerto Montt he often ends up at our door. He's a dear man and a good father to his two children. God did a miracle in his life. Once while a team of guys from the States was down here on a missions trip, one of the guys had a dream about a guy hanging himself in a tree. They were scheduled to leave the next day, but discerned together to make a quick trip up to the mountains to see if they could find the man before it was too late. They asked around to see if anyone knew of a man who was very depressed, they mentioned Fredi. His wife had just left him and their two children to be with his best friend. They were told where his house was, but couldn't find it. It was getting late and to catch the ferry back to the main road, they needed to leave immediately. That's when the tire went flat. The guys who needed to catch the plane got out and flagged down a passing bus and made it home, while Mike Hostetter stayed with his van and looked about him; clearly wondering what God was up to. Then he saw a man walking his way. He'd never met him before in his many trips. He called out, "Fredi!"
The man was rather astonished and asked how he knew his name. Mike shared the dream and asked if the man was him. Fredi broke down and told how he was thinking about killing himself and his two children in his immense pain. Instead, he gave his life to the Lord : ).
Fredi and his children continue to grow in the Lord and are full of joy.
So, Fredi knocks on our door last week and we invite him in for cafecito (coffee or tea and bread). We have a nice visit together and in the course of things he asks Dustin if we'd like to buy some meat. Apparently they'd just slaughtered a pig at his sister's house in town. Dustin agrees. About a half an hour later he returns with a heavy-looking dirty tarpauline bag. He swings it up on to the dining room table and pulls out...A PIG LEG! It makes a dull WHUMP! as he sets it directly on the table. As I stand quite amazed (I would LOVE to see video of my face at that moment), he pulls out a little scale that hooks into the thick skin and lifts the leg high, showing me the weight. Whipping out his cell phone he does some quick math, I pass him the money, thank him profusely all the while thinking "There's a pig leg on my table, there's a PIG LEG on my table...."

As Fredi left and I was alone with the pig leg, I had some disjointed thoughts going round my head. Here are a few: 1) I'm going to throw up, 2) DUSTIN! 3) HAHAHAHA! 4) I wonder who I could call to come over here and help me butcher this thing? 5) Ha ha ha ha heeee! 6) I'm finally a true missionary. 7) I'm going to sniff it, if it doesn't smell rotten I'm going to have to give it a chance. 8) Shoot! It doesn't smell!

I admit it. It drove me to prayer. It was a silly prayer, "Lord, please help me to make sense out of this hunk of meat. Help me not make a complete mess of it". But God heard it, and about an hour later I had cut two pork roasts and about six pounds of cubed pork that will be turned into curry dishes. I roasted the bones for Sheba, our black lab. And the enormous slab of thick skin and fat? Well...that went in the trash...I know....I know...could've been some pork rinds there, but I was never a fan of those, and besides, I'd been through enough that day ; ).

I'm actually going to throw in a tidy lesson: God hears. Whether it be our pain of a broken relationship or the fright of a massive pig leg on our table. He hears and He comes and He rescues. Praise be to God!

Your Most Devoted, Sarah

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thank You

To My Most Amiable Readers;

Thank you for your prayers. These last few days have been pretty incredible. We've met with pretty much everyone involved and heard their stories; praying with them and offering here and there the "word in season". Obedient to sound counsel, we've refrained from trying to "repair" the church. In a vigilia (night vigil) the other night we remained silent while the Spirit moved within the group. One by one they began confessing their sins one to another, asking forgiveness and extending it. When asked what lay on my heart as a need, I offered that I needed to worship God with fellow believers-that I couldn't minister to the lost without having the family of God to encourage me, pray for me, and hold me accountable. I know God will provide that; whether it is with them as a new emergent fellowship is between them and the Lord. We are willing to walk with them as brothers and sisters if they should choose to walk as a Chilean church.

Tonight we heard the pain and frustration of another family. We love them so much and it pained us deeply to see them so hurt and perplexed. After many tears and talking, we came to a place of joy; that God was leading us to work together in a new way. Though this does not involve what I'll call for the moment "the remnant" (the aforementioned group), we believe that this is right. I wish I could be more specific, but these are our beloved friends and these issues are not for public airing. Know that we feel God's peace in this new direction of his Kingdom expanding here in Puerto Montt.

Splits are terribly wounding, but new life and purpose can come from the wreckage. Please continue to pray that God's Kingdom would advance with power in this place; among these groups we have the honor of working with. Please pray that all grievances would be put in the light in an honorable way; and that God would strengthen the Chileans in forgiveness and love.

Your Most Devoted, Sarah

P.S. Keep praying!!!! Please!!!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Walking Thus

To My Most Amiable Readers;

We've been here all of a week, and have been in conversation. Part pain, part hope. It overjoys us to just be with these people whom we love, and it pains us to see bitterness/pain/frustration boiling in their eyes as they speak about others in the church. I can't express how conflicted this leaves me.

The beautiful thing is that we're going to worship on Sunday with two of the families in one of their homes. I crave to go to Him who can help with them by my side. Tonight we're going with one of the other families to their small group they're leading with unbelievers. Tomorrow we're attending a vigilia (night prayer vigil) with another family; specifically praying for the church. Interestingly enough, I showed my art from my last post to one of the men in the church and he looked at it intensely and told me that he had had a dream that looked very much like the picture I drew. In it the men are represented by the orange figure, the women by the red, and the children by the pink. We all soberly agreed that church splits tend to alienate the children, who feel like one less thing in this world is secure. I expressed this by drawing the child figure half out of the picture; nearly forgotten.

So here we walk. We ask that you pray for the Chileans, that love and forgiveness and forbearance would grow in them to such an extent that healing can be made.

Your Most Devoted, Sarah

Monday, June 16, 2008

Friday, June 13, 2008

Great Expectations

To My Most Amiable Readers,

When we left Chile for the States we had a host of great expectations. The church had passed completely into Chilean hands, and we were buoyant (the job of the missionary is to make their job unnecessary), thinking of all the extra time we would have to focus outwards; to our neighbors, friends, rowing youth, and the families in the mountains. We felt that we had contributed through the Holy Spirit's leading to the unity, cohesion, and organization of the local church, leaving behind an empowered national church, which we could stand with and invite our un-churched friends to, not to mention receive our spiritual refreshment and encouragement from.

I am currently reading Dicken's "Great Expectations". In it young Pip, a blacksmith's son, arises from his circumstances through the favor of a mysterious benefactor. I am watching as he grows to disdain the "commonness" of his former life and adapts his self image to his new "expectations". I am only half-way through, so if you know the ending, don't betray it.

We had great expectations. Roughly a week before we returned to Chile we were notified that the church had split. And this not neatly between two factions...but totally dissolved. We were at a complete loss. What had been expectation quickly turned to dread. We love every person involved in the church; we've cried and worshiped and laughed with them. Now they are fragmented, some claiming total innocence, some accusing others, some blind to their sins against others, some siding with this family or that, some walking in outright bitterness. Their accounts differ so widely that I feel as though I am constantly trying to make out who is lying. But to what use?

I am not up to this task. Pip, in my story, would have just received notice from his benefactress that henceforth he is summarily dropped from the will, all his education and instruction meant to carry him through his new genteel life was all for nothing, and rather a waste of time. Now he'll have to put his pansy hands through torture back at the forge...regaining his calluses one by one.

Our Chile team has counseled us to simply love each person involved and support them in any way needed; caring for the broken body piece by piece. This is hard to do when the ear starts slandering the eye, and the foot bids "outta my face" to the shoulder. I can't stand to see people I love tearing each other apart; especially in flowery spiritual ways: "So and so's such a lovely, wonderful person, BUT......"

The oddity of it all is having my neighbors ask how the church is doing. Uh.....

What a excellent witness.

Please pray for the broken body here; pray for reconciliation, forgiveness, and redemption.

Your Most Tired,

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Surgery Update

Hey everyone,

According to the check-up today, the surgery successfully corrected Sophia's alignment! She'll wear the glasses for a couple of years yet, but she'll gradually outgrow them as her eyes get stronger and more able to hold correct position on their own. Without the surgery she never would have been able to do this. Thanks SO much for all of your encouragement, visits, cards, and flowers!

Sarah Gingrich ; D

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Little Miss Blue Eyes

Sophia, right before operation.
Drugged up and ready to go!
Heading to surgery in a cheerful wagon, surrounded by pillows. Her doctor is the one on the right.

To My Most Amiable Readers,

Yesterday Sophia had surgery in both eyes; to relax muscles in each so that her eyes could align correctly. We had tried almost 2 years of patching and glasses and it was determined that her alignment issue could not be successfully treated that way. As many of you know, the treatment she was receiving in Chile was actually harming her vision due to out-of-date/unsound practice. Since receiving treatment in the States her vision has returned to 20/20, for which we are so grateful!

Yesterday she had to fast beforehand (a difficult thing to explain to a small child who wants breakfast!). We went in around one and they gave her a pink drink to put her to sleep. The half hour till it took full effect was pretty...hmmm, interesting. She got really, really loopy. Slurred speech, eratic movement, silly giggling. Basically she looked and acted drunk! Towards the end she started getting angry and irritable, which is about when they take them in. Because she was so tipsy they opted for a kiddy wagon lined with pillows to transport her to the operating room instead of a wheelchair. She clutched a little giraffe that her Great Great Aunt Mary, who has volunteered at the hospital for years, gave her. And off she went. I was okay until they went through the doors. Seeing the doors close behind her and knowing I was absolutely powerless to help her or comfort her was very hard.

Ten minutes later as we were sitting in the waiting area, the anesthesiologist came out and told us that she had them laughing in her last coherent minutes. They had put her in the operating room when all of a sudden she exclaims, 'OH NO!'. Dramatic pause. Everyone looking at her. 'My barrettes! My barrettes are all gone!' she exclaimed while patting her head confusedly. They made sure she could feel that her barrette was still on under her surgical cap.

About an hour and a half later we were guided back to her recovery room where she lay crying in the lap of a nurse. It totally broke my heart. I took her in my arms as she cried, 'Mommy, help me! Mommy, my eyes hurt!' over and over. Any time she tried to open her eyes, she closed them again with a cry of pain and thrashed about. I had to restrain her from rubbing her eyes and had to hold her down while they put drops in them. Again, totally powerless to help her. I just held her, alternately singing or praying or just saying 'It'll be okay.'

Arriving home, about all we could do for her is put on cartoons or cd's for her to listen to and hold her. She prefers to keep her eyes shut as the light hurts. Fortunately we're in a basement suite so it's not too bright. She slept well last night in my bed (Dustin is away for a few days). In fact I had all 3 of my children in my room, Reuben in the crib, Sophia in my bed, and Edison on a mattress on the floor (he had awoken many times during the night so I just moved him in with us). Thanks for your prayers; we certainly enjoyed sweet rest. Today Sophia is not complaining overly much of pain, but still likes to keep her eyes closed. It's basically like having a blind child all of a sudden as I need to lead her to the bathroom, help her eat and so forth. She likes to have cold washcloths on her eyes for pain relief and cartoons are such a blessing right now. Please continue in prayer for her as she recovers. We'll know more about the success of the surgery at her one week check-up.

Your Most Devoted, Sarah

Sunday, May 11, 2008

This Side of the Whirlwind

Plaza, North Dakota; family farm
So it's been a while...

I trust I'm pardoned? I tried three times to post something coherent and failed...sat staring at the screen; benumbed by near-constant activity...flying, driving, swimming, walking, packing, unpacking, repacking, washing washing washing clothes and packing them up again. Two ear infections for the kiddos. Intestinal distress for Dustin. A two-week trip to Montana with a four day road trip to North Dakota to see extended family thrown in. Lots of medical visits. Lots of shots. A week-long trip to Florida, running the gamut of Disney, Wet and Wild water park, and Cocoa Beach {too fun for words all of it, not complaining here}. But I am, alas, tired. And the craziness isn't over yet. This week is pre-op visits for Sophia and on Friday her eye operation. Directly after that Dustin leaves for a race down south with some guy friends. Then post-op visits, remaining mission board meetings, another trip to the beach, then pack pack pack for Chile and the 24 hour time period it takes to reach our home there.
Downtown Disney, Orlando FL
Cocoa Beach, Orlando, FL

I'm sorry I haven't communicated. Honestly I didn't have the strength. A lot of beautiful things happened. One of my favorites was driving my nearly-blind great aunt Mae around her small town in North Dakota in her golf cart. What was going to be "just around the block" to "teach me how to drive one" turned out to be an hour-long drive around town, stopping here and there and visiting with people who were somehow related to me, or know my parents, or just happened to wish to chat with two ladies cruising in a golf cart. Mae is going blind; ending her life-long love of reading and is bored, so so bored. Her laughter and smiles were a gift to both of us.

While in Montana we went to my family's cabin on the Dearborn River (pictured below). This is our land....beautiful, wild, peaceful land. The river was my great delight as a child; it snakes through our land leaving prime swimming holes in its wake, which, when frozen over gave us decent ice for hockey and figure skating. Sophia and Edison loved the Mud Kitchen where they served up some "birthday cakes" complete with pine cones atop and plenty of flour for decor. Dad and I walked the land, hoping to stumble upon another hide scraper left from tribes who passed through the area. No scraper, but plenty of silent accord as we walked the land we love. It is a hard place to say goodbye to.

In Florida we enjoyed time with Dustin's parents, and his sister Michelle and her Australian husband Chris who are visiting from Beijing. The memories made at the water park will make us all smile for a long time (four person rides rock!).

That's all I can say for now. A few things, beautiful to me.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Begging Your Pardon

To My Most Amiable Readers....

Inhibited by time restraints, excessive travel, and the necessity of sleep, this blog has regrettably stagnated. My apologies. So much has passed that I fear putting the pen to paper, so to speak, in fear that I'll find myself twenty pages deep and only approaching the half of things.

So this is a post that I post about why I cannot and have not posted. I trust you have the grace within you to pardon me for now and the faith within you to keep checking; I'm bound to mend it and soon.

Your Most Devoted,

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Life In Little Kidville

Guest Author: Edison James Gingrich

So, here's me and my friend Eliana. She's only ten months old but man can she yell good. She's pretty fast too (hence, the blur). She already discovered my potty. She comes over with her two brothers, Zachary and Ethan, and they bring their parents along. Mommy and Daddy laugh long and hard whenever they get together with them and they play odd games on the table which we're not allowed to mess with. How fun it would be to throw a ball in the middle of their intricate boardgames! Sigh....
This is my little brother, Reuben. I like to give him kisses and get very upset when I can't see him on demand. He's pretty happy most of the time. Pretty bald too. He has an enormous dimpled bottom. Mommy calls it cell you light, or something like that. Him and I are in the same size diapers now. Yes, I still wear them. Is that a problem? Sometimes I tell Mommy and Daddy that I need to use the potty just so that I can make them sit on the bathroom floor and listen to me talk on and on.
There's my sister Sophia. She's a trip. She has to wear glasses and patches to help her eyes, but she doesn't complain at all, and I think that's pretty cool. We love each other a lot. The other day we made chocolate molded candies together as a gift for our Grandma Gingrich. We sure love her!

We're meeting new friends and old friends that I guess we forgot about. We're going to lots of parks with fun toys to play on and we get to play with other kids who speak English! It's fun too to have Mommy and Daddy around a lot, as they're on something they call "Fur Low". I don't know what exactly they do on Fur High. Anyways, I'd better go take my nap now.
Yours Truly, Edison James Gingrich I
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Thursday, February 28, 2008


To My Most Amiable Readers.....
One phrase as of late has completely lost its usefulness for us. Home. We talk of going "back home" to Chile...people ask us how it is being "home" again (in Pennsylvania). Family "back home" in Montana ask when we're coming "home". Well, "home" for the moment is this lovely home above; Dustin's cousin Rod and his wife Sherry's farmhouse. We live in the basement suite (not our first in our nomadic life, but certainly the nicest). Ammenities include but are not limited to: a garbage disposal (never had one and am admittedly fascinated with and frightened by it), a dishwasher (I am in astonishment at how much of my time is NOT spent doing dishes), an ice and water dispenser on the refrigerator door (I am drinking like a camel and not ashamed; how tasty, how easy!), and a lighted well covered by thick plexiglass that you can stand on top of and get the willies, any time of day.
Above all, though, the kids are quite taken with the increment snowfall. Yes, we get snow in Chile, but not in Puerto Montt, on the Andes behind us. So, they say things like, "Wow! Mommy, it's snowing!!! (pause) Is it Christmas?"(ideas picked up from books, as Christmas in Chile is watermelon, sun, swimming, beach time). No matter how little the remaining mounds of snow are, Sophia just MUST jump on it a bit before she'll go in. Here we are enjoying the kids' first snow experience. For you fashionistas out there (I mean you Pavel), yes, I happen to think mustard mittens go quite nicely with a pink coat, thank you very much.
So, Reuben was basically immobile and such being the case was sent solo down the hill in this disc with Mommy running behind melodramatically crying, "MY BABY! MY BABY!". Too bad that the snow wasn't a bit deeper; Sophia's first ever snow angel ended up being a "grass angel" once formed ; ). Maybe this is the only way some of us will wake up about global warming...when we feel glad to be able to make tiny snowmen and sled on an inch of snow....I digress..so..."home"...what a concept. To those who have one, I am glad for you, and thank you for the hospitality you've extended through it. For those who don't, I understand you; let's continue in the adventure of the nomadic life with all the lessons and blessings it brings
Good day!
Your Most Devoted, Sarah.
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