Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pillar of Fire

Lake in Bariloche, Argentina

"The Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to lead them on their way during the day and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel day or night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night never left its place in front of the people". Exodus 13:21,22

To My Most Amiable Readers...

I find that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. In particular, He still likes to lead. And not just by making a decision and telling us what to do and when. But He likes to take our hands and bring us along. He likes to point out things along the way, and when we are unsure which way to go, what to do, He delights to be asked...He delights in providing. For the Israelites, he sent manna, quail, and water from a rock. He shaded them by day and warmed them by night.

That God of then is my God of now, and He led me and some friends into a unique experiment of faith. Imagine traveling to one of the largest cities in the world, not knowing where you'd stay, if you'd find the right transportation, expecting at any moment to have your belongings stolen or lost, with no one expecting you, and all sorts of mishaps ready at your arrival. Would you go?

This past week I set off with my friends Felipe and Mike to travel to the Sudamericano (South American Rowing Championship) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Felipe is my club's rowing trainer and Mike is a co-missionary with EMM whose son, Jordan, was competing. We were going to cheer on Carmen Gloria (my rowing double and good friend) and Jordan as they competed at an unprecedented level for our club. We wrestled for weeks with whether we should go and how, but God kept arranging every detail (money came in, Felipe's profs let him off, etc). Up to the day before we were still in prayer, putting it before the Lord. He gave us the go-ahead.

After 30 hours of traveling in bus, we arrived safely in Buenos Aires...

Arriving at the bus station we wove our way through three blocks of chaos; people everywhere, hawkers calling out their wares, cars beeping. One just had to join the human tide and keep walking. We caught a train and with wide eyes watched as the city zoomed past us for 45 minutes, arriving at the end of the line, Tigre. We knew only that the races would be held in Tigre, not where the teams were staying, where the race canal Arriving in Tigre we circled up and prayed, seeking God's direction; where should we go? would You help us find the team?

Leaving the station with hearts full of peace, we crossed over a bridge and heard our names being yelled! There was Yoya jumping up and down and then weaving through the traffic, and embracing us with shouts of joy! In a city of 13 million people, God led us right to the one we were looking for! She showed us where they were staying (only a few blocks away) and I got to pray with her and the girls in their quadruple about their race in the morning. Yoya told me later that God really comforted them and they felt much peace and slept well.

At the hostel we got to see Jordan and pray with him too; and the hostel owners looked on us with favor (thanks Lord!) and arranged for a taxi (free!) to take us to another hostel that had room. Arriving there was like arriving at a relative's home; Pilar, the proprietress, treated us with such hospitality and kindness that we were nearly shocked. The hostel was an old German home with lots of personality and we settled gratefully into our beds after 30 hours of traveling. Pilar even gave us her personal laptop to use in our rooms!

The next morning, after soon good cafe con leche and pastries we set off walking to the Pista Nacional (National Raceway). It was a long, hot walk, but so interesting; we discovered new fruits growing over walls, admired the architecture and flowers, and had good discussions about the Apostle Paul and how much hot, dusty walking he did!

The sign says "Way of the Rowers" : )! As each Chilean single, double, quad, or 8-man boat was competing we ran alongside them, cheering them by name and taking pictures for them. This was nice for the team, as we were the ONLY people there cheering for Chile! The rowers would visibly pick up their stroke rate when they heard their names called, very cool. Then it was time for Yoya to, a gal from our humble club racing in the South American Championship...amazing and unprecedented!

And....THEY WON GOLD!!! It was a fight with Argentina (the strongest South American country in rowing) to the end, but they pulled through!!! Felipe and I were smiling so wide that our faces would be in pain in the days to come : D. We shouted, we cheered, I attempted to take pictures as we raced about in a frenzy; what a moment! As Yoya and her team walked to the awards podium, Yoya hugged me so hard and wept on my shoulder; such joy.

Chile pulling ahead of Argentina in the last 200 meters!

Aren't they great??!! Wanting to talk with them further we decided to try to bum a ride with someone to the end of the Rower's Way so that we could meet where the boats go in and out. We saw a guy about my age and waved him down. He cheerfully let us in and as we sped along I nearly asked him, "And do you row?" but decided it might be nosy. As we were leaving the car, Mike asked him, and what's your name? He answered that it was Santiago Fernandez. Felipe's eyes got wide and he stood in shock as our chauffeur drove off. He said, "That was El Pollo (lit. "the chicken"). Seeing blank looks on our faces, he exclaimed, "HE'S THE WORLD CHAMPION ROWER!!! OLYMPIAN!!!". My voice choked with laughter I told them what I'd almost asked him...much roaring laughter ensued. So God gave us the world champion rower as chauffeur; you've got to admire his sense of humor ; ).

After the races we had lunch, relaxed, and then Felipe, Yoya, and I walked around the city as the day drew to an end. Tigre is so beautiful, with cooling rivers snaking through it to keep the heat down. Then our hosts again surprised us by offering their Mercedes for us to use to go out to eat! After some excellent Argentine steak we fell exhausted into our beds, thankful, so thankful for an amazing day!

Awakening the next day we had good talks and times of prayer with Pilar and her son Manuel who have been going through enormously difficult times. God certainly sent us to the right house at the right time. They then offered that we take their car to use all day at the races! What? God you are so good! You love to surprise us! So we zipped off in the peppy Mercedez and were ready to see Jordan compete!!

It was a really tough category, but the guys pulled through to win BRONZE!! Yay! Argentina took first, Peru second, and Chile third. We were so happy for the guys; Jordan especially had rowed really strong. How special!

Right after the races, we zipped back to the hostel and reserved bus tickets over the phone while we talked with Pilar and Manuel and prayed. It was such a neat time, and they even made us lunch while refusing payment! We then packed up, gave hugs good-bye to Pilar, and Manuel drove us to the train. What a time we'd had!

We took a bus overnight to the small town of Eduardo Castex, where Mike's jeep was being repaired from a previous trip where it had broken down. Turned out that it wasn't quite ready yet so we spent the day swimming in a hotel pool and walking the hot dusty streets back and forth, waiting for news. We did not miss that God was blessing us in the interim...what a great pool!

The next day we were all getting a bit despondant; the jeep still wasn't ready, so we went to prayer again; again leaving it all in God's capable hands. We'd need to leave that day in order to make the 19 hours back to Puerto Montt in time for Sophia's ballet presentation, something I did not want to miss! I kept entregandolo (such a good spanish verb, means like entrusting, laying it down) before the Lord, acknowledging that He has a good plan and a good reason for it. As Felipe and I sat in swings in the hot sun, we prayed again, and when we opened our eyes there was Mike, driving up in the fixed jeep!! Yay!

We started off right away across the desolate, flat beautiful Argentine Pampa. God was still into leading us by the hand and made sure we had a show in the meantime. In Puerto Montt it never thunders nor is there lightning, but on the Pampa that night the heavens broke loose with quite a show!! I drove through it, laughing at how the Jeep seemed to have a mind and will of its own; like a strong horse tossing its head it would suddenly jerk to the left or the right, especially while navigating sharp curves and while passing 18-wheelers on the skinny roads! That we did smash into anything was miracle #675.

The jeep was running great, but like all good vehicles, needed some diesel to keep the party going. The service station we were counting on was oddly deserted! We NEEDED diesel; we couldn't attempt the next 2-hour jaunt across vacant pampa without it. Again we prayed. Again He provided. A guy nearby agreed to sell us some diesel from his personal stash. We were overjoyed. Through the night we drove, at times passing armadillos, skunks, hostile carloads of drunk Argentinians, all under a bright starry sky. We arrived without incident at the border the next day and prayed for a swift passage through the normally slow crossings.

It must have been some sort of record for speed! We crossed both borders in less than 45 minutes, amazing!! That can take HOURS, which indeed we did not have; our expected arrival time in Puerto Montt put us at only an hour before the ballet gala. Cutting it close! And then....the truck died. What???

Well, we prayed again, and a mechanic (of course!) came over and told us he'd just happened to be working nearby, and he towed us to a safe place to leave the vehicle and offered to take us to a nearby resort where we could catch a bus to Osorno. Thanking the Lord for this man's kindness, we waited only 5 minutes at the resort, when low and behold the bus for Osorno came (which can delay an hour between routes!) And this bus FLEW! We zipped along at high velocity, arrived in Osorno and right away were able to board a bus for Puerto Montt and were zipping out of there in less than 7 minutes! We made it to Puerto Montt, Dustin picked me up, rushed me home where I showered and dressed in 10 minutes tops, we raced downtown, parked, and slid into our seats with only minutes to spare to watch our little girl dance. WOOHOO!!! Thanks Lord! You are so faithful!!! So that's my amazing adventure; an adventure of faith, prayer, and fun...thanks Lord.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Dear Dross

It came up in Sophia's vocabulary work this year: dross. Something that has been filtered out, is worthless; ie "junk". Boiled away. Skimmed off. Why? To leave something better behind, something pure and lovely.

Perhaps to the horror of my militaristic, patriotic family, I am not much of a nationalist. I respect those who are, but "my people" are all over the globe. Borders and flags and loyalties seem an odd accessory to friendship and love. So, thought I, perhaps I am well suited to serving and living abroad...I don't bring as much ethnocentric baggage.

Perhaps to the horror of my "time is money", plan ahead, day timer-toting friends and acquaintances, I have never been much of a structured person. I like flex time. I inwardly cringe when people ask me to nail down dates (don't they see that a really cool sunset could happen that night that we should go have a picnic in front of instead???). So, thought I, perhaps I am very well suited to the slow-paced, more spontaneous life which characterizes Latino culture.

Now, for certain, these aspects of my character helped, perhaps immensely. But how little of that path I had really gone. I had and have so much to learn. The longer I serve in Latin American communities, the more I realize how much grace others have extended to me over the years as I've blundered and stumbled along, stepping on cultural toes here and there, all the while thinking that I was finally getting it.

So, I am being simmered again and more dross is rising to the top. Funny, it never seemed worthless while it was part of me, but now that I take a good look at it...gross. Take, for example, our near and dear dross: our rights.

Think about how many of our irritations daily are related to our perceptions of our rights. "I have the right to not have to sit for a half hour in this waiting room". "I have the right to not be bothered at home by a business client". "I have the right to be informed ahead to time if a family will be dining with us". "I have the right to my time". "I have the right to privacy". Seemingly reasonable expectations, right? Wrong.

Why wrong? Isn't it good to establish these things for the sake of one's happiness? Now, having a nice uninterrupted evening at home is a good thing, indeed, it's a blessing. But it's not a right. Privacy is a nice thing too, especially if one has a headache and wants peace and quiet...but it's a blessing, not a right. Most of this world's inhabitants don't have the luxury of being alone in their own space. It's a blessing when one can carve out time to be alone, or to do what one pleases...but it's not a right. Rights are based on "my happiness", whereas God calls us to "love others, to look not only to our own interests, but to the interests of others". We want a Bill of Rights...God gives us a mandate of love.

Let me illustrate an every-day working out of this principle. You are busy vacuuming your house, looking forward to soon curling up with a good book or watching a favorite tv show, and then turning in early. You know you need extra sleep for your busy day tomorrow. Your doorbell rings and it's your old roommate from college, along with her husband and four kids. They're in town and thought to drop in! Plus, do you have room for them to stay the night?

What is your gut reaction?

-Why in the world would they come unannounced? Don't they realize that I could have other plans? How can they expect me to receive them? How presumptuous! (my time, space, privacy)

Are they welcome? Even if you paste on a smile, swing wide the door, rustle up some food and lay out sleeping bags...are they truly welcome? Are they more important, or is the fact that your "rights" were trampled on matter more?

Do we even have the slightest idea of what hospitality is?

Dross. Our "rights" have the capacity to smother something so precious and vital to human community without our even having realized it. I can't imagine many people would consider themselves inhospitable, but then, dross has a way of hiding, or parading around as silver. Hospitality can, in our culture, waltz hand-in-hand with our precious rights; events are planned, agreed upon, hours set, rights observed, and people go home at the right time to mutual satisfaction. There are no upsets, no interruptions, no unfavorable surprise guests. What a mutation.

True hospitality has, at its heart, the deeply centered belief that "I" am not the important one; the one who comes to my door is. The needs and happiness of my guest are what matters, not whatever I had planned.

And so I find that though I thought God had made me missions-friendly. Though I thought that He had refined me in key areas...I find that in so many ways my understandings of the most basic teachings of Christ need to be melted down and skimmed of dross.

Always, always learning.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Making of a Champion

Yoya digs in during the last 300 meters. This was her last time competing as a juvenile. She's competing against the top clubs of Chile who are equipped with paid staff, excellent boats and oars, and wonderful facilities. We were running alongside the river, yelling our heads off, "Ya Yoya, levanta Yoya!!! Vamos Yoya!" She said all she heard was her name, over and over, no one elses! She was with the pack when all of a sudden she put her head down and started to pick up her pace (an extraordinarily difficult feat in the end of a grueling 2000 meter race). She started to pull away...she....she... WON!!!!! Yoya is the champeon in all of Chile for her age group!!!! WOW! This qualified her to be a National Select rower; invited to international competitions!!! Next month she's going to Buenos Aires!!!

Her fist raised in triumph, she finishes way ahead of the pack!!! Woohoo Yoya!
Our excitement was palpable! Here's Liz and Belen right after Yoya's win. We yelled, we hugged, we cried, we laughed! We tried to catch our breath from running alongside her!

Yoya and her mom. Are there words for this kind of joy? Irene has raised seven children, most of whom rowed in our humble club. What a victory, not only for Yoya, but for our whole team.
Jordan Hostetter had a fine race as well, taking 2nd by only inches!!! Here's Jordan with our trainer Felipe, and Yoya : ). What a day of JOY! Yoya told me after the race that she was praying right before she picked up her pace, "Lord, I'm in your hands". Yes, indeed!

Just wanted to share our joy with you. Yoya hasn't stopped smiling for two weeks now : D.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dumbfounded by Glory

Monday night rowing youth Bible study.

It's God's glory. That's what it comes down to. We work, we study, we interact, we host, we reach out, we suffer, we pray, we try try try, but only God makes things grow. I talked in an earlier post about the feeling of acceleration we feel in the ministries here; well, it hasn't stopped. And it isn't us.

People are opening up, discussions are going deeper than ever before, God is reaching out in dramatic ways to rescue, to save, to give witness that He cares, about even the smallest of details. The rowing youth saw that we have 8 chapters (8 weeks of study) left in Acts and asked in an eager voice, "What are we going to do next? We ONLY have 8 weeks left!?"

I feel like I'm a farmer who has planted seeds, pulled weeds, watered, and puttered about for three years waiting for a crop. You start to get a complex like you're just no good at farming. But then all of a sudden it's like Jack and the Beanstalk and you're sitting in the shade of some massive stalks. It was important to weed, to water, to plant....but God makes things grow; in His way, in His timing.

Now the farmer says, Well, thundering hippos, what am I supposed to do with that? I thought I'd nurture little plants, staking them as they grew taller and such. Discipling, right?

What do you do when the Kingdom grows legs?

You let the Kingdom do its thing. What does that mean for us?

We are discerning whether this is our last term in Chile. We would like you also to be in prayer with us! We'd like to know what God shares with you as you pray.

Your Most Devoted,

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Blood and Coffee

To My Most Amiable Readers...

Roughly a year has past, but I remember it every time I pass the bus station on my way home from rowing. It was an odd and frantic and holy moment, and caught me completely by surprise.

I was worn out. I forget what we did that day, weights, running, or rowing, but I was really tired. As the bus lurched through traffic I gazed out the window and saw a homeless or drunk (or both) guy face-down on the ground. He actually looked like his face was plowed into the dirt, as if he'd been shot from a cannon and landed head first. I felt the familiar nudge of the Holy Spirit to act on what I'd seen.

I got off the bus at the terminal (100 feet past the man) and worked my way to the entrance where I intended to buy some coffee for the man and try to get him out of the dirt and coherent. Right before I reached the doors a commotion from the left caught my eye. A man was lying on his side weeping, blood pooling from a cut in his head. A frantic teenager stood over him with wild eyes.

I can only describe what happened next as supernatural. I am not a confrontational person. Even if I know I've been wronged, I generally let it slide. But some sort of authority came over me at that moment. I locked gazes with the young man and bit off my words, "What has happened? What have you done?"

He broke eye contact, he started to yell, "Look! He's fine! My uncle is fine! Look, he's moving!" Again, myself almost yelling, "What happened to this man?" Cops arrived and threw the guy up against the wall and patted him down.

Meanwhile I crouched beside the victim and asked where he's hurt. In broken sentences he wept out, "He cut me! All over my back! I hurt! Call my wife! Here's money, call her!". I gently turned him so that I could see if he was bleeding from the back, and although his coat was cut to ribbons, there was no major bleeding. His head wound needed to be stopped however and I racked my brain as to what I could use to put pressure on it.

While I grabbed my clean rowing pants out of my backpack and applied them with pressure to his head wound I yelled at the crowd now enveloping us, "Get him some water! Call an ambulance!" No one moved. Oh the frustration of mob mentality. So I made eye contact with every person I could see and forcefully yelled, "Get water NOW. Call an ambulance!" A few people scurried off and a moment later I was handed two cups of water and was told an ambulance was on the way.

Apparently ambulances are a bit slower in South America. During the next fifteen minutes I tried to comfort and keep still the man who had been attacked. Helping him drink, calming him down, getting him as comfortable as possible on the pavement by propping his bags behind him. When the ambulance arrived I showed them where he was bleeding, removed my bloody pants from his head and stepped back into the crowd.

They took over and there was nothing left for me to do. I was so shaky. Confronting a guy who just attacked his uncle with a knife is not something I do everyday. I normally don't do first responder stuff. I don't normally yell at and boss around complete strangers.

I walked into the terminal and paid 100 pesos to use the bathroom. There I washed the blood off my hands with the cold water at the sink and tried to make sense of what had just happened. I thought I was supposed to be giving coffee to a drunk guy, and now I'm washing blood off my hands!

The drunk guy! I'd totally forgotten about him! I quickly walked out and over to the kiosk that sells coffee. Walking out of the terminal, all that remained of the scene was a pool of blood. Willing my hand not to shake and spill the hot coffee, I strode over to where the man had been.

He was not there. There was no sign of him anywhere. But...he was out cold! Was he real? Or had God put an angel there to get me off the bus at the right moment? That I'll never know.

What I do know is that God was at work in it. He gave me authority in that moment; whether to halt further violence or just to comfort the man I don't know. It was in a strange way a holy moment; God was showing up and changing the plot.

I hadn't written about this before, mainly I didn't want to scare my mom : ). She has enough to worry about with my rowing stories!

Your Most Devoted,

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


To My Most Amiable Readers...

We are a bit stunned and wish to act wisely. The Lord is moving in a way that I can only associate with feels like He is increasing the acceleration of His kingdom here in Chile.

We make plans, and He changes them. He is making conversations spring out of nowhere about Him in unexpected places with unexpected people.

This morning Gigi and I met up to go visit a woman she met through the animal protection group. The meeting was very opposed; Edison threw up right before I left, I could not find the store she asked to meet at, but we pressed on and ended up sitting down to talk with Sandra. We shared our stories, how God has changed us and filled us with love and joy. We asked if we could pray for her, as she was "not ready yet" to talk to God herself. As we said "amen" she suddenly interrupted us with a startled look on her face. "When you were praying I saw the most beautiful light appear, and I almost fainted. My arms became heavy and I am trembling!".

We explained that the Enemy is not pleased and is opposing her interest in God, but that the Father is near and is more powerful. She then, with Gigi's help, prayed to accept the Lord in her heart!!!

Please lift up Sandra in your prayers this week. Specifically that her husband could find work, that her faith would grow, and that God would protect their family.

Dustin went in to rent a movie and ended up in a 15-minute conversation about God, religion, and our mission here, that ended with an open invitation for them to study the Word with us.

Please pray for the movie store owners, that they would grow in spiritual hunger and that God would speak to them.

I was on my way to rowing when I passed my friend's small convenience store. I glanced through the windows and not seeing her, I kept on. I was halfway down the block when I heard her yelling my name, arms in the air. She told me that rowing was postponed to the afternoon that day and we ended up spending an hour talking about the Lord; how to live His love, how to forgive others, what to do with psychic abilities after accepting Christ, how to really live for what is important to God. Joana is wrestling with cultural Catholicism and who she might be apart from that. You can tell she wants to run to Jesus, but she feels bound by "the real world".

Please pray for Joana, that God would free her and woo her to Himself. Pray also for her husband Roni, for salvation!

Last but not least, please pray for the health of the Christian workers in Puerto Montt. So many of us have been waylaid by viruses, infections, and nasty colds. Thank you!!!

Your Most Devoted,

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


To My Most Amiable Readers....

I looked at the espresso machine in dismay. It just sat there. No gurgling. No hot java dripping down. No steam. Nada. Just a red light which is the only thing keeping me from looking (again) to make sure it was plugged in. The men were in the living room awaiting their caffeine fix. I had a pitcher of milk ready to froth. Dainty espresso and cappuccino cups all lined up, ready to fill. Blast it, I was even wearing my new ruffly apron. Nothing.

I'm in a hotel in Atlanta right now. I'm supposed to be flying over the gulf of Mexico on our way to Chile. Delayed flights and crowded runways made us miss our big flight at 10. So we had to flag down a shuttle, get a hotel room, scout out some take-out, and are now enjoying the air-conditioning and cable tv at the Day's Inn (missionaries are pretty easy to please). Not what I had in mind (especially the 10 hour wait at the airport tomorrow).

Dustin came in to the kitchen and stared at the espresso machine with me. It was then that we realized that we had accidentally plugged it into 220 current instead of into our adapter and fried it. Woops. We looked at each other, sort of smirked and put the hotpot on and served our guests instant coffee. Though I did wad my apron up in a ball and left it forlorn on the counter. It was too cheerful for my mood.

Realizing that I definitely wouldn't be waking up in Chile, but instead would be repeating another full day of travel, my eyes teared up and I fought off a strong urge to stamp my foot and yell "NO FAIR!". I started to pray and the Lord met me in my frustration and fatigue. He reminded me to look about and enjoy the blessings of an evening of rest in a hotel room with air conditioning, cable tv (in english, woohoo!), and take-out pizza.

I'm better at adapting now. Four years in Chile worked a lot of that out in me. But sometimes life's curveballs still knock me to the ground. Now I'm just better at seeing the flowers while I'm down there ; ).

Your Most Devoted,

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Unfound Forum

Unfound Forum

Bless my soul, you love to talk
That is
Until you're rudely interrupted
By a discordant voice

Bristling you put on armor
You've an easy shot
I've no need for any and
I don't fear you

Come at me with it then
Let me see your passion
Played out in words
That may pierce my heart

I don't learn by smiling
And running away.

Why are you ducking?
I have not hit you
I am trying to see you
But you like to hide behind
A shield

I lift your face guard
But you have shrunk down inside
And I see only your hair
So I speak but you hear mumbles

And you don't want to hear me
You are safe in there
I'm sorry my friend
What have I done.

I back away
It's happened again
I think to say apologetic words
But you can't hear me in your metal suit

I weep.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

History of One Lady's Kitchens

To My Most Amiable Readers...

As I drizzled raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries over thick slices of angel food cake in my itsy bitsy Chilean kitchen, I couldn't help but see some insanity in my cooking space/hospitality knack ratio. I love having guests. I love cooking. But serving 20 guests out of my little kitchen quickly becomes stressful as I try to make four square feet of counter space an adequate work station for the demands of a full menu. As I seriously considered putting the dressed desserts on the floor until they were all ready, I thought back over my various kitchens over my nine years as a wife.

It was my first kitchen, and boy was it dazzling. I mean, with the gold-flecked countertops and all. The sea foam green vinyl breakfast nook set the tone perfectly for the 60's dream kitchen I claimed as my own as a young 20 year-old bride. It had a sort of space-age feel to it...there was a built-in blender in the countertop, and holders for tin foil and paper towels folded down out of the wall from stainless steel panels. Best of all, it had oodles of cabinets and countertops, though admittedly this was rather wasted as I was not yet much of a cook. Okay, so I knew nothing. But we had marvelous milkshake parties, with the built-in blender and our spanking new oster blender whirring away. Six months later found us pondering a new direction.

We both were aware of this undertow of purpose which some call a "call" or a destiny or finding one's vocation, but it never let us "settle". This purpose was most plainly stated as missions; living in an international setting, making God known and remembered. If I ever happened to lament our thrift store furnishings and dream an IKEA dream, something deep inside would say "not now". As I longed to paint walls a color I'd chosen, that something would say, "that's not the way I have for you".

To better prepare ourselves for, what we could feel to be certain, our future missions work, we decided that Dustin at least should finish his degree in Biblical Studies. I longed to finish mine as well, but we didn't have the cash. Finding Canada a cheap place to study, we headed up to Saskatchewan...the coldest, flattest place to eat good donuts and have riotous times. We moved into a basement apartment and I surveyed my second kitchen. Less countertop space to be sure and a tiny space to put a four-person table. But that small space became a welcoming hub for hungry college students and neighbors. Rising each day, I knew I needed to get something in the oven, whether bread, pies, cookies, or a cake, because unexpected visitors were expected. Friday night pizza was a favorite and many "happened" to drop by just when the pizzas were coming out of the tiny oven. It was in this small kitchen that I learned to cook and stretch my culinary horizons. I had a habit of making sourdough bread every two days and when the loaves were still hot from the oven, I'd wrap one in a towel and head out into the bitter cold, praying that God would direct me to whomever needed bread that day. One day I arrived with said bundle at Darrel and Kristin's home (fellow married students). She later confided to me that they ate the whole loaf immediately as their money had run out and they had no food.

Kitchen number three was a charmer and tinier yet than my Canada kitchen. Dustin's dad let us stay rent-free during summer break from college in an old row home in downtown Lancaster, PA. Entering our living room (which could fit a couch and that's about it), you turn left passing a bathroom and arrive at the kitchen (which is about the size of an average walk-in closet), then you come to the bedroom where a cardtable is set up in the corner to eat at. This kitchen was used the least of all my kitchens as summer in the city is hot and humid and that little home was a furnace. When Dustin would come home from work I'd have food packed in a picnic basket and we'd head to a park to catch the breeze and wade in the river to cool down.

After finishing college, we moved back to Pennsylvania unclear about the next step to take concerning our purpose, our call, our vocation. We resumed work at a local youth center and found a rancher to rent in a typical 1970's development. This is my egg yolk kitchen. The woman who owned the home was slightly mad (and not in the angry sense). The cabinets were yellow, the wallpaper was yellow and orange, and the ceiling was yellow...and the curtains...can you guess? Yellow. It had a slightly bigger kitchen than the furnace kitchen and we had fun entertaining friends and having game nights in that yellow cube. Again thoughts of painting walls...colors that I would choose...and buying furniture that I actually liked the looks of constantly harranged me, especially after visits to homes owned by friends and acquaintances that looked like IKEA or Pier 1 poster children. I was fighting a full-blown battle of materialism and self-expressionism dependent on that. My comfort was in my purpose, my destiny, that floating orb of adventure just out of sight, that, when found would make all present sacrifices pale. And a new dream was being formed within me as Sophia's little kicks and jabs captured my wonder as I laid on an out-of-style couch in an out-of-style room and beamed a smile of awe.

Finding theological unity, we joined Landisville Mennonite Church and found that they were letting the small 1740's log cabin which was the original church building back in said year. We moved in and I encountered kitchen number five in my third year of marriage. It was large, but not usefully large, as one entire wall held neither cabinet nor countertop, but merely white paint. My father-in-law replaced the warped countertop and corroded faucet, for which I was quite grateful. This home had much personality. Low doorways, heavy ancient doors with immense cast iron medieval hinges. A privy in the garden shed. A walk-in fireplace in In this kitchen my love of canning found full strength as the bounty from my large garden was transformed into salsa, spaghetti sauce, etc. I grew larger and larger but continued my canning and nesting activity until I went into labor and welcomed our daughter Sophia to our lives. My world rocked and spun with joy. My contentment was deep and I lacked nothing and that bare wall now had a playpen in front of it where a laughing baby girl cooed at me while I cooked.

We packed our suitcases and with much excitement I put in the maternity clothes which I'd be needing while we lived and studied in Costa Rica. We were off to learn Spanish as we'd been assigned a three-year term serving with EMM in Chile. I was excited/nervous/terrified and Sophia was now an 18 month-old ball of energy. Arriving in Costa Rica, I met kitchen number six. By far the most hilariously small. Even a bachelor living on spaghetti-o's would find it lacking. There was the sink which stood under the window that faced the concrete wall. Then there was the stove...the electric stove that zapped us occassionally and took twenty minutes to boil water. Then the tiny refrigerator with a shoebox-sized freezer inside which grew horrendous frost every four days, reducing usable space to a pencil box-size. Then the two feet of counter. I kid you not. But in that small kitchen we had some great parties, including a full-fledge Costa Rican meal with three chefs in that small space! Our tiny living room easily became a dance floor and we made the most of every square foot, forming friendships that have lasted to this day. That kitchen also had the unique distinction of hosting lizards and roaming battalions of ants. I learned to keep my floors very very clean.

Arriving in Chile after the birth of our son Edison, we found kitchen number seven in a two-bedroom apartment which we shared with another family (Chileans) with two children. The kitchen was a shared affair as were all meals, bathroom schedules, and so on. Quite the stretching experience. Especially coming home and seeing scary fishheads gaping at me, picked clean of meat and wondering what sort of dinner was on the way that evening. The view was beautiful. The canal in the foreground and Tenglo island behind it, I watched ships come in as I prepared (with anxiety) meals for our mixed families (their children never ate what I made, because it was strange to them). They moved out a month later and I immediately settled in to making the kitchen clean and organized (I have OCD, didn't you know?). That kitchen was the sight of quite a bit of hosting over the following year.

Kitchen number eight is the one I have now in a suburb here in Puerto Montt. It's quite functional, but quite small. All white. So I had the yolk and now I have the white. Everything must have an exact place or chaos ensues and things falling out of cabinets is one of the things that makes me want to run screaming around the cul-de-sac. We had a brief reprieve from kitchen number eight as we spent five months in the states in a basement suite of Dustin's cousins home. Okay, basement palace. Two of our entire home here in Chile would fit in our living space there. And there were soaring cabinets up to the high ceilings. The drawers shut themselves softly and glided like they were dipped in butter. There was a massive refrigerator and an oven that had a temperature gauge. There was a dishwasher and a garbage disposal, and an ice maker....I was blown away. I've never known any of these luxuries in my wifely kitchen history. There were lights under the cabinets so I didn't have to squint at recipes under dim overhead lighting. I felt almost lost. I ignored the dishwasher and handwashed dishes because I'd forget to use it. The garbage disposal scared me, and I mangled two forks in it thinking I was flipping the light switch. But how fun to cook in such a space, to not have to play tetris tactics when putting groceries away.

Returning to Chile, I opened a drawer in my kitchen and it seemed broken. It came out so rough that I asked Dustin if it needed fixed. He laughed and told me he had thought the same, but realized it had always been that way; that we had simply gotten used to the smooth drawers of the other place. It made me wonder how many things I've gotten used to as a missionary. But I thank the Lord for that; for numbing the annoyances so that we can focus on the work He has for us here. Our vocation, our destiny, our purpose has proved to be a great adventure; more fulfilling than any beautifully decorated home or fantastic professional kitchen could ever be. So I will serve Him here and He will understand if I put desserts on the floor.

Your Most Devoted, Sarah

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Looking For Esteban

To My Most Amiable Readers...

We closed our Bibles after an engaging study of Acts chapter 2 with the rowing youth. The usual pandemonium broke out as the children flooded back into the cramped living room (they'd been playing in one of the bedrooms) and Yenny and Angelo (our hosts) set out delicious sopaipillas (fried breads) and a tomato/avocado topping. Glasses of nectar were poured and cakes were cut as we laughed, talked, and the boys tackled one another now and then. All the while little one month-old Esteban slept blissfully unaware in a bouncy seat on the table.

About a half hour later we kissed goodbye and headed home on that rather frigid night talking with joy about the questions the youth had raised and the happy surprise that two of them had read the chapter ahead of time to be prepared. After putting our over-tired children to bed we collapsed into our own and had just begun to get warm under our down comforter when Dustin's cellphone rang. His Spanish came out in staccato; a sure sign that he was taken off guard by whatever the caller was saying.

He put down the phone and while whipping his coat on he rapidly explained that baby Esteban had stopped breathing and they needed Dustin to come and take them to the hospital. My mind buzzing with incredulity, I thought, "But we just held him an hour ago and he was fine!". As Dustin flew out the door I collected my senses and began praying. Remembering to recruit others I posted an update on Facebook asking for immediate prayer for little Esteban, then dropped to my knees and begged the Lord for his life.

I got a call about twenty minutes later. Dustin said that the ambulance had arrived just before he did and had taken Esteban and Yenny to the hospital. Angelo stayed behind with their 18-month old daughter Natalia, my friend Yoya, and their recently arrived mom, Irene. For those of you who follow our happenings in Chile, you'll remember that the week before Irene and Yoya's homes, along with Yoya's sister Rosita's home, were swept away by a mudslide. This is a whole lot of deal with in the space of two weeks!

Apparently Esteban had started to vomit yellow fluid and then started to choke on it, turning various colors while the panicked family tried to find the number for the ambulance (they don't have one emergency number like the States). In their panic they called us, one of the only families they know with a vehicle. Right after calling us they found the number and called in the ambulance. All they knew was that Esteban was breathing again and in stable condition (praise the Lord!). Dustin stayed with the family, being a support to them. Irene looked helpless and wondered aloud why all these things were happening to them. Angelo wept.

The next day I took a taxi to the ancient cavernous maze of corridors which is otherwise known as the Puerto Montt Hospital. From previous visits I was prepared for the frustration ahead. Approaching the front information desk I was pleased to see that there was only one person ahead of me in line. Perhaps today would be different!

Not so. I realized a good five minutes into their discussion about reading glasses and other trivia that I would need a full measure of patience and courtesy to make it to Esteban's side. After a while the woman left and I approached the desk, hoping my irritation didn't show as I asked, "Hola, me gustaria visitar un paciente se llama Esteban Bustos Lopez que llego anoche como emergencia. En que parte estara?" (Basically, I'm looking for Esteban Bustos Lopez, who arrived as an emergency last night. Where might I locate him?). I say this as I had to repeat this same thing to at least ten different people within the next forty-five minutes.

She had no idea. She looked through a print-out of the hospital's patients and did not find his name, but explained that it might be an out-of-date list. Right. She then waved me to the side and gestured toward the Maze with vague references to "Pediatria" and "over there". Okay. It would give me morbid delight to bring an American doctor into the Maze. And watch their eyes glaze over as he realizes that the passages to certain departments, say surgery, if marked at all, sometimes end in a dead-end hallway with locked doors. No information desk, no information period. That there is no heat and you can always see your breath. That anyone you ask to help you will invariably view you as a nuisance. Security is laughable.

There was one helpful exception, a young medic who took me up and down three flights of stairs to three different wings where we received three different answers. He finally gave up, due to time constraints or the fact that I emphasized my married state, one never knows. Close to giving up, or kicking a trashcan across the room, I spotted a small desk where sat a nurse who was retrieving hand cream from her purse for a whining doctor who was complaining about his dry hands. Sigh. I asked if she might have an updated list of patients. Regarding me wearily, she nonetheless surprised me by calling the various departments looking for Esteban's whereabouts. She located him in the pediatric wing. I had already been there three times asking, but at least now I had confirmation that he was somewhere there.

Arriving I marched past the "No entrance without pass" sign and resisted the urge to send it flying frisbee-style through the air. I found no one to stop me (not surprising). Poking around I finally saw Yenny through a window, holding baby Esteban. Coming into their room, which was shared by two other babies and mothers, Yenny looked at me in surprise and said, "They let you in? It must be a miracle!" I grinned inwardly as I replied, "Yes, they let me in". Technically by not stopping me, that is. Yenny took advantage of the break and went to talk to a friend of hers in the hallway while I held and prayed over little Esteban. I looked with awe into his little peaceful face, thanking God for his life. For about a half hour I stayed there with him, marveling at how he kept his pacifier in place by extending one long finger up to it. What a beautiful little man.

Laying him down, careful not to disturb his heart monitor, I passed into the hall and talked with Yenny. She said that the doctors had confirmed a severe case of reflux and that they would need to keep him always elevated while sleeping. Her face showed weariness and the stress of the ordeal. Hugging and saying goodbye, I found my way out of the Maze.

I ask your prayer for this family. Not only has the mom and two sisters lost their homes, but also Yenny's daughter Natalia's legs may need to be put in braces as she has a genetic bow-leggedness common among Chileans. She's only 18 months old and I cannot imagine how she would react to that. Stress, worry, and depression all threaten this family who is very close to our hearts. Please lift up Yoya, Irene, Rosita, Yenny, Angelo, Natalia, and Esteban in your prayers, asking for God's peace, healing, hope and joy. Thank you!

Your Most Devoted,

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wearing Silver and Empty Coffers

To my most amiable readers...

Well, through God's grace we've done it again. This past Sunday we completed in a 2000 meter women's lightweight doubles race held by the club Centenario in honor of the Carabineros de Chile (Chilean Police Force). We competed against the same gals that took gold in Nationals (professional rowers from the top club in Chile, to the right of us above), and another pair of gals from Concepcion.

Right before the race we were rather full of jitters. Yoya is now working full time and cannot train during the week, leaving only Saturdays for the two of us to go out together. She was nervous that her physical condition was not up to par for the grueling race ahead of us. I was just downright dreading the physical pain of it. I asked Nancy, Liz, and Janell to pray for us before we got in the boat. We both calmed down immediately!

What followed was our strongest race EVER. We never dropped our rythym, finishing strong. And this time the gals from club Phoenix beat us by less, and we were very encouraged. Both of us had wondered if our silver in nationals would be our last medal together due to her work commitments and were overjoyed that the fun isn't over!
I'd like to thank the folks at Landisville Mennonite who were praying for strength and perseverance for us during the race. It gave our floundering club a lot of joy to bring some medals home and was an encouragement to our dedicated trainer, Felipe.
Here we are post-race with the Hostetters and Janell Weaver.
And what of the empty coffers?

Dustin lost our debit card (our only way to access our stateside accounts), and we're going on two and a half weeks without money! I'm making lots of homemade bread, lentils, rice, oatmeal, and such things and we're totally exploiting all the frozen juices, fruits, and meats we had stored. Our "grocery shopping" is me biking up to the store with a bag of loose change, or Dustin walking to the corner store to buy 6 eggs. HA!

But God is so faithful and we truly have not felt the lack. And it's been a GREAT reminder of the blessings we live with day by day.

Your Most Devoted,

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March Adventures

The little ones on a recent trip to Isla Chiloe, where we visited the Millersville student who is teaching English in Quemchi, Janelle Weaver. Good times!

Our church has recently rented a house in our neighborhood to hold our meetings in. Together we've been working at cleaning up the grime the previous tenants left behind.

Relationships continue to grow in our barrio (neighborhood). Here we're at one neighbor's house for their son's birthday party.

The rowing kid's Bible study has blessed us tremendously. Another family member of Yoya's is now coming faithfully as well! We're on John chapter 18 now, and we are continually amazed that God has so gotten a hold of their hearts that they continue to come each Monday night and participate. Praise God!

Thanks so much for taking time to see what we're up to, and please keep praying that Christ would be known among our friends here in Chile!!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Jailed in the Month of May

I rage against the swallowing-up of days, of lives

spent making "life"

accomplishment, commitments, jobs, meetings, schedules, sports, hobbies

We crave excellence, but her altar demands a weighty sacrifice

our very life, frittered away

The unique joy and expectation of an unmapped day is relegated to remembrances of childhood summers long past

when the turn of our handlebar chose our route and where a mind captive only to imagination was writing the adventure with flowing script

I am hounded by calenders, clocks, and tasks which owe their heaviness to the mere fact that they refuse to follow the rythym of life

they take no sunset into account

no sick friend in need of hot soup and talk

no clatter of the mind which could be worked out with a good hour's peace and silence

Calenders mark days in rigid squares

ready to be diced up and consumed


To whom do I give ear?

The clamor of a world gone mad, drunk on busyness and productivity??

Or the voice of an ardent lover

who finds no waste in hours spent in prayer

who would rather I linger, toes in the sand, singing to Him above the crash of waves

than be a productive resounding gong

Our way of "life" is killing our hearts

and with that death we've lost our eyes to see Him

to hear Him!

And we are jailed in the month of May.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2009 Chilean National Rowing Championship

To My Most Amiable Readers...
Starting months ago, I prayed a simple prayer concerning the then upcoming Nationals: "Lord, let whatever we do be a joy to Yoya (my doubles partner), Felipe (our trainer, above), our team, to me, and to Him (that we would honor Him with our attitudes and perseverance). He more than answered those prayers!! We won second place (silver) in the women's lightweight doubles!!! This was a victory in so many ways. Personally, it was a victory over fear...(the enemy is constantly barraging me with little nuggets like "you'll never make it", "you're going to quit, it hurts too much", "who are you fooling rowing at your age?"). It was a victory for our club and a joy for them, as our medals were the only ones our club brought home this year. It was a victory against prejudice (we competed against two strong clubs from Valdivia which, basically, never lose and know it). The girls we raced against included an Olympian and three National Selects (rowers invited to international competitions). It was a victory for our trainer, Felipe, who invested in our technique and has taught me from my first tentative trip out in a boat. It was a victory. Praise God.

Us in the last grueling 500 meters. We are the green boat.

Right after. Wiped out and totally, giggly happy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recent Work

To My Most Amiable Readers,

I thought I'd post our latest newsletter as it sums up a lot of the activity of late

Kingdom Mathematics

As you may recall, we landed back in Chile two weeks after the national church divided. We stepped into a veritable mine field of tension, confusion, and broken relationships. 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.

A turning point came with the visit of Steve Shenk and Antonio Ulboa; EMM workers. They held a gathering for the former church members; which, having them all willingly together again was a miracle in itself. What followed was a unique and painful time of praying, forgiving and being forgiven, blessing one another, and closing out the fellowship in an honoring, loving way. Towards the end of the evening, Steve spoke, “I think what we're seeing here is not a division, but a multiplication”.

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.

We rejoiced in God's mathematics as we watched the astounding developments which followed. Eduardo and Juanita, along with Ricardo and Eliana organized a kid's Bible club on Isla Tenglo, reaching out to the island children. Eduardo and Juanita are also soon moving in to their new home in Alerce (a miracle in itself, the Lord provided this dwelling for them way ahead of schedule!), where they are going to be church planting and living out His love there. Voni and Gigi, and us at their invitation, are planting a house church, which is made up of all new believers. We're currently looking to rent a house to meet in as our group grows. Five rowing kids are regularly studying the book of John with us each week, along with some of their family members! Dustin and Voni are studying the Word with our neighborhood men, one of whom gave his heart to the Lord last week! Dustin and Eduardo continue their outreach in the Andes; where two men have come to the Lord in the last few months and where doors keep opening.

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.

Kingdom Sports

I realize it might look odd. You send a missionary to Chile and she spends a vast amount of time and energy rowing up and down the canal. Why, she and her trainer were even nearly killed when a day-dreaming boat captain barely missed crushing their double. She talks about sea lions chasing her, about bloodied hands and horrific blisters, and about the upcoming Nationals which they're training for. Is this what missionaries do?

I've never claimed to be a terrific evangelist. But I'm a pretty good friend. I figured that the best way to reach out to the youth in the area would be to walk the same path with them somehow. Walking to rowing, talking in the changing room, suffering together out in the boats, talking about life while we swim together out to the farthest buoy, going on trips, and playing ping-pong have all given me opportunities to be salt and light in their lives. After three years we've formed relationships of deep trust and have been able to walk with them through hard times and good times, giving evidence in all we do that God has changed us into people of joy.

And praise be to God, we invited them to study the Word with us, and they said yes! I can't tell you how much joy I have to hear them read and discuss God's Word. We meet once a week and study a chapter of John. Sometimes we pray, sometimes we don't. We took two of them, Coni and Felipe, with us to visit the children in an orphanage in Osorno. We did nothing spectacular. We wanted to show our rowing kids who are studying 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 that orphanage. Let's bring these Jesus-seekers to some kids who really need His touch, His smile. 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. We then gave out the cards we'd made as a group the week before 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.

Please pray for our Bible study group: Felipe, Coni, Yoya, Pablo, Daniel, Joana, Angelo, and Yenny.

In Christ, Sarah

My turn (Dustin),

I will try and keep this as short as possible being that so much has happened. One of the my outreaches has been getting together with my neighbor Christian and working on building projects together. He is a retired police chief and loves to work with his hands. He has the only American style workshop I have seen in Chile. We have built a shed, a metal fence, built a floor for his fishing boat and many other little projects. All this is to show that I have spent a great deal of time with him. About 2 months ago I invited him to our mens Bible study and since he has all the time in the world he started to come. Well about two weeks ago he gave his life to the Lord (praise God). He grew up Catholic but never really excepted everything they teach. So if you ask him about receiving the Lord he says “I received Jesus in a way that corresponds to what we have been studying these last two months”. We are very excited for this and our children love spending time with him and his family. And I (along with Sarah) have enjoyed getting to know them and also go fishing with him. I go fishing with him and another neighbor Ricardo about once a month and catch lots of freshwater Salmon (I know your confused but don't worry I can explain later). I have two prayer request at this time one is for my neighbor Ricardo he just lost his brother in a terrible car accident. It has really shaken up his family and we are praying that this brings him closer to the Lord. The other prayer request is for Christian's family that they too might come to know the Lord.

I have been consistently meeting with our small group in the mountains which has four families and at times two to three other adults. This has been very encouraging in watching them grow into their relationship with the Lord. We have been doing a Bible study book with them each time we go up and it is amazing reading their answers and discussing why they came to certain conclusions. Eduardo and I meet together every Tuesday to pray for the people in the mountains and also to see what the next step the Lord has for us. A prayer request we have is what should our next step be.

I fill the rest of my time with helping Voni and Gigi in the new church plant, which consists of meetings, cookouts and trying to find a building we can use as a church. I also have been helping Eduardo in getting his new house ready for him to move into. The house just has concrete floors, so I helped him put down some laminate and ceramic flooring. Eduardo has been able to do this thanks in part to the Sunday school classes at Landisville Mennonite Church that have been supporting Eduardo and Juanita. And Eduardo wants to pass on his thanks. Every time his sees me he wants me to know how much you guys mean to him.

Blessings and hope 09 is a great year for you all.