Friday, December 10, 2010

The Long Goodbye

To My Most Amiable Readers...

As most of you know, we are coming to the end of two 3-year terms serving here in Chile. Our come-home date is somewhere in April of 2011. We have much to do in these remaining months, most important being the long goodbyes. Taking time to process the transition with our friends here, making sure they know how much we love them and have appreciated their friendship. Encouraging emerging leaders to fill in any gaps our absence may leave. Distributing our possessions, finding homes for our dogs, and making plans for our upcoming furlough year all occupy our minds.

I would appreciate any insight on how to help our children as they lose their pets, their home, many of their toys, their culture, their second language, and their friends within four months time. I cannot fathom how they might feel. Cover them in prayer, please.

If I sound down, perhaps I am a bit. A stomach bug has left me weak. I have so much to tell you all which is exciting, things about what we're going to be doing next, but that will keep for another post. For now I feel the need for prayer support.

Leaving our life here is difficult for me, and can I admit that I'm scared of living in the States? I can't really explain it. It's like when you're swimming in a cold river, after you've gotten used to the temperature. The warm sand on the shore looks inviting, but you know that if you take a break there, it'll be so much harder to get accustomed to the cold again.

Your Most Devoted,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On Chasing Beggars...

To My Most Amiable Readers,

I chase beggars. Nine times out of ten, I do it without shoes on, which explains some of the wear and tear on my socks.

I'm busy kneading a mound of dough while lunch simmers on the stove. The kids are playing, but I sense a fight coming as the air is peppered with "I had it first!" and "NOooooo, I did!". The soup needs stirring, but I want to finish the kneading, someone gets bonked on the head by some other one. Crying. In the midst of this, "Ding Ding Ding DONG!". Our gate bell heralds an arrival. Hastily washing the flour off my hands, turning down the fire under the soup, and scooping up the crying child on my hip, I peer through the curtains to see, again, a beggar.

My first emotional reaction plays across my mind: "I don't have time for this! Go get a frickin' job!" I'm ashamed of it as soon as it comes. It comes from a flustered place of judgment, and I don't like that place much. Then I've got to make a decision. My children gather around me to see what I'll do. Why must I have an audience?!

Almost always I'm in my socks and I step gingerly up to the gate while the person tells me a tale of woe or simply asks for clothing or food. I ask them to wait a moment and disappear back inside, scanning my home and cupboards for items. There is usually something to give and by the time I make it back to the gate (still without shoes on), I have love in my heart to give too. A big smile and a "God bless you" come easily, and as I try to avoid sharp rocks on the way back in my heart smiles. I no longer am judging or questioning whether or not they deserve this or that. I'm just full of love and joy.

And I know this, I know how it plays out. But, sometimes I just fail. And then I have to chase beggars...

Today I was busy making pies to surprise Dustin and lunch, while simultaneously teaching Sophia, when the gate bell sounded out it's tune. It was violently windy and rainy out, and there she was. The round-faced, toothless, cheerful woman who nearly weekly begs here. She started her cheerful litany asking if I had any food or clothing to share. I said simply, "Not today, sorry". "Okay!", she smiled, "But do you have $100 pesos (roughly 25 cents) to share so I can go home on the bus?" I glanced back to my kitchen where I needed to be at that moment and said, "Sorry, I'm right in the middle of making lunch...." She smiled understandingly and moved on. I did not move on. Sure I went and stirred the bubbling sauce on the stove, but I felt awful.

The children watched all of this with their big inquisitive eyes.

Before I knew it, I was sprinting through my house looking for my change purse. I panicked slightly when I raced to the front window and could no longer see her in the cul-de-sac. Opening my front door I called out "Senora!?", thoroughly startling my neighbor walking by. Running out into the wind and rain (in my socks), I called again. There she was, down the street, and I waved her back.

"I have it!" I shouted, and her smile broke wide. Happily she came and took the money saying "Thanks so much, I had no idea how I'd get home!". "God bless you, goodbye!", I said, and was struck by it all; how on earth could I have thought that it was a bother to help her? It's the easiest thing in the world. And of course, I can buy more socks.

I got tired of it all, I guess. Tired of always being asked. Tired of interruptions in an already full day. But when I say "no" to a beggar (granted that he's/she's not completely drunk), I am instantly filled with guilt, which turns to anger at myself and at the beggar. "Why am I mean? Why do you have to come here and make me go through these moral gymnastics? Why don't you go do something useful instead of leeching off of me? I don't want to hear your eternal sob story, I have work to do....etc".

Then, I remember Christ. The multitudes that pressed him, and begged from him, and called out to him. I mean, no one is cutting a hole in my roof and letting beggars down on pallets. People don't chase me from one town to the next. But though Jesus endured such unremitting need on all sides, He did not lose His compassion. I cannot either.

So I'll give, I'll fail and have to chase them back down and then give, or I'll totally fail. It is a decision I must make each time I hear the gate bell.

"But just as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-see that you also excel in the grace of giving".

Your Most Devoted,

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Five Raves, Five Rants On Life In Chile


1) When I go to the grocery store well over half of my cart is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are quite cheap here. When I do the same in the States I break the bank. There is always something delicious in season; especially chestnuts, Chile's amazing apples, and strawberries.

2) The climate is a gardener's dream come true. You can, one month each year, prune back your existing plants, take the trimmings, stick them in the ground, and by spring you'll have new plants. It works with roses, hydrangeas, shrubs, you name it. You can make living fences by planting branches in a row. No matter what month it is, even in the darkest months of the rainy season, there's always something blooming.

3) You are acknowledged and greeted in whatever gathering you find yourself. In the States someone might have you over at their party and you sort of gradually introduce yourself to people as opportunity arises. In Chile you are introduced to and kissed by everyone in the room. There's something oddly special about it; the moment, however brief, establishes your existence and importance. I have a hard time not kissing people in greeting in the States. I remember in time, but then just feel awkward because obviously I'm restraining an impulse. Maybe it looks like I have a sudden urge to use the restroom. Anyways, it's become a part of me, and I like it.

4) The beauty just doesn't stop. I live in southern Chile, which is the gateway to the Patagonia; also called the Lakes District. Volcanoes, mountains, lakes, rivers, bays, and islands are scattered broadcast. Traveling north you pass more arid regions with endless vistas of vineyards bordered in roses, and the remarkable scent of eucalyptus forests. Farther north you have the Atacama Desert (a place I've flown over many times but never set foot in). Below us is the Patagonia, the famed Torres del Paine (where we'll be taking our vacation next month), and below that icebergs, the Straight of Magellan, and penguins.

5) Affection and touch are liberally given and received. This above all makes me wonder if I'm more gringa or latina in heart. I love the hugs, the kisses, the walking arm-in-arm with my friends. My Chilean friends say that I am "muy de piel", which would be like physically affectionate. It is a compliment, because it is a word they use to describe themselves, contrasting their perception of gringos being "frios" (cold). And they always shiver when they say it, like those people are made of ice ; ).


1) My jokes are lame translated. And I still can't catch why certain things are funny to them, but I laugh anyways (or laugh at their funny laughs). I will always find a way to have a good har har.

2) People don't mind completely wedging themselves in front of you in line. For some reason it always boils my blood. I feel like saying loudly "Well, it's good to know that you are more important than I am, what a shame if you had to wait in line like us poor scrubs..." It just feels so wrong and weird to me.

3) People will not say "no". You can invite them for dinner, they say "oh yes, we'd love to come" (never really intending to come, but it'd be rude to say "no"). So you make the dinner and wait, wait, wait, and they never show up. Or they'll call an hour later and tell you they can't come. Just tell me plainly that you don't want to come, so I don't make a huge meal and become a ball of living frustration...please! On a positive note, I've gotten used to this phenomenon and can now play the highly intricate game of finding out what they really want to do. It has taken years.

4) I miss my loved ones. Enough said.

5) Apathy. It affects so many areas of life here. Apathy enables people to eat something and throw the wrapper on the ground, to live on hot dogs, bread, and coke because it's easier than cooking beans and rice, to drink like fish when there is no money to buy the children's school shoes, to let street dogs multiply and die all over the place, to not teaching children about right and wrong behavior, to believe they are not capable of changing their circumstances in life so why try.

A healthy sign in this exercise was how hard it was to narrow down which five raves to write, and how hard it was to think of rants. Yes, there is plenty here to break my heart, but the hope which resides in me through the beautiful things we've seen the Lord do here makes me stronger.

We have six months left in our service in Chile.

I am processing this, but mostly trying to enjoy each day in this magical, frustrating, wonderful place at the bottom of the world.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

To My Most Amiable Readers,

It's quite hard to nail down the cause, but easy to see the effect. The effect is that my blog has suffered stagnancy. The cause I think lies amongst the following: 1) I am alarmingly busy. 2) Facebook has enabled my digital sharing to be released in small, painless puffs, whereas before all that I thought over came out when the steam built up and needed release. 3) I don't even know where to begin, so I don't. A lot is happening.

I beg your pardon if you've dropped by only to see last month's post again. Those ten seconds are lost forever (snicker snicker, but really, sorry).

Sometimes it's incredibly strange to talk about one's life; especially if one is a missionary and their blog is in a neat little list of missionary blogs on one's missions homepage. It's tempting to make lists. Really. Of all the cool things we're doing and seeing. So that supporters feel justified and satisfied in supporting what we do. For some reason, it leaves me feeling hollow.

What I'd love to do is have you come here. I want you to fall in love with my friends here (though they feel more like family). I want you to see the craziness of people falling in love with God and being shaped by Him. I want you to spend time with us so that you can go away praising God that He can even use ordinary people like us in grand ways. You see, there'd not be me, the writer, the filter, to get in the way. To take undeserved glory.

All I can think to do is try to serve up some photos, some stories, some glimpses now and then. But it's mere puppetry when the real stuff is happening behind the curtain. But I am left with no other.

So, in short, I hope more of you can visit us; your experiences can paint a far better portrait of what God is doing in and through us here in southern Chile than I can ever produce from a list of "Here's What We're Up To...".

Your Most Devoted,

Monday, August 16, 2010

On Healing

His hair has long grown over the c-shaped scar. The scar itself has faded to a tame pink, and but for the slight lumpiness where the skin was stitched back together, one would not feel anything out of place. Reuben's fall happened in January. Now it's August. He's fine, he has healed. Life moves on.

Except when I lay in bed and I remember. I remember seeing him fall slow-motion through the air, knowing I couldn't catch him in time. I remember the sickness that washed over me when I saw his head hit the car battery under the tree house. The sound.

I remember his eyes locking to the right, his limpness when I scooped him up, the seconds where he only formed a scream with his mouth but no sound came.

I remember the emergency room...him throwing up blood...watching his little body go into a huge scanner....seeing the scans that showed bone breaking inwards to the brain....waiting for the hospital to approve surgery because they needed to make sure we could pay for it...rage....time without surgery increasing likelihood of brain swelling....rage and prayer.

A constant flow of tears.

Time for surgery, I scrub up so that I can be with him until he goes under. He looks so small on the operating table and he's so confused. Lots of people I don't know in ominous clothing and masks. They tell me with compassion in their eyes that I need to go now. I crumple.

In the hallway Nancy and I sit and pray together. The prayer becomes a song which becomes a prayer and back again. I sing "Lord, give me back my son". It's a holy time, and I feel the Lord with us as we kneel in the gap for Reuben.

An eternity later the surgeon comes out, says all went well, the bone did not pierce the protective sac of the brain. Now is a critical time though, he needs to be constantly monitored at the public hospital's infant intensive care unit for any seizures indicating brain damage. I get to go to him.

He's crying in a nurse's arms. Small. And his head has a huge wrapping, he's so confused. So many tubes and monitors on his little body. I weep with joy and relief to see him and hold him. We ride in an ambulance to the hospital, going through the maze of corridors in a building which looks like it lived through a few wars.

I have to leave him there. I yell that I will not leave my son. Dustin pulls me out of that crazy hospital.

Reuben heals...the days pass....a month passes and I still can't sleep without him tucked in beside me. Eight months have gone by.

I was fine all day, but at night I remembered.

And I broke.

Dustin got Reuben for me and tucked his sleeping form next to me so I could sleep.

I could have lost my son.

Lord have mercy.

I am still healing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Dustin and a team from YWAM transporting a 95 year-old woman after she was helicoptered out of her home, way back in. She could no longer care of herself, so the guys hiked her, plus her wheelchair, for about an hour to her granddaughter's home. Which is why it's so hard to describe an average day in the mission field...
Yoya, Belen, and I at a recycling art class I gave on Tenglo Island.
The kiddos on Osorno Volcano enjoying the snow!

I guess I'm still used to four clearly-defined seasons, because it always surprises me how they blend here. As we drove down a volcano the other day, where we'd played in the fluffy snow, I marveled at the orange flowers bursting forth on the trees, catching the brilliant light of the sun. My hydrangeas shrivel and die one week, and the next you can see the buds forming. The lawn white with frost in the morning and my roses blooming steadily.

Squished between the ocean and the Andes, our weather is fairly temperamental. Or just mental. The seasons sort of look like this:

Summer: somewhat rainy
Fall: rainy
Winter: very rainy
Spring: rainy

But it sure does make for an emerald green south. Dustin and I often say Southern Chile would be perfect if it'd only do all its' raining at night : ).

With both excitement and sadness we are in our last rainy winter here in Puerto Montt. I'm a great disliker of "lasts", I much prefer "firsts", they are so full of promise. "Lasts" are so charged with melancholy, a tinge of regret. Perhaps some think that going "home" is easy, or natural. I'm afraid it is not.

I find myself worrying a bit about the kids. When we were home on furlough last time, we had gone to a church event and Sophia had tried to play with two of the little girls at church. They totally shunned her. She was just trying to introduce herself as she does with all the little Chilean friends she has: you go up, act like a ham, inititate a game of 'tag' and you're in. I thought maybe Sophia didn't notice the rejection. But two years later (yesterday) she said that she was sad that little girls in the states don't like her. I hugged her and told her that God is preparing special friends for her, but inside I was like, "Lord, oh Lord help! She's Chilean inside, how will she fit in there?". There are many things in a mother's heart.

We are trying to navigate the seasons...
They blend and blur...


Friday, June 25, 2010

Kit Delivery #2

Travis Kisamore, Christian Cruz Gil, the Mayor of Pelluhue, and Dustin
meeting at the mayor's office to discuss further aid.

Having received $5000 in funds to equip the shelters of displaced victims of the February earthquake and tsunami, we were able to assemble 20 kits including: two-plate cooking stove, propane tank, regulator hose, kitchen cabinet, fold-away kitchen table, four stacking stools, two shelves, 6 place settings of plates, silverware, glasses, teacups, a teapot, 3-piece cooking utensil set, and a set of pots and pans (each kit costing $200 USD).

The families were so excited at the unexpected blessing. Some just remarked over and over "I can't believe this". Toys were also distributed to the little ones. Thanks to all who made this possible; you've truly blessed these families!

Installing a fold-away table in a media agua (shelter).

American "Son" with his Chilean "Papi" : ). These two work
so well together, making all the cabinets, shelves, and tables.

Distributing kits in Pellhue.

No more cooking over coals in a pot in the rain! The residents
were thrilled!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Visitor

It was a few weeks ago when we heard him speak. He was sharing at the church started by our Chilean friends Eduardo and Juanita in Alerce, a low-income housing project. With passion and courage he encouraged, exhorted, and spoke to our hearts about a big God who loved us dearly and was able and willing to help us change. As we sat freezing in the community hall where the congregation meets, I was struck by the conviction that this man needed to come speak to our rowing youth Bible study.

He did so a few hours ago, and I know very well why the Lord put that on my heart. He shared his testimony which I will sum up in brief.

Marcelo and his brothers (4 in total) lost their father to a car wreck at a young age. Their mother never recovered from the shock and abandoned the children with a grandmother. They were abused by family members and called the "cursed orphans". Filled with anger and in desperate need of love, they joined street gangs, Marcelo eventually leading "Los Golpes" (the punches), a bandito of 40 men. They robbed, assaulted, and kept a steady flow of drugs and alcohol flowing.

In and out of prison (where he was interrogated and tortured!) but never changing his ways, he finally ended up again behind bars. He thought of his poor grandmother, then 80 years old, and how heartbroken this would make her. The thought came to him, "But why don't I ever think of her when I'm out and doing all this bad stuff?" He said a prayer, "Lord, if you exist, if you get me out of here, I'll serve you".

He received a phone call. He was being released!

He was so happy to be free that he totally forgot his promise, until an uncle who had come to the Lord asked him to come to church with him. That uncle died soon after and a voice said to Marcelo "I have the power to save life and to take it". He knew the Lord was speaking to him, and he started to go to church.

Guys at the church invited him to come play the bongos in their band. He'd never touched a drum in his life, but enjoyed learning some basic beats. They asked if he'd come with them where they went to perform. He agreed, happy. He asked where they go.


"How could I go there in a suit and tie and play in a worship band in front of my friends and relatives in the prison?!", he worried. "But, I went and you know, they came up to me afterwards saying 'You've made a good decision, brother', they were happy for me, and I knew I could not be ashamed anymore".

He shared about how different people took him under their wings, how he learned more about the Bible, learned how to talk with God and live right. He challenged all of us to walk in His will, to trust Him, to wait for God's choice when it comes to marriage, buying a home, friendships, etc. The youth were completely engaged.

He closed with, "How can you doubt that God loves you when He takes people from other nations...takes them away from their families, their friends, their culture, and brings them here to tell you about Jesus? How can you doubt that He's thinking of you! Worried for you! Think of it!"

He spoke to our hearts; God really blessed our time together.

I am so grateful for our visitor this evening!

Your Most Devoted, Sarah

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fashion Reaction

To My Most Amiable Readers...

G.K. Chesterton makes me laugh loudly. And considering his terribly serious countenance in his portrait and that fact that he died 44 years before I was born, and that his book which causes my amusement is ominously titled "Heretics", this is no small thing.

I have of late, taken up an odd bit of research. Via ebay, I have been looking up designer brand clothing, shoes, and purses (think Prada, Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, etc). Bringing up an entire page of different items I look at them all and see if I like any of it. More often than not, nothing grabs my attention. Then I look at them while scanning their respective prices, which range from $139-$5000+, and attempt to gauge my reaction to the declared worth vs. my true reaction to the piece. Do I see more worth now? Can it induce me to want it?

But here's the kicker. The piece itself and the price of it are not sufficient to cause a reaction in me. But the number of bids is. To know that upwards of 30 bids have been made on a otherwise unimpressive leather clutch is to cause one to wonder what the fuss is all about. What do these bidders know? Why are they willing to part with so much money to attain it? Why is it so desired?

"The sound rule in the matter would appear to be like many other sound rules-a paradox. Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like the laughing peasant of Italy. Never drink because you need it, for this is rational drinking, and the way to death and hell. But drink because you do not need it, for this is irrational drinking, and the ancient health of the world." -Heretics

What has fashion to do with drinking? That excesses in both are quite bad? That is not my point, though true enough. It is the doing of something innocuous for the wrong reason; indeed a reason which kills our joy. Drinking joyfully in celebration, or appreciatively with a fine meal in the quiet of your home hearken to the scripture, "Wine makes glad the heart of man".

I saw no example of high fashion that I did not first process as either bland or alarming, and then, with rapidity, as something that others might be impressed by. Which, when one sees a bidding war on a ho-hum purse, causes an odd desire. I don't like the purse...but apparently I ought to; for it would be dearly coveted by others. It would be recognized by others as expensive, and I, by association, would be valued higher as well. Seeing such petty reasoning in my own heart is enough to turn my stomach.

There are "must-haves" in the fashion world and "must-have a drink" 's in the corner pub. Both have a grasping feel. Neither end well, for they never end. There is always a new urge, a new trend, a new glassful to raise to the lips once again. There are more people to impress and more pain to suppress.

"Dionysus made wine, not a medicine, but a sacrament. Jesus Christ also made wine, not a medicine, but a sacrament. But Omar makes it, not a sacrament, but a medicine. He feasts because life is not joyful; he revels because he is not glad. 'Drink', he says, 'for you know not whence you come nor why. Drink, for you know not when you go nor where. Drink, because the stars are cruel and the world as idle as a humming-top. Drink, because there is nothing worth trusting, nothing worth fighting for. Drink, because all things are lapsed in a base of equality and an evil peace'. So he stands offering us the cup in his hand. And at the high altar of Christianity stands another figure, in whose hand also is the cup of the vine. 'Drink' he says, 'for the whole world is as red as this wine, with the crimson of the love and the wrath of God. Drink, for the trumpets are blowing for battle and this is the stirrup-cup. Drink, for this is my blood of the new testament that is shed for you. Drink, for I know whence you come and why. Drink, for I know of when you go and where'." -Heretics

If I were given a beautiful, expensive scarf, I would rejoice. There is no greed, nor grasping, nor triumph in it; there is beauty, and that of such quality that it would delight for years. If I were passed a glass of a fine wine, I would rejoice. There is no need for it, it's medical benefits never cross my mind, and it will not make me happier or sadder after it is gone.

But if I needed that scarf to work for me, to raise me above the others and manipulate their assessments, it is no longer a joy. If I need that wine to ease my pained heart, it is no longer a joy, but as Chesterton puts it, "medicine". Lord, free us from all such heart sickness!

Your most devoted,

Friday, April 23, 2010

Progress, Chesterton, and Why I Hate Cell Phones

"Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, "Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good-" At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not much of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is a war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark". -G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

"Sarah, do not forget your cell phone.."

"Oh! Yeah, okay, I have it."

" it charged?"

"Hmm, let's see, nope, it's completely dead."

"Okay, you have time to charge it up before you leave, go plug it in".


(I leave and forget the cell phone, happily charging away only to die once more unused in my purse).

Reading through Chesterton's Heretics has been a treat; though not the best book to read reclining in bed, for I am always needing to underline and draw exclamation points in the margins. Of the ideas I've encountered so far, his idea of progress has grabbed my attention thoroughly. I will not butcher his arguments by attempting to give them in brief, but I will respond to what I've picked up from them through the lens of my widely-known distaste for cell phones.

There are many proclaimed benefits of carrying a cell phone. You can call a tow-truck if your car breaks down. People can always get a hold of you. Your spouse can remind you to pick up milk at the store. Your business depends on communicating with you. Parents can call their children to make sure they're okay.

The only negative comments I hear about them are: people yakking on their phone, spoiling the ambiance of a nice restaurant or theater event, people injuring others because they are talking on the phone while driving, or as I heard recently, teens texting alarming amounts during school.

But what of the philosopy of cell phones? Is it good to be completely available to whomever might dial your number at any time? Is it good to render obsolete the Good Samaritan who might help you change a flat? Is it good to exchange face-to-face communication for fast, efficient calls or texts? Is it good for a phone call to give us peace about our children, instead of seeing the slump of their shoulders or their worried brow and truly knowing? Do we have any evidence that the "progress" we've encountered in mobile communication is any type of progress at all? If so, towards what? Doesn't "progress" mean that we're going somewhere specific?

"What is the good of begetting a man until we have settled what is the good of being a man? You are merely handing on to him a problem you dare not settle yourself. It is as if a man were asked, 'What is the use of a hammer?' and answered, 'To make hammers'; and when asked 'And of those hammers, what is the use?' answered "To make hammers again'." -Ch.II Heretics

I am not available to you all the time. I am only available always to the One who made me. People for thousands of years were regularly and normally out of touch. News traveled slowly, and a moment in the garden was a sacred moment. There would be no piercing siren screaming, "Time to pay attention to me, now!!!" Life with children is sufficiently full of interrupted moments; why should I invite more? Can my soul enter into God's presence when it is resigned to dash across the house at the first electronic whine?

What is our philosophy of cell phones? Have we thought this through? You may argue that they've saved lives. Certainly...they've also cost them. We cannot filter their value with their effects; we must go full circle, back to the start. Back when we thoughtlessly made the decision to tear down the lamp-post; hardly thinking what it meant. "Everyone is tearing them down these days; you see, darkness is the new light. You're crazy not to do so as well".

Philosophy matters. "For progress by its very name indicates a direction; and the moment we are in the least doubtful about the direction, we become in the same degree doubtful about the progress. Never perhaps since the beginning of the world has there been an age that had less right to the use the word 'progress' than we."

So, if you call and the phone rings and rings, do not mistake, I may very well be home; but I am cuddling my son or sharing a laugh with my daughter, or I am laying down in a particularly nice sunbeam. It does not mean that I care not for you or your concerns; only that I care too for sacred moments and not dashing away from them. And that, to me, is progress; toward a goal I can identify and march towards.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I walk into my heart.

There is the nest of chicks
with mouths peeled wide-
they feed on praise and they are
never satisfied.

There is the stumbling priest
who walks in small steps
hindered by thick ropes of fear
round about his ankles.

There is the young girl
spinning in her pink polka dot dress
twirling and asking
"Am I pretty?"

There is the box of masks
They used to be for
playing pretend,
now they are for hiding.

There is the weary woman,
Scrubbing at the dirty floor
and whispering
"I'll never make a difference"

There are the boxes of stories,
now and then some characters
escape and run
across paper
to make themselves real.

Shouldn't I see Jesus?
Others say they see Him here.

A tap on my leg and I see
identical twins
so very small
not even up to my knee.
I know them.

One trembles all over,
and on her dress
the Words of Life are written.
Upon her head
sits a crown precariously tipping
and written upon it: Obedience.

Her sister
so difficult to look at-
she was alight from

I said,
"You are fear of the Lord,
and you are love for the Lord.
You are
than I thought you'd be."

"We grow and shrink as
we are fed and
starved", said they.

"Have you seen Jesus?
Does He come here?"

"This would all be dark
if He hadn't come.
Sometimes, the persons here
grow so large that He
doesn't fit.
Too He makes Himself
time to time".


"Of course that's to
your benefit"

"How so?
I don't like the
state of things
around here."

"Who would?"
they laughed
"He desires that you
know yourself-
that you feel the terrible

"Will He come then...
or appear then?
Will He fix things
around here?"

It seemed to me they'd grown a bit taller.
And smiling and watching
Someone else.

Walking to the nest of birds
He fed them
humility, which was bitter
then security, which was

He went to the priest and
cut the rope that was
keeping him
The priest jumped and
and exclaimed "God is!"

He went to the girl
spinning spinning
and stopped her
spinning with an embrace
He shouted with joy
"Daughter! You are mine and dearly loved!"

His eyes took in
the box of masks and
he tore them in half
telling each
"You are not Sarah".

He bent over the weary woman-
scrubbing scrubbing
working working
He whispered
and as her face
lit up
she exclaimed
"The joy of the Lord is my strength!"

He opened a box of stories
a wide smile in place
and plucked out some characters
set them upon paper
and blowing upon them, said
Off they shot over reams
of paper-
flying from their feet.

He did not seem to see me-
then of course
all this was me.

I asked Fear and Love
who now towered over me
"Can it stay this way?"

But they heard me not
because they were
dancing with Him
with light.

My heart pounded
as their giant feet
hammered over the floor.
My heart pounded
I awoke
heart pounding.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Relief Effort Phase Two

We are planning another trip to the earthquake and tsunami-affected areas the first week in April. The initial $5000 that EMM made available for relief has been used up providing tents, food, sleeping bags, and other items. We are in urgent need for more funds so we can prepare for phase 2 in our relief plan: equipping shelters with stove tops, silverware, folding tables, plates, pots. Please give today!!

Donations can be given online at, tagged Chile Relief.

More information on our team's efforts can be found at this link:

Journey to the Epicenter, Day Two

Saltos del Mar and Constitucion
Saltos del Mar
The last trip, the guys had talked to a woman named Mercedez, so Bekii and I went up to her partially damaged home to visit her. Her husband was busy working at repairing their porch and she was handing him tools and boards as needed. When we asked if she's like to share her story, she got a weary look on her face and told us that she'd said it so many times. “Don't ask me about the wave”. We asked if she'd like us to pray for her, and that too was waved away. What she did need, she said, is a mattress; they'd been sleeping on the floor since the tsunami drenched their bed.
Along the road to Constitucion
Stopping for some snacks at a small store, we got to talking with the clerk/owner Aydee Ermilia Espinosa Salazar. We asked her about that night and she said, “We didn't hear the ocean, so we knew something was wrong; it was pulling out and building up”. She apologized for the scarcity of goods in her store saying, “No trucks have arrived since the catastrophe”. She recounted an amazing story of how God provided transportation for her to travel to her son in Concepcion after the quake, to make sure that he was okay. “God is always with me”, she said through tears, and we prayed together she gripped our hands tight. She blessed us on our journey and thanked us, and with big hugs we left, thankful to have met such a wonderful lady.

House after house, business after business, if not flattened into a pile of rubble, was spliced with ominous cracks through the adobe and stucco. Piles on either side of the street spoke of the plowing which opened up the way for traffic, the only improvement since the earthquake and tsunami two weeks earlier. As we picked our way through the streets, a woman greeted us. She looked to be in her sixties and bore the cap of a chemotherapy patient. Her name was Yasmine Najle and she gestured to the collapsed building in front of us and said, “And that's my home”.
“I was visiting down the street when it happened. My mom, eighty-two years of age, had stayed with my three year-old grandaughter. Everyone knows my mother on this street, but no one recognized her that night as she fled her home, hunched over my grandaughter. But they were saved, because God is mighty”.
She wept freely as she spoke to us; showing us her mother's home to the back of the property and where they escaped. She told us of a baby girl down the block who died. “I've had four cancers. Why didn't God take me instead? I'm strong. And this has made me stronger yet”. We prayed together, affirming God's purpose for her life, his love and caring for her. It struck us as indicative of her character when she walked to a trash can to dispose of her tissue (there was garbage and wreckage all around us!). We asked if we could take her photo in front of her ruined home. Smiling bravely she whipped off her cap and stood proudly bald for her photo, as if to say I survived cancer, I can survive this!
-We walked further down the road to where a young woman was working at organizing the remains of her family's store. María Jesús told us that her family had lost their home by the river when the waves came through. She was working to organize the notebooks and paper items that survived the quake's violence. Eyeing the broken walls (adobe construction) and the half-drooping roof, I asked if she was afraid to be working in the store; “No! I'm very relaxed. I think the worst has passed”. Quite a brave girl! We prayed for her, asking the Lord's blessing and protection over her and her family's business. “Yeah,” she said, “what next to nothing remained was stolen”.
-Juan Emilio Arraya called to us from his ruined home. Swallowing our fear at entering the structure which was partially collapsed and entirely unstable, we followed him in to hear his story.
With a flat voice he waved towards various rubble-filled rooms, "That was our kitchen, our bathroom, my daughter's room.." The adobe walls were cracked with entire sections missing. Framed walls bulged at impossible angles and we both mentally planned an escape route if an aftershock hit while talking to Juan.
Living in this home for thirty-three years, Juan raised three children here, taking pride in improvements he had made over time. When the quake hit he said, "I believed I was going to die". Just next door to him three people had perished; the father embracing his wife, who was embracing their baby girl as they died. Juan had tried to get to them, but could not. We asked if he was afraid to work in there, and he said “Yes...this whole thing could fall any minute”.
Crying openly he spoke of his frustration with neighbors who are taking advantage of relief efforts; re-selling tents intended for homeless families. As for him, he said, "I will build my house, with my own hands, I will build my house, thanks to God. Unless my wife is too afraid, if she's afraid to live here we'll leave".
Climbing the wall in his patio is a lovely plant called Copihue, which he had brought from the Cordillera (Andes Mountains) and nurtured for years. To him it is "a sign of life here, of hope".
We prayed for him and with eyes full of tears he thanked us; "This is what people need right now." We left his precarious home with flowers in our hands; he shared his hope with us.
There really are no words to describe the horror of all we saw that day, so I leave it to the pictures to speak of these things. One bright spot was coming across a long-lost classmate from Bible college who was volunteering in a medical triage unit with actor Paul Walker. We thanked God for the encouragement of seeing our friend after so many years, even in such circumstances.

Journey to the Epicenter, Day One


Distribution Center, outside of Pelluhue

I did not anticipate that my first time in a nightclub that it would be full not of dancers and lights, but mountains of diapers, water, sugar, and other relief items. Workers and military worked busily sorting and piling donations, while we caught up with Gerarda Contreras Guzman, the Secretary of the Municipality in Pelluhue. Evidently we had just missed the U.S. Ambassador's visit in which he brought many much-needed portable generators for hospitals. Guzman was delighted with the tents we brought, an item frequently requested by the now homeless families registered there. She informed us that in the surrounding countryside one hundred families are without homes and that only one out of the fifteen schools is operable. Amazingly she said all this with a smile and a potent sense of optimism; a trait we would come to recognize in many of the hardest-hit.

Camp #1, Pelluhue

We drove up a dusty road to a barren field dotted by roughly made rectanglular homes. Our estimates are that they are 3x6 meters, and could more accurately be described as shelters, or in the States, as glorified sheds. But to these families, whose homes were either destroyed by the earthquake or the resultant tsunami, they are home. They are basically boxes with a door and two window flaps.

Arming ourselves with cameras, notebooks, stuffed animals and other goodies, we set off to hear their stories, capture their images, and bring a spark of hope and caring to them.

-Katherine Andrea Contreras and Paula Contreras Becena

Katherine and Paula were hacking away at a foam cushion with a meat knife when we walked up, stacking the rough squares into a cloth bag to form a chair. Bekii and I asked if we could hear their story.

Here's their back and forth exclamations:

We were thankful for the full moon that might, otherwise we would not have been able to see anything”.

There was a tremendous sound.”

People aren't going to be permitted to build down below anymore”

They're still finding bodies in the sand, every day.”

A whole bus of elderly people traveling over a bridge was washed away; all died”.

We asked if we could pray for them, and they permitted that. I asked if they were still afraid and they said, “No, there is much encouragement”. -said, “Hay mucho animo” (not sure if my translation is the best word). After giving the little boy in their home a stuffed animal and a treat bag, we moved along to the next home, where the family stood around in the hot sun.

-Eduendo Villegas Caceres, Lucila Sanhueza Cornou

Eduendo was ready to share. I caught myself wondering how many times he's repeated his story since that night. They lived 50 meters from the beach. “I lost my home, my daughter's home, seventy birds, and all my tools. I make wood handcrafts; model boats, planes...all gone”. There was a keen sense of frustration at this; you need money to buy tools to do your trade so you can earn money. He doesn't know what to do with himself without the means to procure tools. But he says that he is a man of faith, that God is with him. I was struck by, on the one hand his heart-breaking loss, and the other his warmth and smile. I could do nothing at present to aid him, but he was content to share his story. Playing nearby was his two year-old granddaughter Sofia, and in the arms of his son-in-law his four month-old granddaughter Yanina. Then I realized it; he lost much, but he did not lose his children, nor his precious grandchildren. He was living in a tiny shelter with all of them plus his other children and his wife, but they were safe; he was surrounded by loved ones.

-Ana Maria González Casanova

The first thing we were struck by as we approached Ana's home was that she already had a fence up around it and bushes planted! She too was willing to share with us and as her family stood around her and offered me a seat, she told me about the night of the earthquake.

I would have died, but God got me up. My house was fifty meters from the shore. As the house moved I ran outside. Then I realized I was barefoot, so I ran in for shoes. I realized I needed clothes and a blanket, so I ran back in for that. Then I remembered my purse was in my bedstand, so I ran back in for that! (laughs) By that point my neighbor made me run with her to the hills. There were people shouting “Se salio el mar!” (the sea is going out!). We ran up the hill, I did not see the wave. I found my husband at the top and asked him if our house was okay. He said 'it's fine, it's fine”; he didn't want me to worry. When we went back down our house was gone. (Points at the dirt) Quedo asi. (It was like that). It resisted the earthquake, but not the tsunami.”

They sat on the ground where their home had been and just stared. “What can we do?”, they asked each other. Eventually she went back up the hill, but he stayed, not wanting to leave, just wanted to sit there. “Twenty years ago we started from nothing, we are starting from nothing again”she said, “I had everything before the tsunami...years of sacrifice”.

I never rejected God. I would have died. These are the moments that the families come together. Time always tells.” She then showed us her dog, which was curled up near some cartons. “He used to be so playful. Somehow he survived the waves and found us, but he doesn't eat or play”. So even the animals were traumatized!

We were glad to see that her family was taking care of her; while we were there they were busy building an addition to the shelter.


The first thing you notice driving into Pelluhue is that water is stranded in places that it shouldn't be. Even one mile from the shore water is stagnating since the tsunami brought it inland. The next thing you notice is the smell, then the chaotic destruction. As we got out to walk around, stepping over rotting fish, broken glass, and large and small details of people's lives and homes, we were completely overwhelmed. I realized I had no reference on how to frame a shot of chaos. So I focused my lens on the small details, hoping that those would connect me to the people, to the lives that have been fractured. Twisted pots, a baby sweater embedded with sand. Playing cards and tv's. Then I stepped into the houses. I saw the grimy water line nearly up to the roof. Furniture and fish lying in heaps together. Curtains still hanging in blown-out windows. Walls twisted and snapped apart. There was unnerving silence.

There are still bodies being dug out of the sand each day. Mostly those who were camping on the beach to celebrate the last days of summer. Each sleeping bag or camping item I saw amidst the rubble caused particular pain. Residents said that there was so much confusion after the quake, that many of the tourists accidently ran toward the beach instead of away from it as the waves came. Unbelievable destruction and loss of life.

Camp #2, outside of Pelluhue

From the outset this camp had an entirely different feel. Through discerning together as a team afterwards we agreed that there was something spiritually off about the place. As soon as we were out of the vehicles it seemed as though we were surrounded. As I tried to distribute toys to the children, teenage girls came up asking for stuffed animals as well. I explained that they were for little kids, and they started a sort of sing-song begging. Even an adult woman joined in, though asked for a candy bag. I had no conversations worth recording; there was always an indefinable hindrance. There was an atmosphere of greed and false need, manipulation. We even overheard them as another vehicle pulled up “Here comes another one”. No wonder they were acting the way they were; they were standing around for whatever hand-outs drove up! There was a strong victim mentality, that was not present at the other camp and some spiritual yuckiness that I cannot define, but reacted to. Our children were also acting strangely and I was relieved when we headed out.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Quake Update

Cars wait to receive $10 worth of gas here in Puerto Montt
Though gas trucks have tried to come, many have been robbed.
Somedays there is no gas at all.

To My Most Amiable Readers...

The last few days have been unreal. We have had no further aftershocks in Puerto Montt, but are definitely continually in shock at the reports coming in around the country of the magnitude of the devastation caused by the earthquake and resultant tsunami.

We have also experienced profound joy as our neighbors, who were traveling through the worst hit areas on vacation, arrived home exhausted but safe. They had to off-road it around debris and went on $10 gas rations and long waiting lines at each station, but finally got home. How can I describe the relief and joy that flooded us as we embraced them?

We have, though, many reasons for sorrow as well. Among our rowing Bible study group, we have many who cannot contact loved ones who live in hard-hit Curico and Talcahuano. Angelo's mother's home was destroyed and his extended family unaccounted for. The tsunami waves reached so far inland that it carried fishing boats into the middle of town. He wept as we prayed together as a group last night, Lord have mercy.

Until now and yet continuing, relief efforts have been impeded by the sheer devastation which cut off electric, water, and roadways. Local efforts are now organizing; we're now able to donate diapers, blood, water, and powdered milk which will be flown to Concepcion. As an EMM team we are making our first relief convoy plans. This Friday the men will be heading up to Talcahuano (where Angelo's family is, just north of Concepcion) in our neighbor's diesel truck and possibly another vehicle, equipped with flour, rice, tents, and other relief items. This will also be an exploratory trip to see what further convoys should contain. I will likely head up in the second convoy next week to capture stories and pictures.

Specific prayer requests would be:

-safety for the convoy (gangs have been raiding them before they can get to where help is needed)
-discernment as to how best we can respond to the multitude of needs when we arrive
-help in locating and aiding Angelo's mother and family (she needs specific medicines for her lungs and there is a newborn as well that may need clothing and such)
-that in and through everything we do, that God's name would be glorified; that people would see and feel that He cares for them and has not forgotten them in their pain and trial
-funds to stream in to aid not only in immediate relief, but in long-term reconstruction

Beyond the logistics, I implore you to pray against violence and hopelessness, which can and have contributed to greater suffering here. Please fast if you are physically able.

May God have mercy and come and heal our land...
Your Most Devoted,

Gathering to pray for Chile.

Chileans helping Chileans is the motto during this disaster.
Here is a local collection point for items headed to Concepcion.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Dear Friends and Family,

Thanks for your concern; we are all fine. I won't bother going over the details the news is giving you, but will fill in our experiences and concerns at present.

At around three in the morning we awoke to our house swaying. It felt as though we were on a boat in rough seas. When we lived in Costa Rica we felt quakes that were rough and jarring and quick. This was a rapid side to side sway that lasted three minutes at 4.4!

As we sat on our bed in horror I remember hearing the water in our pool smacking back and forth violently. Outside all was black. Dustin had already ran to the children's rooms, where they were sleeping peacefully. When it ended we didn't know what to do. No lights, no phone, nothing to do except try to calm down and pray. We did not know whether it was a local quake or widespread. Somehow we slept.

Dustin kissed me awake a few hours later; he had a planned fishing trip and was off. He had heard on our battery powered radio that the quake was 8.8 in Concepcion. WHAT? Oh no! We were there 2 years ago for a rowing competition; beautiful place, spectacular rowing clubs. And that meant Santiago, Talca, and our beloved Chillan were in jeopardy too.

The radio batteries were dead, electric still out, so, longing to piece things together I got the children dressed with the intention of going up to the supermarket to see the tv news in the restaurant there (from previous outtages we know they have generators). I received a call just before leaving advising me to stock up on foodstuffs as supply lines from Santiago were not going to be operational for a while.

Grocery bags, check. Three children, check. Keys, check. Oh crap. Looking at our van my eyes drifted to our iron gate locked behind it. Which opens with...electricity only. BAH! How was I supposed to hike home our rations with three kids? Gritting my teeth I actually lifted our heavy gate off it's gears and track and muscled it out of the way. RAWR!

The grocery store was nuts; everyone talking to everyone trying to hear news. When I got home the electric was back on but communication was still down. I had to let everyone know we were okay but couldn't!

Water is coming out at a trickle, so I filled a large bucket with it in case it cuts off again. The kids and I watched the news with tears streaming down our faces. The cities in the photos may look all the same to you; but we have walked those streets and crossed those collapsed bridges; so sad. Kept trying to call out and finally got through. Communications still cut off suddenly.

Specific prayers: my friend Angelo's mother's home was completely destroyed and she's now living in a tent in a stadium; he's a wreck but cannot go to her due to the destroyed roads

-two sisters have not been heard from; they were surfing at a competition in the seventh region, please pray for their safety

-for our neighbors who are vacationing near the epicenter

-for our friends who cannot find their family members.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Some News...

To My Most Amiable Readers,

May the grace and peace of Christ be with you!

The last few months have been very challenging, but we have been keenly aware of the Holy Spirit's presence in the midst of some of the most difficult experiences of our lives. Reuben had a serious fall from a tree house and was operated on to put a plastic plate in his head where the bones were crushed (see blog post below). That was a very frightening time for us. On top of that were painful relationships that brought much confusion and heartache. But we can truly say that God brought us through and brought healing for all involved. Praise the Lord!!!

The rowing kid's Bible study has been such a joy. We've gone through John, Acts, Philippians, and are now working through Romans. Yenny, a former rower who comes with her husband and children, asked us the other day a question about Romans chapter six. Dustin reminded her that we're only at chapter two, and she laughed saying that she gets caught up in the story and can't stop reading! We recognize in her and her husband the hunger for growth and the gifts of leadership and integrity. She has, on her own accord, started reading John with another friend who cannot come to the meetings. Please pray that Yenny and her husband Angelo would be lights in Chile among the people of Puerto Montt!

Our work with the church plant with Voni and Gigi has undergone major transformation. Previously we met in homes, but outgrew those facilities so we rented a house. No sooner had we done that that one of the families moved away and numerous others stopped coming. This was a time of both discouragment and hope (people were coming to Christ through the Bible studies we held and through visitation). But they didn't come to the house. This was a bit perplexing for us, and after discerning together we decided to stop renting the house, and just continue working in and through our giftings and natural relationships to bring people closer to Christ. Voni and Gigi are both in a very busy season of life and we are glad to see them released to focus on their friendships without the burden of leading a church. This also frees us up to invest in our relationships with neighbors and friends here in Puerto Montt.

I (Dustin) along with Eduardo (Chilean brother) have been visiting the mountains faithfully every month for 3-4 days. The group has grown to about 14 with 8 of them becoming believers and getting baptized. We have been very encouraged by this group of believers as they never cease to amaze us. Almost every time we get up there they have more people for us to share with spiritually or practically. I always come back from the mountains filled with the love and encouragement of Christ. Eduardo is a pastor of a Mennonite Church in Alerce(government housing project) and some of the people who live in the mountains also live in this neighborhood during the school year. That has been a great way to encourage the believers in the mountains and Alerce through more continuous fellowship.

One of my newest ministry oportunities has been riding mountain bike with some guys in our neighborhood. So far in the three weeks of riding bike I have met three new men and have been able to share about God as we are riding bike. We are praying that they will want to come to our men's Bible study that we have been doing with some other men in the community.

Now to some news. Through discerning as a family and with our EMM boss Steve Shenk, we have decided that this term will be our last here in Chile. Unless the Lord speaks otherwise we will be returning stateside around March of 2011. This is not a popular decision amongst our Chilean friends, and though I'm not glad that they're hurt by our leaving, I am overjoyed by their love and caring of us as a family. It wouldn't be so nice leaving and everyone thinking “Good riddance!” ; ).

We love our life here in Chile. Our children have many Chilean “grandparents”, “aunties”, and “uncles”. Chile is the only home they remember, Sophia being two when we arrived. It has been such an adventure, and I admit, I'm not quite ready to leave it. I (Sarah) know that my heart will break the day we leave Chile. But I am resting in Dustin's conviction that it's time to move on to what God has next for us. Please pray for us, that we might finish well, using our remaining time wisely and effectively.

We feel strongly that though our time in Chile is drawing to an end, our vocation will continue. We will have a one-year furlough when we return, during which we will likely take classes to prepare us further for future work. We are praying about two opportunities of service, both with EMM, within Central America and Spain. We appreciate prayer for our family as we discern and adjust to upcoming changes!

We would also appreciate prayer for this final year in Chile, that:

-the rowing youth would grow in faith and devotion to God

-the church in the mountains would grow and bear fruit

-God would give us words to speak to our neighbors and show us ways to reach them

-that our financial support would come in in full

-God would raise up leaders to spread His love and Word like wildfire here in Chile!

Thanks so much,

Love, Dustin and Sarah

Monday, February 15, 2010

Falling Grace

To My Most Amiable Readers....

I couldn't write of it for a long time. I was right there beside him. Reuben was playing on a tree house slide at our friend's home, charging up the slide, reaching the top and coming back down, when all of a sudden he ran off the far side. Before I could reach him his tumbling form hit the ground, his head striking a car battery.

I thought he was dead. His eyes locked to the right and his mouth contorted in pain but he didn't cry. For a long fifteen seconds the only sounds were my own "no no no, Reuben!" His arms and legs were limp as I scooped him up. He wailed. In a flurry of activity we took him to the emergency room where they took an x-ray of his head and discovered nothing. They were about to send us home with him, saying it was a concussion, when he threw up blood.

A neurosurgeon was called in and they took a scan of his skull and brain, which showed that part of his skull was crushed (behind the right ear) and was pushing inward into the brain. They needed to operate to remove the crushed pieces and insert a plastic plate. I will not attempt to convey the hell I was living through at that moment. He's only two years old.

I shakily dressed in scrubs and kissed his drug-induced sleepy face. My tears fell on him. They told me I had to go. I left the operating room a crushed little woman.

People came and supported us, but I could not be with them. I sat as near as I could to where he was. I knelt on the floor and cried and prayed. "Lord, give me back my son...Lord, heal...."

I sang. I pleaded. I stormed the doors of Heaven with Nancy praying and singing with me.

A long time passed. The neurosurgeon came. Good news, the bone fragments had not pierced the protective sack around the brain and the implant went in successfully. Also important was that he did not convulse during the surgery (which would indicate the brain reacting to injury). The next 24 hours would be delicate; waiting to see if convulsions would present or any other abnormalities.

I got to go to him. He was waking and crying and looking so small on that big hospital bed. But he looked so...ALIVE! I cradled him in my arms; his head half-shaved and an ominous bandage covering a half moon-shaped incision. We left in ambulance for the public hospital which has a NICU facility. There I had to leave him again (limited visiting hours). I protested, I begged, I told them I would not leave him. With compassion-filled eyes they firmly told me 'no'. I could hear him crying for me as Dustin supported me out of the hospital. He was scared. I was torn apart to not be able to hold him and make him feel safe. Most horrid night.

Didn't sleep. Went to the hospital bright and early and waited. Could hear him crying but was not allowed to go to him. Plotted barging in anyways. Decided arrest would be a bad idea. Finally at his side again, and praise the Lord, I didn't have to leave him again. The neurosurgeon scanned him again to check for swelling, and as no convulsions presented, we were able to transfer to the clinic where I could stay with him in a private room.

He was very angry, very confused, and struggled with his IV ports. Sleep was a blessing. My prayers turned to "Lord, let me see him smile again..." I overflowed with praise to God for sparing his life.

The next morning we got our first beautiful smile as he realized that he could make his bed move by pushing the buttons. My little boy was back! Mischievous and ornery, but he's back!!!

We got to bring him home. I needed to sleep beside him for about two weeks. I just couldn't be away from him; it brought such peace and security to my heart to feel his warm, alive little body tucked in next to mine. A week after his surgery he received a clean bill of health at his check-up. Joy. Pure joy.

I couldn't write of this before. I did so now only by blinking away tears and swallowing my sobs. This accident has sobered me, though I am a diligent and responsible parent, something terrifying still happened to our son. I am deeply grateful to the Lord; He has been so merciful to us.
Your Most Devoted,

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Middle school is an unfortunate place to have one's character shaped. I did not know who I was, so I lived lies. I stole things with my friends, because my friends liked to steal. I cussed like a construction worker, because my friends cussed like construction workers. I wore clothing that I didn't like because it was the thing to wear. I didn't like the Florida Panthers, but I wore their Starter jacket. My shirts said "No Fear" while I was drowning in it. I was completely lost. I wasn't Sarah, I was a collage of masks.

The Devil has a hay day with borrowed identity. It's a veritable free-for-all.

I was sitting in the computer lab and we were being brought through a long process; I can't recall what we were creating or learning, but we had to follow exact instructions being voiced by the teacher. I made an error. I lifted my hand for help. The teacher exploded. "What are you? Stupid??? (yelling) This is not hard!!! Listen to what I say! Can you just do that? Can you follow basic instructions?? Or is that too hard for you?!?"

It was a barrage, and I sat frozen in my chair, willing myself not to cry. I wondered why I was so stupid. Why can't I follow simple directions? What's wrong with me? The computer screen blurred with unshed tears. No way can I cry, I thought. No way. Everyone will make fun of me. Boohoo, Sarah, so you got yelled at. What a baby. The teacher's assistant came over to me with a look of deep concern. She touched my shoulder, whispering, "I'm so sorry you had to hear that..." I couldn't let her words in; they'd release the tears and who knows what would come of that. I clipped off, "I'm fine".

"I'm fine".

I'm not fine.

During those years I was off and on suicidal. Wearing masks and borrowing identity is incredibly violent to one's soul. I am more thankful than I can express that Christ wooed me before I'd made a complete wreck of myself. It happened in the woods; I went in a lost and deeply confused teen, and came out transformed from within. I'd invited Christ in my heart, and since that day He's been doing serious work in there.

I'm turning thirty this month. It's been 17 years or so since I sat in that chair, trembling and dying inside. As I was re-reading "Waking the Dead" by John Eldredge in the chapter about deep restoration, I felt the Lord nudging me to remember that day. To shut my eyes and remember that moment, remember the words spoken over me. Tears flowed as I again felt small, stupid. In my mind I could see Christ at my side, telling me in a soft voice, "You are my daughter, I created you and love you. You are not stupid".

I've walked with the Lord for many years, I've taught about Him, wrote about Him, prayed to Him, worshiped Him...but I hadn't opened my heart for Him to heal me in this area. I'd forgiven the teacher, but I had not asked for God to come into my brokenness...did I think it didn't matter so much?

It mattered. A few years ago as I was studying the Word a phrase came to mind so powerfully that I could no longer study, but wrote it out: Everything I do is for the good opinion of others. I imagine quite a few could relate. I knew it was deeply wrong. God calls us to do all "to the glory of God", not the "glory of ourselves". Why was I living like this? What was I trying to prove or gain?

Was I crippled by one teacher's tirade? No. I was crippled by having no identity except that which I borrowed or received. When Christ saved me, I got a foothold into becoming fully alive, fully Me, but shedding the masks and lies would turn out to be a life-long process. To this day my greatest spiritual struggle is accepting that God loves me and living my life in joyful, secure response to that. Is that a startling thing for a missionary to say?

I thought it was. Until I read an article containing Mother Teresa's letters to her spiritual director. She struggled with the same thing; not being able to accept that God loved her. It was easy to believe that God loves you, but when it comes to me...well...

I believe that God is healing me, year by year he is filling me up with my true identity. He is a constant teacher, inasmuch as I take time to come to class (or else He has to teach me the hard way by letting me go my own way and fail). I write this as a confession of brokenness. I don't have it all together. I feel like Christ is inviting me to go backward so that I can go forward. I want to become fully alive, not enslaved by needing to gain approval, worth. For this, I ask your prayer for me, that God's love would permeate my heart, kicking out whatever has been standing in for it, because;

He heals the brokenhearted and
binds up their wounds
Psalm 147:3

I will give you a new heart.
Ezekiel 36:26


Saturday, January 09, 2010


To My Most Amiable Readers,

Hope, vision, hard work, and the right tools could make this old Austin Mini come alive again. But without those ingredients it can't go anywhere. Likewise, without your support we could not have worked here in Chile these past four years!! We would not have seen our neighbors come to Christ, nor the rowing youth studying the Bible, nor the people in the mountains find their Savior. But, because we had all those things, plus your prayers, the Kingdom advanced in new and amazing ways in our midst. God has done a great work, and we all got to play a role in it.

We just finished studying the book of Philippians with the rowing youth, and in the last chapter Paul thanks the church of Philipi for supplying for his needs, over and over. He wants to "credit them" for their generosity; you can almost feel his joy through his passionate words. I also want to credit you; how can I thank you enough for enabling us to work among the people of Chile? We have lacked nothing, we have been, as Paul put it, "amply supplied" by your giving.

This week I received a number of emails from our MST (Missionary Support Team) and our church's board indicating that the funds for our support are low. Everyone has been encouraging; they are committed to help us carry out our term, to find ways to raise funds. In the current economic situation, this is a more difficult task than it was before. We are, frankly speaking, a burden on our church's finances. It has been mentioned as well that though the completion of our term is not in question, future terms would be. Hmm.

What that means for us at the end of our term in the spring of 2011, I do not know. I trust that our Father will direct, comfort, and sustain us. Above all, I am filled with the word Ebenezer.."up to this point God has been faithful". I can look back over the last four years with a wide, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Please pray for us, for our church Landisville Mennonite, and for our mission board Eastern Mennonite Missions; that each would be amply supplied for the work of the Kingdom!

Your Most Devoted,