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,