Monday, September 17, 2007

Peruvian Birthday Celebrations

I'm another year older and I've spent my first birthday in Peru! Yay!

Birthday celebrations started on Thursday when the PROMESA teachers got together to celebrate the September birthdays. We had lunch together at the Shultz's and my wonderful cook made a yummy meal of Peruvian chicken and rice and fruit pizza. There were three of us that had September bdays: Me, Ruth & Illari!! As a birthday gift I recieved my very first Peruvian hat!!!

The birthday gals: Me, Illari & Ruth

Another special part of my birthday was a bicycle trip to Ollantaytambo with my friend, Juan Miguel. We rode our bikes from Urubamba (about an hour outside of Cusco in the Sacred Valley) to Ollantaytambo. The Sacred Valley is so beautiful with the river and hills and mountains!!! We took some dirt paths and although our bikes were made for such paths, my body was not. I was so sore and tired by the end. I don't think it's a good idea to take a 3 hr bike ride after not riding one for over a year. By the time we got to Ollantaytambo we were walking our bikes around on the cobblestone roads. The town is so cool with its original stone walls and streets and water system! We also hiked up to view some ruins and enjoyed a yummy lunch. Don't worry, we took the public transportation back instead of riding our bikes. I had a really great day but I can't imagine being able to make it back alive on bike.

Who are these crazy people?

The long and beautiful bike ride.

The beautiful Sacred River in the Sacred Valley!

Me and Juan enjoying a yummy lunch in Ollantaytambo. Either the food was really good or we were _really_ hungry!!

We passed a little girl crying in the street and we cheered her up by taking this photo.

Ollantaytambo and its stones and water system and me!

On Sunday (the actual day of my birthday) we had a small party in my house with friends from church and school. Dawn made an Oreo cheesecake that was delicious and we had all kinds of goodies thanks to my friend's package (ie swedish fish and reeses peices - thanks Jen!!). We played Dutch Blitz and people were in my house from 3 until 8:30pm!! It was a very nice way to celebrate my birthday!!! Yay! thanks to all my new friends who made my birthday special this year!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Integrity Restored

When I first got to Peru I was a little shocked at the abundance of pirated materials. In Cusco there are no Blockbusters or movie theaters but there are plenty of pirated dvds. There are dvds for movies that have not ever been released to disc (true they were copied from the movie theater). I'm not even sure where you can buy the original dvds here in Cusco.

The same is true with music and books. On street corners and in shopping areas are every kind of music and recording that you might be looking for. And copying entire books is a normal thing around here. I remember the first time I received a copy of a photocopied book and thought: how can this be legal?

The sad thing is that these things are even accepted as normal for the Christians here in Cusco. If you are doing a study of a book, then you naturally make copies of the book because it's much cheaper. The Christians buy pirated movies and even pirated Christian music without batting an eyelash.

Enter Carrie into the world of pirated materials.... When I first arrived I was saddened but it didn't take too long to make up excuses and say: "well, that's the culture here..." I didn't want to go out and copy books or buy pirated music but the movies were a different thing. I went out and bought some dvds because I figured that the piraters weren't making too much money and decided that it was more like renting a movie anyway. I wasn't quite sure that I liked the idea but wasn't sure where I could buy "real" movies anyway.

In any case it was all excuses for something that in reality is not pleasing to God. Is it pleasing to God that I become a participant in something that is illegal? Is it right for Christians to join in with what the world does just because it is a cheaper option? If you really sit down and think about it, buying pirated materials is stealing. How can a Christian be blessed by music or books that have been stolen from the original owners? How can we justify things like this? Are we operating with seared consciences just because we don't want to stand for what is right?

Today I was convicted by my sin of giving in to something I knew was wrong all along. I was convicted that God has called me to be a woman of integrity and not give in to the things of the world. I realized that I had been too easily swayed and had allowed excuses to blur something that really was sin.

So, I destroyed all the pirated dvds that I bought.

I didn't really want to do it but the conviction of the Holy Spirit convinced me that it was what I needed to do. I may be living in a culture where pirated things are an every day occasion but I choose from this day forward to stand firm and not give in. What will I do when someone wants me to watch a pirated movie with them or participate in a Bible study with a copied book? I'm not quite sure but I know that I will not willingly buy pirated materials or make complete book copies. God wants me to walk with an integrity of heart where there is nothing keeping me from Him - no sin of any kind that will damage our relationship. I want open lines of communication with my Savior and it's not worth it to make up excuses for sin. May the Lord give me sensitivity to make the right choices that please Him alone!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Baby Shower

You would think that baby showers were a truly North American tradition. After all, no on registers here in Peru and why would you include a tradition of buying gifts in these supposedly "poorer" countries? Surprisingly baby showers do exist in Peru and they are called just the same "baby shower." I don't know why there isn't a Spanish name for this event but there you have it.

I was able to experience my first cross-cultural baby shower last week. This baby shower was for a couple from the San Jeronimo church who are having their first child in a couple of months. It was at their house which was not so easy to find. About five of us got in a taxi with an address and an idea. Unfortunately it was not a very clear idea and we drove to about 3 different places before we found the 3 story house with the balloons. The taxi driver was very patient and we even tried to follow some helpful people's (on the side of the street) suggestions. (side note about asking for directions in Peru: most people will want to be helpful whether they really know the answer or not. You never know if you are getting correct directions.)

The shower followed some standard North American patterns: games, gifts & food. Our game was to do things that a baby would do (some people were better at this than others!). The gifts were not the registered type and there were a lot of blankets with bears. The missionary ladies went in together to buy a walker which looked strangely like a body bag when I tried to wrap it up! The food was snackey stuff like cookies, cheese curls and soda but we also had cake and aji de gallina (a typical dish made with yellow peppers and chicken that is eaten over potatoes, hard boiled eggs and lettuce). The aji was a definite Peruvian touch to the baby shower.

Here are some pictures from the event:

Saturday, September 08, 2007

When God Plans Your Friday Night (ie better than karaoke)

I was out for a night on the town with a friend last night when God did something unexpected and amazing! We were walking along the main street downtown (Avenida Sol) and joking around about finding a karaoke place when suddenly we heard a bunch of commotion up ahead. My friend asked a passerby what was going on and we were informed that some drunk lady was making a scene. My friend surprised me by turning to me and saying: "Let's go see if we can help. Usually people in these situations need a lot of prayer."

Now, I may claim to want to be used by God in whatever situation but I normally avoid drunk people. So, with lots of questions I followed my friend to where the woman was standing in the street. She was yelling: "I just want to die!! I just want to die!!!" She had been trying to throw herself in front of oncoming taxis. My friend pulled her from the street and made her sit down. He took a hold of her arms and kept telling her to calm down and that she did not need to end her life. Her husband and small child were there too. It was a great fight to break through this woman's drunk yelling but my friend patiently talked to her and then prayed with her. I just crouched there and started to sing a song of peace over this woman because you could tell that this desire to die was a spiritual oppression. Finally the woman stopped yelling and prayed a prayer with my friend giving Jesus control over her death and life. Afterwards she just kept going on about how she had wanted to die. The husband shared about their sorrows - how close people around them were dying, their close neighbors and family and you could just see the grief as he sat there and cried. I cried with them and we prayed for both of them and they repeated a prayer with my friend surrendering their lives to God!!! What touched me most was that the woman took my hand as we prayed and I could just feel their pain!!

Today we are planning on visiting this couple in their home. My prayer is that God will use the seeds that were planted last night. That He will completely free them from the oppression of death and that from this point onward they will have NEW LIFE!!! Death is swallowed up in victory!!!! AMEN

So the Lord taught me an important lesson last night and I saw Jesus in my friend. He was not afraid to face a difficult situation because he knew that what these people really needed was God's presence. God really used this unexpected event to shake some things up in my heart and make me see my fear. Why should I be afraid when He really wants to use my life to touch others?? Why should I let fear block the work of the Spirit?? Oh Lord, break open my heart that I would love others not just with an idea but practically with tears, prayers and in the middle of where they are at!!!