Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Working With Children and Animals

There's one thing that lets you know that you are in the middle of August in Cusco.


Kids flying, making, fixing or going on field trips to fly them. It's supposedly the windiest month in Cusco and everyone wants to get a piece of the action. We decided that project CORASON shouldn't be left behind in the kite phenomenon. So we made kites with the kids. The younger kids just did a paper version that I had made with my kindergartners in years past but the older ones got pretty elaborate.

They went searching the mountainside for the perfect sticks, lightweight that grow from a local plant. Then they covered their kites with plastic bags or tissue paper. Some even went to the lengths of decorating the kites with designs and giving them fancy tales. They rolled up mounds of yarn for string (some I think wanted to fly to the moon with the quantity they were taking!). I don't ever remember learning how to make a kite when I was a kid but the kids here just seem to know it instinctively!

Then one day we were off singing "Let's Go Fly a Kite" (from Mary Poppins - the kids loved singing that song) and climbing a neighboring mountain by the project. The kids were ready with their kites and excited to fly them. The littlest ones starting running around with their small kites and getting some air (while mostly getting exercise!). The problem with our little outing is that the wind did not cooperate with our kite flying plans. Some kids gave up on their paper kites and tried to find plastic bags.

Then someone decided to start picking flowers and gather them in bunches with the tissue paper from the kites. They looked like the ladies from the market who sell their bunches of flowers. The best was little five year old Angela whose bunch started getting bigger and bigger and bigger. She ran out of tissue paper and started using some "peligro" (caution) tape that some child had brought from somewhere (maybe for a kite tail?).
View from the opposite mount
Thus my English roommate shared with me a saying that fit perfectly with the moment:
"They say in England that you should never work with children or animals because you never know exactly what they are going to do!"

Ha! That's exactly why I like to work with children... They are unpredictable but they are delightful and I think they express a little more of the joy and spontaneity Jesus wants us to always have in our lives. Our kite flying field trip may have not been exactly as planned but the kids and volunteers had a blast out in God's beauteous creation.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

I Heart Cusco!!

So, here I am back in Cusco. It's strange to come back to a city that I've lived in for 3 years. It's like coming home in many ways. I have a clearer perspective of what I'm getting myself into and what this city is like. I'm living in a place where I have history and that makes it feel comfortable and familiar. Yet, I'm living in a different part of town and doing something totally different than the last three years! It's like a new adventure in a familiar place...

As I've been back, I laugh or groan at the familiar things I encounter every day in this crazy city. For me, everything seems new again and yet so familiar. There are good things and then there are the not so nice things about this city. I have been thinking what my response should be to these things. I think that I can respond two different ways.

1. I can recognize the positives and dwell on the negatives
2. I can recognize the negative and dwell on the positives

It could be rather easy to focus on the negatives of this city like the dirtiness and pollution in the river and lack of proper trash service in certain parts of the city or the backwards way of a people stuck in often inefficient ways. Maybe I could complain about the men that pee in the street or the crazy taxi drivers who honk their horns and use arms instead of turn signals. Maybe I could grumble about having to put the t.p. in the trash can or being cold without heat in my apartment. Maybe I could get upset about how the laundry people did something to the zipper on my pants or about how the taxi drivers are always hitting on me. Or I could get annoyed by the kids in the plaza who shove finger puppets in your face or the guys who flash their artwork at you randomly in the street just because you look like a tourist. I could be frustrated by how the contamination in Cusco stays in the valley and might possibly be what gives me congestion or how I'm always out of breath walking up steps. Ha! I'm sure that I could come up with a million other negative things to focus on every day.

Instead, I feel too excited to be back to feel negative about it. Maybe it's that "honeymoon" period again? I think I recognize the negatives but they are kind of like the bad habits of a relative that you love. You might not like their bad habits but you love the person so even their bad habits feel familiar. If I choose to dwell on the negatives of this city, I would be a pretty grumpy missionary. God's calling on my life is to love the people here despite the "bad habits" and to see God do a transforming work in their lives for His glory. So, here's me focusing on some positives about Cusco. This would be why "I heart Cusco!"

I love the view of the city from my apartment window and the crazy windy stone roads downtown. I love the orange roofs and slopping hills of this valley. I love the little girl named Angela at the CORASON project who hugged my legs excitedly when I said that I was going to be around for a while. I love the way everyone is "mamita" or "papi" and how the lady with the taxi service called me "preciosa" (precious). I love the group of tourists taking pictures of some llamas corralled and left at the end of my street while their owners are too far away to ask for "propinas" (tips). I love dancing at Peruvian weddings and eating large pieces of meat with my fingers. I love meeting friends in the street and visiting the school I used to teach at. I love the Meeting Place cafe where I'm learning how to hand pour coffee and baking pastries. I love that the plaza San Blas can contain an alpaca, hippies selling jewelry, tourists wandering around, ladies vending their wares and Peruvian kids playing soccer all in one moment on one afternoon.

I love passionate Hispanic worship and singing "Dancing Generation" in Spanish. I love the black and white dog that hangs out in the street that I walk from my apartment to the cafe. I love the little kids who smile at you and say "hola!" just because you are a gringo. I love Jack's cafe and the lady named Dora who sells chullos (Peruvian knit hats) in front of the restaurant and gives excellent directions to lost gringas. I love being able to walk to most every place I need to go and being able to see interesting sights every day. I love my landlady's father who collects the mail at the corner hardware store where he works. I love playing monkey in the middle with Armando and Ronaldo at CORASON. I love drinking out of "Lanky Llama" mugs on Sunday nights at church. I love group hugs from former PROMESA students. I love that my roommate is British and we hang out with a gal from Australia whose roommate is from New Zealand.

I love seeing the Mennonite church members and feeling like an old friend. I love being able to knit on the public transportation and having random ladies teach you how to cast on stitches the harder way. I love how a hippie was practicing her unicycle on a rope tied to two posts at the end of my street! I love talking only in Spanish to my former gringa roommate and having people stare at us in befuddlement. I love being able to bargain on almost anything and being able to chat with kids working in the plaza (either selling or dressing up in typical costume for tips) about how their day is going.

But most of all, I love that God has called me back to this city and privileged me with the opportunity to be His servant and shine His light here!!!

(Hey, if I ever get discouraged, I'll just come back and remember why I heart Cusco, so!)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Confessions of an "Overweight Baggage" Carrier

I like stuff! I have to admit it, I really do. I like to collect stuff, keep stuff and especially lug stuff around. Lately it’s been from one end of the Americas to the other. I’m not as bad as hoarders who stash piles and piles of things and then are featured on reality TV shows. My belongings are fairly reduced since I took to the missionary lifestyle. Everything that doesn’t go with me fits in a small corner of my friend (and like family) Starr’s attic. That’s great but I have a confession:

I like to over pack!

It’s true and having overweight baggage is the standard instead of the exception. How does one pack two and a half suitcases and a computer bag for life in another country? With as much as she can!!! So, my carry-on exceeds the weight limit because it carries the books I want to read this year and can’t get in Cusco. My other carry on, the computer bag carries not only my computer but books and various papers (it must have surprised the guy at customs today ‘cause he asked if I was a teacher). My two large checked bags carry clothing, art supplies, yarn, gifts and things that I can’t get or are expensive where I live. Every time I travel, I drag around my stuffed carry ons and create callouses on my hands wishing I could have packed lighter.

Even with the best of intentions to only take what I need, I still over pack. My creative mind thinks: this will be useful or I NEED this! How can I not pack the yarn that I bought in Cusco to do a project that I didn’t finish while I was in the states? Why shouldn’t I take that pair of pants that Mandy gave me (after all corduroys are the best for Cusco weather!)? What do you mean it’s not necessary to take a big and small bookbag with me? Didn’t I buy it in Cusco before because I needed it?

Yet with all this excessive baggage people still have mercy on me. They are like the lady at the counter today for my flight to Cusco. Carry ons are only supposed to be 8 kg (17pds) and mine was 19!!! (can you figure out why?) But instead of checking it in for me and charging me for extra baggage she told me just to have them check it in at the gate and avoid charges. Sure, there’s times where I had to pull out stuff and leave them behind. Or times when I had to pay fees. But a lot of times people have had mercy on me or let me slip through!

I pray that with every overweight baggage experience that I’m learning something about living more simply. It’s really all just stuff. The most important things to God are people. Me, the person carrying all that stuff and the people that I will come in contact with here in the beautiful city of Cusco.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Overwhelmed By God's Goodness!

I think I use too many exclamation points in my writing! I don't know but maybe I'm just so excited about so many things that I can't resist throwing them in there. And when you write such a title for this post, an exclamation point is so apropos. It would be wrong to not include such punctuation when talking about God's goodness.

God's goodness has been so evident to me in these past couple weeks. I took a leap of faith and announced a date and believed that God would provide all my funds by a certain date. God would still be good even if all the money didn't come in but I've been overwhelmed by His goodness because it ALL came in right when I needed it and God has continued to provide! On June 25th, I not only had 76% of my support but a free plane ticket to Perú on the exact day that I needed to get back into the country!!!! (that sentence really needed more than one exclamation point)

Not only did God do all that but He continues to provide. I am confident that I will go back to Cusco with all that I need. Isn't God good? He would be good even if He just loved me and asked me to stick around here a little longer but He's overwhelmingly good because He backed me up when I took a step of faith to believe that He would provide in time. Yay!!!

So, on July 18th I will be getting on a plane and flying back to Perú once more! I'm excited about serving Him once more in the beautiful city of Cusco. It will be a very different experience from the last three years but the change is good. God has good things prepared for me to do and new things to teach me that I'm eager to learn. Bring it on, good God, bring it on!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Yokes and Llama Pants

I'm not quite sure why picking a date for leaving for Perú felt like such leap of faith. Maybe it's because I don't want to be wrong or put a date on God's timing. I wanted to go back to Cusco as soon as I could but I remembered three years ago when I was so eager to go and support raising took four months longer than I originally planned. But I eventually got all my funds in and was able to leave - Praise God!

But in my May newsletter I took a leap and announced that I had a time frame. I do have a good reason for having a time frame. If I stay out of the country for more than 183 days I will lose my Peruvian residency card. That residency card allows me to be in the country legally with a religious non-catholic visa. It does cost a good amount for those cards and not something that I want to lose. So, July 19th will be 183 days!

Can I make it back in time? Will I have the 75% support by the end of the month so that I can buy my plane ticket? Will my church support me? Will I get enough other supporters to fill in the gap? There are a lot of questions that could fill me with worry and fear. But I won't allow myself to go down that path.

If this was just about me carrying the burden of support raising myself, I could get pretty depressed. Instead I remember who is carrying the burden with me: Jesus! He's teaching me and leading me as I trust Him and walk with Him.  He says:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.      Matthew 11:28-30

I grew up hearing this verse but never really realized until this weekend that Jesus is inviting me to walk under the yoke with Him! He's not going to remove my burden but instead He will teach me how to walk under it with Him. It's wonderful to know that rest comes in walking beside Him.

So, as I walk under this burden of support raising with Jesus, I'm trusting Him and His provision. He's already being so faithful! When I sent out my newsletter last week I only had 27% and now I'm up to 45% of my support! Woohoo! God is faithful. Thank you for praying for God to come through this wonderful month of June. Here's my llama and his pants!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

God's Forever Kind of Family

When my family was split up fourteen years ago because of the separation and divorce of my parents you can imagine the devastation I went through. It's not like life at home was the best. I specifically chose a college farther away so that I could be away from my parents fighting and the depressing atmosphere of my home. Still everyone longs to belong to a family and my heart was no different.

As I look back over the years I see that instead of shrinking my family that my parents' separation has actually grown it. You may wonder how that's possible but God who is author of the impossible was in charge. Even though my family was split and scattered He started to fill in the gaps.

God bought moms and dads and sisters and brothers around to fill in those gaps. Friends from college took me home with them over the weekend. God brought great friends into my life who were like sisters to me. Other friends let me live with them. My small church felt like family. Even to this day God continues to send more people who become like family to me!


Sometimes I get a little depressed when I think about the state of my actual nuclear family. I haven't seen my oldest brother for eight years and my youngest brother has grown up like an only child. The part of my family that I do see seems very small. But when I think about all those people God sent to fill in the gap I am amazed. How could end up with such a large family after all?

Do you know why I think that they are like family? My place with them is secure because we are all a part of the family of God. There may not be that connection with everyone in the body of Christ but God puts certain people in our path that stick. The years may go by and circumstances may change but you feel safe with each other and love each other even with the passing of the years. You support each other through the ups and downs and when you are together sometimes it's just as if the years hadn't passed by at all.

I just spent nearly two weeks visiting some of my "family" in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. I wish I had pictures of all those sweet people! They are people that God brought into my life just when I needed them. People who still love me and believe in me despite the distance and time that had passed. Brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers...all a part of God's family. And do you know the best part of being a part of the family of God? It's a forever kind of family!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

All Wound Up and Waiting...

Have you ever seen one of those old-fashioned wooden tops? They are wound up with string and then tossed to set them spinning.

The kids in Perú love those tops. If you walk down the streets of Cusco, you can see kids somewhere playing with them. Winding them round and round and round with the string and let them go with a flick of the wrist. Some of my little 5 yr. old students were really good at tossing those tops and making them "dance" (as they called it).

I've been thinking about how I feel a lot like one of those tops. I'm all wound up with excitement and a passion for what God is calling me to do back in Cusco. I'm the top and the vision that God has given me to reach kids through the CORASON project and to be a light to the people in Cusco is the cord that wraps round and round and round my heart.

Someone said to me once that maybe God brought me back to the states for a time so that He could increase my passion for what He wants me to do back in Perú. I think he was right! The longer I stay here in the states the more that I want to go back to Cusco, Perú and the more excited I get about all that God is calling me to do. It's like the cord is getting wound and wound tighter and tighter.

I'm ready to go!!! I'm ready to fling free and start doing my crazy top dance. I'm ready to get back to Cusco and do the work God is calling me to do!!!

But here I sit all wound up and waiting...waiting...waiting... I can't fling myself out and I can't do this alone. I need someone to take a hold of my string, pick me up and with a flick of their wrist fling me out. I need a team of people who will pray for me, support me financially and send me out. Just like a top can't start dancing without a hand to fling it out, I can't get back to Cusco to serve God without the funds necessary.

So, are you interested in helping to fling me back to Perú? Pray for me! But also support me financially because together we can see how all the passion God is putting in me for the people in Cusco can become a dance where He gets all the glory and His light shines brightly!!

Please pray about partnering with God's work in Cusco, Perú and supporting me monthly at $100, $50 or $25 a month. Thank you!

You can send donations to:
Commission To Every Nation
P.O. Box 291307, Kerrville, TX 78029

or donate online at:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Time for a CRASH Landing!

Transition is ummm....awkward...(insert awkward pause for extra emphasis).

I should know since TRANSITION defines my life since I coming back from 3 years of serving as a missionary in Perú. I finally landed back on my home planet. It sorta feels like I've been gone to a different planet these last three years. A book that I read about reverse culture shock referred to it as re-entry. RE-ENTRY is the term for the stress and strain the space shuttle faces when going back down into the earth's atmosphere.

Why so much fire? Why can't the descent be easy? This country has been all that I've known for thirty years prior to living in Perú. How can three years lived in a different country make you feel so DIFFERENT? There haven't been too many extreme changes since I've been gone (maybe a new president and problems in the economy). The people look the same, the language and culture is the same, and everything is very familiar. So why do I feel so strange here??

I think it is the disconnect that happens when you live somewhere different and return to where you used to live. You may have changed a lot but things seem the same back on the "ranch." You've slowly been getting used to life lived differently with a different culture, climate and people. It may be a very subtle change that you can't see on the outside but living in another country really affects who you are and maybe even how you act and think.

This whole experience has felt like a crash landing. Have you ever seen the cartoon Duck Tales? It used to be one of my favorites! It has a character names Launchpad McQuack who just can't seem to land a plane right. He usually ends up crashing it. Here's a typical conversation between him and his boss Scrooge McDuck.

Scrooge McDuck: Launchpad, is this a stunt you learned in flight school?
Launchpad: Flight school?
Scrooge McDuck: You mean you *never* took flying lessons?
Launchpad: [lunkishly] Well, I took a crash course.
Scrooge McDuck: Now he tells me.

Somehow, when coming back to the states I felt like I climbed on Launchpad's plane and had no choice but to crash land. I felt emotionally overwhelmed and it was hard even to define why. Sure there were a lot more choices at the grocery store and there was snow and I was driving a car again. Maybe I did miss living in Cusco, the beauty of the mountains and the culture/people I had grown to love. But I think for me it had more to do with disconnect - coming back and not having a place in society. I had no personal home to go to, no job, no car and felt disconnected from my church, friends and acquaintances. That feeling of disconnect isn't one bit lovely.

Thankfully after my crash landing, I had friends around to help brush me off. Friends who took me in to live with them, who lent me their car and happily listened to my stories of Perú. Friends who love and encourage me, who worry about how I'm doing and tell me to come over when I'm feeling lonely. But most of all, I have a God who does not change and is with me wherever I go. I have a God who gives my life meaning no matter how disconnected I am from the world around me, who crashes with me and helps me to crawl out of the plane and keep on going!