Sunday, October 02, 2011

Come with me: A Virtual Prayer Hike

I love the new prayer hike that's been set up on the CORASON lands so much that I thought I would share a virtual hike with you all. I'd love it if you could be here to feel the hot sun, see the amazing panoramic views and feel the physical exertion of this prayer hike but hopefully you can get a glimpse of what it's like and can pray these points for your own city! Thanks to Jenny Brown with the Latin Link mission for putting this together.

The hike starts right above a sports pitch where club CORASON meets on Tuesday afternoon for outdoor games and sports. You can see the ruins right above you. They are covered with a bizarre wooden framing (not sure of the purpose). It'll take you about five minutes to get to them but it's a bit steep so catch your breath.

1. The Ruins
We Confess our sin - that we have not loved you as we should, that we have not cared for others or your world as we could have, that we have not fought for justice, that we have been complacent.
The ruins remind us of the judgement of God (eg Isaiah 5). From here we can also see many new buildings being constructed. Think of Jesus' parable of the builders. (Luke 6:46-49)

From here you can see the first summit above you. Here comes the hardest part of the hike with about 20 minutes of upward hiking. Thankfully, there is a pretty well worn path and you can see lots of beautiful flowers along the way.
2. Summit One
We Open our hearts and minds to your forgiveness and love and to the work of your Spirit in our lives. Help us to hear your voice today.
We find many people encountering God on mountain tops - eg Abraham (Genesis 22), Moses (Exodus 24), Peter, John & James with Jesus (Luke 9:28-36; 2 Peter 1:16-18). Pray that you will be open to God as you spend time with Him today. (Isaiah 6:1-8)

Up on the summit you can see an impressive view of Cusco all spread out in the valley beneath you. It's a wonderful place to remember the God who loves Cusco and continues to work His work there. Up here you'll come across various burnt out fire pits where sacrifices to mother earth have been performed, a humbling reminder that we are in a spiritual war against the powers of Satan.

From this point we'll walk down just a bit to our right in the direction of the next summit. It's a beautiful walk between the two summits and we'll stop at the base of the next summit for our next prayer point.

3. Fissure in the ground
We Remember that you call us to unity - heal our divisions and bring unity to your church.
The large cracks in the ground are a reminder of disunity. Cusco was once called "the graveyard of pastors" due to many failed ministries. We thank God that this is no longer the case but we still need to pray for leaders here and unity (John 17:20-25). Pray for many churches to come and pray on this mountain, and for people who are not yet Christians to meet God here too. (Isaiah 19:23-25, Is 40; 66:18)

I'm really not sure what these cracks and big tracks in the ground come from but it's a good reminder to pray for unity. Now it's time to climb up the next summit. Thankfully it's not as taxing as the last and will only take about ten minutes. On the way up you can notice that the vegetation is slightly different and there are lots of shells from snails! Here we are at the top and the view is spectacular!

4. Summit 2 - Overlooking Cusco
We Ask that your kingdom of love, joy and peace come to this community, the city and this country, and that you would provide the necessities for those who are struggling.
Right beside the mountain at CORASON we have problems with poverty, alcohol, poor education, poor health and nutrition, dishonesty and corruption. (Is 42:1-9, Is 58)

The view here is even better but sometimes people do irresponsible things like letting fires get out of hand. This mountain top is currently a little burnt out. But there is green growing and life under the burnt plants a testimony to the faithfulness of God's work. There is always hope, always green, and always new life! From here we walk down to the right towards a line of trees.

5. Beside the trees
We Stand in your spiritual armor against the forces of evil, rooted in your Word - for our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in the spiritual realm.
In Cusco we see ancient Andean beliefs and superstitions mixed with legalism, religiosity and representations of Mary and many saints made into idols in the Catholic church. Tourists are taken on New Age-type mystical tours. Beside the trees we are standing at the boundary of the CORASON land...spiritually think of standing firm - often we are at a boundary between good and evil. (Ephesians 6:10-18; Isaiah 2; Psalm 1)

There are actually two lines of trees here. The tall eucalyptis trees overwhelm the scene but in front of them is a line of native prickly pine like trees that make up the CORASON boundary line. These trees were planted by people from different churches several years ago. The story is that the Mennonite church planted the most trees and won a computer! woohoo familia! There's such a peaceful feeling beside these trees it's almost hard to remember the battle that we face in the valley where so many are in search of spiritual things but are so utterly confused or deceived!

In this line of trees we'll see a line of metal power towers. At the first one we'll want to start our descent off to our right. Here comes the fun, "choose your own adventure" part of the hike. There's no real path, so you just have to go down and to your right while all along avoiding prickles and cactus like plants. You are aiming for a small resevoir of water. You can tell where it is because of the blue tarp around it. Cross over a fissure/ crack at the bottom of this valley and keep to the lowest path that will take you to the small resevoir of water. You'll want to cross that small stream to get to the other side.

6. Beside the stream
We Offer our lives to you in worship and service, not conforming to the pattern of the world, but living in overflowing love, by the power of the Holy Spirit, remembering the poor, the sick, the oppressed, the lonely and the foreigner.
Beside the stream we think of the water of life and our empowering by the Holy Spirit to live for God. (Isaiah 58:11, John 4:7-26, 7:37-39)

The story of how the pastor found this water here is truly a miracle from God. He had been bringing up water to the mountain but construction of the center was about to start and they needed water. The pastor went off to pray for a miraculous provision of water and began to dig and dig and dig. And he found water and now CORASON has more than enough water!

From this resevoir we can find the path up a little on the right side. It's a sheep path so you'll find wool stuck in the plants along the way. Follow this path around the side of the hill. When it seems to suddenly disappear, drop down instead of climbing up and you'll find the path again. Once you come around the second hill you'll see the CORASON buildings beneath you. The descent is a little tricky so keep to the darker colored parts that look like rock but are really packed dirt. Watch out for slippery spots and loose dirt as you go down.

7. Walking back down
We Name these specific people and situations that need you Father especially right now...
This part is for you to speak to God about your own needs and those of your family, friends, etc. (Isaiah 61; Luke 4:14-21, Isaiah 65:17-25)

By this point you are probably pretty tired but happy for this time with God and walking in His beautiful creation. Certain parts of this hike are hard but it's a rewarding thing to spend that time with Him! In the end we've pretty much hiked the boundaries of the CORASON land! Next time don't forget your hat and some more sunscreen.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Practicing and Learning Eucharisteo

I did it! After nearly six months of writing thank you lists I finally reached 1000!! It all started with reading Ann Vonskamp's A Thousand Gifts back in February. She was challenged by a friend to come up with 100 things she was thankful for and she changed it to 1000 and started writing down things she was thankful for. The book is all about her journey and transformation through the process. She talks about eucharisteo which envelopes the idea of grace and thankfulness. The greek word is used in the context of Jesus breaking bread and giving thanks. So part of her journey of thankfulness is about practicing eucharisteo everyday and being thankful in the big, little and everyday sorts of things.

So I started practicing eucharisteo and writing my list of 1000 things not because it's a magical formula that Ann came up with but because I wanted to learn to see things with the perspective of a grateful heart. There were days that I saw things everywhere that I was thankful for and other days when I tried to be thankful for the hard things. Being grateful in the hard times is the most growing thing of all. But it's the example Jesus showed me because when he was breaking bread he was seeing his own body broken for us. Is THAT something to be thankful for?! Yet he teaches me in His example...all is grace...all is a gift...everything used for my GOOD!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

I'm going to leave you with some selections of my thousand things list. I wouldn't want to bore you with the WHOLE list but maybe this will give you an idea of my journey the last six months.

#4. The silhouetted hills covered in misty clouds
#9. The sound of Plazoleta San Blas waterfall
#13. The way God has a place for me right beside Him
#20. The way the hippie with the clown nose made giggle inside
#29. Fierce and forceful grass poking through ancient stones
#35. Sixteen little statues of liberty running around
#40. That every time God says He loves me, I respond "I love you too"
#46. A big white guy holding the cord of a small skinny llama
      (llama duty so that a kid can go to kids' club)
#58. kindred spirit conversations
#65. A worn used Bible on the taxi dash
#69. The joy and pain of giving up certain dreams for the sake of serving Jesus
#70. Swirls of cinnamon and chocolatey brown as cat and cafe step combine
#87. Carnival: the only day it "snows" in Cusco
#105. The smile of a little country girl when her daddy picked her up
#113. Water coming back on right when I wanted to brush my teeth
#117. "You are always with me and everything I have is yours."
#134. A Quechua lady with a bundle of flowers
#150. The clink of coins in a charanga player pail
#169. For a life saved out of darkness
#183. Sushi color explosion
#194. Fun with mimes in the Plaza de Armas
#213. Little Rocio's "thanks"
#224. Being complemented on eating like a Peruvian: hands on
#238. Ugly beautiful: deep squishy mud on my shoes; a clingy child back at the club; manifestations that demand more when only Christ can satisfy their needs
#253. All those who've linked arms with me to do the work called me to in Cusco
#254. A baby and his song about a button
#278. 60 white eggs
#301. that Jesus doesn't abandon me in the fight but teaches me to stand strong and firm
#310. A prodigal daughter on her way back home
#336. Impromtu child band with plastic bottles
#352. Rejoicing with those who rejoice even though I wish it was me
#385. A gringa in the Peruvian dance off contest
#396. Brightness of the world after rain
#434. A Peruvian grandmother: purple coat and a bunch of wildflowers
#447. Trying a new fruit: mamey - flavor of a purple Flinstone vitamins
#481. Imagining Jesus pointing to himself with a grin when he said that you had to enter through the narrow door
#500. Sparkling diamonds on a lake
#524. A live rabbit in a vegetarian restaurant
#560. Why would you worship something you could touch or see?
#570. the rocking train - "He loves me, He loves me" rocked in His arms to sleep
#590. Silly 80s music videos that make me laugh after a long ghetto bus ride
#637. Bagged roosters doing their jobs in a bus station
#646. grateful for a burst of exercise instead of being mad at a lazy taxi driver
#658. Teaching about God creating the world out on a mountainside
#677. Katerine's comment: "Carrie, I want you to stay forever."
#699. Crying to see the burden man made for himself and remembering Jesus' words: "come to me all you who are heavy burdened."
#708. A fish wrapped in a banana leaf
#725. Hugging a friend in the midst of her pain
#744. Being able to look deep in my heart and see no joy in another man's trouble even though that man troubled me once
#768. Songs on mountain peaks
#774. espresso + caramel syrup + foamy milk + one spoon of sugar = YUM!!
#776. popcorn at the ballet
#793. sleep - sweet sleep
#805. Being a part of the bigger picture
#820. Patchwork sweater makings
#832. Being forced to see new parts of the city in search of apartments
#842. Baron's Earl Grey tea
#856. God working out His work through broken people
#868. A calm heart - my soul a baby content
#897. Deisy's giggles
#907. Walking into the cafe and feeling like it's home
#929. Grace not Anyi (system of recipricocity)
#947. An oreo on my face
#960. The simplicity of the good news
#995. Kites flying in blue blue sky!
#1000. All the thousands of things to be thankful for in the future.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

God's Big Picture

I'm writing this blog entry because I need to remind myself of something. Right now in this moment I need to remember that God is the maker and creator of this thing called The Meeting Place.

Four years ago I met a couple who came with a vision to start a cafe and a ministry to the English-speaking tourists in Cusco. I heard about their struggles to find the perfect place and had fun helping them create a logo and pick out colors for that perfect place. I was here when they left without seeing their vision fulfilled and here when another couple came to lead a church and start that cafe finally. And last year I came back to help when that second couple left and two new families came to lead the church and head up the cafe.

I've seen so much change in the years since I orginally heard this crazy vision to reach out to the English-speaking population of Cusco. With each new person involved the vision has shifted and changed but what amazes me is that four years later the vision still exists. There has been three sets of missionaries involved, all involved are imperfect people, conflicts come and stay but God in His sovereignty has kept it all going.

Maybe I get too focused on the conflicts or imperfections of the day and forget the amazing God who gave the vision in the first place. Because whatever comes from His hand survives all obstacles. He is the God of the big picture and the putter-together of all the peices. He will keep His work going despite all odds and here is the amazing fact: Four years later a cafe exists and an English-speaking church exists. God has used them both to reach a restaurant owner for Christ, to give a Greek tourist a Bible to take home, to help a British friend know that God was real and to help local kids learn more about Jesus.

People will come and go but God's truth remains and His work remains. If the Meeting Place cafe or church is not His then it WILL FAIL. There is a need for a work among the travelers in and out of Cusco. There are many that need to hear the truth of God and if The Meeting Place is not fulfilling that work, God will raise up something else to fill that need.

Sometimes, I wonder about my part in this church/cafe thing. When there are conflicts am I stuck in the middle? I came to be a support of a vision that I believe was from God but what about when the human element gets thrown in and things don't look right? How do I respond? Do I give up? I could stress about everything getting messed up all day long but then I need to remember one thing.

God is the God of the Big Picture...

What a joy to see the fulfillment of a vision come to life! What an amazing thing to see peices put together in the midst of mess. God's heart is that people come to know Him, may I continue to be faithful to pray and seek Him fulfill that in my corner of the world.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Longest Weekend in History

Hey I'm back! I know that it's been eons since I've written on this blog. There's lots of excuses I could give. The most ironic would be that the moments I was most inspired to write on my blog were when my computer hard drive was on the blitz and I did NOT have a computer...oops...

Well, I had such a crazy Easter weekend that I thought I'd share it all with you. It's interesting because that first Easter weekend probably did feel like the longest for Jesus' disciples after all that happened and Saturday probably the longest day of the whole thing. It was a weekend that changed the course of human history forever!

My weekend didn't change history forever but it was jammed packed full of interesting experiences here in Cusco, Peru. I'm sure you'd all love to hear about it! So let me break it down day by day: 

Thursday was a big day for club CORASON as we had two outreach Easter events planned. The Peruvian coordinator Liz and I were in charge of planning these events and let me say it was SO stressful and felt extremely last minute! It even stressed out Liz who is Peruvian and should be used to last minute planning! It was really the first time either of us planned an event like this and trying to work together on it required some grace and patience.

But in the end it turned out to be a beautiful day. In the morning we went to Huillcapay and with the help of the Presbyterians (team & VW bus) and the Mennonites (sound system) and Nazarenes (puppet stage) we put on an event for this community that CORASON volunteers visit once a week. We did face painting and balloon sculpting and put on a program that included songs, puppets, clown, a large guinea pig and barney and wrapped up with a gospel presentation. We also gave out a snack and had a clothing distribution.

Then in the afternoon we did it all over again at club CORASON and invited the kids of the community for a similar program but this time with an egg hunt included. I was afraid that I would never find enough eggs since you can't buy them here. But once again the missionary community came to the rescue and lent me theirs and we were all good. It was a very tiring day especially since I was one of the ones in charge. I think I prefer helping instead of planning but it went well in any case!

On Good Friday I participated in the Peruvian tradition of the "12 Platos" or the twelve dishes. These dishes are eaten in memory of the twelve disciples and can be eaten either on Thursday night (in memory of the traditional Passover meal) or on Friday. The family that we ate with were friends of friends and even though many don't do all 12 dishes anymore this family had exactly the right amount.

Here's the twelve dishes that they served: 1. empenada - a poptart looking sweet pastry with sprinkles  2. a thick bread 3. a sweet bread  4. friday soup (a fishy soup complete with fish eggs and other friends from the sea) 5. rice with seafood  6. fried fish  7. rice and milk dessert  8. wine  9. mazamora - a thick soupy-like pudding dessert, this one made from flour  10. cooked peaches in a syrupy sauce 11. jello 12. chocolate ice cream 

I could only eat nine of them and with that I was very full. Since we were eating with people we didn't really know I felt compelled to eat it all and that was a lot. The funnest part was trying to figure out which food could represent which disciple. Peter surely would be the fried fish, John the rice and milk, Thomas the jello and Judas Iscariot the wine (because if you make him too much your friend he'll betray you). Too bad this doesn't really apply since every family has different traditions as to what 12 dishes they'll eat.

Saturday was a day of prepping for another big day on Sunday. We prepared chicken, potatoes an salad to give away to 200 people. That meant washing everything, seasoning it and putting it in large buckets for the night. And all without running water since the water went off in the apartment where we were having our prep work.

We also had kids' club as normal and I did the resurrection egg story. The kids had fun collecting the eggs but I'm not sure how good I did with presenting the gospel! Thankfully, we've got more weeks to share with them in the future.

Saturday ended with a bunch of the girls who come to the English church watching a movie until midnight in my house. My house guest and I were smart and went to bed with our faithful earplugs!

It all started bright and early with The Meeting Place church sunrise service. The whole thing was my suggestion and I can't believe that they agreed to it! I love sunrise services on Easter morning. It's just the symbolism of what happened early that Sunday morning long ago that inspires me. We had about 30 people for a service out in the plaza. While the pigeons danced and the sun rose we sang praise to God and celebrated the new day filled with a living hope. At the very end as we were singing "Victory in Jesus" the bells of the San Blas Catholic church started ringing. What beautiful symbolism! Too bad they are not very beautifully sounding bells! After service we had a waffle breakfast with everyone in the cafe. I brought a breakfast casserole and we had fruit and coffee. yum....

Then I helped take the chicken and potatoes to the community oven. This was a definite cultural experience! We didn't get any pictures so you'll have to imagine it with me. We were in a big back room where the community oven was and had to lay out our chicken and potatoes on black metal trays (very black). Thankfully we put a layer of brown paper between the food and the tray. We also had to season the potatoes on the tray. There was extra seasoning with the chicken and at one point I took up a chicken leg and started basting the potatoes with the extra sauce. We had to leave the room once because of all the smoke but in the end all 12 of our trays were laid out on the ground and ready to be baked. We picked up the chicken and potatoes later, shoved them in sacks and off we went to the cafe.

At 1:30 pm at the cafe we started to do face painting and balloons and prepare the plates to give away to the people. We had passed out tickets to the families of the kids who come to the club, to street vendors and people whom we always see around the cafe but we still had extra plates. I was of course doing the balloons and it was so warm out in the sun that I got to wear my flip-flops! The pastor (connected to CORASON) came with a group from his church to do background music and preaching. Yes, background preaching...I don't know how else to describe it. Most importantly they passed out invites to their Peruvian church not too far from San Blas.

We passed out plates of food to all the people who had tickets and then went to bring more people. Hippies who hang out in the plaza, homeless people and the police who don't do anything were among the blessed that day. A friend who used to own a restaurant above the cafe said that some of those people had NOT eaten anything in a while like the guy who lived on vodka. We gave it away, gave it away and gave it away till pretty much everything was gone.

What a beautiful way to spend an Easter afternoon! Blessing others on the day that we received the greatest blessing! May God be glorified! I don't think plaza San Blas has every seen so much activity in a long time. I'm so glad that the Meeting Place cafe/church can be a light in this community.

Sunday ended with a delicious Easter dinner with all the CORASON volunteers. We had roast lamb which was my first time ever making it. The buying of it from the butcher lady and prepping it (including cutting off its tail) was a bit much but it turned out lovely and we all enjoyed every part of our meal. The end was a dutch apple pie (layered applesauce, pears and apples) that a Dutch volunteer taught me how to make. DELICIOUS!!

What an amazing long weekend! We celebrated God's work and victory by sharing the truth of the gospel and by showing God's love in practical ways. Aren't you tired after reading all that? Ha! I was so tired after doing it!