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

Friday, April 30, 2010

Cost of burning

Extreme Peru's main purpose or theme is to "carry the light" into the darkness of Peru. Since being here, I have witnessed that there is much darkness that needs to be exposed by the light and good news of Jesus. I know to be a light that there is a cost. It's not always a pleasant experience, but there is pain that is often involved. However, once God has refined us by his fire, we will shine brighter than we ever did before the pain.

This past week was the climax of my pain. I have been struggling with this pain for almost two months now and was getting really discouraged that I wasn't able to do the things that I used to do. I felt that I had nothing to offer to my team or the people of Peru. I was talking to Cailyn about my frustrations and through our conversation God revealed one of the lessons that I needed to learn. I have always been one to serve others, but never feel that I deserve others service or help. This often hinders others from being servants and demonstrates that I really don't love myself the way that I need to. I also expressed to her my feelings of being useless and then read this in my devotional:

"Light is always costly and comes at the expense of that which produces it. An unlit candle does not shine, for burning must come before the light. And we can be of little use to others without a cost to ourselves. Burning suggests suffering and we try to avoid pain. We tend to feel we are doing the greatest good in the world when we are strong and fit for active duty and when our hearts and hands are busy with kind acts of service. Therefore when we are set aside to suffer, when we are sick, when we are consumed with pain, and when all our activities have been stopped, we feel we are no longer of any use and are accomplishing nothing. Yet if we will be patient and submissive, it is almost certain we will be a greater blessing to the world around us during our time of suffering and pain than we were when we thought we were doing our greatest work. Then we are burning and shining brightly as a result of the fire." Streams in the Desert

I don't think that God could had made it any clearer that this is what he was wanting me to grasp! Just to make sure that I got this, I also received this from my dear friend Rachel Kuhn in a message!

This past week I have been in Lima with Elizabeth Lewis, the Extreme translator, going to different tests and appointments trying to discover what is the source and remedy for this pain. Before leaving on Monday night, my entire Cusco team came to my house to spend some time with me and to surround me in prayer. My other teammates also sent me words of encouragement and I had several opportunities to pray with those back home as well. Elizabeth and I had some great fellowship here in Lima. I was even able to see the ocean at sunset (and many of you who know me know about my love for sunsets and beaches)! We were also able to say good-bye to a few of the Extreme staff members, the Drinkwaters and Leanne Bennett, before they went back home (please keep the Drinkwaters in your prayers as Mike undergoes more test to figure out what is the cause of his illness). Another added blessing to our trip in Lima was that we began our process for residency with my Cusco family who came up from Arequipa.

Going back to the cost of burning and being more of a blessing and all that God is wanting me to learn during this time. I went back to the specialist today and received wonderful news: there is no evident problems with my neck or with my muscles! I know I should have been praising God for this report, but instead I was more upset that there still wasn't a solution to my pain. I had been searching for answers and had put my hope in human hands instead of putting complete trust in the ultimate physician. I might not know where this pain is coming from, but I know that it is there and it is something that God is allowing me to go through in order to be that burning light for him. I appreciate all of your prayers and words of encouragement as I continue learning to be patient and submissive during this time of refining.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pain into Joy

Last week I was filled with joy from the Lord and brokenness for the people of Peru, but after a spiritual high usually follows a spiritual low. I have definitely experienced that this week. I had shared in a recent post about the pain that I have been experiencing with my back and how I have been going to a chiropractor to try and get some relief. God has provided funds to make this possible, but for some reason I am not getting any better, but at times feel worse. My attitude was not pleasing to the Lord and I allowed my trial and circumstance to get me down further instead of relying on God's strength and allowing this trial to refine and purify me. Tuesday I hit the bottom and was just overwhelmed with the pain and the fact that I wasn't able to fully do the work that God has called me to do in Peru. I was questioning why I would be brought all the way to Peru just to experience this pain. My thoughts were very irrational and I wasn't allowing God to carry this burden for me, I was just trying to survive on my own strength, and that never works!

My beautiful roommate Cailyn, who received the brunt of my negativity, lifted me up in prayer, encouraged me with Psalm 139, and along with my brother Stephen, called a prayer gathering. Although I thought I was fine and didn't want to inconvenience anyone, it was exactly what we each needed. All of my Cusco family and two of my dear sisters from the Arequipa group came and embraced me in prayer and gave me many words of encouragement. We also lifted up those in Extreme because I wasn't the only one who was experiencing difficulties. It was a beautiful display of what the church is suppose to do: carry each others burdens. My sister Beth told me that this is God's way of purifying me and it will help me become more prepared for what is to come ahead. Another one of my brothers told me that there is a difference in joy and happiness. Happiness is outwardly, but joy comes from the Lord.

These past few days God has revealed to me that there are some trials and burdens that he does not intend to lift, but wants us to allow him to help us carry them. Last night at our group Bible study, Tia shared about protecting our energy source. There were times when I felt she was speaking directly too me. It was exactly what I needed to hear. She mentioned that when we are going through a trial, we need to ask God to give us wisdom to learn what we need to through it and to believe that what we asked for will happen. There was also a part about as we go through a trial, we need to make sure we aren't emotionally taking it out on others, but rather we need to turn our focus off ourselves and onto others.

My prayer and attitude about my pain has drastically changed and am now in the mindset that God will be glorified through this and that as I persevere, I will become even stronger in him. I know that the joy of the Lord is my strength, so I am going to choose to be joyful despite the pain, knowing that this trial will only last for a time.

" The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all". Psalm 34:17-19

"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us". Romans 5:3-5

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Huacsapata: Their reality

Cailyn and I decided after weeks of being asked by our pastor's wife to go to Huacsapata with her, a mission about a 45 minute drive away from the church. Right now our church goes there on Saturdays to work with the children, Mondays for adults, and Wednesday for everyone. I didn't realize or prepare for what we were going into. I had heard stories of children receiving their one healthy meal a week, having no running water in the houses, and having community outhouses, but it didn't become reality until we drove way into the mountains and stepped out into the shack-filled, dusty pueblo.

We entered the little stone shack to a room filled with beautiful children covered in dust and dirt. There were about 30 children yesterday, but I was told that there are 50 children signed up to come. They were divided into age groups and I went with the older children into another one-room shack that I could barely stand up in. After a few games and a quick lesson about honesty, we went back to the mission and had lunch together. They all lined up to get their one healthy meal that they get a week. We ate with them to show that we were equally grateful for the food. A few of the girls were wanting help with English, so Cailyn and I helped them for a while and then we were asked by the pastors wife to come back each week and help teach English to the children. There was no way after seeing these beautiful faces and experiencing their reality that we could say we didn't want to be apart of this.

My thoughts:
My heart immediately broke for these children who I had just met. I was gripped by the thought that this is their reality, this is all they know. After spending a few hours sharing the Bible with them and giving them a bite to eat, we get to go back down to our comfortable, stable way of living, while they remain in these unimaginable conditions. They are equally loved by their creator, but by looking at their environment, it doesn't appear that way. However, we have the unique opportunity and privilege of feeding them both spiritually and physically and telling them just how loved they really are!

Paseos in Language school

So have I mentioned how much I love my Spanish class? It is just my Cusco mom Amy, twin Cailyn and I. We are learning so much, have a wonderful teacher, and spend the majority of class in conversation. We convinced our Elvira, our teacher, that it would be a good change of scenery to go out to a local coffee shop and have class there. She agreed and we had a wonderful time of conversation and coffee. It went so well that we have gone out every Friday for the past month!

Our second trip was a city tour around Arequipa. Even though we have lived here for 2 months, we haven't had the opportunity to see past the main road. We went to two different outlooks of the city, several historical churches, and saw a majority of the countryside. We also saw a historic mansion called El Fundador that was located right next to a very poor district. We even coordinated our clothing which made for great photo opportunities! This city is massive and breathtaking! There is a lot of work for the team down here, but the harvest is definitely plentiful!

For the past two weeks we have had Erica from England sitting in on our classes which has been such a delight! Since Cailyn and I were the only ones in our class that had ever experienced Mundo Alpaca, we decided to take the class there and then go into the centro for some cafe. Although nothing can beat my first trip to Mundo Alpaca, it was a fun time complete with more of Candy (the aplaca that I bonded with on my birthday) and fresh figs. After our alpaca adventure, we met up with Gary and Alex at Pura Fruta for some frozen yogurt and Cafe Britt coffee. Gary had Elvira as a teacher when he was in language school so he was able to come back and impress Elvira with his Spansih. He was also impressed with our Spanish which was quite an encouragement for all of us to hear!

This last Friday we went to a local fruit market and purchased several different types of fruit that are unique to Peru. We then returned to the school, washed them, and then had a feast! My favorite out of the 13 fruits we tried was the granadilla which looks like a sucker on the outside and is filled with slimy seeds that you slurp on the inside. I have now had three of those since our classs on Friday! Since it was Erica's last day and she still hadn't tried cuy (guinea pig), we decided to go to a local restaurant and experience a taste of Peru. It was as horrifying on the patter as it looks in the pictures! Elvira requested that we have the head on it so we could see it in complete form. There was more meat on it than I was expecting, which I'm not sure if that was a good thing. It tasted sort of like chicken, but the skin was a little too chewy for me. After eating, Elvira opened up the head and found a small bone that looked like an animal. It's tradition to find this bone and stick it in a drink and then have everyone take a drink of it. If you swallow the bone, then you are said to have good luck. I was the lucky one to swallow the bone! I'm not sure where our next outing will be, but I am looking forward to getting to know more of this beautiful place I call home!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Giddily and beloved

I just returned from a powerful Bible study with our group that Cailyn and I had the privilege of leading. This message was laid on my heart a few weeks ago and I was suppose to share it last week, but I believe that God's timing was perfect like always. When we came into our meeting, there was a dark heaviness over the entire group because of a variety of things that are going on with our ministry here in Peru, but when we left there was such joy and peace that filled all of our hearts. As Cailyn and I were walking back home, I was smiling and over joyed and the only word that I could use to describe how I was feeling was giddily.

Until recently I had never fully grasped the depth of what it means to be the "bride" of Christ. I had a revelation last fall where I saw Jesus as my betrothed and I was following him as a bride would her groom. There was even a cheesy FFH song, Follow Love, that went along with this revelation and really encouraged me to continue on this journey. However, I had never let it completely transform me until my dear friend Cailyn showed me the parallels between the Jewish marriage customs and Jesus.

Usually when we think of the Last Supper we think of Jesus breaking the bread and sharing the wine with his disciples to represent his body and blood that he would shed for us. This is not exactly how the disciples saw it that night because they were Jewish and we are not. They heard Jesus proposing to them. Crazy I know! You see according to the Jewish marriage customs, when a Jewish man found a woman that he wanted to marry, he would go to his father who would then go to her father and together they would all figure out how many goats and sheep she is worth. The Jewish man would then go to the woman's home in front of all their family and friends and prepare a table with a glass of wine and the marriage covenant presented to the woman. It was against the law for a Jewish woman to be forced into marriage, she had a choice. So he would offer her the glass of wine and if she put her lips to the glass and drank of the wine then it's as if she is saying I accept your life as my own and I will give you mine in return.

From that point on she was known as "the one who was bought with a price" and her betrothed would go away to prepare their home which could take up to a year. During that time there was no communication between them except through the best man. He was the messenger between the couple until the groom finished their house and came unexpectedly in the night to retrieve his bride.

See the similarities in what Jesus did? He offered a glass of wine to his disciples and to the church as a whole to accept his proposal and to become his immaculate bride. When we take of the cup he is offering, we are entering into his new covenant and are his betrothed. His dowry was not goats and sheep though, it was much more costly. It was his life. That's how much each one of us are worth! Then as the Jewish man goes to prepare a house for his bride, Jesus says in John 14:1-3 that he is going to his father's house to prepare a place for us so that we may be where he is. He doesn't leave us alone. He promises to send his best man to send us messages from him, the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-18). And as the Jewish groom appears unexpectedly in the middle of the night to obtain his bride, Jesus will one day return for us and take us up to the house he has prepared for us.

After hearing this, I am just beyond words and filled with love for my savior and betrothed. Though I have been a wayward wife and have been unfaithful at times, he is still committed to me. He is dedicated to each one of us and desires that we be equally as faithful. A song that has really touched my heart and goes along so beautifully with this message is the song "Beloved" by Tenth Avenue North. The artist saw this as what his marriage covenant between him and Jesus would look like. I encourage you to read the words and allow God to form his own marriage covenant with you!


Love of my life
Look deep in my eyes
There you will find what you need
Give me your life
Lust and the lies
The past you're afraid I might see
You've been running away from me

You're my beloved
Lover I'm yours
Death shall not part us
It's you I died for
For better or worse
Forever we'll be
Our Love it unites us
It binds you to me
It's a mystery

Love of my life
Look deep in my eyes
There you will find what you need
I'm the giver of life
I'll clothe you in white
My immaculate bride you will be
Oh come running home to me

You're my beloved
Lover I'm yours
and Death shall not part us
It's you I died for
For better or worse
Forever we'll be
Our Love it unites us
and it binds you to me yea now now

Well you've been a mistress, my wife
Chasing lovers it won't satisfy
Won't you let me make you my bride
You will drink of my lips
And**taste new life

You're my beloved
Forever we'll be
Our love it unites us
And it binds you to me
It's a mystery

Monday, April 5, 2010

Semana Santa highlights

These past few weeks have been filled with different activities and has kept me going everyday (which explains why I haven't healed from the gripe). We began our celebration of Semana Santa or Holy week with a birthday celebration for my new twin sister, Emily. Her Father gracious paid for all of us to go to a beautiful restaurant in the Plaza de Armas to celebrate with Emily. Our entire Cusco group happened to all wear the same color scheme which made for a grat family photo.

We also welcomed in two new members to our group. On Monday we had a breakfast for our friend Blake from Washington who came right off the plane with no sleep into the office for a great american breakfast! He will be in the next cohort serving in Tacna, but came down a month early to help out with a project in Cusco. Thursday we had a gathering at the Wilkins to welcome Gary Crites (who is from the same district as me) into the Arequipa team. Our cohort is now complete and we are excited to see what God has in store.

The Cusco girls had the opportunity to dine with the Linnels who are a couple from Alaska serving here in Arequipa. The food and conversation was amazing! We each went around and shared our stories of how we ended up in Peru and it was interesting to see how God has brought us all together.

For Good Friday, we had a showing of the Jesus film at one of the churches here in Arequipa. Over 30 people came to watch the movie and there were several of them that came to the Lord! What a perfect day to accept the beautiful sacrifice of our Savior!

On Saturday, Cailyn and I had the opportunity to spend the day with our local churches youth group. We took a one hour bus ride out in the middle of the dessert to the small little pueblo of Yura. There the nine of us spent time playing games and swimming in the natural spring water from the mountains. It was a great way to connect with some of those in our church and practice our Spanish! The bus ride home was a little rough though because we had to stand for an hour with about 55 people in a school-size bus!

Easter was definitely different this year, but it was still a day of celebration and praise. I was able to talk with the majority of my family on skype and then headed to a dessert gathering with all the Extreme staff here in Arequipa. I even had the chance to act as an Easter bunny and help with a hunt that we had for the children. My favorite part of the day was after our gathering when the Cusco team and Kindra Bible spent an hour and a half on the roof at the guys house singing songs such as Beloved, How Great thou Art, How he Loves, and He knows my name. We then shared our blessings, concerns, and requests and followed it by a time of lifting each other in prayer. I couldn't imagine a more perfect end to my first Peruvian Pascua!