My grandmother moved to an Assisted Living / Skilled Nursing facility during the past year. Although it was a difficult decision, it has been such a blessing in her life and has really changed the quality of her days. During my recent visit to Texas, I have been able to visit with her on numerous occasions.
My grandmother has found a new purpose in life. She has her own special form of ministry to several of the other
residents. I witnessed her as she helped one elderly man who is frequently confused and scared. The staff actually comes and gets my grandmother when they can’t get him to calm down and focus. Gama is able to talk him down and restore some peace in his mind. Another resident is afraid to go to dinner because she gets disoriented and can’t find the dining room or can’t find her way back to her room. But she WILL go to the dining room if my grandmother will go with her and help her stay on course. While in the elevator one day, a visitor stopped to ask Gama if she would be sure to go by his mother’s room and get her before chapel time. These connections and relationships seem to have given my grandmother new meaning. She is needed. She is making a difference in the lives of others.
Last week, a new resident came to live at the home. Gama was concerned for her. Miss Sara only speaks Spanish. She can’t communicate with the nurses or with the other residents. She is confused and frustrated and sad. Her daughter comes to see her some, and she can help translate for her when she is there. But the majority of the time, poor Miss Sara is “alone” in an English-speaking world. Gama was worried about her.
We went to visit Gama today and we were able to meet Miss Sara. Since we are Spanish-speakers, we were able to sit and talk to her for a while. The nurses were able to talk to her, through us, to ask her some questions about her hobbies and desires. My daughter, also named Sarah, was able to bring Miss Sara some of that special joy that only children can bring to the elderly. Yes, Miss Sara is sad and lonely, confused and frustrated. We will be visiting with her more in the coming days.
We’ll try to help the staff a little and try to make some connections that will ease Miss Sara’s transition into this new step in her life. I’m glad we are able to speak to her in her heart-language and bring a little comfort to her.
Ministry is everywhere. My family happens to serve as missionaries in Peru, but we are also able to serve when we are in the States with people like Miss Sara. My Gama is serving in her everyday life in her new home. Take some time today to consider where it is that you are serving, or where you might be able to serve. You might consider going to visit at your local nursing home. Maybe there is a Miss Sara out there who desperately needs someone like you today.
(Written in December - week before Christmas)
I don’t know about your household, but this household has been anything BUT peaceful over the last couple of weeks! We are “home” in Texas for Christmas and life is moving at a frightening pace here. There has been shopping to do, food to
prepare, cookies and candies to bake, and gingerbread houses to decorate. There have been parties to attend, gifts to wrap, cards to mail, decorations to be hung, and traveling to visit family and friends. I’m exhausted! It seems like the only peace and quiet time available comes between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., and frankly I’m just too tired to do anything during those hours right now.
I found myself sitting in the car yesterday, almost in tears, wishing for peace. Not just the unscheduled time-kind of peace, but the quiet-kind of peace, too. I wished for a place, for an hour or two, with no television and no loud-speaker Christmas music. No radio, no commercial jingles for Christmas gifts, no telephone. I wished for the peace that I see on the faces of the nativity figures in my mom’s nativity scenes. Everyone looks calm. I can imagine the tender sounds of the animals in the stable. It makes me miss my chickens and goats and pig back in Peru, with their sweet barnyard sounds and nudges and soft fur. I miss the donkey that brays in the morning and the sheep that softly call to their lambs. I long to be in the barnyard with the smell of fresh grasses and corn, with an amazing sky full of stars overhead and the magnificent Andes mountains looming all around me, the cold wind swooping down from the glacier and covering our valley with clean, crisp air.
I received an answer during this moment of longing and wishing yesterday. God hears our heart, even when we aren’t intending to pray or lift up our needs or issues – He hears. He gently reminded me that the peace in the nativity scene was laying in the manger… the Prince of Peace. I knew that, but needed to be reminded yet again. God gently said to me, “I know it’s loud. I know it’s busy. I know you are overwhelmed. I know that you long for peace and quiet and the beauty that those should bring to this season. I also know that the demands of culture and tradition aren’t going away. But focus! Keep your
focus. You are My Child and I know your heart. I’m with you, even in the noise and busyness of this time. I’m walking with you. We’re still together. Turn to me at any moment and I’ll be there.”
So I found Peace.
He never left me; I was just so overwhelmed that I couldn’t find
Him. Peace amidst chaos, Peace
amidst noise, Peace that is walking with me through it all, and Peace that
understands and hears my heart and promises to stay - no matter
My first Christmas on the field was pretty eye opening for me. Our first Christmas away from “home”was in Costa Rica at language school, which is the last big training step before we arrived in Peru. Granted, we were already having a difficult time… language school is NOT easy, the culture in Costa Rica was very different from what we had expected, our family was having a hard time adjusting, etc. And I guess I just never thought about what Christmas might be like for us as a family somewhere else.
I did have the forethought to pack our family Christmas stockings – so at least something from “home” was there and “normal”
for us. But I had underestimated my attachment to other things that were so tied to our Christmas traditions… my
Christmas dishes, my family ornaments, certain foods… suddenly I realized that these things were not going to be a part of my Christmas this year. And in a mother’s effort to try to make life (and Christmas) as “normal” as I could for my children, I began to go into a manic frenzy trying to find ornaments and things that would help us cope.
Big issue… we were spending Christmas in a tropical country in Central America! Guess what they don’t have? Nothing with snowmen, nothing anywhere close to hot chocolate, no gingerbread houses with snow icing, no cinnamon apple scented candles… none of that! And all the while, leaf-cutter ants were outside my front door destroying a rose bush and reminding me (I think they were taunting me) that I was living in a rainforest country and CI really started to go into a tailspin. I shopped everywhere to find ornaments or decorations that reminded us of home and a traditional Christmas, but to no avail.
So that was the Christmas that we had a tropical Christmas tree. We had a tree and we had decorations, but that is where the similarities to our traditional Christmas stopped. Our ornaments were tropical birds and rainforest butterflies, tropical flowers and brightly colored ribbons. It was different! (Okay, it was actually pretty. But it was tough to break the traditions from home.)
There was some normalcy – on Christmas Eve, our Costa Rican church held Christmas Eve services, complete with Christmas hymns and candles and full of families worshiping and sharing the reason for the season – worshiping our Savior Jesus! I
learned a lot that first Christmas away – I learned a lot about me and my ties to tradition, about my worries as a mother, about how other people celebrate in other cultures… but most of all I learned what Christmas IS and what Christmas ISN’T. It was a good lesson and a great Christmas!
During the past couple of weeks, the water and/or electricity have been off at our house several times. Sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for the entire day. The longest period was over this weekend… no water or electricity for two full days. We never know when this will occur. We just turn on the faucet and nothing comes out.
I have noticed several feelings that this evokes in me each time:
· It always seems to take me by surprise and I am shocked to be without water again.
· It is always a disappointment to me and causes me a slight feeling of depression.
· I am suddenly “in need” of water for various reasons… there are vegetables that need to be washed, I need to cook, laundry needs to be done, we are desperately in need of showers, the plants are wilting, the dishes are dirty, etc.
Having just recently moved to this remote, rural mountain community, I am learning just how much I have always taken some things (modern conveniences) for granted – like running water that I can count on to always be “running”.
It also dawns on me that I often take Christ for granted –my Living Water. He is always there, always available, always working, always flowing. What if, one day, I woke up and found out that He had been cut off from me? That the valve to my Living Water had been closed? Would I be taken by surprise? Would it cause me disappointment and depression?
Would I suddenly realize just how much I need Him? Just how much I want Him? Just how much I take His presence for granted? Thank Heavens that I don’t need to worry about that ever occurring!
Father – may I always be conscious of you. May I always be connected.
And may I continually remember the presence of my Living Water.
PS… my husband just informed me that (Surprise!) we don’t have water again… seriously.
(This blog was written in November. As of today, our community has been without running water for over a month. The project to replace the community water main has been slow and difficult and has not gone as planned. As I post this note, Billy is outside digging with a pickaxe to replace the water lines to our house... he will need to dig approximately 100 yards from our faucet to the new water main so the "powers that be" can come and connect the pipe. He is digging through Andes rock... pray for him! Hopefully, we will have water within the week.)
In Peru, most everyone knits or crochets. We have sheep and llamas and alpacas in abundance, so knitting is a skill that most people learn in childhood. In daily functions, it ranks right up there with walking, breathing, and eating. I have tried really hard
to fit into the culture and learn to knit. I’ve really worked on being culturally appropriate and becoming one with the yarn and the people… but honestly, I can only knit one particular stitch (and it isn’t very pretty). I can crochet an incredible “rope” for a Barbie, but that’s where my talents end. I even had one Peruvian lady say to me, “If you can’t knit, what good are you?
Everyone can knit!” Sad day.
I knew I had found my Peruvian best friend when I finally met a woman who admitted that she couldn’t knit or crochet. In fact, she said that she hates it! I can’t tell you how much better this made me feel! Elva might not be able to knit, but she is the queen of embroidery. All of the women in our community admit that Elva is the best. She embroiders the most elaborate
Peruvian traditional skirts you have ever seen. Embroidery is also something that most women on the mountain do, so I saw my chance to “fit in”… I would become an apprentice to Elva and learn to embroider from the master.
Well, I must say, the technique that Peruvians use is amazing and difficult and fascinating. These ladies know more about color and art than anyone I have ever met. And they are FAST! They can embroider entire flowers, birds, and butterflies before I can finish the petal of a daisy! And they embroider with both hands actively.
I learned very quickly that, although I am much better at embroidery than I am at knitting or crocheting, I am still no
expert. My right hand seems to understand the big picture and it works diligently. However, my left hand seems to have a mind of it’s own. It’s like it isn’t attached to me. My brain tells it to go up and it goes down. My brain says “go a little left”and my hand inches further and further to the right. It has even gone so far as to attack my right hand with the needle and cause bodily injury! What is wrong with this crazy left hand? Why can’t it obey what my brain is saying? My brain knows what my
hand should do, what it needs to do, but my hand just doesn’t seem to want to cooperate!
Little by little, my left hand is beginning to learn. It is, by no means, a “skilled worker” yet, but we are getting there. Occasionally, it still goes rouge and does something crazy. And occasionally, it still has a radical moment when it stabs my poor right hand. For the rest of my body, it is a practice in patience as we slowly learn and train the left hand.
This reminds me of Paul in his letter to the Romans (Rms. 7:14-20). In short, he says, “I do not understand what I do.” And, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot seem to carry it out. What I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” Paul is talking about sin in his life and the constant struggle that it is to try to train himself to do what is right, but his flesh continues to go it’s own way and do what is wrong. Much like my alien left hand who continues to do the opposite of what my brain is telling it to do! However, also like my left hand, with continual practice and patience and
attention to the problem, slowly we learn and grow and begin to obey and do what we know is right.
I’m working on my struggles with my left hand.
I’m also working on my personal struggles with my flesh.
I know that sin will be a constant struggle in this life and I won’t be made perfect until the end, but I also know that with attention and patience, perseverance, prayer and connection to my Savior, I can do all things through Christ!
(Maybe even learn to knit…)
I spend a lot of time with rocks. Not really on purpose, I just happen to be surrounded by them. It is part of life when you live in the middle of the Andes mountains. Our yard is full of rocks. The farmland is rocky. Even my adobe house is more rock than adobe mud! We live in Peru and we minister to three communities of Quechua Huanca people. “Huanca” means rock in the Quechua language, so the Quechua Huanca people are the “Rock People”. Interesting name for a people group. I have asked about this several times and the answer is always the same… in their own words, the Quechua Huanca are “hard”people. They work hard. They lead hard lives. They have “hard hearts”. They even have a dialect and speech pattern that sounds “hard”. We haven’t found them to be especially hard people – we happen to love them a lot! Rocks and stones have special
importance for me and for the people here on the mountain, and I spend a lot of time thinking about them and the references that people have for them here.
Recently, I was reading a friend’s blog regarding Ebenezer stones. In the Bible passage in 1 Samuel, Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—"the stone of help"—for he said, "Up to this point the Lord has helped us!"(1 Samuel 7:12, NLT). There are other references in the Bible where God’s people came through trials and erected Ebenezer stones or small pillars of stones to symbolize God’s help and to stand as a reminder of God’s provision and help.
This reminded me of other rocks here in Peru and of their meanings – very different meanings than the Ebenezer stones.
While hiking in the glacier range across the valley from us, we have to hike through an area that is all rock. There is no way to see a path or trail in this area because there is no actual “ground”, just rocks and boulders. We always hike to the glacier with a guide because of this. He knows the way. He has been hiking here all of his life. He knows the path.
In this particular area, there are hundreds of small pillars of rocks. Hikers call these “cairns”. They are usually placed along trails in strategic places so that hikers can find their way and not lose sight of the correct path. But there are literally HUNDREDS of these cairns in this particularly treacherous area and there is no way to know which ones are the correct ones to follow. So I asked our guide, Luis, “Why are there so many? Why would the hikers place so many cairns here? How do you know which ones to follow?” His answer was shocking and sad… “Many years ago, the witches of the Andes (yes,
witchcraft is very real and very strong here in the Andes – there are many practicing witches in these mountains) learned that the hikers and travelers were using this technique to mark their way through the mountains. So they devised a plan to trick them and trap them. They began to put cairns everywhere and confuse the travelers. When the travelers would get off the
true path and follow the wrong way, they would become lost forever in the mountains and eventually die in the cold. When the witches put up a cairn, they leave offerings and sacrifices to their gods. It is an evil plan, but it works for them.” For this
reason, the rocky area with hundreds of cairns is known as “The Witch Temple”.
This makes me reflect on life in general. Am I erecting rocks and pillars in my life that are evidence and reminders of how incredible God is? Of his provision and his help? Of his true leadership and protection? Or do I follow false pillars? Am I easily led astray? It is so important to follow the “true way”,to know the path, to stay close to The Guide and trust in His wisdom. How easy it is to become distracted! It is so important to stay connected to the One True Rock!
Serving Christ in Peru
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!