This Week.

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First week of classes! Here are the 3 students I have all day. The two boys are on the computer with one curriculum all day; the little girl I work with one-on-one teaching English and trying to catch her up on her studies.

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This is the other half of the classroom. In the afternoons, two American Bible school girls come in to teach English more extensively. One works with the same girl I have all day; the other works with 2 six-year olds and one 10-year old with Down’s Syndrome.

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Brian and I standing in our new house! The concrete is poured around the perimeter, the wood is ordered, and it should be done within the month. Actually, technically, it HAS to be done within the month. We live in the guest house and it’s booked for the month of June, so we have until the end of May to get out! We’ve been spending free time looking online for ideas for tile, paint, fixtures, and furniture. Almost overwhelming since we are LITERALLY starting from scratch. Any good ideas??? I’m CLUELESS!

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And this is Sue. One of my bridesmaids and closest friends ever! She is a nanny in California and she took ten days off work to come down with the boy’s computer curriculum. She was a teacher for many years and is one of the best I’ve ever seen. And now, she works with an autistic child. So – it worked out wonderfully. She helped me set up the school and had tons of ideas on how to make it function better. She was also a huge help with my little girl who has Down’s; I feel much more confident about teaching her now. Sue was such a God-send. It never ceases to amaze me how God works things out like this.

And last week – we got our carnets! We are now official Peruvian residents. It was a day-long process, but it’s OVER! Praise the Lord! 🙂

AND ~ I’m an aunt for the first time! Brian’s little brother and his girlfriend had their first baby girl on Friday after almost 24 hrs of labor. They had an 11lb, 22″ baby girl named Denali Marie. Yup. Eleven pounds. Christine is my new hero. 🙂 We are so happy for them, but we were surprised at how much it DID affect us NOT being there. We’ll meet Denali in a year and a half. Crazy. Our second niece (or nephew!) will be born any day now as well to Brian’s older brother and his wife. Kind of wish we were there. And yet… we finally feel at home. I’d hate to leave now.

On the other side of the ocean.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written anything about our sending church. I won’t go into grave detail, but I thought I would give a brief update.
 
Things really came to a head the week after we left for Peru. Things kept getting worse and worse and finally, I think it just exploded. People have been very upset; rumors have been flying about any number of random things. My father hasn’t slept in over a year. My mom has been more stressed out than I thought possible. But, the deacons have come around my father. After listening to literally HOURS UPON HOURS of debate, discussion, and arguing, the deacons finally came to some very real conclusions. Letters of explanations were read (and some were NOT read because of their devisive content). And then on Wednesday it was announced that it is OVER. There will be no more discussion and no more tolerance of any of this nonsense. The people who were the most vocal are gone. The ones who think along those same lines are gone. All but one of the deacons is in support of my father. The vast majority of the congregation is in support of the deacons and my father. And they’re even voting on a youth pastor next Sunday.
 
For the first time in months, my dad actually relaxed on his day off this Thursday. He didn’t put in extra hours. He didn’t have meetings where he got yelled at and chewed out. He went golfing. He took a nap. And my parents breathed a little easier.
 
It’s been really hard seeing my parents go through this. I was dragged into part of the mess and told I have ” no idea what’s going on” and that none of this affects me whatsoever. I beg to differ. It’s been a nightmare watching my father go through this for YEARS, not just weeks or months…YEARS. It’s been horrible watching him age and his health go downhill because of what? Because he cares so deeply about the congregation. Because he cares about the families that were leaving. Because he cares about doing what God has called him to do and not feeling like he’s been able to for five whole years. Yes. This affected me much, much more than anybody but Brian and God realizes.
 
But – it’s over. Maybe not in everybody’s minds. But, the discussions are over. The rehashing and rehashing and debating and “discussing” and fighting and backbiting and arguing…it’s not going to be tolerated. My mom said that joy in the church is FINALLY palpable. For the first time in two years, my mom looks forward to Sundays.
 
It’s amazing how one small sin can get ahold of an entire church body, bloom, grow, and swallow people whole. It had to be dealt with. And it was. I am so thankful for the 10 deacons who have put in hundreds of hours over the past few months! They deserve some sort of recognition. I’m so thankful that God pulled some miracle-strings and changed the attitudes of the church body and fixed this whole mess.
 
If you said even one prayer for my church or my family – thank you.

Garden Grief.

My favorite part of the Easter story is when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. This part of the story gets me every time. I’m fascinated by it.

See, Mary Magdalene had had a hard life. We tend to skip over the verses where it says, “and Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus cast out seven demons from.” We read that and think, “Wow – that’s pretty cool,” but that’s where our thoughts end. Some speculate that Mary Magdalene and Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus are the same person. What if that were true? Even if it’s not, let’s take a look at who Mary Magdalene was.

We know she was from Magdala. We know she was possessed by seven demons. We know that after her freedom, she followed Jesus faithfully. If she was also the sister of Lazarus, then we also know that she eventually returned to live in Bethany with her family, saw Lazarus raised from the dead, and anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume and dried them with her hair. We know for sure she was also at the crucifixion, the burial, and the resurrection of Christ. She was one of the first to not only see Jesus personally, but it was also her testimony that was one of the first given to the disciples about Jesus’ resurrection.

“Possessed by seven demons.” That’s a phrase we don’t hear too often these days. But, demon possession occurs. Did it occur more often in Jesus’ day? Maybe. Merely because the Holy Spirit had not arrived so there were more people to be indwelt by an evil spirit than there are today. How did Mary become “possessed”? We don’t know; although some speculate that she worshiped Molec – a god who demanded child sacrifices and whose priests knew how to perform abortions. He was an evil god that Jehovah had commanded the Israelites have nothing to do with. Regardless of what she was involved in, the point is that she was possessed. We know today that demons tend to take on the name of whatever they are doing. For example, if you ask a demon what their name is, they tend to give you something like, “Adultery;” “Lies;” “Fornication;” “Drunkenness.” The name “Legion” means “many” and that was exactly what was wrong with the man, Legion – he was possessed by many, many demons.

Who tormented Mary? We can wager guesses, but we have no idea who these demons were. We just know she had seven – meaning, seven distinct evil spirits who ruled and controlled her life. Just having one evil spirit in you would mean that you don’t have control – they rule over you – you are theirs. To have seven spirits living inside of you would be literally madness. It would be chaos. We can picture a crazed woman roaming the hillsides of Magdala, probably well-known, probably ill-kept, probably lonely and left alone.

And then enter Christ. We know that the demons know God and tremble. They are forced to bow the knee and obey our King of kings and Lord of lords. We are not given the encounter between Jesus and Mary and her demons. It’s just a verse or two that say, “and Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus cast out seven demons from.” Such a simple phrase and yet we know, this was huge! This encounter would’ve been dramatic and probably traumatic for everyone involved. Mary would have seen and experienced firsthand the power of Almighty God. We can pretty much guarantee that she had tried to get rid of her demons – maybe even had others try to get rid of her demons. But, when Jesus came into her life, the demons fled. They trembled before the Son of God Himself and Mary was set free.

Makes sense that she followed Him, doesn’t it? To see this power and then not want to be near it again would seem odd. Mary was a faithful follower. If she was Mary the sister of Lazarus, then we know she was a faithful student, willing to just sit and listen to Jesus teach for hours on end. If she was also this same Mary, then we know that she was grateful. She wanted to show Jesus her love, her gratitude, her unworthiness. She was willing to humble herself by using her hair to wash His feet. She was willing to give up what she had and broke her vial of expensive perfume on His feet. She knew Jesus personally. She knew Him intimately. And she loved Him dearly.

If she was Lazarus’ sister, she also would have seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. She would have witnessed for a second time, the awesome power of Almighty God. She would have known His power over death and life.

Mary was present at the crucifixion. We can assume if she was a faithful follower, she was also there at the “trial” and the walk to Golgotha. She witnessed this powerful God being humiliated, tormented, crucified, and rejected. She of all people knew His power. Yet, she watched Him die. I wonder if she thought she was watching her hope die? I wonder if she was confused and no longer knew what was true and real anymore? I can picture this broken woman, sobbing at the foot of the cross, in agony, in immense heartbreak, crying out – “Why?!”

The pain would’ve been palpable. And then to watch Him taken off the cross, wrapped in burial cloths, and lain in a tomb. I can’t picture her leaving until the stone is rolled in front of the tomb and she is forced to go home before nightfall. I bet she memorized the entire scene because it would be three days before she would be able to return to say her last goodbye.

Those two full days must’ve been interminable! I can’t even begin to imagine the grieving that would’ve taken place. The pain, the emotions would’ve been overwhelming. The questions would’ve been haunting!

Sunday morning. The slow walk to the tomb. The memories, the thoughts, the questions – and yet the only thing these women are recorded discussing is how to move the stone. Women grieve differently than men. The men were afraid and their fear drove them to stay home and not go to say final goodbyes in person. The women had to touch His body. They would not be content handing the burial spices to the guards and trusting them to do such a sacred thing. They had to go. They had to go early. They had to go quietly. They had to go. They had to touch Him. They had to see Him. They had to talk to Him. They had to go.

But, He wasn’t there! How do you handle that? I can imagine their emotions were at their peak. To find something diametrically opposite than what you’ve been anticipating for three days would be more than a surprise. No wonder they had questions! No wonder God chose to answer them. The angels tried to explain, but you know women – they probably didn’t even hear them. They had already drawn their own assumptions; Mary, in particular, doesn’t seem to be the first to rejoice.

We see her left behind at the tomb. I picture her staggering back out into the sunlight and not even noticing the other ladies take off back toward town. I picture her wandering aimlessly through this beautiful garden, blinded by early morning sunlight and an immense flow of tears. I picture her actually physically looking for Jesus’ body, being thoroughly confused and possibly even angry.

She is so busy looking for a body, that she doesn’t notice the actual Man standing in front of her. She has been sobbing and I wonder if that isn’t part of why she thought this Man was the gardener. She begged of him, “Where did you put the body?”

My favorite part of the story is when Jesus calls her by name. “Mary.” Her name. And she knew Him because He called her by name.

Jesus could’ve chosen to appear to anybody He wanted to. He could’ve gone to John – the most beloved disciple. He could’ve gone to Peter – the man who was to build His church. He could’ve gone to Thomas – who He knew was going to doubt His resurrection. He could’ve gone to His mother – His own mother. But, He went to Mary.

Mary – alone. Mary – grieving. Mary – questioning. Mary – lost. Mary – dejected. Mary – hopeless. Mary – defeated.

He met her in the garden, during the time of her greatest pain, and He called her by name. And, she had spent enough time with Him that her name was all she needed to know it was really Him. Jesus never had to prove Himself to her; He just had to call her by her name. That was all she needed.

We’ve all been in our own gardens before. We’ve seen the power of God in mighty ways, but then something huge happens and we end up wandering in the garden, wondering where God is and what is really true? Did we imagine everything that happened before? Is God really real? It is there – in our own personal gardens of grief – that Jesus meets us and calls us by name. Mary answered with “Rabonni” – teacher! She didn’t answer with “My Lord” or “My Friend” or even “My Savior.” She answered with “teacher.” I wonder if that’s because she realized she had more to learn. She was in this garden of grief because she didn’t understand all the truth of the matter yet. She needed to learn.

If we are spending time with Jesus, and then we hit a garden of grief, we should be able to recognize when Jesus shows up in the middle and calls us by name. Yes, He’s there for comfort, but He’s also there to teach. The story for Mary was not over; it was in the process of being completed. Jesus had to teach her how it all wove together. He wants to do the same for us. He wants to meet us there, call us by name, and teach us where to go from here.

            Lisa Biegert, March 23, 2008

Somewhere in the Middle.

On the plane down here, I listened to a certain song over and over and over on my mP3 player. It’s a song called “Somewhere in the Middle” and it fits life so perfectly. It talks about wanting to serve the Lord, but not knowing how much I can REALLY surrender for fear of losing control. So, we get stuck in the middle – between safety and freedom in the Lord.

One of the things we really appreciate about our Peruvian director is his honesty. He sits down with us on a regular, almost daily basis, to see how things are going and to make sure we’re doing all right. But, he’s also good at challenging us. One of the things he’s recently challenged us to do is to pray about making our work here in Peru our life. To not just be here to teach and to do maintenance, but to LIVE and THRIVE and desire to serve the Lord in whatever capacity He puts us in. To look forward to each day because we’re serving the Lord. To look forward to our busy weekends because we’re serving the Lord. To allow working for the Lord to consume our lives.

You can’t do that if you’re caught in the middle.

We’re feeling more at home here, though. And our hearts are being pulled for these people. I’ll never forget one of my friends at CIT. She had planned on going to one country in Africa and then, after a year of planning and raising support, she got word that she wouldn’t be able to go after all. She was being sent to another country. Even though this country was adjacent to the other one and the people groups were similar, they weren’t the same. When I asked her how she felt about the change, she said something I’ll never forget. “I cannot go if I don’t love these people. I MUST develop a love for them or I won’t go.” It wasn’t the new team, the new language, the new ministry, or the new country she was worried about. It was the fact that she didn’t love them yet.

As we drive from our house to La Molina (the big “suburb” outside of Lima that we spend most of our time in), we pass through a city called Manchay. When I was here eight years ago, Manchay was dirt poor and desolate. They had no electricity and the kids would play on the electrical lines that hung off the poles and weren’t attached to anything. They were digging huge caverns to put in more homes. Now, the city has electricity and it’s getting a little more modern. The bus system goes back into the side streets. But, it still looks like this:

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Of all the places I’ve been in my life, Manchay has stuck with me the most. And now, every time we drive through it, my heart is tugged. Our prayer is that in the months to come, as we get more Spanish and get to know people, that we will be able to attend a BCM church plant here in Manchay. There are two right now and we would love to visit and eventually get involved.  But, gotta get that language down first!

Here are the lyrics that I could listen to over and over these days. But, out of curiosity – where are you? Are YOU caught in the middle? Jump in. It’s so worth it.

“Somewhere between the hot and the cold, Somewhere between the new and the old, Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be, Somewhere in the middle you’ll find me… Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control? Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense, deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle. With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God Who is, but will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle? Somewhere between my heart and my hands, Somewhere between my faith and my plans, Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves.. Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender, without losing all control?… Lord, I feel You in this place and I know You’re by my side, Loving me even on these nights when I’m caught in the middle…” And yes, I’m leaving out lyrics to give you a reason to google it and listen to it yourself. 🙂

And for a lighter side…

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This is a picture of one of my students holding what WAS the cord to our fridge. Our fridge has been making the lights dim for awhile now and last night, we heard a loud pop, but didn’t think anything of it. About a half hour later, we heard a BANG and then saw sparks and then huge FLAMES coming out of the wall! Woops. The cord had shorted out and caught on fire. Thankfully, nothing was damaged and Brian and the little girl’s dad were able to fix it last night. And thankfully, we were home, it was us staying here and not a guest (we live in the guest house right now), and there is NO insulation in the walls, so no fear of fire in the wall. Ah, life in South America. So far, life has NOT been boring. 🙂

Another Plus.

The last couple of weeks, we’ve felt somewhat out of the loop thanks to the whole language barrier thing. Even though I understand quite a bit, I have a minimal reservoir of phrases, so our conversations are quite…challenged, to say the least. BUT – tonight was one of those rare moments when we actually had a conversation with a Bible school student who speaks English. It was one of those conversations, though, that reinforced why we’re here.

This student is from Iquitos, but has spent quite a bit of time in other jungle cities as well. His heart’s desire is to be a missionary in the jungle. To see his eyes light up as he talked about his excitement about seeing people come to the Lord – THAT is why we’re here. He was ecstatic as he talked about the opportunities he’s had to preach in various cities around Peru the last two years of Bible school. He could not have been more excited as he shared with us about the children he’s been able to lead to the Lord. This guy is 22. He gave up university and he’s the oldest of 13 children – the first to go off to any kind of school – and he chose Bible school.

One of our goals is to be involved in the lives of the students and this is why. We love seeing the enthusiasm and excitement of these young kids who desire to be in ministry. They know and understand so much more fully the HOPE that the Gospel brings and they cannot wait to share that with others. They know what the Gospel can do to a life – to a family – to a city – and they are anxious to get going. Pray for these students. We’re hoping that 60 will arrive by the end of next week (no pre-registration here and lots of problems with transportations!), but we have no way of knowing. Pray that the Lord will move in people’s hearts and they will desire to join BCM and impact their world, their generation, for Christ. We are also praying that God will burden the hearts of these kids to go overseas. To take this fire outside of Peru would be phenomenal!

We’re so glad we’re here. We’re so thankful to be a part of this. And when this guy found out how long we’d be here, his eyes just glowed and he thanked us profusely for coming. Yup. This is where we’re supposed to be.

April 2009
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