Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Common, minor setbacks (Day 525)

Don't worry.  I haven't forgotten about you.  I just haven't had much time to write recently.  There have been a couple small changes in my life and a couple big changes in my life.

First of all, before I confuse anyone, I need to note that I did stop the fast.  Why?  Well, because in order to keep the fast, I was drinking a lot of liquids, and the liquids I was choosing to drink were not always the healthiest choice: soda pop.  (I can tell you that I like Fanta Strawberry better than Fanta Grape now...)  Anyway, the Bible says that our bodies are the temple of the Lord, and I said to myself: "Self, why would you put junk in the temple?"  So, about two weeks ago, I stopped the fast and decided to eat healthily instead.  What I am about to say next won't confuse you now.

So, a small change in my life is that I think I have parasites again.  I first had parasites in January.  (Admittedly, I must have had them since before then, but they were discovered in January.)  Anyway, the effects that parasites have on the body makes sitting down and writing a blog entry about the last thing a person wants to do.

We're also in exams right now at the school in the village.  I've never really written exams before; so this was a first.  I'm constantly learning as a missionary.

I also have a new housemate, but more on that later.

Also, the young man I have mentioned at least once--Edgar--is looking to get a visa to travel to the United States in June.  I have helped him fill out his application and written a letter of recommendation.  Christina, the young woman who stayed with me in December, has sent a letter of invitation to her wedding.  So, now all that is left is his interview at the American embassy at 8:30 am on April 4th.  (This is 10:30 am for those of you in the Eastern Time Zone; 9:30 am for those of you in the Central Time Zone.)  Please, please, PLEASE keep him in your prayers.  He is an exemplary young man who will not violate the boundaries of his visa should it be granted to him.  Many Guatemalans never try to get a US visa because of the natural assumption that they will violate it and work illegally in the United States.  Edgar--a 21-year old male Guatemalan--is exactly the profile that the USA doesn't want to give a visa to.  However, with his educational history and his current income (equivalent to what the Guatemalan government requires that anyone who wants residency earns in US currency), I feel like he has a chance.  So, we'll see.  Just please keep him in your prayers through the next week.

And as a final quick note (the intestines are burbling), this is an interesting article that a friend posted on Facebook and I thought I'd share with you all:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Help where I probably won't (Day 505)

In the past, I have introduced you to groups like Children of the Americas, Hogar de Esperanza/Hope for Home, and even Iglesia del Camino.  I've introduced to you places such as Caserio el Paraiso, Antigua, San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Aldea Aguacate, and Santiago Zamora.  But in this post, I want to introduce you to someplace I haven't been and a group I haven't worked with for one very simple reason: they need help too.

There are places in Guatemala where it is unsafe for a single woman to go.  Admittedly, as a semi-known translator around here, I sometimes get invited to go places that I otherwise wouldn't go with groups I don't really know.  However, there are other organizations that have just never crossed my mind to assist; one such organization is Forever Changed International.  Besides being an established organization with a permanent location in Guatemala City, they also serve in places such as ghettos and the garbage dump.  For a single woman in Sacatepequez, that's just not on the line-up for me.

However, it is on the line-up for others.  From July 21-28, a group of 14 people from Believer's Fellowship Family Church will be serving with Forever Changed International.  How do I know this?  Well, I have a friend who is going to be a part of this group.  I met Bill on-line many years ago--I'm no longer sure quite how many--and we've been e-friends ever since.  He told me a month or so ago that his church would be coming down to work with Dorie's Promise (a branch of Forever Changed International), but this was so early in the planning process that their trip was not even on the FCI website!

Now, however, it is.  If you, either from your own experiences or from viewing Guatemala through my eyes, have developed a heart for Guatemala and would like to help in a part of Guatemala that I will likely not reach physically, please feel free to help support the hands and hearts of my friend Bill and those from his church who will be serving in Guatemala this summer.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fasting and More Fasting (Day 501)

First, a few more notes on my fast.

1) It came to my attention that if I eat absolutely nothing for 40+ days that I could actually screw up my, um, eliminatory system.  Now, I believe that God protects those who do things to walk more closely with Him, and that I wouldn't have any problem; however, so as to not stress out other people, I've decided to eat a little one day every week.  The Sundays during Lent are actually excluded from the 40 days of Lent (because they are supposed to belong to the Lord anyway).  As the goal of my fast is to spend more time in the Word and focused on God, I've decided to exclude Sunday from my fast as on Sundays I go to church, listen to a sermon, and spend time fellowshipping with other believers (both in and out of the church)...and maybe share a meal with other believers as well.

2) Some people do fasting the "easy way."  They completely eliminate the distraction from their life: clean the food/meat/CocaCola/computer out of the house.  Instead, I've decided to step it up a bit.  Every day, I cook.  Last week, I cooked for a neighbor of mine who often works a 12-hour day.  I got out of bed at 5 am every day so that the food would be cooked and packed (and I'd be dressed to take it to his house) by the time he left for work at 7:30 am.  This week, I might cook dinner every day for my former neighbor (Juana, whose grandson celebrated his 1st birthday in November) and her family.  I don't have a lot here in Guatemala, but what I do have, I try to share because that's what we're commanded to do.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fasting and the IdC (Day 498)

I grew up Catholic in a mixed denominational home. As a Catholic, I was supposed to (usually forgot outside of the house) give up meat on Fridays in Lent. It was also generally expected that I would give up something else for all of Lent. I also usually forgot this as well until a brilliant day sometime in my teen years when I decided I'd give up chocolate for Lent. (For those of you who don't know me or may have forgotten, I have a strong allergic reaction to caffeine. I can't eat chocolate.) And chocolate is what I have given up for Lent pretty much every year since.

I read an article within the past few years discussing the Islamic Ramadan. (Unfortunately, I do not have the link; so you'll just have to go look for your own article.) Fasting has never made much sense to me. I mean, your body needs energy to run. Why would you deprive it of necessary nutrients? Also, from the viewpoint of a Christian, there is nothing I can do to obtain salvation; so what does fasting really do for me anyway? But there were some points in the article and some experiences I've had within the last year that have helped me understand fasting a whole lot better...or at least find a purpose for it.

Fasting, in my opinion, is NOT about doing something for God or trying to get His attention. He's always watching you and caring about you; you don't need to get His attention. You've already got it! No, fasting is for the believer. Like God, hunger doesn't leave you. Normally, when one is hungry, they eat. But if you are fasting, hunger makes you think, "Why am I hungry? Oh, that's right. I'm fasting. And I'm fasting to remind myself to spend more time with God." Fasting brings believers closer to God, not because He sees us fasting and thinks we're wonderful to be around, but because we spend more time thinking about Him and reading His Word (the Bible). "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord" (Deut 8:3 and Matt 4:4).

My Bible is my daily bread. This year for Lent, I've given up food. (Before you freak out, I have not given up juice, milk, atol, milkshakes, broth, tea, pop, or water. I'm already naturally dehydrated enough.)

My other thought is about the IdC or "Iglesia del Camino" (Church of the Path/Way) which is where I attend almost every Sunday while in Guatemala.  Back in the day when I was engaged to a man who had plans to become a pastor, I thought a lot about having children and that if we could have them while he was in seminary, that would be best.

A common view of pastors (and missionaries) is that they are perfect, the best Christians.  They will have perfect children who never get in trouble, and the parents themselves will never sin.  Guess what?  We're all sinners.  We should do the best we can every day, but we are all sinners.  We will never be free from sin, and our children will not be either.  Freedom will come with salvation which will come at the end of time.

I know that I'm a missionary and I feel that my sending church in the States expects great things from me.  Sometimes that puts a lot of pressure on me.  I feel afraid to show failure and struggle to them and to you, my readers/supporters.  However, the church I attend here is a bit different.  We're a church of missionaries, pastors, evangelists, and the occasional seasonal Spanish student.  We have a pastor who will admit almost weekly that he is not perfect.  The regular attending congregation (normal attendees minus short-term missionaries and Spanish students) also admits their faults to one another.  I mean, there are certain levels of confidence, but I have a couple with whom I can really be open.  I talk to them about everything, and they talk to me about their lives too.  We share our burdens, our joys, our sorrows, and sometimes a meal or two!

I'm a sinner.  I sin.  I bring those sins before my God with confidence that He will pardon them all.  It's this world that scares me.