Tuesday, October 26, 2010

There's a Spear in the Bathroom

We started a writing group here. This poem came from the prompt: Make a creative story starting with "There's a spear in the bathroom..."
Mine turned into a poem.
This poem is based on true events.

There's a spear in the bathroom.
Why is it there?
Was it left by a monster?
Or maybe a bear?
Some Wild Thing left it.
Yesterday I think.
It's there in the bathroom,
Right next to the sink.
Move it, I say!
It's dangerous, you see!
Someone might grab it
and stab you or me!
This spear in the bathroom,
an object of fright,
could really scar one
in the middle of the night.
Again I must ponder
Why is it there?!
It's not there to brush teeth
or comb someone's hair.
It's oddly misplaced,
Let's go return it.
But the question is:
Where do we put it!?
This spear is so frustrating,
I think I may scream!
I woke up.
It's all been a dream.

A Summation of Ecuador

***I wrote parts of this on the 19th of October in Los Naranjos. We arrived in Quito yesterday, the 25th. So it’s a hodge podge of writing from the 19th and today (the 26th). Just some context!***

“I need to get some chocolate. I need a hot shower. I need to finish this reading. I need some quiet. I need you to leave me alone. I need a moment.
I need to get out of here.”
Need, need, need.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I need versus what I want. AND what I should or shouldn’t want. It’s just kind of something you’re forced to think of in a place like Los Naranjos. Those people have to think of that all the time.
Tonight we had a fiesta. We were celebrating my little sister, Nayely’s birthday—she turned 8! I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I started decorating the house with streamers and balloons.
What I got though was a night of pure joy!
We ate, danced, sang, and laughed SO much. It was, for me, a beautiful display of family and love—something I am missing dearly!
God has been so gracious ever since I arrived in Ecuador—through my roommate, through different conversatons with people. Through my host family and finding out that my host mom believes in God. Through what He has revealed in His Word to me. I feel as though I have learned so much already.
But in thinking about what I need versus what I want, I have realized that all I really need or should want is Christ. I finished 2 Corinthians yesterday (I’ve now read through 1 & 2 Corinthians), and I loved reading the familiar passage that says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” as well as, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” AND, “ Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come! All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Throughout various situations and conversations here, I have praised God that he chose to reveal himself and the gospel to me. I am a new creation, reconciled to the perfect God of the universe, the God whose grace gives me strength in my weakness. I am seen as righteous, and I am being prepared for an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison.
What more should I need or want than that? What more should any of us need or want when we have a Savior that loves us that much?
So I have a lot to be grateful for. Thank you to everyone at home who has been so faithful to pray for me and encourage me. Today I have been acutely aware of just how much I miss being at home. So thank you for every comment, like, Facebook post, email, or message—they mean so much and I LOVE getting them! I’m really sorry if I don’t respond—please don’t be offended, I just have limited time and internet!
Also, a special thanks to Mrs. Edwards’ 4th grade class for my birthday letters—they each wrote me one, and my friends here were so jealous when I got…what 20 something letters? They thought it was adorable, and I loved them!
So to sum up Ecuador I’ll make a list of praises:
-that even though this was the country I was most nervous about, I MADE IT, and I not only made it, I loved it so much
-that God gave me several opportunities to share
-that my roomie Alex and I got along so well and that I learned a lot from rooming with her
-that my time in Los Naranjos made me more grateful
-that I am treasuring the gospel more than ever before
-that I dearly loved my host family
-that my host mom believes in God
-that my birthday was amazing!!
-that I’ve grown closer with everyone here
-that the church wasn’t actually closed last week and I got to go for about 30 minutes before I had to leave! (I didn’t understand any of the Spanish except when the pastor said “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” and then everyone said “Amen!” It was like being back at home! J)
-that God gave me grace to keep an open mind about the issue of the environment and that I have learned a lot in this section
-that I am relying more every day on Christ as my Savior and comforter.

I could go on and on—like I said I have a lot to be grateful for!
But there are some things I’d love for ya’ll to pray for:
-that the gospel would be revealed and become very real to my host mom and family. They have a couple very old Bibles, as well as the one that I gave them, and the Jesus film. Please pray that God would use something to pierce their hearts with the truth of God’s grace.
-that God would protect our health—we’ve had a lot of issues in the past couple weeks (some parasites, weight loss, and general sickness). Just pray that we would be wise about taking care of our bodies.
-that we would become closer as a group—that our relationships with each other would grow deeper.
-that our group would take what we learned in Ecuador about the environment and think about some serious, practical ways to change our lifestyles to be more environmentally friendly. Or that we would be able to think of ways to educate others on environmental issues.
-please begin praying for my Chinese host families (as of now I have two—one for Kunming and one in Shaxi). The language barrier could prove to be a struggle, even with the Chinese lessons we’re taking (by the time we’re done, I’ll have had 20 days worth of intensive Chinese classes! We’re taking them every weekday morning in Kunming.). So pray that God would provide a way to share with them, and that they would receive the gospel well.
-lastly, please pray for me! The Climb, as I like to call it, (aka the Inca Trail) is coming up! We start on Saturday, and most of you know that that is what I’m most nervous about at this point. Pray that I would have a positive attitude and the strength to climb—that the altitude wouldn’t give me too much trouble! And that I would just enjoy every minute of that experience.
Again, I am so grateful for all of you, and that I can share this experience with you. I am really missing everyone today (I started crying this morning). But I am having a fantastic time, and I am so excited to see how God uses the rest of this experience in my life. Praise God for His glorious gospel!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Los Naranjos!

Well. Here I am in Banos, Ecuador. It’s a cute little tourist town in the mountains—very cold, and today it’s very wet. Awesome. No, it’s pretty great! It’s our Independent Student Travel (IST) weekend, and we all heard great things about Banos, so everyone’s here except for 5 people from our group (including leaders!).

We’re all in different hotels though, and I’m at a hotel with Kasha, Mckinley, and Jon. We’re going to walk around town some and then get a massage later (at least the girls are). Because I’ve been planting trees for 3 weeks, and I can!

So it’s been what? Two weeks since Bahia? They have flown by! I am enjoying Los Naranjos more every day—from the bugs tearing my feet to bits (I’ve been rockin the socks and flops look to keep them safe) to taking TONS of pictures with my host siblings to staying up late watching Mexican soap operas (so dramatic. Really quality TV there.) (Oh and late being like…9:30 or 10 haha)…I really love it here. Mainly because I absolutely love my host family. My kids (I call them my kids, haha—my host siblings!) give me hugs every time I come home from anywhere. They love to take pictures and draw things and show them to me. Andy is 3 and can be rather annoying at times (praise God that I had “practice” with Joshua!!), but then he comes up to you and gives you a HUGE hug and won’t let go. Nayely loves to sit with me and just watch me read or write. She holds my hand when we walk and asks questions (in very fast Spanish!). My mom is so sweet. She does everything around the house. She laughs really loud (makes me miss you a lot Mom!) and laughs at EVERYTHING. She’s fantastic. My dad is really nice—he’s pretty quiet though. But our family has a great sense of humor, so we laugh a lot together.

A typical day for me in Los Naranjos:
Wake up at least 3 times at night. Two potential reasons: Alex is rolling into me or the rooster decides to hate us and wake us up at 3:30. Stupid rooster. I wake up at 6 to my mom working—making coffee, cleaning and such. At 6:30 my sister is usually up watching TV (SO different from Caitlin—never mind the age difference!). I’m usually up at about 10 til 7 so that I can have my face washed by the time breakfast is ready. Usually that’s at 7. We walk 30 minutes to work (unless by God’s grace, we meet at our house—favorite days!). Then we meet up with everyone and get to work late—not just Ecuadorian time, but Tsa’chilan time.We usually work til 11:30 or 12 (it’s been ending earlier). We’ve gotten much more efficient with the way we do things? Then we head home, shower, eat lunch, cram in seminar reading, and at 2:30 we walk back to the Cultural Center for seminar. I usually go home right after, journal, hang out with the kids, eat dinner, and hang out some more, watching TV and stuff. Then bed time!

I’m learning so much here. The seminars have been really challenging for me—it’s just interesting seeing how responsible I am for adding to environmental destruction…just through the clothes and things I buy. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to change my lifestyle when I come back…and it’s hard.

But God is also just teaching me so much. I have been really struggling with the lack of fellowship—I miss the Church!! And it’s honestly been quite exhausting and very difficult. I mean everyone here is so awesome, and I love them, but it’s just hard not being at church. But by God’s grace, the lack of fellowship has made me read and study more Scripture and meditate on the gospel. I’m reading 2 Corinthians now and it’s just so encouraging. I’m going to try to memorize chapter 4. It will take a while, but I’m super excited about it.

I’ve had a lot of opportunity here among my friends, which I am so grateful for. Keep praying for everyone here—we’re tired! Emotionally, physically, mentally…
But it’s so awesome to see how faithful and gracious God is to me daily.
I need to go, but thanks again for all the prayers—ya’ll are the best, and I am constantly reminded of how blessed I am to have friends like you!
Much love—and read 2 Corinthians 4 sometime this week.

(ps--mom posted this for Hannah and took the liberty to put in the two pictures---they are from Jess Elisberg's facebook page. Hannah still hasn't been able to upload photos---These are pictures where they are planting trees....obviously!)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Hardcore Jungle Trekkers!

NOTE--This post is incredibly long. I just kind of wrote a bunch of thoughts. I hope you enjoy it (and please just comment something, I love hearing from people!), but I apologize for the length!

Hey everyone! I am writing from the small town of Bahia de Caraquez. We arrived here at about 6pm—by the way, I am safe. If you heard about the riots in Quito, we were far away from them. So Mom, DON’T WORRY! ☺
Wow. So let’s see. We were in Los Naranjos for almost a week. We arrived there last Friday, and we pretty much immediately went to our host families.
Gosh, it’s hard to sum up everything I’ve experienced in the past week.
I’m rooming with Alex, the baby of our group. ☺ She’s 16 and from California. We’ve been having a lot of fun together. We’re living with Carlos and Anjelica—they are pretty much the sweetest couple. They are so great and generous to me and Alex. We have two host siblings: Nayely (or Michelle….but she introduced herself as Nayely), who’s 7, and Andy, who’s like…4. They are adorable, and I’m kind of obsessed with them.
It’s really difficult for me to process all that’s happened. Already, I know!
We started planting trees on Monday. It’s really hard work. They are literally cutting paths for us with a machete so that we can plant the trees. We’re planting along three different rivers. This week we planted probably 1000 trees….only 7000 to go! ☺ I’ve gotten tons of bug bites—ants, sand fleas, you name it, I probably have it. (Yes Mom, I’m taking my malaria meds.) So yeah, the work here is hard, but it’s good.
And just FYI—you know how I’ve been nervous about Machu Picchu? Well no worries—Alex and I (along with Connor and Eirann who live 5 minutes from us), have figured that we walk at least 10 miles a day. Up and down hills! At this point, Alex, Connor, Eirann, and I live the farthest from everything. As we work down rivers and stuff, we’re hoping we’ll get closer to home.
So Machu Picchu, here I come!
Our seminars have been interesting so far. We’re studying the environment and natural resources, so we’re looking at what it means to conserve the environment and be environmentally responsible, all while considering basic human needs and energy needs…Personally, it’s been really challenging (Hahaha Ty, I miss you!). Being environmentally responsible for me usually means giving up a lot of creature comforts. Or at least feeling guilty for the things I have that are environmentally destructive. I dunno. It’s something I am struggling with, and I’m interested to see how my mind changes over the next three weeks. I’m realizing that I am stubborn on this issue and I don’t want to change my mind. So I’m praying that I’ll be open to new ideas and ways of living. (For those of you who are concerned, NO, I am not becoming a vegetarian, haha.)
I’m really enjoying myself though. I think Alex and I are really blessed with our host family. We are having a great time with them. My host mom is so adorable. She laughs a lot, and I’ve actually had a conversation with her by myself! I can understand a lot more Spanish than I can speak. But yeah, Anjelica likes to joke around with us a lot. A few nights ago we watched one of the Anaconda movies. So ridiculous. Yeah by the way, we have TV and a DVD player. Our house is a one room hut, but it’s warm (not too warm though) and dry. There are two queen sized beds with awesome mosquito nets, and the first night they told us the beds were for us and they would sleep on the floor…Alex and I immediately told them absolutely not, thank you so much, but they needed a bed.
I was really convicted the first night in Los Naranjos as I was walking to our house with my family and Alex…I was carrying my two backpacks—my packs that have made everyone say, “That’s ALL you’re taking for EIGHT MONTHS?”—and I was thinking about how heavy they are. And then I realized, walking next to my sister and Mom, that I probably have as much as they do in their whole house in those two bags. And it’s a lot more expensive. I don’t know. These people have so little and seem so happy. Sure they have to walk a while to get places, and they don’t having running water, but you know what, they have a toilet! And they have a place to shower (we use two buckets, it’s actually pretty nice). And they have food and a TV and movies and school. They seem happy.
And here I am with all my STUFF. We watched a documentary called The Corporation (I definitely recommend it—Jaron especially, you’ve got to see it), and we’ve been talking about how ridiculous our consumer culture is.
Anyway. Sorry for how disjointed this post is. I feel like these posts will only get worse, haha.
So yeah. I’m having a grand time. But please pray for endurance, patience, and positive attitudes as we’re planting. I’ve been drawn to 1 Corinthians since I’ve been gone, and God is teaching me a lot. Please pray that I would continue learning and digging deep in the Word. Also pray that I would have grace to be humble and bold with the gospel.
I miss ya’ll a lot! Sorry for the long post. But thanks for the prayers and concerns. I may have internet next weekend (I’ll be on my Independent Student Travel—probably to Banos). By the way! Everyone here is SUPER excited for my birthday tomorrow. No worries Mom, I will be well loved on my birthday. ☺