Christmas 2010

Honesty:  I have never had a holiday season with so many shed tears, so much homesickness, or such restlessness.  I wanted to be in snowy Wisconsin so much throughout the month of December that I probably became annoying to be around because all of my conversations centered around the current temperature or current conditions in Minneapolis or my little town in Wisconsin.

But God is faithful.  Have I not said that over and over this year, even in this blog?  In spite of my often bad attitude, God blessed me with a wonderful Christmas.  

It started on Christmas Eve with a trip to one of my favorite orphanages, Eben-Ezer, where I have spent many hours working with my boys, each of them with special needs and special hearts.  
Julio-- always ready for a FOTO!

For Christmas Eve night (which is when Bolivian celebrations happen) we went to Cristo Viene Girl's orphanage, where we loved on kids and enjoyed their smiling faces.  

Heather created a pinata, and it was the highlight of the night

On Christmas morning Heather and I went to the annual Single's Stocking Stuffers party.  16 single missionary women gathered and filled one another's stockings with little goodies.  It was good to make a family when we are so far from our own.  

Sister's ready to celebrate!  Please note Heather's great earrings. :)
That afternoon we went to the house of some of my fellow teacher's and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus and watched White Christmas (so I did see snow on Christmas Day).
Singing Happy Birthday with banana bread. 

To continue my honesty, every part of me is glad that next year I will be with my family wearing a sweater and jeans for Christmas, but I am also so glad that God called me here this year so that I don't forget that God also left the comfort of heaven to be with us.  I praise Him that people in Bolivia are celebrating because the church was called to go to all nations and spread the joy of the news of Jesus's birth.


Jesus Was a Missionary

Merry Christmas from Bolivia, where it is 73 degrees and rainy-- high of only 89 today!

This entire Christmas season John 1 has been on my mind a lot.  Six months after my graduation from Bible college, I can confidently say that I will probably never understand the incarnation.  God taking on flesh blows my mind.

John 1:14- "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

He dwelt among us.  Jesus left perfect contentment with Father and Spirit to come to earth where He put on skin and told people the Good News that they need a Savior.  He showed that He is the Savior that they'd been waiting for by dying for their sins.  He is the Good News that He brought.

The Good News has remained the same, and so has the way that God chooses to share it.  He calls His followers to leave the place of comfort they have known and dwell with people who need the Gospel-- the news that Jesus has already died to be their Savior.  Today we call this missions.

During a time of year when it's hard for me to be without my family and the land that I love (snow in MN and WI yesterday!), it's good for me to remember that Jesus has experienced what I'm going through.  May I remember to dwell with people here, to live life with them, just as Jesus did.

 Urbana 09, a missions conference I attended last year, was the first time I saw John 1 through a missions lens.

Joyful, Conscious Waiting

Merry Christmas!

As I opened up my browser today, I was reminded that we are waiting for Christ's second coming.  Stories like this are happening on Christmas Day.  Things are not perfect here- so many things are going wrong in the world, yet still we are commanded to be joyful now.

May we be the most joyful people on earth today, in spite of the suffering around the world. In our joy, may we pray for and help those who are suffering, so that people who do horrible things, even people who plan to be suicide bombers, can instead hear the Good News.  

Wishing today that everyone celebrated Christmas.



I know that God is with me on this day when Christmas will be different from what I know.  Praising Him for keeping me. 

Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come.
- Psalm 71:3


Midnight Serenade: Cultural Expectation

Last night I had the pleasure of getting to experience my first truly cultural Bolivian birthday tradition: the midnight serenade.

On the eve of a person's birthday here, his or her friends gather just before midnight to sneak up to the cumpleanero's window.  Outside, when it is officially midnight, there is a whole list of songs that can be sung to the sleepy cumpleanero.  My friend Emilee just came to Bolivia two weeks ago to teach at the school, and today is her birthday.  I went along with some friends from church and school and sang to her last night. SO MUCH FUN.

Sneaking around until midnight

The men led us with a great song
 When the guys from our church first started serenading her, Emilee (who has never experienced a serenata before, was scared out of her mind.
Emilee realizes she can breathe again.

The gringas joined in with the songs we know

Traditionally everyone is invited inside after the serenade for snacks

Checking out Christmas lights

We ended our evening with a little bilingual worship session!
Yay for serenades!  Yay for friends here!


Simplicity vs. Christmas Spirit

I just got the majority of the Christmas presents that I'm giving this year wrapped today.  It made me excited about Christmas for one of the first times this season.

Of course the reasons that I haven't been in the "spirit" are that:
- I am in 90* heat instead of -10
- There is no snow on the ground
- I have not just finished finals (although with turning in grades I feel a bit like I have)
- I haven't had the screaming American advertisements about Christmas pumped into my brain for the last two months
- I am not with my whole family
- The whole weather thing again.  It deserves to be mentioned three times

Still, it should not take presents to make me excited about God becoming flesh to live a human life and then die a human death for my sins.  With my time off school I've been doing a bit more reading, and the book Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World by Richard Foster has been making me think a lot about where my consumer mindset comes from.

A few thoughts from the book-

Foster speaking about holy obedience:

We are to discipline ourselves to "seek first the Kingdom of God."  This focus must take precedence over absolutely everything.  We must never allow anything, whether deed or desire, to have that place of central importance.  The redistribution of the world's wealth cannot be central, the concern for ecology cannot be central, the desire to get out of the rat race cannot be central, the desire for simplicity itself cannot be central.  The moment any of these becomes the focus of our concern, it has become idolatry.  Only one thing is to be central: the Kingdom of God.  And, in fact, when the Kingdom of God is genuinely placed first, the equitable distribution of wealth, ecological concerns, the poor, simplicity, and all things necessary will be given their proper attention."

Personal finances:

Today there is a heretical teaching that is an absolute plague in American Christianity.  It is the dogmatic and unexamined credo that whatever we gain is ours to do with as we please...In no way can we twist the Scripture to justify such a belief.  Our lifestyle is not our private affair...The Gospel demands more of us: it is obligatory upon us to help one another hammer out the shape of Christian simplicity in the midst of modern affluence.

I have much to think about as I live here as a missionary on support and then as I go home in August as a very poor but also very privileged young American.


Some December Pictures

I don't know how I would put into words all that I've been doing these last few weeks.  They have been full and good.  May each picture be worth at least a thousand words.

Heather and I hosted four kids from an orphanage for a day while the staff had a retreat.  We went swimming in a friend's pool.

Church anniversary...

...complete with a Bolivian potluck!

Working with a little MK here on her speech-- I get to use linguistic skills!

My students at an orphanage celebrating Christmas with the girls!

Cooking lunch for another orphanage-- egg bake.

One of my favorite things: getting to be part of the worship team at church.

My very favorite thing: getting to live with my sister!
Days have been packed, I need a few good naps, and there are about 23982332948 hours at school that didn't receive any pictures at all, but my December so far here in Bolivia has taught me so much about serving God with joy and about the importance of the body of Christ.  Thankful for everyone who stands with me down here and who prays for me and supports me Stateside.  

p.s.  The only things I wish I could include are pictures of snow!


Searching For Approval

I daily fight the desire to make my teaching about making parents, administration, and students satisfied.  If I get an email or hear a word from a parent that makes me think that they might disapprove in the slightest of something that I'm doing in the classroom, my tendency is to spend hours analyzing how I can improve, deliver, or perform in a way that will win me their favor.

Knowing that I have struggled with this since I can remember, God, in His infinite wisdom and sense of humor gave me a student whose mom and dad teach the grade above me-- right next door.  The first few months of school I was mortified that they were seeing all my mistakes, judging me, and disapproving of all that I was doing.  The worst part was knowing that they were going to teach my kids next year, after I had ruined them with my lack of skill.

Slowly, the mother of my student won me over with her kindness and easygoing manner.  Finally, I began looking to them as the co-laborers in the Gospel that they are.  I began to see that their students aren't perfect, just like mine aren't, and also realize that if God put me in this classroom this year, He probably won't let me "ruin" His children, whether I am a great teacher or not.

Last week God showed me how ridiculous my need for approval is.  I got to sit down with this mother and tell her how I worried about what she thought of me.  Know what?  She didn't tell me that she approved of me or that I was doing a great job.  She told me that her approval wasn't what was important.  Not what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to hear!  She said she wasn't going to judge me this year except to affirm that I was capable of doing my job, which she had decided long ago.  So, whether my kids do exciting enough projects or learn all of their prepositions, God has placed me here this year, and I'm just going to work hard and use the resources, time, and skills that He has given me and be the teacher He wants me to be.  I'm not going to let my anxiety get the best of me.

19 pairs of eyes may be watching my every move in the classroom, but the truth is that I teach for an audience of One.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 4:4-7


Great Finds

I am a bargain shopper to the core. There are only a few items that I own that I have paid full price for.  Sadly, Bolivia isn't big on sales.  HOWEVER, yesterday there was a GARAGE SALE here!  A giant one in our school gym!  And my big find was....three great books for 10Bs. ($1.40)!!!  I'm really excited about two of them.

First, I got a book by a famous Latin American theologian, Samuel Escobar.  I first heard of him from Ruth Padilla, a speaker at Urbana 09 last winter, and I've been hoping to find one of his books for cheap.  Can't wait to dig into this one, but I'll have to wait awhile until I finish a few on my shelf.

The other book I can't believe I found is by Helen Roseveare.  A missionary to the Congo, she lived through things I can only praise God I have never had to face.  But these things strengthened her faith in a way that mine will probably never be.  I couldn't wait to start this one, so I read the preface last night.  So far so good!

I'll let you know how these treasures turn out.  Yay for garage sales!


Christmas Nobaking

I'm finally getting into the Christmas spirit!  With a little over a week to go until school is out for our lovely three week break, things are finally beginning to feel a bit like Christmas around here.  This is thanks in no part to the 95 degree heat we've been having most days.  

With this heat in our non air-conditioned house, baking is quite the chore.  However, Heather and I have discovered that No Bakes (one of my favorite cookies anyway), which are made on the stove, don't do nearly as much damage to our kitchen.  Tonight I turned out three dozen of these for a Christmas program that my kids are putting on tomorrow night.  Here are some pictures of my Christmas spirit; watch for pictures of the Christmas program.

Thank you, Mom, for the beautiful table runner!
Here's a Christmas song I've been getting into lately!


Building a Bridge

Bolivia has two very different worlds, and I have now spent months in each of them.  One side has material poverty, abuse of all kinds, abandonment, children living in conditions that break my heart-- this is what I have seen in the orphanages of Santa Cruz.  The other side-- my life at school-- includes 10 year olds with iPhones, chauffeurs, kids who look forward to school because they feel more accepted there, and parents who see their kids only a few hours a week.  Neither of these worlds is ideal, but I have seen love, care, and hope in both places.

I want my students to know reality.  I want them to know the city they live in thoroughly.  I want them to know how to share God's love with others.

I want the kids in the orphanages to have their physical needs met.  I want them to know that someone cares for them, is thinking of them.

So, our class is going to an orphanage for our Christmas party.  We're bringing snacks, clothes, and toys.  I'm trying to bridge a gap here, to take some prejudice out of my kid's hearts and help the kids at the orphanage to see that there are those in the upper class who don't just pity them, who actually want to show Jesus' love to them.  Pray with me that God is glorified through this experience.

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to do it.”
-Proverbs 3:27


Keeping Busy

Christmas without family will be hard, no doubt about it.  My strategy for not getting homesick, though, is to fully experience the Bolivian Christmas season and fully be present here so that I'm not missing things back home so much.

December has started, and suddenly there are plenty of things to keep me busy.  On Thursday my kids earned a party in art with my good friend, DPo (or Miss Potter), who teaches them.  Check out their excellent fruit sculpture creations that they made!

Miss Potter with my great artists!
Another highlight was getting to go to a high school graduation for one of the boys at our church with Heather last night.  Here we are at the big event.
I'm already sporting a new shirt from Abby!
Today Heather and I are off to a ladies' church event and then I have practice for the Christmas drama.  God is good to keep me busy, and I pray that in my busyness I will have time to reflect on why we make this season something to celebrate.

Verse I've been dwelling on (pun intended):

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.



As you may have guessed from my last post, I have been praying for and fighting for joy in my teaching lately.  Really,I've been fighting for joy in my life lately, which is something that I, the eternal optimist, rarely find a problem.  It's frustrating for me to struggle with homesickness and even to enjoy what I'm doing.

Today, teaching started out as a struggle.  I had to discipline more than usual and was praying that God would make me content wherever He put me.  He began to answer my prayer before lunch, when I started finding joy in teaching again!  When my students came back from lunch and gym, we had just enough time to get our grammar and science lessons in before the end of the day.  I can only think of a handful of better times I have had in class.  I finally paid attention to God's presence in my heart, and it was great!

And if you thought my day couldn't get any better, it did.  My very good friend Abby, who faithfully reads my blog (hi Abby!), knew that I had been feeling down, mysteriously found some people who were coming down here, and sent a care package for Heather and I with them!  WE WERE SO HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The letter that she wrote me via snail mail also came today.  Double blessing!

My fav granola bars, teaching clothes (thank you, needed!), post-it notes, pens!, trail mix, and snail mail.  and stickers.  and notes.  We feel so loved!
Close up!
The package also came with Abby's senior pictures, some of which I have on an old frame I found where I hung up my other friend Storm's (and Michael's) senior pics.  I lovingly refer to it as "The Storm Center."  :)

Thank you, Abby, for a wonderful package, and thank You, Lord, for bringing so much joy to my heart today!  Hebrews 10:24!

Edit:  I just looked at the date she sent the package, and it was August 17th.  If the package had been flown down in late August, I would have been moderately happy, but God knew I would need it at the beginning of December.  I got chills when I thought about how He timed it all.  Praise God!


Food for Thought

I breeze through some books, while others I chew on while I read.  One that I've been reading since July is Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster.  

Since I had a few free minutes on Sunday, I lay in the hammock behind our house and absorbed some goodness.  Foster is talking about the beauty of obedience in simplicity, and he says this, "Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience...It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride....Utter abandonment to God is done freely and with celebration...Hold this work lightly, joyfully."  

Living in a different culture, working in an environment where I always feel weak, sometimes I think it's only through sheer grit that I will survive.  But since I'm obeying God in being here, I need to remember that God has already filled me with His joy.  In obeying Him, I should be the most joyful.  Lord, help me to find strength in Your joy today.


Little Lessons

One of my student's dad owns a Chinese restaurant here.  I LOVE all foods Asian, and other than a questionable Styrofoam box of orange chicken in the Miami airport in October, I haven't had Chinese food since I came here in July.  Heather and I spent yesterday morning together at an orphanage, and we decided that, as our day-after-Thanksgiving, no-school-for-me treat, we would go out to Jorge's restaurant for lunch.

It was a beautiful restaurant, and I was so excited to be able to tell Jorge that I ate at his restaurant.  It's the time of year when Bolivian missionaries pinch pennies because of extra costs that come in December (Bolivia has a cultural tradition of paying all employees a double salary in December), so Heather and I gulped a little at the prices, but we ordered anyway and the food was delicious!  
It was also great to spend time with Heather and chat with her, since when I'm teaching we really only see each other in the early morning and late at night.

When it came time to pay for the bill, the waiter asked us to go to the cash register instead of bringing us the bill, and when we got to the front of the line, the woman working turned out to be Jorge's aunt.  She refused to let us pay for our meal!  I was so blessed.  We also got to chat about my student, and I was encouraged to see his family's concern for his wellbeing and education.

Sometimes I doubt that God will provide for my needs, or I think that He will only do it in traditional ways.  By now, I should know better.  I love God's little lessons, especially those that involve peanut chicken!


Thanksgiving in Bolivia!

Today was not my first Thanksgiving in Bolivia.  I was here just two years ago for two months and spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas with my sister.  Today we celebrated in much the same way that we did then.  Called the family in the morning (I got to see my nieces sing a song to us on Skype!), then went to a missionary family's house in the afternoon to celebrate with about 50 other expats.  

Although I had tears rolling down my cheeks when my nieces sang to me, realizing that I wouldn't see them for 9 more months, I really have enjoyed today more than I thought I would.  If we didn't celebrate today, or if I had to be teaching at school, I think today would have been much harder.  As it was, I really enjoyed getting to spend time with people I am getting to know and love, and to see our mix of cultures all come together for a common purpose-- giving praise to God for His many blessings.

Things I am thankful for:
- A family that loves me in Wisconsin
- Wonderful friends all around the world, especially in WI and MN
- Salvation, grace for even a sinner like me (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
- God's Word
- The different passions that God has given me, and the fact that I get to use almost all of them here in Bolivia
- Knowledge of Spanish
- People who support me both in prayer and financially in the US
- God's mysterious provision
- My heritage, both that from my family and that from my country
- Books!  I love reading
- My students.  They may struggle, I may struggle, but I really love them.
- People in the US who care enough to be intentional with me even though I am down here
- So many things that I can't list them all.

Now I'm going to the orphanage next door to watch a movie with my friend who lives and works there.  God is good to me.  And to you.  Romans 8:28


By Faith

Too many days I get too caught up in lesson planning, patrolling my classroom, and correcting papers to remember that I am right in the middle of an adventure.

I came to Bolivia and stayed.  God is teaching me how to listen to His voice.  Teaching me how to trust Him in new ways.  Stretching me.  The trials that I will face during this year are not just something to endure.  They are an adventure to navigate my way through, trusting my Guide who has never failed me.  I am following this Guide because He saved my life when I was hopeless and helpless, and now I have eyes only for Him.  If following Him to a place that is part rainforest and part grassland, part upperclass 5th graders and part young orphans who cling to me, part familiar and part foreign is what brings joy to His heart, then only that will make me content.

I claim in no way to be like the great men and women who have gone before me in spreading God's name to all nations, but if I can have a little taste of what Hudson Taylor felt when he lived on a loaf of bread and a bag of apples, or if I can experience a small fraction of what Amy Carmichael felt when she gave Christ's love to those who had never heard His name, then how can I complain? If "grin and bear it" is what God calls me to for a year, how can I not have the biggest grin, the most joyful bearing?  Who am I to doubt my Guide's plans?  

I don't know what lies in the coming months, and I have no idea what I'll do when I go home, but I will "bless the Lord at all times.  His praise shall continually be on my lips."

Now pray that I can rest on God's strength to live as He calls me to, because although my words and my spirit can be willing and strong, my flesh is weak.


Bearing Burdens

I made it through another week of teaching!  The weekend has arrived and I am alive and in a much better place emotionally than I was last week at this time (when I was still at school working).

Part of the reason that my week was better is that people were praying for me.  I have felt prayers every day.  Thank you! if you were a part of that.

Another reason is that people here have been helping me.  Heather has been grading papers almost every night, my housemate Adreana came in to help control my kids Monday and Tuesday for the big production, and today, my friend Amy came to teach a language lesson for me!

Amy is a wonderful woman who writes a great blog that you can find here.  Her main ministry is homeschooling her three kids, and her husband works at the hangar of our mission as an airplane mechanic. Her secret weapon that she doesn't like to remind the administration at the school about is that SHE HAS HER MASTERS IN EDUCATION!!!

And she loves teaching language and grammar.  As a linguist, you'd think that'd be my specialty, but I actually often have a hard time passing my enthusiasm for language on to my students.

Amy had my students listening to and interpreting poems, then creating their own poems about themselves and even about me, all in less than 30 minutes.  I was grateful, inspired, impressed, and most of all, encouraged.

Check out that interaction!
So, overall, from dread in the pit of my stomach Monday morning at the thought of going back to school to big smiles all day today, my week has gone straight uphill, thanks to the help of the body of Christ.

Look at how attentive they are!
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
- Galatians 6:2


Reader's Theater

As the scaredy-cat (spelling, anyone?) newbie teacher in me looked for a way to put off the daunting-sounding "lit circles,"  I bit off more than I should have chewed.  I thought, "Oh, I'll just put off lit circles for one more week by going through a Reader's Theater play."  Reader's Theater is students reading their lines and acting out their parts-- like a really relaxed play. It actually wasn't a bad idea for me to spend a few days working with my students to improve their reading fluency; my lack of foresight came in when I decided that since we needed an audience, we would invite all students from Pre-K to second grade along with all of my students' parents!!!

Needless to say, I've been very stressed out the last few days prepping and praying that God would make these things go smoothly and without big problems.  I'm a people-pleaser, as many of you know, and the idea of some parents not liking our Reader's Theater was more than I could handle.  

PRAISE GOD! my housemate Adreana, who used to teach at the school, came yesterday and today to help me keep my kids in order to practice and perform.  And despite my worst fears, the kids did great!  They made me so proud!  Here are a few pictures of them performing.

Reverend, Mrs. Smith, and Uncle George discuss Isaac Newton's future

Isaac Newton teaches his brother and sisters about wind

Group One lines up for a bow

Group Two takes the stage
I'm looking forward to a normal day at school tomorrow, and tonight I went over to the Orphanage, Talita Cumi, that is two houses away from us and just chilled with the kids there for a bit.  I feel like after having such a narrow focus of pleasing parents for a few days, I have had my eyes open to see God's bigger picture.  Pray that I would be able to share that bigger picture with my kids.

 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
-Galatians 1:10



In the midst of my week full of questions as to why I'm here this year and why I am teaching 5th grade when I am not certified and have to remember how to do the math I am teaching my kids I had to remind myself often that God called me here.  I remembered that He is faithful (I even remembered sometimes that I only have 6 1/2 months of school left..shhhh).  But I had forgotten that I am serving a God who is POWERFUL!

I decided that my Sunday was truly going to be a Sabbath today.  I did everything I needed to do for school yesterday, so this afternoon I had a few hours in between church to just refocus.  I finally am reading Knowing God, which I started this summer.  In Chapter 2 Packer is talking about "The People Who Know Their God," and, in speaking of Daniel, he says, "Those who know God have great thoughts of God...These were the thoughts of God which filled Daniel's mind...'Praise be to the name of God for ever  and ever; wisdom and power are His.  He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them.  He gives wisdom.  He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.' "  

I had forgotten that the God who brought me to Bolivia is powerful to conquer my fears.  He is powerful to break down barriers that Satan has set up.  He is powerful to work change in the lives of ten and eleven year-olds.

Please pray for me this week as I let God's power stand me up on my feet and give me wisdom and authority to teach as He has called me to.

Pray also as I try to figure out how to budget my time, as I could easily spend twelve hours a day at school but feel that God is calling me to serve in some side ministries as well.

So well-known but so true:
I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
-Phil. 3:14



It's been my hardest week so far.  And I have already had some hard weeks.  But this one has got the others beat. One person saved me from wanting to pack up my bags and go home.  She is a servant, and she sees needs and meets them.  I present to you my sister, Heather.

This wonderful woman of God kept me going this week.  She did my laundry, cooked, listened and consoled.  And listen to this:  She has her own busy (though flexible) schedule.  She often comes in on Thursday mornings to do a devotion with my class.  This week, since Thursday I was fighting to stay in control of my emotions all day, she came in early and stayed until 11:00, just watching me teach and then taking my recess duty for me (while I pulled myself together).  

Today, I had to stay after school and give my room a good cleaning.  I never really even got to organize when I started teaching because school started right away, and I was always teaching or planning.  So, at 5:00, Heather came and just cleaned my room and put up posters for two hours while I cleaned my desk and got ready for next week.  Her PRESENCE more than anything else has been a huge comfort to me.  I also can't believe that she just completed changed her plans to be with me when I most needed it.  

I'm so glad that I get to serve in Bolivia with my big sister this year.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
- Proverbs 17:17


Cultural Adaptation

It's late Saturday night, and I have to be at church early tomorrow morning to practice for worship team, but this post has been itching in my fingers to be typed for so long that it just needs to come out.

For the last few weeks I've felt this giant propensity towards selfishness.  The culture of Bolivia requires a person to greet every person in a room upon entering and say good bye to every one of them upon leaving.  It requires a polite American to spend 30 minutes making small talk with the parents of her student so that she can get to the point.  In the upper-class environment that I work in, it also means that if a parent has a problem with my teaching, he or she goes to the director of the school before letting me know that anything is wrong.  The missionaries here are so thinly stretched (SEND MORE WORKERS, GOD) that I feel so involved in side ministries that there is hardly time for teaching-- a tendency that already comes much too easily to me. 

Also, it is so HOT here!  It makes me cranky sometimes.

These stretches on my time, my body, my personality, and my pride make me want to hole myself up in my room, make me want to escape to familiarity, make me want to daydream of the life I could be living in the US this year, make me want to treat those around me like I don't care about them.  I was feeling so burdened by the weight of my sinful selfishness that in desperation I cried out to God, "If you say that 'my yolk is easy and my burden is light' then why do I feel heavy and like everything is a struggle?!?"  He answered me in three ways.

First, He says that His yolk is easy and burden light when we come to Him.  I was neglecting to do that in my moments of being lost in teaching or overwhelmed by ministry.

Second, a good friend and fellow (veteran) teacher reminded me that what I'm feeling is normal for someone in their first 1-5 months in a new country.  Yes, there are times when I need to fight the temptation to be selfish, but there are also times when I need to also realize why I'm feeling selfish and see what I can do to understand the situations that I'm in (or give up trying to understand them).

Finally, we have in our sin nature a tendency to make ourselves first and most important.  In my study of Philippians, God has reminded me that, as I help myself through this transition, I also must look to the interests of others.  I have to fight this desire to withdraw, knowing that at the root of it is me trying to make myself most important.  

I had lost my desire to serve, my desire to worship in joyful action.  I praise God that He is beginning to show me how to recover those desires.

Tonight I learned that we're singing Onward Christian Soldier (in Spanish) in church tomorrow.   "Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise"  It is God's work and our praise of it that will eradicate this sin at its core.  May I be in such praise of Him that there is no room left for sin in me.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
-Philippians 2:3-4


Teaching Moments- October

A few highlights of teaching 5th grade last month.
- One of my students came up to me and started our conversation with, "Miss, remember when you said we could talk to you about anything?"  He wanted to know how he could behave better in class, but just knowing that my students take my offer seriously was exciting to me.
- Everyone knew their Bible memory verse last week (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)!
- I am becoming more accepting of the fact that I am an imperfect teacher.
- All of my students professed to having Christ's blood painted on the doorframe of their hearts when we studied the Exodus.  Praise God!
- In a special class my students are learning how to stop bullying by BUILDing others up
          B- Be a Hero
          U- Use Kind Words
          I- Include Others
          L- Let Go Of Anger
          D- Do the Right Thing
My students now like to point out when someone is being a hero and when they are not using kind words- it's great! 
- I have learned so much about being a teacher and letting God use me even when I feel worthless that I could never explain it all. Praise Him for His faithfulness!


A Breath of Fresh Air

A fun activity that I'm doing with my students this quarter is that each day I choose an idiom of the English language that my ESL students (and most of my MKs, usually) aren't familiar with.  I explain it and we try to use it as many times during the day as we can.  Today we learned "a breath of fresh air" (refreshing; it makes you feel better; a change that feels good )

I had Monday and Tuesday off of school, which was a breath of fresh air for me.  I swam, hung out, had lunch with a friend, and went shopping at a local vegetable market where I got about three pounds of carrots for about 14 cents.

I grated six cups of carrots yesterday, and from them I made Morning Glory Muffins!  I also froze some grated carrot so that I can make more later, and I still have more than enough carrots to take to school every day this week.  Ahh!
May this short post with a food picture be a breath of fresh air for you blog-readers who have put up with my long posts about cultural adaptation and imperfections lately.  :)



Sometimes I wonder about making the decision to stay here.  Who am I to teach?  What kind of person makes such an impulsive decision?  How in the world will my physical needs be provided for?

God is slowly showing me the answers to these questions.  I'm learning daily that God called me to the 5th grade this year for a purpose.  I'm learning that responding quickly to God's calling is something that He is continuing to teach me how to do-- a quick decision doesn't always equal an impulsive one.  And finally, He is providing for my needs.

I was BLOWN AWAY last week when I got my support report for September.  Not many people had gotten my support letter before the end of September, so I was only supported by a few people.  There is no way I would have gotten money for October except that a family from my church supported me for a month and a half.  Yes, that's right...they gave me a donation that completely covered my October costs.  Praise goes to God!  Who knows how I would have continued to be here if it weren't for their quick response to my need!  I stand in awe and gratefulness for what they've done and how God has worked in my life.  

There have been parts of this "living by faith" thing that have been hard and required me to walk blindly into what I trust to be God's faithfulness, but that moment was like having blinders pulled off my face and seeing a concrete, tangible experience of His faithfulness.

I don't know if the rest of the school year will look like this abundant provision or if there will be times of scarcity, but I am confident that the God who sent His very own Son to die for my sins will certainly give me what I need for each day- in little ways or in big ones.

My God will supply all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:19


Busy? Rest on Him

I am tempted to fill this post with all my plans for the next few days, but the truth is that that's not what glorifies God right now.  So pray for me as I'm gone this weekend, but let these lyrics stay with you.

  1. We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
    We go not forth alone against the foe;
    Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
    We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.

  2. Yes, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
    In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
    Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
    Our Prince of glory and our King of love.

  3. We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
    And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
    Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
    “We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”

  4. We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
    Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
    When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
    Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
  5. -Edith G. Cherry