Deeper than the day-to-day

I realized at the end of last year that I was really missing being challenged to think about what I believe.  Four years of Bible college had me thinking every minute.  In contrast, teaching fifth grade has me cramming facts into my head.

So I've been trying to feed my brain information that makes me think.

- My friend's friend Jenny writes a blog.  This post made me think about my desire for acceptance and what identifies me.

- I am listening to my MN church's sermons every week before I go to bed.  This sermon by John Piper was about textual criticism (a linguist's dream!) and the woman caught in adultery.  This at the end caught me, "Come to Jesus for grace, and set your face to sin no more."

- I am reading Changing Tides: Latin America and World Mission Today by Samuel Escobar. I've been wanting to read Escobar's work for a long time, and I found one of his books at a garage sale here for less than a dollar!  :)  I'm just starting, but so far- very interesting.  Here's a quote I liked, "Today, at the beginning of a new century, we are more aware than ever that missionaries are vessels of clay, bearers of the glory of the gospel, who are themselves weak and likely to break...the missionary task as an enterprise [is] carried out by persons who are fragile and weak, subject to contingencies like perils, suffering, and persecution."

- And from the Word: Isaiah 44:22- "I have blotted out your transgression like a cloud and your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you." and Isaiah 44:5- "This one will say, 'I am the Lord's,' another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, 'The Lord's,' and name himself by the name of Israel."



It could have been that it was Friday afternoon.  It could have been that they are almost sixth graders now.  Or it could have been that we spent fifteen minutes last week encouraging Rafael to use his leadership skills.

God has been so faithful to my fifth grade class this year, and I experienced proof of that again on Friday.  My students were in a state of near-chaos at the beginning of library class because the person who was supposed to read to them had not showed up yet. 

But then, Rafael’s suggestion to read to the class, a warning to be good listeners, and this happened:

I even had time to run to my classroom, grab a camera, and capture the moment.  I was so proud of my students and so grateful to God for the way He creates moments like this to show me that regardless of my abilities He is in control of all things.



My class has teamed up with the sixth grade classroom (of a woman I really respect) in the U.S. this year.  They are email penpals.  It turns out that half my students know more about computers than I do and half of them don't know how use Google.  

I love the things they are sharing about culture, their faith, and life in general.  Let me share with you some of the things my students find important to share with their peers (Please enjoy their ESL English):

"We have six computers. We don’t live in huts."

 "I’m bilingual, that means I know two languages. I know Yura and Spanish. Do you know any other languages besides English? Have you ever heard about yura? Do you have any indian
blood in you?"

" I am in a Christian school, we believe that GOD came to earth to
save us from are sins. Which belief do you believe? I think that GOD is
very good."

"get [along] better with my mom, than with my father. I have a little sister. O
she is such a taller tiller [tattletale]."

"My fathers are still married (In Spanish padres means mother and father)."

"I have a question for  you, how is you teacher? Is she Crazy like
mine? HaHaHa (You wouldn't believe how many of these comments there were)"

"My grand father was at world war two in the german side. His name is
Manfred he is already dead he died because his heart stopped beating."

"I am an American but I am a missionary here. I preach with my parents Christianity (I love that he calls himself a missionary.  It's so true!)."

Just wanted you to get to know my students a little better.


Happy Birthday, Sister!

My older sister has served here for ten years.  Ten birthdays of giving chiropractic care to orphans, discipling girls leaving orphanages, providing healthcare for the poorest of the poor here in Bolivia.  All glory goes to God for the work He has done in and through her during these years.

Have a good one, hermana.
Surprise bowling party!
I am blessed to get to spend Heather's birthday with her here.


I Teach Bible

In my small-town public school, the closest I ever got to learning about the Bible in school was reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Now, I teach it every day to fifth graders.  I am so grateful for my Bible college education, where I finally learned that there were kingdoms in the Old Testament.

The fifth grade Bible curriculum that I use teaches Old Testament history using life applications with different character sketches.  I love teaching about Joseph, Isaac, and David.  However, I began realizing once we got through the Pentateuch that my students didn't really know the books of the Bible.

So we got to sing this cool song in class for a week!
I don't even get confused in the minor prophets anymore!

God's word is sweeter to me each day, and I am grateful to Him that I get to share it with my students.


Singleness, Day by Day

I remember blankets pulled up to chins, giggles, and, later, serious talks.  Sleepovers growing up were full of nonsense, but also plans for our futures. My friends and I would lay out our lives, telling each other how many children we wanted, who we thought we would marry, and what jobs we would have.

23.  The age I always said I would get married at.  I am nearly halfway through my twenty-third year, and barring a miracle (which I do believe in) I will not be getting married this year.  Life is not working out exactly as I had planned when I was thirteen years old.

And I've gone through some phases where I pine.  Where I am discontent, thinking that getting married, having kids, and putting down roots is the only way I'll be happy.  I know the legitimacy of these feelings, and Reader, if that is you right now, I feel you.

But lately there have been no pinings.  It has been enough for me to wake up each morning knowing that, for this day, God has me single here in Bolivia.  It's true that I wouldn't be able to teach 5th grade and be involved in so many ministries here if I were dating or married, but my contentment goes beyond that.  It's a new feeling for me; finding what I need in Christ alone.  His Word has truly become my daily bread.  I need it each morning before I face work and ministry.  And I'm seeing that no other relationship could ever give to me what His love, protection, and care provide.

I have seen that being a single missionary is hard.  This year has made me pray that God will provide me with someone before I go on a lifetime assignment.  But for this time and this place, I am at rest.  I have peace.  If life had gone according to my sleepover schemings, I might not know the reliance on God that I do now.

So be patient in hope.  Seek first His kingdom.  Rejoice in the Lord.  Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.  God's plans are always for our good.


Just when I think I'm really doing well here.  I have intentional friendships with Bolivians and missionaries.  Teaching has been much more than bearable the last few weeks.  I have been so immersed in life here in Bolivia. 

And yet I spent another evening soaking my pillow with tears.  Homesickness:  A package that can't come.  The realization that I didn't get to see my nieces and nephew over the computer while my sister was home.  Worry that my friendships which were so strong when I left in July will be forgotten when I go back.  Frustration at my own selfishness.

A year must be the hardest amount of time to serve cross-culturally.  I'm barely halfway through, I've just been able to really make myself be here, and I already need to start applying for jobs back home.  Lifetime missionaries are hesitant (with reason) to rely on you because you'll be leaving long before they will.  I hate the self-pity that is rising in me right now, but I don't know how to beat it back down.

Tonight I finished reading Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper.  If God has called me to teach 5th grade in Dusty, Hot City, Bolivia, then anything else would be wasting my life.  However, to live without roots for this long doesn't always feel great.  Not wasting life can hurt.

So, this post is extremely "angsty" as my cousin once called my homesick ponderings.  However, it's reality.  May someone read this, think twice before they obey God's call, and then obey it anyway.


Last stretch before "normal"

My life has been nothing but crazy the last few weeks.  Conference for my mission, camping with high school students, campamento with my church, and now I am staying with the kids of a missionary family here until their parents get back on Sunday.  I have enjoyed these adventures within my big adventure of teaching, but I will be ready to go back to my "normal" life on Sunday.  Then I have about five weeks of teaching before Easter break-- just enough time for me to get tired of routine.  

For now, the house I'm staying at has air conditioning and monkeys, and I am staying with these three wonderful young people!



I am finally a tourist!  I haven't felt like one most of the time I've been here, but this past weekend I got to see a must-see.  Our church's Carnaval camp was in the town of Concepcion, which is one of the Jesuit mission towns in Bolivia.  

Carnaval is the Latin American holiday that was made to celebrate the two days before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins.  The word itself comes from the word carne (English carnal), which means "flesh or meat."  Although it is a fun time of throwing water balloons at everyone you see, it also is a time of releasing sins before everyone has to behave for the forty days of Lent.  Since it is negatively viewed by the evangelical church here in Bolivia, most churches in the city leave for a campamento, or retreat.  My church went to Concepcion.

The theme of our retreat was "Where is my first love?"  It was wonderful for me to think through my love for Christ and why I should love Him.  I did also realize that I need to be in prayer for what I will do when I come home in late July (which is coming sooner than I realize).  God was good to work in our church family this weekend.

Although most of the time I felt as though I were living as people who live in these tiny little towns do, it was also fun to be a tourist.  Here are some of my pictures.  I wish I could explain more, but if you've seen my post about my schedule lately, you will understand why I don't have time to do more than post pictures.  

Lining up for lunch
Bolivian soup!
Touristy mission church
It has been a blessing to have Bolivian friends
Shopping in the town's plaza
Carnaval water baloons
You can't really tell in the picture, but I think my little toe is broken. :(
Mission church in San Javier


Thursday, Friday, Weekend

Quick recap of my last two days:

6:50 a.m.       Leave for school
7:55 a.m.       School starts
3:00 p.m.       Plan/correct
4:30 p.m.       Leave to tutor/help a 5 yr. old with her speech
6:00 p.m.       Get talked into staying for supper (which was great and fun)
8:45 p.m.       Supper actually gets done
9:00 p.m.       Go pray for friend who flies off to a little town in the middle of nowhere
11:00 p.m.     Get home, finish school stuff, sleep


6:50 a.m.       Leave for school
7:55 a.m.       School starts
3:00 p.m.       Plan/correct
4:30 p.m.       Go get blood tested to donate
6:30 p.m.       School fundraiser/planning/correcting
10:00 p.m.     Ride along to give rides to students
11:00 p.m.     Get home, pack, clean, sleep

Looking ahead

7:15 a.m.     Take suitcases along and go give blood
10:30 a.m.    Go to post office (big deal here)
12:30 a.m.    Leave for camp (without returning home)

Get home from camp

Some day I will probably be married and have kids and stay home with them for days at a time.  I write this schedule for posterity's sake.  There probably come a day when I wish I had a schedule, when I wish I could just get out of the house.  Those days are not today.  They are not tomorrow.  They will probably not come at all in 2011.  

Thank you, Lord, for where you have me today.


Building Up a 5th Grader

This week we are starting something new in my classroom.  With just over eleven weeks left until summer break, I've been getting to know my students for over six months now.  I have seen their strengths and weaknesses, and I'm sure that they've seen mine.

Back in the very beginning of October, when I had known them for under two months, I chose a phrase to pray for each of my students over the year.  During Christmas break (just over the four month mark), I chose a Bible passage to go with the phrase I had chosen.  You can see those here if you're interested.

So today I brought my students into it.  Each day during morning devotions, one student comes up to the front where their classmates can tell him or her how they see God at work in his or her life.  Then, I share the phrase and verse I've been praying all year and we pray for that student as a class.  Building one another up is my goal (Eph. 4:29).

Natalia went today (Gospel Understanding, 1 Cor 15:1-6).  Our class came together (if only for 10 min.), and I think God was glorified.  I am excited about this new way He is at work in my classroom.

ENCOURAGE is my word for this year, and I'm trying to apply it the classroom as well as other areas of my life.