April 30, 2014

the desires of my heart... moving

When I was a teenager, the desire of my heart was to get the most with the least amount of effort.

I wanted to make the most amount of money, but I didn’t want to work for it. I wanted to have the most amazing relationships, but I didn’t want to put in the effort. I wanted the most beautiful house, car, wardrobe, you get the idea. I wanted it all - without all the work. 

15 years later, I have so much less than I wanted as a teenager- but I’ve found that I have more than I ever dreamed possible. 

Our current home in Georgetown that we’re moving out of soon

I don’t own a home. In fact, our lease is up in a month on our cute little house in town. Our new home has a rotting porches, the back door rotted right off the hinges and is on the back porch rotting away. There is no toilet, shower, kitchen sink, no plumbing at all. No electrical wiring, no lights, and a lot more nothing. You get the idea, right? This is a “fixer-upper” to be sure. 

Our “fixer-upper"

There is no fancy kitchen. No fancy ceiling, no fancy anything. It’s not fancy in any sense. 

But there’s something magical about it. Every time I walk in it and look around at the simplicity and bareness of it, I feel a peace in my heart. I feel so at home I’m almost giddy. I feel like I’m where I belong - where God wants me. And I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. 

The little house and hangar are at the grass airstrip
It’s funny how, as we draw out hearts and minds to Jesus, the desires of our heart change. Instead of wanting more, I want less of what this world has to offer. Instead of want to work as little as possible, I want to be a solider for Jesus and work to gather as many of the flock as are willing to come to Jesus. I’m not afraid of too much work anymore. 

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April 29, 2014

what I asked to see

As our time in the Paruima jungle was quickly coming to an end, I began praying more and more to see a sloth. Something was drawing me to them, something was pressing me to seek them. 

I had never been overly interested in sloths before moving to the jungle. Yes, they were kind of neat to see in books, a little weird, but I never had a burning desire to see one, much less come in close contact with one. 

But as we counted down the days until we would say goodbye to our jungle home, my desire grew. I couldn’t explain it, I started to feel almost desperate to see one. 

Finally one day, we spotted one way up in the canopy. The highest part of the jungle. It might as well have been a mile away. My first reaction was to grumble. All this praying and all I get is a far away look at it. Quickly though, the Spirit reminded me to thank Jesus. As I thanked Him, and prayed that I would be content with my sloth sighting, my heart let go of my displeasure and truly was thankful. Even if it was far away, I got to see a sloth in the wild! What an experience!

I stopped praying that Jesus would show me a sloth, because He had, as I had asked. I let my heart be content and cheerful, and gave thanks to God.

But God wasn’t quite finished. In fact, God had something much more amazing in store for me, He was just waiting for my heart to be ready for it. 

And ready for it I was. I was on the second-story deck hanging up the laundry I had just washed. I was thinking of nothing other than whatever tune was in my head and keeping one eye on Sam. Something in the yard caught my eye, and in an instant, I knew what it was. 

I screamed for my friend Christine to come fast, told Sam to put his boots on, and grabbed my camera as I went flying out the door. 

I landed on my knees about 3 feet from him. He was just moseying across the yard, and apparently I was in his way. But instead of going around, he decided to just keep going up and over. 

I asked Jesus if I could see a sloth. He put one literally right in my lap. 

I was shaking as I reached out an stroked his back. Then his arm, then his head. He didn’t seem to mind. We took photos and I filmed him walking a bit. In an instant I had a new friend and a new favorite animal. Not because he was cute (he was!) or because he was so awesome to hold and watch (he was!), but because Jesus has used this elusive little animal to teach me to be content and thankful. My heart still surges with delight every time I think of that little guy in my lap. 

A year later, I am again in the interior. Bethany Village this time. 

After a fun day at the lake with the Bethany Medical Missionary College students and staff, we were in the boat heading back to the school. I was scanning the exposed banks (low tide) for a kaman (small crocodile). I said to Todd, “What I’d really like to see is something awesome like a sloth swimming in the river.” 

A sloth swimming in the water would have been awesome, but once again God had something way better in mind. 

My eyes lazily watched the bank as the boat puttered down the river. Then I saw her. I yelled for the boat driver, Brother Calvin, to stop the boat. He maneuvered the boat right over to where the sloth was climbing out of the water on some vines. He got me right up to the sloth when up from her belly peeked the tiny baby she was carrying. 

I again found myself trying to stop shaking with excitement so I could take photos. 

Oh, God is so good! 

I was able to take some beautiful photos and video of this very rare sighting and was reminded once again that God cares so much about my heart! I can’t stop thanking Him! 

Here’s the thing. As silly as it might seem that God might use a sloth to draw me closer to Him, it’s true! God knows us all so well and He knows the desires of our hearts. Does that mean we’ll always get what we want? Of course not. But that means that when we open our hearts to Him, He will know the best way to reach us. And oh! What a wonderful experience it is when our hearts are open to Him! 

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April 13, 2014

the book

I feel a little bit inspired to start writing again. 

Oh my stars. 

If you’re thinking, “This chick writes all the time. Hello, you blog. Duh.” Then let me clarify. 

I wrote a book a while back. 

It is the humorous yet inspiring story of a family from Oregon moving to South America as missionaries. Or something like that. 

I spent every waking second writing for about 3 months straight to make it bookish after spending five months writing, journaling, and recording our journey. Then, I finished the rough draft, declared my desire to vomit, and refused to even talk about it for seven months. 

Friend: “Hey, how is your book coming along?”
Me: “Yeah! Hey, I think I should cut my hair!”
Friend: “Um… ok. Are you still working on it?”
Me: “My hair?”
Friend: “No, your book?”
Me (whispering): “I need ice cream.”
Every conversation where anyone brought up “the book” basically ended like that.

I made a special file in my documents on my computer where I could hide it and not even have to look at it. I haven’t opened it in seven months. 

I have nothing to say, really. It’s horrible. No one will even want to read it. I sent it to about five well-meaning friends who wanted to read it and give me some feedback. Not one of them (to my knowledge) ever actually read it. If they did, it was so awful it gave them nightmares and couldn’t talk about it. At least to me. (Ok, pity party over. Whatever. I know people are busy and I am too sensitive). 

Today the weirdest thing happened: I thought about my book. And instead of feeling nauseous, I kinda feel excited about it again. I seriously didn’t even think that was possible. But, a little spark in my heart has been flamed and I actually want to work on it again. Maybe. I’m still too afraid to actually commit to working on it, but I’m thinking about it. That’s got to be a step in some direction. 

Whatever. I need someone to keep me accountable for not going crazy.
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April 8, 2014

seeds on a path

Admere looked at me and smiled. It was a forced smile. She was fighting her emotions, and the smile was a cover. Her eyes focused on the ceiling. The window. Anything but me. After a moment of silently gathering her courage, she looked at me. I smiled encouragement and offered up silent prayers of courage. That’s when she broke. As she tried telling me her story, she could no longer keep back the flood of emotion from the war in her heart. She sobbed. She held her face in her hands and wept. She wept for herself. She wept for her family. She wept for Jesus. 

I arrived in Paramakatoi (PK) Friday afternoon. A remote village hidden deep within the jungles of Guyana, PK is made up of people and families trying just to survive. It’s a hard life and a hard place to live. Dependent on family farms for survival, the residents of PK live without every modern luxury we have learned to take for granted. I hauled our drinking and bathing water along with the girls I stayed with. They thought it was hilarious that my full bucket became increasingly less full with every step. They joked that I was having my bath on the trail and gently chided me for wasting the drinking water. How they navigated those trails with heavy, full buckets without spilling a drop, I’ll never know. 
The last look of the airplane as I’m left in Paramakatoi

The experiencing of living with them for four short days was eye opening. Carrying our water was just part of it. The outhouse door didn’t quite close all the way (and don’t even get me started on the spiders that lived there). There was no running water, let alone indoor plumbing. The only power was a generator from the public secondary school that was on for four hours each evening. Even the generator was a luxury most homes in PK went without. Being on the school campus we were blessed with it. They ate two meals a day. For the simple reason that there wasn’t enough food to eat any more often than twice a day. 

As hard as life seemed in PK, my hosts, Mr and Mrs Gudge, told me about the surrounding villages that many of the secondary students on campus come from. Villages even poorer than PK. Villages without any shops (PK has four small shops that sell staple items for a premium). If a family needs rice, flour, or oil in these villages, they must go a whole days walk, sometimes two days walk, to PK or two other villages in the region that have shops. I asked more than once how the people there live, how they are able to buy anything. Mrs Gudge shrugged her shoulders and couldn’t answer that. She told me that most people go without and rely on what they can grow on their farms. 
Paramakatoi SDA church, left, and some of the village

Admere comes from a village similar to PK. Another poor village a days walk from PK called Kurukabaru. A village more isolated than PK and rooted deep in tradition. Kurukabaru village is known as being home to the only priest in this mostly Catholic region. Admere, along with six other girls from Kuruabaru, attended the region’s public school in PK. 

Although being at a government-run public school, the Gudges (he is the boys warden/dean and she is the girl’s matron/dean) are missionaries at heart. Soon after they accepted this position over six years ago a family in the village began joining them for the small family church they held on the floor of their small apartment each week. Then some students asked to join. Soon they outgrew their small apartment and asked permission to use a classroom. More students joined them, and the Gudges saw the students were hungry for God. They were granted permission to hold weekly Bible lessons, and then daily worships with the students. Two years after this began the pastor that visits the village once a year baptized 15 new members. Two families and a gentleman from the village and several students. The following year 27 students were baptized. And then 34. 
Backed against the wall, there are so many students at Friday night worship I can’t fit them all in one photo!
The Gudges and the students are awaiting the visit from the pastor this year and are anticipating many baptisms. One of the students considering baptism is Admere. She has accepted Jesus into her dear heart, but fears the ramifications of choosing baptism. She has seen many of her classmates struggle with the same choice: choose to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit into baptism, or choose to listen to their families. Almost all of the students at one point were warned by their fathers and mothers that should they choose to be baptized the family would cut off support and the student would be on their own. The family would abandon and essentially disown the baptized student. For these 14, 15, and 16-year olds, it’s not an easy decision. 

Admere cried out through her sobs that she wants to follow Jesus but her father has warned her that if she gets baptized her family will no longer support her. How would she support herself as she finishes school? She would have no way of buying school uniforms, books, or school supplies. 

Admere is only one of the many students who are accepting Christ into their hearts. The Gudges have spent six years sowing seeds among the fields, and as these seeds begin to grow into new creations, the birds, rocks, and thorns threaten to steal and choke the budding new growth. I beg for my friends and family to pray for the Gudge family as they continue to share the everlasting Gospel in PK. I covet prayers for these students, both those who are facing very hard decisions and those who have made the difficult decision to follow Jesus. Pray for the students who are asking for work in PK so they can stay near the Gudges and grow in their faith more before returning home to families and villages who will not accept them back with open arms. Pray for the students who have returned home to hard situations but who, despite all odds, are working to now plant their own seeds in the hearts of those who opposed them. Pray for a world that you will never meet on this earth, but that you might meet in Heaven someday. Pray, my friends, please pray. 
One of the many students who will be returning to her village soon to spread the gospel.
Matthew 13: That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
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April 3, 2014

this strange place

I’ve been MIA on the blog for a while. We’ve been busy. You know, the same old excuse.

Today I’d like to share more about this unique place we call home.

The Guyanese people are an interesting mix. The three dominate people groups are descendants of African slaves and East-Indian slaves, and the Amerindians. Then you also have people here from many other countries. And a mix of everything in between. I’ve heard the Guyanese call Guyana more than once an international country.

With such a large mixture of people there is a large mixture of religion and beliefs. The largest religious groups are Christians, Hindu, and Muslims. I think I’ve seen almost every known religion represented here.

Georgetown is a very diverse place.

I talk to a lot of people. Taxi drivers, shop keepers, church members, and people I meet in the market. We’ve gotten to know people at the airport, the hospital, the conference office, and our neighbors. We are a part of a weekly outreach in Sophia Village (a part of Georgetown) and sometimes help with Sabbath School.

Almost everywhere I go, people are curious about the “white girl” as I’m often referred to. People want to know what I’m doing here. And once they learn we live here, their next question is always, “How do you find Guyana?”

“I love it here.”

I really have come to love this strange place.

Just like everywhere else in the world, there are kind people and rude people. There are trustworthy people and untrustworthy people. There are rich and there are poor. There are people who want to harm and people who want to help.

This is a harsh place. It’s rare to see a costlander (the term for those living in Georgetown, who are very different from the Amerindians of the interior) crying or vulnerable. People here learn to be tough early in life. They have to be strong to survive here. People have learned that they need to take care of themselves because no one else is looking out for them. They can’t rely on their own government for income during the hard seasons of life. This is a poor country. Stealing isn’t the worst thing a person can do - survival is everyone’s mission. Everyone is trying to get ahead and catch a break.

On the other hand, it seems someone will always stop to let a waiting car go ahead. If someone in the back of the line only has an item or two, they will be ushered to the front of the line. More than once I’ve seen vendors give people extra potatoes, bananas, or bora.

Often times the coastlanders’ tempers are as hot as the noonday sun (thanks to clouds it’s only 82ยบ at the moment). The Guyanese can be loud. Really loud. They’re often aggressive in their pursuit for their own justice, and they don’t hide it.

On the other hand, I’ve seen more grace here in the last year than I can count. I tell you these people have real, living grace. And true humility. In the midst of this crazy rat-race of Georgetown, there are these gems living amongst us that quietly remind us that love always wins. Love is louder than any protest. Love is living and abundant.

Guyana is just like anywhere else, really. You’ll always find exactly what you’re looking for.

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