A few of my favorite parts of my job:
1. I get to hang out with kids and tell stories. I frequently make up for the lack of perfect vocabulary by being overly expressive. I’m sure you would never have guessed that.
I’m sure that you can tell I am a disciple in the boat, and Jesus is sleeping, and I’m convinced we’re all going to die. That’s pretty obvious in this picture, right?
2. That picture also illustrates my next point – our kiddo is being raised in the midst of a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, super-loving life. He’s getting snuggles from a lady in the church and clutching his blue balloon animal. I hope we never take for granted the incredibly special environment we get to live in.
2. I get to work with my best friend. He’s pretty easy on the eyes as well, if you must know the truth.
3. I get to be a small part of connecting God’s people to each other and to the world.
We occasionally feel like we have everything under control.
Our last team was not one of those occasions.
We had been concerned about some of the project details for some time, you don’t need to know all the gory details, but it came down to the last minute, and we had to change the project. With a week before the team arrived. In a country we don’t live in, so things aren’t always as easy. I was discussing this with the Panamanian pastor later and I told him, “Normally this would be something . . .” and he filled in with the word, “traumatic.” Well, yes. If we’re going to be blunt. Normally, this would be traumatic.
But it wasn’t, because thank goodness we serve a God who is in control and whose ways are higher than our ways.
As soon as we found out it was switching, we both felt an incredible peace and excitement that we had never sensed with the first project. Not to say it is a bad project at all, but it just wasn’t the RIGHT project for this team.
Cue the scramble to readjust plans, food, buy materials, etc.
(There are a lot of steps to get down to the church, and all the materials have to get there somehow. That means carrying them down on your back, one load at a time.)
I had also been feeling pretty nervous about meeting the team as well. They had been fantastic to communicate with, but as a result of the challenges with the project, I felt like I had given them partial or insufficient information for months. I seemed to always be asking them for a little more patience to get the details they needed.
I was fairly certain that the team leader’s first thought when she met me would be, “So this is the idiot I’ve been talking to this whole time.”
When the team arrived, the team leader was the warmest, sweetest lady you’d ever hope to meet. I’m 99% certain she wasn’t calling me a moron since she hugged me and immediately started making friends with my (admittedly adorable) offspring.
We saw God working in great ways at the church / project. There was an instant connection between the church members and the team members. It was fascinating and humbling watch everyone surmounting the language barrier with drawings, hand gestures, hugs, slap-stick comedy and genuine smiles. It was beautiful. It was what God intended all along.
(This picture was taken after a spontaneous bilingual hymn / worship music mid-afternoon jam session.)
After this team, it was easy to say that it was not through our talents, planning or foresight, but through the power of God that there was anything good. And there was so much good. We serve an all-powerful God who is willing to be involved even in the intimate details. Don’t forget it! Don’t forget to remind me of it.
Childrearing, I am finding, is deeply cultural. What is taken completely for granted as the “right” way in one culture seems ridiculous to another. I find it absolutely fascinating.
In the last 24 hours I’ve run in to two that I thought were amusing.
1: My little guy, who now is over a year old, was wandering around in the small cafeteria here on campus (we call it the bohio, which roughly translates as “shack”) while I was chatting with Yanina, one of the cooks. He crashed, which is a pretty common occurrence for him at this point, and bonked his head. It wasn’t a grievous wound, but there was a smudge of dirt where he made contact and he worked for a moment or two to convince me survival was questionable.
Yanina was quite concerned, and she first looked for ice. There wasn’t any. Then she said, “Why my kids fell, my mother always put honey on their heads.” She whipped out the honey bottle and smeared a dab on his forehead. He hadn’t been crying for about a minute by that point, but what’s the harm? I’ve never heard of that, but I figured it would just make him a little sweeter. I did make sure to clean him up well before I laid him down for his nap, because the army of ants my honey-smeared baby would attract would make my day considerably grosser!
2. It was raining yesterday, as usual. Little Man and I were waiting in the bohio for the rest of the team to arrive for lunch. He started putting his hand in the run off from the roof. Then it was his arm. Then he worked up his courage and stuck his head under it. The next thing I knew, he was grinning and giggling and standing under it. He was thrilled.
Yanina was not so thrilled. She kept asking me, “Won’t it hurt him? Won’t he be cold?” She is a mother of 4 grown kids, so she clearly has her own opinions on how this should go, but I think she sees me as some kind of fascinating alien raising someone who is made up of a somewhat difference substance than her own kids or grandkid. She eventually succumbed to Little One’s giggles and decided that he probably wouldn’t perish.
Do not fear, world at large. I retrieved a towel and some dry clothes from our house and got the kid cleaned up before lunch, but it was worth it. He thought he was invincible, and Yanina thinks I’m crazy. All in all, a good day.
Today I carefully hunted through my pictures for photos of someone who I hardly knew. Her name is Thelma, and she was 6 years younger than me. She passed away suddenly a few months ago. She left three small children, including a 1 week old son. I met her because her husband and her father are both pastors and church planters in an indigenous area in southeast Costa Rica.
Thelma didn’t smile much in pictures, though I remember when we talked she smiled easily. She had a sweet, gentle spirit and seemed to always be working. Her daughter is a pretty little girl who has her mother’s round face and old-soul eyes. Her son is rambunctious and giggly, but she was clearly the fixed point that he clung to.
The last time Stephen was there, he asked if the family had pictures of Thelma. The people in this area live very simply, and so it’s rare that they have photos of themselves. They responded that the thought someone had a picture (a tiny, fuzzy one) of her on their phone.
There is very little that I can do to help this grieving family, but I can print some pictures. I only found two. One is a group picture, but she is standing by her husband. You best believe I cropped it down tight enough that it’s just the two of them in that picture. The other one is in a van. The light is behind her and she has a calm little smile. Her little boy, who was only about 3 at the time, has his hand on her chest. Beautiful. Heartbreaking.
I’m not going to post the pictures, because it seems wrong that the whole world would have access to her pretty face when her family does not.
So often it seems that what we have to give to the world is inadequate. It seems like such a small thing, and yet I have faith that God will use even the small things. For today, this is my “cup of water” offered in his name. Maybe it will be a small relief; maybe the God of peace will use it to bring some comfort to a hurting family.
I am so glad that I serve a savior who said he came to fulfill the promise . . .
to comfort all who mourn
and provide for those who grieve in Zion —
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of despair.
Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes I make fun of the quirks of the denomination we’re a part of. I love it. I really do, and yet sometimes parts of the culture strike me as kind of weird. I’m not going to detail them, because if you don’t already know, then it’s probably better!
Over the next two weeks we have the global assembly for our denomination, which only happens every 4 years. We are helping, and so we get to go along. It’s not a little thing, either. There are over 20,000 folks coming from all over the world.
I thought this could very well be one of those things that I quietly poked fun at.
Can I tell you a secret?
I’m having a great time.
There. I said it. Mock me.
Actually, don’t mock me. It hurts my feelings.
Some of my very favorite people in the whole world (literally) are all together. There are leaders and pastors from every country we work or have worked in. Many of them haven’t met our son yet. I love seeing people that I admire so much holding my little one.
** Insert picture of a Nicaraguan lady holding my handsome little chunk. Except I just retrieved my camera after a 2 day adventure with someone else, so I have no new pictures. **
Yesterday I went on a long walk with a girl from Costa Rica. She only lives about an hour away, but we’ve been having trouble finding a time to get together recently. Of course that would happen when we’re not at home!
** Insert picture I didn’t take of a gorgeous summer afternoon by the river with a good friend. **
There are people from teams, members of our families, friends from college, missionaries from everywhere . . . basically, if you want to spend some time with people passionate about serving God and continuing to look for ideas on how to do that in authentic, innovative ways, come here.
That’s not to say that there aren’t quite a few old white guys in suits with too much hairspray and a comb over. There are quite a few of those too. But something that I’ve found is, by and large, even those guys can be pretty cool despite their antiquated fashion. It’s easy to mark someone as stuffy and write them off. It’s harder to do that when you know how genuinely they care about suffering in the world and sharing the hope of Jesus Christ.
** Insert picture of an ill-advised comb over covering the noggin of a nice guy. **
You know those times when you realize that you’re secretly kind of a jerk, even though you do your best to look like a nice person on the outside? Yeah. I had that moment. Except it’s not secret anymore since I just put it on the internet.
Pray with me that above and beyond all the necessary work/meetings/motions/voting/discussing that will happen in the next fews days, that there will be something more. There are many praying that God will make his presence known in a powerful, undeniable, maybe even shocking way. We are praying that he would fan the fire within his people to something so hot that it melts away the dross and leaves only a single-minded, burning desire to serve him no matter what the cost.
Pray with me that it won’t be a meeting. Pray for revival. Hot, painful, necessary, world-shaking, shackle-breaking, hope-giving, life-changing revival.
Everyone likes to be recognized. Everyone likes to be appreciated.
That goes for our groups as well. Some people want to put plaques on the churches they help to build that say more or less, “the Church of the Generous and Hardworking helped to build this wall.” Just a few weeks ago I had to talk someone out of putting their own church name in the freshly poured concrete in front of a Costa Rican church they were working with.
That’s why there are some projects that are hard to find teams for.
There isn’t much glory in it, is there? It doesn’t even feel very spiritual. Who wants to do that?
We did find a team that was willing, and they just left Costa Rica today. They were pretty muddy all week, but they were successful. A big portion of the hole is filled in, and only a handful of people in this world know that last week there was a 10 foot trench there.
It made me think a lot about Matthew 6. Jesus talks about making your generosity something secret. He says that if you are celebrated on earth for the good things you do, you have received the reward. That’s kind of hard, isn’t it? I mean, I don’t need a banner that says “We’re so proud of what Anne does” to fly over my home town, but a little affirmation is always nice. Don’t worry, Lord. I accept very humbly. That means I still get something in heaven, too, right?
So much of what Jesus says is hard. Really hard. Unreasonable even. It’s hard to argue it, though. It makes sense. Who am I working to please?
Thanks MN team, for being an example of Matthew 6 to me. I’m still thinking about it.
It’s that time again. We’re in the States for home assignment! We took a few week of vacation over Christmas and then hit the road at the beginning of the year for several months of traveling and speaking at a bunch of different churches.
It can be tiring, but it’s mostly fun as we reconnect with people who were on teams that we worked with over the past few years, and as we meet new people who are excited about what God is doing in the countries we work in.
We pretty much use the same message, tweaked just a bit, for every church. You may or may not know that Stephen is not into monotony. That’s why he occasionally “edits” our power point just to mess with me. Tuesday I was cruising along giving an overview of Panama when this picture popped up.
You might ask why. I don’t know. People probably thought we had a really lame comedy routine going because I just looked at Stephen and said, “Why do we have a picture of a gnome?” His answer was, “Because it’s at the Panama Canal.” Of course. At least it wasn’t a donkey this time.
Our littlest family member has been doing an awesome job. He is a champion traveler and rarely complains unless it’s time to eat.
We did have an incident this week, though, when we had a clothing issue and I realized that the one thing we were missing was the one thing we needed – extra pants! So instead of being dressed like a normal kid, he got to wear a monkey blanket toga along with his t-shirt and jacket. We do our best to class up the joint.
This is him a little later when the poor soul decided he had enough fellowship for one night.
If you’re looking carefully, yes, he is clutching a water bottle. No, he wasn’t drinking out of it. Yes, it’s one of his favorite toys right up there with a piece of parchment paper. Like I said: classy.