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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Overflowing hearts

The other day someone asked me what my “peak” experience has been so far, in the almost eight years we’ve lived here.  That’s a tough question.  I live in a foreign country, working for an organization that LITERALLY changes peoples lives (that phrase gets thrown around a lot, it seems) seeing God work in ways that I could never in a million years even begin to imagine…and I’m supposed to choose one experience?  And then…three days later…I had that PEAK experience.

I told you all a while back that one of our house projects this year was for Jose and Teresa Jimenez.  Jose and Teresa are Ecuadorian.  Four years ago, they stepped out on faith and became missionaries.  Faith based missionaries.  That means that, just like the rest of us, they are trusting the Lord to provide.  Jose is the pastor out at Zambiza (the dump) and Teresa runs the daycare out there.  They are the most dedicated, humble, giving people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  For the last two years, they had been living with Teresa’s mom in a tiny little house.  All five of them (Jose, Teresa and their three children) slept in one room.  Not ONCE did I ever hear them complain about their situation.  Not once.  Last summer, when our house team was here, they said that they were going to build Jose and Teresa a house.  The first thing Jose said was “No, you can’t.  That means that someone else won’t get a house”.  The team insisted…Jose resisted.  Dan, Mike, Jerry and anyone else who talked to Jose tried to encourage him to let the team bless his family…and he finally said yes.

Several weeks ago, 20 or so people hit the ground in Ecuador.  They brought 40 duffel bags filled with all of the things that you need for a house.  They spent DAYS building the house.  And then we all went out on a Tuesday, and started unpacking duffel bags.  We hung shower curtains.  Window curtains.  Unpacked dishes and set the table.  Which was purchased by the team while they were here, along with beds, dressers, living room furniture, groceries…I have never seen anything like it.  The attention to detail was amazing.  Jose and Teresa have three children.  Fernando just graduated from high school.  He got his own room, a whole new wardrobe, a desk and dresser…all for a wonderful young man.  Timoteo is 9.  Matchbox cars, clothes, school supplies, new desk.  The other day Jose told Dan that Timmy spends his entire day in his room…just hanging out.  He gets up, comes out for breakfast, goes back, comes out for lunch…we all just giggled at the picture.  Jamileht is the only girl in the family.  She’s a petite little three year old who absolutely melts your heart when you meet her.  She got a room fit for a princess.  Canopy for the bed, dollhouse, babies, tutus, ballet shoes…all in PINK.  I don’t think she’s stopped smiling yet.

Being a part of this, even as small as my part was, was the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed here.  And I’ve seen some pretty amazing stuff.  It was three weeks ago, and as I write this, I’ve still got goose bumps.  To be able to be a blessing to a family that has blessed us beyond measure with their dedication and their hearts for the Lord…As we all stood in the living room that night and listened to their testimony, listened to them dedicate their lives and their new house to the One that they love with their very being…That was a peak experience.  I’m just glad peak experiences aren’t limited to one.

Below are some pictures…Enjoy.

A room for a princesa

The kitchen

Living room and dining room

Presenting each member of the family with a new Bible

Dedicating the house to the service of the Lord



Ground up neighbor

I have this recipe that’s called “ground up neighbor”.  It’s a sinfully delicious combination of breakfast sausage, Velveeta cheese, salsa and cream of mushroom soup.  One bite has enough calories to last me for the entire day, and yet I’m capable of eating a whole bowlful.  What originally intrigued me about the recipe was the name.  “Ground up neighbor”.  Admit it-we’ve all had a neighbor that we were…less than fond of.  One we would like to substitute for the sausage in the recipe.

It occurred to me a while ago that we HAVE ground up our neighbors.  I’ve been watching the economy mess for some time.  The whole budget fiasco made me nauseous.  If our kids were fighting like that, we would have clobbered them and sent them to their rooms.  Our elected officials, all the way up to the leader of the free world, sit there day after day and fight like little kids who missed their naps, and are miserable and cranky because of it.  Aside from thinking that our entire government needs a good spanking, I started to think about the implications of what is happening.  Our Social Security is disappearing.  I really didn’t expect to have it anyway by the time I reach retirement age.  Gas prices are skyrocketing.  Food prices are too high-people can’t afford to eat well.  (Interestingly enough, junk food is still reasonably affordable.  It’s the healthy stuff like fruits and vegetables that are ridiculous.)  All of this meandering around in my head kept leading me back to the same thought…”The government has proven that they are not willing/capable of doing what we ‘need’ them to do…so when do we start doing it ourselves”?  When do we stop grinding up our neighbor and start caring for him?

I live in a country where people don’t really care for each other.  Our houses all have really high walls around them, and the concept of being “neighborly” isn’t there.  We are neighborly with the people on the other side of our duplex, but it’s because last year good friends of ours rented it.  Before that, we really didn’t know our neighbors.  No one trusts anyone here.  People take care of their families first, and then maybe there is a little circle of friends that might be considered important enough to take care of if something happened.  Mostly, everyone just looks out for themselves, and for their family.  I wish I could say that this is only the poor people, who are just trying to survive, and don’t have the time, energy or resources to care about anyone else.  It’s not.  There is an emerging middle class here, and a very wealthy “upper crust”, who are just in it for themselves.  When we moved here, it was a little unnerving.  I remember thinking “They didn’t ask me to come, and they don’t care if I stay”.  I was used to having family around, and I had a circle of friends.  I didn’t understand.  Now…for the point of my rambling.  The US has become exactly like this.

We are a people who expect the “government” to take care of everyone.  200 years ago, you helped your neighbor.  If you had two loaves of bread and he was hungry, you gave him one.  No one had a lot, but people took care of each other.  The concept of the government taking care of you was unheard of.  You just did what had to be done.  Now, we are so busy trying to keep up that we don’t even notice if our neighbor is hurting.  At what point did we stop caring?  I’ve studied history-I know all about the post-war booms, etc.  I don’t think that was it.  I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s.  We had neighbors, and my parents knew them.  We kids played together.

We need to stop grinding up our neighbors.  The government isn’t going to change.  We need to.  It’s time to start working together to improve things.  The news says that one of the problems with our economic situation is that we “aren’t spending enough”.  Sooo…we aren’t spending money on things we don’t need…and that’s a problem.  We are in an “overcorrection” period in the stock market.  I’ve been overcorrected a few times.  It hurts.  The difference between me and Wall Street is that I learned my lesson and quit spending money like it was a bodily function.  It’s time to start taking care of each other.  Things will get better-they always do.  What if we changed our outlook on life, so that when things get “better”…we don’t change anything?  We still love our neighbors, take care of business, and ignore what happens in Washington?

I know-this is supposed to be a ministry update.  I have one ready to go-I’ll post it this week.  It’s been a GREAT summer.  We’ve taken care of our neighbors.  Two families are living in their own houses because of a lot of people who sacrificed greatly to come and make sure it happened.  Lives have been changed…on BOTH sides of the equator.

Feel free to comment on this.  I would love to know if I’m the only one feeling like we’re grinding up our neighbors.  And by the way.  Neighbors aren’t just the people in our neighborhoods.  Although that would be a great start.