Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sickness... and Mexico City!

ER…On Tuesday I made my first trip to the ER. I had been having chest pains for a couple of days and they seemed to be getting worse. The pain was making it difficult to breath. I wouldn’t have been too concerned but we were leaving for Mexico City on Thursday and I knew I wouldn’t have medical access there. Windy (one of our students who just graduated as an RN) looked at my chest and could see a bone protruding a bit. We got to the ER around 9:15- thirty minutes and $25 later (with no insurance) I was set to go! The doctor said I basically pulled a muscle in my chest in our kickboxing class and it was really swollen and pushing on my chest and sternum- causing a bone to poke out.

Montezuma’s Revenge…. This is the sickness Sandy (MTW missionary here) was telling us we could experience here. You must use purified water and food must be washed very meticulously in this special solution, and sometimes restaurants get lazy and this is when we get sick. It starts with vomiting and diarrhea, and progresses to fever, chills, horrible stomach cramps, body ache, dehydration, ect. It basically feels like you are dying and will never recover. I began throwing up after dinner on Wednesday and continued to get sick all night long. I never thought I would ever be able to make it on our 9:00am flight to Mexico City that next morning. However, by God’s grace, I did. I could tell the Lord had a special hand on me because whether I had eaten something bad, or had a bad virus, I never should have stopped vomiting that soon. I felt horrible and popped anti-nausea pills like candy, but I made it all the way through all of our traveling that first day (see below). It was a small miracle! Although my sickness continued throughout our stay in Mexico City, I only had to throw up when I actually had access to a bathroom. I was so thankful that the Lord was granting me special grace to travel all over the city and be with the team. I have still continued to throw up periodically- Please pray for my continued recovery and that I will be able to keep food down. Please pray that if this is a virus, the rest of the team will not get it.

Trains, Planes, & Automobiles- Actually it was van, plane, van, subway, train, boat, and bus all in the day we arrived!!! (and now you see why I said it was a small miracle I didn’t throw up). After we arrived in Mexico City (the second largest city in the world), we traveled to take a cute little boat ride through a village. On the way home we learned a hard lesson. You must push people out of the way in order to get off of the subway in time. A few of our students almost didn’t make it off. The doors started shutting, Kim started screaming to get off, and Sam and I grabbed the sides of the doors and forced them open so our students would not be separated from us in this huge city. The cop was very angry with us, and Isai said if we had been Mexicans, he would have taken us to jail. We all got off the subway much more quickly the rest of the trip. Another scary thing here is crossing the street. Pedestrians definitely don’t have the right of way ANYWHERE in Mexico- people will absolutely run you over. We have to run…

Sightseeing...One of the highlights of Mexico City was the pyramids. These pyramids were built by native Indians who were conquered by the Aztecs (which also used the pyramids). I ate a PB&J at the top of the highest one… definitely the coolest place I’ve ever eaten a PB&J.:) We also toured a famous Cathedral and went to the anthropological museum. We didn’t go into the main square of the city because there was a protest going on there with a rebel military and we thought we shouldn’t get too close. The Cathedral was very ornate and beautiful, but also very sad as we saw all these people bringing things to Mary and trying to pay money for their sin- a cost much too great for them, and one that’s already been paid. I was personally thrilled to find a Subway, but not so thrilled later when I threw it up because I think the lettuce wasn’t cleaned well. L Sunday we were able to attend a Mass service at the Basilica de Guadalupe. This is supposedly the third most visited religious site in the world behind the Vatican and Mecca. This was very eye opening and sad as people crawled on their knees to the building in order to pay penance for their sin.

Character development...Mexico City was very stretching for us all. It was very difficult trying to stay together as a group, catch all the subways, trains, buses at the right time and to the right place, not getting food when we were hungry, not stopping when people were tired, not doing what everyone wanted to do, not placing the needs of others above our own, ect. This provided the atmosphere for a lot of frustration and anger to come out. Please pray that the Lord will use this to grow our character and that He will guide the staff in how to channel this sin into an environment of grace and communication with one another.

The food…we’ve all pretty much decided that we don’t really prefer the food here and daydream all the time of where we will go first when we get back. I’m not sure if it’s the half-cooked chicken, the impure water/ice, the undisenfected lettuce, or because mine keeps coming back up, but I will be especially excited to get back and eat some good food. I feel as though I may turn into a PB&J soon- I eat at least one a day.

Week of Rain (Week 4)

Navigation...When it rains a lot here, they close the roads. We drove around for an hour in flooded streets on Monday trying to get to Iteso (using a different route) with 17 people piled in the suburban. It was quite an experience…

Zoo…Ben and I went on a date to the Guadalajara Zoo. It was quite an “adventure”. We rode on a Safari- an open truck that drives you through free ranging animals. This was the highlight of the zoo, but it was also quite terrifying as we were driving through flooded creeks, rough terrain, and drove within 5 feet of an un-caged rhino. Ben could have touched him, but he chose not to..:)

Sadness…The Baxter’s (the other staff couple here) found out they had a miscarriage of their third child on Wednesday. This was very sad for all of us to here. She had to have a procedure done on Thursday to remove the baby. Although it wasn’t my own baby that was lost, I was especially sad and felt like I could relate to Kim in a strange way.

Ben and I felt spiritually attacked later this week as we prepared to take the students to Matzamamitla for a retreat. Please pray for the Lord’s protection over us.

No transportation...We lost one of the suburbans on Friday. Duane was going to put gas in it and got pulled over by a Mexican cop. He spoke no English, and Duane speaks very little Spanish, so they were getting nowhere. Duane couldn’t bribe him (a common practice here) because he had no money- so he took the car. We later found out it was because they are doing a city wide check on exhaustion production, and considering it’s a 1988, we didn’t pass the test.

Matzamitla….The Lord really blessed our weekend. We had 35 total students (including our team), which was a tremendous blessing! We cooked dinner that night for everyone (a near disaster), made s’mores (on the gas oven b/c we couldn’t start the fire), a Mexican student shared his testimony, and we watched a movie. The next day we had a spiritual discussion group on a verse and the themes in the movie. This is the first time the gospel has been shared with these college students in the context of a group. It made some uncomfortable (“you don’t talk about these things in front of others in this culture”), but for most it was received very well. Several were very interested and asked questions. Others just listened. We feel as though the Lord is breaking down some major barriers and really allowing us to have some tremendous conversations. Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Things God has been doing...

Ministry: Allowed us to connect to lots of Iteso students that are drawn to spend time with us. Our students are learning for the first time what it looks like to minister in the context of relationships. Pray that we will love them well, truly befriend them, and that we will have opportunities for spiritual conversations and be discerning to the spirit’s leading.

Team: God is doing a great work in the hearts of the team. In a lot of ways, we are all just getting to know each other. Please pray that God will deepen and enrich our relationships with one another and that He will use our community to give us a greater picture of Him. Many of us have thick walls surrounding our hearts that the Lord is beginning to break. Ben and Duane have done an excellent job with our training time. The men’s/women’s time has been a highlight. The men are studying a book about what it is to be a man. The women are reading the Search for Significance. The first two chapters are on Performance vs. Justification. God is really moving in the hearts of these girls to allow them to see for the first time the security and acceptance we have in Christ- how pleasing we are to God without doing ANYTHING. This is such a life-changing truth to grasp. Please pray that the Lord’s spirit will move in each individual to change them for the rest of their lives. Would we all be changed to the degree that we could never go back…

Personally: The Lord is putting his finger on several things He wants to grow me in this summer. He has been showing me for the past year the ways I do not trust Him. So much of my security is placed upon myself, my performance, my control, ect. It is nearly impossible for me to rely upon any of these things here and I am praying for a major transformation in placing all my security/finding my safety/resting in His care of my life instead of seeking to cultivate these things myself. I’m also praying that God would make me into a woman that really loves well. I long for my heart to be broken over the condition of the lost, the impoverished, the despairing. I’m seeking to grow in putting on Christ-like character, being quick to repent when I fall short, focusing on people and not tasks, and truly letting people in. The Lord has used the book to show me many walls of self-protection in my own heart and how I will sometimes run from relationships because I can’t control people’s response to me or how they receive me.

Ben and I are also praying that God will really work in our marriage to enrich the depth of our love for one another. We want to learn how to communicate better, be receiving of each other, and cultivate an environment of grace and mercy.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Week 3 in Mexico

Saturday night: We found an Applebee’s. It was expensive, and the menu was still in Spanish, but everything inside looked just like ours and it was such a nice taste of home!

Sunday- Went to lunch with families at the church… it’s amazing how giving and welcoming their culture is…Ben and I went to a ladies home and she prepared a feast for just the two of us…when we asked her what time we needed to leave, she said the whole afternoon was ours…people in America are way too busy for that…

Tues pm- Went to a restaurant to watch the futbal game…there were 50+ students there!… I had the opportunity to share how God had changed my life and why we are here with one of the soccer guys…it broke my heart to hear that he really trusted getting better friends/putting good people around you to change him and give him hope…he was very interested in “a relationship with God” and wants to come to church with us this Sunday…his name is Mario.

Scary…Ben and I tried to go on a date on Wednesday. We have been missing American ice cream and someone told us that there was a dairy queen not far from where we live… we climbed up into the hoopty (just the two of us in this massive burnt orange suburban) and drove for an hour to get somewhere that was 15 minutes away. We finally found dairy queen at 845- closed- even though the door said it closed at 9:00. So date night ended up at McDonald’sJ Its amazing how shaken you can feel when you are in a foreign country, can’t read the road signs (nor do they mean anything anyways), have difficulty navigating their “laterals” and massive roundabouts (ways to get off the main roads), they drive like maniacs, there are no lanes on the road, don’t have seatbelts, and you can’t communicate with anyone to ask for help. I am usually terrified and on the edge of my seat when we are driving. The Lord has been stripping me of where I place my security and forcing me to trust in His sovereign control. Here even the most basic things like feeling safe on the road, knowing where we are, where we are going, and being able to order the food we want can be very challenging. However, these challenges reveal how demanding my heart really is and have forced me to rest more fully in Christ. Although we feel as though we have more control over circumstances and situations than we probably actually do in the States, we really feel our loss of control and total dependency on the Lord and others here. This is so good for our self-sufficient hearts.

Campus- Campus time has been getting better and better. Some guys/girls are really meeting a lot of people through basketball, and soccer. Some of the girls and I are focusing on the aerobics classes. We’ve been able to meet several girls that now go to lunch with us nearly everyday. Please pray that these relationships will be built on a foundation of friendship, and that the love from these friendships will move us to share God’s love with these students.

Team social- We have eaten a lot of Mexican food since we’ve been here so our team was so excited on Friday when we went to “Sirloin Stockade” which is kinda like a Ryan’s. It was a massive buffet with free refills on drinks (a rarity here- we pay $2 for every coke/water we order), great American food, and dessert! They loved it and we all ate till we could eat no more. Then we went Salsa dancing- also a blast! This will probably one of our best socials.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Typical Day

Our first day on campus was killer. We have training in the morning ( Old Testament class, ministry/evanagelism training, men/women’s time, ect.) then we are off to the school. We left at 12:00 and arrived at Iteso at 12:45 (it’s a 40 minute walk and a 7 minute bus ride)…got dressed and the students took us straight to a spinning class (my first one ever- I thought I might die), then they wanted to go straight to kickboxing…we finally went starving to the cafeteria to eat at 3:00 (their normal lunch time), then out to play soccer at 4:30…left for the journey home around 5:30 and walked the 40 minutes up hill to the church…and this is a typical day. Sports/ the gym is a great place for us to meet people but it will take our bodies some time to get used to our physical activity here. We get back to the church around 6:30 and the students start coming over around 8:00 to hang out. "the rest of the laborer is sweet" takes on a new meaning at the end of the day...

May 31, 2008
Guadalajara, Mexico

It is hard to believe we have only been out of the U.S. for 2 weeks! We hit the ground running and it has been a whirlwind ever since. I thought I would share some highlights.


Orientation week-

New Orleans- last minute details, weigh luggageJ

Flights- received all our bags! A small miracle…

Journey to the church- watching Mexican men I didn’t know proceed to throw my luggage on top of the suburban and attempt to tie it down…14 of us and our luggage piled in and I sat in the front with four Mexican men from the church…as we pulled out of the airport the driver said to let him know if I hear a thud because we would need to retrieve the luggage (he was serious!)…so began the bumpy hour long journey…

Transportion- Our main transportation this summer (other than walking and the bus) is 2 1988 suburbans (its not what you think). They are very old and we often feel like they are on their last leg. We have been forced to take just one of them several times. It’s quite ironic and comical to see 16 Gringos (what they call Americans) pour out of an old dirty vehicle on an elite college campus in MexicoJ

Day 1- orientation meetings, walk to Iteso (the college campus we are on), dinner with the pastor his wife, lookout point over all of Guadalajara

Day 2- Opportunity to go to Futbol Game (American soccer)- this was great fun and exposure to the culture for us. A bit scary at times (for example they don’t let you take water bottles or wear belts in the stadium because people will use them as weapons, first time I’ve ever seen heavily armed policemen protecting the opposing teams’ fans the entire game), bribed our first cop (a way of life here) on the way home when we got pulled over with 14 people in the suburban and no taillights- the driver didn’t have his wallet and they were going to escort him to jail…

Day 3- Toured downtown Guadalajara- very beautiful here- the flowers, trees, fruits, architecture are unique and they are the most vibrant colors I’ve ever seen

Day 4- worked at Santa Ana- an extremely impoverished area just around the corner from us, we are working on a church plant there, ate our first meal from a “corner stand”- tummies seem to be doing okay

Day 5- cookout- opportunity to meet a lot of Iteso students