Saturday, November 29, 2008

Double turkey, double blessings

This past week was a week to give thanks- Thanksgiving! I was blessed to have 2 Thanksgivings this year. The first one was on Thanksgiving day. I was blessed to be able to spend the day with the missionaries from Campus Crusade for Christ here in Maracaibo and all over Venezuela. It was nice meeting other missionaries and hearing about their ministry as well as sharing about mine.
Making hand turkeys and writing what we are thankful for on the feathers.

Posting our turkeys up on the wall

Two turkeys required to feed the 40 missionaries and guests.

The second Thanksgiving dinner I cooked myself. For this dinner, I invited several of my Venezuelan family over. Unfortunately, due to my small apartment, I was not able to invite everyone. There were 6 of us- and I still had to borrow a small table and a few chairs to accomodate us. Earlier this week, Samuel and Michelle had taken me shopping to try to find "American" products or equivalents so I could make the traditional foods. Turkeys here are hard to find and very expensive. The other hard items included sour cream, sweet potatoes, and corn meal for cornbread.

A Happy Turkey!

I spent most of the day today in the kitchen, cooking the feast while listening to Christmas music. (I've been having trouble getting into the Christmas season- which began a few weeks ago here. It doesn't feel like Christmas- it still feels like summer!) Today, I discovered that I do not like my oven. Besides the fact that there is no temperature gauge on it, just MAX and MIN, it is too small- turkey barely fit, and the rack is too small and actually fell twice, knocking the turkey to its side.

A no-so-happy turkey

My friends were supposed to arrive at 5:00pm. Diana arrived at 5... the others didn't arrive until almost 7pm. Diana helped me with final preparations, asking me a ton of questions about everything and having a few taste tests. It was her first Thanksgiving dinner and she wanted to know all about it. I explained to her the history of Thanksgiving and what a typical Thanksgiving day looks like. Its fun to see someone experience Thanksgiving for the first time.

By the time everyone else arrived, everything was ready. I explained to them a little about the idea behind Thanksgiving- how it was a feast dedicated to giving thanks to God for the bountiful harvest and blessings that He had given to the Pilgrims and how they wanted to share this feast with the natives who taught them how to live in their new land. I told them that this is what I was doing as well- Having a time to give thanks to God for the successes and blessings that He has given me this year and sharing this with the natives that helped me learn how to live in this new land. After prayer, we ate- Thanksgiving style- stuffing ourselves until we were as full as the turkey was before we ate it!

Time to eat.

Happy people eating a happy turkey

Guita's first Thanksgiving dinner- she likes turkey!

Everything turned out well- even with having to use Venezuelan substitutes for ingredients in my American recipes. The guys helped with the clean up and we spent the rest of the evening chatting and having fun.

They offered to help- I couldn't deter them.

While I was blessed to have 2 Thanksgivings, I know I am even more blessed by what God has given me and has done for me throughout this year- in both countries. I have been doubly blessed with two countries, two cultures, two languages, two churches, two homes and family and friends in each location who love me and support me while I serve God. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Election Day

No, I am not living in the past. Today is Election Day. However, this time it is the citizens of Venezuela who are voting. They are not voting for President- but they are voting for state governors and city mayors.

While these are regional elections, this is a major election. The appearance of the country's government could change as a result of this election. The choice here is not for Republican or Democrat, but similarly for opposing parties based on their allignment with President Chávez.

Once a person votes, their pinky finger is dyed purple- identifying that they have, in fact voted. This way, there is no way a person can vote more than once. The dye remains on their fingers for several days before fading. This is the Venezuelan "version" of the "I voted today" stickers that are passed out at elections in the USA. There is some pride in having a purple finger here- showing others that they did indeed vote. The results of this election should be announced by late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

I have been praying for this election- not for a specific person to win, but that God's Will will be accomplished here in Maracaibo and all over Venezuela.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pick up a book or two...

I've recently been asked what I like to do in my spare time. This question stumped me, as I had to think of the answer (You would think I would know this). After thinking about it, I realized that I like to read. I went on to explain to this person that I like to read Christian Fiction novels.

I have had to explain the concept of Christian Fiction books to many people here. This is an unheard of concept here. If you go into a Christian bookstore in Maracaibo, you will find books on Christian living, discipleship, etc, but you will not find Christian Fiction. This is sad because it robs people from the pleasure of reading fiction from a Christian prospective.

When I was growing up, I hated to read. I think I can count the books I read cover to cover in high school on one hand. This continued through my first few years of college. My turning point was when someone gave me a book- a fiction book about the Rapture and the End Times- called "Left Behind". I became completely absorbed in this book. I had never read anything like it before. I was excited when I found out that it was an entire series of books. I read the second book in the series, "Tribulation Force", in 2 days- fastest I had ever read a book. I have loved reading Christian Fiction books ever since.

I brought several books with me from the United States and have been reading each evening before going to sleep. I am currently reading a book by one of my favorite authors Ted Dekker called "The Circle Trilogy". This book is actually 3 books in one ("Black", "Red", & "White"). I only have less than 200 pages left (out of the 1184 pages in the book) to read.

I have also started to read a book I bought while in Ecuador- a Christian biography of a missionary, Nate Saint, who was killed in the jungles of Ecuador. The major difference with this book, besides being non-fiction, is that it is in Spanish. This is a little more difficult for me to read, since I have to refer to my dictionary for various vocabulary words that I am unfamiliar with. However, I enjoy the experience of reading in my second language.

I am also reading Una Vida con Propósito (The Purpose Driven Life) in Spanish. I have only read a few "chapters" of the book, but have also enjoyed reading this book- in Spanish.

Some of my favorite authors are Ted Dekker, Jerry Jenkins, and Frank Peretti. But my all-time favorite author is the one who wrote THE BOOK. Nothing compares to the Book that is living, active, sharper than a double-edged sword, penetrating to divide the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart! (Hebrews 4:12)

If you have any suggested readings, leave a comment or two about them. This week, try picking up a book or THE BOOK and reading a chapter or two. You may find a whole new world.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The power of making decisions

Last night, I attended a Bible study with my host mom and some women from her church. When we arrived at the home of the women hosting the study this week, she led us to the kitchen where she had tea, crackers, bread, cake, and cookies waiting for us. After enjoying the refreshments, they realized that all of the women, except one, forgot their Bible study book that they are using, so they decided to do something different.

They decided to watch a dvd sermon by Marcos Witt (a Latin American singer and preacher of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas) called The Power of making decisions. In this sermon, he talked about how the decisions people make can affect thousands or millions of people. He used examples from the Bible. If Noah would have decided not to listen to God when He told him to build the ark, none of us would be here now. He used other examples like Ruth, David, even Jesus. He even used a few examples from his own life.

It made me think about the decisions I have made in my life; decisions to serve God on various mission trips in the past and ultimately to serve Him full time in Venezuela. How have my decisions affected the people around me? I know they have affected people, but I may not know to what extent until I get to Heaven. Until then, I pray that God will give me wisdom when making decision.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Various pics from the past few days...

This was the first of 3 churches I attended on Sunday. This church has about 150-200 people is currently meets in the basement of an office building.

This was the third of the 3 churches I attended (no pics of the second). This one had about 10 people and they met in the upper floor of a concrete house in a poor barrio. They had no instruments, but were still able to praise the Lord.

We went to part of the downtown area of Quito. Under the Basilica (very large, old Catholic church), are the Catacombs. They go on for several city blocks in various tunnels with a Chapel at the end of one of the tunnels for a funeral service. On the side walls of each tunnel and on the walls of the chapel are the headstones for those buried under the city- thousands of people.

We took the cable car up the mountain to see the RuccuPichincha Volcano. While I could not get too close to the volcano, I was up more than 13,450 feet in elevation! You could see the entire city of Quito. Near the top of the mountain is a Catholic Church. There are no houses up there, so I am not sure who actually attends this church.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Middle of the World

I am currently in Ecuador on a visa-renewal trip. This is my first time visiting Ecuador. I am staying with a host family in a town called Cumbaya, about 10 miles outside of Quito. The country is very beautiful- calm, cool. This is such a change from the hustle and bustle of Maracaibo.

Today, I went to a place that I have wanted to visit for a while now- Mitad del Mundo. Literally, the middle of the Earth- where the Equator lies. Here are some pics from today...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Demon Possession

The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not."
"O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here."
Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. Luke 9:37-43

I've read many times in the Bible about people being possessed by demons. I have also seen in movies where people are possessed. You can see it in their body- especially in the changes to their face, their mannerisms, even their voice. I have heard of it happening to people in the present day. And I think I might have seen it today.

Today in the children's ministry we had a boy of about 5 or 6 years old who I believe was possessed by a demon. While walking past the classroom door, I heard screaming inside and went in to investigate what was happening. The teacher said that this boy, M, just started "freaking out". When I entered, the child was being restrained because he had already bitten a few people, was punching, kicking, spitting, and throwing himself at people, furniture, and the ground. When I looked at him, his face was different. His eyes were buldged out, he was barring his teeth, and he was growling and snarling in a very deep voice. He looked me straight in the eyes, snarled at me, and spit in my face.

I, along with a few helpers, were trying to calm him down, but it didn't work. We eventually had to get help from a few men, who carried him out of the classroom so the rest of the children could continue class. While being held by his hands and feet, he managed to have enough strenth to lift himself completely off the ground and arch his back so his back was nearly 3 feet off the ground. He continued growling, snarling, spitting, etc for the next half hour. We eventually found his mother and he did calm down some.

While I've seen kids act out in class, I have not seen this dramatic of a change in a child within such a short period of time. What I saw in his face truly frightened me. One of the men who helped us, who is currently in seminary studying to be a pastor, remarked, "I have seen this before. I have seen this face before. The face of someone possessed by a demon. But never on a child this young."

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12

I don't know what truly happened to M. But I do know that we are in a spiritual war and fighting battles with the enemy on a daily basis. I also know that God is the victor! He has already won the war! To God be the glory!!


The idea of me coming here as a missionary was to help work with the church to make changes to their programs, allowing them to become more developed, and thus attracting more people to the children's ministry (and the church) through evangelistic outreaches within the program. I was given the position of advisor to the ministry directors- advising them and training them on how to develop their own program so that they could eventually run the program without assistance and continue in the developmental progress. I have been working with this regularly over the past 9 months. While progress has been made within the program, we are far from our goal of seeing the children's ministry becoming the evangelistic outreach program we imagined. Changes have been made, and more changes are to come.

Right now, we are undergoing some changes in leadership with in the ministry. Due to personal problems, the children's ministry coordinators will no longer be serving as the coordinators. Their period of service was scheduled to go through the end of January. Since they are no longer in the ministry, the Pastor has appointed two interim coordinators to take over and continue with the development of the program. I am one of the chosen.

This appointment as interim coordinator is a major change for me within the church. I now will have an official leadership position in Filadelfia Church. I will also have the opportunity to work with and train Y, my co-coordinator. She and I have been working together within the ministry since I arrived and we work well together. We share the passion for the children and both want to see this ministry develop in a huge way.

I am excited for the opportunities that God is giving me here and how He is working through all the difficulites and challenges and providing every step of the way. I don't know yet what God has in store for me next year, but I know it is going to awesome. After all, God is in control of this ministry and He already has all the plans worked out.