Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lesson Learned in Mexico: New sisters

One of my prayers before I left for Mexico is that I would be bold.  You see, I am not so great at talking to people I don't know.  In fact, I kind of hate it.  I also get really anxious in new, unfamiliar situations.

God threw a test at me right away.  When we got our rooming assignments in Petlapixca I was paired with our Mexican translator, Nancy.  As everyone else went off to their homes on the left, my guide led Nancy and I to the right.  Far to the right.  To the edge of town.   To the far edge of town.

"Great, I'm going to get kidnapped and no one will even know.  I am stuck with a girl I don't know, with a family that doesn't speak English."  Ashamedly, those were my first thoughts.  Then things got worse in my mind.  Nancy informed me she was only staying one night.  "Great, I'm going to be way out here on the edge of town all by myself."

"Lord, make me bold!"  That had been my prayer and I was already cowering in fear and anxiousness.  Augh!  Sometimes I want to kick myself.

As it turns out, as always, God knew exactly what He was doing.  He calmed me down and revealed He has some work for me to do with Nancy.  She is a new believer in a family that does not understand why being Catholic (by culture not practice) isn't enough for her.  Our one morning together was full of joy when we discovered we had the same devotion book.  Hers in Spanish and mine in English.  We read together, opened our Bibles and discussed translations and what words meant.  We discussed seeking the Lord's will.  Nancy is considered an "old maid" in Mexican culture.  At the ripe age of 20 something she feels she will never find someone, especially now that her standards are so much higher.  I told her a little bit of my story and we discussed the testimony I had shared the night before.  When she departed that night, Nancy and I hugged and she shared that she felt like we were sisters.

The next two nights I was privileged to share a room with our other Mexican translator, Yuni.  Yuni is a young mom of two.  She and her husband are teachers and just bought (and finished paying for) their first house.  Yuni was in awe of the fact that I had left my "babies" for 9 days to come help in Mexico.  "I live 40 minutes from here but I would never have thought to come if Calixto hadn't begged me,"  she confessed.  We discussed how blessed we were to have all that we have and how we have to constantly thank the Lord for all He has given us.  She gave me such fresh perspective on blessings and prayer.  Yuni and I talked and giggled late into the night, like sisters.  The last time I saw her before we departed she promised she would pray for me and somehow that makes my soul feel full.

The last two nights Meghan moved in with me.  Since there were four group members in the same house our team leader moved Meghan over to be with me.  {A team rule is that all team members have a partner, so no one is ever alone.  If I had read the handbook I probably would have known that and saved myself some trouble.}  Meghan's parents go to our church but Meghan serves the Lord in as a missionary in Costa Rica.  She is the most gregarious, loving young woman.  We talked a lot about seeking the Lord's will and being faithful even when it is hard.  One of the greatest parts of this trip is my new friendship with Meghan.

Three new sisters a half a world away all connected by the same love for God.

Yuni leading prayer for a young mom at the clinic.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Wealth and Poverty: Lessons Learned in Mexico

"I feel like God is taking us on a journey of progressive poverty."  I said to my new buddy Emily.  She nodded as we looked over the playing children; in their same clothes from two days ago.

When we landed in Mexico City it was dark so my only sense of the place came through smell.  It was horrible.  Open sewer lines ran next to the main highway, yuck.  We arrived at our place of lodging for the night and I was shocked to find out the toilet was outside, on the patio.  The morning light showed dirty streets and dogs everywhere.

We traveled a winding road for eight hours to enter Tamazanchule.  Leaning buildings and cement homes greeted us.

We traveled a winding road that turned into a dirt path to enter Petlapixca.  Children without clothes gawked out the doorways, chickens ran everywhere, and bathrooms were outhouses and showers came from a bucket.

Poor, yes, by American standards.  Cell phones, well, any phone are not a part of life in Petlapixca.  Washing machines are the hard-worked hands of the women.  Ovens are made of clay and they produce the most delicious bread ever.  Most people have a couple of outfits and eat mostly beans and rice and corn tortillas.

You would call them poor.

I would not.

On Sunday, in Tamazanchule, the church celebrated their pastor's birthday with a special celebration.  This was my first glimpse at their wealth.  The believers at this church love God and they show it with exuberant worship and fervent prayers. In Mexico, when the pastor prays everyone prays.  Out loud.  At the same time.  It is a beautiful cacophony of sound.

In Petlapixca the people are very quiet and shy but I have never felt so welcomed.  They were grateful for my presence, for me.  I hardly think that is right considering they gave me so much more than I gave them. When asked what the women wanted a sweet elder woman of the village spoke up, "I want to walk closer with God each day."  I was amazed.  In a place where there are so many needs that was not what I was expecting.  Asking that question of an American woman would have resulted in a laundry list of desires.
But here, life is what it is and rather than pining to change it they accept it and seek the Lord.

 At the conclusion of a women's teaching led by a team member one of our translators, Yuni, felt led to have the women of Petlapixca pray for the American women.  (Yuni was awestruck that we would leave our families and our children to come and serve in Mexico.) We gathered in a circle and these quiet, reserved women laid hands on us.  They raised their prayers to Heaven and I felt the Holy Spirit among us.  The following night we got the opportunity to return the favor and pray over those who came forward at the end of the service.  A sweet cacophony of prayers, rising to Heaven.

These people get it.  They have the hope of glory.  They know the secret to being content in every and any situation....Christ in us. And is Christ ever in them.

They are wealthy, we are poor.  The one thing I pray I take with me all the rest of my days is a deep desire to have a wealth of spirit like theirs.  One that desires treasures in Heaven not on Earth.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A note and a testimony

I know it is expected that I blog about my experience in Mexico, and I will, but not yet.  I'm not through relishing, processing, and learning yet.  Instead I am going to post the testimony I was privileged to share with the church at Petlapixca (pet-la-peesh-ka) on Sunday night.
 Calixto, our team leader, assigned (I love assignments) us each to write our testimony, focusing on how we met Jesus and his changing influence on our lives.  We were also to include a concrete example of someway the Lord has worked in our life recently.

            Growing up I always felt like something was missing in my life but I could never quite figure out what it was.  In college this feeling grew into a state of constant worry and anxiety.  In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  When I met Jesus at a retreat in 1998 I was ready for some rest.
            I had gone on the retreat more to be with friends than anything else.  But, when I heard the speaker talking about Jesus taking my burdens and how all my sin could be forgiven if I would repent, my heart was touched.  Paul wrote to the Romans in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  I confessed my sin, asked for forgiveness and asked that Jesus be the Lord of my life. 
            Since that time God has brought me on a journey of daily casting my anxieties onto him.  Paul instructs us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to pray continually and in his letter to the Philippians he instructs, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (5:6-7). God uses my anxieties to teach me to rely on Him more, to love Him more, to seek more of Him.  As Jesus said in Matthew, to get rest in Him.
            A huge test of my faith came last year when my husband had a stroke and had to have heart surgery.  I felt myself slipping into a pit of worry and despair when God brought Paul’s words to the Philippians to my mind.  We had just brought home our third son, and I felt very overwhelmed with the thought of losing my husband.  So, minute by minute I prayed my honest anxieties to God.  Day by day God brought me strength and peace; a peace that was beyond what I could have received from any person.  It was a peace in my heart.  Praise the Lord, my husband came through heart surgery just fine, and God proved once again that He alone can handle our burdens.
Every day I have to set my mind on Christ. And sometimes each moment I have to turn my anxieties into prayers.  Because I know “… the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you ….”  2 Thessalonians 3:3.

The view from my host families home.