30 December 2011

Reaching Haitian Immigrants

Reaching Haitian Immigrants

by Emily Pearson on December 30, 2011

PUERTO PLATA, Dominican Republic — Inside a tin shack, the 13-year-old Haitian mother fell to her knees in the dirt and surrendered her life to Christ.
It was a beautiful sight to missionary Carlos Llambes and visiting volunteers from several Haitian Southern Baptist churches in the Miami area. The team had traveled to the Dominican city of Puerto Plata to help evangelize this neighborhood and start a church among Haitian immigrants there. The volunteers simply walked door to door, telling people about Jesus. It was in one of these homes that a volunteer shared the Gospel with the young mother.
“The girl was in tears and [had the volunteer] hold the baby while she knelt on the ground to pray to repent, “ said Llambes, an International Mission Board missionary in the Dominican Republic.
This new believer is one of about 2 million Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic. Many of them live in extremely poor, isolated areas.
Pray for this young mother as she grows in Christ. Pray also for the pastor of a local church-start who returns frequently to follow up with her and other area residents.
PHOTO: “A young haitian mother cradles her child.”
Photo Credit: Rebecca Springer

Feliz Navidad!

A (belated) Merry Christmas from Peru! 
Just been too busy to get this posted in a timely fashion. Although the holiday busyness is over, the work busyness is intensifying with deadlines coming up. So I won't write a lot, but I thought I'd share some photos (and one adorable video) of how we spent Christmas in Peru. We had a great time and a peaceful holiday with many sweet moments with friends. 

Christmas eve we spent with colleagues and friends at the Austins' home. We celebrated with gumbo, a favorite foods version of Yankee Swap, a recycled garbage ornament competition, singing, praying, and of course laughing (especially when all the Austin men put on their elf costumes). Much fun was had by all!

Christmas morning we shared brunch with the Peercys and enjoyed a laid-back meal with delicious homemade cinnamon rolls and sausage. It's always fun to share Christmas with children and live vicariously through their enthusiasm. Check it out! 

Our trash ornaments. Brittany's awesome can diorama won!
Candy getting her gumbo.

Evelyn helping "Noni" open a plate of goodies in the food exchange.

Candy stealing!
We collaborated and took home the best prize! American goodies!
Even if the apartment had a fireplace, it's summer here, so this worked just fine!
Turkey friend.
Hanging at the Austins'

Norah doesn't know what to think about Arnold the Elf.
Taking time to pray for family and friends far away.
Elf mischief!
A "snow ball" fight fight with the Austins.
This is me looking confused with all the random decorations across the street from our apartment.
Good morning!
All the animals are ready to get on the ark...
That's one crowded ark!
Merry first Christmas, Norah!

Evelyn treated us to an awesome dance session Christmas morning. That girl's got talent! Here's a clip:

Love her!
Hope you were able to enjoy fun and sweet moments with family or friends during this Christmas season, and took time to reflect on the wonderful gift of salvation that was made available to us through Jesus. 

Feliz Navidad!/ Joyeux Noel! / Merry Christmas!

25 December 2011

Idle Hands...

I have a really awesome mom. She has always been an artsy, creative, resourceful person. I really think she could accomplish anything that she put her mind to (except build sturdy garage shelves- but that's another story :-). So I was privileged to grow up with her artistic flourishes and creativity. And let me tell you, that really came in handy when "we" had a school project to do! And although she's the master (there were times I would throw a fit and refuse to color because she did it so much better) I like to think she passed on a little of her skill and ingenuity. I recall staying up late at night in my room as a kid working on random projects that I had been inspired to try. I always enjoyed a new craft or idea. But, as life goes, I grew up and got busy. School and the myriad sports and church activities took over and free-time became a thing of the past.

But one of the byproducts of moving to another country has been a resurgence in the amount of down-time I have. Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of actual work. I'm certainly not trying to just kill time. But, after the job, I don't have rugby practice or ultimate frisbee, no band rehearsal, leadership meetings, or Wednesday night church to rush off to. Plus living in a foreign culture can be exhausting, so I often find myself spending a low-key evening in the apartment with a movie on. This time factor also combines with the fact that we are non-profit workers living overseas temporarily and anything we take home has to be carried in a suitcase, hence we don't have much incentive to buy a whole lot of decor or knick-nacks. Oh, and you can't buy a lot of favorite foods ready-made like in the states. So thus the stage was set...

Enter Pinterest.  

If you haven't heard of it yet, it's only a matter of time. It's the latest rage that has been sweeping the online world in recent months. Like a personal/shared bulletin board for you to "pin" things you see online. There's a little bit of everything but it's heavily to the domestic side of crafts, recipes, and home tips. I find lots of fun things on there like photo ideas, cleaning tips, and tons of homemade decorating and cooking projects. It reminds me that I used to be creative, and given the right setting, I still can be. It's also great for a tight budget/living in a place where buying some stuff isn't an option. (I learned how to make my own Febreze!)

The holidays have served to especially unleash my desire to create. I think I'm just so used to being busy and having tons to bake/make/wrap that my brain didn't know what to do without 38 holiday activities every week. So poor Brittany has had to deal with me being in the kitchen every other day with some new recipe to try. Martha Stewart I am not, but I have enjoyed the opportunity and encouragement to try new recipes and entertain myself with a few other homemade projects. Not everything is from Pinterest, some are just old favorites, but here's a rundown on my recent bout of domesticity. Hopefully I'll recover soon so I can go back to eating cereal for every meal and not have everything I own coated in glitter glue. But if idle hands are the devil's workshop, here's the proof that mine have been kept busy!

Toilet-paper roll snowflake tree-topper

Store didn't have any ribbon, so I had to make a colored printer paper bow and curls.

Cinnamon applesauce ornaments like the good ol' days!

I had glitter glue. I shouldn't be allowed to have glitter glue. 

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

My first go at caramels!

Caramel hardening

finished caramel balls

Pre-oven pumpkin pie. 

Ready to eat!

Sugar cookies. A classic.
Lots and lots of sugar cookies!

I got a little carried away with the frosting. 

Finished cookies. 


At home we did this with colored paper when I was a kid.
I decided to use book pages for a little more sophisticated look. 

First go at homemade pretzels. I'm pretty sure this will be happening again. And again.
There ya have it! Hope you've had time to be a little creative during the busy holiday season, and if you have any favorite recipes feel free to pass them on to me. :-) 

Hmm...I think it might be time for another batch of pretzels...

24 December 2011

O Holy Night...

I love Christmas music. I usually can't wait for Thanksgiving to pull out my collection and start enjoying my favorite carols and newer classics and it rarely fails to get me in the holiday mood. But this year even my favorite Christmas songs haven't been as exciting. It could be because I don't have the option of listening to the non-stop Christmas music on the radio while I run around town in my car on last minute holiday errands. Or maybe it could be because so many Christmas songs are pretty sad when you're away from your family and friends. Seriously, you've never realized how many depressed Christmas songs there are until you've had a lonely Christmas. My first Christmas away in Paris I remember listening to my Christmas music on my iPod while commuting across town and suddenly bursting into tears on the metro when "I'll be Home for Christmas" came on. I had to sanitize my playlist and get rid of "Blue Christmas,"  "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Where are you Christmas?," "White Christmas," "Merry Christmas Darling," "Please Come Home for Christmas," "Home for the Holidays," etc. etc. 

This year has been easier than that first one. I have a bigger support group of friends and colleagues here to celebrate with, and I've reminded myself that even if I was in the states, a lot of friends starting off in their careers don't have the luxury of taking time off, or have the money, to go home to be with their families. So being in Peru doesn't make it all that much different. And I've had so much work to do that there hasn't been too much time for dwelling on being far away. 

And I've been reminded that while a lot of our modern Christmas songs may be sad and get me a little homesick, my favorite carols are just the opposite. There are so many wonderful songs that remind us of the incredible miracle of Christ's birth and of the joy, hope, and redemption that He brought to the world.

I came across this history of one of my all-time favorites, O Holy Night, and I thought it was so interesting I had to share: 

"In 1847, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was the commissionaire of wines in a small French town. Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Placide when his parish priest asked the commissionaire to pen a poem for Christmas mass. Nevertheless, the poet was honored to share his talents with the church.

In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France's capital city, Placide Cappeau considered the priest's request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, "Cantique de Noel" had been completed.

Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his "Cantique de Noel" was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician's hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help. 

The son of a well-known classical musician, Adolphe had studied in the Paris conservatoire. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world. Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg. 

As a man of Jewish ancestry, for Adolphe the words of "Cantique de Noel" represented a day he didn't celebrate and a man he did not view as the son of God. Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work, attempting to marry an original score to Cappeau's beautiful words. Adams' finished work pleased both poet and priest. The song was performed just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. 

Initially, "Cantique de Noel" was wholeheartedly accepted by the church in France and the song quickly found its way into various Catholic Christmas services. But when Placide Cappeau walked away from the church and became a part of the socialist movement, and church leaders discovered that Adolphe Adams was a Jew, the song--which had quickly grown to be one of the most beloved Christmas songs in France--was suddenly and uniformly denounced by the church. The heads of the French Catholic church of the time deemed "Cantique de Noel" as unfit for church services because of its lack of musical taste and "total absence of the spirit of religion." Yet even as the church tried to bury the Christmas song, the French people continued to sing it, and a decade later a reclusive American writer brought it to a whole new audience halfway around the world.

Not only did this American writer--John Sullivan Dwight--feel that this wonderful Christmas songs needed to be introduced to America, he saw something else in the song that moved him beyond the story of the birth of Christ. An ardent abolitionist, Dwight strongly identified with the lines of the third verse: "Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease." The text supported Dwight's own view of slavery in the South. Published in his magazine, Dwight's English translation of "O Holy Night" quickly found found favor in America, especially in the North during the Civil War.

Back in France, even though the song had been banned from the church for almost two decades, many commoners still sang "Cantique de Noel" at home. Legend has it that on Christmas Eve 1871, in the midst of fierce fighting between the armies of Germany and France, during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier suddenly jumped out of his muddy trench. Both sides stared at the seemingly crazed man. Boldly standing with no weapon in his hand or at his side, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and sang, "Minuit, Chretiens, c'est l'heure solennelle ou L'Homme Dieu descendit jusqu'a nous," the beginning of "Cantique de Noel."

 After completing all three verses, a German infantryman climbed out his hiding place and answered with, "Vom Himmel noch, da komm' ich her. Ich bring' euch gute neue Mar, Der guten Mar bring' ich so viel, Davon ich sing'n und sagen will," the beginning of Martin Luther's robust "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come."

The story goes that the fighting stopped for the next twenty-four hours while the men on both sides observed a temporary peace in honor of Christmas day. Perhaps this story had a part in the French church once again embracing "Cantique de Noel" in holiday services.
Adams had been dead for many years and Cappeau and Dwight were old men when on Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessenden--a 33-year-old university professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison--did something long thought impossible. Using a new type of generator, Fessenden spoke into a microphone and, for the first time in history, a man's voice was broadcast over the airwaves: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed," he began in a clear, strong voice, hoping he was reaching across the distances he supposed he would.
Shocked radio operators on ships and astonished wireless owners at newspapers sat slack-jawed as their normal, coded impulses, heard over tiny speakers, were interrupted by a professor reading from the gospel of Luke. To the few who caught this broadcast, it must have seemed like a miracle--hearing a voice somehow transmitted to those far away. Some might have believed they were hearing the voice of an angel.
Fessenden was probably unaware of the sensation he was causing on ships and in offices; he couldn't have known that men and women were rushing to their wireless units to catch this Christmas Eve miracle. After finishing his recitation of the birth of Christ, Fessenden picked up his violin and played "O Holy Night," the first song ever sent through the air via radio waves. When the carol ended, so did the broadcast--but not before music had found a new medium that would take it around the world."

Taken from 'Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas' by Ace Collins. Copyright (c) 2001 by Andrew Collins -Zondervan.

O Holy Night
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hears the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall His break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise us,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

I hope you take time this weekend, as you sing the same songs that have echoed over generations of Christmases, to think about their words and the message of love and salvation of which they tell. 


Lima does Christmas

Christmas has been quickly forcing itself upon Lima. Or at least it seems that way to me. Perhaps, then, Christmas is only forcing itself upon this gringa in llama-land.

Lima has been slathering on layers of ostentatious Christmas decor with little rhyme or reason. Places that looked decorated weeks ago manage to cram in new decorations almost daily, giving the impression that a Christmas elf vomited on certain parts of town.

Certain cities, like New York and Paris, wear Christmas well. The season seems to make the fascinating cities even more intriguing and elegant. They sparkle and twinkle and seem full of wonder. Paris has a tendency toward bizarre modern European decorations and over-the-top decor, but even then, evening in Paris at Christmastime with lights everywhere, shoppers bustling, music playing, and the frigid air stinging your face...it's magical.

Lima on the other hand, Lima just seems awkward in its Christmas trappings. It's like somewhere deep down the city knows that the snowmen and reindeer and Santas in fur-trimmed costumes belong to another culture, another season, and a whole different hemisphere. The roasting-chestnuts-sleigh-bells-jingling-hot-cocoa culture was imported with the commercialization of Christmas from the states. So much is imported, in fact, that in the stores it's much easier to find decor proclaiming "Merry Christmas!" than it is to find a "Feliz Navidad!" message.

Some friends new to Peru like myself have also commented about how it's hard to feel Christmasy when it's warm outside. But I personally can't blame the weather for my lack of Christmas spirit. I can be especially thankful that I'm a Floridian at this time of year because I am not unaccustomed to Christmas trees and carols set against the backdrop of warm weather and beach days. Yet I must admit that it seems strange even to myself to see Christmas displays and Summer Sales fighting for space in stores. And even though it's summer here, the weather most days remains in the 70s, while wintry Daytona Beach has had temperatures in the 80s back home this week. It's a topsy turvy world!

What does suit Lima are the mounds of Peruvian Christmas decorations available at the artisans' market. Bright Peruvian colors, fabrics, patterns, and materials make some of the most creative and unique Christmas decor I've seen. I love it! I went a little crazy with my shopping at the Inca Market and bought a ton of ornaments. I figure they will make good gifts, and in the meantime they are adorning the tree that our supervisors loaned us. They are joined by some random things from other countries, key chains, homemade  cinnamon applesauce ornaments, and even a mini cheese-grater. It's a little odd, but I think it's fun. And, after all, I know now that a Christmas tree without a llama just isn't complete.

Here are some pictures of Christmas decorations down our way:

Our living room
Our tree :-)
gourd ornament
Mini hat ornament!
Ornament from Kevin and Ellen. A cuy!  
Peruvian snowman!
Star made from metro tickets from Buenos Aires.

Of course I made a Gator ornament!
Yes. Yes that IS a cheese grater. Yes we really do use it to grate cheese.

16 December 2011

Seizing the Moment

Check out this sweet story from Caracas. 
I love the reminder that our faithfulness in small actions can have an eternal impact!

Seizing The Moment

by Emily Pearson on December 13, 2011

What began as a simple gesture became the moment that changed one man’s eternity.
José is the maintenance man at the apartment building where International Mission Board missionaries Mike and Jan Bennett live in Caracas, Venezuela. Mike had talked with him a few times about spiritual things, but José had never made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
But God was working in José’s life. One day José repaired the water tank at the home of IMB missionary Susanne Arnold. While he was there, Susanne gave him a Bible. Soon after, José’s father became ill, and José left for several weeks to care for him.
When José returned, Mike offered him a ride to a different missionary’s home to repair another water tank.
“He [José] told me about receiving the Bible,” said Mike. “He said that while he was sitting at his father’s side, he had a lot of time to read it. He said that the book of Romans says we are all sinners. As he read that, he realized he was a sinner and had not been following God’s path, and he needed to get his life in order.”
Mike explained the plan of salvation to José, who accepted Christ there in the car.
“All this because Susanne took the initiative to give him a Bible, and God did the rest through His Spirit,” Mike said.
PHOTO: IMB missionary, Susanne Arnold, looks for any opportunity to share the Gospel with the people of Caracas, whether that be giving a repairman a Bible, working with students, or teaching free English classes in the community. (Photo by Rebecca Springer.)

You can check out more interesting stories from Latin America at this site.