16 March 2011

Time Change --> Change Time?

As you’ve probably noticed, Daylight Savings Time started Sunday. If you haven’t noticed, well…that’s probably why you’ve been late to everything this week. I’ll be honest, I needed Jesus to sanctify my thoughts on Monday morning when my alarms  (I have to use 2 to 3 set at intervals to make sure I actually get up) were going off in the pre-dawn darkness.  I’m not a big fan of waking up even on the best day, and I’ve never been a morning person. At youth group camp I used to make a sign for my door with Proverbs 27:14:
“He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be reckoned a curse to him.”

The whole “spring forward” thing seems particularly cruel 7 weeks into training.  It led to me posting a Facebook status that *may* have mentioned me wanting to roundhouse kick Daylight Savings Time in the face. But I realized later that I probably need to apologize for that statement. The truth is, I love Daylight Savings Time. It means the sun isn’t blinding me at 6:30am when I’m trying to sleep in on the weekend. It means that it’s not almost dark when I get off of work at 5pm. It means that long hot summer days are just around the corner. And when it ends in the fall, I always mourn its passing. But therein lies the rub: I love Daylight Savings Time, but I hate the actual time change.

While the longer afternoons are a wonderful result, the time change itself is a painful and unpleasant process that leaves me wishing they would go ahead and invent intravenous coffee. And that reminded me that a lot of changes in life are like that. The new thing may be wonderful and desired, but that doesn’t mean the change will be painless. I remembered a quote I copied into my journal four years ago as I prepared to move to France:

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” – Anatole France

Training ends next week, and it’s only about six weeks until I’ll be living in Costa Rica. That move will bring a lot of change:

 New job.
      New residence. 
            New language. 
                  New people. 
                        New country. 
                              New continent.
                                    New challenges.

New normal.

That’s a whole lot of new. And those are only the big things! Basically, nearly every single thing in my life is going to be turned upside down in one 3-hour flight to San Jose. And there’s a lot of excitement in that. I’m thrilled with my job and am constantly in disbelief that I actually get paid to do this. I’m looking forward to new adventures and challenges. I love the opportunity to learn about new cultures and places.  But…it still hurts. Every new beginning is the end of another, and saying yes to something means saying no to something else. It’s always a trade-off.

I know eventually I’ll settle into a new life in South America. I remember when it happened in Paris. It wasn’t like someone flipped a switch, but it was a gradual process until one day I realized that I felt at home there. I had my places, my activities, my people, my routine- all the trappings of normal life. But long before that point there were a lot of goodbyes, a lot of frustration, a lot of anxiety, and a LOT of change, and it wasn’t always fun. But I eventually got there. And I will again.

"I'm all alone, there's nobody here besiiiiiide me..."
Marilyn Ferguson writes, “It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between that we fear. It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer; there’s nothing to hold on to.”
I like that description and there’s much truth to it, but it isn’t the whole story. We do have something to hold onto, one thing that never changes. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Isn’t that incredible? Years ago, while struggling through a season where life seemed to be just one painful change after another, the truth of that verse poured over my heart like a soothing balm and I have claimed it ever since. To me it is an incredible comfort to serve a God that doesn’t change and who isn’t altered by the tumult and trials of this life. When nothing else seems steady, He is my rock and my firm foundation. He was and is and is to come. I can rest easy knowing He is never caught off guard. “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2). Thank you, Jesus!

And so I can face the sea of changes looming ahead with the sure knowledge that Jesus Christ is the firm rock to which I can cling. 

With Jesus, changes are "no prob-llama." (And yes, I want this shirt.)

*Prayer requests: Safe travels as everyone prepares to leave training next week. Smooth and quick resolutions for those waiting on visas. Comfort and peace as many head home for last goodbyes and prepare to deal with lots of changes.  

P.S. We learned recently about using Bible storying in illiterate places or cultures where stories are highly prized. We practiced some in small groups but I think we could all learn a thing or two from this little girl's telling of the story of Jonah. She's 6 and not reading. I'm impressed!

09 March 2011

The Peruvian Dream

Hola mi amigos! Are you impressed by my Spanish skills yet? Yeah, me neither, but I’ll have plenty of time to focus on that when I get to Costa Rica. Speaking of which, last week was an exciting time because I finally have a confirmed ticket south in April! I’m not saying it has really sunk in yet, but that certainly makes it a bit more real.  And me being the logistics worrier that I am, it’s relieving to have that first step finally pinned down. I feel like I finally have permission to start getting excited. Of course, I still try to remind myself to hold it all in an open hand. You never know when God’s plans may go in a different direction than what you expect, so I try to keep myself clinging only to Him and not my plans. It’s not always an easy thing for a control freak. 

We have about 2 weeks of training time left here for the group as a whole, and a little longer for us media folk. People are reacting to the imminent conclusion of training in various ways, although almost everyone seems to be getting a bit antsy.

Last week we spent the time split up so we could focus just on the regions where we will be working. It was exciting to talk more specifically about Latin America and life and culture there. We had an assignment to research the countries where we are moving to present to the group, so those of us heading to Peru were able to work on our first “team” project. :-) Conveniently I already own almost every guidebook about Peru thanks to my own compulsive book buying and the thoughtful gifts of various friends: 

This was my Christmas present from Cat. Yes, that is a box full of lima beans. Get it? Lima beans… Lima, Peru…  
Yes, yes. I know. Pretty sophisticated humor around here.

Anyway, I enjoyed learning about my future home, so I thought I might share some quick facts.  Peru has a population of 29 million, more than half of whom live in coastal areas. In 2007, 75% lived in urban areas, and 25% lived in rural areas. Lima, founded by Pizarro in 1535, is home to 8 million just in the city center, but its metropolitan area encompasses 1,032 square miles. Peru has a clear-cut class structure with indigenous peoples at the bottom, and the descendants of the Spanish at the top. The rich are very rich, and the poor are very poor. A middle class is just beginning to evolve, but almost half the population is indigenous and poor. Corruption tops the list in polls of what they are most ashamed of in their country, with poverty coming in fourth or fifth. After Spanish, many speak Quechua, although Aymara is spoken near Lake Titicaca and there are different languages in the Amazon. In Lima, Mestizos are the largest population group, followed by European Peruvians, those of Amerindian descent, as well as Afro-Peruvians. And interestingly Lima has the largest ethnic Chinese community in Latin America (read: tasty Asian food in Lima = win!).

The country is estimated to be 81% Catholic and 12% Evangelical, with a mix of other beliefs. During our research, however, we found conclusive evidence that Jesus himself was actually Peruvian. May I submit for your study Marcos Zapata’s “Last Supper” which depicts Christ and his disciples enjoying a typically Peruvian repast of cuy (guinea pig) and chicha (a fermented corn drink):

Is guinea pig kosher? I mean, I know it has the word “pig” in it its name, but it’s basically an overgrown hamster.

If that’s not contextualization, I don’t know what is! I am looking forward to experiencing some cuy first hand, though. And I’m not the only one. Apparently the Peruvian culture is quite the draw for Americans. Just check out this video:

Heheh! I'm taking their advice and plan to get to Peru just as soon as they'll let me. Yet, while my own Peruvian dream is alive and well, that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on America. This Saturday I had a chance to spend the day up in D.C. with a couple of friends. Despite the traffic and negative politics, being there still makes me proud to be an American. We didn’t have enough time to hit all of my favorite places in the city, but it doesn’t matter where you go, you’re reminded of our history. 

One of my favorite places in D.C.
I'll always remember a magazine photo of Arlington that my Grandpa had. He, a WWII vet, had written on the back,
"The price of freedom is seen here."
Not all of it is pretty, (something we would do well to remember when we deal with other struggling countries) but it is part of the fabric of our country and it is our heritage. Washington, D.C. is a paradoxically inspiring and terrifying place: on one hand you are filled with pride as you are reminded of some of America’s finest moments, and then you turn around to find a grown American searching the last page of the Constitution for the famous “John Hancock” signature- not really something that inspires confidence in the next generation of American leadership. (If you're scratching your head, John Hancock's flamboyant autograph is on the Declaration of Independence. I promise not to tell anyone you if you didn't know that.) But no matter what, I’m proud to be an American.

 I've had some friends who felt living overseas increased their distaste of American life.  For them, seeing how people live life around the world highlighted everything wrong with America. For me, however, I've always found it to make me more appreciative of America, and living as part of another culture has given me increased gratitude for the privilege of being American. 

It is easy to whine about our democratically elected government that wastes our tax money, and the financial policies that led to a recession, but let us never forget that at our worst, we are still blessed beyond the wildest dreams of most of the world. To keep things in perspective, worldwide more than 1 billion people live on less than $1 a day, and 1/3 of the world's children live in what is classified as "extreme" poverty. I was born into a comfortable family in a rich nation, and I have taken that for granted for most of my life. I don't know why, in His sovereignty, God allowed me to be born to such privilege, but I do know that it carries with it a responsibility: we are blessed so that we may bless others.  

Parting thought:
A friend "blessed" me with this cartoon last week (Thanks, Jason!). Very appropriate for a week where I studied Peru and saw Old Glory in person. Plus there's a Frenchie shout-out in there as well! 

(The French national anthem "La Marseillaise" is about killing Prussians.
I can see why Bucky likes it.)