Sunday, February 14, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
In my experience to get to know what the Spirit is all about takes highlighting where the Spirit is mentioned in scripture and just setting aside time to meditate with this mysterious part of the Triune God on a personal one on one bases, because the Spirit is non-tangible and a hard concept to grasp, even a bit more so, in my opinion, than the Father God and Christ. For this I find that it is easy to skim over such references to the Spirit, but this is one of the equally vital members of the Triune. Not too long from now we are going to start talking about Lent and Easter. It is by way of the death, resurrection and ultimate ascension of Christ that we have access to the Counselor. Christ says to his disciples that he has to leave them in order to give them this gift and upon the ascension this gift was made accessible to the entire world. It is because of the Spirit and only by way of the Spirit that we may be ‘guided into all truth’, understand Scripture, have the ability to hear what God is saying to us and have faith in this mind bending, life changing, transformative Triune God. That’s Huge! It is also by the Holy Spirit that God has given us our place in the body of Christ, our place in the world of the Heavenly Kingdom, our homework.
Christ refers to the presence of the Spirit as evidence of a holy anointing. This anointing of the Holy Spirit calls the recipient to act on the Lord God’s behalf. Because we have been seated at the right hand of Christ since his ascension we receive the same anointing when we ask the Holy Spirit into our hearts. “’The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor’.” Period. Then it describes what this means. Preaching good news to the poor, that is the poor in Spirit, is the act that brings sight to the blind (physical blindness and spiritually blind), release for the oppressed (from all forms of oppression) and freedom to the prisoner (spiritual and unjust imprisonment). These actions speak to the gifts held by members of the faith. The thing is that these gifts aren’t always light up in neon lights announcing there presence in the person. We all share in the same work of Christ. What he was called to do, we are called to. What he was able to do, because of the ascension, we are able to do and more. It just takes time and patience to follow in his steps.
While in Colombia I came across many personalities. I discovered that each had his or her way about them. The experience that most marked my time in Colombia was my work with the Bosa mission. Some of you may know about this mission through my blog. So the story with Bosa starts when I met the priests who were starting up the mission Father Alberto and Father Alejandro. They had such passion for the neighborhood and held such deep convictions to servitude. It was wholly refreshing and energizing. It was radical and spoke to where I mentally and spiritually was at that time.
Audra and I were the first missionaries in 30 years in the Diocese of Colombia and the very first young adult missionaries. Seems like this would be an exciting time, actually it was quite boring for the first number of months. The bishop just didn’t know how to use us. It is easier to find a niche for a professional, but official professionals we are not and so we were left in the office doing busy work much more than I was comfortable with. I actually starting to go stir-crazy. So to come across this opportunity to get involved with from the get-go was exactly what my under stimulated brain was yearning for. Audra was counting down her final weeks in Colombia and didn’t want to get involved in a new project she wouldn’t be able to contribute to for much time, so I took the reins on Mission Operation Rescue. From the beginning we all just hit it off very well. Audra and I agreed that there was just something different with the kids in Bosa that was lacking in our work in Libratadores.
So, I am here sharing with you some of the details of this time in Colombia. This is now my warning that it was not at all easy nor straight forward and it is covered in cultural frustrations, however the good news is that I am still very much in love with mission work and Colombia.
As I am prone to, I dove head first into this mission. At first I was working 6 days a week about 13 hours a day including commuting time. I started off by simply taking care of the kids, keeping them entertained and at times, many times, serving as referee to break up fights. Then as Father Alberto’s focus shifted to fundraising efforts I took over cooking duties. There were many an occasion I wanted to string the kids up for being just ridiculous about eating vegetables. The worse was when I made homemade tomato soup from fresh tomatoes!! First I almost had a riot on my hand then I had to put myself in time-out to not go absolutely berserk; these are the joys of working with children. Hahahaha. It took me a while to realize it, but I finally began to question if father Alejandro just might not be coming back around; As Father Alberto and I were trying to figure out how to work our schedules and run the mission between the two of us my suspicions rose.
During this time I attended a service with Father Alejandro at another parish. On our way to the church I asked him if her were still working in Bosa. He assured me he was and would be returning the following week. That next week, he didn’t show up and I finally asked Alberto what this was all about. He finally filled me in that he and Alejandro had had a falling out from the very beginning and had basically kicked him out of the mission. I was floored. First Alejandro had lied to me (just trust me on that one) second Alberto fired our only go-to guy. It damaged my trust, but also gave me a bit of understanding into the culture. I had to start taking such revelations with a Colombian stride.
So to speed up this story: I continued to put my all into the future sustainability of this mission. With the help of a Colombian friend I started to write up a business plan, looked for grants and alternative funding opportunities and started rubbing elbows with local companies. Basically, from waking to sleeping my mind was consumed with figuring out how to make this thing not only work but be an example success story to repeat for all of the missions in the Episcopal diocese.
Unfortunately getting Father Alberto and the important people of the diocese to understand what I was doing proved to be the greatest hurtle that I never was able to clear in the time I had left. The mission died away quickly. I was disheartened and brokenhearted.
Father Edgar, a dear confidant, who I had been discussing the work in Bosa with, was a wonderful shoulder to turn to when I needed my spirit lifted. I am hoping that between Edgar and Diego I can turn over my plans for the mission to them to take the lead on a revolution of transformation for the missions.
So I have been meditating on all of this for a while. What I have decided, after passing through ALL the stages of grief, for loss of the mission, from denial to anger and finally, thanks be to God, left with hope, I realize that it all boils down to everyone is a vital member of the Body of Christ. Each has some gift of great value to contribute to the family. Alberto though not at all who I would turn to for organizational skills is exactly who I would need to get a spiritual pep talk. Father Alejandro’s gift is not necessarily being the most responsible but he has a way of motivating anyone to very real action. Edgar has a shinning gift for communication and Audra has deep insight into a persons being.
Once I got over my own judgments and began releasing people from my own expectations, including the expectations I have for myself, I began to see their hearts and my heart as God sees them. Seeing how the Spirit is moving through them and how irreplaceable each is.
I think that in my misunderstanding and judgment I was inadvertently trying to make an elbow into an index finger or a little toe into a kneecap if you get my drift.
How things get don for the Heavenly Kingdom may not fit into our limited vision and our plans but it does all eventually happen with God leading the way.
I have arrived from Colombia with more patience a great deal more flexibility in the flow of life and a driving force to discover my place in the Body of Christ. April 2nd I will be moving down to Fort Myers Florida to start a two-year internship with ECHO where I will learn about sustainable agriculture in missions. It involves one year in Florida and then an international mission trip with them. I will continue to share my experiences through a blog and group email. Thank you to everyone who took part in my experience by keeping up with my blog, and special thanks to those who I interacted with. I hope to take more people along with me as I continue forward.
In the Name of the Father God, Christ the Son and that fantastic Holy Spirit I pray, Amen
Monday, January 25, 2010
5 days and counting; I must admit it is a disconcerting feeling. I think of all I still want to do and what I realistically have time for and I have to pause for a moment to take a deep breath. It is not easy to leave Colombia. I am in love with this country. I am comfortable here. I have some favorite restaurants and local foods. I still have so much to see. Oh, and then there is the thermal park, most likely my favorite place in the world. I am dearly fond of the people I interact with day in and day out, leaving friends is always difficult. I see how I could easily make a good life for myself here. Unfortunately this path would require teaching English as my primary work, which is not what I aspire to. So, as a HUGE blessing from God, I have the ECHO internship to set my eyes. This is what I aspire to: sustainable agricultural practices, bringing healing to our brothers and sisters and Christ. That is what the ECHO internship is all about.
It will be wonderful and a bit difficult to reunite with family and friends. Just as a heads up, please don’t ask me to sum up a years of experience in one meeting. That’s just not going to happen. Yet I will share with you what I can and the rest will come with time…and the reading of the blogs, hehehe.
I am already pulling plans together for my return visit that will be in two or three years.
Things to be excited about: I will be getting off the plane in Atlanta to have some much needed sisterly bonding time, I so look forward to having Sunday morning breakfast with my dad at Continental Bakery, tea and cooking dinner with my dear girlfriends, I hope to get in a football game with my Aunt and Uncle and visit Mississippi, returning to Camp McDowell for 6 weeks and a bit of trail running. Between work and before ECHO I will be retiring this blog to open up a new one that will hopefully follow me through all of my travels and experiences, including the internship. I will let you know when that happens.
In the mean time I am just having fun in Bogotá with Lucho , Kate and Brittany. I don’t actually plan on getting into the office much before I leave, I prefer to work in the apartment or still-off to a coffee shop. I will send out at least one more message before my return flight, the 13 of December. I will be back in Birmingham by the 21st +/-. Much Love, much to anticiate, please send many prayers.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Lots-o-fun. I set off for Medellin 10pm Friday night on bus. The trip was smoothexcept for when a car rear-ended us. Everyone was fin…as far as I knew. I slept through all of the waiting and well, through the entire night. So as I arrived to the terminal there was some scattered phone tag going on as the phone number I had for Rev. Ernesto was incorrect and the one he had for me was also incorrect. So between Lucho and Deacon Edgar Everyone got hold of the right person in time to be picked upfrom the transportation terminal by Rev. Ernesto at 10:15 am. My stay was short but rewarding. I had the opportunity to attend the Sunday service, participate in the children’s catechumenate and teach the bible study. I had such a lovely time at Rev. Ernesto’s home getting to have lively discussions with family members including Luz Elena, his wife and Yovanni, his son. It was a wonderful time for me to have fun and catch up on some reading, I even got in three days of running and a day at the gym. Sunday night a big group of us went to walk River Medellin where there was at least two or three miles of lights and fountains. Lot’s of pictures:
Monday Alejandro, a friend I had met during the convention, took me out to get the best out of Medellin. We road the Metro to both extremes of the city, this included the tele-cable carts that took us up down and around the mountainsides. Our day was rounded out with amazing strawberry juice. The next day we met up at 10:30am to catch the planetarium show. We then had hours of fun in thediscovery zone. We walked through the aquarium and spent hours hoping, jumping, pulling and squealing in the interactive center. Theday carried into evening when we walked through the botanical gardens to watch the lighting of the Christmas decorations as it became dark. We rounded off the day with some much-anticipated cappuccinos in the bare-foot park. The intention of this park, as its name suggests, is to go about bare-foot between foot pampering textures including a segment of pebbles (like a foot massage) and water. Hey, anywhere I am encouraged to go around bare-foot becomes a favorite. I was exhausted and totally satisfied with the day.
A little about Medellin. First if you haven’t seen the episode check out Anthony Bordain’s food show in Colombia on Youtube. Less than ten years ago Medellin was considered the most dangerous city in the world….IN THE WORLD, with some 3500 murder at the height of the Medellin Cartel reign. This city was the epicenter of the South American drug cartels, with its oh so infamous Medellin Cartel ring-leader Pablo Escabar. Now, Medellin is known for having some of the happiest people on the earth and is called the land of the eternal spring because the weather rarely changes and is always a perfect 65-78. Although the irony is that the locals always seem to be complaining about the heat or the cold. Just have to laugh that one off. This is a culture, like all of the Colombian cities, distinct with a flavor of it’s own. The main food of choice is pork, principly the fattiest portions. People are simply very pleasant. Generous and not afraid to be children at heart….well, my view of Medellin was built around the discovery play zone, hehehe. The metro is clean and efficient. The metro alone made me think about moving there.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Saturday the girls, Kate’s father and I went to Usme to work on the side lot and visit a couple family members who’s children were graduating from their Catechumenate class. This also marks the time for their first communion. Yep, like the Roman Catholics, the Episcopal Church in Latin America practices this tradition. The interviews with the families were enlightening and delightful. Even getting caught in the rain as we made our way up, around and through slipper, hedgy trails to get to their houses, our spirits were not dampened. As I sat down and spoke with Sandra, 25 year old, oldest daughter of 7, I was very conscious and felt very blessed to have acquired the language capability I now manage. Sandra and I spoke; well, I listened and asked questions as she spoke.
The story of Sandra’s family
7 siblings ages 9 – 25. Father died a year ago from a heart attack while up in the mountains. The father was a control freak and very closed minded to the point where he didn’t allow the children to go to school for many years, he only wanted them to say in the house! Their mother, through arguments, finally won her children the right to attend school. For Sandra and the boys this came too late. By the time their father died the sons had to give up on the hope of formal education in order to obtain work and help support the family and Sandra was Married (by age 15). This meant that they had to go through a gov. program that completes all 12 years of school in one year. The end result is you get a piece of paper that you must have in order to obtain work and a lousy education (Sandra’s sentiments). All of the younger one’s began to go to school three to four years ago. That means that the 14 year old is in 4th grade. She is discouraged by the age difference. They all struggle to get by yet they have a wonderful working relationship. Sandra, who has a 6-year-old daughter, also takes care of her four youngest siblings plus three children down the street. She is a very busy lady with a huge heart. We got along splendidly. I really hope to spend some time with her. Thanks be to God, the mother has recently acquired work at a bakery and so their will be a bit more money to help ease the stress. The children, perhaps the mother, attend Divino Salvador, the church we work at in Usme, every Sunday. The four youngest children have been attending the catechumenate lessons and are now preparing for their first communion. It is great to see such community participation.
We also interviewed a single mother and her son. She is separated from her husband and has 6 children, two of whom live with her; actually, she and the younger boy live with the elder brother. She, like the great majority of the community, she has had no steady work in a long time and the rest of her children are in as difficult situation as she is, so cannot help her, the tragic and unjust cycle of poverty. She also, by the grace of God, has recently obtained a tiny bit of work in the church helping to clean. It is not enough to live off, but it is better than nothing. What was interesting about this interview was the change of energy that took place. I entered the home goofing with the young son and the mother seemed quite stand-offish. I was already in such a good mood from talking with Sandra (although at this point quite chilly). I think it was around the third question as I helped Kate with a bit of the questioning that the ice was broken. I guess to see us make mistakes and be really human brought us down to the ground level for her. She opened up and told us about her relationship with the church, smiled and I think I even remember a bit of laughter. We also discussed how her son could get extra help for math and English. Schools here do not have the same resources I was BLESSED to have in my school system…I am now much more grateful for the Homewood school system.
Sunday was lovely as I volunteered to teach the bible study to the 10-13 year-olds. I love this group of kids; we click well. This time I spoke about ‘el camino de Dios’… something like the God’s life path for each of us. In this we discussed the characteristics of God which translated into the characteristics of this ‘path’. I really felt the Holy Spirit lead me in this discussion. Again the gospel lesson was obtuse…at least to translate to this age group. It was a marvelous experience as I was in front of the kids with my – oh so well - drawn-out lesson plan only to have the Spirit push me into the psalms. I got to touch on the Trinity again and how Christ is 100% man AND 100% God. I know this is a deep topic, but if I include a bit at a time each class, it might start making some sense, in that acceptance of the mystery way, hehehehe.
Monday, November 30, 2009
THANKS BE TO GOD!!! Our Colombian Thanksgiving was a huge success! Once again God proves to me that He is listening to prayers….continual praying for this event started when we bought the turkey, with the frequency of prayers steadily increasing as the Friday night dinner approached. So, the Turkey did de-thaw in time. By Thursday night it was in a pot of salty-sugary water. I think Martha Stewart and Norman Rockwell would have been equally impressed between the fresh herbs, garlic and oranges and a bird that came out of the oven dark golden brown and juicy. No surprise that there is none left. Kate, Brittany and I had a full afternoon of chopping, stirring and dressing up – all pretty. The gusts started to arrive 15 till 7pm, just in time for us to send them out on errands to come back with more plates and plastic utensils. The group ended up numbering 15. Kate had the brilliant idea of inviting a couple extra friends from the Cathedral that was the cherry on top of the whole event. The three of us put on our dresses, pretty shoes and made ourselves up.
Hey, I will find anyexcuse to where heals, hehehe =.).
Once everyone was gathered we all stood around the table to share what we are thankful for and/or give a prayer. It was a humbling experience as many expressed thanks for our presence and work. The highlight was Sara, an 8 year old who is so very smart and well spoken who gave thanks for us, the generosity of the cathedral and the goodness in her life. Even before we had sat downfor the salads tears were welling up for many. What I was so very proud of, besides the Turkey and brownies (high altitude baking can be tricky), was that the menu involved more vegies than Colombians normally eat at any given meal…yah vegies! By the time everyone cleared out we were left with one dinner plate and a little extra mashed potatoes. Between Brittany’s confidence that we had enough and more than a fewprayers about the feeding of the 5,000, we fed everyone well and weren’t stuck with a tone of leftovers.
First Corse Green Salad and Fruite Salad