Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mountain Ministry 2014

Every Christmas, our Bolivian church group and the Rumi Rancho staff travel to remote mountain villages in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, taking with them gifts, food, and medical supplies for needy children and people. Our church has a vision to reach these people and start churches where there is no gospel witness.
Last year, after three days of hard work, our group was exhausted and ready to go home. They waited patiently for the rickety old bus that would take them back down the mountain road where hot showers and a warm meal awaited. But the road was washed out by a torrential rainfall. They were stranded. The youth pastor and young men decided to walk for help. They left the women and teen girls safe in the village. After walking five hours in the pouring rain, they reached the main road where they called for help. Two men from our church headed out in a four-wheel drive vehicle to rescue the women.
Meanwhile, after waiting for many hours, the ladies began walking down the mountain hoping to meet a bus or car to take them to the main road. After a few hours of slipping and sliding in the mud, a small car stopped. Gratefully, they accepted a ride. But after a short distance, the road was washed out making it impossible to continue. They were left standing alone in the rain. Except for the birds tweeting and the rain pouring, silence loomed.
In the distance, a house stood alone in a field––the women ran for shelter under an overhang. The man of the house saw them and invited them inside. He offered hot drinks, food, and shelter. He built a roaring fire and began telling his story. After receiving Christ on a trip to the city, he believed God directed him to construct a large room onto his house for church meetings. But he had no one to teach the people who came. He prayed that God would send a preacher. It was not a coincidence that the road washed out at this location. It was God's stop sign.
Help finally arrived from the city. Hugs were exchanged, and plans were made for the beginning of a mountain ministry year round. God prepared a way to begin a church. The gospel is being preached where it never was preached before.
This December, we will be headed to a different mountain area. Children's eyes will light up as they receive their only Christmas gift this year and hear the Christmas story for the first time. Unreached people are waiting for us this year in another remote area where we can minister and bless many with gifts, food and medical help, and the most wonderful gift of all––Jesus.
Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish;"
This mountain man had a vision. Our Bolivian church has a vision. God brought us together so the people won't perish.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turkey Tales

The turkey tales I have to tell don't resemble the beautiful turkey in this picture, but they do hold a special spot in my heart. The first, because it was the first turkey I ever tried to cook––two months after my wedding day. The second because it was my son's turkey––placed in my freezer without my knowledge. I have many precious memories to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day. "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." Psalm 107:1 (NIV) As the years pass, I realize that it is a blessing to be able to remember. These two turkey tales weren't funny at the time, but I can't help but chuckle each time I remember them now.

After many years of eating turkey, I suddenly developed an allergy to the bird. I don't look forward to turkey on Thanksgiving now––unless I want to look like Frankenstein or meet the Lord face to face. After two reactions, it was certain I had an allergy to turkey. I don't want to have those encounters with turkeys again.

But, I've also had other encounters with turkeys. I now have experience cooking turkeys, but as a new bride I didn't. I looked forward to cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner that year. Far away from our hometown, we celebrated alone but not as we planned. My husband was in the Air Force, and we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now you may think that was glamorous, but it wasn't. We lived on an airman's salary and buying a turkey was a big expense for the special day. We got up early, and together we made the stuffing, packed it in the bird and shoved it in the oven. After a few hours, we checked the bird. We thought it strange that there was no wonderful aroma coming from the oven, and looking at it––well, it was still raw. Two hours more should do it––we reasoned. We closed the oven door and waited.

The table looked lovely with my wedding gifts of silver, crystal, and candlesticks placed on the perfectly pressed tablecloth. The potatoes were cooking, and the red cranberry sauce contrasted the green linen tablecloth––my decorating skills were developing. If only that turkey would cooperate. It didn't. After nine hours in the oven, it was tough and still not cooked. We were so disappointed that we took that bird for a long drive in the Nevada desert and threw it out of the convertible we were driving. Good riddens! Did we ever know what happened? Never! But, I can tell you that story has been told over and over and usually it sounds as though the cook messed up. I will never agree––it must have been the oven! My first turkey--tough and uncooked! That bird still haunts me today––every time its story is told. FYI, every turkey I’ve baked since has exited my oven thoroughly cooked and delicious!

The second turkey tale involves our son. We were new missionaries on the field and had just purchased a freezer, a big deal in those days--30 years ago. We had chickens in the freezer, and at this point in my life I had learned to cook. But, cooking in Bolivia is different. Because of the altitude, everything takes longer to cook. I took the bird out of the freezer, thawed it, and put it in a pot to boil. I checked that bird every hour, and every hour it seemed less cooked than more. Memories of that first turkey were still haunting me. I wondered what this bird had against me. After six hours in the pot––you guessed it––it met its fate in the mountains of Bolivia. But, this story has an ending that was resolved.

Our son had gone hunting and killed a wild turkey. Wild Bolivian turkeys are the same size as chickens. He never told me the turkey was in our freezer. And, I didn't know it was a wild turkey or the secrets of cooking this exotic Bolivian bird. But, I did find out why that so-called chicken never cooked––because it wasn't a chicken at all. Unlike the Nevada turkey, I do have an excuse for the Bolivian turkey.

I hope your turkey isn't a repeat of my turkey tales this Thanksgiving. It wasn't funny at the time, but they are good, funny memories now. We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day. Good and funny memories are a blessing to be thankful for too.

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you make some good turkey tales on this special day––especially funny ones.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Faithful Feathers

Have you ever seen God's wings or heard His feathers flap? I have!

As we traveled from meeting to meeting and church to church over the last five months, I shared this story whenever I had the opportunity. Maybe you've heard it, maybe not. If you have, I hope it made you realize how faithful our God is to meet our needs––even through condors. Maybe you haven't heard it yet. Allow me to share it again in print for those who missed it.

Two years ago my husband had Shingles. They healed in the usual amount time, about three weeks. Soon after, he collapsed in severe pain. Not knowing if he was having a heart attack or stroke, we rushed him to a clinic here in Cochabamba. That severe, excruciating pain lasted three to four hours. The doctors had given him all the drugs possible without compromising his health in other ways––I doubted they were doing all they could to relieve this unbearable pain. But, at least we knew it wasn't a heart attack or stroke.

Finally, after hours of suffering, the pain began to subside to some degree. Little did we know at the time that this pain would continue for six months because of a damaged nerve in Chuck's back caused by the Shingles.  I couldn't believe the first words to slip through his lips as he looked up into my eyes. "I am so hungry for a pizza." Not what I expected to hear from a man who just came through this painful ordeal. How could I refuse such a request? Here where we live, we don't have all the pizza shops one has access to in the USA so I went home to make a pizza and fulfill this suffering man's wish.

Fifteen years ago, while we were building our house, I insisted on having a big window in my kitchen. Looking out that window is a magnificent view of the mountain behind our house. Living in a foreign country without much access to fast food restaurants or even nearby restaurants, I spend many hours in the kitchen. I also teach teen girls baking and cooking classes, so much of my time is spent in my kitchen. I love my kitchen, and I love that window––even more so now than I could have ever imagined because of what I saw that day when I went home to make the love of my life a pizza.

As I whipped up the dough, I glanced out at that beautiful view through the bay window. It's a rocky mountain, dry and brown most of the time, but nevertheless a view of God's beautiful creation in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia. But this day, I didn't notice the mountain view. I saw a view of God. One that I had never before seen.

There, half way up the mountain sitting on a large, flat rock, sat two huge birds. Now, we've lived in our house 15 years and only once before had we seen a condor on this mountain. Condors are the Bolivian national bird––a rare site. I rushed for the binoculars and quickly returned to catch a glimpse of what I thought were condors. If you know nothing about condors, let me describe the size of this beautiful bird for you. They are on average four feet tall and have a wingspan of 10 feet. Amazing creatures. Gigantic birds!

Fumbling, I rushed to place the binoculars over my eyes. Then, I saw them. Yes, they were condors without a doubt. I stood in awe of these beautiful birds created by an awesome God. But that's not all. As I stood gazing with pure delight at what I was witnessing, something even more awesome happened. Both birds, at precisely the same time, spread their wings and stood there looking like statues. I could hardly breathe. God's beautiful creation stood on a mountaintop showing all His glory. A few verses came to mind. Psalms 91:3-5 "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and your rampart." 

I knew those birds were there for me. I was alone that day. I knew people were praying for us, but no one had any idea what we were going through at that moment. But, God knew. I wasn't alone in the scary situation that faced us. God was with us both. I felt God's love around me. His feathers squeezing me. His wings protecting me. I looked at those birds standing there, wings spread, and knew God had me under His wings as He did Chuck. But, not only was there one bird––a rare site in itself––but two birds–of course, one for Chuck and one for me. I saw those wings and I heard those feathers. I saw God through condors, and I knew God would take care of us. I rested, snuggled under His wings and surrounded by His faithful feathers.

The depth of God's love is unimaginable. He shows us His love daily, even through condors. He covers us with His wings always. He shows Himself to us in the condor moments. Expect the condor moments. Don't miss them. Look up, see God's wings and hear the flapping of His faithful feathers.