Friday, August 30, 2013

Miracle Mashed Potatoes

Warning: This is not about a recipe. It's about a miracle. 

Do you believe in everyday miracles? If not, let me introduce you to one that just occurred last week in my kitchen. Don't believe me? I have witnesses.

We've been back in Bolivia for about three weeks, and the ministry picked up where it had left off in June––before we left for a six-week trip to the States. We're reconnecting with our churches and scheduling our classes and getting all those hugs and kisses from our Bolivian "family" who missed us and are happy we're back. Yes, I know, it's a blessed life––"family" above the equator and below it.

We had been invited to various homes and events since our return. Now it was my turn to invite our neighbors for a meal––a lovely Quechua family. Imilio is our community president, and he is respected by all the little communities around us. He's well connected politically and works hard to get our area help from the city authorities. His wife, Miteria, is a sweet friend to me. We are always invited to their family gatherings. This day, it was a family gathering at our house––but surprises were awaiting the cook (me) that day!

The afternoon sun scorched our skin as we went to the gate to be greeted by Imilio and Miteria. Their two adult children who still live at home weren't with them. "No problem," Imilio said. "It's their loss." We all laughed at his remark. There were nine of us at the table, and I surprised them with a very American meal––roast and mashed potatoes. This is not a meal they ever eat, and they certainly never have mashed potatoes!

I love mashed potatoes. I could eat them at every meal and never tire of them. So naturally, I had a big pot of potatoes boiling on the stove that day. I even put a few extra potatoes in the pot just to make sure there would be enough. And, leftovers were in the plan too.

While everyone chatted around the table, I served the meal Bolivian style. It isn't Bolivian custom to set the food on the table family style as we do, so I served each plate from the kitchen. I generously piled the potatoes and meat on each plate along with coleslaw and green beans––and gravy too. I couldn't wait to taste the first bite of those mashed potatoes with gravy. And, I was happy to see I planned the right amount of potatoes and would have some extras for seconds––provided not everyone asked for seconds.

Just as I began my meal, and while savoring the first bite of those creamy mashed potatoes, a knock at the door surprised us all. Opening the gate, we were greeted by Imilio's youngest daughter. She had a surprise for us. Her older sister, husband, and two children had arrived from Argentina and came to visit also. The thoughts of piling those potatoes high on the dinner plates flashed before my eyes. My first thought, Jesus multiplied the fish and loaves of bread then, he could stretch those potatoes now. I wasn't sure I had enough food for the extra visitors and how could I not offer seconds if everyone liked the food and wanted more.

"His disciples answered, "Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd.?" Matthew 15:33 (NIV) Potatoes, how would I have enough potatoes to feed such a crowd?

I remembered what Jesus said to the disciples. "How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked. Matthew 15:34 (NIV). I didn't need loaves, I needed potatoes. Lord Jesus there aren't enough potatoes in this bowl to go around once, I thought. Think about the fish and the loaves. So I did. And, I prayed, "Please  multiply the potatoes as you did the fish and loaves of bread."

"He told the crowd to sit down... Then he took the seven loaves and fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them..." Matthew 15:36 (NIV).

As I scurried to set more places and gathered more chairs for the crowd, I invited my guests to sit down. I returned to the kitchen and began serving the recently arrived guests. I filled their plates, not skimping on the potatoes. Whew! The potatoes stretched. Looking into the bowl I pondered, Do I dare ask who would like seconds? There were still potatoes left in the bottom of the bowl––not many, but enough for at least one more serving, I guessed. I asked the question--everyone answered yes, they'd have a little more. I kept scooping out the potatoes until all who wanted had second helpings. When I did dishes that night, I calculated there were enough miracle mashed potatoes left for one more small child. That would amount to the few extra potatoes I had added to the pot at the last minute––just to be sure I'd have enough. A little wink from God. He didn't need the few extra potatoes!

"They all ate and were satisfied." Matthew 15:37 (NIV) The only explanation––they were miracle mashed potatoes!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Back in Bolivia

What is the hardest thing your missionary will ever face? I can tell you without a doubt that it's not the bugs, the food, or the language learning that's most difficult or challenging––it's separation from family and friends––friends are family too! And, most missionaries leave their families for more than two years at a time. Sometimes it is three or four years before they are reunited with loved ones.

We just returned to Bolivia after six weeks of traveling in the States. It was a blessed time! I was honored to be invited to the AWSA Conference and also attended ICRS in St. Louis. Meeting my publisher, Tracy Ruckman, for the first time along with fellow authors was a highlight of the trip. After that, we headed to our daughter's home where we spent three weeks with our grandchildren––our son-in-law and daughter too. :-) While there, my husband received medical help from one of the top hospitals in the country. He is now on his way to full recovery from nerve damage in his back. God directed and blessed all along the way.

From the moment we arrived back in Bolivia, our work resumed as though we never left. I should say the void of leaving our family and friends was filled because God's work is our passion and serving Him gives us joy. Of course, we miss our family and friends, but God gives peace that passes understanding. Our work is people––serving them, teaching them, and most important leading them to the Savior. It's said if you choose a profession you love, you will never work a day in your life. However, as much as I love what I do, I'd have to say (from my experience) missionary life is work. But if we serve God and work for Him, our work is never in vain. "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV) Our work has heavenly rewards that last for eternity

Although we are sad to be separated from our family and friends, the joy of serving God is indescribable––except for saying it might be compared to heavenly joy! Most times it is more than two years between our furloughs, but we find God's promises are true. "Faithful is he who calls you, who also will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24 (KJV) Yes, we can do all things through Him.

And, God has given us "family" in Bolivia. Our Bolivian brothers and sisters in Christ will be with us throughout eternity. It's about eternal things––serving God so that others can be with their family for eternity. We are privileged to be called to share Jesus with those still waiting to hear about Him. Praise God, our labor is not in vain!