Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesdays...

(Two posts in one day!)

Wednesdays are becoming one of my favorite days of the week because on Wednesday nights here they have something similar to "small groups" back home. One family each week volunteers to host the church meeting in their home. Then on Wednesdays at 6:00, everyone who can make it meets there and we enjoy about an hour of worship time together. The number of people who can squeeze into a small living area is always impressive. And after the worship time, the host family usually provides some kind of refreshments. Sometimes it's coffee and cookies, sometimes it's more substantial. Here's a picture of last Wednesday night's meeting in the home of Gloria and Teresa. (Teresa is the mother of Ulysses for those of you who have been here.) After I took this picture, about 12 more people arrived--at least 8 of them squeezed into the living room and more stood outside.

One of the things that is difficult about these services is that the people who live outside of the municipal area sometimes have a hard time getting to them. It gets dark just before 7:00 now and most people want to be home soon after that. For those who walk an hour into town or ride a bus at least part of the way into town, this means they usually cannot come to the evening meetings. (The last bus runs around 5:30 I think.) For this reason, about once a month they try to host the meetings in someone's home who lives out in the rurual areas so that those families can participate. Tonight is such an evening. Our host tonight is Marina Landaverde, one of the sweet sisters here. She tries to make it to as many church events as she can but the location of her home prevents a lot of them.

So tonight's plan is that those who can go will meet at the church building at 3:00 and we will all go together. Jose believes that Marvin has transportation arranged for us to get all the way to her house in vans but it is possible that at least some of the group will have to ride a public bus partway and then walk the rest of the way. Those in the vans will be packed in tightly. :) It's sure to be a wonderful evening.

We are hosting one of the Wednesday nights here in our new home in September and are looking forward to that. We'll let you know what the capacity of our living room is after that. :)

Class information...

Jose asked Teresa and me to teach a class on Sundays to the young ladies of the church. This includes the young ladies age 12-ish and up. We are studying through a book called "Bad Girls of the Bible" with them. We're mostly using the book as a guideline and have told them the point is to learn from the mistakes of these "bad girls" and apply the lessons to our lives.

We are opening each lesson with a re-enactment of the Bible story, with the girls playing the roles in it. They enjoy doing this and laughing a little bit at themselves and each other. It is a fun time together and they seem to have some good thoughts on the application of the lessons.

Here's a picture when we re-enacted the story of Adam and Eve.

You'll see that Eve has a flower in her hair, Adam is wearing a tie, the serpent as a scarf around her neck, and the other girl is portaying the voice of God. We keep the props very simple. My hope in this is that the girls will see that they can use this same kind of method in teaching children's classes.

And on the subject of children's classes...There have been no children's classes in La Palma on Sunday mornings for several months for a variety of reasons. Jose has asked that we begin to help get them going again. Ruth and I will begin this in September. They will be for ages 5-10 and Jose is already telling the members about this. Because there have been no classes for the children, we have seen them begin to get wiggly and have behavior issues by the end of worship because they have sat for 2 hours. This will hopefully help with this issue as well. After we get the classes underway, we will begin to train some of the members here to teach the classes and we will gradually step back as they take on responsibilities. Ruth and I are looking forward to working on this project. Exciting things are happening! :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A follow-up from yesterday

Yesterday Ruth and I were able to get out and find a jacket/coat for Selena and Jose was free in the afternoon for a bit so he took us to go visit her and her mother. I had seen where she lived but had hoped it was better than my first impressions. Sadly, it was not. Here's a picture of Selena showing us one of her toys. You can see nearly all of one side of the house in this picture. It is wide enough for a bed on the left (that's an older brother or cousin on it) that was bigger than a twin but smaller than a double, then a dresser, and a bunk bed. I was guessing it was about 10 feet wide. It's slightly longer the other direction--perhaps 12 feet. Her mom, Rosa, welcomed us into their home and went and borrowed plastic chairs from the neighbors to have chairs for all of us. Selena opened the bag with her coat in it and her eyes lit up and she had an enormous smile on her face. We also had put some packages of cookies in the bag and she was very excited about the "galletas" in there. Ruth got a big hug from Selena. And then Selena took Ruth outside to show her the puppies that were yapping out back. After that, they came back in and Selena showed Ruth some of her notebooks from school. Jose was I and were able to visit with her mother and encourage her to come to the Friday ladies' class. She used to come but hasn't lately. It began to rain harder while we were visiting and the roof leaks in a few spots so Rosa was concerned we needed to move our chairs and avoid getting wet. We assured her we were fine and a little rain wouldn't hurt us. We were happy we got to visit with them for a bit. Ruth got lots of hugs from Selena during the visit. During our conversation, Rosa spoke with Jose about the sponsorship program and said that it has been helpful for her family. It was a good afternoon.

Yesterday I also found out where I can buy fresh fish and shrimp every week. There are trucks that drive through town selling them but they can be hard to find and what they're selling doesn't always look fresh and sometimes is from the river--I prefer from the ocean. The truck I found parks in front of one of the restaurants that we have found to be very clean and he said he's there every Tuesday. I bought some fish from him and was able to "bread" it and bake it last night. It was quite tasty and we enjoyed it for dinner.

Last night we also enjoyed some English worship time together. This is something that we have decided to do on a weekly basis and the main purpose is for our family and Teresa to be able to have a time to sing songs of praise that we are familiar with. However, there are several who are interested in participating with us and we welcome that. Last night, Jose and Marlon joined us and we sang and prayed in our living room for about an hour. We believe more will join us next week. The main purpose of this time is to fill our cups but if it can serve another purpose and others enjoy it as well, then that is a double blessing. :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Always be ready...

One thing we've learned from our recent visits here is to always be prepared to teach, pray, lead songs, or any combination of the above. (Kind of reminds you of 2 Timothy 4:2, doesn't it?) Friday afternoons is the regularly scheduled ladies class and last Friday I was prepared to lead a song if Jose asked me to help with that but I hadn't brushed up on my "prayer phrases" in Spanish. As I've learned Spanish, I have groups of words that I'm more familiar with but I've had to learn the way to phrase words appropriately for prayers so that my Spanish is understandable to the women. (One thing to note is that the word for "fish" is "pescado" and the word for "sin" is "pecado" so I've heard of people asking for God to "forgive their fishes"...trying not to make that mistake! LOL) Although I think this is a part of Romans 8:26-27 and that the Holy Spirit knows what I'm trying to say, I don't want to appear irreverent in my prayers. So, since that was something I hadn't brushed up on lately, guess what Jose asked me to do at the end of class? Yep...as class ended he said that Sister Anna would lead one final song and then that Sister Lori would lead a closing prayer. I tried not to panic and quickly grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled some notes during the song and tried to keep my brain from freezing up as I recalled the appropriate verb tenses I needed. In the end, I think everything I made sense to the listeners and I didn't offend anyone with an incorrect word.

Then after class the ladies and Jose continued making plans for their Ladies Day that will be on December 4th. They had already begun planning but every Friday they continue the plans and get a few more details worked out. They talked for a while about the food arrangements and what kind of take-home gifts they would have for all of the ladies who come and how they will pay for it. In the end, they needed $9 to pay for the wooden keychains that Trinidad is going to paint for all the ladies so Jose suggested that everyone who can put in $1 for it. We collected $7 of it on the spot that way and several others have said they'll bring money next week. They're now checking out options for the food and will talk more about it next week also. During the process of this meeting, I found out that I have been voted as the speaker for this Ladies Day. Panic first set in. Then Philippians 4:13. Then a little more panic. When I've taught classes here before in Spanish I've had at most 20 ladies at a time and I know them and they're very forgiving and helpful if I need assistance with a word. A group of 150 ladies that I don't know is a bit more daunting and means I need to get the lesson prepared way ahead of time so I can practice the words I need. I'm honored to be asked but can't say I'm not a lot stressed about it, too. I'm going to need to read my favorite verse, 2 Timothy 1:7 a lot between now and then. :)

So since I bragged a little on Nathan in the last post, let me take a few minutes to brag on Ruth this time. She has become quite popular with the little girls around here. Vanessa and Victoria come running with big hugs for her whenever they see her. Roxanna fought for a seat by her one Sunday. And Ruth has plenty of hugs and love to go around for all of them. But one little girl that has captured all of our hearts is little Selena. Here's a picture of her with Ruth the first Sunday in August. Selena has these gorgeous eyes that are filled with joy. She always has a beautiful, sincere smile on here face and you just want to keep hanging on when she hugs you. Last night as we headed to church it had been raining and there was a breeze in the air making it kind of chilly, so I told Ruth and Nathan they might want to take a jacket or sweatshirt. As services started, Selena arrived a few minutes late and scooted in to sit by me. She lives the equivalent of 2-3 blocks from church and had walked in the rain with her mom without an umbrella. She was quite wet and chilly so I put my arm around her. Ruth was right behind me and could see how wet she was so she offered her sweatshirt to Selena. I wrapped it around her and she snuggled her arms into the warmth of it. When church ended, I told her she needed a jacket on a night like tonight and asked if she had one at home. She said she didn't. Ruth and I will be heading out shortly to go find for a jacket of some kind for sweet little Selena.

I have several pictures of amazing, gross, and icky creatures we've encountered in recent weeks but I'll save those for another post. Ruth and I are going out to do some shopping. :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It makes a Mama smile...

When we first began making plans to come to La Palma we had a lot of questions about the kids learning Spanish before we came. Ruth knew some already and seemed to be able to pick it up quickly. Besides that, two of the classes she's enrolled in online for her high school curriculum this year are Spanish I and II. Nathan was another story. We didn't want to be 'cramming it down his throat' so we decided to just wait and do it at his pace. (Besides, we figured that given a few days watching cartoons in Spanish he'll pick up a lot.) We offered a Spanish camp in July before we came but he didn't want to do it. I had plenty of Spanish children's books available but he showed no interest. The day before we flew to El Salvador he started looking through a children's Spanish dictionary and picking up phrases. His first few worship services here, he was bored but tolerated them and wasn't interested in trying to read the songbooks with us. Again, we let him go at his pace. Now that he has made friends here, things are beginning to change. He's started coming to me and asking for phrases to use with the kids. They have several games that they all play together that need few words--sometimes play transcends language barriers. :) Here's a picture of him Wednesday night at the home of Ana Gladys and Modesto, playing with their son in a hammock.
But now that he's started sitting with his friends at church and they sing the songs, he's started trying to read and sing along, too. Here's a photo I snapped tonight during services as he shared a songbook with Adonis. You'll notice that Nathan's hair is practically dripping with sweat--that's from him swinging and running with Gerardo and Azael before church started. But as I sat behind him tonight and watched him sharing a book and doing his best to sing along in Spanish, my heart smiled. I had to have a picture. (Luckily, Teresa was next to me with her camera.) Moments like this make a Mama smile.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Busy, busy, busy...

It's been a busy few days around here. Last Friday morning was the monthly distribution of food to the children in the church's sponsorship program. I always enjoy being here for that. The kids come with an adult from their family and hear a message from the Bible from Jose or Jesus and then receive a bag of groceries/household items. This month the bag weighed about 40 pounds and was full of cereal, soups, toothpaste, soaps, tomato sauce, and various other staple items.

By the time the program had finished, Jorge Rodriguez from Ocotepeque, Honduras had arrived. He was here to pick up our family and take us to visit with his family for the day. Our kids needed some time away from 'home base' and Jorge's three daughters were looking forward to meeting our kids and were out of school on Friday. I also hoped that Gloria could help me with finding some kitchen items that we had not been able to purchase here. We crossed the border with no issues and his family was waiting for us at their house. They had made signs in English to welcome our family to their home. They had a 'schedule' for the day and first on it was to go take care of shopping so the nine of us headed out on foot. We were able to quickly find vanilla, then barbecue sauce, powdered sugar, a couple of pizza pans (which will double as cookie sheets) and a cake pan. At the last store we went to, we were able to find Betty Crocker cake mixes (hooray!) and American parmesan cheese. And Gloria blessed me by having a plastic cutting board set aside for me as a gift. This is something I'd been looking for so it was the perfect gift. :)

We went back to their house after shopping to enjoy a lunch that Gloria had prepared. She had baked some chicken and made potato salad. It was so delicious. I also found out that Gloria goes through the same steps as I do to wash dishes. Despite the fact that they are 'locals', the water does not do well with their stomachs so they only drink bottled water and after she washes the dishes, she rinses them in water with bleach added. To be able to talk to another mom who goes through the same tedious process was helpful. She talked about how much time it takes but that it's necessary for the health of her family. I completely understood. Sometimes it just helps to know that someone else is going through the same thing. :)

While we cleared the table, Monte and Jorge were able to enjoy some good conversation and the kids all started a game of futbol (soccer) in Jorge's hallway. Despite being an informal game, it was quite intense and the kids enjoyed it a lot. We finally had to drag the kids away to go do a little bit more shopping. Gloria had said that perhaps we could find some of our items in Esquipulas and that it was only about 20 minutes away. As we got a few minutes down the road, something was said about Guatemala and crossing the border. It wasn't till that moment that we realized Esquipulas is in Guatemala. (Three countries in one day!)

As we entered Guatemala we noticed a large white beautiful building through some trees and as we tried to snap pictures out the window Gloria told us we didn't need to do that because we could go to that building. Turns out, "that building" is a Catholic basilica that houses a shrine of a "Black Christ"--a carving of Jesus on the cross made out of dark wood and dating to 1595. As we got closer to it and realized the enormity of the building, it was truly overwhelming. In the courtyard of the grounds, there was a row of people with various infirmities who were begging for money--you can see them over to the right in the picture of our family.

Gloria led our group and told us we could enter the basilica. As we approached the stairs leading up to it, she pointed out two young men crawling up the stairs very slowly on their hands and knees. They were saying some kind of prayer as they did so and Jorge told us it was a form of penance.

As we entered the basilica there were beautiful carvings and paintings surrounding us but the center of attention was at the front of the building. Encased in glass is the "Black Christ" and worshippers filed into the pews to pray. Gloria led us out a side door to where we would be able to see the carving up close. There is a path that leads through a shrine area. People who have attributed healings to the Black Christ bring remembrances to leave. This image of Christ's face was created from such remembrances. When we got nearer to the crucifix, Gloria pointed out a man walking away backwards. She explained that many people walk out backwards because they don't want to "turn their back on Christ."

The path led us to be able to walk completely around the glass case that enclosed the Black Christ. Some people in front of us lingered for quite some time, praying in front of the crucifix. Outside was an open area covered by a tent where people could light candles and there were at least four men working to clean up the wax from the floors and keep the area organized. As you might imagine, this entire experience led to some very interesting and in-depth discussions at dinner Friday night. You can read more about Esquipulas and the famous Black Christ here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esquipulas or of course Google it for more information.

Saturday I was able to use my new pizza pans because we have discovered that a local bakery, Lilan's, has personal pizzas pre-made for $1.25. I stopped by and asked them if they would sell me some unbaked, brought them home and put them on my new pizza pans and baked them here at home. They were delicious. We had Amanda (Reina's daughter) with us and she enjoyed them as well.

I tried to do some baking Saturday. Nathan's been asking for a chocolate cake. But one of the things I haven't been able to find is baking cocoa. All I have found is chocolate drink mix which has sugar added. The stores have tried to tell me it is the same but I know that it's not. So I found a recipe and tried to make a chocolate cake using chocolate milk mix. I had several things working against me in this endeavor. First, no cocoa. Second, I didn't have an appropriately-sized pan. I also haven't entirely figured out how to adjust recipes for high altitudes, but I'm working on it. And finally, my oven doesn't have temperatures on it. It has five positions on the knob--numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. I'm guessing somewhere around 3 is 350 degress and have been using it as such but am not really sure. As I began to get out ingredients, we had various interruptions. Jose needed to talk to us, a lady from the church needed to talk to us, some stopped by to just say hi, then various other interruptions. I had put on an apron while working and the first few times, I took it off to greet our guests. By the end of the afternoon, when Jose came by I asked if he minded if I continued baking while we talked and he didn't mind so I mixed while he and Monte and I discussed some matters. The cake was edible, but not my best. Too many things stacked against me in this effort. I'll try again later and one of the stores in town tells me they'll have baking cocoa in this week. We'll see. :)

Sunday evening Teresa and I started a teen girls class. We had 6 in attendance and I think the class went well and the girls were receptive. We are looking forward to seeing this class grow and the girls become more involved in the church at La Palma. We want them to develop a real connection and a real relationship with Christ and this kind of class is a good way to get that started. They've never had one on a regular basis and I think it's going to be a good thing for them. At the same time as our class, Monte and Jose have a teen boys/young men class going to help encourage leadership and growth in them.

Monte has left this morning with Jose to go visit some of the families that have children in the sponsor program. I'm getting ready to work on some class material for this week's teen girls class. The kids are both making friends here and enjoying playing tag and futbol with the local kids. Nathan seems to have muddy knees a lot from these games. I'm getting better at calling Ruth by her middle name of "Erin" in public, as that is how the locals know her. Somehow it all feels right. :) God has guided us on the journey to La Palma the entire way. We knew He would not abandon us once we arrived, and as our family becomes a part of the community and the church body here, we continue to feel His blessings and guidance.

Last night as we prepared to head to the Monday night time of praise and prayer with the church, it began pouring rain. During the rainy season, there are not enough adjectives to describe how it rains here when it pours--it's just unbelievable. I commented to Monte that numbers might be down tonight because of the timing of the rain. It is inspiring, however, to see that rain pouring at a rate beyond your wildest imagination cannot stop a single mother and her children from walking long distances in the dark to meet with their church family. God is good.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lizard video

The other night as the kids were heading to bed we noticed a lizard on the outside of their window. We have come to enjoy the lizards that live around here because we've been told they eat bugs, especially mosquitos. Nathan and I watched a moth land near the lizard and waited to see what it would do. It soon moved quickly toward the moth, grabbed it, and ate it. We called Ruth and Monte in to watch as well and recorded it as it finished off the moth. As we waited to see what the lizard would do next, I started recording again and it went after another moth. I was using Ruth's camera to record and she'd told me the microphone was off so we didn't need to worry about talking while recording. It was pretty exciting to get this on video but as you'll notice, the microphone wasn't off...LOL. I've tried to load the video on Facebook but it won't load so I'll put it on here and allow you to enjoy our lesson on the circle of life as well. :)
video

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday

Whenever one moves into a new house, there are new things to learn. For example, which door squeaks, how long it takes for the shower in the far end of the house to get warm, or whether you can flush a toilet while someone's in the shower without making them scream. In a new city, you have to learn what days the trash comes and where to pay your water bill. Likewise, I've had to learn some new things about living in our house here and what I need to do in my daily routine. Here's a few of them:
*First thing in the morning, go through and open up the windows to let the fresh morning air in.
*Laundry should be washed right before bed or first thing in the morning. Prime drying time starts at about 9:00 a.m. and it's best if laundry can be hanging out by this time.
*When you hear rumbles of thunder or drops of rain, everyone from the house needs to pitch in to get the laundry inside quickly.
*Add a capful of bleach to a sink of tap water when rinsing dishes. Also do the same when washing fruits and vegetables.
*Shopping is best done mid-morning if you want to avoid walking in the rain.
*About 6:00 in the evening go through and close the windows of the house so that bugs don't get in.
*When going outside of the church grounds, even just to go to the tienda across the street, always take your keys as it IS possible for wind to blow a steel door closed.

I have also learned that baking soda and bicarbonate of soda are the same thing. (Probably should have remembered this from science but I had to google it to see for sure.) As I've tried to bake here, I've hit several 'walls' but am finally figuring things out. I have managed to find the correct kind of flour now and have found brown sugar and baking powder and baking soda but still cannot find baking cocoa. I found a recipe for no-bake cookies that uses chocolate milk mix instead of cocoa and it has turned out really well, though and is a hit with Jose and Norma. I'm hoping to get some cocoa from another town in the next few days. I found Ritz crackers and a powdered cream of mushroom soup mix so in the next few days we'll have Poppy Seed Chicken, but without the poppy seeds. :)

We keep hearing how our friends back home are suffering in the heat wave. The temps here are running in the low 80's for highs. Usually the rain starts mid-afternoon and goes off and on till late at night. Yesterday it started mid-morning and rained all day until late into the night and at times was torrential. Today has been more back to a normal day.

I think I can finally put up some pictures of our kitchen window that I tried to do last week. Here's what it looks like from across the room. And then here's what the view looks like when you look between the glass panes. It's so tranquil to look out at the mountains and the trees and cattle. Sometimes there are lines of clouds that form halfway up the mountains--as someone who has lived in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas, those giant mountains in the distance are quite a change from what I knew. The song that I learned as a teenager pops into my head frequently: "I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I write the music for the whippoorwills. Control the planets with their rocks and rills, but give you freedom to use your own will."

Jose has asked Teresa and me to start teaching a class this Sunday for teen girls. Monte and Jose will be teaching its counterpart to the teen boys. Tonight we go to Marta's house for the mid-week services. Afterward, we've been invited to Reina's for chicken tamales. On Monday we got to have a little mini-adventure by going out in the backyard of the church/our house while Reina gathered banana leaves to wrap the tamales. You can view the pictures on my Facebook album at: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=192476&id=598659326&l=12393e5d1e It was a great surprise adventure for us. I've made a double batch of no-bake cookies today to share with her as a thank you for her generosity. I'm hoping to take Ruth to go visit some of the ladies in their homes tomorrow.

The rain is falling now and I'm going to go bag up cookies to take to Reina's. We're looking forward to a wonderful evening.
Dios le bendiga.
-Lori