Friday, April 19, 2013

out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope

those words are engraved on the martin luther king, jr. memorial in washington d.c. and they stuck with me this past week as i wandered through the various memorials and was part of conversations with so many people from all walks of life this week in d.c. i realized that each soldier that has fought for our country has been a stone of hope in order to defend the freedoms we are so fortunate to have here in the states. walking around the f.d.r memorial and realizing that he was a stone of hope a midst the great depression that has defined a generation. (grandma has taught me never to waste anything...especially at taco bell. throwing away sauce packets is like throwing away money) walking around the wwii memorial and realizing that i had 4 great uncles and one grandpa fight and return from that war was crazy when i looked at the wall filled with stars to represent the many who never returned. each of those soldiers that fought was a stone of hope. all of these things take on new meaning now that my little brother is going into the army. he is now a stone of hope for me. he is defending the freedoms that come with having an american passport.

it is this idea that i am a stone of hope wherever i decide to go. in india, the red light district seemed like such a mountain of despair but that mountain is being taken down stone by stone as women choose freedom. in many ways, i had to choose to see the hope as i walked the streets filled with men that viewed me as an object. in bolivia, the hope is in the women that come to the casa which is a place to be open and free. they have come from that dark place of despair and to be a stone of hope for the other women in the red light areas. in peru, hope is seeing kids move from the streets back to their homes and families. one lady's journey from the streets to a home of her own was the stone of hope for her neighborhood as she began to host bible studies and show the hope that she had found. hope is something that at times seems so difficult to find especially in the dark places where it feels impossible to hope. i have seen the hope in the smile of a blind child that recognizes my voice. i have seen hope in the pride a women has in a product she makes. i have seen hope in a child learning to read or understand how to do a math problem. hope is something that is powerful to keep us going or continue striving towards serving God in the darkest places. i pray that i can bring hope to the dark places of peru or bolvia but i can only to that as i seek God and the hope He provides.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Peru: life along the coast

peru has a long history of being a conquered people but the great incan joke is that the city of lima sits along the coast in a valley that keep the city covered by thick coastal fog and clouds most of the year. they have told me that in the winter it never really rains but there is a thick fog that looms in the air and causes clothes to mold as they hang in the closet. walking around the city in flip flops and capris made it feel so much like home as far as weather goes but that is about where the similarities end. the architecture reminded me of the streets i strolled in spain and the driving reminded me that cars have the right of way everywhere outside southern california. one thing that took some getting used to was the lack of stop signs and instead there were giant speed bumps at small intersections which forced people to slow down when going through the intersection. it was things like that make me smile as i reflect on my time in lima.

as soon as i walked out of the immigration area at the airport i was greeted with smiles and besos from pedro and lily who serve as local staff for palabra hecha hombre (word made flesh peru). they asked about my time in bolivia as well as little details about my life so they could get to know me right off the bat. answering questions in a second language after taking an early morning flight caused me some serious doubts about my spanish speaking ability. palabra hecha hombre's ministry has changed and evolved over the course of its 15 year history but it's focus remains on serving among the poor in lima. i spent a lot of time with anna, lily and pedro who are the peruvians on staff as they showed me around important landmarks for their ministry such as where they would provide meals to street kids or host soccer games for the kids. they explained the ministry as we walked down back alleys and markets where they would meet with friends. i could see the passion they had for their friends to strive for something better and they would tell me stories of street kids choosing to go back home where they would be safe and have the opportunity to go back to school. i was fortunate enough to be invited into the house of a friend and listen to her tell me her journey from the streets to a home so her kids could strive for something better. she glowed as she talked about how palabra hecha hombre helped her along the way and she was able to see how God was working in her life to believe in the hope of something more. she is so passionate about sharing that hope with others. at one point she looked at me and said i looked familiar to which pedro responded that it was from a vision and that was confirmation that i should come to serve in peru. we all had a good laugh. i was blown away by the way the peruvian staff allowed me to become part of the team for the short time i was there. as i left, they gave me a figurine of a group of people holding up a cross. anna explained that the cross is what brings us together to work towards a common goal and it doesn't matter where i end up because i will always be part of the team that seeks to serve God wherever i am. it was a reminder that regardless of where any of us are geographically, we are all part of one body that seeks to serve God wherever we are.

i have felt so loved by both communities that making a decision is that much harder. i can see how my gifts and talents would be used for both ministries and aspects of each city that would be life giving. now comes that hard part of processing through my time in bolivia and peru to see where God is leading me to serve long term. i appreciate prayers as i seek God's will for my life.

Monday, April 1, 2013

bolivia: life at 13,000 feet

i landed in bolivia on thursday afternoon and went straight to the drop in center that is the heart of word made flesh bolivia. i had not slept for at least 24 hours and was introduced to a number of women that all welcomed me with a kiss on the cheek. the drop in center (casa de esperanza) is used as a safe place for women who work in the red light district of el alto. they have a day care so they can bring their kids while they sit and have tea or talk to a councelor on staff or participate in a cooking class. the center offers so many different ways for the women to be themselves for a few hours. one way they create awareness for the "casa" as its called is by visiting the brothels and letting women know there is place where they can come to take part in community. i went along with the team for visits on thursday night and was reminded of my time in kolkata. it was very different than the red light districts in kolkata or bangkok but the stories are often the same. so many questions came to mind as we walked through the brothels talking with ladies who were awaiting their next client. there is so much brokeness but the casa is restores beauty in this dark place.

the staff here have welcomed me with open arms and invited me into what life would be like as an american serving in el alto. i have asked some really hard questions and they have answered honestly. i have spent time with the staff members in their homes or going on adventures or simply just sitting and talking over a meal. i can see myself here. the ministry has componets that would be life giving such as a business helping to give women a means of earning money outside of the trade and mentoring/teaching kids as a way of prevention. i will be heading to lima on wednesday to explore life with word made flesh peru. i am hopeful that God will clearly show me where i need to be in the long run. i appreciate your prayers and words of encouragement as i continue on this vision trip.