June 22, I completed four years of living here in Guatemala. I realized that I have now lived here longer than the amount of time it took for God to call me and get me here. Seems incredible. When I was preparing to come it seemed as if I would never get here. Now I can't picture being anywhere else.
It's not always easy. But my life in Omaha was not always easy, either. The longer I am here, some things become easier; others, more difficult. The strangeness of living in a majority world (Third World in the old vernacular) country seems less strange. Every time I visit the US, it seems more foreign to me. I really live between two cultures, really belonging to neither. This has served to teach me that this world, in the US or Guatemala, can never really be "home." My heart will only truly be home, when I am in the home my Lord has prepared for me. But, for now, I am here. . .
|This is an old picture of the kids, but the last time I was together with all of them.|
Left to right: Mikayla holding Nate, Jeremy, Joel, Jonathan holding Zach
29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matt. 19:29)
And I am receiving the hundredfold promised, it's just not what I had expected my life to look like at age 60+. But God knew it was exactly what I needed.
How is my life different? So many ways:
- I live in the most elegant house I have ever lived in during my entire life. But, running around the roof, is a circle of razor wire. A constant reminder that there is real risk in living here. In America, we use razor wire at prisons to keep bad people in. Here we use it too keep bad people out.
- Grocery shopping is an all day affair. Never in my life have I bought 60 eggs at a time, which sit on my counter, not in my refrigerator, and are used up within a week. We drink powdered milk (an acquired taste) since fresh milk is just too expensive. Meat is used as a condiment, not a main dish, and all vegetables are prepared fresh. Cooking takes more time, but the food tastes so much better.
- "Sanitary" has taken on a new urgency. Fruits and vegetables are soaked in clorox washes, dishes need to be absolutely dry, all water for drinking and cooking must first be filtered. Even with this, the beasties sometimes sneak through, requiring bi-yearly doses of parasite medication.
- Traffic laws are seen as optional recommendations, and many drive without insurance or even a drivers' license. Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way--even when they are in wheelchairs.
- It is normal to have guards with shotguns in front not only of banks, but at many small businesses.
- I look out my front door each day to see if the volcano is puffing smoke (it's a beautiful view). And more times than I can recall I've been awakened in the middle of the night by tremors shaking my house and my bed.
- I teach in a language foreign to me, in which I many maybe grammatical mistakes, and is actually a second language to most of my students. (Many speak Cachiquel at home.) I work with mostly home-made materials and supplies and my methods are seen as strange if not downright ridiculous by many.
- I live with four young men who grew up very differently from what I know. While they love and accept me, I realize many times a day, that I will never really "get" what their lives have been like. I can only love them as they are now, ask them to love me as I am, and look for those areas in which we have common ground.
- I have three employees (a housekeeper and two companion-caregivers) in a country where employees are often mistreated and underpaid. I struggle between being their employer and their friend; setting expectations and being flexible. And I make many mistakes. . .
- I daily walk by beggars, or awake to drunken men sleeping outside my house. My heart longs to help them all, but in reality I don't know how. What I do know is if I try to help everyone, I end up helping no one because I am spread to thin. So how should I respond to those who might be angels in disguise?
More than anything, though, I have changed in my relationship with God, or I should say He has changed me.
- I struggle with busy-ness more than ever and find it so easy to "cheat" myself and Him by not spending enough time alone with Him. And when I do, it shows in my work and in my heart.
- I am learning more and more that I cannot do anything on my own. I have learned to change the emphasis in Phil. 4:13 from "I can do all things," and learned to focus more on "him who gives me strength."
- I realize more each day how totally dependent we are on God for our very survival. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that just the other day, after four years of living on "faith support," as I was praying before we ate, I was hit between the eyes by the fact that what is on our table really does come directly from His hand, though the generosity of His people. It is hard, living from month to month, never really knowing how much money there will be to live on. He is faithful, however, and we have never gone to bed hungry, as do so many in this country.
- I am learning humbling truth that "You have not because you do not ask." For prayer, for funds, for help with things I cannot do on my own. The independence I was once so proud of is rapidly vanishing. And it's scary. And it's hard. And I don't want to offend. But I do need to ask. . .
- At a time in my life, when I thought I would have "arrived" in a good place with God, I am constantly being molded and prodded and poked to become more of who He created me to be--more Christlike. And, even at my age, my flesh screams at the process.
SO WHAT'S NEXT?
I hesitate to even say, because, four years ago when I came here, I thought I'd be living alone, spending time loving on the kids at Hermano Pedro and giving out communications systems. I though I would be responsible only to and for myself.
HA! God had other plans. I am responsible for two men who are dependent on me for everything, and to provide salaries for three more people who depend on me for their livelihood. I am responsible for teaching 3 days a week, and helping more than 30 children learn not only to read and write, but know who they are in Christ. I am responsible for good stewardship, bookkeeping, record keeping, and making sound financial decisions. Not the care-free life of a single missionary which I had envisioned--and actually enjoyed for my first years down here.
And it is good. God knew if He had showed me the whole plan, I would have dragged my feet even more than I did. He knew how much I could handle. And He continues to know how much I can handle, by showing me one step at a time.
At every turn, there is someone with a desperate need. My heart longs to rescue them all, but that is not why I have been called here. He as given me a plan and a purpose to serve His children with disabilities, and I need to maintain that focus. Even under this umbrella, though, there are so many needs for services which do not exist here. Right now, I know the need for community living here in Guatemala is great, and we need to expand. How or when we do this, He hasn't told me yet. But I look forward to what He will do, every bit as much as I treasure what He has done these past four years.
Would you prayerfully consider becoming part of what He is doing here though a monthly donation or a one time gift. Our needs are simple, but even in this country, the cost of doing this ministry continues to grow. Please email me if God moves you to support us, and I'll help you with the details.
This wasn't what I really set out to write, but as I typed these words flowed. I think they have been meant more for me to help me process these years, than for you to understand them. I share them with you all, however, to help you know how you can best pray for me. I humbly do ask for your prayers and your encouragement as I begin my next four years, or more, living here in Guatemala.
Would I change this life? Not for a minute. Though I often find myself saying with Peter"
“We left everything and followed you. What do we get out of it?” (Matt. 19:27)
I can also say with all conviction with Paul:
Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. (Phil. 3: 7-9, The Message)