Sunday, November 25, 2012

Making decisions

I assumed that as I got older, it would be easier to make decisions. But like so many other things in life, I was wrong. Life really only gets more complicated as we get older. More relationships to consider. More factors to come into play. More risks to be taken.

When I first came back to Chile, I told my family to give me one or two years to get settled and then I would want to open my cafe, Tulips. In about a month, I will complete the two year mark in Chile. And I'm not really ready yet to open the cafe. The problem is that I didn't just settle in, but I took on responsibilities and projects that are now hard to give up. Hard to give up partly because of others' expectations of me, and partly because I love a lot of what I am doing.
But it's gotten to the point of collapse in my life. I have too many things going on. Attention demanded in too many places.

I've been asking my pastor for counsel on how to make decisions. I struggle with when to say no. Everything seems good and important. So how do I know when to say no? My pastor told me that it's based upon my priorities. Ok, but I don't know what my priorities are. I don't have the obvious ones: husband and kids. So how do I rank my priorities?
Last night I listed out the various ways you might make decisions. Here are a few of the ways I thought of...
According to:
The biggest, most immediate need
The biggest, long term need
My own personal gifts and skills
My own desires and dreams
Where the money is
Where there is a lack of workers

And according to each of these, I will make different decisions. Someone asked me if I have anyone to help me work through this process. I have a few people who are involved in the process, but aren't we all biased? Of course my pastor is going to encourage me to stay involved in our church leadership. One of my dear mentors is closely related to my work with the Fundacion. My dad and I have been dreaming up this cafe for years. And as a friend pointed out, biases don't have to be bad. But we have to be honest about them.

So all this to say, prayers are much appreciated. What a blessing to have TOO many opportunities to serve God. What a season of life! I dreamed for so long about returning to Chile, and God has gone above and beyond all my expectations in the life He has given me there. Now it's just a matter of wisdom.

BYO syringe

As I posted in a previous post, I got bit by a dog a few days ago and have been going through the rabies vaccine this week, just in case.
Well, a little anecdote for the day:

The nurse who gave me the shot yesterday had warned me that the hospital, which is really more like a clinic, would be closed today. Except for the delivery room. So I was told to ring the doorbell and the guard would let me in so a nurse in the delivery room could give me the shot.
This morning I headed over to the clinic, and as expected the guard let me in and showed me where the delivery room area was. When I reached the waiting room, I found myself with a little family. An older woman dressed in the traditional peruvian clothing, with top hat and all. A few others sitting silently on a bench, staring at the wall. And a young man, pacing nervously across the room. I figured he must be the expecting father.
I timidly explained that I was looking for the nurse. They all looked at my stomach. No, I'm not pregnant, I explained with a smile. I just need the anti-rabies shot.
Ohhh... they all went back to staring at the wall
The man had stopped pacing to hear my story and he told me that the nurse would be out in a minute.
Sure enough, a nurse came out and the man took it upon himself to explain what I was looking for. The nurse looked at me and walked away. Ok.
The man assured me that the nurse would treat me right away. I smiled at him and told him that his baby was more important and that I didn't mind waiting.

After a few minutes another nurse came out of the delivery area and after a quick scan of the room, approached me. I evidently stand out. She asked me for my rabies vaccine card. I handed it to her. Then she asked me for my syringe. Umm... what?
Didn't you bring a syringe, she asked me.
No. I didn't know I was supposed to.
Well, she explained, you might have to go out and buy one. I don't know if we have an extra one here in the hospital. Really? You don't have syringes here in the hospital?
I looked at her pathetically and asked where I could buy one, all the while thinking to myself that buying syringes is something I associate with drugs... not really my normal activity.
She told me to wait, that she would go look for one and let me know. She walked out of the room and I went back to staring at the wall with the light green peeling paint.
The nurse came back after a minute with a syringe in hand. And yes, it was still in the wrapper.
The rest was more or less the same as the other days. A shot of vaccine in the stomach. A little pain, later to be followed by more pain.
I had planned on getting as much information about the vaccine as possible for when I land in Chile and have to find somewhere that can offer the rest of the vaccine. Sadly, this vaccine is produced here. And the only information I could get is that it is the inactive vaccine that is cultivated in the brains of lactating rats. Great. I'm going to have a fun time explaining that one to the doctors in Santiago!

Oh well, it's all a part of the adventure, right? The scabs from the bite itself are forming well, with a little bruising around them. But overall, it's nothing. Hopefully I'll get some cool scars to go along with the story. In any case, it's another story to add to long list of traveling adventures.

a much needed rest

In at the Starbucks along the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. It's my last night here and I'm trying to balance my desire to be home in my own apartment with what I know is a much needed time away from it all. I have been examining my commitments in life. My jobs (I have two part time jobs), my role in my church as a part of the pastoral team (although I'm not employed by the church, it's like another job), my dreams and desires. Everything. I've had too many "almost" burn-outs this past year. And for what? Because I don't know how to say "no"? Because I don't know how to balance the urgency with the need for rest?
So this mini-vacation is good. It's good for me to get away. To be alone for a while. Even though a good chunk of my time here has been spent dealing with the rabies issue, I still know that it's been good for me. I've been able to just lay in bed and read. I've been able to go to sleep without setting my alarm. In Chile, even if I could sleep in, I always set my alarm. I don't want to waste time and what if I accidentally sleep in until noon?
It took me a while to get over my time management habits. I had to keep repeating to myself, Becka, you don't have a schedule today. You don't even have things that you have to accomplish today (except for the daily rabies shot). So chill. Chill!
So here I am. Not concerning myself with much. Just enjoying my time alone, with God. And the Andes Mountains.

Tomorrow I head to Lima for the day before flying back to my beloved Chile. It's nice to go home. Especially when home is somewhere you love.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Beauty and Rabies

Well, there isn't actually anything beautiful about rabies. Nope. And thankfully I don't have rabies. At least I'm trying to make sure I don't.
Let me start from a few days ago. Last Sunday I flew out to Cusco, Peru to meet up with my buddy Liz. She is traveling through South America and since I have been working too hard, I thought it might be good and healthy to get out of town (or even the country!) for a week. So I came up here with the plan of hiking and exploring a bit with Liz and then spending a few days alone, praying and journalling. It was going to be my much needed vacation.
And well, it has been. Sort of.
It turns out Liz and I are great traveling buddies. I figured we would be, but you never know. Sometimes friends turn out to be the wrong person to travel with. But Liz and I are quite similar in how we travel. So it was great to have the first four days with her. We explored around Cusco and other towns a bit, and even headed up Machu Pichhu on her last day. Amazing. Definitely a must-see.

The problem is that on day 2, I got bit by a dog. Not a street dog, but a dog out in the countryside that was "protecting" its territory. The bite wasn't deep, more like a scratch. But I did bleed which means I might have been exposed to rabies. Great.
Chances are the dog doesn't have rabies. But the chance of surviving rabies if the dog does have it, and I don't deal with it now, are zero. Yep. Rabies, once it shows up, is fatal. I think I read somewhere that you have 3 weeks to live. So between my mother's pleas and my own research on rabies. I decided to go get the rabies vaccine. Unfortuntely, it was a bit of a adventure to find where I can actually get the vaccine. But after a few bad leads, I finally ended up in the right public hospital. Hosptial Belenpampa. It was surprising a lovely experience.
Maybe I have lived in South America too long and my expectations are low. The place was dirty. I mean, it's exactly what you think of when you imagine a south american public hospital. But the people were sweet and helpful. The service was what I expected: a lot of hoops to jump through, lines to wait in, dimly lit waiting rooms filled with crying babies and elderly. But once all was said and done, I only spent two hours at the hospital, and they gave me the vaccine for free. Sadly, it's the old version of the rabies vaccine, which is a shot in a stomach. One shot each day, for seven days total. And the shot itself doesn't hurt too much, just like a regular shot, but what I have noticed (now after two of these shots) is the pain after the shot. Yesterday the pain lasted till late into the night. It's not a debilitating pain. But it's definitely painful.
So now I'm in my 3 days of personal retreat, alone in Cusco, praying and journalling. And dealing with the rabies shots. Good times. At least here it's free. The people are lovely. The scenery spectacular. This morning I ate breakfast on a balcony overlooking the plaza de armas. And then headed over to the Starbucks to grab a coffee and charge up my computer. And I was so enamored by the scene. The beautiful architecture, the crowds of people gathering in the town center, and all surrounded by the majestic andes mountains. Beautiful.
Hence my title. I am suffering the rabies shots, but at least I am surrounded by such incredible beauty.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Convents and Apprentices

Coming at you again with a new post from the convent. In fact, today I'd like to share with you some thoughts about life in a convent. Now, I've only lives here for 4 days. Not really a lifetime. But still, in these 4 days I've had a chance to reflect on life. One of my biggest conclusions is that I am not made out for the life of a nun. Besides the obvious reasons, I just don't like quiet. I miss noise. I miss people. There are beautiful rose gardens here. And everyone (even the men!) have been commenting on how beautiful the rose gardens are. But I crave my barrio. I miss the laughter, the music, the noise of excited conversation throughout the cafe lined streets. 

This is my room. A small humble room, just a bed and a desk with a chair. It overlooks the rose garden. Yeah. I'm sure others would thrive off of this kind of retreat. Time to think. Time to reflect. But I was restless. I wanted to escape. The walls of the convent aren't high, but they are there. It's a little bubble of   neatly manicured gardens. And I feel trapped. The walls don't let me see outsiders. The walls keep others out. The walls seem to be my enemies here, not my protectors. 

My mom tells me that when I was a baby, and she would put me in one of those slings so she could move around with me in front of her, I never wanted to be facing her. I wasn't interested in snuggling or feeling "secure". I wanted to face the world. I wanted to see what was going on. There were way too many interesting things in the world for me to see. And that is true for me today. I want a front row seat to the action. 

So why am I here, living in a convent for a week?
Well, part of my dream job that God has given me, is to plan, coordinate, and run conferences. It's really been a crazy fun and intense run. It's my first time, and there were a few complications in the planning. But I have to say, I like it! Not just because it's a challenge, but because I am working to produce something that I really believe in: pastors who can train others in ministry. Because I am a woman, I think some people may assume that my ministry should be more in children's work, or counseling. But I love coordinating. The whole job of taking a vision, like a conference to train pastors to train others, and giving life to it. Making sure all the details are covered and all the problems get solved. 

Here are the boys. The first conference was a group of 15 men. And me. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

Women in the front lines of ministry (part 2)

In my previous post, I talked about the great need for women to be trained in ministry.

It has become one of my passions to see women trained and equipped in the gospel. More than 50% of the Church is women, and I think a lot of pastors would say that the women are quick to serve in really practical ways. Which is awesome. But we need to pastor our sheep, even the women, well and teach them to dig deep in the scriptures. Teach them to teach others to dig deep in the scriptures. Disciple them to disciple others.
So often women are overlooked for leadership because we have this idea that only men can be pastors. Ok, even if you hold to that view (I personally do, but I have plenty of friends who don't) you can't deny that Jesus called us all the same mission. He made us all disciples. And He has given us gifts to build up all the church for ministry.

Having said all this, I have to say that the Lord has doubly blessed me with my pastor. My pastor Cristobal does two things that truly bless me.

First, he values me as a co-worker in the gospel. He actually values my work. It is not petty to him the work that I do in the church. He values it, respects it, rests knowing that I am there. He asks for my opinion. He asks for my help. I feel truly valued as a worker. And it's not just me. And it's not just Cristobal. It's our whole pastoral team. We are actually a team. We work together, eat together, cry together (well, I cry), and pray together. One of the guys, Max, has become something of an ally for me. I don't know how else to describe it. I see him working, pastoring people, and my heart is filled with joy and I am moved to pray for him. We work together, pray together, and rejoice together when we see God's mighty hand at work. He and his wife Caro are really special to me and I'm excited to think that we have years, even decades ahead of us in working together.

Second, Cristobal pastors me. Like really actually pastors me. He knows me, knows my strengths and weaknesses, knows my joys and pains. I can't even count the amount of times I've broken down in tears in his office. He's made the joke that if I don't cry, he gets nervous. And it's sweet to get to be real with your pastor. To get frustrated. To get sad. To be yourself. We joke that he is some mix of being my big brother, my dad, and my boss. He and his wife, Ale, have taken me into their family and loved me as one of their own. You can't buy relationships like that when you are in ministry overseas. In fact, you just can't buy relationships like that in general.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Women in the front lines of ministry (part 1)

I'm writing this post, from a convent, that's right a nuns' convent.

No, I didn't join a convent. But I did come to stay here for a week of conferences with Fundacion Generacion. As I mentioned in a previous post, I took the job of executive assistant with the fundacion. And although the job is WAY more work than I expected, I am loving it. Planning conferences, especially church planting conferences, is really an ideal for me. It's the perfect blend of administrative and people work. It's abstract and concrete. And it's so diverse.
So I've been planning these conferences over the last month or so. There are three back to back conferences, all surround the topic of training apprentices in the local church. And today, the first one took off. It's a group of 16 men. Men. And I say that because I'd like to take a moment to comment on what it is like, from my perspective as a woman at this conference.

This conference is for leaders in the church who are going to train up other leaders in the church. And I'm the only woman. And in the sessions, when I ask a question about women, there is this feeling of "there she goes again." And these men are good men. And they are very kind to me. And maybe I'm feeling something that isn't actually there. But I feel it. I feel like the status quo is to assume that leaders will be men, and they should train up more men. And women? Well, there is coffee to make... and kids to watch... oh right, and the women's bible study. I guess this means that a solid theological education and ministry training isn't necessary to lead a women's bible study.
I need to guard my heart because my sinful tendency is to rebellion and anger. And I know these men are working hard to serve their communities well. But dear men of God, consider your sisters worthy of training. Consider the burden of proclaiming the gospel to a broken world a shared one. Consider us your co-laborers in the mission
If we are going to have healthy churches, churches that cultivate discipleship, churches that reach the lost and the hurt, we need everyone on board. We need to equip all believers for the work of ministry (Eph 4:11). So what does it look like to equip women for ministry? Well, one thing for sure, don't assume that they don't need good deep theology. They NEED to know who their God is and what He has done. And don't assume that they shouldn't be formally trained just because they won't be a preaching pastor. I don't have the title of "pastor" in my church (although I am actually part of the pastoral team). But I will say this, what I do in my church is nothing short of pastoring. It would be a shame, indeed, it IS a shame that we leave women's ministries to women who are not necessarily equipped to lead them. Just because a woman has been in the church for a long time, does not mean she is equipped to lead other women.
Pastors, please, I beg of you. Invest in your women. Invest in building up and equipping godly leaders among your women. Those women in turn, will build up and equip more godly women. Who will continue the process and on and on. The point is, the church does a real disservice when it leaves the women in spiritual anorexia. Jesus called us all to follow Him, to make more disciples of Him. So let's not assume, and let's not overlook. He wants his daughters in this battle too!