Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Panama Highlights

We left San Jose at 6 in the morning last Friday. We met our friends Reto and Felipe from school and their 2 friends, Hannah and Julia at the station. A Belgium, A Switz, 2 Austrailians and 2 Minnesotans :) We all took a 5 hour bus to the Southern border town named, "Sixaola." From there we crossed the bridge (see in pic) and dealt with customs (Matt is doing 3 things at once in the visa/mouth pic). After clearing the Panama border, we were bombarded with local taxis. We finally settled on a legit truck taxi that took us 30 minutes to a water taxi. We sat in the back of the truck...I better understand why women in the middle east cover themselves. (Peep the photo). The water taxi then took us 25 minutes to Bocas del Toro. Our hostel was on a more secluded island off the main island, so we took ANOTHER water taxi to Bastimiento island. It was a haul, but once we got there, it was bliss. We had a good time, relaxful. I even saw a dolphin! I threw some pics up here for fun. I think the best part of the trip for me was getting to know people from other countries. Very interesting convos on politics, jobs, religion... The fact that Reto and Felipe held these conversations with us and English is their 3rd language was impressive to say the least. Beach, hot dog bonfires, ( we built a bonfire on the beach one night), community cooking, jenga, hammocks, kayacking, reading...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Praying for Diego

Majority of my class at the school is conversational. We read articles and then share our thoughts, or we look at pictures and use them as inspiration for conversation, or a few weeks ago we literally made our own newspaper and wrote articles based off real and made up news facts. We learn grammar along the way through writing exercises that supplement the conversation and, or simple correction while we are speaking.

There are 2 other students in my class. One in his late 60s, and one in her mid twenties. Between them, me and our Profesora, we have some interesting conversations, specifically around men, relationship drama (my Profesora just broke up with her boyfriend a couple weeks ago so the topic of relationships has been coming up a lot) but I find that we talk about spiritual matters a good amount as well.

This past Thursday, before we left for Panama, the students had several questions for me about my faith and how that plays into my view on the world. The young lady in my class asked me how I could believe God is soveriegn when there are such terrible, catastrophic things in the world. I told her I had no inarguable answer, but that I did have some thoughts. In summary, I shared 2 main points (mind you this is in Spanish, so not sure how much truly was conveyed but they kept shaking their head like they were following, and La Profesora only interrupted to remind me of proper pronoun use a few times, so...)

1. We have a tendency to question the existence of God in the bad things, and not in the good things. For example, when a child is born we do not say, "WHY!? WHY would you do this to me God?!" But when the child is taken from us, in our pain we say, "WHY?! WHY would you do this to me?" I shared that Job made a profound stance when he said in the midst of his suffering, "We accept the good that God gives us, shouldn't we also accept the bad?" Job 2:10.

PS. I didnt share this in point 1 there but additionally...The argument for bad things existing in the world to disprove God and His authority, seems to me like a child who didn't get the gift under the tree he wanted, and in his hurt and disappointment cries in a tantrum to his Father, "You're not really my father, you can't be! If you were, you would have known what I wanted and got it for me!"

2. I believe we live in a window of time where the freedom of humanity (given by God in his sovereignty) and the all powerful and knowing intervention of God co exist. In this marriage, one spouse breeds imperfection and the other perfection. In the freedom that God allots us, he also allots the implications or consequences of that freedom to play out. It would not be true freedom if he did not. This window of time is the product of that marriage and its consequences... I am sure there are things that God intervenes for that we will never know, while at other times he allows things to play out, or even causes what we would consider "bad" for the sake of his glory. I also shared, that I believe this window of time will come to an end. And God will no longer allow the imperfection of men to co exist, and instead, he will rule the marriage as king, and it (the world) will be perfect, and those who submitted to his sovereignty during the window, will be invited to enjoy this new life/marriage with him.

So, why have I entitled this "Praying for Diego?" After sharing the 2 points above, almost on cue, the bell rang for lunch. As I was walking out, my Profesora asked if I would stay and speak with her. My profesora had shared her doubts in church and religion previously so I was preparing myself for an apology if I offended her or dominating the convo in class. She let the other students pass me, closed the door and in Spanish she said, "Can I ask you to do something for me?" I said yes. She asked if I would pray for her friend Diego. She grew up with him, and he is going through a lot of things and has left the church. She told me that she believes in the salvation of the bible, but she doesn't like religion and no longer attends church regularly. But she wanted to know if I would be willing to pray for Diego's salvation. I told her, yes I would, and I put out my hands. She said, "Right now?" And I asked why not? She put her hands out and we prayed together for Diego. Me in English and her in Spanish, simultaneously. It was beautiful.

My profesora said she will visit Comunidad Pas when we return from Cuba in Feb. She also said she is interested in attending the small young adults group with us on Tuesdays. I am very excited for February to come...


"...If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us." 1 John 4:12

In retrospect, I am surprised I didn't blog about Amos a while back. To bring you up to speed...Our first week in San Jose we met Amos. He was attending CRLA with us, and ended up being in the handful of students that traveled to La Fortuna that first weekend. For the most part, Matt and I rolled separate from the group, but we all arranged to go to the waterfall together and grab a ride from the hostel owner. Matt and I were running a little late and didn't get a chance to sit down for breakfast so we ran around the corner to pick up some empanadas to-go and stop at the ATM a few minutes before the van was leaving. We were pushing it for time but Amos insisted on going with us to both the empanada stand and the ATM. He said his mom always told him to stick with his men ( or something like this, I can't remember the quote exactly but I remember it was sincere enough to be admirable but militant enough to be funny all at the same time). More importantly, I remember thinking that Amos had a very selfless heart... he was clearly in a position to miss the van ride for a late married couple that he really had no obligation too. He was making it clear that we were important to him. It stuck with me.

Amos loves Jesus. I remember whispering to Matt (in between the empanada and ATM) that Amos had to be a Christian. Matt asked me why and I told him because he is selfless when it is inconvenient. I asked Amos that weekend if he was a Christian and he smiled and said, yes I am. He went on to tell me about the youth conference he had just gone to before coming to San Jose, his church home, his familiarity with Bethlehem back in MN...

Needless to say, Amos became our friend. Many lunches at school together, ice cream runs... Amos left us about a month in, to travel. He hit every Central American country (except Belize) in 2 months, by bus. The best part about it all, is no one EVER guesses that he is 18 years old, home schooled, from Oklahoma and owns a start up roofing business...When Amos facebooked and told us he was coming back into San Jose we were super excited to hear his tales. He ended up chillin in a sleeping bag on our wood floor for a couple nights. We got a group of friends together and had dinner one night...we sat around and listened to Amos' stories of drug dealer threats, crossing the borders without proper documentation, chasing after a bus that had his bag on it, hitchhiking, bartering, living with a missionary family in Honduras...he smiled his way through every detail.

Amos made it an eventful mid week for us. Matt and Amos went to Manuel Antonio for a day (off the Pacific Coast). They also surprised me by showing up at school the next day during break with their heads shaved. :) It was the unavoidable for Matt... but Amos...not so much. Let's just say I was very surprised. Amos ended up taking a suitcase of our stuff back to the states. We over packed. He is shipping it back to Mpls. He wouldn't accept our money for the shipping or for the airlines.

quick check in

... i have 15 minutes before we catch a taxi boat to the main isla colon off Panama. We have been at a hostel in Boca del Toro, Panama since Friday. Traveling with 2 Australian girls, a Belgium guy and Swiss guy. Good group. We have enjoyed ourselves..beach, kayacking, a few trails, bon fires... back to SJ. We will breath and do laundry back at the spot for a day, and then Friday we fly out for Cuba. I will blog more once we are back from Cuba I suppose, but for the moment...

My biggest take away right now is that God is God, and he can do whatever he wants, when he wants, how he wants, no questions asked. Because life, even our own, is bigger than us and belongs to him.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Calle 13

At 9 am this past Saturday we were in front of the back entrance of the San Pedro Mall waiting for a bus to take us to Palmares, CR... about an hour and a half outside of San Jose. Gabby, (Matt's old teacher), her boyfriend Oscar and their best friend Mariana invited us to go to the all day festivals and concerts there. Calle 13, a hip hop group from Puerto Rico was perfoming in the evening with several opening acts. I am not sure if I ever have experienced one million people in one place before, but the newspaper said that they anticipated one million felt like it, that's for sure. We waited in line to get into the concert from 12:30 until 3pm. The concert was outside and after finally getting through the entrance barricades, we were literally sandwiched between people. Not sandwiched like in the States...It was like that scene in Selena when the people near the front of the stage almost get trampled. I didn't walk, the crowd just literally moved me. You had to just suck it up and start pushing people to move the direction you wanted to go. We ended up climbing a metal structure near the entrance and I literally straddled a metal bar for the next 5 hours. It was a sight to see. Beer flying, dancing, lots of PDA...from our birds eye view we saw a lot. I was thankful to be above and not below. Around 8 pm I couldnt do it any longer. Matt and I left during Calle 13's performance (they were good, the band was amazing...trumpets, drums, sax...). I couldn't handle fighting the crowd in the dark though. Plus, the structure was shaking pretty violently by that point, since hundreds of others had figured out they could climb it as well... We got some food (chalupas, pizza, cotton candy, cookies...state fair x3) divinely found Gabby and crew later on in the night... we caught the bus back around midnight. We got back to our apartment at 2 am. Up at 8 though to clean the apartment for company...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

El Verbo vs. La Palabra

We went back to the house church this past Sunday. It is more like a bible study. Makes me think of what church must have been like when Christianity first began. In the sense that it was grass roots, but also in the sense that it would have been inter- generational, informal, people noticed if you didn't show, church actually bled into how you lived... we have invited a group of roommates that go to the church over next Sunday for "almuerzo." I feel like in the states we can go to a church for a year before we even think about dining with the person sitting next to us. I say that to our fault, more so than to point out others.

All this to say, we are studying the book of John at church. We took time pulling apart the first handful of verses and we shared what stuck out to us. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God..." We collectively concluded that "the Word" was metaphorical for Jesus. An introductory foreshadow, of what was/is to come in the life of John...the prophet's life was spent proclaiming the coming of a King, who would save Israel. In fact, by the end of chapter 2, you almost forget John exists and the book completely flips to Jesus. That is just how smooth the baton is passed between the 2.

There was something that really stuck out to me during the study/discussion. I shared it with the group...again, I sweated my way through sharing it Spanish...In my Spanish text, the phrase for "The Word" is "El Verbo." This is interesting for 2 main reasons. 1. The word "La Palabra" is the actual exact translation for the English word, "The Word". Why not use that? 2. The definition of "El Verbo" in Spanish is the same as in English- Verb. Or an action word. Both translations come to the same conclusion, but how beautiful that Spanish scholars would choose (in their liberty to translate directly from original Arab text) to emphasize that Jesus is the active expression of God. God manifest in the flesh. Jesus, the only way to finitely ACT out (or express) the infinite love, grace, patience, forgiveness and justice of God.

I imagine (along with the Spirit of CS Lewis in "The Great Divorce") that this world cannot handle God coming in his infinite, spirit state. Or more so, we cannot handle seeing or being in the raw presence of God in His fullness and perfection. In the same way wax can only be so close to fire before it melts. If we were, I am sure we would find ourselves like the prophet Isaiah "speechless and undone" if not dead. If we cannot handle being in His fullness, to stand before him, then the only way is for him to somehow contain his fullness into a capacity that we can handle. I think a very gracious God would find a way to do it this way. Maybe just simply become human ;) In some twisted away, I imagine God putting himself in a compression bag the way we did to pack for this trip. Nonetheless, the idea that God came, that He made himself available to me in a way that wouldn't melt me or kill me, it makes me happy. And it makes sense. I remember a day when it didn't make sense to me, but now it does. And I am thankful for that.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 Goals

Matt and I both identified our top 5. Mine are the following, and we started back on the first.

1. Become proficient in Spanish
2. Grow my hair 2 inches (yes, this is a feat for me )
3. Read the whole bible in Spanish ( Matt is doing the same thing but in English. "Our daily bread" has a nice day-by-day chapter guide. We bought an "Nuestro Diario Pan" back in December)
4. Get involved in Bethlehem and the Latino community (back in MN.)
5. Work on being a homemaker (supporting Matt, making dinner daily, decorating, hospitality)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Spanish and Movies

New year, new classes, new teachers. I have moved up to level 3 (the school has levels 1-3), however, we spent this past week reviewing pronouns from the end of book 2 so that sheds light on my status. Beginning to feel more comfortable conversing casually without calculating every word.

Yesterday after classes Matt needed to take care of some things at the apartment so I stayed after to watch a student/faculty futbol game. On the sidelines I chatted with the girlfriend of Matt's new teacher- Estaban. While chatting, Gabby (Matt's old teacher) and a few other ladies were walking by and called me over to go to a bar with them ( social life somewhat revolves around the bar for the school so...I roll with the punches). I went and with 3 of the 4 girls being teachers, everything was Spanish. They wanted to know how are time had been, what we thought of the school, how it was being married and at the school... it was a nice time. Caught a cab back.

Matt and I watched "The Notebook" in Spanish on TV in the evening. No sub titles. So at all the climactic parts... I am flipping through my mental dictionary trying to make out the words and Matt's in the background going, "What did she say??!!" and by the time we both figure it out, its already the beginning of the next take, and we eventually piece it together enough to forget we cared about the prior line. Watching movies in Spanish is a lot of work.

So, tonight, we are opting for Office Space, in English, downloading from I Tunes. Its the weekend :) There is a Jamaican restaurant around the corner that apparently has talent night and live music...we may make it over there as well.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A little salsa dancing

A dance instructor from the school, Luis. We were playing around with some new moves since no other students showed up for the intermediate dance class. A girl from Matt's class got it on video with Luis' phone...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year Highlights- Pics/Videos

New Year Highlights- Montezuma

We stayed at a homey hotel, about 200 paces from the beach. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Horseback riding was our favorite, but in close second was our discovery of "La playa colorada" a small beach where a fresh water stream meets the ocean and there is an array of colored rocks. I just finished cleaning them and putting them in glass jars around the apartment. We packed snacks and went out in search for it late morning, stayed through the afternoon. Breezy and shady to help us recover from our burnt skin (really just Matt's burnt skin :))

We rented boogie boards -$6 for the whole day. I felt like I was 8 again, when you don't want to leave the water even though you have sand everywhere...everywhere. It was a ton of fun. The most classic is after I literally was flung around under a huge wave and I stood up and screamed to Matt "Did you see me eat that one?!" And in my peripheral I see this little boy staring at me. Matt finally got my attention... my top was off.

We had 3 very special neighbors to our hotel room. A family of bats, that frequently slept right above our door. A family of 3 or 4 foot lizards (no exaggeration) that lived in between our ceiling and the tin roof. Sometimes they would lose there holding and slide down the slant and you could hear their claws and belly's sliding down the wall and then plopping onto the dirt like a bag of sand . It was disgusting.

The most frightening and honestly, I almost peed my pants, was waking up to Godzilla outside of our window. You don't believe me? I am posting the video. I ran out of battery, but you can catch the call. It turns out a "mantled howler" lived in the tree right outside our window and right before sunrise, he would make himself known. He made my receptivity to the little monkeys (mono-itos) much easier.

Check out the pics/video.


I'm listening to JJ Heller in the background. Makes me want to dance. Sometimes you can see or hear an artist and you can feel the Spirit just leak out of their art. Like the firey bones of Jeremiah desperate to let the smoke out... just wet with the water of God. The most beautiful part of it, is that, that type of art doesn't make me obsessed with the artist, but where the artist takes me. The creator they point me too. That is talent. You cannot make that happen. Only God can. I hope my life does that.

We have shared our faith in Jesus Christ a few different times now. The first was clearly solicited by a couple students from Matt's class. The subject of spirits and witches is one of natural topic here. In fact you can get your palm read here as easily as you can buy a coke. A young woman named Jasmin, had shared in class (during a topic on Spirits) that she couldn't understand a faith that was exclusive, that demanded only one way to heaven. Over beers later that night in a bar near University of Costa Rica, Jasmin looked me straight in the face and said tell me about your faith. I said, what part exactly. She said, "All of it." Bet.

I shared with Jasmin and Matt's teacher Gabby that I couldn't understand a philosophy that demanded all ways are right, when several of those ways themselves demand there be only one way. Even in the universal perspective, one is forced to begin deducting... even what we think is all inclusive, is exclusive. We talked some about the innate degree of standard we all have in our conscience and why that is. That maybe there is an intuitive absoluteness that all of us embrace. I shared the purpose of Jesus full out over the course of the night and gave significant emphasis to the importance of the heart's condition, vs. actions. I literally shared stories of Jesus, how he questioned the Pharisees intentions...

The concern about the person in the corner of the world who will never hear about Jesus came up... I wanted to encourage them that their concern should be their heart in this moment, not the unknown person's in the corner of the world, but I understand the importance of the question generally, especially for an unbeliever- fair. I have asked it myself. So I shared the story of Job, the oldest book in the bible. And how even Job, never knowing the name of Jesus, identified His need for a savior. For some type of mediator who could intercede between an imperfect man and a perfect God... that led to my conviction that Christianity, for it to take root in our hearts must begin with 1. acknowledging you are imperfect 2. that our imperfections build chasms between us and God 3. that there is nothing we can do to eliminate the chasm unless God himself does it 4. desperately want that chasm closed... 5. Start reading the bible and let the life of Jesus speak for itself. The Savior reacts to those who want saving...

I told Jasmin that the fact that she was so intrigued by faith and had so many questions, that I believed God was drawing her to Himself. She smiled. Those of you who are believers, if you would, pray for Jasmin and her heart. I think she is closer to God then some Christians at church.

The second time was in Montezuma this past week, pool side. 2 sweet women, in their 40s. Canadian. ...they were tatted up, in their bikinis, on their fourth round of pineapple and rum, soaking up the sun. Vacation. One of the women came over to me and said that she saw my "beloved" tattoo and then later saw Matt's and was wondering the story. We explained that we got them on our honeymoon. She told us they reminded her of a fantasy series she had read by her favorite Australian author. That it was one of the most beautiful love stories she had ever read. I told her that it was in fact a love story that inspired the tattoos. I told her how back in my dorm room in college I was reading "Song of Solomon" from the bible and their was a line that said, "I am my beloved's and His desire is for me" when I discovered that scholar's think it is a metaphor for the love relationship between us and God, I began to embrace that truth more fully in how I identify myself. Matt was just love icing on the cake :)

She said that was the most beautiful thing she had ever heard and was going to consider opening her book reading horizons. That was the start of an hour and a half pool conversation with Sheila and her friend. She had grown up athiest and for that reason had found it very strange that, that very morning while walking on the beach she had looked down just in time to fore go a rock and she (without thinking) thanked God. It came out that both women had been very hurt by religion and the church. In fact, Shelia's friend had a gay son and her parents would no longer accept him and she found that so hurtful.

This conversation entailed much more listening. At one point my heart ached for how bad their experiences had been with professing Christians and more as a side comment I said, ".. the heart is deceitful and wicked..." Shelia's friend stared at me and said that, that was the most profound thing she had ever heard..I laughed and said, "I stole it from the bible" They both didnt beleive me and I shared that God acknowledges we are imperfect, and that his solution was grace through Jesus and changing our hearts. I didnt go into too many details...the rum was at work and they were very chatty but our convo ended with me asking them for forgiveness for the Christians that had hurt them and that if they were to know the Jesus of the bible, he would deal with them much differently. They both got out of their seats and hugged me.

I am hoping Shelia will pick up Song of Solomon or something...

Again, this past week in Montezuma, Matt and I were sitting at a corner table on the main strip (the whole town is about 2 blocks long) and we met a 26 year old American girl named Christina. We invited her over to our table to smoke a chocolate dipped cigar with us (rare occasion) and she accepted. She was in San Jose for 6 months teaching English and was on her way out at the end of the week. She ended up doing some venting and shared that her good friend's husband had cheated on her and the girl was with child. The worst part about it, was that her friend couldn't have children so it was like a slap in the face. I shook my head and told her it reminded me of the story of Hannah. She asked me to explain, so I told her how in the book of Samuel in the bible, there are these 2 women who were married to a good man - Hannah and another woman, will call her "P." The husband loved Hannah very much, but P could have kids and would throw it in Hannah's face. So one day Hannah prayed for a son and promised God she would dedicate him back to God. And God gave her Samuel...soon to become the first and arguably greatest prophet in Israeli history. She said she had no idea that was in the bible.

My hope is that Christina will want to read I Samuel or something...