Friday, February 24, 2012

Entering the Kingdom

A year ago today, I was in Peru.
Lars and Elisabeth and I had traveled there to visit Bert and Colleen Elliot, living in Trujillo (near the western coast of Peru).

It was an incredible trip and by far, the highlight of it was getting to meet Bert Elliot. At first, I had been excited to meet him mostly because he was Jim Elliot's brother. Jim Elliot... the man who has had perhaps the greatest impact on my spiritual life of anyone else. To meet his brother was an honor and a blessing to me. Yet, there was an element of guilt in this for me. It felt a bit hollow merely to want to meet someone based on who they were related to. I grew curious about Bert himself. Who was he and what had he done with his life? In order to answer these probing questions I did what I always do when I have deep probing questions, the answers alluding me.

I Googled! "Bert Elliot, Peru."


What I learned was that Bert was not defined by who he was related to or what family he had come from. He was defined by his passion to glorify God and spread His Kingdom on earth. Soon, I couldn't wait to meet him because of who HE was, not because of who his brother was. (I wrote this post about Bert's life before I left for Peru...check it out if you have a moment!)

When I did meet he and his wife Colleen, I loved them immediately. Do you ever feel that way about someone? You just love them to death right away--want to throw your arms around them and hug them--even though on the outside you're being all formal and blasé , shaking hands, asking polite questions and all that? (If you think that's just strrrrange, maybe it's because I'm what they call a "Golden Retriever" personality type and you're what I call a "Cat". Heh!) I'm sure that, in spite of the kindness and hospitality I was shown when I was with them, I was just "another" of the countless visitors Bert and Colleen had received. For them there was probably nothing all that memorable about my visit, other than the fact that they repeatedly thanked me for my care of Elisabeth. But to me, it was incredible and I was in awe of these missionaries who had spent literally their entire married lives on the field serving Jesus. I soaked up their stories, perused old pictures, and enjoyed each conversation; each moment of my time with them.

Bert sat in his recliner for most of the time. Walking was slow and difficult. At times we wondered if his mind was tracking with the flow of conversation. Then, every once-on-a-while, his half-shut eyes would twinkle. His persistent grin would broaden. You knew he was tracking. :) I loved him for his sweet, gentle spirit. I loved him for the tears that gathered in his squinty eyes when we discussed Jim. I loved him for the affection and love with which he treated Colleen, his precious wife of 63 years. I loved him for his silent laugh and quick whit. Trapped in the old, worn out body of a man was the soul of a warrior for Christ.

On Friday, February 17th, 2012, Bert left earth and entered heaven. He saw the face of Jesus for the first time. He worshiped and adored the God he had served for some 70 years. He rejoiced with his loved ones gone before and marveled in wonder of no pain, no limitations, no old aching joints and protesting bones to hinder him from leaping and dancing and bowing before His Lord.

He left behind a strong-but-grieving wife. How do you go on and continue to live without the man whose partner and support you've been for 63 years? He left behind hundreds of believers in Peru who heard that Jesus loved them for the first time from his lips. He left no children, but many, many adopted children and grandchildren who called him "Abuelito." Pray for them.

At his funeral, these words--his legacy to those he loves--were read:

I, HERBERT IRONSIDE ELLIOT, realizing the uncertainty of this life, and with full confidence and trust in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in His death on the cross and shed blood as an atonement for my sins. And knowing that by faith in His sacrifice on the cross for me I have eternal life, leave to each of you my loved ones, my love for Jesus Christ and my trust in His amazing grace, wherein only can you also know the perfect assurance of the unspeakable joy, which now has become my inheritance. In giving this I retain it undiminished, and yet you each may have the whole. This joy, most precious in my life, I hope will be found to be your most precious legacy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I'm Going to be A Missionary?

Well.... wow. First I just have to THANK anyone who responded to that last post in which wondering if this blog was being read by very many people. You don't know how blown away I was by those responses and I just have to tell you I'm grateful that you let me know. :) Super sweet of you ALL. I know the quantity of readers shouldn't really matter but when you write you can't help being a little curious about whose interested, if anyone. :)

Okay. Now I really need to admit, before this goes any farther, that the title of my post was a little cheeky. I had several people react with drama at the thought that I was possibly even praying about foreign missions work in my near future (not sheila going sheila to say sheila any names sheila...) so it kinda' humored me. (And made me feel very loved.) So I couldn't resist messing around with those unmentioned souls a little. And also, it's not a completely dishonest post title, because I'm determined to be involved in missions whether or not I live Stateside my whole life.


I debated for a bit whether to post this post, and have finally decided that I will. Mainly, because I can use prayer, and mainly because this blog IS chronicling my life journey, in some ways, and I don't see any reason to keep this a secret because it's becoming a really big part of my life right now--taking up much of my thoughts and prayers. The reason I've hesitated to write about it--and I promise, I'll get to what "it" is in the next paragraph or so, but I'm the Queen of Disclaimers so bear with me!--is that I feel a little sheepish sounding like I have all these grandiose plans and ideas, and then in the back of my mind thinking, "Yikes, what if I never really get around to DOING anything? What if my life is going to consist of a bunch of scintillating ideas and visions that never quite get off the ground?"

That would be pretty lame.

But I'm starting to really, truly believe and trust that the God I serve does not have lame plans for me. I'm starting to see the power of prayer at work in my life. I'm starting to believe that it's okay to knock on doors and dream and have visions, as long as those dreams are held loosely and my plans are made with the full knowledge that at any moment, God could slam the door or wake me up from the dream or shatter the vision. He has the right, and I don't want to be afraid to let it happen. There's something really exciting about stepping out in faith, with no expectation other than that God will prove Himself faithful!

Now to get down to what "it" is.
I'm praying about working with Wycliffe Bible Translators, in a 2-3 year project called the OneStory project. To be very brief in my description of it, OneStory takes a team of two or three people and places them in an area of the world where either:

1.) The Gospel has not yet been translated, or
2.) The translation is not yet complete.

During the course of two years, this team is almost completely immersed in the culture of the people group they're living with. They study the language, the traditions, the cultural expectations and understandings and framework of these people, and during this process begin to craft and record the stories of the Bible beginning in Genesis and ending in the New Testament. The "unengaged" or "unreached" people of the world do not learn by reading. They learn by oral storytelling. They pass on traditions and instruction and ancient culture through storytelling. So why not introduce them to Jesus by telling them His story? It's so simple, and yet so brilliant. All throughout the Old Testament there are beautiful analogies and paralells that prepare a people for the coming of a Messiah: the story of Adam's fall, the story of blood being required to cover a house before the death angel would pass over, the story of Abraham offering his only son Issac and God's provision of a lamb, the story of Noah and his family being saved from destruction by the ark.... God has placed in all these stories a beautifully woven thread that leads right to the feet of Jesus, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world!!!

Can you imagine being part of telling a person--or better yet an entire people group--for the first time that there is a Holy God who loves them and has reached down to befriend and forgive and save them from sin and destruction!? Wow! This has been a dream of mine for many, many years now.

When I was in Brazil I was able to visit this place:
Here, a ministry very much like OneStory is based. God's story is being recorded for remote Amazonian tribes to hear; tribes which have very few, if any readers....but many people who are hungry to HEAR the truth.

Here, a national missionary shows me the hand-crank and solar-powered tape players given to the tribe so they can hear the Gospel.

Shannon kindly interpreted for me as this woman showed me the computers and software used to record the Gospel.

What a cool "coinscidence!" These are indians who just happened to be at the station during the same time I was. They had come out of their tribe to record and help with this project. I was, admittedly, a little dissapointed by the lack of loin cloths, face paint, and feathers. Not even a bone through the nose!? Come on guys. You can be better "indians" than that, surely.

Here they sit listening as the recording is taking place, and checking for any mistakes.

It was a really incredible experience to learn more about this organization and to see what an awesome work they're doing. Since I returned home, I'm been doing a lot of talking to my parents, Internet searching, and--yesterday--talked with a representative from Wycliffe to find out more details about this ministry.

I have to be honest and say that the thought of leaving everything (particularly my parents) for 2-3 years in a remote area scares me stiff. It also makes me so excited. How can so many conflicting emotions, (caution and abandon, excitement and fright, hope and shrinking) wage inside of me? I don't know but I'm grateful that I'm not making this decision alone and God has promised clear guidance and direction.

I really have no idea if this is going to pan out or not. And really, I think I'm very okay with it if it doesn't. But I figure that it's time to start knocking on doors and see if this vision and desire I've had for over 10 years is from God! If He doesn't want me to GO, than I feel very strongly that I need to be seeking for more potent ways to support those who ARE going. Why is it that we expect the missionaries to sacrifice so much to GO, but we aren't willing to sacrifice much to SEND them? I'm talking about fasting and praying for their success... supporting them through letters and boxes and until we are actually having to forgo things WE WANT in order to provide for the work of the Kingdom.

God help me, for I'm preaching to myself. a funny little story from the pictures above. Michawn, don't kill me for telling this!

Michawn isn't in any of the pictures because she was taking them. But she was there helping to translate and shooting photos... and there didn't seem to be any English speaker other than the three of us Americans in the whole building. So when we first saw the indians all sitting there, quietly talking among themselves, I leaned over to Michawn and said (much too loudly mind you because it didn't enter my thick head that these people would know English)...
"Wow. Check that guy out over there in the purple shirt. He's taller than most indians usually are."
Michawn was like, "Yeah. And hey girl... he's pretty handsome, too."
We laughed.
And then I said,
"Yikes I hope they can't understand us!"

We laughed some more.
('Cuz that would just be really embarrassing.)

A moment later they all got up and passed us to enter the recording room, and as one of them passed (I think he was the one with the white shirt on,) he looked directly at us and said,
"Goot mooorrrrning."

Whelp, Danigirl--(you shameless stereotyper!)--put that one down on the ever-expanding list of very embarrassing moments.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Some Brazil Pictures

Two very tired travelers waiting for our bus outside the Sao Paulo airport. We didn't arrive in Brazil on time to catch our connecting flight, so we spent the night in Sao Paulo. It was a
H-U-G-E ordeal but we called it an "adventure" and had fun for most of it! :) And, of course, the more exhausted we got the more slap-happy we got so we had a few good laughs while the good people of Sao Paulo stared at us sympathetically and wondered why the crazy, cackling foreigners had lost their minds.

The airport gave us a voucher for a hotel and--once we got there-- we really enjoyed our first Brazilian meal, a hot shower, and a soft bed! We ended up being glad we had missed our flight.

ON to Annapolis! Our friends Joel and Michawn live in central Brazil, and this is one of the beautiful views of their city. Such a pretty country.

Old meets new :)

Wow, the fruit in Brazil is amazing! Check out these mangos! One thing I did learn was to check said mangos for worms BEFORE taking several bites.
Yes, mangos can have worms. No, I didn't know that either.

Nate hangin' out with Grady. LOVE all the hammocks. :)

Joel is a missionary with Asas de Socorro, which I think is translated "Wings of Help." Their motto is "Giving Wings to Those Who Give Their Lives." Without organizations like this, much of the missionary work in Brazil would be nearly impossible. He took us on a tour of the hanger and Nate enjoyed working with him there several days.

Joel, Michawn and their adorable kiddos Grady, Hadley, Eissa, and Cass showed us such a wonderful time in Brazil! They were incredibly hospitable and they went out of their way to give us a lot of cool Brazilian experiences, like eating at this little market where my love affair with Pao de Queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) began. If I gained any weight in Brazil, it began right then and there.

Nate and I spent a day walking around downtown Annapolis and browsing the little stores and markets. Here he is checking out the tobacco (at least we guessed it was either that or hemp). I convinced him not to buy any.

Mmmmmm another love affair begun, but this time with churros (pronounced "choo-hoos")! THANK you Michawn! Move over, doughnuts. You got nothin' on your Brazilian cousins.
...And, more churros. Filled with creme` de leche`. Wowzers.

Cass, Eissa and I. Love these girlies!

The headquarters for New Tribe's Mission and Wycliffe in Brazil is located in Annapolis. Nate and I enjoyed visiting both places and talking with the missionaries there. We heard SUCH fascinating stories. I wish I could write them all out here. This picture is of a map hanging at NTM's headquarters showing the different known tribes in Brazil and the missionary presence (or lack thereof) in each. There are SO many tribes who have yet to hear!

CHECK OUT THIS PICTURE. This is just one of the tribal translations of the Bible that we got to see when we visited the Wycliffe headquarters. This is a tonal language, so that's why there are 1's, 2's, and 3's above each syllable of the words... to alert the reader to which tone should be used in reading this text. Can you even begin to imagine the type of work missionaries did to translate the New Testament in this language!? It boggles my mind.
This is a doomed chicken. He was very quiet, but kinda' glaring around at everyone like he was not enjoying the ride.
I hated to even think such a thing, but I'm pretty sure he was gonna be dinner that night.
We spent a day hiking to some waterfalls. SO gorgeous, I can't even describe it! Nate couldn't resist jumping into this pool. :)

Joel took us all the way to the top of the waterfall in the background. It was a breathtaking view...

This is one example of the exquisite flowers that we saw all around us. I had a little mini worship service when I saw this one. :) WHAT a Creator we serve!

Joel, Michawn, Nate and I flew to Puerto Velho in Northern Brazil for four days. There's a mission station in a remote area there, and a plane needed repair so Nate and Joel worked on it. It was really cool to see the Amazon and it's tributary rivers from the air. Speaking of Amazon, did you know there are a LOT of bugs in the Amazon jungle?
Yeah. There are.

This blue building was our housing on the mission base. Can you tell how pretty the jungle trees and the red dirt roads and the GREEN surroundings were? Really neat.
...And there were a LOT of bugs here.

A view of the mission compound. So beautiful! But lotsa' bugs.

...Oh and did I mention the bugs? This was a twig bug.  Sort of cute. :)

There are "bugs" and then there are "BUGS." This spider was in the kitchen. I found that a combination of strong Brazilian coffee and a tarantula do wonders for waking a person up FAST in the morning!

Incidentally, there were also some big bugs around that area. This one was dead so I was happy... but then I saw a live one. They call it a whip scorpion and I'm not sure why because it's not actually a scorpion- but it has some NASTY looking claws.

The mission station is located on Wood River.
I just loved this guy. Such a happy fellow, with this big grin, baling water instead of rowing the entire time I saw him. LOL!
We would call it poverty, but it's just normal life there.

The plane hangar on the mission base.

There's my bro!

It was exciting and rewarding for the guys, once the plane was fixed, to take it down to the river and give it a test flight!

Joel and Michawn... such a cool couple.

Anna Laura was one of the native missionary's daughters. She didn't speak any english but we had a blast together. She was SO stinkin' cute! :)

I took a jungle walk late at night with these crazy guys. Was glad a few of them had machetes. :) We saw a few alligators and... oh did I mention the bugs? They seem to multiply at night. I'm still scratching my mosquito bites from that night. :)

Just in case you didn't see the picture the first time.

We're home now! And here is my awesome souvenir of the trip: a beautiful Brazilian hammock hanging in the room. They have these in all the homes in Brazil and they're really fun. Nate helped me to hang it, and I LOVE IT! In fact I'm sitting in it right now. :)
Nate and I made a Brazilian dinner for Mom and Dad, our Grandparents and my Uncle Tim a few days after we got home. It was surprisingly authentic tasting and we had so much fun cooking it together.
And of COURSE I have a few bags of Pao de Queijo mix, so I won't have to go without my Brazilian Cheese bread even though I'm home now. :)