Thursday, January 24, 2008


There is a story of three men working together. A traveler asked the first, "What are you doing?" He responded, "I am laying stone." The traveler asked the second, "What are you doing?" The second one responded also, "I too am laying stone." The traveler asked the third, "What are you doing?" But this one responded, "I am building a temple to my God."

A week or so ago, a traveler could have asked me, "What are you doing?" and I could have responded, "I am tightening bolts on stadium seating." That would have been inadequate, though. What was I doing? I was building a place of worship and discipleship, a place for people far from God to approach Him and for people near to God to walk more closely in step with Him. There are so many things to do in a project of this magnitude -- making sidewalks, doing landscaping, plumbing bathrooms, painting walls, sanding benches, welding beams, installing sound equipment, sweeping floors, wiring lights, building cabinets, delivering laundry, restocking toilet paper, caring for children, keeping records, and much, much, much more. I hope we never lose track of why we came.

Monday, January 21, 2008

When in Rome...

It is customary in Argentina to greet people -- even strangers -- with a kiss near the cheek. I knew this. I thought about this. I was preparing myself for this. (So was Elizabeth -- thank you!) But during an event relatively early in the trip, I found myself instinctively reaching out to shake hands with those entering. It initially required a lot to shift my responses.

I'm surprised now to find myself reaching out with the same hands to the shoulders of people I don't yet know well, if at all, to touch cheeks and kiss the air by their ears. The awkwardness has been (mostly) covered by affection. As I think of going back to my church home, with people I've known for years and already love, I think it may feel a little odd now to not draw the people there close to show that love.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Reunion General

We went to two different churches today. It was a beautiful day, and we waited outside for our transportation. As we stood, I pondered their church sign. The language was Spanish, of course, but there's one part in particular I like just fine in English.

church signThe sign proclaims this church as a place to be found with God (or something similar to that), with a weekly gathering on Sunday mornings. But the part which particularly caught my attention was "reunion general." Think for a minute about what that phrase means in English. "Re-union" implies a repeated joining together in unity, and "general" implies broad inclusion. I like that.

Really, Sunday mornings are not usually the times when we are best able to live out what it means to be God's people. Rather, we are called to engage with God in our everyday lives. Sunday mornings should have more the flavor of a big reunion, coming together as a special time to celebrate our unity even (or especially) in our differences.

Whatever we call our Sunday mornings, I hope it will be a great reunion with God and with each other.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Ephesians is a powerful book of hope and purpose. What captures my heart today is grace.

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins." Every human being falls short of God's perfect plan. "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions..." God's mercy is, by definition, not something we can earn. It is the unmerited favor of God, and brings new life. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast..." We do not earn God's favor; we accept it as a gift.

Lonna told her story this evening to a room with around two hundred Argentine women at the Esperanza Argentina women's conference. It is a story of grace and mercy through very difficult circumstances, and was a reminder of God's presence with us even when we don't realize it.

Dr. Borger and Carol (he's currently DS of the District we're part of) arrived today after the long journey here. You know how we as human beings sometimes get cranky when we're really tired? We're not just spiritual beings; we're clearly physical beings as well. Dr. B and Carol were clearly weary, as is to be expected as a result of perhaps twenty hours straight in planes and airports. But they didn't allow how they felt to keep them from being friendly and loving toward others. It was an encouragement, and an example for us, particularly here as we "hit the wall" of weariness and need to be careful in how we move forward.

Tomorrow is another early morning -- we'll be having breakfast at 7:00am here, 2:00am Utah time -- so I'm heading for bed. G'night!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Checking In

The temperature here today is expected to reach around 89F as a high, with a low around 70F. We need to drink a lot of water. I'll be leaving the campus with a group just after lunch to serve over in Hurlingham. We'll be back kinda late tonight, if I remember correctly. The upcoming days are looking full, with most of the events being 8-12 hour things for us.

Please pray for the continuing safety of the many, many people who are doing construction on the Bruno Radi Convention Center. Please pray for the people we serve in the various communities. Please pray for this weekend's women's conferences, and for the big events with Stephen Manley and Felix Vargas next week, and for the big shindig next Saturday, and for all the smaller-group ministries we're engaging in. God is at work here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


"Taboo" is one my favorite group games. The goal is to get one's team to say a particular word, without using any of five words given. For example, the clue-giver might try to get the group to say "cheese" without ever saying "milk" or "dairy" or "pizza" or "burger" or "cow." To do that, the clue-giver might say "I put this orange-colored slice of food on a bun with meat products made from an animal that says moo." In the meantime, the group guesses, Charades-style, as the clue-giver continues giving clues until the correct answer is discovered.

That describes my current experience surprisingly well. I know some of the very basics of Spanish, but I don't know a lot. Many verbs I've never learned, and my conjugation is pretty much limited to the present tense. Amazingly, though, I've been able to understand and communicate with a small measure of adequacy, Taboo-style. I may not know the words or conjugations for "We should turn off the overhead light out of respect for our roommates who are trying to sleep," but I could say in Spanish, "Please no use the much much light now because other sisters they to sleep. Bathroom light is little light is good." Of course, I've also had many, many opportunities to practice saying "more slowly, please" and "I'm sorry, one more time," and "one moment please because I need an interpreter."

I read (or heard?) recently that hospitality can be defined as making space for someone you don't have to make space for. It's not just about entertaining in one's home; it's an attitude of accepting and honoring others. When I think of hospitality here, I think of the linguistic hospitality we have been experiencing and practicing. It would be easy at meals to sit just with those with whom we can easily converse. It would be easy when translating worship services to ignore the funny little side comments which aren't related to the message, rather than spend the time translating them so the majority can understand. It would be easy on ministry outings to leave the one-on-one ministry to those who speak Spanish fluently. But it would not be hospitable. We make room for others in our lives when we include them in our conversations, help them to laugh with us, and exert the extra effort needed to understand each other. I am particularly thankful tonight for the hospitality of the people around me. Not only has it been useful for small tasks, combining my broken Spanish with others' broken English has allowed us to worship God together, to participate in ministry together, and to share parts of our lives together. And that is very exciting!

Sunday, January 13, 2008


It's technically Monday morning, but not by much. I'll call this Sunday night in Argentina.

My mind is filled with thoughts and images and sounds and smells from this day. There are many, many stories. Of all of them, though, the one which has taken up residence in my mind as I prepare for sleep is the story Yolanda told to the children of Samuel being called by God. I speak much English, little Spanish. Yolanda speaks much Spanish, little English. So I cannot tell you with confidence what she said, but I can tell you what I realized as she spoke.

Samuel was a little boy in the Bible who had been committed to God by his mother even before he was born. He was raised in the temple, serving God under the direction of Eli. But he did not actually know God. One night, though, God called to him, "Samuel! Samuel!" The kid didn't understand, and went to Eli, thinking it was Eli who had called. Eli probably didn't enjoy being awakened in the middle of the night, and may not have been firing on all cylinders, but after a bit of repetition he realized what was happening, and instructed Samuel to respond, "Speak, for your servant is listening" (I Samuel 1-3).

What struck me was not (as far as I know) what Yolanda said about this event. What I saw was the children listening. God has been calling to them, but they haven't necessarily recognized it as the voice of God. We are not here to push people to Jesus, but rather to introduce them to the One who has been there all along, the One who has been calling to them in many places and in many ways, and to help them enter and grow in relationship with God.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

God's Time

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven...."
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

There is usually what feels like a sudden silence after the flurry of Christmas passes and the new year begins. This year is different. I find myself needing to stop and nurture a post-Christmas silence in my soul. We need such times.

We received a unique calendar this year for Christmas. Rather than the standard (to us) format of printing a month or week or day on each page, it is arranged according to the Christian (liturgical) seasons. The first day of this calendar was not on January 1, but on December 2 -- the first day of Advent. After a page for the weeks of Advent is a page for the twelve days of Christmas. Today we enter Epiphany -- a time when we acknowledge and experience again the person and mission of Jesus. It is a time to think particularly of growth and discipleship, of God drawing us into focused relationship with Him through Christ.

This calendar was a little disorienting at first. I'm accustomed to thinking in terms of weeks and months. But this particularly calendar quickly grew on me, particularly as I went searching to find out more. According to the website I found, this calendar was created to encourage and help Christians "living in God's time" as we journey together through the story of God each year. Christians in more liturgical denominations have been living by similar calendars for many, many, many years. I look forward to joining them in it.

More on the lectionary later. In the meantime, here are the passages for today:
  • Isaiah 60:1-6
  • Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
  • Ephesians 3:1-12
  • Matthew 2:1-12