29 March 2010

Peru 2010: Things I learned

-Donkeys are some of the stubbornest animals I've ever met
-Donkeys are some of the loudest animals I've ever met
-Rooster = alarm clock. Set for 0340.
-Vibram FiveFingers are great shoes, but in the Peruvian Andes, they get wet and usually stay wet
-Plan early
-Public toilets in the Andes are BYOTP
-The beach in Lima is sweet, but not particularly relaxing
-In Miami, people can tell we're in the military
-Running barefoot on the beach is awesome
-The Word is extremely powerful
-REI makes some good backpacks and daypacks
-We won't always know why. That's OK.
-I could live in Collana
-The Andes are gorgeous
-In the Andes, add at least half an hour to any planned meeting time
-The best food on the continent is Anticucho: cow heart.
-The best drink is Chicha Morada
-Olympus Stylus Tough cameras are tough
-It may surprise your friends when you pull out your camera while swimming in the Pacific Ocean and ask them to take a picture
-It's really hard to get your swim trunks back on in six- to ten- foot whitecaps
-I shouldn't learn much Spanish in the Dominican Republic
-God chose to reveal Himself as a Father for a good reason

Snapshots: Peru 2010

I took over 400 pictures on this trip. But the best ones are in my mind:

"Jesús ha providido para nosotros" exclaimed Juan when he found a bunch of pears in his orchard. He'd been looking for a something to share with us, and God provided more than enough: he insisted I fill my pockets. I can still see his smile, as he perched there on the steep slope in the middle of his chacra.

Francesco sat in his upper chacra, looking at my team working below. His smile wasn't big, but none of his words or actions were. It was sincere - and that meant a lot.

Eric didn't like to smile for pictures. But when the camera was gone, his smile came out, matching the smiley face he carved on a papa.


From my journal of 27 March 2010:

"Estilos diferentes para gente diferente."

- Clothing store ad in Lima: "Different styles for different people."

It's something I've seen over and over on this trip. From the Virgin Mary to a full sound system in a 10' X 10' room, we've seen it all.

At one of our Bible studies, we asked if anyone had any stories to share about what God had done in their lives. One woman who we worked with in the potato field told us a story from when she was a young woman in Lima: she'd lost her job, and was very worried about getting a new one - for several months. The Virgin Mary came to her in a dream and told her to stop worrying - she'd get a job soon. And within a few days, she did.

The Virgin Mary has never spoken to me in a dream. Neither have any dead - or should I say Alive? - relatives. But I think it could happen. Could not the God who knows the number of hairs on our heads use that woman's respect for the Virgin Mary to speak to her? I say he could.

Pentecostal services are always interesting: start with ten minutes of everyone praying a la vez and lots of "oh, Señor Jesús". Then sing some songs from the hymnbook, with clapping and dancing. Use a mic and a keyboard at high volume in a tiny room. Have the American hermanos give testimonies, with lots of Amens from the congregation. Preach the Word, using more Word than words. Give more testimonies. Plan the next three Sundays. Peace.

Or something like that. It's a little crazy, but I can't say it's wrong.

"Estilos diferentes para gente diferente."

Peru in Pictures

A slideshow of my favorite pictures from the trip. Got questions? Shoot.

28 March 2010

Crosses and Statues

"Adoraba a una cruz de madera, a una estatua de hueso. Pero ahora adoro en
espíritu y verdad."

"I used to worship a wooden cross and a bone statue. Now I worship in spirit and truth."

As we pulled and chopped weeds around Juan's apple trees, he and I talked about his life and his calling. His mother died, his father abandoned him, his brothers drank, and his wife left him. He was about to commit suicide - there was no one left who loved him. But he heard a voice: "God loves you."

He spent the next two nights crying, repenting of his sin. Then he put it behind him, and went to Lima to join a church. But the Pastor there recommended he go back to his own town and join - or start - a congregation there.

So now, Juan is taking discipleship classes, going to meetings with the missionaries that come once a week, reading his Bible, preparing. He doesn't want to make the mistake of rushing in unprepared.

Side note: Diego, the schoolteacher who's eating lunch at the table where I'm writing, just commented on how small my letters are. He's the second Peruvian to tell me that.

"Tengo un testimonio muy triste," Juan tells me: "My testimony is a very sad one." But I remind him of the joy it holds: he's still alive. And now he's really Alive. "The Christian life is hard," he says, "but it's seguro." It's secure and certain.

Several times, he quoted Psalm 27:10 - "Though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will receive me." That's Jaun's life. And his Life.

This man has faith as big as the mountain he grows his apples on.

19 March 2010

I'm about to leave the continent. I'm excited, but I'm pretty nervous, too: I'm not sure I'm ready for this. I'm leading a four-person team into the Andes of Peru for five days. Will everyone stay safe? Will our ministry be effective? Will I know what to say?

And I realize problems with that: safety's in God's hands. He has a plan - which may or may not include our safety - but either way, He's in control, and we've got nothing to worry about. I don't have to worry about our ministry, because it's not ours. It's His. And God showed me the answer to the last question on my first mission trip:

"Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."
But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD.

Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." - Jeremiah 1:6-10

I am only a child, a sinner, a mere man. But God has been using mere men since the beginning of time. I'm reminded of Peter: a man who denied Christ three times. But when he preached - no, when the Holy Spirit spoke through him - at Pentecost, three thousand were saved.

You are the potter, Lord. I am the clay.

This is gonna be sweet.

16 March 2010

Thy will be done

As I walked to my interview for the EMT class/team yesterday, I prayed that God would do his will - if He wants me on the team, I'll be there; if not, I won't. Simple.

But when the email came out today with who made it, I was disappointed, almost angry with myself: why didn't I make it? I'm the number one alternate - what separated me from the 25th person selected for the class?

Then I remembered: I prayed that God's will would be done. And it's done. Well, maybe it's still working - I might still become a member of the class. But it's in His hands.

Vamos a ver.

15 March 2010

Moccasins: the original running shoe...

...unless you count bare feet, of course.

Looks like Soft Star Shoes is almost ready to offer their running moccasin on their website... and it looks sweet!

Grabbed this picture from their blog.

I've done a little running in my Vileys, also from Soft Star, and it felt great. They don't have all of the toe movement and feel that Vibram FiveFingers KSO have, but they come pretty close, and they're warmer. They've become the only shoe I wear when I'm not in uniform. I think Vileys would be a little too warm for summer, but these new ones look like they'd be perfect.

12 March 2010

Recognition: lessons learned, Part II

This morning, on the Academy Tour Course, I saw one of our four degrees run up the ramp with a sandbag in the ruck on his back, carrying the ruck - and sandbag - of one of his classmates. And he was in the front of the group, one of the first ones up. By itself, it's not an impressive feat: but coupled with what everyone did last night, it impressed me that he could and would still put out that much. I thought, "That kid just earned a prop and wings from me."

A second kid made me think the same thing later. During a "meet the classes" squadron training session, one of our four degrees began to have severe cramps. The pain in his face made me not to cry - but he was holding back the tears, and he was still doing the exercises. He showed more tenacity, more perseverance, than I've seen all year.

I told him he could stop at any time, that this wasn't worth a significant injury. But he kept going, to the point where he was taken to the hospital. He'll be fine - it was only very severe cramps - but I learned a lesson: don't mess with cramps. When someone starts cramping, pull them out, even if it takes an order.

Theme rooms are coming tonight. This'll be interesting.

11 March 2010

Recognition: lessons learned

Looks like my leadership has been pretty ineffective: my coachee is not doing well at Recognition.

Recognition is a three-day event, a rite of passage, after which fourth classmen (freshmen) at the Academy earn their prop and wings and many privileges: civilian clothes, music, movies, the right to walk and talk where they want, and to wear their backpacks.

It's a test of physical and mental stamina. Fourth classmen do countless push-ups, flutter kicks, and other exercises, while reciting quotes and other knowledge they've learned, such as stats on Air Force planes.

My coachee has demonstrated an extreme lack of knowledge. That's partly my fault: I'm the one responsible for him learning knowledge, and I could have spent a lot more time with him on that. But many of my classmates have a problem with his attitude - he seems to lack the desire to be here.

That's also probably my fault. I don't really understand his perspective, and I haven't tried as hard as I could have to understand it. I don't know why he's here; I'm not sure if he knows.

So, I've learned I need to be much more involved with my men. I need to try to see things from their perspective. I need to learn motivate them to do the things they're required to do.

What do you think?

Hello readers,

Just looking for some feedback on the new layout. Good? Bad? Indifferent? Please let me know with a comment or one of the reactions below this post.

I made the changes with Blogger in Draft, a new feature from Google that makes it a lot easier to customize colors, backgrounds, and layout. I'll be playing around with a bit to see what I like best.


07 March 2010

Moccasins and frozen waterfalls

We were doing pretty good until we got to the waterfall, which was frozen over a few feet thick, covering the trail. I was able edge my way up, finding some good handholds on the rock and some questionable footholds in the ice.

From Stanley Canyon 6 March 10

It was a bit sketchy. Once over the steep part, though, it was pretty much just flat ice until the trail got back to terra firma. But like Bill said, "It doesn't take much flat ice to start moving pretty fast."

From Stanley Canyon 6 March 10

So, even though we didn't get all the way to Stanley Reservoir, it was a good hike. I was impressed with the traction my moccasins provided, and the waterproofing. I don't think my feet really ever got wet, even though we walked through snow and slush and mud.

My moccasins are from Soft Star Shoes, their "Viley" model with a "T-rex" sole. Very comfy, very functional: they're the only shoes I wear on the weekends. Even wore them for a four or five mile run yesterday, and was very impressed. I don't think they're as good as FiveFingers - they don't let your toes move as much and they're a little heavier - but they're great for colder weather. Highly recommended. But Soft Star is coming out with some moccasins designed for running, and I'm pretty excited for those.

Note: I'm not receiving anything from Soft Star Shoes or Vibram for my mentions of their products. They're just good products, and I want to share them.

04 March 2010

Spring Fever

Just because it's 51 and sunny doesn't mean the snow isn't still knee deep - at least in Colorado.

Went for a run today in my Vibram FiveFingers, and felt great. So great, in fact, that I couldn't help but laugh out loud, charging down the mountain on a snow-covered deer trail, jogging through ankle-deep, ice-cold mud on the power line road.

I've got spring fever: it's warm, it's sunny, it's changing. I don't want to be inside all afternoon. I'd go crazy. I'll take Annie Dillard's advice: "Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you."

I've had a real longing lately to spend my days running on the beaches of Florida or the forests of Michigan. I've never liked running so much before - I've never realized we were designed to run.

Go barefoot. Go running.