Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fasting (Part 2)

Remember how I said in my last post (HERE) that we were not going charging up that mountain...into the dangerous lower level stratas, just the 2 of us...that God had a plan, we had brains and I KNEW God had meticulously orchestrated this, we were just waiting for HIM to reveal it.  Well, today was the day.  We crossed the smelly river.
THE smelly River.  Santo Domingo is that last row of "houses"/buildings at the top before the green.

Yes, WE did.  We went up those cable cars to the last stop.  One of the most violent areas up until the last 5 years.  However, if you are not with a local, or look like you don't belong, or happen to be out after 5 pm-ish, you will probably be questioned by local gangs.

Weird, because when I wrote that blog, I had absolutely no intention of actually going up there until we knew it was safe and I could.  I mean, God was sending us- by US he meant Stephen.  You know, the big-darker skinned man.  Well, God had another idea.

I had no clue that when we met up with our new friends (from OPEN ARMS FOUNDATION), Enoch and Cristina we would be headed up into the lower stratas.  Enoch was raised up that mountain and his wife, Cristina, was an articulate, English speaking Brazilian, with an assertive-can do attitude.  All I knew was we were going to meet Hector, a local pastor hoping to team up for outreach with ONE MINISTRY, I also knew we were in good hands.

On our way up "the other" metro cable we were talking about how incredible God is and how "crazy" it was that here we happen to be HERE (in Medellin) doing ministry together.  4 different ethnic groups, 4 VERY different up-bringings,  that happen to meet under the same canopy (Open Arms) for the same purpose.  How "crazy that these very houses are the ones I just happen to write about (I am not kidding, we got on the blue line and got off 2 stops before Bello...SAME houses), and here we are with a local that can take us into the heart of it.  How true God's word is when it says HE KNOWS us, HE KNOWS every detail before it comes to be.  Don't believe me?  Read Psalm 139:13-16.  Go ahead, I will wait.  :) 

Seriously. Do it. You DO NOT want to miss out.



Are you serious?  I don't know what version you had, but my NKJV said "Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed- and in your book they all were written.  The days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them."   (Fancy way of saying GOD knew my days, he put them together, evv-uhh-ree- detail, before I had breathed one single breath).  Let that sink in real quick.

That is our stop...

 We had a great meeting with Pastor Hector.  We learned what the people of this area really need.  FAMILY instruction.  They have no clue what the specific family roles should be, or should not be.  Satan has this area believing lies, under firm oppression- people desiring rules not a relationship.  They have too much freedom, they don't understand how God could love them THAT much.  With NOTHING in return, if fact, you can't do anything to earn doesn't make sense.  Oh, my heart aches for the way they need Jesus.  I absolutely love the overwhelming feeling I get just thinking about it.  There is not one thing I alone can do to make them understand.  I mean, come on, y'all already know our issues with the language barrier. (Refresh here, if needed).  Not one thing I can do, BUT, I know who can.  Actually the ONLY one who can (God).  I can choose obedience to be his hands and feet, to serve these people and tell them of this great love I have for my creator.  To pray that when they see these "gringos"- that they will not see a status or our differences, but they will see our heart- the NEW heart given by our creator, who is seeking after them (and YOU) too.

I want to type "This will be a long hard process"-- but truth is, I have no clue.  But God does.  I don't even know if it will change in our life time.  But God does.  I don't know their circumstances, or if we can even reach them.  But God does.

That's the best part about Psalm 139: 13-16...I don't have to know, because HE already has it laid out, it was written, completed, "the days fashioned for me, when as yet, there were none."

After our meeting, we were at the park up there, looking out over the city (it was breath taking), Cristina asked me "Do you feel safe here?"  I said, "uh- yeah, I guess so"  I mean, I had just seen a whiter-ish man covered tattoos with a big camera taking scenic pictures, unharmed.  A group of teens standing behind Stephen comparing size, while he is obliviously talking with Enoch and Hector, unharmed.  All while trying not to get high from the smothering leftover clouds of Marijuana, unharmed-yeah I feel safe...I said, "Wait, No. I don't feel safe- but I trust you.  If you tell me I am safe, then yes, I don't feel unsafe."

It's the peace God gives, his protecting hand.  I trust Him, fully, completely with total abandon...because I believe HIS word.  Psalm 139:13-16.  He already knows my days.  Besides, if I am not here, on earth...I will be in heaven, with Him.

Christina, Me, Stephen, Enoch - Santo Domingo

pictures do NOT do this city justice

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It doesn't stop...

Man.  Y'all want to know what I just did?  Typed an entire blog post, full of detail and witty comments (probably more on the sarcastic side, but you catch my drift).  I deleted it. On purpose.

Sometimes we get so caught up in us, that we lose purpose.  This is going to be short and sweet--ok we all know that isn't true, I am full of words and the only short and sweet I have is named Brynnen, Graycen and Westen.

Man, I did it AGAIN.  I just start typing, spewing the thoughts I have all over this page, even though I know in my head/heart there is one word I need to share from this (Daniel) fast.  Obedience.  Let's do that again. OBEDIENCE.

I am talking to myself here, too.  The past 2 weeks (mostly during our fast) I have been studying in depth Moses.  His obedience.  One podcast (thank you Mark & CHBC) reminded us Moses was obedient going to Pharaoh, leading the Hebrew people out of captivity, through the vulnerability in desert, even the intensity of crossing the Red Sea- where an ENTIRE army was defeated with out one person lifting a weapon...I would say Moses definitely gets a gold star for all that, wouldn't you? doesn't stop there.  Obedience didn't stop once they were all safely on the other side. It was actually just beginning. You choose obedience, and then another opportunity to choose obedience comes again.  Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's terrifying.  OBEDIENCE DOES NOT STOP.

Ok Lord, I get it. Obedience doesn't stop. But God, we were SO obedient, I read my blog post, right?  Be obedient when it's hard, when it hurts, when it is super awkward.  Those area all good things, but OBEDIENCE DOES NOT STOP, Kari.  It wasn't something you got to check off your list once you hit that 2 month mark and didn't want to go back.  Once you found a home and started language/training.  Once you realized this next path...Oh yikes! That is the hardest part for me, I know the next is not an easy one.  It actually scares me a little.

We came here with the intention of sharing Jesus through action/lifestyle, mainly through discipleship of children who could literally be dead if not.  Well, that is still going to happen.  It just looks a little different.  Medellin (the city we live) is split into 6 sectors, called stratas here.  Primarily based on income/poverty level; 1-2 lowest, 3-4 middle, 5 upper middle, 6 upper.  Safety in general also seems to be based on strata, we are currently in 5 and we are mindful, but I can walk down to the grocery store with out Stephen.  Casa Helena (where we first stayed in Medellin) was in strata 3 and we were told about the gang violence by several people- so I did not/would not go anywhere alone.  Although, our Colombian friends (ladies and men) came and went fine, I would not.  Strata 1 & 2, well no point of talking about them, right??


We have started working with Mark at COSDELCOL (catch up here) at the soccer facility, Stephen teaches SAQ (Speed, Agility, Quickness) and has been able to share a little of his testimony with some of the kids.

Older guys...look at that view!

Random street shot.

We are going to continue doing SAQ in Bello as we build relationships with the local pastors getting ready for the road ahead.  We have been making plans to bring people (like YOU) here in January. Our partnership with Open Arms Foundation and COSDELCOL brings the opportunity to bring hundreds and hundreds of kids in from ALL over Medellin, including those lower sectors.  We are excited bc we want to love on them and share Jesus and connect them with local pastors that can disciple them.  (Hoping CHBC/and others can come in a teach the local pastors what discipleship looks like, not just rules to follow).  That is obedience, BUT...wait for doesn't stop there. OBEDIENCE DOES NOT STOP.

When we go out to the soccer stadium, we get on the blue train line.  It goes from strata 6 all the way out of the other side of the city.  I absolutely LOVE seeing the culture change the further out we get, you can almost see a change in stratas as you go.  Part of me is happy I am on this side of the smelly river, looking across at the "culture".  Part of me knows in my heart that's where we need to be.  Those are the "least of these" talked about in Matthew 25.  I can picture myself walking the narrow streets, seeing the dirty, shoe-less children- passing out hugs and candy, getting my dose of "ahhh, feel good for the day".  Then reality hits, I can't go there...WE cannot go there, it is WAY to dangerous.  I came here to serve Jesus, not to die.  Seriously, I can't be gettin' all crazy tied up in strata 1 & 2, when I need to be where God can keep me safe. In strata 5, or 3 when we have an event up at the church, and Stephen is with me....right??


Almost at the very end of the fast (Daniel fast), we were on the train, looking out at these shacks, barely livable, but clearly FULL of people; Stephen said, "We need to go up in those areas...".  I responded, "Yes, we do."  It was not at all sorrowful or even a suggestion- it was a choice.  He was saying what my heart had been saying.  God doesn't extend HIS grace and mercy to the ones we choose, in our "safe" areas.  Do I trust him enough to be obedient?  Or did my obedience stop when I unpacked that last suitcase.  When we got on that train to Bello to teach SAQ in a guarded facility.   Or was I going to follow Moses' example and not let my fear get in the way of obedience?  The bible has a constant pattern of that.  Examples in History (because, the bible is a collection of historical documents) where people had to make BIG choices, ones that if we thought through, we might not be strong enough to choose the same (hello Noah building something called a 'boat', or Daniel praying openly regardless of the consequence of lions, how about his 3 friends NOT bowing to the king and being put in a furnace, uh, David & Goliath...not choices I could say yes to.  Maybe that's why God didn't ask KARI to do those.  But he is asking me to say yes to this.  To trust him beyond MY boundaries, he is giving me a choice that I (we) can say YES to.

By the way...we are going to reach out and try to get some connection up in those outlying sectors.  But breath easy, friends...(mom), we aren't going charging up the mountain just the 2 of us.  God also gave us brains. ;)

This is something I believe God has been preparing Stephen his whole life for this...I mean, you had to know his size and skin color were a coincidence in here somewhere right?? As if in confirmation to what we both knew (know), 2 of the soccer boys had to ask if Stephen was Colombian.  It was before they heard him speak...but cute just the same.

You will have to wait for part 2 of this story...I will try not to keep you in suspense as long- but more details have to be worked out...or revealed.  We already know they are worked out, God just hasn't shared all of that portion.

What is your next step of obedience?  Some thing you know God is calling you to do?  A choice that will come again and again.  Say Yes, friend.  And your journey will just be beginning...Because....OBEDIENCE DOES NOT STOP ;)

I want to hear about it!!!!

Friday, July 10, 2015

"Welcome to Colombia"

A lot has happened in the 6 weeks we have been here. Can you believe it has already been 6 weeks? Can you believe it has ONLY been 6 weeks?? I cannot.  It seems like yesterday we were saying goodbye, but it feels like a year ago we were pulling up to Casa Helena.  Either way, today marks 6 WEEKS!!!

When we first arrived there were so many things different (besides the obvious language & culture),  life, expectations, time management are a lot different. We joke a lot about how ridiculously slow and laid back everything is, until you get in a taxi or public bus- then you better hold onto your life and close your eyes.  We have not been in an accident, but it is not for the faint of heart.  Now, when we get in a taxi I just hold on and giggle because I know it's going to be like a roller coaster, and the kids love it too.

Shortly after we got here we coined the phrase, "Welcome to Colombia." It was a catch all for those eye rolling little irks that really didn't have rhyme or reason, except, we were no longer in our home land.  However, it wasn't until the day we were suppose to sign for our apartment that this phrase really earned it's keep.

We found out Saturday we were getting the keys/signing docs at 10 am on Tuesday, because Monday was a holiday- one that most Colombians would celebrate, but they couldn't tell you which holiday it was. Tuesday at 9:55 we show up interpreter friends in tow (Bill and his wife Wanda from Open Arms), thinking by 11 we would have the keys to our sweet little "casa" and all would be right in the world.  Well at 11:30, we were told Bill would have to be our cosigner and we had to go get all of this paperwork, so come back at 3 to finish signing and get the keys.  Oh I was upset. I mean come on, in America this would not happen.  In America we would have our keys...or at least I would understand what they were saying and what was the hold up.  Bill explained to me (and Stephen) that this is Colombia, and they say what you want to hear, even if they have no intention of holding up their end. He said "Keep your expectations low, that way you won't be too disappointed." What? No, we are Americans, land of the "I will make a way-Instant gratification-If I can't have it now, I will complain to whomever I need to, until I can."  Uhhh, Little Miss I-get-things-done...Here, you don't.

Welcome to Colombia.

We go back in at 3:15 and wait until 4 pm for them to tell us they have to type up the documents, it will be at least another hour to get the keys. You. Are. Kidding.  We were told the contract was ready, it had been ready since SATURDAY. Ok, fine. What's another hour. Right?

Wrong. We go back at 5, papers signed, money paid, everything A-Ok, people there to help us move, moving truck lined up..."Oh sorry, the portero was only at the building until 12pm. You can't get in until tomorrow."  You are joking. Why?  Just give us the keys and introduce us to him tomorrow. Come on common sense.  Nope. Nada. Not gonna happen.  Come back tomorrow at 8 am.

Welcome to Colombia. (W2C)

We got our keys, went through the inspection with a lot of, W2C's in there...some include:
Cracks in several window panes. Fix it? Response: we noted it, it won't break.
No hot water, (on Wednesday) guy can't come until next Tuesday, Monday was another holiday.
Top windows in the back of apt don't close, ever.
Hauling furniture up the side of our building...
    and the guy tried to charge additional $80 bc it wasn't a standard delivery procedure. (PS Stephen and our portero did the heavy lifting).
Ordering a "queen size bed" to be cheated into one smaller than a double.
     Ok, we weren't cheated, we just didn't pay attention to metric numbers!!

Y'all catching my drift here??

Well, at least we have a home!  I had stopped wanting to go "home" and God had provided different bilingual friends right when we needed them (that alone STILL has me in awe, and ever SO grateful!!).

As we were shopping for a washer, at HomeCenter (the equivalent to Lowes in America), we were alone, no translator friend, just us.  Picture the super exaggerated "NO HAB-LOW ES-PAN-YOLL. ENGLACE, POUR-FAVOR."  Because if you say it slow and loud, they will understand. (Not true. That is not true at all. Funny, but unfortunately, not true). We didn't really do that, but I only knew a smidge more than Stephen, so I get shoved in the spot light to try to haggle and understand what on earth these sweet chicas are speaking so fast about.  So as we are not understanding each other, they call some one from another department over to translate.  I am not kidding when I say there were 10 employees congregated around the "grande Americanas" probably just to giggle at how ridiculous we sound and gawk at how tall we are.

Finally decide on a washer, it was Friday, we wanted to have it delivered today or tomorrow, since Monday was a holiday. No. Nada. No bueno. Can't do that, no delivery today or tomorrow. Ok fine, can we just hire our own delivery man and take it today (I mean, my husband did just pull our bed/base and all the big furniture UP the side of the building..pshh, what's this?)?  No. Nada. Can't get do that, has to come from the warehouse, which takes 2 days and since Monday is a holiday, it will be Tuesday afternoon at the earliest.  UUGGGHHHH.  Fine, then can we have a discount since we have to wait so long?? (Worth the shot right...).  These people just look at me like I am dumb for even asking. (The Lowes people would have said yes).   Just then. The most beautiful thing happened.  The guy that was translating for us was telling us "No, of course you cannot have a discount.  It is what it is and that is that. The earliest is Tuesday, at full price." And he said...wait for it. "Welcome to Colombia."  YES. HE. DID.

I gasp and giggled and laughed out loud so hard, I said "YES! Welcome to Colombia!!" Ha!  All of the phrases in his limited English vocab and out comes that.  The best phrase ever!  Oh, Lord, you knew I needed to hear that just like a good word from the bible. Oh my goodness, even typing this I can feel the giggles and wave of warmth, the reminder that GOD KNOWS, just like I did that day, standing in the middle of chaos, surrounded by all these people, yet still so alone. He was there.

That was the last day we used "Welcome to Colombia"- I'm sure there have been times that warranted it's use...but that was too good. It changed my reaction to the words "Welcome to Colombia."  Instead of eye rolling in dissatisfaction, it makes me smile as a reminder...GOD KNOWS.  He does, and I love him even more for it.  :-D

I have learned to accept the Colombian clock.  If they say 11, probably will be 2 (after lunch).  If they say 3, it will probably be tomorrow. And the best's ok!  I will stop looking at the clock and find something to do...even if it's as simple as reading a book to my kiddos.  Slow down. Maybe lower your don't do that- keep your expectations high, just keep control of your attitude when it doesn't go as planned.  He knows, friends.  I promise, He knows.