Tuesday, July 30, 2013

¡Adiós Oaxaca! ¡Que Triste!

So today is my last day in Oaxaca, Mexico! It is a sad day that has come much too soon. This past week absolutely flew by. On Monday most of us were able to go to the Guelaguetza, a huge festival that Oaxaca is known for. The neighborhood that we live in has been invaded by toourists because of all that is going on. It's a beautiful time to be here, and I am so glad God has given me the opportunity to experience the beautiful culture down here! This week in our village was marked with goodbyes. We took the missionary family that we are working with out to our village to introduce them to all the people that we have been establishing relationships with this Summer. This is so that after my partner and me leave, all the people that we have been talking to don't become forgotten. They will make sure to follow up with all of our friends that we have made. Our village had a lot of festivities going on this week, so it was hard to catch many of our friends at home. Luckily, we were able to go out to the village one last time on Sunday after church to say goodbye to all of our friends. It was really hard to say goodbye especially to the families that have been so kind to us this summer by inviting us into their home and into their lives. They fed us, cooked with and for us, and treated us like their own. As we said goodbye to one family in particular, they told us that we are a part of their family, and that their doors will always be open to us and our families. After countless pictures, hugs, gifts, and 'hasta luegos'we left our village that now has our hearts. Thinking back to the first day in our village, we felt like such outsiders. No one really wanted to talk to us, much less invite us into their home. Now, we have made such amazing relationships with so many people that feel like family to me. This past week we even had a woman who insisted on us becoming the God-mothers of her nephew. Even though we had to humbly turn down the offer, she still insisted that we were part of her family and if we ever come back, we have a place to stay in her home. The people in our village do not have much, but we have experienced just so much generosity this week, and this summer. They have given us so much, and I just hope that the one and only valuable thing that we have been able to give them, the Gospel of truth, will be able to affect their lives. Please pray for that to happen. Outside of the village, there were also lots of goodbyes to all of our local Oaxacan friends that we have made in the city. One friend in particular has been so sweet and kind. She has shown me so much generosity and genuine love. She will definitely be a great friend of mine for the rest of my life. I've been so busy saying goodbye to all of my Mexican friends, I've been forgetting that I'll be saying some more goodbyes in a few days. Tomorrow morning we will fly out to Alabama for debrief. This is where everyone in Nehemiah Teams that has been serving all over the world will meet back together before we all part ways. Sadly, almost everyone on our Mexican team is from different states. We have all gotten really close to each other this summmer, so it's really sad to be saying goodbye to them as well. On the up side, our team took a spontaneous trip to the beach yesterday! It was a great time to hang out, and relax after a long, busy summer. Even though I am sun burned and sleep deprived, it was a lot of fun, and I had a really great time! Well, I think that is it! I'll be spending my day packing up and taking care of some last minute things before we fly out tomorrow morning. Thank you to everyone who has been praying and supporting me this summer. I have had so many awesome experiences, and memories so thank you again to all of you! See you soon! Love, Karen To Him be the Glory!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Village time and Turneo the Futbol!

Hey everyone,
Sorry I'm posting this so late! It seems like as it gets closer to the end of the Summer, the busier we are getting! So this past week was pretty great! On Monday in our village we finally met with the older man whose birthday party was the week before. We went to his house and talked with him for a good amount of time. He listened to a bible story in his heart language and then we talked for a bit. He was explaining to us that now that God has allowed him to live longer, he is becoming more religious. He told us that he prays his rosary every day, and that he never drinks a drop of alcohol, and that he is a very slow to anger man. I told him that those are all great things, but then I asked him if he has confidence that he is going to go to heaven when he dies. He gave me a blank stare and said, "Who knows?" I explained to him that according to the gospel, we can have complete assurance that we will be going to heaven but through Christ alone, and not from our own works. Even after hearing this, the man had a very hard time understanding this. He still insisted that he wasn't sure what would happen to him. He told me that he likes to read his bible, even though it is really long. Please pray that he may have ears to hear, and that he may gain understanding of the promise of eternal life that has been bought for him by Christ.

This week we also were able to talk to L, the lady who we have known, and have been meeting with. Her brother is the man who believes in the religion about a mother God. We began talking about it with her and she told us that he has tried to tell her about this religion, but it just doesn't seem right to her. She told us that she doesn't know too much about the bible, but she knows that what he believes just doesn't feel right to her. She also told us that she doesn't have anyone to teach her about the bible either. We didn't want to be just another person telling her what the "truth" is, so we just encouraged her to read the bible for herself if she wants to learn what the truth is. We told her that many false teachers will come and go, which is why it is so important for her to read the bible for herself so that she will not fall for anything that is not of God. We told her that she can pray to God and ask him to reveal himself to her. She was really interested in what we had to say, which is great! At this point in time, we feel like we have finally gotten past the stranger stage, and now she truly treats us as friends. We feel so much more comfortable talking with her but unfortunately, we will be leaving in a week. I thought 2 months was a long time, but it really isn't. Please be praying for this woman, that she may truly seek God and know him and not be swayed by any false teachings.

Last week, we also had a soccer tournament in another village nearby! My job was translating games and a bible story for the kids. We eagerly put on our warrior paint, and we had a blast! I was able to share the story of David and Goliath with kids. It was a very long and hot day, but a whole bunch of children were able to hear the gospel that day, which was well worth it!

We are down to our last week here in Oaxaca. I've been getting sick a lot, so please be praying for my health during my last week here. Please pray that our whole team may all finish strong, and not give up on our task given to us. Thanks everyone! (:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's a FIESTA!

It’s the end of week six here in Oaxaca, and there are only two weeks left! Thinking about going home makes me happy, yet the thought of leaving everything behind is a little disheartening. I’m learning so much about God, myself, and the world. The thought of leaving this place, during this point in time really makes me sad, but I’m just going to make sure that I make these last two weeks really count! 

So let me give you a recap of this past week. This week, Nick, our media guy came out to our village with us for the week. We really needed to find some new people to help with the translation project so we started off the week looking for some fresh new faces. There are a group of people from the US, Mexico, and Germany that are in the village filming a documentary about the village. It's kind of funny because many of the natives have been mistaking us for documentary staff. Literally every new person we encountered this week asked us how our movie is going. We’ve explained many times that we are not part of the film, but instead we are working on a separate project of translating stories from the bible into their native language. One man who also happens to be a translator for the documentary guys helped us with one of our stories. He was a really great help, but because he is working for the documentary, he is usually busy and isn’t home often. Ultimately, it has been difficult to find people that are available and helpful with the translation project so please continue praying for more open doors as far as help goes. On Wednesday, it was really cool because we were able to go and watch the live process of the story translation. Nick, our media guy, is writing a story on the whole process so I will share that with you all as soon as soon as I can. 

FIESTAAAAA TIME!!! So, we were invited to two fiestas in the village this week! The first one was for the older grandpa that asked us to leave when I shared my testimony last week. The fiesta was really… interesting. We basically hiked up the mountain to get to the house and when we got there a traditional band from the village was playing as they served us our meal. Here’s a funny story... So we were sitting down and they brought the three of us each a really large bowl of soup that had a bunch of stuff floating in it. This stuff sort of looked like scrambled eggs but with shredded chicken in it and chopped up tomatoes and onions.  Then, they gave us a huge pile of GIANT tortillas. And when I say giant I mean HUGE!  They gave us so much of this soup stuff; I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish it. It’s rude to not finish all your food, so I ripped off some pieces of my giant tortilla and I went to work on my huge amount of chunky soup. All of us were trying so hard to finish our food, and we reached a point where we were just way too full, yet there was still so much left! At that moment, I noticed our lady friend next to us picking out all the chunks from her soup, and placing them on a tortilla. Then, she placed two more tortillas on top of her mountain of food and she rolled it all up and put it in a bag. She noticed that I was staring at her so she told me that she was saving the rest for tomorrow. As it turns out, we were never expected to finish all the food they gave us. They intentionally gave us a lot so that we can take most of it home with us- it’s tradition. It was really hilarious, but we still wished that we would have known that valuable piece of information before we had stretched out bellies to the limit. Overall, going to his birthday party was a really great foot in the door. The old man was really glad we came, and he even invited us to come back to his house another day. The village fiesta food experience was totally worth it! (; Fiesta numero dos was also a very humorous evening, but you will have to ask me about that one in person!
This week we took Nick over to visit our lady friend from week one that has been a GREAT help towards our project. She listened to the story of David when he becomes king. She told us right before that she had never heard this story before, and she was really happy to hear it. During the story, Nick noticed that she was tearing up as she was listening to it. She really opened up with us this week and told confessed to us that she stopped reading the bible because a lot of what she read in the Old Testament really bothered her, and because of that, she has never read any of the New Testament. It was a great opportunity for us to talk to her and share with her similar experiences that we have had as well. One huge problem that we really noticed this week is that each time that we begin having spiritual conversations with this woman, her young children begin acting up. They start screaming, running around, and tugging on her apron, which inevitably steals their mother’s attention. They are always really well behaved during the time that we talk to her, but the second the conversation turns to God- they suddenly act out. We are now noticing that this might be spiritual warfare. Please pray against anything that may be going against this work. (Ephesians 6:12)

This week, we experienced something we never thought we would find in this village. So we thought we were just dealing with a weird mix of Catholicism, animism, and syncretism, but this week, something weird happened! We had a really good conversation with the really awesome family that taught us how to make tortillas, and chocolate, and also took us to the old man’s birthday fiesta. The wife of the family told us that they used to be Catholic, but when her husband went to California to work, he came home and told her that he was no longer Catholic because he had found a new church that really followed the teachings from the bible. She explained to us how their lives had changed since then. We were really excited because it really sounded like we had found some believers in the village! But, a few nights ago we sat down with the husband because he wanted to have a bible study with us. We were super excited to get started! We opened our bibles and this man began top direct us to different bible verses and he began “teaching” us what he believes. He started telling us some really crazy ideas that were NOT supported by scripture. His verses that he used were completely stretched and taken completely out of context. I don’t want to take too much time telling you the things he believes, but he thinks that God has another form, which is a woman, and she is our mother. He also believes that we are living in a new time where it is no longer necessary to pray “In the name of Jesus”. I looked up this religion, and this man has been taught an extremely polluted gospel. We listened to him as he explained to us what he has learned at his church, and we tried not to argue, but just to listen. We have plans to talk to him again soon. Please pray for this man and for us. We really need to share with him what the scripture says about salvation. Jesus is the only way. He is the truth, and he is the life. No one can get to the Father, except through him. (John 14:6) We do not want to argue with this man, or point out his flawed theology. We just want to let God speak truth to him and his family through us. Please pray for this whole situation.
I know I’ve already written a lot, but so much happens throughout the week, I really want you all to know all that is going on. Thank you for taking the time to read my posts and thank you for your prayers!
Also, I wanted to share a verse that I read that has been really making me think about my life from a whole new perspective.  Acts 20:24- “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, unless I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” I’m realizing how many lost people are in this world. Jesus has instructed us to go and tell all the nations the gospel of salvation. Please be praying for me as I’m trying to figure out where God wants me in the next chapter in my life. I’m realizing that I have been planning out my life exactly how I want it to be without even taking into consideration what God wants me to do with my life. I don’t want to take the easy way out and ignore God’s plans for me. Here is a really awesome quote that I read, “There is a needs be to give ourselves for the life of the world. An easy, non self denying life will never be one of power. Fruit bearing involves cross bearing. There are not 2 Christs… An easy going one for easy going Christians and a suffering one for exceptional believers. There is only 1 Christ.” – Hudson Taylor

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Village work and 4th of July in Mexico!

I can't believe another week has already gone by! My time here is flying! Thank you for everyone's prayers and awesome e-mails that you all have been sending me. I love you guys!

So this past week, we met a whole new family in the village! We haven't been receiving as much favor in our village as we had been hoping for, but this past week was different. The family we met is really nice! They welcomed us into their home and they were really excited to get to know us and to tell us all about their culture. They told us that they want to show us how to make tortillas, mole, and all kinds of stuff. They even took us to their grandfather's house to help us with our translation project. Older people in our village are really a great help when it comes to helping us with our project because they have a more extensive knowledge of the indigenous language than the younger people in the village. The only problem is that most of the older people that we encounter are a bit slow, and don't understand what it is that we need from them for our project. For instance, the older grandfather that we encountered mostly just wanted to teach us all about the language, rather than help us with claryfying our stories. But, it was completely fine because we have a recording of this man counting to 100 in the native tongue. This is really impressive because most of the younger people can only remember how to count to 30 in their language. The conversation took a sharp turn when the man asked us about what we believed. I began to tell him my testimony and when I reached the part about the time in my life when I realized that we can not earn our salvation through anything that we do, or any church that we go to, but through Jesus alone, the man cut me off and asked us to leave. I've learned that the gospel is offensive, and I just need to let it speak for itself. I've been going through the book of Acts during my time here, and Paul the apostle encountered all kinds of opposition, and persecution while he was spreading the gospel. God even told Paul in Acts 18:9 not to be afraid, to keep on speaking, and not to be silent. I'm learning that opposition is a very normal reaction to the gospel, and i'm learning to really listen to God and not be afraid to share the truth, and to never keep silent.

Throughout the week, we've been really getting to know the new family that we met. They taught Bailey and I how to make home made tortillas, and they also taught us how to mold our chocolate that we grinded up this week. They have also been teaching us how to speak their language. We're having a really great time learning some really hard to pronounce words in their language! We also had a chance to talk to this family about their beliefs. It was really interesting to hear that they do not consider themselves catholic. They told us that the catholic religion has too many rules and reqiurements that are impossible to keep, so they just call themselves "believers". They seem to be really open about talking about God, and discussing the bible, so please continue praying for more
opportunities for this to happen. We will be meeting up with this family again on Sunday for dinner in their home, so please pray for that meeting as well!

Also, on Thursday we finally caught one of our lady friends at home. This is the lady with the younger children that we met during the first week. She has been a great help with the project, and we were able to get some more help on Thursday. We were able to have a nice conversation with her and she told us all about many of the hard ships that she has faced in her life. She is truly a remarkable woman who has been through a lot. She also shared her faith with us. She told us that she also does not consider herself catholic because of the rules from church that she can not keep (there seems to be a trend here.) Although she is not catholic, she still has many idols in her house, and she prays to Mary. We were able to talk to her about that and we shared scripture with her on the subject. She told us that she has been taught that you can not pray directly to God, which is why she must pray to Mary to intercede for her. We explained to her that according to the bible, you can pray to the Father, because of Jesus. Jesus is the bridge between man and God, not Mary. Despite what the bible says, it is still hard for her to understand that she can pray directly to God, because it is so ingrained in her culture that she needs Mary and other saints to intercede for her. I can really understand this, because I was once catholic myself, so I completely understand why she does what she does, and why it is so hard to hear that the bible does not align with those beliefs. Please pray for this woman, as she is struggling with what the truth really is. Pray that she may feel compelled to read the bible, and let God speak to her through his words.

Yesterday was July 5th and our team celebrated the 4th of July.. in Mexico! (we were too busy to celebrate on the actual day) it´s a little strange celebrating a US holiday in another country, but we had fun watching our fireworks display on youtube and we enjoyed eating some home cooked American food!

Well, that's all for this week! Please keep praying:
-for all these people that we have met, and for more open doors in our village
-for unity of our team- love, kindness, gentleness, and humilty towards one another
-for energy and focus

Thanks again for the prayers!
Karen (:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.