Sunday, January 25, 2015

Learning in Mexico - Thoughts from Six Months After

Six months ago, I boarded a plane for Mexico City, imagining a week full of kids wanting cuddles, smiles, and laughter.  I expected that my first missions trip would radically change my life.

Then, I landed in Mexico City exhausted from flying for six hours.  I spent a week there that was 180 degrees away from what I expected.  I came home confused and sad.

Instead of the kids being energetic and cuddly, they were reserved and quiet.  And worse than that, I felt as though they would rather play with someone else on my team.  I was awkward, out-of-place, and hurt.


I could clearly tell that God wanted me to go to Mexico.  Leading up to the trip, God provided the funds in amazing ways.  When I was worried or excited, He gave me a wonderful friend (you know who you are!) who felt similarly to talk through things with.  Throughout it all, He kept reminding me that He was in control and was preparing the way for me to go.

When things did not happen as I had hoped and expected in Mexico, I did not understand why God wanted me there.  One day, late in the week, I opened my Bible to Ezekiel 8:5-6, which says,

"Then he said to me, “Son of man, look toward the north.” So I looked, and in the entrance north of the gate of the altar I saw this idol of jealousy.  And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing—the utterly detestable things the Israelites are doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see things that are even more detestable.” (emphasis mine)

I realized that I had been jealous of the way others seemed to fit right in and that this jealousy was stopping me from doing things I should.  With just a couple days left, I re-surrendered this trip to God.

Then, on the last day, I met Miss C.  She seemed sad, so I walked up to her.  Unfortunately, I did not seem to cheer her up; instead, she started to cry.  I tried to find out why but could not.  I ended up walking away for a bit.  But, I knew I had to go back, so I gathered all my courage and went back to where she was sitting.  We started to talk, and she wrote me notes.  For the rest of the day, we giggled and struggled to communicate and laughed some more.  This girl made my whole week seem brighter and remembering her encouraged me after I got back.

However, I still had a lot to process because the week turned out much differently than I had expected and hoped.  After praying and thinking and praying and thinking and praying, I was able to see that God did indeed have a reason for me to be there.  Looking back, I can see that God was teaching me that serving Him elsewhere is just as hard as serving Him here.  He was also teaching me that He has gifted me specially and I need to look to Him for strength.

Today, I have been back from Mexico for six months.  It is not often that a day goes by without me thinking of Mexico and the people I met there and the team I went with.  Since being back, God has used the things I experienced there to teach me and change me.  While it wasn't always easy, I know that He used it, and is using it, for good!




photo credit: my team and I

Monday, November 17, 2014

3 Things I Learned About Communicating With a Language Barrier

When I was in Mexico and since I have been back, I have been confronted with the reality of communicating with a language barrier.  Sometimes this results in a laugh...or it can result in frustration.  But, rarely, will it turn out as it would if the two of us both knew the same language.

Here are three things I have learned about communicating with a language barrier:

  1. Just go with it.  If you're like me, you may want everything to make sense and flow nicely together.  This likely won't happen, and that's okay!  Your conversation may go in a different direction and end up being better than you thought it would :)
  2. Google translate isn't as smart as we'd all like to think it is!  When I translated high school to Spanish, it told me it was secundaria.  Well, that would actually be middle school in Mexico.  High school is preparatoria.  Try explaining that one in Google translate!
  3. This may be one of the most amazing things you ever do.  I am serious.  In Mexico, it provided much amusement.  At home via the internet, I have been immensely blessed to stay in touch with many of my Mexican friends.  The language barrier has definitely helped make some memorable instances! :)

Here's the deal, don't let the language barrier scare you!  It's really not that scary.  It can be fun.  It will be a blessing!  And as an added bonus, you might even learn more of the other language.


---

I plan on writing more about Mexico very soon!  And, I have some special guest posts for you soon too :)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Learning to Disciple in Argentina

Today, my friend Hannah is sharing about her trip to Argentina.  Hannah has a heart for children, for people less fortunate than herself, and for sharing Jesus's love!  I am so grateful to have her over here today.  When I read her post, I was encouraged, and I hope that you are too!  Follow Hannah's journeys at her blog Because of Shamim.

--------


I traveled to Argentina in 2008…just after graduating from college. I wasn’t sure what God had for me next, but I felt a clear calling to be in Argentina for the summer.

When I left, I thought we were going to be working with orphans, doing Bible studies with Argentina believers, learning how to share the gospel and disciple others, volunteering at a local church and at a local Christian school. And we did, in part.

We spent two afternoons at the orphanage and on another occasion, had the older orphans over to our house to play soccer and other games and to eat. The orphanage was a wonderful home led by a sweet couple that devoted their lives to the kids.



We did attend Bible studies with church members. We did have an adventure in the city of Buenos Aires selling literature and sharing the gospel. I did learn how to disciple, not in the way I thought, though (more about that in a minute). And we did volunteer at the church…I swept their half dirt, half tiled floor (they added tiles as they could afford them), cleaned their bathrooms, washed dishes, and helped participate in skits. I was able to spend time with the teens at the Christian school, schooling the guys in soccer (just kidding), going out for lunch with the girls, being there to hear their struggles after they listened to a testimony of a teammate.



But most of my time was spent in our house, washing dishes, cleaning floors and bathrooms, taking out trash, cooking 2+ meals a day for large groups of people, shopping, and talking. Talking, talking, talking. Many of my teammates from the US had difficult pasts. Very difficult. And many of them hadn’t taken the time to grieve and to pray and to ask God for healing. So unlike we were expecting, much of the summer was spent with our Argentine leaders…praying, learning to sit in silence with God for hours, crying with teammates over past trauma, celebrating as they learned to leave it behind.

So I did learn to disciple…through the amazing example of my Argentine leaders, Martin and Marisol, I learned to disciple. Maybe I was not discipling Argentines, like I was expecting, but I learned so much. I didn’t see it at the time. I came home wondering if being “mom” that summer had been worth my time.

I loved Argentina. It’s in my blood now…Spanish speakers who I meet even say I speak like an Argentine. I drink mate (their tea) every day still. I am teaching my kids with an Argentine accent. But the trip wasn’t what I expecting. I came home wondering; wondering if I had used my time wisely. Wondering what was next. Should I go back to Argentina to work with the orphans this time? Should I look for long-term missions?

What came next were graduate school, teaching college math, and tutoring math. And along with tutoring was the opportunity to start a Bible study. Many of my students from tutoring came to Bible study. And I had the opportunity to disciple! I was able to use those skills learned in Argentina! That’s when stuff started to make sense. I wondered why I had gone, I wondered why Argentina was in my heart and yet I had to be in the USA for the time. And then through tutoring, I met my husband. I now see why God had me stay in the States!


God taught me a lot while there…a lot about my pride, He reminded me of sins against my parents that I had not confessed. He showed me how to disciple others, how being a mom is valuable…cooking food, shopping and just being in the kitchen to talk can reach the hearts of many! He taught me how I can love Argentina and the rest of Central and South America via instilling that love in my kids and supporting Compassion kids. I would love to go back, but for now I am enjoying my time of being a stay-at-home mom in the States. Who knows what God has in store?

So I would just encourage you—if you have gone through something in life that didn’t look like you expected, God had a purpose! He is at work. I love Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it in the day of Jesus Christ,” (NKJV).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Learning in Mexico

     
I haven't written much about Mexico...at least not on here.  I have had a lot to process.  If you have been on a missions trip or something similar, I think you might understand what I am saying.  Being there was hard, not because I saw people who had nothing but because I felt like I was doing nothing to help them.

Mexico was not what I expected.  It wasn't picture-perfect.  It wasn't a big event that made me do a one-eighty.

But, it was good.  It was beautiful.  It was life-changing.  Mexico reminded me of things I'd learned and of how much I still have to learn.

















I have been struggling to share about Mexico with honesty, showing how beautiful and hard it was.  As I e-mailed some friends who had also gone on missions trips, I realized I was not alone.  Almost everyone who has traveled overseas experienced something completely different than they expected.  I would venture to say that many people came back exhausted and filled with questions.

And that is okay!

With prayer and processing, one comes to see that God had a plan through it all and that He is making a much more beautiful picture than we could have ever made ourselves.

 

So I want to encourage all of you who have traveled and all of you who want to by this next series of posts.  Some of my wonderful writing friends and I will be sharing about mission trips we went on that did not turn out how we had hoped.  It is my hope that through each post you will be able to see that when God brings you to something, He will use you and teach you in it.

And He will bless you abundantly in it.

<3 Lizzie

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Eduardito

Through Cycle4Compassion, a very special little boy is sponsored.  His name is Mainor Eduardo, and he lives in El Salvador.

Eduardito with some gifts I was
able to send him in February

Some of you may remember how I chose him to be the recipient of the fundraiser, how I had his soon-expiring child packet, and how I knew that he was mine.  I am so glad that Cycle4Compassion provided a way for me to sponsor him.  He has been such a blessing in my life.  

His sweet tutor helps him write me letters.  For the past two years, he asked me to pray for his mom's job in almost every letter.  He told me recently about how his friend and brother also have sponsors who love them :)


Eduardito (as he likes to be called) enjoys going to the beach and local pool with his mom and brother.  He goes fishing with his grandpa.  He draws me beautiful pictures and thanks me for every single thing I send him. 

Through his local Compassion project, he learned about Jesus and accepted Him into his heart!  

This is Cycle4Compassion, friends, a child learning about Jesus, responding to His free gift and continuing in a relationship with Him.

As Eduardito continues to attend the project, he continues to learn about Jesus.  He is encouraged that God has a plan for his life.  I believe God does have a purpose and plan for Eduardito's life, and I am so excited to see it unfolding!

-----

If you would like to learn more about or donate to Cycle4Compassion, please visit Cycle4Compassion 2014! or e-mail me at lizzie4compassion@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cycle4Compassion 2014!!!

Well, the time is coming for the third annual Cycle4Compassion!  I am so excited for what this year will hold.


Here's some of the highlights from the last two years:

Cycle4Compassion 2012 

The bike-a-thon began in 2012.  After going door-to-door for donations, I rode twenty-five kilometers in the rain with my dad and sister.  It was the hardest bike ride ever!  It was also very rewarding, though.  God led me to sponsor Eduardo in El Salvador with the funds raised.

(The ride: Cycle4compassion  Sponsoring Mainor Eduardo: Mainor- Part Two)


Cycle4Compassion 2013

The ride was easier last year than in 2012 but the actual fundraising was more difficult.  I went door-to-door as I did the year before, but hardly anyone was home or wanted to donate.  The night before the ride, I was about $90 short.  I prayed that God would provide.  I woke up the next morning and checked for online donations - none.  I went to church, but no one handed me donations.  I came home and found out that my grandma's friend had donated!  That combined with after-the-ride donations brought me to a total of $582!

(The ride: Cycle4Compassion: an Update!)


As I said above, I know Cycle4Compassion 2014 will be amazing too!

Stay tuned - I will be posting later this week about Eduardo.

Until then though, would you please check out my fundraising page and prayerfully consider donating?  I can't do this without you!  Thank you so much!!

Cycle4Compassion 2014! (fundraising Page)

Monday, September 1, 2014

The 10 Best Things about Mexico

In no particular order, here are ten of my favorite things about Mexico:

1. the cheese.....seriously, the best. cheese. ever.  I've heard it called queso fresco, which is fresh cheese.  Just imagine mozzarella but a million times better!

2. real fajitas.....I hate to tell you all, but until you've had a Mexican fajita, all you've had are fake fajitas (or tacos, etc.).  Real fajitas have queso fresco, chicken with peppers, and wonderful, small tortillas.  Friends, it doesn't get any better than that, and you can only get that in Mexico!

3. the people.....they were so friendly, gracious, and helpful.  I met a Mexican uni student on the plane down to Mexico.  She was so friendly and interested in what we would be doing.  She even gave us her contact info and told us if we needed anything, she would help us.  Every individual I met was just as thoughtful and gracious.

4. the church.....on Sunday, we went to a church service.  It was incredible.  Everyone was so full of joy.  It was a blessing to be at the church service!

5. the music.....oh my goodness, the music!  Mexican Christian music is the most beautiful music ever.  On Sunday, the worship team did an incredible job.  The music just had so much energy.  Then in the taxi to the airport on Friday, the driver heard that we were Christians and put on a Mexican Christian music station.  Already emotional because of all that happened that week and because I was leaving, I could hardly keep from crying.  The music was beautiful.

6. the kids.....okay, I love playing with all kids.  The kids in Mexico though were so gracious despite my inability to speak or understand their language.  They were precious, and I miss them every single day since I've been back.

7. el espaƱol.....let's be real, Spanish is beautiful, and we all know it.  Hearing it spoken every day was tough because I couldn't understand (and that's frustrating!), but it was also wonderful.  I so miss hearing it every day.  I miss saying "gracias" and "hola" and "Dios te bendiga" and it being normal.

8. laughing.....with the language barrier, there was sometime quite the confusion.  Perhaps the instance that I smile about the most was when a sweet mom came up to me and spoke in Spanish.  She said something that was long.  And I did not understand a single word.  (I often could catch one or two words.)  I must have looked so bewildered because when I looked at the pastor's son and his friend, they were laughing at me.  I was laughing too because I realized how silly I must have looked.  But, we laughed a lot.  Going to Mexico with the best people ever, the reality is...you are going to laugh a lot.

9. Starbucks.....I had never been to a Starbucks in the US.  We went to one in Mexico City.  I did not get anything, but I found it amusing to hear about Starbucks all week long.  I am sure that if I did get something, it would have been the best one ever.  That is how Mexico is....everything there is better than it is here.

10. family.....in Mexico, I met some of my family in Christ.  It was such a blessing.  They taught me so much.  They are wonderful people, and I miss them so much.  I loved working alongside my amazing family.  It was my favorite part of the trip.


Mexico will forever be in my heart.