Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My bag boots got ruined in the end.

So the music ministry at the church here in El Recreo has a Monday night Bible study each week and we have been studying the book of James for the last couple months. It's going great. Not only are we getting a lot out of hanging out together for a couple hours a week outside of church services and band practices, we're also getting a lot out of studying James. It is really rewarding to see the good work that God is doing with this group of musicians. James is all about taking our faith and putting it into practice. He is all about the practical…not just professing faith but showing it. And the message is sinking in which is so awesome to see. Last week we finished up chapter one. James says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." We read it and I asked if they know any orphans or widows. And we talked about that passage for a while and what James means by it and what it means for us. And all of a sudden José’s face lights up, and his hand shoots up in the air and he says, “Magdalena is a widow!! And she needs someone to build her bridge!”

Magdalena's husband Byron died a few years ago of a heart attack and she was forced to leave her home with her children because she could no longer afford it without her husband's income. She had to find a piece of land outside of town in the marsh area called "La Invasión". She and her children live in a house made of bamboo, up on stilts because when the heavy rains come during the winter months, La Invasión is under 3 feet of water. During these months, bridges are a necessity. If you don't have a bridge that connects your house to the other bridges which lead out to the main road in the city, then you're stuck in your house for the duration of the winter...unless you have a boat. Magdalena's bridge, like everyone's, gets damaged every year during the summer, and she has to rebuild for the winter. When the first rain comes and softens the ground, everyone starts repairing old bridges and building new ones, and hopefully they finish before the next rain.

We all went to her house last Wednesday morning and dug holes for posts, cut beams for the bridge, and began putting it all together. It was fun to see the guys in the band working--serving--in a different way than what we are used to doing (leading worship during church services). And it was a blessing to see that not only Magdalena was being blessed, the band received blessing as well. And, on a who's-laughing-now note, everybody here makes fun of me for saving plastic grocery bags after I go shopping. But, they came in pretty handy after all. So...I think I've earned the Eagle Militia plastic-bag-work-boots badge for my thriftiness and quick thinking in the face of mud.

Anyway, we didn't get the bridge done, but we got about half of it done, and someone else went to finish her bridge
on Sunday, so now her bridge connects to the bridge in front of her neighbor's house. But the thing is, all the neighbors' bridges connect to each other on the way into town. In other words, they all depend on each other when it comes to these bridges. If somebody doesn't get theirs build, then everyone beyond them can't get into town when it's flooded. And Magdalena lives about half a mile off the main road and there are a lot of bridges that need to be build between her and the main road. So now she's just waiting on the rest of her neighbors to build their bridges so she can have a way to get into town when it rains.

I am excited to see what other kinds of ideas we will have as we continue this study. I'm excited to be a part of what God is doing with the band here, and most of all, I am excited that we've moved the Bible study on Monday nights to my house instead of at the church because I can not handle the crickets anymore. They are monstrous and crawly and yucky and jumpy and there are thousands of them and they jump and fly and scurry all over the place and I do not like them. And by the grace of the Lord, they don't come in my apartment. I think He knew I wouldn't be able to handle it if they did. So we meet in my apartment now.

Please keep me in your prayers as I continue working with the music ministry at the church in El Recreo--that I might make a positive impact on this group of musicians. And pray for my health...it's been not that great, and I don't want it to get worse with the rainy season. Thank you for your support and encouragement!!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

"Fixed the newel post!"

Merry Christmas everyone! And a happy New Year as well. My holiday season this year has been interesting, that's for sure. This is the first year that I've celebrated Christmas and New Year somewhere far away from home, and I experienced a big mix of homesickness and excitement. I really missed taking the annual family Christmas photo in front of the tree in the living room. And I am sorry to say, I was sorely disappointed when I saw the family photos this year. Just look for yourself!

It is an outrage! Not one family member made a dumb face. Everyone is looking in the general direction of the camera. It's all smiles. Dad's not even in the middle of a sentence! And I have to ask...what will become of my poor nieces and nephew without their Aunt Amy's encouragement of self-expression during the Christmas photos each year? I don't know. I just don't know. I feel I have let them down. I've let the whole family down. I know how much my mom enjoys examining the Christmas pictures each year looking for the one with the least amount of shenanigans possible so she can add it to the Christmas album. I'm sorry, Mom. I will make every effort to be present for Christmases to come.

In any case, even though I was homesick, I was still looking forward to my first Ecuadorian Christmas. I had plans to go to my future-in-laws' house for a midnight dinner followed by walking around town wishing a Feliz Navidad to the neighbors and all our friends, delivering some Christmas cookies and hanging out until the sun came up the next day. This, apparently, is how they roll down here. I spent the 23rd and 24th baking. I made fudge and butterballs and candycane cookies from the recipes (and ingredients) my mom sent me. I watched the most classic of Christmas movies to get into the spirit of things.

I arranged all the cookies on plates and wrapped them up, I took a shower, I put on some semi-new clothes. Ismael came to get me and we were about ready to walk out the door to go to dinner when all of a sudden...the stomach virus I had unknowingly caught unleashed itself. I will not say anymore about the unleashing.

About a half an hour later I thought I would be ok so we went ahead and walked to his house where everyone was starving and anxiously awaiting our arrival to eat the Christmas dinner. Well...I should have stayed home. I didn't even make it five minutes into the dinner before feeling yuckier than before. And I felt like I kind of ruined things for everybody else. I think they all envisioned their Christmas dinner a little differently. So, that was a bust.

The highlight of the holiday, however, was the gift I received from my future in-laws. They got me a shirt. It's black and it's got writing on the front. Not just any writing...it's gold, sparkly, studded...your general bling. And it says, no joke, "My boyfriend is cuter than yours" so...that is awesome. And the absolute best part was that it's written in English, so they had no idea what it said when they bought it. I opened it and they go, "what does it say? I hope it's nothing bad" hahaha. nice! They were very excited to find out what it was exactly that they bought me. So... awesome, indeed.

All this took place in a span of about 15 minutes. So...that was my Christmas. I spent the next six days suffering the symptoms of the stomach infection, followed by symptoms of an allergic reaction to the first antibiotics I was given, and pondering why, exactly, I decided so long ago not to pursue a career in North American theater. Ismael took good care of me and made sure I was well-fed. He brought me soup, which he made. He even cleaned my house for me while I was out of commission for a while. What a guy! He took me to see a doctor (my appointment was at 10:30pm December 29th...who makes appointments for 10:30pm??) and I got some antibiotics that I am not allergic to, which was great. That seemed to do the trick. More or less. And I was able to enjoy the New Year's celebration.

New Year was awesome. The "celebration" at midnight sounded more like a civil war than anything. Looked like one too. Much different than yelling "happy new year!" and playing with noise makers and party poppers for about 30 seconds after the stroke of midnight.

In Ecuador they burn the old year. Literally. They make these dolls out of wood and paper mache and then at midnight all the neighbors gather in the street and they all pile their dolls (the "old years") on top of each other and they pour on some lighter fluid and voila! New Year's celebration to the max.

Well, in other good news. The Guayaquil airport has got The Wireless. So...it seems worth it to make a weekly trip to the airport café so that I can actually upload pictures and video and that is what I will be doing. Thanks for hanging in there with me while I get this internet communication deal all figured out. Hope you're all doing well and that you had a happy Christmas and New Year.