Friday, April 18, 2014

Angry

Today was the first day back with the House of Hope kids for a while.  In the midst of adjusting to parenthood this last year, I have spent more time behind the scenes (i.e. fundraising, planning, meeting with the board) than just going to be with the kids.  This year I am excited to start one-on-one tutoring with a few of our kids.

I forgot how infuriating it is.

I sat down with a 9-year-old boy who is new this year.  When he told me his name I thought, "Oooh yeah, I've heard of you."  And in less than 5 minutes, his actions confirmed the negative reputation I've been warned about by multiple people.  He is rude, he is persistently disobedient, he is an instigator, and worst of all, he is apathetic. 

Since I've been away for a while, it was easy for me to remember that although it's entirely frustrating to be around him, there's a reason he is like this.  There's a reason he's so angry.  
And as anyone that works with at-risk youth will tell you, the challenge lies in remembering that there is a reason instead of reacting to their behaviors.

I spend a few hours helping the kids with their homework and starting to talk to Susi (our director) about which kids I should tutor.  I am excited about the opportunity to give one-on-one attention to kids that starve for it.  I am excited about planning ways to motivate them and finding resources to bring them up to grade level.  I am excited about building relationships deeper than just helping with homework.

Then on my drive home, as I turn the corner there is an old lady walking in the middle of the street without a crosswalk.  She stops for me, I stop for her, and she takes her sweet time walking the rest of the way without even acknowledging my favor.  I want to yell sarcastically at her out the window.

I pull up to the driveway and try to open the gate to pull the car in.  Boss and Osita are going crazy because our neighbor adopted a street dog, lets him roam the streets pooping on everyone else's porch, and drives our dogs to bark incessantly.  I want to kill that dog.  Really though, if it comes near, maybe I can "accidentally" run over it with my car...

With Coen in my arms, I try sliding open our gate.  It gets off track and won't move in either direction.  I try lifting it with one arm, no go.  I put Coen down.  Boss attacks him with kisses until he falls over in the dirt.  Why is there dirt everywhere?  Will we ever not live in a freakin' dust bowl?!   I drop the gate, pick Coen back up, and try to get Boss to sit and stay.  He won't, and I am immediately furious at Tracey for not letting me give him up for adoption (Boss, the dog, not our son :) last year when we realized we were in over our heads.  

The neighbor dog is still barking.  Fine.  I will pull the car in later tonight.  Thank you, neighbor, for adopting a street dog so that it can live on our street.  I go again to the gate to try and shut it.  Maybe I'll just leave it open.  I don't even care anymore.  You guys can go poop all over the street, get some exercise, and who cares if you make it back.  I  lift the gate again and it hops to the other side of the track.  Why is everything made in this country a piece of crap?!  The gate finally shuts, I pick Coen up, brush him off, and go inside.  

I am reeling.  

And then I realize, there has to be a reason.  I can't be this angry at an old woman, dogs, and minor house malfunctions.  There is something deeper...

I am angry that this kid is only 9 and he already has his ticket punched.  That even if I spend hours upon hours trying to help him, he may never accept it.  That his parents don't love him the way they should and realistically may have never wanted him in the first place.  That we keep pouring time and energy into our church building and people keep robbing and vandalizing it.  And most of all, that this horrible cycle of poverty is the same one I worked with in Charlotte, and the same one that Jesus said would always be here.

Once again I am reminded of why inner-city teacher burnout takes only 3-5 years.  It takes so much energy to pour everything you are into a job that more than likely doesn't produce the results we want to see, at least not on the larger scale.  We are not going to eradicate poverty or save the world, but somehow we have to keep trying.

As Tracey reminded me after my emotional rant of frustration, we have to remember the individuals we are helping and not get overwhelmed by the entire system.  We can't lose hope for one child's life because we know how the bigger picture works.  And I'm pretty sure that hope is where Jesus has to come in, because it just doesn't make sense to have any without Him.  

Lord, give us your hope.

And in the meantime, help me to recognize the source of my anger so that innocent street dogs may live!      

       
  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Forest Fire

It seems this has been the month for natural disasters here in Chile.  Last weekend a forest fire broke out in Valparaiso, a port city about an hour away from Santiago.  Out of the 250,000 people that live there, 2,500 homes were destroyed.  11,000 people are now homeless.  15 people lost their lives.  


The worst affected areas of the city were the poorest neighborhoods, made up of wooden huts.    

It's times like these that we are not only thankful for the lives and home we have, but we are also thankful that we have been blessed with enough resources to give to those in true need.

Today our church will make a trip to the coast to deliver donations we have been collecting since Sunday.  


Yesterday, we were able to go and purchase about $100 worth of water, blankets, diapers, and baby wipes to send with them. 


To our financial supporters, thank you for giving to us so that we can be blessed and be a blessing to others.  To our prayer supporters, please join us in praying for these families and individuals that have lost so much.     

Valparaiso port city

 The city is made up of 45 hills

 The "cultural capital" of Chile



Saturday, April 12, 2014

What if...

Before we dive into this little whirlwind of love, hate furry and passion, can I make one basic request as well as one promise?

Request:  That you will read this to the end and only stop because of a time constraint not because you can't stomach any of the content.

Promise:  That I am in no means trying to convert you or change your beliefs, stances and/or truths but instead the means, the methods to which you get to those oh so valuable beliefs stances, and/or truths.

Here we go :).

I'm a bit left.  Actually let's be serious I'm way further left than most people would be comfortable with, or maybe people from the USA.  Left like Socialist, I'm not talking about an Obama socialist or any other American Socialist.    We're so centric in the States it's not even funny especially in comparison to the rest of the political world. As it's said, some people's heroes are others terrorists... there's a high possibility that this is true in my case…but that soap box is for another day.

Like I said, I'm not going for converting minds over to my side.  The big thing I want to express here is not politics, economic theories, or ideologies.

It's your blood pressure.  Yeah your heart rate, that's what I want to talk about.

Can I make a few assumptions right quick?  Sorry to over generalize, but we are usually extremely passionate and pretty well set in our thoughts. Politics is one of those lovely dichotomizing thoughts, along with light and fluffy topics like sexual preference, religion, abortion, gun rights etc., that should never be brought up around the table where varieties may exist, which is why homo tables are the best, homogeneous in thought that is :).

Get to the point Tracey, get to the point already.

Everything is set in stone.  We have our "TRUTH" and there is no altering, enlightenment, humanizing.  We're on autopilot.  And when I say we, I really mean me.

If you asked about a year ago, I would have probably said yeah, I'm a very open minded guy, but some interesting moments have made me realize the contrary.

So I found this magazine, Letras Libres.  It's by far my favorite read, a Mexican magazine and for any Spanish speakers out there, an absolute must read.  Check out their website, seriously it's some incredible writing. I always pinned the magazine as left and so I expected left ideas, left advice, left critique. As I'm reading this one particular article on gun violence and firearms in the US, and of course I’m expecting a left tone, left ideas, left advice, I'm thrown for a loop.  The criticisms aren't only not pro-left, but much more pro-right and yet I felt in agreement with much of what was stated.  Who let this filth in my magazine of my views and why is it making some sense?

Another moment: One of the guys I'm disciplining/mentoring at the church were chatting it up one day.  Not sure how it came up, we start talking about the Right-wing dictatorship of the 70s and 80s in Chile.  This as well could be another whole blog with branches of thought to get lost in, but let's not go there, at least not right now.  You can imagine where my stance is on this.  His stance and his family stance on the other hand are completely different.  Did I say that I really look up to this young guy?  Because I do.  I admire even more his mom and dad who are pillars in our Church.  So he explains a bit of his point of view and then says he's going to bring me a book.  This book, El Día Decisivo, is the voice of Pinochet, the dictator.  Just to give you a taste of what went on, thousands of people were disappeared, concentration camps, torture, hundreds of people tossed to their Pacific graves with railroad beams solidifying their eternal silencing...  Well I just finished reading El Día Decisivo.  Very very interesting, yes a lot of lies were presented as truth, and again, we don't have time to truly unfold this monster completely.  By no means did it validate or justify his actions.  No, my basic ideas didn't change, but this bit of my understanding has grown.  This man that I once saw as pure evil did at one point seem to have his ducks in a row, very human like, a dad who loved his little girls just like I love my little guy.

So...

What if I could be wrong about my understanding, my side of the reinforced chasm of you and me, us and them?

What if I only feed my thoughts with things, people, article and podcasts that are going to embed my own thoughts that much deeper?

What if I never dare to step out on one of those oh so shunned and looked down upon slippery slopes where answers don't look scantron-ish (remember, those rectangular strips that we took all our major tests on in high school, where the only answers are A. B. C. or D.), but rather complex, difficult and did I say complex?

Better yet,

What if our societies become so entrenched in our ideologies and passions that growth is stunted and we digress all the while thinking we have made great strides by holding strong to our one sidedness?

What if you believe you have one absolute truth and see that as a pass to put everything else in absolute truths as well?

What if we're wrong, you can read into how you like, but what if I am wrong and all non-my thoughts fall on deaf ears, my deaf ears?

There's this verse in the Bible that says I, since I'm a follower of Christ, should be quick to listen, slow anger and slow to speak.  My goodness have I ever twisted and contorted that.  Yeah, I'll listen to and contemplate over someone else’s opinion, as long as I’ve already filtered all the nonsense out, which leaves me in a nice, neat, non-complex box of mirrors.  

So what’s my plan of action to change my ways?  I'm trying to listen and not just the "physical listening" but truly opening my mind to perspectives and ideas that I have often discarded, with much rage and fury at times, that didn't square with me.

In moments, days and years to come I want to –

- be intentional about the increasing the variety of inputs that I'm pouring into my noggin’ (No, this doesn't mean I'm listening to everything but that I'm asking myself, are my inputs truly diversified and enriching my thoughts or simply demonizing the other side while glorifying mine?)
- not have dialogues, days and relationships based off of how right I might be, but rather start with the question, "Is there any itsy-bitsy way in which I could be wrong?
- be quick to listen, slow to anger and really slow to speak.


We’ll see how it goes.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Earthquake

Thanks to everyone who has checked in with us regarding this last earthquake.  It was off the Northern coast, so we did not feel a thing.  Thankfully all the tsunami warnings for the entire coast have been lifted as of this morning, but there were over 900,000 evacuated last night so please keep the country in your prayers!  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Coen

This kind of gratitude cannot be put into words! 























We love you Coen!  We are thankful to God for your life and that we are able to be your parents.  Happy 1st Birthday!

Friday, February 28, 2014

February Update - A Year Later

I've been meaning to write this blog for about 8 months now :)  It seems appropriate to share it for this month's update, not because it's the month of love, but because it is exactly 1 year after we asked you to pray very specifically for our marriage as we become parents and as we continue working together.

If you missed that, you can watch it here.



At that point we had been living in Chile for about a year and a half and had a month left before we became parents.  Our first year in Chile was rough on our marriage.  Being isolated in the midst of so many external stresses and changes poured a lot of tension between us.  Sharing an 8x8 ft. bedroom in another family's house for 6 months, having the exact same job with no clear job description, and going from an incredible community of friends in Charlotte to 0 friends in Santiago didn't help much either.


Obviously it wasn't all bad, and I'm not trying to be overdramatic.  Just giving the true background.  


So going into those last few months of pre-parental-life, we knew our relationship was about to leap into another huge transition.  This is when we asked you to pray for us.  It's not every day that we can say God answered our prayers exactly the way we wanted Him to.  But this is one of those times, and we want to not only thank God for that, we want to thank every one who took the time to pray for us and our marriage.

Because we have rocked that transition.

It's like, we don't know, something just clicked.  We figured out how to be parents together.  We figured out how to be better coworkers, each individually finding our own roles and relying on each other more.  We have had a lot of outside stresses, but instead of causing tension and division, they have made us a stronger team.  

Fighting the Chilean medical system together

Getting kicked out of our home together and being forced to move.  Again.

Crying together at the airport as we said goodbye to our families

Being those crazy Gringo parents that have weird ways of raising their kid
[Swaddle = "Baby straightjacket" according to Chileans] 


And we have learned so much together...


Raising a kid

Balancing work with family

Running a business effectively

Perfecting "in-house" date nights


Do we always get along?  Of course not.  At the end of the day we are still humans, trying to be more like Jesus, but coming short every time.  We are also very different in a lot of ways, and often don't understand each other :)  And that's ok.  

It has been an amazing year of growth for us as a couple.  Thank you for your love, support, and encouragement to us in this area!





Valentine's Day 2013


Valentine's Day 2014



March Prayer Requests 

1) To find peace and rest in God even though we have so many questions and doubts
2) To find a small group this year
3) Planning Sunday School and House of Hope as the school year begins



For an added bonus, check out Tracey's 30th birthday poem to me that was featured on our friend Laci's blog :)  You can't tell but it's 30 lines, each one added another word until 15 and then back down to 1.  I was impressed!