Thursday, December 11, 2014

99 Books for Christmas

We have been working on creating a "Reading Corner" at House of Hope.  I was beyond excited when this idea came not from me, but from our director, Tia Susi.   

 Tia Susi with Guillermo

So we found a fun rubber carpet (is that what you call them?) and some bean bag chairs that are so comfy!

With the help of some donations from individuals and churches from the States, we have already been able to buy a shelf of brand new, colorful and engaging books!  Books here are extra expensive since for some reason Chile puts a "luxury" tax on them.  Our kids aren't used to seeing new books in their classrooms, and definitely don't have any of their own at home.

 Even our kids that don't know how to read or "don't like to read" loved exploring through these new books!  The day I brought the second load in (of about 30 different books) was one of my most favorite in my 3 years of working here.  We sat on the carpet and just had fun together exploring all the new stories and books on science and countries around the world.   

The last phase of our Reading Corner creation was an idea by a dear friend of mine (who also happens to be our first goEnglish client ever!) who suggested we do a book drive to collect more books.  

When I asked Tracey what he thought our goal should be, he responded, "Well what would be a number that just seems crazy?"

I thought.... "100?"

"Well, there ya go."

Plus, if we make it 99, it makes a nice alliteration in Spanish :) 

So we have 2 more weeks to collect this crazy amount of new and used books!  We have invited all of our IAM Santiago churches to participate, as well as my friend's church and home school community.  We have already met 1/5 of our goal and I have no doubt we'll exceed it.  I love watching God provide in ways we could never do on our own, and I love opportunities to get the Church together to allow Him to work through us.     

 The boss, Coen Tia Susi

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Gratitude as a Discipline

Well my goal was to post this sometime in November, but you see how that went ;)

This was a post I wrote as a guest writer on my friend Laci's blog.  She's got some other great guest posts on gratitude and Thanksgiving if you want to check them out!

Gratitude as a Discipline

Sometimes it’s hard to remember to be thankful.  Or maybe it’s not that we don’t remember, but that we rely too heavily on the “feeling” of gratitude.  Things get hard and our perspective becomes jaded; we can only see what’s right in front of us instead of remembering the bigger picture. 

We get a lot of visitors from the States here, mostly on short-term mission trips.  Now, before you get the idea that we live in impoverished dirt huts, our life in Chile is far from it.  Like any other country, it has its rich and its poor.  By U.S. standards, we live in the lower middle class section of Santiago.  But GDP aside, there are significant differences in comfort levels and life opportunities available to the people of our community versus our community in the States. 

That said, we get a lot of… “reflections”, let’s say :) , from our visitors. 

“I couldn’t believe how happy they were, having so little…”

“It really makes me realize how much opportunity we have in the States…”

“I just can’t believe how little supplies and how many students the classrooms have…”

“Wait, you guys don’t have indoor heating?”

And so on, and so forth :) 

I won’t pretend I haven’t been in their position in the past, or even in my present during my less-disciplined moments.  But I have learned so much about practicing gratitude as a discipline instead of waiting for it to come to me as an emotion.

Because if it is gratitude sparked from prideful or pitying comparison, it just seems tainted to me… 

Like waiting for someone else to get cancer to realize that you are thankful for your health…

Or being grateful for your family only when you see the dysfunction or hardships in others’…

Or acknowledging the economic freedom and opportunities you have only when you read about countries that are in a worse state… 

The truth is, we are all surrounded by these gifts, we only have to acknowledge them.  And then how can gratitude not naturally well up from that recognition??

So let’s not wait for gratitude to come to us.  I don’t know about you, but there aren’t many great things in life that just “come” to me.  If I want to be in shape, I have to work out.  If I want to get better at Spanish, I have to study more and allow people to correct me when I make mistakes.  If I want a good marriage, I have to be intentional about loving Tracey more than I love myself. 

 Language learning is hard for everyone.

None of these things are natural desires that come easy.  Like any other discipline, it is something to be practiced.  But the practice is always worth the result! 

A few years ago I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it.  She challenges you to make an actual, physical list of one thousand things you are thankful for.  Obviously, once you get past the obvious ones, (family, friends, health, etc.) it takes some thinking to get to a thousand.  Which is the point: it teaches you how to actively observe and acknowledge the gifts in your life.  It changes the way you think throughout the day and your overall level of awareness.  It allows you to recognize and receive new gifts, more than you thought you had in the first place.

I started a little journal with a numbered list that I like to use, writing down a few things each day regardless of how I feel.  My sister-in-law gave us a “gratitude jar” where you write your gifts on post-it notes, stick ‘em in the jar, and then read them all at the end of the year.  I’m sure there are a million creative ways of doing it, but the point is to make it a consistent discipline.  If we want to be grateful people, we have to take time to practice!  We have to choose to acknowledge and allow ourselves these gifts that we are often too busy to recognize.   

Here’s to practicing gratitude, not just in November, but in every moment!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hurry Up and Wait

I am not very good at waiting.  

I try to make the best of it by filling it with productive things to make the time worthwhile.  If I know I'm going to have to wait at the Dr.'s office, (after waiting on the bus and the metro to get there,) I catch up on reading and/or podcasts.  If I find myself with unexpected downtime on the run, I can always update the agenda or make lists for things I can do later.  If I have to wait on more important things, like an answer from God on what our future holds, I try to get as many things planned out and/or completed based on different possibilities He may present us.  (As if I even knew all the possibilities He is capable of!)

 Long lines are boring

I have a lot of dear friends in my life right now who also find themselves in a season of waiting:  Waiting for the pain of loss to stop hurting so much... Waiting for a deadline to approach to know what the next job/phase of life holds... Waiting at 41 weeks for the moment when she'll finally become a mother (Oh how I empathize so much!)...  Waiting for reconciliation and healing from a broken relationship...

It is hard to give counsel when the last thing a person wants to hear is, "It'll just take time..."  Because that is what makes waiting hard.  It takes time = It is completely out of your control.  There is nothing you can do to hurry the process, and there is no way to gain control of the situation.

So I have been wanting to know, live, and experience...  

What does it mean to wait on the Lord?

According to how it's used in the Bible, waiting on the Lord means: to bind together, look patiently, hope, expect, look eagerly, trust, wait in hope.

I once heard or read somewhere that "wait" is just as much an active verb as any other.  It doesn't mean that life pauses until something seemingly more important happens.  Which, looking back at my life thus far, I would have to agree: My most formative seasons have been in between the "big events," the times of uncertainty and/or trials where I have no other option but to hope in and trust God to put me back on my feet and tell me where to go and what to do.

So what can make the waiting worthwhile?

Here's what I just got from reading and praying through Psalm 37:7-9:
- Rest in the Lord: stop trying to control things on my own
- wait patiently: this requires the Holy Spirit, again something I can't do on my own (patience)
- Do not fret: 2 references in 3 verses, must be important
- Do not worry: "Worry leads to evildoing.." 
- Those who WAIT will inherit the land: Land = God's promises for my life
- Not fretting because of him who prospers: Stop looking at/comparing myself to others

It seems that there are two ways to wait: 

1) Try to retain a (false) sense of control by acting in ways that are either productive or destructive distractions.  Looking at others, worrying, desiring to have the knowledge of the future for myself. 
2) Waiting on and with God: surrendering control and my desire for knowledge, expecting God to fulfill His promises in His own timing, refusing to compare myself to others, relying on the Holy Spirit to give me patience in the process. 

 "But I don't want to!!!"

Oh yeah, "Rest in the Lord and don't worry!"  I know these are obviously not easy tasks.  And I know that is the point: None of these things are natural desires or abilities we hold on our own.  If it is to be a holy, worthwhile, waiting, it can only be done with the power of God's spirit in us.  

If you as well find yourself in a season of waiting, I want to encourage you at the same time as reminding myself of these truths every day.  God has a promised land for us, and it will most definitely not come in the timing and in the ways we are even capable of imagining!  So let's just embrace it, embrace the unknown, and grow even closer to Him by trusting that what He's got for those of us who can wait with Him will be far greater than anything we could ever create on our own.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Life

House of Hope is located in the poorest neighborhood of the poorest comuna (county) of Santiago.  We have a 3 story building that started out as a church about a decade ago.  The church planted the ministry of House of Hope and it was staffed and supported by its members.  When the church died, the ministry survived.  We often joke that House of Hope is "the ministry you just can't kill off," because it has survived through drastic losses of both personnel and finances.  

When I first got there a little over 2 years ago, I remember the building feeling creepily empty.  There were 3 floors, but our House of Hope kids used only one room on the first floor, the kitchen, and one on the second.  There was a huge gym that was super run down and always had trash, broken glasses, and junkyard type things laying around everywhere.  The only "working" bathroom had a toilet that didn't really flush, with a door that didn't really close.  The front gate didn't really close either, and there was always trash from the neighborhood blowing in under the fence.  The rooms were painted, but everything was dirty.  Upstairs was even worse - parts of walls were just missing, dust and dirt covered the floors, and there were water stains in the ceilings that had already started sinking in.  

Even though I watched our kids playing in those places, the building just looked completely deserted.  

The Tias (teachers and women that work with the kids) were overflowing with love for the kids, but incredibly under supported and alone in the work.  Since there was no church (including for them personally,) there weren't many other people involved in the ministry.  

Here we are now, 2 years later...  and so much has changed!

One of the many physical improvements of the building - Doors for our classroom! 

A few weeks ago we had our "Kids Day" party and invited kids and families from around the neighborhood.  I don't know how to describe it other than it felt like New Life was in this place.  I talked to different women from the neighborhood as we watched our kids play soccer in the gym.  One told me she started coming to our church services, another to the Tuesday prayer meetings, another to the biweekly Zumba classes that bring about 80 women from the community into our gym.  

The church restarted this past March, meeting every Saturday night.  They recently began meeting to pray every Tuesday night. 

Prayer Meeting

The building is opened up to the community throughout the week - Zumba classes for women in the mornings, a safe place for kids and teens to come skate every week night, and a computer lab that will hopefully provide skills and basic computer teaching for community members wanting to learn.

                                                    A schedule for weekly events

Future skater

With the continued support of churches and individuals here and in the States, House of Hope has not only been able to continue its daily ministry, but we've been able to give the kids some really cool first experiences:

First time playing in the snow

First trip to the movie theater 

We are also planning a "Reading Corner" (bestill my heart!) so the kids have a cozy place to sit on a bean bag and read an age-appropriate book that interests them.

Even the Tias have enjoyed some of our new books :)

All of these dramatic changes remind me that we serve a God that longs to give New Life to his kids, the ones he gave life to in the first place. He can take any deserted church, any struggling marriage, any burnt out worker, any broken family, any person that thinks he or she has drifted too far from God, and He can breathe new life into us again.  And not just that he can, but that he longs to! 

Alejandro with David, the elder of the church

Becoming a mother has made me understand that longing in a way I never did before.  Of course we love Coen through disciplining him, giving him things he doesn't always want (aka shampooing his hair) and withholding things he does want but shouldn't have (aka Coke, electrical outlets, and playing with dog poop)... but man I just want to give him the world.  Then to imagine that God's love for me doesn't even compare is just really hard to grasp.

All House of Hope photo credit goes to Alejandro and Dulcy: 2 dear friends that have been serving here for a year and have really helped make all these dramatic changes to El Faro Church and House of Hope a reality.  And are also exponentially better at taking pictures than I am!

And, last but not least, speaking of New Life...

We will be meeting our Lil' Man/Lady in February!  

So thankful for our God that brings new life to us in every aspect... 

Monday, June 30, 2014

June Update: Winter and World Cup

If you were in Chile right now, most people would talk to you about 1 of 2 things: The World Cup, and how ridiculously cold it is.  

It is Freezing.  It makes me mad when I see the temperature because it makes it look a lot better than it is.  The thing is, it doesn't get that cold here in winter, usually in the 30-40's in the morning and at night, and possibly 50's in the day.  But the kicker is that there is no insulation in the houses and no central heating, which means often it is colder inside than it is outside.  It also means:
1.  We live in our hats and winter coats.  I take off my coat to sleep, but the hat plus the hood on my hoodie stays!
2.  Weeks when it rains are really rough because the sun is the only hope of defrosting during the day.
3.  When in the summer it can take less than an hour to dry our clothes, now it takes 2-4 days.  
4.  Working out and taking showers are excellent strategies to feel your entire body again.
5.  We wear tights and long underwear under everything.
6.  Sometimes your bones hurt.
7.  People always talk about it... because it's hard to think about anything else :)

Except for...

Fútbol.  The World Cup!  Of course as Gringos this has never been a big deal for us, but here it is another world.  Chile's first game, I took advantage and went grocery shopping on a Friday night.  It was eerily empty.  

Second game was on one of my tutoring days at House of Hope.  Obviously, no tutoring of any kind was going to happen I realized as soon as I got there and all the kids were decked out in face paint glued to the TV.  I don't blame them.  Chile won their first 2 games and overall looked amazing in this tournament.  As the end of the game approached, Susi told me we should leave early because as soon as the game was over people would rush the streets and jump on cars at stoplights, etc. 

¡¡Vamos Chile!!

Tracey was invited to watch the game at the Central Bank (Chile's IMF) where most of his students work.  I'll let him describe that glorious day to you:

The moment I walked into the building I kept telling myself, quit smiling like an idiot, be cool, be cool.  Don't show how excited you are.  Basically the whole floor of about 60 or so employees, including 25 different students I teach, got together in the conference room to watch the game together.  Yes, the whole country holds it breath, business stops, calls are unanswered, emails ignored as we watched, screamed, cheered, hugged, cried, laughed and celebrated our 2-0 victory over Spain (Defending World Cup Champions) which sent them packing and put us into the second round of the World Cup.  Priceless.

Third game Tracey got to be home at noon for because all but one of his classes cancelled for the day, so we watched it together and ate way too many homemade french fries.

And then, Saturday...  Saturday was the big day.  Chile took on Brazil on their home turf.  Chile had never beaten Brazil, and the last time Brazil lost a game on their home field was 1970 something.  So after our small group, we set up the projector with our friends and watched the tension filled 90 minutes where they ended at 1-1, the extra 30 minutes of overtime with no score (including one attempted goal for us that hit the post in the last minute), and then 5 penalty kicks for each team to decide it all, that game down to the 10th kick when our team hit the pole again to lose it 2-3.

Inches!  A mere inch that decides so much.  That crushes the hope of our little 18-million people country taking on the World Cup beast and now having to wait 4 more years to try again.  Not only were we thankful for a great game (Tracey about pooped his pants the entire time,) we were, and are so proud of Chile.  GRANDE CHILE!!!!

And the rest.  So that's what everyone's been talking about for the last month, and here are some more things that have been happening in the Keitt household:

Our small group is awesome!  It is so easy to be honest and open with each other in hopes of becoming more Christ-like.  We are excited to see how we all continue to grow together in it.

Tracey taught at the overnight Vigiil again (remember the sex talk we gave 2 years ago?  Same thing!)  while I watched Coen slept soundly at home.  The talk was on "Remembering," based off of Moses and the Israelites, and went really well.

Father's Day and Tracey's birthday within 2 weeks has meant a lot of fun celebrating and sweet time together.  It has also meant a ridiculous amount of sweets and delicious food, including the best meal we've eaten in this country at an Indian restaurant across town.

Dad will all his kids

"Hmm what to get, what to get..."

We have added another teacher to our goEnglish team and are getting ready to meet as a team of 4!  It's been super exciting and added that touch of "work community" that we have been missing since living here.

We love everything we are doing now.  It's so cool to see relationships building more and more with our students, on top of us enjoying both the administrative and teaching sides of the business more and more each day.

Sometimes it's hard to be motivated to spend time tutoring at House of Hope because there is little to no academic progress made.  Most kids I work with have an attention span of less than 10 seconds and lovingly let me know they won't practice anything I've asked them to outside of our short time together.  I've had to remind myself that it's about loving the kids more than making academic gains.  But I know that loving them best would mean getting them to read so they have a chance to break out of their family cycle of poverty.  So it's hard. 

We (House of Hope) got a huge donation from a short-term team that just visited from a church in the States!  The donation was given to be specifically used for "Susi's dream list," so we are using it to plan some fun outings for the kids.  So far these may include the movies, a fun kid's museum, and taking them to the mountains to see snow for the first time!

Sunday School has been an up and down roller coaster of great and frustrating moments.  And with those great moments it has, of course, been with the kids.  I (Tracey) have never been with a more amazing group of kids who are excited to learn and think and ponder and dialogue about their faith.  Every time I leave those kids I'm encouraged.  On the other hand, the lack of help and support from the other adults at the church has really started to take its toll on me.  We lost two of our teachers this month, although they had let me know in advance that they would only be able to commit for the first half of the year.  There's a huge void between desire and commitment.  We'll  just have to wait and see how it all ends up at the end of this year :).

In the midst of so much work, we've also had some fun.  When better to go to an indoor rainforest than in the freezing winter?!  We went with some good friends (actually our first English clients who have become some of our closest friends here) and their kids for a fun day at the rainforest, pizza for lunch and the coolest park we've ever seen.  

"Whatchoo doin' on my dad's shoulder?"

"BAD bird!!"

We also got to celebrate a good friend's birthday with some salsa dancing, Papa John's pizza, and hanging out with another couple that we are excited to get to know more.  

June Prayer Requests

1.  To continue seeking God's vision for our lives and our work

2.  WIsdom with how and who we are intentional with (building relationships) when time is so limited

3.  Encouragement and perseverance with Sunday School and House of Hope