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...

FĂștbol.  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       

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

True Learning (and an answered prayer)

"True learning must be transformative.  Learning is not merely the acquistion of additional information one did not previously possess.  Learning is not simply the enhancement of one's intellectual reservoir of knowledge.  Real learning is transformation, it is growth, it is change, it is development.  It is the increasing conformity of your life to that of Christ's life.  It is the progressive possession of the fullness of Christ in you.  True formation is you becoming like Jesus."
~ Brian Rice, Conversations, Volume One

It is so much easier to learn about Christ and do work for him than it is to be changed by him.  It's easier to answer the questions in a Bible Study than it is to honestly ask God how the text needs to change your life.  

This is the kind of learning we are looking for in our community here.  Ironically, we haven't had much Christian community in the last 2 years of working as missionaries.  We've tried small groups, and besides them ending at 11:30 at night (which doesn't not work for Coen OR us...) they just always stuck to the "knowledge" part of being a Christian and never went deeper to the transformative part.   

Thankfully, this prayer has been answered!  We are starting a small group with 2 other couples, with the specific goal of being authentic and vulnerable, leading to actual transformation and not just staying comfortably on the surface level.  I can't tell you how much we need this and how thankful we are that it is finally happening!    


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April Update - Seasons

Right now we find ourselves thankful for seasons.  There's something about the uncertainty of life that just makes you thankful for little things that you can rely on: the sun coming up the next morning, birthdays coming and going each year, the warmth of spring coming after a long winter.

These are the kind of natural rhythms that science allows us to know when and why they occur.  

But there are other seasons that are not as well-defined; the beginning nor the end are very clear, not to mention everything in between.  What we have learned is that contentment comes from being thankful during whatever seasons we find ourselves.  If it is season we enjoy, we embrace it fully and thank God for allowing us to experience it.  If it is a season that is hard to be grateful for, we look for good it could be doing in us if we allow it to and focus on being open to accept it.  This is obviously much easier said than done... but that is the challenge.  To embrace it for what it is, choose gratitude, and remember perspective.

Life, in every aspect, is made of seasons.  The good, the bad, and everything in between. We are thankful for these seasons, and trust that God truly uses everything for our good!

Here are some of the seasons we are in:

Fall.  It's beautiful outside.  The leaves change a little, mostly just to yellow and not everywhere, but we'll take what we can get.  The air smells crisp.

Cold.  Fall = cold.  Not crazy cold yet, but cold enough to put a hat on Coen for 7AM breakfast.  Tracey gets mad at me for complaining about this so often.  And you probably wonder why we talk about the weather so much.  The whole "idea" of not having heat inside your house doesn't really sink in until you live in it!  

Excitement.  We are so excited about the work we are doing!  We had our first staff meeting as a business yesterday, are meeting new clients, and truly enjoying the teaching and administrative parts of goEnglish.  

A lot of work.  While it's definitely getting better, owning a business seems to be an endless list of tasks.  Right now goEnglish is big enough that we need an administrator, but we are small enough to not be able to afford one.  So we are trying embrace the craziness, trusting it's a season.

New beginnings.  I (Christine) am starting a reading program with 5 of the kids at House of Hope that are severely behind academically.  Coen and I get to go twice a week for a few hours; Coen gets some quality time with Tia Susi while I spend 15-20 minutes with each kid individually.  I am really excited about working directly with the kids again, especially ones that need so much help and that thrive on one-on-one attention they rarely get.

I (Tracey) had my first meeting with the parents of all of our Sunday School kids. The possibilities are endless and very hopeful.  I think we, teachers and parents, can see the potential but there's such a big difference between believing in something and then taking the steps, the actions to actually bring those ideas into reality. 

"Hey guys! Come to my meeting!"

Someone was not paying attention...

Good thing the teacher likes you

We had our first goEnglish staff meeting this week.  We are really excited about building a strong community with our teachers both professionally and personally.  It helps us feel more organized and focused overall, and it's really nice to have more than just two opinions!     

Disconnect from God.  We are both feeling spiritually disconnected right now.  Not like we don't believe in Him, more that we have questions and doubts that we don't really know what to do with, and it makes it hard to connect.  We are hoping to find people here to walk through that with, (which we actually have an answered prayer for small group!) but for right now it's a season of feeling more distant from Him.

If only it could be so easy...

Uncertainty.  Where are we going to live next year when we have to leave this house?  Are we going to stay in Chile for another year?  5 years?  20 years?  We absolutely have no idea.  And we know we probably won't for a while.  In a way I feel like it's the way we should always live, (because who really knows what their life is going to look like anyway?!) because it keeps you intentional and on your toes.  But the planner in me is happy that I know this, too, is a season.   

Fun and friends.  We've gotten to have a lot of fun outings this month - hiking with good friends in the mountains, going to the park with the crazies Boss and Osita, sharing lunches with our host family, even going to a waterpark.  
Meeting new friends to play with

Keeping in touch with the long-distance ones

April Prayer Requests

1) Wisdom in addressing spiritual issues

2) Perseverance in carrying out changes in Sunday School and House of Hope

3) For IAM - its workers, projects, and overall health