I marvel at pastors of megachurches that preach several times per day. Sometimes when I have to preach twice in one day during the second service I pause and wonder, 'Did I already say that, or did I only say that during the first service?' I'd definitely lose track if I had to preach 4 or 5 times in a morning. November is missions month in the Alianza (Christian Missionary Alliance) churches in Arequipa and I preached about the church's role in promoting missions in three different churches this morning! They were such different churches, I think that helped me not forget if I had said something before. One thing that I noticed in all three churches was that when I mentioned that Peruvians are often better suited to being missionaries (less political stigma in Muslim countries, more relational culturally (happy to extend a conversation even if it makes them late for another event) and lower maintenance (They don't need Starbucks to survive)) I got a lot of pleased/surprised looks from the congregation. So, that's a new record for me: 3 different churches in one day! I have no desire to break that record, though I could ask my pastor to let me preach tonight to go for four...
Yesterday morning, I skyped Sarah for about 10 minutes just to chat so I was surprised when she called me again less than an hour later. She showed me her hand. There was a ring on her pinky finger! Her boyfriend, Zach Davis, had just proposed to her! Zach is a fellow missionary kid (MK) who grew up in Togo and Chad and whose parents now serve in Asia. He is a wonderful young man and I couldn't be happier with her choice. We spent three weeks traveling together last summer when we visited the USA and Canada, so I've gotten to know him. Tradition at Wheaton College is engaged couples ring the bell in the church tower, but it seems that bureaucracy and busy schedules have delayed that for now.
They got the ring resized yesterday and it is now where it belongs on her ring finger!
My 84-year-old friend, Alejandro, died Thursday. We met at church 7 years ago, but I still had the honor of leading him to Christ about 5 years ago when we were talking one day and he told me how scared he was of dying. He had been in the hospital on and off for the last 3 months with gangrene in his remaining foot. His other leg was amputated 3 years ago because of an infection from poor circulation.
I've been struck by how close one is too death in Peru compared to the United States. In the US, it seems everything is done to distance one from death until you die yourself, at which point you can't really escape it. The dead are quickly covered up and whisked away in the US. In contrast, Alejandro was left in his hospital bed for over 2 hours until I arrived and could help his niece move him to a gurney and take him down to the morgue and put him into the cooler. Mary Beth went with me to the hospital and impressed me by not being shook up by dealing with death in its raw form. She even helped move the body. Yesterday was the burial. At all of the services I've been to in the US, the casket is perched on the casket lowering device until everyone has left the cemetery. In Peru, in contrast, I helped lower the casket into the grave that was so freshly dug, we had to wait 15 minutes for the gravediggers to finish excavating. The dirt was filled in immediately. The whole thing seems less mysterious and scary here I think.
Tomorrow, I will help his niece clean out his house. Pray that she be ready to accept Jesus as her Savior then after hearing the Gospel several times in the last 3 days.
Saturday, I attended a conference on EKGs. I have to do 50 hours a year of continuing medical education (CME) to keep my Family Medicine certification in the USA and this helps me fulfill some of my 'live hours' (I can't do it all by just reading medical journals). Plus it is a way to get more connected to the local medical community and open doors for ministry with local doctors. Of all of the medical conferences I've been to in Peru, this may have been the best. They even started kind of on time. (meaning: less than 30 minutes after the published starting time) I even missed the beginning because I went 45 minutes late expecting them to start an hour late. Everything is in Spanish, which is great to learn new vocabulary like 'derivación' is the word they use for 'EKG lead'. How did I not come across that before? Since so much of the medical literature is published in English, sometimes presenters use diagrams that are in English and explain it in Spanish. But this was the first time I had seen this happen:
He put up a slide in English, even though it was all text! He was too lazy to translate it? My guess is he wanted to show off how much English he knew.
Today, Mary Beth and I turned in our paperwork to get married at the municipality. Everything was stamped, "Hunky Dory", and they circled December 29th on the calendar on the wall. (Whew! The date was still available!) We still have to get medical checkups in December (they can't be older than 30 days before the wedding) and pay about $50.
Thank you to everyone who has been praying that our paperwork goes smoothly.
No, not our wedding! Saturday, Mary Beth and I went to the wedding of a friend of hers that she met through her camp ministry. Since we've been planning our own wedding for the end of December, we took special notice of how things are done here and how our own wedding will look. After seven hours at this event (and we left before the cake was served!) our North American brains spent a lot of time ruminating about how to speed things up! This wedding had a bit of excitement when the newlyweds sat down to eat and an angry and/or crazy woman entered and knocked their food onto them before being dragged out screaming and kicking! We never did find out who she was. For our wedding I think I'd prefer the custom of pinning money on the newlyweds. Or handing out bottles of Inca Cola and Coca Cola to all of the visitors.
Puppet season began yesterday! 'What is puppet season?' the gentle reader might be asking. Does one shoot them? No. Not usually. Instead, each year, Mary Beth puts together a team of interested people to write a script, make the puppets and create the backgrounds for their program. They then present their show to groups that request it. The premier was yesterday at a church anniversary event and about 40 kids watched as Mary Beth's team put on a great show based on the parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price found in Matthew 13:44-45.
We heard through the grapevine that when Mary Beth and I were at church in Omaha in July some murmured, "How tall is she?!"
In December, before we were dating, we put a ruler across our heads as we stood back to back in the kitchen and one of the kids announced, "She's about 1 centimeter taller!" A month later when Mary Beth and I started talking about dating, we discussed what were our 'deal breakers'. I jokingly asked her, "You remember I'm shorter than you. Are you okay with that?" Thankfully, she said it wasn't a deal breaker! I've told lots of people that Mary Beth is taller than I am, though something wasn't quite right. She kept saying she is 5-feet 9 and 3/4 inches tall, and I'm just over 5 foot 10 inches. Canadian inches must be bigger.
Friday, we had a medical campaign and Mary Beth helped translate for a physical therapist who was taking care of this very short patient! Mary Beth looks like an Amazon woman in comparison! We showed this picture to Mia, which led to everyone wanting to get measured. I guess Mary Beth must have shrunk since December, because she is now 2 cm shorter than I am!
She's 176 cm for us metric people.
"If you leave him here, he'll just be abandoned and thrown into a common grave," the social assistence employee told me. I didn't really believe her, but I didn't think taking Alejandro back to his home from the hospital was going to be much better than her threat. His home has no running water, and with his broken left arm he suffered while trying to get up from his bed in the hospital, he can't even use his bedside commode. His infected foot that was the reason for his hospitalization was worse than when I took him in before going to North America in July. What am I going to do? I can't sit at his side and take care of him like I did with Amy. I have children to raise and ministries to do. He needs a nurse that can come visit him. I called some of the guys from church, who help out with Alejandro, if they knew of any nurses that could help. Nope. No one had any leads.
I rode in the ambulance with Alejandro and Maruja (the employee that said Alejandro would be left to die) and we carried him up to his bed. His niece came by and we tidied up his room and boiled him some water before I needed to head back downtown for a meeting.
I started walking, not sure how far I'd have to go to find a taxi. One showed up after I'd walked a block or two and I asked him (Edgar) how his day had been. "Slow. So many people are striking, there are less people needing taxis. The teachers are striking. The nurses are striking. The miners are striking."
"Yeah, I saw the nurses marching with signs at the hospital an hour ago," I replied.
Edgar said, "My daughter studied nursing."
"I need a nurse for a disabled patient nearby," I said, not really expecting anything in particular.
"Are you the guy that helps take care of Alejandro?"
"Yes," I said, a bit surprised that Edgar had heard of me.
"My daughter helped take care of him a couple of years ago! He always called her an angel, he liked her so much!"
"Is she working right now?" I asked, starting to get excited with the prospect of finding a nurse for Alejandro.
"No, she has a baby now and no job."
"Where does she live?"
"With me, near where you got in my taxi."
"Would she like a job of visiting Alejandro everyday to help take care of him?"
"I'll ask her."
To make a long story a little less long, María was happy for a chance of employment, and she seemed to be so caring, taking Alejandro's hand when she came to meet me at his house to see what the job entailed. Lots of people have been praying for Alejandro and it was incredible to see God provide for him in such a timely, precise way! And I even got a chance to clearly present God's plan of salvation to the ambulance driver on the way to Alejandro's house!
We are in Canada! We actually arrived on Monday, but I haven't had time to update the blog until now. We are taking advantage of the kids' school's winter break to introduce Mary Beth to my family in Nebraska and South Dakota and for the rest of us to meet her family in Manitoba. We've had a great time doing lots of fun things and are very happy to see our families get along so well.
Wait! You only have four kids! Is one of those Mary Beth's son? No, she doesn't have any kids. Peering out of the 'b' is Zach Davis, Sarah's boyfriend.
The road between my house and Mary Beth's apartment has been under construction for about a year. Yesterday was a happy day because they opened up the bridge between our two homes! It took me only 9 minutes to get home from her house yesterday afternoon instead of the 20-30 minutes that the congested detour route required! (It takes 45-50 minutes during rush hour!) This will save me 30 minutes a day, an average of 5 days a week for the next 26 weeks, or 65 hours less time spent in the truck! Yay!
A picture from the median of the new bridge looking at the continuing construction below and behind us.