Reserved for Bob

Para español, haga clic aquí (coming soon)

Dear Lindsey,

Anyone who fishes knows that fishing with kids is a totally different game. I love having my kids along, but when the boys were 6 and 9, their tangled lines, broken lures and snags on land-growing trees usually took so much of my time that I didn’t get to fish.  So for Mother’s Day one year, my husband treated me to a 4-hour fishing guide in the Florida flats!

I began my search for a fishing charter captain at my favorite tackle shop, closest to our house (in Florida at the time). The shop-owner was on the phone when I arrived, so I busied myself looking at the shirts and hats bearing the store’s name. That’s when I heard him on the phone saying (ironically!), “NO!!! Don’t make me take that charter! I hate fishing with girls! That’s torture!”

I quietly left the store, never booking the trip, unbeknownst to the man who missed the sale. (and missed the sail – if I wanted a pun. 🙂 ) He doesn’t know what he missed!

Another marina I really liked, Jensens on Captiva, was a bit of a drive (or boat) away. On 9865605_orighot boating days, our family would often stop there for ice cream or a soda. There was a sign in the parking lot that said, “Reserved for Bob.” I didn’t know who “Bob” was, or if it was a joke, but he seemed pretty important to have his own professionally-made sign.

The man at the counter was excited to help me when I told him I was looking for a fishing guide. I asked if I could take my 6 and 9-year-old boys, and he said that some captains prefer no kids, but he thought “Bob” would be fine with it.

“Bob”? THE Bob? I booked, “Bob,” for the following Thursday at 7am.

The day arrived, and Casey, Nate and I loaded up the car, while Chris stayed home with the still-sleeping toddlers. We arrived dockside by 6:50am, so we wouldn’t miss any minutes of our fishing day! The boys and I loved to look at the live bait in the outside wells there.  Fishing captains came in fancy sea-going boats with outriggers galore and outriggers_trolling_spread_how-to02stocked their live-wells with the baitfish, while their clients loaded. Groups of men and even a few couples came, found their assigned captains and loaded their chartered boats for their day at sea.

We waited.

I built the boys’ dream, “Imagine what we could catch today! Do you think that one will catch a big one?” I asked, pointing to the largest of the pin fish in the bait well. That’s when I noticed things were getting quiet at Jensen’s Marina. It seemed like all of the fishing boats had come and gone.

We waited.

Finally, at 7:30, thirty minutes past our meeting time, and eons since the last captain had left, I decided to ask if we were in the right place. The man behind the desk said, “Oh… Bob. You have Bob? Yeah… he’ll be here.”

I took this to mean that Bob was “usually” late.

Doubting began. I didn’t doubt that Bob would be there; I doubted that he was a good captain for our boat. “Usually” late? Wait – is that why he needed his parking spot reserved? Ugh.

Maybe he is the last on the list to take people out – and that’s why he got “stuck” with the “girl” and kids. Reality came to mind that this could possibly be a total scam. They just got some homeless guy and said I’d give him money if he pretended to fish for the day.

We waited… impatiently.

7:37. An unfitting boat pulled up to the dock near where we stood. The boat looked older than I. Ten years of grime had changed its color, making the original undistinguishable. The morning’s dew combined with the previous day’s slime to make a nasty swirl and stench. A dead crab and another unidentifiable animal lay in the corner where they had slid when the boat moved. The driver was probably fifty, but difficult to guess because of his sun-beaten skin. No hat. I wondered what this man was doing at a place like Jensens. Gas, I assumed. Yep, he filled up while the boys and I watched and tried not to stare, looking into the horizon for our chartered captain’s arrival.

little-fishing-boat-stranded-wet-sand-low-tide-90786222

Not really Bob’s boat, but…

He finished his gas duty, then turned to me and said, “You all can load up.”

Wait. What? Get on THAT thing?! This is “THE Bob”? No way. Can’t do it. Dis-gus-ting!

“Great!” both boys shouted and ran to his umm… boat.  I must admit, I was so turned off, but noticing how my boys were not made me try to adjust my attitude so I didn’t ruin theirs.

“Bob,” he said, offering a hand as we climbed aboard.

“Casey,” the 9-yr-old said, taking his hand and giving it an enthusiastic shake.

“Ronaldo,” Nate said, since that’s what he wanted to be called those days. (See the story in my previous letter.)

“Terri,” I said, not offering to remove my shoes like normal boat protocol. I didn’t have to ask how he knew that we were his clients. We were the only “mom and two kids,” on the dock. Well actually, we were the only ones on the dock.

We set out into the water, when I realized that we didn’t get bait. Maybe he caught his own? I had a glimmer of hope that he knew what he was doing.

“Did you want to get live bait?” I asked, gesturing toward the dock we were leaving.

“No,” he said simply, not giving me the satisfaction of an explanation. Just, “no.”

He drove and the devil and angel on my shoulders conversed across my brain, attempting to win the battle for my attitude and belief that this day would be worth the money.

I couldn’t believe it when we stopped the boat still in sight of Jensens. I had been there a million times. We were not trolling like all of the fishing boats I had seen leaving the dock earlier.

He took out the “bait.” It was not alive. It looked like a hook from Walmart on which he had painted a head with red nail polish and an eye of black marker. $0.57 for a pack of ten, I cynically did math in my head. He put NO bait on this homemade “masterpiece,” just threw it over the side of the boat. I was getting mad at his lack of aptitude as a “professional”.

“I got something!” Casey said before the second line could go into the water.  He reeled in a ladyfish. I chuckled at the luck of it… first cast!

I enjoyed his excitement while “Ronaldo” dropped his unbaited hook over the edge.

“Got one!” he yelled, while Bob worked at returning Casey’s fish to the water.

Do fish like red nail polish? Or Walmart hooks? Who knew?!

I dropped my line in to the same success. “Fish on!”

We cast.

We caught.

We cast.

We caught.

We cast.

We caught.

“We’ve never had a day of catching like this with YOU, Mom!”

Ouch. That hurt.

Other boats were making a beeline for our area. Big fancy ones. Trollers with high bridges.  Boats full of men out for the day headed toward our little spot in view of the marina.

Nothing.

They caught nothing! All their live bait, all their fancy apparati, and they caught nothing.  (Why did I sinfully enjoy that?!)

“Let’s feed the dolphins,” Bob said.

I thought to myself, You gotta be kidding. You have baitfish somewhere on here, but you are giving it to the dolphins instead of using it to fish?!

That’s when Bob took Casey’s latest ladyfish off of his line, walked four steps to the other

dolphin s head in the surface

side of the boat, and held it over the side. A dolphin magically appeared and jumped out of the water for the fish.

We caught fish on the left and held them as snacks for the dolphins on the right for what seemed like hours. I felt like I was in some “Snow White does SeaWorld” dream.

Bob is a fish-whisperer!

However, ladyfish are easy and common. They don’t fight much. (I always thought “ladyfish” was a misnomer for that reason.) They are perfect for kid fun, but not good eating for anyone but dolphins.

“You like snapper?” Bob looked directly at me.

“I like fish… any kind!” I said, beginning to crack a smile.

He moved the boat over what felt like ten yards (or was it a circle? I don’t know: it all looked the same, still in sight of the Marina), and tossed in the same nail-polished bait, waited a minute and fish-on!

The tug was different, definitely not a “lady.” Sure enough, the red color could be seen through the water. Snapper for dinner! We caught those till we had enough when Captain Bob said, “Let’s see what the mackerels are up to today.”

“Casey and Ronaldo, the way we catch a mackerel is different than the others,” he explained in a full-out knowledgeable tone. Maybe he wasn’t a random homeless guy! “We can’t just drop the hook off the side of the boat. We’re going to cast it as far as we can, then jerk it up and down with the biggest arm motion we can make.”

“Ronaldo” went first. Bob did the casting to get it a good distance from the boat, but my son did the yanking – up and down and up and down. It looked like some kind of weird African dance that would certainly be too jerky for a fish. Then…

“ZZZZZIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNG!” something hit and RAN! (or “swam?!”)

“Mackerel.” Captain Bob said, not showing much emotion, not even adding the “holy” in front of it.

Nate reeled and reeled, but the zing of the line indicated that the fish was still swimming away and not getting any closer to the boat.

“Come on, Nate! You can do it!” I cheered from the boat.  This fish had to be a giant, the way it was fighting!

“I thought his name was Ronaldo?” Captain Bob gave me a strange look.

“Nickname,” I said, baffling Bob, I am sure.

Nate reeled and reeled and eventually, the fish succumbed to his beckon. A mackerel, just as Captain Bob predicted before the cast.

We cast.

We caught.

We cast.

We caught.

ZIIINNNNGGGG! Over and over.

 

The four-hour-trip felt like thirty minutes. We headed back to the marina, which I could still see!

The dolphins followed us a bit before heading off to the ocean. As we approached the

white and grey pelican perched on red railing

dock, pelicans came and landed right on our boat! (I couldn’t help but notice they were not on anyone else’s boat!) Captain Bob pulled up to the fish-cleaning table and the pelicans practically got in line behind him. (I couldn’t help but notice nobody else had fish to clean.) Bob threw the scraps the pelicans were expecting.

Without looking up from his cutting, Bob said nonchalantly, “They’re gonna lose their bait.”

I looked around wondering who he meant and whether I was supposed to do something. That’s when out of nowhere, an otter exited the water, climbed onto the dock, then onto someone’s empty boat, opened their cooler with his nose and began taking the bait out – one fish at a time!!! WHAT?!  How did Captain Bob know? How did he see the otter coming? How did he know that boat had something in its cooler?

I asked if I should stop the otter from taking the fish, and he said something like, “If

dewgong on body of water

they’re dumb enough to leave their cooler unlocked, then they deserve it.”

I blackened the mackerel on the grill for dinner. Yummm!  Well worth its price!

Fish

Dolphins

Pelicans

Otters

The kids and I had the time of our lives! Bob is a genius! He deserves a parking place of his own!!

Besides the fun animal-sightings of the day (including a raccoon on our early morning drive), there were other takeaways for me:

  1. Don’t judge a book by its cover or a captain by his boat – or you might miss a really great story!
  2. Don’t ask someone to guide you, and then doubt their every move. Why bother having a guide if you know everything? Enjoy the ride, and judge the catch.
  3. When people start doubting my own guiding, I can give them some grace; afterall, I have had my doubts en route to my “Reserved for Bob” sign.
  4. Girls can fish too.

 

Love ya,

Terri

Related Posts

 

John 21: 3-7: 3“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  5He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”  “No,” they answered.  6He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Very Brady Italy

Dear Lindsey,

After a full year of busyness, we were ready to convalesce as a family!

Of course we could do that in our basement, or at the lake, or at my kids’ favorite campground in Silver Lake Michigan, but we decided to get away – really AWAY – to Italy. (See video scrapbook below.)  We have been to Italy several times, most famously five years ago, when my husband Chris wrote his book, A Month of Italy.  

Thanks to Chris’s vacation advice, on this trip I suppressed my “task-oriented” self. I did not sort emails or work on my lists (despite how I wanted to, since I finally had time!). I didn’t count the calories of the gelato and tried to stop thinking about the stress at home; I enjoyed my family.  My quiet times got deeper. On a true vacation, life can be whittled down to what really matters, to release the stuff that really doesn’t.* As I forced myself away from the daily grind, I was able to think of the long-term-vision that seemed to have taken a backseat to busyness this year. New ideas; new goals; fresh brain! Ahh vacation.

This vacation wasn’t as entertaining as our original month-long vacation, since
the kids are older (now 18, 15, 11 and 10), and we are probably a little more seasoned visitors of the country. However, our oldest leaves for college next week, and we all seemed to cherish every moment as a family of six, knowing we will be having dinners of five too soon.

We had our funny moments:

  • When the woman said in her Italian accent that she was a “ballet” dancer in Florence, and I misunderstood and asked her if she was a “belly” dancer. Bahaha! No judging here!
  • When Chris said in perfect Italian, “Posso …formaggio?” when he noticed our table lacked parmigiano cheese. The kids quickly pointed out that he had actually said “Can I … cheese?” which of course went viral on our vacation as the kids often asked if they could…cheese…in Italian.
  • We listened to Italian songs that Chris had downloaded onto his phone. We couldn’t tell what the words actually meant, but that didn’t stop us from singing along in full volume! It reminded us of a funny commercial when a family is singing along in a different language, not knowing the horrendous words they are saying. So Nate (age 15) was careful to not sing anything inappropriate and instead  sang words that he did know – which were limited to food: “Posso Formaggio! Latte! Manzo! Pasta! Pizza!”  He sang to the tune of whatever song was playing – in full tenor voice like Luciano Pavarotti. (And made me laugh!)
  • We played a card game we had just learned with great friends who came to visit North Carolina in early June. Like golf, the goal is to get the lowest score by getting rid of all of your cards. Hysterically, Casey could not get rid of cards, and while the rest of us were within one hundred points of each other, Casey hung out 300 points behind last place! “Casey, you stink at this!” Chris had said in surprise, since Casey usually seems to have a knack for winning. Chris’s uncharacteristic quote again went viral as the kids enjoyed repeating Dad’s funny statement toward Casey any chance they got, often in the form of a rap song.

We had our amazing moments:

  • Chris took us to Orvieto where we had not been in four years. Without GPS or maps, he drove through the town, right up to the driveway of the villa we had rented (which was no easy task to find four years ago WITH a GPS.) He then took us to a restaurant further up the mountain where we had chingiale (wild boar) sausage and pasta to repeat our order from back then. (OK – maybe that is not “amazing” to you, but I was amazed, since I can hardly get around in my own country without a GPS!)
  • At our favorite villa, Il Trebbio, outside of Cortona where we have visited several times, our rental neighbors turned out to be from Raleigh, NC, and were even taking the same flight arrangement home after their five-week stay. Mondo piccolo. (Small world!)

IMG_8479

We missed our weird moments.

“Nothing weird has happened to us this trip!” Casey (age 18) said on one of the last nights. It was almost sad for us.

  • We didn’t have a motorcycle crash into us after popping our tire with his foot peg when he passed too close to our van in Rome traffic.
  • We didn’t have a 12-passenger mini-bus as our rental car, even though Italians are still shocked that we take four children on trips.
  • No child said, “I forgot my shoes” when we were already an hour into the drive for a day-trip to an ancient city.
  • We didn’t have any other child say, “Me too,” realizing he also had forgotten to put on shoes for the same day-trip.
  • We didn’t have any accidental orders of grappa (which Chris swears is kerosene, but Italians drink it) or pasta al scolio (which was full of octopus and squid, not meatballs like the ordering child had hoped).
  • No scorpions came in through the window at 1am, scaring us into leaving the windows closed for the duration of the week with temperatures in the high 90’s – without air conditioning.
  • No man screamed at us, “Allevamento!” (which means “breeding farm”) into a crowd at the market when he saw we had four children.
  • We didn’t see the dog – which looked like a seeing-eye-dog – wearing a shirt that said, “Womanizer.”

We disconnected in order to be reconnected.

IMG_8502 (3)We rested. We bonded.

We turned off electronics. (Turning off electronics put the “family” back into “family vacation.”)

We played cards. (And all the kids are at a competitive level now.)

We swam. (And kids are big enough that nobody is in massive peril.)

We read…and read and read… (and the kids did too).

We enjoyed early mornings with singing birds and late mornings, catching up on a year’s worth of sleep.

We enjoyed the views from the air-conditioned car, while miles of sunflowers and lavender, wheat and hay passed by our windows. Hundred-year-old cypress trees seemed old until we realized they lined the driveways of six-hundred-year-old estates. Grapes hung down near our outdoor dinner table, while grape leaves brought the welcomed shade on the canopy over our heads. Crops formed their signature squares that make the land of Tuscany so beautiful from its mountaintops.

Glorious vacation.

Family bonding.

Minds at rest.

A heart that has had a good vacation is what makes home feel sweet.  IMG_8676

In gratitude for vacation,

Terri Brady

Video Scrapbook of Bradys in Italy:

Related Posts

* “Going to the cross reminds me of what really matters, so I can release the stuff that really doesn’t.” – Kimberly Wagner

But For the Grace of God

Dear Lindsey,

This week in Guatemala has been blessed with friendships, new and old. Susie

Jen, Tracey, Susie and I at final night dinner out

Hallstrand and Tracey Avereyn have been friends of mine for the best parts of a couple of decades. Susie’s nursing knowledge combined with her ability to always see the needs of others –team members or strangers – was irreplaceable. Tracey chose to read to the three special needs children of Dorie’s promise instead of playing outside with the children daily, yet her fruits of the Spirit were also evident in her gentle reaction when a child accidentally pressed, “delete all,” on her camera.  My friend, Jen Korte, (who invited us to go on this trip since she has been here many times), and I have a friendship that makes up in depth what it lacks in years, as God gave me a soul sister on the soccer sidelines. But here in Guatemala, I feel like I have met the “real Jen,”: the Jen that has an insatiable desire to help others in need, in the name of Christ.

Each morning, our team would meet with the FCI Missions director, Joel Juarez, who would go over a devotion, which kept us focused on our purpose, when the pain of surroundings tried to distract. In the evenings, we would meet again and each member would state a high and low of the day: the returned smile from an apprehensive toddler, the reciprocated English “God bless you!” of the teen, the boy who said, “I have only had the bones, but I wonder what the chicken tastes like,” and more.  The quality of the hearts of the people in the room was astounding. Two team-members, Sue and Kari, even brought their children (Belen -5 and Wilmer -10) with them whom they had adopted from Dorie’s before international adoptions closed.  They, along with Jen, returned with a promise not to leave the others behind, and spent their week sorting through hundreds of pounds of donations they had stuffed into extra luggage. Liz’s heart was on her sleeve and kept our eyes “leaking” love; Kate’s smile lit the room when she spoke of her daughter’s fundraising; David and Bin said they were nervous around children, but that never showed, and they’ll be fantastic parents to the baby they are expecting through adoption from Korea within a year; Nate was seeking a way to serve and found the group solely by internet searching, but it was hard to catch him without a baby in his hands!; Sheryl could be a stand-up comedian with her Jersey humor and kept me taking notes so I could laugh again later;  (We nick-named her “Jersey”, and because she kept adding “ario” to words to try to sound Spanish, we later called her “Jerseyario”.)  Diane showed such leadership with the kids – they would follow her anywhere, but her true strength showed when she served through a migraine yesterday. Tracy (different from Tracey) and her daughter, Alex (10), were blessings of peace under fire.  The team made the perfect parts of the body of Christ to serve together on this trip.

With such great teammates, I wanted to capture more than just my own thoughts of the week, so I invited them to write for my blog. Tracey took me up on it (below), and I am hoping some of the others will attach comments to bless us all.

In the words of Tracey Avereyn:

When the invite to go on a mission trip to Guatemala appeared in my life,

Tracey and I in front of “the dump” community entrance

my enthusiasm for the idea grew from a couple of seeds.  The first was the opportunity to go and make a difference…to be active hands and feet of the Lord Jesus Christ as instructed in Scripture.  The second was much more selfish.  I know people who had returned from similar trips and had shared how blessed they had been through the experience…blessings from learning the stories of others, travelling to other countries, gaining perspective and developing (or even fine tuning) a scale against which to audit myself in such areas as character and faith.  And I wanted that.

And now our trip with Forever Changed International and the Dorie’s Promise Orphanage is beginning to wind down.  And this is where the rubber meets the road.  What will I do with what I’ve learned…what I’ve seen?  How will I be different going forward?  What will I be doing differently in the days to come?  And, I can honestly say that I don’t have all of that figured out quite yet.  But I know one thing…I will give thanks to God, because the one thought that continued to rest on my mind is, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” 

This week I’ve met families who live in homes that would fit within the bedroom walls of my 7-year-old.  “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

I looked into the sad eyes of 14 year old teen mothers…placed into this situation primarily by abuse…abandoned by family…living in a government-operated orphanage.  I considered my own 12 and 14 year old daughters.  “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Our team bought thousands of pieces of used clothing for $112 to be distributed among the residents of a shantytown community situated on the edge of the dump.  These people make their living among the vultures that oversee this chasm in the city rummaging for items discarded by another that they can sell in order to feed their families.  A luxury item in this place is a concrete floor…a roof that doesn’t leak.  “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Water filters on our bus

We had the pleasure and privilege of delivering 20 portable water filters to a ghetto community that is built along the steep face of a cliff.  The joy evident in the faces of the ladies who received these apparatuses would light the night.  I’m sure they were considering the time saved now that they didn’t have to boil their drinking and cooking water.  Yet, I felt inconvenienced with washing dishes with water that I didn’t have to boil, while waiting for a new dishwasher.  “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

In his first letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 5:16-17), the Apostle Paul instructs us to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances”. And, if I were to be honest with myself, and you too, I must confess that I fail miserably at this charge.  And, this week, I repeatedly met people in much more dire circumstances than I have ever found myself…doing just as Paul instructs.  These people had no say regarding what country and situation they were born into…just as I had no say, yet received the unearned mercy of being born in the United States to a loving family with a committed mother and father. Yet, as we launched into communities in such places as a Guatemala City ghetto or a shantytown set up along the edge of the dump…we repeatedly were experiencing these people giving back to us.  Serving us cups of Coca Cola…praying God’s blessing for us…and assisting us with our various tasks.  I have so much to learn from them. 

Anytime I am leaving a beautiful vacation spot, usually along a beach of one of the Great Lakes, I am always a little frustrated that that beauty is always there whether it is being enjoyed or not.  This week, as we came and went to these places, returning to our comfortable resting spot, it occurred to me that those places of struggle continue to exist whether someone is there to help or not.  There is no escape for those residents.  And as I return to my wonderful country…to the cocoon of my family and friends…I need to give thanks to an almighty Creator because “There but the grace of God, go I”.            – Tracey A.

//

When we are irritated by that slow driver, frustrated with the boss who lacks people skills, judgmental of someone’s response to us in life, may we give thanks to God in all things and humbly recognize that there, but for the grace of God, we go.

And when we feel a tug on our heart of a need to be met, may we, by the grace of God, GO.

In love,

Terri

Related Posts

No Orphans of God

37,000 orphans in Guatemala.

33 adoptions last year.

No orphans of God.

Dear Lindsey,

I am still in Guatemala. The heart-wrenching is good for the soul.  I haven’t had time to write every day, but I thought I would try to synopsize a bit so you can get the idea.  Feel free to skip to the “Thoughts to Ponder” if your time is too limited for reading my diary :).

MONDAY:

Dorie’s Promise, the privately owned orphanage on the property where we are staying, has 38 children right now.   That seems like a lot: to grow up with 37 siblings. 38 people at the dinner table. 38 people’s worth of laundry, food, sickness, chaos, etc. It breaks my heart that they don’t have a mom they can “go home to” and tell the story of their day.

Yet, I realized what a difference Dorie’s Promise is making in those 38 lives, when we went to the state-run orphanage, which has up to 1000 children under the age of 18. We focused on those most ignored:  sixty with special needs and twenty young mothers (age 13-17), who had been raped and left or abused, so they were brought to the orphanage by police.

We brought cake and activities. Smiles and hugs. We tried not to notice lice or deformed faces, not to think of how the baby’s arm was broken or how the mentally retarded girl now has a baby.  I tried not to flinch, when grabbed from behind, as they reached out only to be touched. Give me Your eyes today, Jesus. May I see them as Your children and lift them to see themselves that way.

One young retarded boy helped another in a wheelchair by taking his plate to the trash. He licked the other one’s plate as he walked, and I realized what a gift the cake must have been.  A young mother needing dialysis three times/week is about to be back on the street since her 18th birthday is approaching. So much “out of my control,” it’s hard to think about.

TUESDAY:

We woke to treat the “special mothers” (women who work long shifts here and love the children of Dorie’s Promise more than just a job) to a breakfast and devotion in our house, while we went next door to take care of the orphans. I LOVED reading a book aloud to the children (I’m sure my gringo accent was half of the amusement.), and they came running to fight for lap space as soon as I sat with the libro.  Painting nails, making beaded necklaces, coloring and finger painting were special activities for all. The other amusement was my camera that takes videos. “Por favor foto?” they would ask, and pose with different combinations of children to vie for the spotlight. This cutie, Hilary, surprised me with her belly dancing. Aaah!! Easy to love the lovable! Nayeli had a different interpretation of dance, but both RAN to see what I had filmed. 🙂

street entrance to dump

After the morning with Dorie’s kids, we headed to the city dump, a large area where another ghetto community has been built. The repelling stench increased our desire to stay on the bus, but our team, favorably greeted by residents, forced ourselves through the trash-sorting area to get to the community of 150 homes made of cardboard, cinder blocks and tin. Approximately 3 families per home lived in this community full of roaming children and dogs. The dirt paths were speckled with color, reminding me that we were standing…ie, they were living… on a mountain of trash. I could see the bottom of a Croc surfacing.  I pray the people don’t associate themselves with the trash beneath but with the God above.

Toddlers and babies everywhere made me see the burden of fertility and I was beginning to forget the blessing.  An old man, weathered as much from the sun as from the years, suddenly leaned down to kiss a baby who lay unattended, near where I stood. As the baby received the kiss, both the great-grandpa and the baby instantly yielded smiles, as if the weight of the world were lifted. “My great-grand-daughter!” he announced to me, proudly pointing to the baby’s married 16-yr-old mother beside him.  I felt like I had received a post-it note from God: “I am still here. Don’t grow weary.”

“Road” inside dump community

Part of the $975 cost to attend this trip with Forever Changed, included buying things to supply some needs of this area.  At the dump, the money was used for “pilas”. A pila is a 500-pound cement sink basin, which seemed like an odd request if they are not washing dishes.  However, a pila, to them, means income, because they can use the water to clean things that have been “dumped” there, and then sell the cleaned treasures on the streets.  As we delivered our gifts, I realized we were trying to live out the philosophy taught in the book, When Giving Hurts, so that we don’t hinder people by our gifts.

.

.

WEDNESDAY

At our own devotional time this morning, Joel told us that Dorie’s Promise was so

Mural on the play-yard wall.

named because an orphan, Dorie, who had been abused and moved from home to home, had been given a Bible and the words, “Jesus loves you,” by a missionary. She had hung to those words and The Word through much abuse afterward, but eventually devoted her life to giving back and helping orphans. Such a small seed was planted, and although the missionary never saw the fruit, God did, and still is.

.

After devotions, we went back to the ghetto today – the one we had visited Sunday.  This time we carried twenty water filter systems. (They look like 20-gal Britta filters.) One woman wept when she walked into the room and saw the filters, before we gringos even began to speak.  The woman from our team whose 10-yr-old daughter had raised the money for the filters (selling hair clips) also wept, while the recipients expressed their gratitude. It was as much of a blessing to give as to receive.

POINTS TO PONDER

1. United States is rich. I once heard that people on welfare in the U.S. have a higher average income than 85% of the world. In essence, Americans are all rich in comparison. I used to be judgmental of rich people, assuming they were materialistic and loving money more than God.  “Good people do good things with money,” my husband fought back when I tried to squelch his ambition to start a money-making business over a decade ago. “If good people don’t use their God-given ambitions, who will be there to help when a need arises?” he had asked me. No one on this missions team is unambitious: Surgeons’ wives, business owners, nurses and CEO wives were blessed by God to be able to help in time of need. I am so thankful for them!

2.  “What if it’s a scam?!” “What if your money doesn’t really go to helping anyone?” “What if the people are pretending to be poor, taking off their shoes when you arrive, just so you will give them more?” “What if they take your gifts and destroy them the next week, since they didn’t earn them and don’t appreciate them.”

People who have been here don’t ask those questions.

3.  I think a definition of “hell” for me would be to be surrounded by people with needs that I cannot meet. Hungry children. A teen with kidney failure. A diabetic grandfather who lives at the dump. A 60-yr-old woman who tumbled down the concrete stairs of the ghetto last week. A 5-yr-old with a tumor on his eye. Those have been the low points of this week. Yet, how prideful I am! To think that I am the only one who can help?! That I have control over whether needs are met?!  My pastor said it well:  “It’s not, ‘I do my best and let God do the rest.’ That’s wrong.” (I myself have been guilty of saying that!) “The real statement,” he said, “is ‘God does it all. Period.’

I am thankful that I do not have to carry all the weight on my shoulders. God has this. Every day of these people’s lives has been made by Him to make them who they need to be.  Maybe one of them will be the next Dorie.  I just want to be quiet enough they hear His voice. As our director, Joel, says, “I want to disappear, and let God be seen.”

One little stone changed two nations forever.  (1 Sam 17 – David and Goliath) That was our devotion one day this week. What little stone could you be throwing with God’s might behind it?! Today, Joel said in his broken English as he ended our devotion time: “You know those people who say they are going to change the world? And everyone thinks they are crazy? They are doing it.”

“God doesn’t respond to our needs, He responds to our Faith.” –Joe DarkAngelo

May the people of Guatemala have faith in Him.

Con carino de Cristo,

Terri

Blessings that Stick

Dear Lindsey,

I am in Guatemala!

“I don’t think I have ever smiled so much and spoken so little,” my friend, Susie said today. I guess that’s what happens when you dive into playing with children of an orphanage in a land of a foreign tongue. Jen, a Michigan soccer mom friend of mine extended her heart beyond imagination all the way to children in Guatemala. She has visited Dorie’s Promise, a private orphanage in Guatemala City, many times, and invited Susie, Tracey and me to go to the land for our hearts to grow. Forever Changed International is a charity which not only supports the orphanage, but also aids the poverty-stricken within Guatemala City.

Today was our first full day, and many apprehensions were cleared, while the chains of our hearts loosened. We are staying in an adjoining house that sleeps 20. We are with other Americans from Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and California.

First thing this morning was church. After boarding a hired bus, about 20 of the 39 orphans came onto the bus and jumped onto our laps, clearly familiar with how the “volunteer team” works. The Holy Spirit transcended any language barriers in the 8am church service, as His name lifted the roof of worship for my English ears in a Spanish world.

Afterward, we took the orphans to the park where the laugh of a 3-yr-old child (whom I was teasing with tickling on the swing) was a universal language. Those children went back to their house, which runs like a never-ending daycare; except it runs 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week and is so much more permanent now that international adoption is closed.

Next, our team of volunteers left the grounds to go to one of the many ghettos in Guatemala City. As we drove, Joel, the angel who works for Forever Changed International (FCI), and hosts and translates for us for the week, explained that ghettos begin when a group of a hundred just sets up a camp on city property. The sheer numbers prevent authorities from removing them. “They begin with 100, and some cardboard homes,” Joel continued, pointing to a relatively new cardboard ghetto as we drove past. “Over time, the people add more and more, and eventually end up with something like the ghetto we will visit today.”

When the bus finally stopped at the appointed place, we were immediately surrounded by children, so excited to see the “gringos” (slang for white people) bringing gifts. I began to wish they would not think it was the color of my skin that was the giver, but the God whom I worship who was giving them gifts.

Jen handed me stickers she had brought from the states, and I began giving them to the children, while she handed other gifts. We walked through the streets, followed by a crowd who loved “the day the gringos come” (first Sunday of the month for this particular location). We carried stuffed animals, food baskets and two piñatas to end our day with a party. I overheard Tracey ask Joel, “How do you say, ‘God loves you’ in Spanish?”

Perfect! I thought. I can tell these children God loves them, while I hand out stickers.

I continued handing out stickers. “Que dios te bendiga! [God bless you!]” I said as I pressed a sticker onto each hand and looked deeply into their eyes.

I hate poverty.

Seeing ominous clouds coming in our direction, I pictured what these homes would look like when the storm hit. This ghetto was more established than the ones we passed, so walls were made of cement, or built into the side of the mountain, but I could picture the noise of rain pounding on the tin roofs, leaking through, while ten people huddled in the middle with one square foot each. Each “building” was smaller than my 8-yr-old’s room, and I never saw a bathroom. Pots and pans adorned the shelf next to the bed, but I never saw food, except once: Corn hung from the ceiling of one place to dry. The woman grew the corn on her own in “free land” a mile and a valley away where she planted corn and hauled it back to dry, in order to grind it for flour to make tortillas on the open fire on cinder blocks in the “hallway”. She had tortillas cooking under her close watch, hoping to sell them tonight for profit. (The cynic in me couldn’t help but wonder if a president thought he had helped her start that business.)

We continued our walk, stopping at houses to meet residents and ended in the park for play and piñatas. Word got out that I had “stampas” and children flocked to me. I practiced my Spanish, asking if they wanted the princess sticker or the flower. “Que dios te bendiga [God bless you!],” I said with each gift.

A sticker brought delight to these kids who probably wondered when/if the next meal would come. One baby had a “crib” which was a blanket tied to the ceiling “beams” with rope, as a hammock above an adult bed. My legs ached at the hill climbing and uneven steps OSHA would never approve.

I still hate poverty.

Corn hanging to dry within the room

In my mind, I raced to solve the issues…a new roof for that one? Cement floors so the dirt doesn’t wash away under the leaky roof? Running water?

How did they get here?

Education? – if they only knew a better way. Do they know the Hiding Place where they can go? Do they know that heaven will be better?

Thoughts pounded, and children enjoyed our presence.

“Better is one day in heaven than a thousand on earth,” I thought. I am grateful for the volunteers here. “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” will surely be heard by Joel, FCI, Jen and the hearts that surround the work to make this place better for these 400+ children in this one ghetto alone.

But I look forward to heaven for those residents. One minute of eternity will erase all hunger pangs from a life here.

I prayed for the children while I watched them race for candy, a temporary joy amidst the struggle called life.

Suddenly, a group of young teen girls approached me, interrupting my thoughts. The four giggled incessantly, as though from my American neighborhood. They all looked on in anticipation, while they egged each other to ask a question. Finally, one stepped up and asked:

“Como se dice ‘Que dios te bendiga’ en Ingles? [How do you say, “Que dios te bendiga” in English?]”

“God bless you,” I answered. They each repeated it slowly, practicing, trying to cement it to memory to be retrieved later. I was overjoyed by their approach.

I hope that when the “gringos” are gone tonight – as the rain pours outside – that those children remember His name above all else.

God bless those children,

Terri

It’s not Where but Who

Dear Lindsey,

After Nate (12) looked at my photos on my iPad from last year’s trip to Bora Bora, he said, (conniving a trip for himself) “I think Dad’s next book should be: A week of Bora Bora“! Continue reading

IF I WERE IN YOUR COMFORT

Dear Lindsey,

Traveling from Tuscany, Italy to Oslo, Norway on Thursday was a fun lesson in latitude for all of us. The same sun shined on both, but the resulting temperature at the ground Continue reading

Good Things Come to Those Who Climb

Dear Lindsey,

Ciao! We are enjoying our vacation in Tuscany, Italy! Continue reading

Whippoorwill Wakening

Whippoor…will…

Whippoor…will.

“Yes!” excitement filled my insides when I recognized the early bird finishing his nightshift, as morning gilded the sky. Continue reading

Perceptive Perspective (I hope)

Dear Lindsey,

The kids were rewarded for delivering drugs! That’s all I remember from my college spring break trip to Washington D.C. We handed out food in a soup kitchen, took children from the inner city to an outer park to show them what green grass looked like (called the “Fresh Air Program”) and visited a “safe house” in the middle of a block; this particular block of tall apartment buildings was where children were taught to deliver the illegal drugs, to keep their parents out of jail.

The baby never left the papoose on the Navajo Indian reservation where I stayed one summer. Children were everywhere, but they all lived with their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents in a two-room house with a hole in the roof (used as a chimney). The accommodations seemed impossible; I actually wished they would all go inside for a minute so I could see how they fit. While a team of us were replacing their roofs in 110 degree weather, the entire family of 16 stood around outside and marveled. Women and children came and went with buckets of water, carrying them from a nearby well. There was no running water or electricity, and barely a roof. This seemed like a third-world within our own US boundaries: outside of Newcomb, NM.

Last year, I had the opportunity to go to Brazil to visit the MORE Project. The charity has a center in the heart of the Brazilian favelas. As we walked through the “town”, only in daylight for safety, gang members seemed to be watching on every corner. We walked on slatted boards, under which the sewage ran and the smell wafted upward. We came to a home where several of the “More Project kids” lived. A 15-yr-old was in charge, holding the baby in her arms as the multiple others sat still to stare at us strangers. Later, we determined the baby belonged to the 15-yr-old.  On the next block, two 13-yr-old girls approached, dressed as if they were 20.  We were told the sad story of their choice to leave the MORE Project and go into prostitution for $1 a night. “They know no different,” Sergio said. “It is what is done here, until someone steps in and teaches otherwise.”

As I returned from each of the above trips, it was so hard to acclimate (even though they were less than one week each!). How do I spend $75 to put gas into my sport utility when there is such need? How do I take a hot shower every day and think, “There is no food in this house,” with a full pantry. Did I really think “I have nothing to wear” to that wedding? Ugh. Perspective. I wish I would never lose it.

As we remember the Holy Week this week – the anniversary marking the last days of Jesus’s life on earth, I am thankfully given perspective. As He was beaten, mocked, and deserted, Jesus didn’t retaliate, nor even speak in defense, but played the part that God had designed. He “drank the cup” and died the death, so that I may live eternally. As we remember Him, may we keep the eternal perspective that He intended. He cares about the children in DC, the Navajo Indians, the Brazilian favelas, and even me.  We are blessed indeed. Life: May we keep it in perspective.

Love ya,

Terri

John 17:23 “ I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”