This blog is one part an effort to relay my experiences here through updates and pictures and two parts an outpouring of the lessons God is teaching me in taking up my cross daily and following Him.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Response To John's (Facebook) Note: "Hey, It's Not All About You!"

For those who have not read John's note already, it can be found here:

     One thing that I have found is that when I really start to get down and think of/miss Daniel a lot, I realize that in this type of self-pity I am being selfish. It is pride and selfishness that tell us that somehow we don't deserve to have to deal with our brother dying, or to question that God really knew what He was doing and that Daniel's death was an important part of His eternal plan. I've found that whenever I start to feel sad about missing Daniel, it's because I'm focused on how it affects ME negatively.

     I've been reading Job lately. I enjoyed this read through so much more than others in the past, because I identified with Job in a much greater way. Yes, Job lost way more than I did--I lost my brother. Job lost everything he owned AND his ten children within a span of about 10 minutes. In some sense I feel that my situation doesn't begin to compare, yet I began to understand the thoughts of Job in a more personal way. I was struck not only by the way his three friends (Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite) treated him, but I noticed how Job's attitude toward God changes. Job somehow progresses from Chapter 2, verse 10b that says, "Yet in all this Job did not sin with his lips." to in chapter 34, verses 5-6 Elihu quotes Job as saying, "I am in the right, and God has taken away my right; in spite of my right I am counted a liar; my wound is incurable, though I am without transgression."Somewhere in the course of events, Job began to question God. His perspective of God and his relationship to Him had somehow changed.

     I love the response of Elihu. He is younger. He waits until the older men have tried and failed, and tried and failed again to tell Job what He was doing wrong. Elihu is younger, so he gives precedence to his elders, but when they fail to produce Godly wisdom, he steps in. I want to be like Elihu in that God certainly gave him wisdom and an exemplary understanding of who God is, and who we are! I want to share a couple selections from Elihu's words:
     "Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding: far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong. For according to the work of a man he will repay him, and according to his ways he will make it befall him. Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. Who gave him charge over the earth, and who laid on him the whole world? If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust." Job 34:10-15
     "Look at the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds, which are higher than you. If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him? And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness concerns a man like yourself, and your righteousness a son of man." Job 35:5-8

     Elihu has a proper understanding of his place before God. If God so much as stopped willing us to exist, we would cease! If we sin, we tend to see it as some huge grievance against God. It's NOT! Our sin separates us from God, certainly! But it's not like our sin just ruined God's plan, or really affects Him at all! Yes, our sin damages our relationship to Him, but it's not like I just ruined His day! Nothing we can do can take away anything from God in the same way that we have nothing to offer to God. We cannot add to him or somehow improve His cause by laboring for Him. God is perfect. He is so far above us and beyond our comprehension. We cannot injure Him or promote Him in anyway. He can glorify Himself infinitely more than we can even think we might be able to! I like a comment later in chapter 36 (verse 26a) which says, "Behold, God is great, and we know him not!" It's so uncommon for Christians to think this way, but the truth of the matter is, the only one who really benefits from our serving God, or is injured in our sinning against Him, is ourselves! We like to think that somehow we're doing God a favor if we devote our lives to serving Him, but really it's a privilege that He has even given us the opportunity!

     So, John, the point is this: we can be selfish, if we want, but the one that we're really hurting the most in doing that is ourselves. Yes, it can hurt others, too, but the person we hurt the most, whether we not it or not, I would argue is ourselves.

     I have found that the best remedy to selfishness is service. Serving others not out of selfishness (because service really can be selfishness in disguise), but out of the love of God. Serving God is what gives us joy, because serving God is what we were made for! (The term "serving" here does sound like it is something that benefits God, and perhaps it is not the best term, but it is the term we're used to. By "serving God" I mean: Living in communion with God, seeking to follow His every direction for my life, not because God is "looking out for me" seeking to provide me with everything that I could ever want, but because God is using me for His glory, which is, ultimately, the best thing for my life-whether it feels like it at the time, or not!

     So, when I think of how I miss Daniel, or start feeling sad about not having him in my life anymore, I think of A) how selfish it is of my to wish that Daniel were in my presence instead of the presence of God, His maker! B) that even if I don't understand it, who am I to question God's plan. Daniel's death was clearly a part of that plan, and though I don't understand it, I know that it is best-for Daniel, for his family, for his friends, for me, and simply it was/is the way that God chose to be glorified in this circumstance. and C) instead of feeling sad or sorry for myself, my focus needs to be on living my life to the fullest in seeking to glorify God through my own life. Namely this comes through seeking to serve others through love as we seek to be a more accurate reflection Christ to them in their life.

     John: I have shared a few thoughts that I think fit in and are very important, but in reality, this was a very long response to say that I think you're conclusion is correct. To paraphrase your conclusion in a way that I think emphasizes the true remedy (Christ) more than the result (loving others) I would say: The remedy to selfishness is to abide in Christ, allowing your life to be an outpouring of Christ's love to others through service. You are right, it's not all about you--it's not about you at all! Not even a tiny bit! It's only about God and His plan!

Good thoughts. I just wanted to share my own and expound on them a little. Keep seeking to live your life for Him. I'm glad to see that you are learning and growing in Him each day. This is our only worthwhile pursuit!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Little Bit of Everything

Wow! It's been a while since my last post, and I have a LOT to share! I guess I'll just start at the beginning.

I left campus at 4pm on Wednesday, October 6th for my trip to Carlos Paz. Lucas Fernandez Paz, the director of the Bilingual Program (in Spanish referred to as PBB), was going to Buenos Aires already to translate for someone, so he graciously brought me, and dropped me off at Retiro, the bus station. I think that Retiro is potentially one of the largest bus stations in the world. There are around ten major bus companies that operate there in this manner:
1st you buy your ticket from the company you choose. There are three types (classes) of buses:

          1) Semicama
This is the cheapest and simplest, yet still much nicer than any buses in the states. The seats recline to about a 45 degree angle. There is also a piece that folds down from the bottom of the seat in front of you to your knees as a leg rest. Overall it's pretty comfortable. This is what I had from Retiro to Carlos Paz and back. In Spanish the word for bed is cama. I find it highly amusing that this literally means a semi-bed bus.

My bus, across the aisle
          2) Ejetivo
This is like flying first class. I got to ride in one of these from Retiro back to Monte (in US $ it cost $1.25 more) because it left an hour earlier than the semicama. The basic difference is the seats are much wider. You don't feel like it'd be nice to have a free seat next to you in order to be comfortable.

My bus from Retiro to Monte
          3) Cama Suite
I haven't had the privilege of experiencing this yet, but from what I've heard and seen in pictures the seats are even nicer and recline to all the way flat. This is very convenient because if you're traveling any sort of distance most of the buses run through the night.

     After buying your ticket you head outside where there are about 100 different spaces where the buses drop off/pick up passengers. At any given time there are probably about 50 buses in active unloading/loading. This is how it works: your ticket tells you within 10 spaces where your bus will be (for example 16-26), which type of bus you are taking, and what the final destination is for your bus. You then have to simply pay attention. It's up to you to check all the buses of your company first to see if it's the right type, then to see if it has the right final destination. At first this sounded like an overwhelming task, as I looked to my left and right and saw hundreds of buses coming and going, but after observing for a while, I realized that it's really not that hard. They really have developed a system of public transportation (at least in the bus system, I don't know about the subway) that far exceeds that of America.
A picture that doesn't accurately show how huge this bus station is
     My bus was at least half an hour late. My 8:30 bus finally left somewhere around 9pm. I was riding in a semicama and luckily had the seat next to me free for a little extra space. I fell asleep pretty soon after we left and awoke about 2am at one of the stops. Here an older gentlemen sat in the seat next to me, but we didn't really talk. I asked him where we were, and he told me, though now I have no idea where that was. I felt pretty awake then, so I watched "Braveheart" on my iPod, then fell back asleep. The guy next to me got off in Córdoba, so I had a comfortable amount of napping room for the last 45-60 minutes until we arrived in Carlos Paz. I was a little worried that I wouldn't know exactly where to get off, but luckily there was a nice big sign at some point that said "Welcome to Villa Carlos Paz" (in Spanish, of course). I could see Mr. Hoyt waiting for me. I felt a little bad, because our bus was late, so he had been waiting for over an hour, but it was nice to be there after about 12 hrs. in the bus.

     Once we arrived at the Hoyt's house, Mrs. Hoyt had a nice breakfast of sausage gravy and biscuits for us. This was the first of the many wonderful meals I was blessed with. My favorites were definitely the breakfasts, because here at the BI (Bible Institute), we really don't get much for breakfast. (Breakfast consists of coffee, bread, dulce de leche or jam, bananas, and corn flakes. Personally I can't stand the cornflakes because they don't refrigerate their milk, so it tastes pretty gross.) Because of this, I REALLY appreciated the ham, eggs, pancakes, and omelets we had for breakfast while I was there.
Yes, I actually took a picture of my breakfast. That's how excited I was
     What did I do while I was there? Well, there weren't many exciting events or adventures, but I did get to do some interesting things. One of the mornings Ivan and I climbed one of the "mountains" (big hills) with a cross at the top. We had a great time talking about many different things of life: architecture, glorifying God in/with our lives, ministry, the trials of ministry, the necessity of bringing others to a realization of their sin and need for Christ before they can understand the Gospel, etc. It was a really good chance to catch up a little bit and hear about what God has been doing in each other's lives. On the way up, we stopped for a few minutes to catch our breath and appreciate the view as we were talking and as we started back up the hill I noticed an 8gb microSD card on the ground. I was surprised I noticed it considering it is a little smaller than a dime, but it was quite the find. At the top of the hill was a big cross which, once I discovered that on the back there was a ladder up the top half, I really wanted to climb, but fortunately I had no way of even getting close to reaching the bottom rung. I really would like to climb to the top some day, but will probably refrain out of consideration for the Catholic church and others who would be offended by this.

     One of the things that never ceases to amaze me here is how long it takes to do/accomplish things. It will take literally all morning to do the errands that in the U.S. would take maybe an hour. This can sometimes be very frustrating! I appreciate the fact that people aren't always in a hurry here like they are in The States, and that they will always take time from what they are doing to help you, but I think it is often taken to the other extreme, which is just as wrong. In the same way that it is inconsiderate to be in too much of a hurry to help someone, it's just as inconsiderate to continue talking to them and taking their time when they have other things they need to do. Not that this is always the case, I'm just noting that there is danger in either extreme. I think us Americans could stand to be a lot more like the Argentines in this, but I also think the Argentines could learn a little from us Americans as well.

     Saturday night was youth group night. Ivan asked me if I had any thoughts I'd like to share, so I began translating my thoughts on Hebrews 12 (see below) into Spanish with his help. I really enjoyed doing this as going through the process with him of figuring out the best way to say things in Spanish was really helpful for me. We went over to the church, but no one came, so eventually Ivan and I went across the street to the park and I introduced him to slacklining. I had a great time, and I think he enjoyed learning a little bit about it, as well as trying it out for himself. We also talked about how things like that can/could be used as ministry tools.

     One of the days we went for a drive and I got to see the area. We went to the dam that creates the lake, providing water for Córdoba. We also stopped by the Plaza Federal, the supposed center of Argentina.

 This is the new dam. On the right is the old dam that was destroyed. In the middle is "The Funnel" this is the overflow. When the water gets high enough it goes down the funnel and shoots out two tubes on the other side!

Plaza Federal, the other picture is across the street

A map of the day's activities

A map showing the Hoyt's house, the church, etc. in Carlos Paz
     I also had the privilege of meeting the rest of the Ramirez family. The Ramirez's work with the Hoyt's as missionaries in Carlos Paz. Pablo and Andrea Ramirez both attend the BI here. Andrea was very helpful when I was seeking to know more about the school and we emailed back and forth a few times, and Pablo was very helpful in getting my tickets and ensuring everything was all set for my trip. Sunday afternoon Tito, Adriana, and their two daughters, Alejandra, and Ani (not sure on some of the spellings...) came over for asado. Asado is a general term equivalent to a barbecue. We just had chicken, but my understanding is that typically one will have many different types of meat eaten in stages throughout the evening. It was a great time of getting to know them a little, and playing guitar and singing with the girls.

Above is the grill for asado. The bucket is used for starting the charcoal, when it's ready, it comes out the bottom and you scoop it up and spread it under the meat.

       After church Sunday evening, where we mostly just sang songs (I learned some new ones, and they learned some new ones), we all (the Ramirezes and the Hoyts) piled into the Ramirez's van and they brought me to the bus station. They were kind enough to wait for my bus (SURPRISE! It was late again!) they saw me off. I slept on and off on the way back to Retiro.

     Once I got back to Buenos Aires at about 8:30am, I went to see if I could change my ticket for 3:30 in the afternoon to an earlier one. (Yes, I did this successfully all by myself) The earliest I could go was 1:50, but that hour was totally worth the US$1.25 it cost me (besides, I got to go executive class!). I still had 5+ hours to kill, though, so I walked to Florida St. This is a very busy pedestrian street with a lot of shops, malls, street vendors, etc. Eventually I made my way back to a park (la plaza de San Martin) and studied my Spanish vocabulary for my test before I made my way back to Retiro.

     I barely woke up at the bus stop in Monte, and had to ask a few different people if it was the right spot. I could have paid for a taxi (here a "Remis") to take me back to the school, but decided to save the money and walk instead. It was probably a 4-5 mile walk with my backpack and guitar, but the weather was nice and it was pretty enjoyable. Monday was a Holiday (not sure what for, I just know it was a Holiday) so things were pretty busy in both B.A. and in Monte.

     Two more things to finish up:
1) While in Buenos Aires I had to ask a policeman for directions to Florida St. I knew I was close by, but figured instead of walking around forever looking for it, I'd just ask. I walked up to him and proceeded to begin by asking him where Florida St. was. I was slightly surprised by his response of "Good morning! How are you!?" then I remembered that I was in Argentina, and here you don't just get right to the point you have to have at least a minimal amount of small talk first. I told him I was fine, asked how he was, commented on the weather, and then asked how to get to Florida St., but walked away thinking that this was a good reminder for me of how many opportunities we pass up to make an impact on people. Instead of stopping and taking the time to talk to people and maybe even share the Gospel with them, we are so used to just using people for whatever we need/want and passing them by.

2) Random fact about Argentina that I learned from Mrs. Ramirez. If a family has 7 kids of the same sex all in a row (7 boys all in a row, or 7 girls all in a row) the President "adopts" them and pays for all of their educational expenses. This very rarely happens, but for us, it would mean that Noah would be "adopted" by the President, and could go to whatever college(s) and/or university(s) he wanted to, and it would all be paid for by the President herself. (The President here is currently a female) Just a random fun fact for the day, and a great way to end this post.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Two Things... Something Sad and Something Good!

Today two of my best Latino friends left for three weeks to Pichi Traful, the hotel in the Andés Mountains run by the school. I will get to go there for a week of vacation the week after my birthday in the end of February. They will work there for three weeks to help pay for their school year. They are two of the people that I spend the most time with here practicing my Spanish, etc. They have both opened up to me and accepted me as a brother (one of them lost a brother about my age in January of this year), so I will miss them, but they will be back soon.

Tomorrow I get to leave to visit the Hoyts! I am very excited to see them, to see where they live/work, have a break from being here at school, and have some other food. I am a little nervous about traveling so far in a country that I barely speak the language. I am getting a lot better, especially these last few days, but I don't really feel prepared to face ensuring that I get on the right bus when it's actually entirely probable for me to miss it. Here in Buenos Aires the bus station is apparently huge. Each company has their own space, and they just kind of come and go, you have to figure out which one you're supposed to be on, and make sure you're on it, before it leaves! :) Pray that I won't have any problems! Once I get on the right bus, I will have a 10 hr. bus ride to Córdoba. Where the Hoyts will pick me up. I will (hopefully) post again once I am there and have more time, but just wanted to update you all on what's going on with me. So, that's all for now.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Some Thoughts on Hebrews 12:1-4 & 28-29

Hebrews 12:1-4, 28-29

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Today in church, I got kind of bored with the half of the message that I understood, so I started reading the passage around the verse we were looking at. Chapter 11 consists of many examples of those who lived by faith and then Chapter 12 turns to us and our response. We are instructed to "Lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely". The author of Hebrews rightly realized that
1) our purpose in life is to bring glory to God
2) it is not just sin that slows us down, but other "weights" often hinder us as well. I believe the author is referring to mankind's idolatrous heart that turns many good things into a god. This is his encouragement to us to get rid of anything that inhibits God being glorified in our lives.
3) he recognizes how easily we are tempted by sin. We are never safe from temptation. It's always close at hand. No matter how mature we are in Christ, we will always deal with sin and temptation and it will always be pressing in on us.
because we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses we are instructed to have endurance in these three things. I have often heard that this "great cloud of witnesses refers to Christians, but I'm not sure it does. It seems to make more sense that it is simply referring to all of mankind. Because mankind is watching us, we need to lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us, and seek to glorify God with endurance looking to Jesus as our example. Especially as an example of resisting temptation.

The chapter closes with a challenge to us that we need to be properly grateful. That if we truly understand what's been given to us our lives will be an outpouring of acceptable worship with reverence and awe. We are reminded once again of the power of God over everything. He could exact this worship from us, and He certainly deserves it, but He wants it to be our natural expression of gratefulness for all that He has done for us.

These are just a few of my thoughts about Hebrews 12, I'd write more, but I really need to study for our tests tomorrow.

Something I wrote up this morning.

Yesterday was October 2nd! This is an important date for me for two reasons. 1) It is Mom’s Birthday – Happy Birthday (again) Mom! Hope you had a great time, sorry I couldn’t be there (again. I feel like I haven't been there for like the last three...). And 2) it marks one month of being here in Argentina! It’s weird to think that I’ve been here for an entire month already.
Life here certainly has become normal already as the excitement wears off. My Spanish has been improving rapidly and I can understand most of what people say (depending greatly on their level of patience, how quickly they speak, and their level of annunciation). I’ve found a great number of Spanish speakers don’t really open their mouths when they talk, making it really difficult to understand them-especially since it’s already hard enough to figure out what the words mean. I try to sit with Latinos during meals to practice my Spanish. Two nights ago I talked with my friend Miguel for about two hours (in Spanish, of course) about the book of James (the subject of our current Bible class) and cultural differences in relationships between Argentines and Americans and the pros and cons of each. It was a very good conversation and helped me to see how much Americans ignore truly seeking God’s direction in their relationships.
I have been wanting to visit the Hoyts for a while, and God has provided for me to be able to go this next week. I will leave Wednesday after classes to go to Buenos Aires, and take an overnight bus to Córdoba, where the Hoyt's will pick me up and bring me to their home in Carlos Paz. I will get to spend all of Thursday through Sunday there, then will take another overnight bus back Sunday night. I am really excited to be able to get away for a few days, visit some friends from home, have American food (anything other than the regular meals here), and just get away from the extremely busy schedule here. I really like it here, but not really being able to leave, or go anywhere really, starts to wear on you after a while. At least it does for me. This will probably be my only chance to go somewhere before I go back to Carlos Paz for the month of December. Compared to travel in the States, it is relatively cheap to travel by bus here, it will cost less than $100 round trip to take a 10 hr. bus ride each way. For about 5-10 dollars more you can have a seat the equivalent of 1st class in the states. Here, however, they just have an entirely different bus that costs more, with seats that can lay almost entirely flat. Maybe someday I'll get to try one of these, but for now I just want to get there and back to visit the Hoyts as cheaply as possible. :)
We are each assigned a "counselor" or mentor among the staff or missionary staff here on campus. The Lord has also provided another blessing in my counselor and his wife (Chuck and Darla) allowing me to wash my laundry at their house. They have a washer, and have very graciously offered to let me use it. Last time Darla even hung it out for me! They have a laundry service here that washes, dries, and even folds your clothes for a good price, 10 pesos (~$2.50) but when you don't have a lot of money, it really starts to add up. It has been a great lesson for me to see how God provides for us, though often it requires us to let go of our pride first. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of hanging my clothes out to dry, they get all stiff instead of having that nice comfy feeling of clothes that were dried in the dryer. I realized, though, that sometimes God provides something for us, but our pride stands in the way of us accepting it. God has provided a way for me to save some money provided I do a little extra work myself and have clothes that were hung out to dry instead of dried in the dryer. I guess having a dryer is just another one of those little things I realized I have taken for granted, but isn't really necessary.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Random Picture Post


The main conference center. I actually haven't been inside it yet.

Close up of the Word of Life sign on the Conference Center

The main floor of this building is the Dining Room (el comedor)

My Room... My bed is the upper right, with the cupboard right next to it.
My cupboard... This is basically all of my storage space. Everything else stays in my bag underneath the bed.

This is the key to my room. Pretty sweet, huh?!

Slacklining!! This one is Caleb's (multi-colored shirt). It was mysteriously stolen the next day from his room.

Josiah slacklining

Wesley and I with an Argentine soldier in the Pink House

The Pink House, the Argentine equivalent of the White House. The President's office is here, but apparently she doesn't actually live here.

On Florida St.

More Florida Street!

I really liked these multi-colored roses.

A door on Florida St. in Buenos Aires.

Fun Times with Josiah

Wal-Mart! A place we all know! This is Brett and Steve.

More slacklining. This one is mine. We slackline at least once a week in the afternoon.

Random worship session. These don't happen quite as often as they used to, but these are my favorite!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Life at Palabra de Vida.

A lot of you are probably wondering what life is like here. Well, it's a lot the same as in the states. I've already shared some of the major differences, but most probably want to know more about the day to day, so here is a breakdown of a typical week.

Monday: On Mondays, most students do not have class, because many are still returning from their ministries in other places, so for them it is a travel day. For those who are still here, it is work in the morning, then a free afternoon. For us, the Bilingual students, we have our tests on Monday, but we get to sleep in a little - breakfast isn't until 9. Then we have a test in our Bible Class and a test in our Spanish Class. (We took a placement test for Spanish, and I am in the highest of the 3 levels). Lunch is at 1:00 and then typically we have the afternoon free until dinner at 7:30pm. I am always starving by meal times because they're all so late (with the exception of breakfast).

Tuesday - Friday: Tuesday is the beginning of our "normal" days of the week. Breakfast at 6:45am (WAY too early to be hungry.) They have cereal, but the milk is room temperature to warm, so it's kinda gross. I usually just eat a banana, and have two (small) cups of coffee. After breakfast we have about 30 minutes set aside for personal quiet time. Every morning (Tuesday through Friday) we have cultito (little chapel) for 15 minutes before class. It's like a short recorded devotional. 8:00 to 10:10 is Bible class with two 5 minute breaks. Our class right now is "The Christian Life." Chapel is from 10:20-11:00, but it almost always goes long, depending on who preaches. We get a 30 min. break then, and Spanish class begins at 11:30 and goes until lunch at 1:00. After lunch we have a little bit of free time until 2:30 when study hours begin. Some people really like the study hours because otherwise they would never get anything done. I don't like them mostly because we can't listen to music during study hours. It's one of those rules that they have, but no one really knows WHY they have it. (And I don't usually have that much studying to do because I always try to get it done right away.) Study hours go from 2:30 to 3:45, then we have 30 minutes to get to either our sport (Wed. & Fri for me) or our job (Tue. & Thurs.) My sport is soccer. I played for the first time yesterday, and it was fun, though they don't play with "Off-side" which totally changes the nature of the entire game. For my job I get to work at the farm here at the school. Right now we're working on building another greenhouse. It's interesting how far behind us they are in many ways, but especially technologically and with tools, etc. Dinner is at 7:00. After this every night is different so I'll explain the differences to this schedule below.

Tuesday: After dinner we have more study hours from 8:30 to 9:15. After that we have what's called "compartir" (sharing) in our rooms with our roommates. Basically someone shares their testimony with the rest of the group.
Wednesday: After dinner we have something called U.M.E. (pronounced ooh-meh). It's like a "union" of missionary groups. Basically we are all in a group for a different country (Though Argentina is split into four groups geographically) and we get together with our group to pray for that country and occasionally plan missions trips. The last two weeks we've met together for a while and then split up into our groups.
Thursday: After dinner we have more study hours from 8:30 to 9:15. Then we normally have a Word of Life missionary come to our room and share with us. This is much like "compartir" just with a missionary. From my experience, you're lucky to be asleep before midnight on these days.
Friday: Because many students leave for ministry for the weekend on Friday, instead of having study hours after lunch we go straight to our sports/work (soccer for me), then we're free for the rest of the afternoon.

Saturday: Breakfast is at 8:00am. We will be having choir practice (we're starting a singing group to go around to churches, schools, etc.) on Saturdays, but other than that, I believe Saturdays are totally free.

Sunday: Breakfast is at 8:30? (I think) Church is at 10 (I think) :). Lunch is at 1:00, like normal, then we have the afternoon to ourselves.

We will often go into town on weekends, because those are the only days we have enough time to go. We have to get permission to leave campus, and town (Monte) is like a 20 minute walk. It's a nice walk, though.

Well, study hours are over, so, that's all for now!

Friday, September 10, 2010

What I Have Finally Learned from Daniel!

“God allows hard things in our lives so we can show the world that our God is great and that knowing Him brings peace and joy, even when life is hard.”

In the wake of Daniel’s death, I have found this statement to be truer than I could have ever imagined. God has used Daniel’s death in so many ways to bring glory to Himself. Who are we to question God’s plan or timing, all that we can do is seek peace and joy in Him – seeking always to bring Him more glory.

Seeking God’s glory in everything is one thing that I know Daniel thought about more than anyone else I have ever known.  I know this, because he talked about it. All the time. As humans, we talk about the things that mean the most to us, and Daniel’s conversation fell into two categories: living for the glory of God, and programming for the glory of God. Though he had many quirks and was significantly different than me, the thing for which I remember him most is this: He was always seeking to live for the glory of God!

I have just finished reading Francis Chan’s book “Crazy Love” and found this quotation by C.S. Lewis that reminded me of Daniel, and was very challenged: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.

Daniel and I were very different people in almost every aspect, including this one. I wanted to bring glory to God, but really only as far as it fit into my plan for my life. Though I am ashamed to admit it, I have always thought more of this life than the next. I have wanted my career and family, and to serve God with the leftovers of my life. I am only now beginning to learn the most important thing in life—what it really means to live for Christ and to trust Him with and for everything.

I am beginning to see that sadly, to my own discredit, I have learned more from Daniel in his death than in his life. I am beginning to see the devotion and faith that Daniel had for God, and to want that for myself. I am finally beginning to pursue God instead of what should have been my biggest fear—succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter. Now, don’t get me wrong, Daniel had plenty of faults, but there is a lot that we can learn from him here.

I have found that in the words of Francis’, I haven’t really wanted to be saved from my sin, just the penalty of it. “We must genuinely hate sin and be truly sorry for it; not merely sorry that God will punish us for it!” I have also found myself guilty of loving everything (the things/family/friends) God has given me more than the God who is everything. The question that really challenged me, however, was this: “What are you doing right now that requires faith?” Can you think of even one thing?

In the last few days God has shown me that I have never wholly surrendered my life to Him. There is no human explanation why a perfect God would continue to love and pursue a sinner like me, but He has finally brought me to a place where I am not only willing, but desiring to say, “Lord, here is my life. Do with it as you will. I am willing to follow you to the end of the world. I am willing to sacrifice my relationships with family and friends, and my own personal desires, dreams, and goals, to serve you, wherever and however that may be.”

I have finally decided to follow Jesus; no turning back. Though none go with me, I still will follow; no turning back.

I know it will not be easy; I know I will often not feel like it. At times I may wonder how I will survive or where my next meal will come from; in times like these, others may look at me with ridicule. Yet, God has graciously given me each day. Each breath comes from Him. No longer can I spend my life serving myself. I am compelled hereafter to seek an eternal return on the gifts that God has given me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Random Thoughts on Argentina and Culture

I've really been enjoying it here, but there are some very different things here. Here are a few of my random ponderings since I've been here.

1. On the way down, at the International Airport in Washington D.C. at the gate next to mine there was this huge jet for a Saudi Arabian airline. On the side in huge bold letters it said "God Bless You" or "God Be With You". Why is it that no American airlines say anything like that, but a Muslim nation's airline does?

2. The bathrooms here are dirty. It's just a fact of life. I'm not sure about all Argentina, but here at the school T.P. is not flushed after use but thrown away. This makes for very dirty and very smelly bathrooms - all the time. This is something I may get used to at a surface level, but will still never really be able to get used to doing.

3. I realized today that I'm having trouble staying hydrated. The water here has this weird salty taste. It's not really salty, it just has this very strange taste that makes me not want to drink it. I never thought I would buy water, but I think I might have to - especially since it's about $0.75 for 1.5 liters.

4. I think it's great that the first two days of Spanish class will be spent studying English grammar. Apparently they realize that you really can't start learning another language if you really don't even understand your own, so we spend two days of class studying English grammar. After that, we have a test. Each individual can't begin Spanish class until they've passed the English grammar test.

5. I never thought I'd be so excited to have sheets and blankets! The Hoyts were kind enough to loan me bedding while I am here, which is great because I never would have been able to fit it in my one suitcase. I arrived, however, on Thursday, but wasn't able to get them from Pablo Ramirez until sometime Saturday. I really didn't have a problem sleeping on a bare mattress with the airplane pillow (the kind that goes around your neck) that Rob gave me, but once I had real sheets, blankets, and a pillow with a pillow case I was so excited! I didn't realize how much we take that for granted. You can sleep just fine without them, but they make it so much more comfortable!

6. I love Matte (mah-teh) and the process of drinking it. Matte is an herb made into almost a tea. The cup or gourd used for preparing/drinking matte is called the "matte". The leaves are called the "yerba" (here in Argentina pronounced sherba), and the straw with a filter (it's like loose-leaf tea) is called the "bombilla" (bombisha). One person will be the "host" (whoever has the matte) and they'll fill it up, pass it to someone who will drink it all and pass it back. The host will then refill it and pass it to someone else. This process is repeated throughout the entire time of conversation or whatever the event is. The other day while talking with a Missionary in our room I had 4 cups of matte. Yesterday, while in town I bought my own matte and bombilla. I will try to upload pictures. This is something I've been waiting to get down here since before I came.

Well, enough for now. I will write more later.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Alive and Whole in Argentina!

So, I made it! I was supposed to be the first person to arrive today. Instead, I was the last. BUT, I am here. My luggage is here. It's all here. And it's not damaged. I got into the country with no problems. I should have taken pictures today, but it wasn't the first thing on my mind.

Like I said, I was the last to arrive. I dropped my stuff off in my room, and we loaded into a bus owned by the school (a double-decker bus) and went to lunch at a nearby restaurant. Once we returned we had about 45 minutes before registration. Registration was pretty painless. We have satellite internet in a few of the buildings, but it seems to be really slow right now. I think the weather has something to do with that. I have met most of my 7 roommates, and 3 of them speak English. I have enjoyed getting to know them all and trying to have conversations with them in Spanish. It's beginning to come back to me.

Not too sure what the rest of the evening holds. I'm not really sure where to unpack to, because there is hardly any space in our room besides beds. We get one cupboard to put our stuff/clothes in. Mostly I just need to wait until one of the English speaking guys in the room to find out, so they don't feel like I'm trying to take over their room.

I knew Argentina was less developed, but I underestimated that a little. The campus is nice, but very simple. I will try to take pictures tomorrow to post. Until then I am thankful that I have arrived with no complications, all my luggage, in relatively good physical condition (besides my back and neck being sore from sitting/sleeping sitting down for about 30 hrs, and being tired), and VERY thankful to finally be here!

Halfway There is a Good Start... I Guess... Could be Worse!

It's 11pm back home, and I am sitting in the airport in Bogota, Colombia waiting for a plane that was supposed to be leaving now. Apparently our plane was struck by lightning, and they are repairing it. The earliest they hope to have us leaving is 3am.... Oh the joys of travel!

It's been a busy day so far with wake up at 5:30 for a 6:30am departure from home. We got to the airport and I got through security without any problems. My bag was overweight by 13pnds, but the most I could have lost was a couple pounds. They said it would be the same price for a third bag (I think this is mostly because the Latin American airlines go more by total weight of luggage, not number of pieces and weight) so I had no choice but to pay the $200 fee.

My flight from Detroit to Washington, D.C. went well, and once I got there luckily stumbled upon the gate for my next flight in my search just to find information about what gate I was supposed to. This took all of 5 minutes, so then I got to wait... and wait... and wait some more until finally about 1:15 before the flight was supposed to leave, representatives finally showed up and I was able to check in. I had to check my backpack, because they only allowed one carry on, no matter it's size, and I had to keep my laptop bag with all of my valuables (laptop, ipod, etc) with me. Luckily I wasn't charged anymore. Jose, the guy at the desk even gave me a better seat. I ended up with a window seat, with an older woman on the aisle seat with a free seat between us. That was nice to have!

My flight from D.C. to Bogota went well, though it was a bit long. It was my first time being fed anything that could be considered close to a real meal on a plane, with a small salad, a small main dish (The choices were beef or pasta, I had beef and it was relatively good), and a dessert. I'm not really sure what the desert was, but it was really good.  Later on they also gave us a small sandwich. I mostly slept, listened to music, and watched an episode of "House", "Glee", and part of "Man vs. Wild", before we landed. Overall, I was quite impressed with the service.

Once we landed we ended up sitting waiting for our gate to open up for about 20 minutes. I was starting to get a little nervous because I was supposed to be boarding my next plane already. I did still have 30 minutes until departure, however. Once off the plane I had to have my bag sniffed by a dog, a first for me, and then walked to gates over only to discover that I'm not going anywhere anytime close to now. Well, at least I made it half way there!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

10 Days to Prepare!!!

After spending the entire summer working at Fort Wilderness, a Christian camp in Wisconsin. I spent a week with my family visiting relatives in New Hampshire. I finally arrived home yesterday giving me 11 days (counting today) to do everything required for leaving the country for 10 months!

This will be my first attempt at keeping a blog, but I will do my best to post regularly. My plan is to use this blog to keep everyone updated on how school is going, what I am doing, and my overall experience through posts, and, Lord willing, pictures! My camera broke this summer, so as of right now I have no camera. I'm praying that the Lord will provide one so that you all will be able to have a better glimpse of my experiences.

I have included below the information that I shared with my church this morning to update them as to what I will be doing.

"First, I would like to thank everyone who has been praying for Joseph and I this summer while we were at camp. I know that  camp had a spiritually positive impact on everyone who came, but there are a few that I KNOW their lives were TRULY changed.

I'd like take just a moment to share with you what I will be doing this next year.

    On September 1st, 10 days from now, I leave for Argentina to attend Word of Life's Bi-Lingual Bible Program at their school in Buenos Aires called Palabra De Vida. My first semester will consist of Bible classes taught in English, and intensive Spanish classes. Lord willing I will be spending all of December with one of our missionary families, the Hoyts, near Cordoba, Argentina visiting, helping, and getting a chance to really see and be a part of the ministry that they have. In January, we have the opportunity to serve at Palabra De Vida's youth summer camp. Because the season's are the opposite of ours, this is their summer. Spanish classes will continue through this time. Then, in April we will join their native first year students in their Bible classes. So all classes will be completely in Spanish at this point.

I'm really excited about this year for many reasons. The two major ones being:
1. I really want to speak Spanish fluently, and what better way to learn then through studying the Bible!
2. Ever since the Hoyts started talking about going to Argentina, I've had a desire to go. I do not know if the Lord is calling me to full time missions in Argentina, but I am very excited to have the opportunity to participate in a Bible Conference, Missions Conference, and Evangelistic Program through the school as well as see the work that the Hoyts are doing while spending Christmas Break with them.

I would really appreciate your prayers and support as the Lord leads this year. If you are interested in keeping updated on what I am doing I have started a blog (benzarro.blogspot.com) where I will be posting updates and (Lord willing) pictures of my time! Thank You!"