Friday, August 29, 2008


Hit the 24 hour mark tonight at 10 pm while watching a video of Cusco on the computer with my roommate, Susan. It feels like I have been here for a week already!

The airport was strangely quiet when I arrived, especially since I am used to the yelling, whistling, and rapid conversations in foreign languages in the crowds at Miami’s airport. I stood in line for my bag with at least 100 other people and could hear myself think—clearly. When I passed the final customs checkpoint with a flashing green light, I walked out into a space roping arriving passengers off from all the eager, watching faces. I felt a little famous.

Anyway, Amanda and Susan (my roommate) greeted me at the end of the proverbial red carpet with warm hugs. We took a taxi to our apartment in Salamanca; the lights and the lack of road rules actually reminded me of Miami (and the Chili’s and McDonalds made me think of Waco). Once we arrived and I dropped off my bags, we headed straight for the “vescis” (I think that’s the equivalent of saying “neighbs”). Marta, the mother, has smiling dark eyes and is always joking. The oldest daughter, Romina, is 15 and although they told me that their 12 year old daughter, Yanella, will talk your ear off, I would award that prize to Romina : ). They welcomed me and treated me as though we had been friends for years within the first five minutes. As Susan and I left their apartment, I told them, “Ya siento calor de hogar aqui”—I already feel at home here. (Thanks Mel, for the lesson on hogar versus casa, and Janell and Katherine, ya’ll are more connected to your roots than you think cuz these girls remind me of you so much!)

Today I played with Amanda and Jeremy’s girls, Kayla and Bella, all day. So fun- and I got to exercise my imagination, which I fully enjoyed and appreciated because I’m convinced it will atrophy in adulthood if I lose all my friends under 3 feet tall. Thank you CS Lewis for reminding me that “the task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.”

After the girls and their friend Noah ate dinner, Amanda and I went to church for a prayer meeting. I think I made a good first impression—we walked in over half an hour late in the middle of our team leader’s talk. Hopefully the other 2 hours we spent in prayer afterwards made up for it.

In all seriousness, tonight, I experienced an adrenaline rush equivalent to being on top of a mountain in Colorado, while sitting in a small circle of strangers in a cold school building. Perhaps it was the newness of the Spanish phrases --" sacrificio de su hijo” and “somos hijos y reinos de Dios” that had me stirred. But the prayers and requests of these people truly moved me and simply listening to their confidence in asking strengthened my belief. Finally, the adventures of Paul visiting the Church in foreign places livened up. The disappointments and inauthentic moments and empty words I ever associated with the Church fell away in the face of this genuine activity of God’s people and His Holy Spirit swirling, orbiting in community. I think it comes down to this: they don’t forget the cross. In each prayer, they mention and thank God for His Son’s sacrifice on the cross. I want to esteem the cross so highly that it overflows into my life and speech and no one can think it cheesy because it is just so evidently true that Jesus has saved me from emptiness of a life without meaning, without Him.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Beginning Phobia.

I was thinking about my phobia of beginnings today, and it finally dawned on me why I am a philosophy major: the intro paragraphs. Philosophy papers are the easiest pieces of writing to start, because all you have to do is outline what you're going to say, start to finish. No need to waltz in with a catchy first line or capture attention with a fancy image-- your reader has not picked up "A Discourse on the Categorical Imperative" to be entertained. It is a straightforward writing plan that leaves no room for surprises.

It would be nice to give you the same kind of concise, well articulated map of my next few months in Peru. I, too, would love to know what my life will look like in 4 months- what I will have seen, heard, thought, and learned. But fortunately enough for those of us who prefer an adventure novel to a philosophical dialogue, God is in the habit of surprising us at every moment.

There's one more detail about philosophy papers I left out. Though the intro paragraph appears to be a stationary and rigid guideline, to the writer it's more like a breathing organism that, in the end, finally grows into its skin. The process looks like this: I take a position in an argument, logically walk the reader through the mental steps I took, throw in some evidence, and lead them up to my conclusion. Inevitably, as soon as I start writing, things get muddled.

In the last paper I wrote, I began trying to explain why Plato bashes poetry in the Republic. When I was flipping through the end, looking for evidence to support one of my points, all the sudden I see Plato using poetry. At this point I obviously had to rethink my initial position. After two or three completely different papers, I reached the conclusion that Plato critiques the poets for being "imitators," but he actually thinks poetry is the most effective way to communicate philosophical truths. I can't tell you how many beginnings I wrote for this paper before I finally got the roadmap and destination right. It wasn't until I typed the last word of the conclusion paragraph that I could accurately write the intro.

I have a feeling that the same will be true of the upcoming journey. If I were to write down my expectations and plans for the next few months now, I have no doubt I would laugh, come December. But at present I lay aside my picture of what awaits me on the other side of the runway in Peru. I cling only to the hope that I will learn and grow and give and love and do it all in the name of Jesus.