justice

Minneapolis to Chicago on 2 Wheels: Day 2

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Day 2 of the Midwest biking tour presented a fun opportunity for most of us: our first century ride (100 mile ride)! I was definitely excited about his and definitely apprehensive about this. The furthest I had ridden was the day before, when we rode about 65 miles. I was a little apprehensive about how my back was going to do, but it felt fine at the moment. Plus Jon's wife had packed essential oils for him that he was willing to share, so I figured that would go a long way. Since we stayed in a home that didn't have coffee, the first stop for those of us whose drug of choice is caffeine, was the nearest Caribou. It also had to be the cutest Caribou Coffee I've ever seen.

morning priorities.

Once we were all fueled up, we hit the road, literally. On our way out of the parking lot, I thought we were going to beat the oncoming cars, but everyone else wanted to wait, which left me clipped in and wanting to stop. Y'all know where this is headed. Yep, I fell into the nearby pretty rock landscape and provided much needed entertainment for the guy mowing the lawn on his riding lawn mower. Don't underestimate your purpose.... some days you are entertained, some days, you are the entertainment...

The next 100 miles were filled with huge climbs, gorgeous scenery, and AMAZING speeds on the down hills. I clocked 40 mph on my bike on one down hill, and let's just say I was praying a lot that cars nor slide outs would ruin that long run down...I love speed...which is why I will take biking over running any day (let's just call it what it is...I don't really run, I lope...my asthma, allergies and aging are proving more prohibitive than I ever would have imagined. Please, if you are in your 20's do it all!! The 30's are when you start falling apart. Trust me.). It's also why I need hobbies that provide speed because if you haven't noticed, life, well...at least mine is more of a marathon pace and nothing happens when I WANT it to. God and I have lots of talks about this. And God usually wins. When I "win" it never turns out well, so it's not really a win. But it usually takes me a bit to concede and realize things would have turned out better if I had let God's best rule. The thing about God though is that God will let us have our way whenever we want and we can run into as many walls as it takes us to realize God's best is always better than what we hope, dream or imagine. Someday, I hope to be able to believe that enough to actually live it out... Until then, I imagine I will run into many more walls and will go running to God to be consoled and reminded to stretch my patience out just a bit longer next time.

the scenery tho

The first 50ish miles of this day were brilliant. And then the inevitable, my back pain set in again. So, with 50 miles to go, I needed to stop and stretch about every 7-10 miles depending on how many hills we had and how much I pushed myself.

The first couple of times we had to stop, I was okay with it. I didn't mind being the reason we had to stop. But I wanted to push myself til I just couldn't bear the pain any more and then stop. Well, I went too long one time and literally getting down on the ground was so painful I couldn't hold back the tears. So there I lay on my back in the middle of who knows where Wisconsin in excruciating pain and I guess, trying to save face and from being humiliated. So from behind sunglasses (so my team couldn't see how much pain I was in) I told them I could just wait for sweep (y'all know how well that went from Day 1) and that they should just go ahead. To which Fred responded, "No. We are a team and we will stick together and all finish as a team. You of all people should know that, you're the Missions Pastor. Plus, I'm always ready for a bathroom stop and these stops remind me to drink more water." Everyone else chimed in and agreed. So, the rest of the day was spent riding together across Wisconsin with stops about every 45 minutes so I could stretch my back and everyone could take bathroom and water breaks.

And finish together as a team, we did.

we ride together. we finish together. #team #community

If I'm being truthful, I'm still unsure why it's so hard for me to be the reason to stop. If it had been someone else, of course I would stop for them, as many times as they needed and thought nothing of it (and probably even enjoy a reason for the break). But when it comes to me, I don't want to be the reason people have to stop. I don't want to be the reason people have to slow down. I don't want to be the "weakest" link. Perhaps it's my age old perfectionist tendencies. They've gotten better over the years, but clearly I still hold myself to unrealistic expectations and always want to be great at everything, otherwise, why do it (I know, I know, horrible belief system, but I'm just being real). Perhaps this is the reason my word for the year from God is "play." Not perform, not excel, not pray, not lead, not seek, not follow, but "play".

yarn bombing and paint fumes

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You may say I’m a dreamer... but I’m not the only one

Dreams. We all have them, but we don’t always get to see them become reality. But that’s the beautiful thing about being a dreamer: there is always something to push towards, something to strive for. Our team had the incredible opportunity to help a vision and dream come true. Krochet Kids intl. launched their Peru location over a year ago, and an awesome man named Blake led the way. He, his wife, and four kids moved from Southern California to Lima, Peru, building the Peru factory from the ground up.

Krochet Kids? What is that?

If you haven’t heard of Krochet Kids intl. yet, then pay attention! This organization is really amazing. Now, there are few things that excite me more than social entrepreneurship. I’ve had the pleasure of working for a really amazing company that sort of launched the philanthropic business model into mainstream America, and I love seeing what these companies can do. Krochet Kids is all about sustainability (among other things). What sets them apart from the rest of the companies that go into other countries and set up factories, is that not only do they provide jobs for the people who live in the area, but they also set out to educate and mentor them so that they can take what they learned and bring it into their community. Empowerment!

The dream

Because mentoring is such a big piece of what Krochet Kids does, Blake had a vision for what their mentoring space would look like. He and Danny schemed and dreamed together, and came up with a blueprint/plan for what the space could look like. It involved tearing down walls, building walls and doors, repainting the entire space, and yarn bombing. They also wanted to provide chairs for the women (previously, they would have to bring their chairs from the factory across the street, up the stairs that can only be described as a steep climb, and into the room in order to sit on something).

There was a question as to whether our team could complete the project. Not any doubt in our abilities, but genuine consideration for the short amount of time that we would be at the worksite. To get a better grasp of what the space looked like when we arrived, here is a picture:

before What you don’t see are the 10 chairs that we had to sand and repaint, the three counter/cupboards that needed to somehow get into the space and sanded and refurnished, and the art that we wanted to include to brighten up the space. It may have seemed like a daunting task, but we were up for the challenge!

Hi-Ho... Hi-Ho

Each morning when we arrived, we assessed what needed to be done and then got to it! There were a few hilarious, yet dangerous moments. Like when Josh and Jose perched precariously on a ledge three stories up as a team of men lifted really really heavy counter/cupboards up to them. Or when Alicia, Josh and Andres experienced an electrical fire and someone (ahem) tried to fix it by sticking a screwdriver into the open wires. Or when our entire team was inhaling paint fumes for hours on end... it was only until Danny was giggling that we realized we probably needed a break!

It was hard work, for sure. And there were times where we weren’t sure we’d be able to get it done! But the beauty of it all was how our team of rag tag people (some more muscular than others) banded together, and did what needed to be done. There was no complaining, just picking up a paintbrush if something needed another coat or handing the hacksaw to Josh when something needed to be cut. We lifted, sanded, sawed, hammered, painted, and scrubbed. It wasn’t all work, there were definitely moments of joy. Like, when Kori, Amy, Kelly and Grace yarn bombed two of the posts in the room. Or when Lauren and I hammered in nails to create a KKPeru wall hang. Or when people started singing along to Justin Beiber when he came up on my playlist!

All I know, is that when Thursday noon hit, we had somehow created a beautiful space for the women to use, to learn and be mentored in. It’s almost crazy how different the after picture is:

after

So now what?

We had an awesome “reveal” for the women on Thursday, which also happened to be our Fourth of July. We had rotisseried chicken and potatoes, and showed the women the space for the first time after the remodel. It was just an incredible moment, seeing all of our work come together and then getting to spend some time with the women and their kids.

At the end of the day, this is what “missions” is about. I put the word “missions” in quotes, because technically we are called by God to serve the poor, the needy, the hungry, the orphaned, the widowed, as a part of our every day lives. So our time in Lima was just another opportunity to be mirrors of Christ (remember my Justin Timberlake post?). But this is what it is. Partnering with other believers, figuring out what needs are in the community, and then finding ways to address those needs.

On the surface, the KKPeru project was a chance to beautify a space. Goodbye lime green walls, hello bright yellow curtains. But in reality, it was much more than that. Because of the additional room we built, the mentors will now be able to double their time with the women. Instead of only being able to work with one person at a time, both mentors can sit down and teach, listen and help two women. The counter space allows the KKPeru team to keep notes and binders where the women will be taught. And instead of lugging chairs from the factory to the mentor space and back, that time can be added on to the teaching time.

Ultimately, revamping the space was our way of telling the women of Chorrillos that what they do matters. The Krochet Kids doesn’t just care about the product they put out, but wants to invest in their lives and their community and their futures. I wish that there was a better way for me to articulate all that we processed through on that last day at KKPeru. But this is the best I can do. That and include a nice little picture collage, per the usual. :)

collage

Thank you for all your prayers!

-Phyllis

What if it's true?

What if what the Bible says really is true? What if what's recorded in the pages of that book are actually what God wants us to know about humanity, heaven, salvation, redemption, reconciliation, peace, love, sacrifice, etc.? 20130324-194630.jpg

What if it's ALL true? In Isaiah 53, God tells Israel that even though they think they're doing all their religious rituals correctly that in fact they aren't. Because even though they were fasting from food one day, the next day they were still exploiting their neighbors, getting into brawls with one another, throwing people under the bus (figuratively) and living only as they pleased. No, what God wanted the chosen tribe to do was to establish heaven on earth by ending injustice, ending oppression, bringing freedom to all, making sure everyone was full, clothed and had a roof over their head. And actually, only then would their prayers be heard...

What if what Jesus said in Matthew 25 is true? That those who meet the needs of the least of those in society are actually serving Him as well, and those who aren't meeting their needs, well they aren't and they might as well not even claim to know Jesus nor claim to be His follower.

If this is true, then the widow who helped my biological dad when he was drunk, homeless and dying was serving Jesus. And those who stuck by my cousin while he was in prison were serving Jesus. And those who have fed and clothed my friends when they were in need were serving Jesus. And those who didn't, well, they weren't.

The thing is, each one is God's creation (and someone's son, daughter, sister, friend, uncle...) no matter where in the world they were born nor into what circumstances they were born into. And God loves each one. But do we? And before we say we do, we have to know that our actions speak louder than our words, every time...

I love how simple Jesus makes God's commandments in Matthew: 'love God and love others as you love yourselves. Everything hangs on those two things.' What if it's that simple and true?

Way up into the mountains

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Today took us higher, and I mean higher, into the mountains! IMG_0285

We visited several communities in an area that used to have the highest child mortality rate in Central America. Until recently, there was no clean water, sanitation, access to a clinic nor electricity. All that has changed since ENLACE has been working with the local churches and communities in this region.

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Water is now available (though plans are in the mix for more access), latrines are available for many of the families (though many more are still needed), there is a clinic in the region and even a couple of satellite classrooms for students to attend a school at so they don't have to sit under tin roofs propped up on rickety wooden poles.

Lunch again was fabulous today! (The food here in general is AWESOME!)

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We had bean soup with fresh avocado, mango and of course some delicious homemade corn tortillas! (I could really get used to these tortillas!)

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One of the unintended consequences of being up so high in the mountains was the sun on this pasty Minnesota skin that hasn't seen sun in over 6 months.

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Today's adventure into the mountains was made complete with a ride on top of the land rover partway down the mountainside. The soreness of my backside will remind me of that unforeseen highlight for a few days. :)

I can't believe our time here is practically over. It has been amazing to see all the fabulous things that are taking place in this Central American country amidst the seemingly impossible challenges to overcome! The people here are incredibly hardworking and hospitable. After seeing all that transformation that is taking place trough the partnerships of the local churches and communities in the regions ENLACE is working with churches, I am so thankful their goal is to work with a church in each municipality in the country! May it be so!

El Salvador, I will see you again soon!

Into NE El Salvador

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Today, we got to travel to the North Eastern part of El Salvador. It was about a 2 hour can ride through winding mountains, past street vendors and with the local volcano (no worries it's been in active for years) in our sight most of the way. IMG_0239

We were able to visit a local clinic that had just been completed this past January and now serves about 16,000 people. Before this clinic had been completed, everyone in the area had to travel to the nearest bigger city and hope that the clinic there even had the medicines they needed. Usually it didn't. Through the partnership between the local church ENLACE has been working with and the local community, the clinic we visited today is constantly well stocked and Sufi isn't for most of the people's usual needs.

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We then traveled to see a water tank that a local church and community are working diligently on improving. The infrastructure is in place and fully functioning for the water to get to people's homes but the tank is beginning to crack and is too small. As more people have moved into the area, the tank hasn't been able to keep up with the demand for water in the neighborhoods it supplies. So they are hoping and praying that soon they will be able to build a bigger tank and fix the one they have. This will be done more quickly through partnerships with people and churches who can capture the same vision the community has and has a desire to come alongside of what's already happening there through the community's initiative.

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After visiting with the local water committee, we headed to a community called El Platanar where we had a fabulous lunch if homemade chicken and amazing corn tortillas!! After lunch, we got to hear about how the church we were visiting used to think that they couldn't help people outside the church because they would become 'unholy'. But after working with ENLACE they realized that one of their roles in the community is to meet everyone's needs, not just the Christians. Now they are working with the community to help build a walking bridge that would connect one community to the other. During the dry season people are able to get from one community to the other in 10 minutes. But during the rainy season, the water gets too high in the river bed and people have to walk around which takes about an hour. It was so awesome to hear how this local church is partnering with their community to help make the community better for everyone!

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Better end here. We're off to dinner in a few! So looking forward to tomorrow!