Sunday, October 13, 2013

October experiences...

The second week of October, I had a unique experience!  Usually Dan does all the driving when we visit another country, mainly because I’ve never learned to drive a stick shift!  But there were guests arriving soon and there was no one else available to go to the grocery store in the next town.  So I was given a list of a few things to stock the fridge AND the keys to the only automatic vehicle and, a little nervously, I drove the few kilometers and accomplished the task.  I delivered the groceries, returned the key, and went back to work, nervous for nothing!

All the missionaries have been very friendly and very kind to us; they’re a great group of people!  Heidi Bowes invited us and 2 other volunteers, Matt and Zarah, over on Saturday to experience her favorite Swiss dish – raclette!  Having a raclette dinner is a very social occasion, a little like a fondue party!  Heidi spent a good deal of time cutting and chopping lots of foods and setting them out in bowls on the table, around a raclette maker. Some machines are electric and some use something like Sterno to heat up the ingredients you choose to put in your individual tray (like a small shovel), topping it with a slice of special raclette cheese. While the cheese melts, it’s time to choose a small baked potato and mash it on your plate. And after the cheese is melted, the tray contents are scraped off onto the potato – VERY delicious! We all tried different combination of food (pears, pickles, olives, slices of salami, mushrooms, olives, cashews) until we had no more room. Then she brought out cookies and lemon gelato for dessert! We talked and laughed and shared; what a great evening spent with friends!  Here’s a link to the history behind it – this used to be done by shepherds over a fire!
While Nancy and Brad were away for a week, some things were added to my regular office duties – cleaning an apartment for the new Regional Director. No problem - we’re here to serve!  I know they didn’t mind missing all the roadwork being done on the main street in Büsingen, just feet from our office building!

Saturday, we borrowed a car and drove further into Switzerland to experience the Alps up close. I think there are permanent indentations in the passenger seat from me clutching it (as I leaned away from the edges of the road), but we made it to Gotthard Pass, took photos of the snow, and enjoyed a lunch of spaëtzle – small, boiled-then-fried dumplings with ham and cheese – a heavenly German version of mac ‘n cheese! Here’s the recipe I’m going to try when we return to the States:

These are only a few of the unique, interesting and (mostly) enjoyable benefits of being available to serve where ever God leads. Even the challenging moments are treasured memories.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Thanksgiving Season

When October arrived, we were surprised at how quickly the time seemed to pass “when we’re having fun” and enjoying our assignment! We’ve been blessed with so many rich experiences!  I think everyone should visit another country and enjoy the cultural diversity of our world and of our church’s servants.

Fall colors beginning
One Sunday, one of the ladies approached me during coffee time after church, asking if I’d help her with decorating the church for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving in Germany is in early October but, since many folks in this international church are from the States, Thanksgiving here will be a season (October 6 – November 28), rather than one day or a weekend.  After discussing the things that would represent harvest and thankfulness on the altar table, Dorothea agreed to pick me up near the end of the day Monday from work and we’d go shopping!  We started at a bäckerei (a bakery), where Dorothea ordered several loaves of sunflower-shaped bread, with extra rolls, so everyone can have some.  She also recommended the Zweibel Küchen (literally, onion cake), so I got 2 slices of the delicious quiche that Dan and I each enjoyed for dinner that night.  Next on our list was a stop at a farm along the road where a farmer had presented for sale, on farm wagons, his harvest of squashes and gourds of every shape and color! We picked out some for the display, then each bought a couple to take home – every section had a designated price and there was a place to leave your euros, honor-system purchasing!

After that, she drove to a farm on the other end of Büsingen where we bought apples and pears for the display and for ourselves, again with an honor system for payment after you weighed what you wanted.  From there, we went to the church (which is right across the grassy area in front of our apartment building). I’m sure it was a sight, two gray-haired ladies carrying the side handles of a basket full of colorful fall produce!  We made plans to carry out the decorating later in the week!
Thursday was a German holiday, so Dan and I drove to Liechtenstein for the day.  Dan always “does his homework” before we go somewhere new, so we had a map and we had a GPS to get us to Vaduz, the capitol city. It’s a charming town, famous for postage stamps and for its castle, where Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein, currently lives.  Lunch was delicious at a outdoor cafe and we took lots of photos.  I think it’s impossible to take too many photos of charming stone castles and streets in Europe!

Friday after work, Dorothea and I met to begin the fall decorating in the church, promising to finish up on Sunday morning while the worship team was practicing before worship. Continuing this domestic theme (decorating and cooking, etc.), I spend most of Saturday cooking and baking to get a little ahead for the next few days – squash soup, potato soup, banana bread and cookie dough!

Sunday was quite a treat! Our European Thanksgiving worship service was great and the display was beautiful with so many pretty fruits and vegetables, bread, fall leaves, and chrysanthemums. Afterward, several of us piled into Nancy’s car to go to a nearby town, Gottmadingen, to their semi-annual fair. The Gottmadingen Nazarene Church always has a booth where they sell Thai food (they cook for 2 days ahead, just to have enough, and they always sell out!) to make money for missions. We helped them out, of course, by purchasing our lunch there and spent a couple of hours wandering all the vendors’ booths. There was a real variety of stuff – from traditional clothing to modern clothing, biergartens to cake shops, spices and music CDs. Dan bought a leather hat; he’s been looking for something European for the cold weather, especially since he didn’t even bring any baseball caps with him for this trip.

Between the people and the food, we're being blessed every day! Thanks, God, for giving us another opportunity to be useful while experiencing these benefits!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Regional meetings and Ludwigsburg palace tour

Work in the Regional Office was quite different this week! There were meetings mid-week; the Field Strategy Coordinators were in for meetings, convening for the last time with out-going Regional Director, Gustavo Crocker.  Dr. Crocker was recently elected as one of our newest Nazarene General Superintendents!

I was drafted to help with the breaks and lunch on Wednesday; it was great to meet Dr. Crocker and the other fellows who I’d only communicated with by email.  It was actually fun to be part of the “catering team” that made their schedule work efficiently.

Our off-time was busy too; three evenings this week, we had scheduled Skype sessions with 2 of the missions candidates that we’re coaching and one with our coaching leader.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Medieval Rothenburg and South Africa Sunday.

What a week this was!  Dan changed our return-trip airline tickets so that we can stay a few days longer, to be available to help with the Eurasia Region’s retreat at the end of November. We’ll be 2 more “sets of hands” available to help with all the details of the retreat with over 150 adults and over 20 teens and more than 50 children!

The previous week, we had a reprieve from the autumn weather and we got to wear sandals! But this week, it’s cooler again. The leaves on the trees are still green but we’re excited about enjoying the fall colors here this year! We’ve missed fall for the last couple of years!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Busingen Honeymoon

As soon as I viewed the quaint villages of Switzerland and Germany, I knew I would take lots of photos of windows, shutters, doors, shingles, and flower boxes!  (Dan says that he will soon add a slideshow here in the blog to show some of these.) Being from North America, I’m easily charmed by the age of things in this part of the world; almost everything is so much older than similar things in the US. (Even in the US, I remember the first time I traveled to the East Coast, as a teenager, and noticed how much older were the city buildings than in the Midwest.)  Many buildings still have rolladen (the rolling, metal, black-out shades on the outside of windows), our apartment building included. (Here’s a video from that shows how they work:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

All about food…

Jesus said "I AM the bread of life, Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."  As we continue to have these opportunities to work in places that enable this message to be delivered to those that have not heard it, we also benefit from a wide variety of daily bread.  Our first weeks here in at the Eurasia Regional Office, while busy getting oriented to the life and work, has also been filled with lots of food and fellowship.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Eurasia week 1 - adjusting to life in Busingen

We arrived at the Zurich airport on Monday, August 26, and were amazed at how quickly we were able to get through Customs! Brad and Nancy Firestone were waiting for us on this gray day and the 45 minutes to Büsingen passed quickly as we enjoyed the countryside on our way. It took very little time for us to unpack our things in our nice apartment. We took a look at the groceries already stocked in our kitchen(!) and made a list of additional things we’d like to have on hand.  After walking back down the main street past the Eurasia Regional Office building and about another block, we arrived where Dan will work with Brad. The back of that building is the Firestones’ apartment.  Piling into their car, we crossed the border (as we’ll do many times each week) to shop at a store called Lidl (similar to Aldi, lots of those here too!) to get additional groceries. Then, the Firestones treated us to dinner out at a German/Italian restaurant.  We rode around through several small towns – in both Germany and Switzerland; all these towns are close together but with beautiful, rolling, farmland between.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The consistency of change...

continues in our lives. We had our plans for this summer and God has once again shown that His plans are always better.  He is continuing to open doors of useful service for us.

Our plans…

It’s been fun being back in the States for May – August, although some of it wasn’t at home! (And hasn’t this summer’s weather been strange?!  It surely doesn’t feel like August here in the Midwest!). Our daughter, Erica, had enjoyed having the house to herself and she adopted 2 beautiful kittens that have already grown up! Soon after arriving home, we had physicals, eye exams, and dental appointments; so far, we’re disgustingly healthy! 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Autumn in April, 2013

This month has absolutely flown by, just as we knew it would! Just like in the States, autumn fluctuates; some days are quite chilly and some days are warm again. In the States, we’d call it Indian Summer. Here, it’s veranito, (little summer).

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Holy Week, the week leading up to and including Easter Sunday, was a blend of many different experiences, but in a totally unique way for us this year!  Especially since we're from North America, it feels unusual to us to be celebrating Easter in the autumn!

It was also a special privilege for us to be invited to participate in the music of the Easter service. There were several rehearsals over the last couple of months and 5 more this week, including Easter morning, before the service started. The piece we were doing was one called "Let This Mind Be In You" - in Spanish, "Tengan Este Sentir" (Have This Feeling). Nico, our excellent leader, had studied music and participated in a large choir that sang this piece at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. He translated the lyrics to Spanish and drafted his church friends to join him. It's interesting that choirs are rare in Argentina. Sure, there's a worship team in most churches, but choirs singing vocal arrangements are truly unique! There were 14 of us (from Peru, Brazil, United States, and Argentina) singing 4 parts. Initially we were to perform this song a cappela (without accompaniment) but, on Wednesday, we were introduced to the fellow who would play a simpler version of the written music, and it made all the difference in this challenging piece.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fall 2013 begins

It has surely been the end of summer here in Argentina with the weather fluctuating between crisp or pleasantly warm, gray or sunny.

Rehearsals for the Easter choir music are getting more serious each week, as we have the words memorized and now must become better at listening to each other and watching our director Nico for direction in volume and phrasing. Even with its challenges, this situation is an answer to prayer, a way for us to connect personally with others in our local church, Altos del Pilar (Pilar Heights Church of the Nazarene). We're enjoying these closer friendships!

We've been involved in a ministry called Missions Coaching for the last couple of years. We attended a weekend of training to be able to be, as a couple, a source of encouragement, support and a sounding board for people who are on track to be missionaries. Of our current missions candidates, we have a young woman who's finishing her master's degree while working in retail management, another young woman who is already a volunteer missionary in Europe, and a young man who has lots of options ahead of him as he decides what career path to follow. We enjoy all these relationships as we Skype with them, usually once a month, from wherever we are! They have all expressed appreciation about having a non-family member to talk things over with – and be accountable to – who understands their passion for missions. We’re accountable too, to our coach in Kansas City, former missionary Hal Frye. Technology has certainly made these relationships possible and we're grateful to God for the opportunity to be a part of these lives!

With cooler weather, I've tried some new recipes (it had been just too hot to bake in our house) so we've enjoyed Baked Blueberry Coconut Oatmeal, English muffin bread, Lemon Cream Scones, and Mocha Chocolate Chip Blondies – yummy stuff! And it felt cool enough for Dan to finally turn on the hot-water heating system, with tubes under the tile floors. A repairman had even been hired by the Regional Office to come and make sure it was working properly. But, one Sunday morning, after I had cooked breakfast, we no longer had hot water (for showers OR to heat the house)! Dan thought at first that the water heater had a problem. We notified Liliana, our boss, while she was already on her way to church. She called Pablo, the head maintenance guy for the Regional Office, who came over and showed us that the propane tank was empty! It had served our house and our next-door neighbors for months and we hadn't given a thought to checking it! Naturally, we started thinking of ways to cope with the problem, especially since we had heard stories of the gas company taking a week – or more – to schedule a time for refilling the tank! We ended up staying in our house that night with an electric heater borrowed from Cindy after the evening church service, but were given a wonderful room with a kitchen at the lodge on the Regional Office grounds on Monday! Amazingly Liliana was able to convince the gas company that this was an emergency, so they refilled the tank on Tuesday morning so we could return home!

Dan has been working on our federal and state tax returns and submitted them online – what a blessing it is to be able to complete this task remotely!

We've been fighting colds the last couple of weeks (initially thinking that we just had some mild fall allergies), but we're both getting a little better each day. It's a good thing, too, since we want to be“at full voice” to sing on Easter Sunday.

Lately, Dan and I have been needed to run errands with Seyda, the Peruvian lady in charge of events for the Regional Office grounds during this time – what fun! We've been to hardware stores, discount food stores, small vegetable markets, and office supply stores. We've made some funny memories with her, especially the day the truck didn't want to restart. Since we were in a small parking lot, Dan asked Seyda and me to get behind and push the truck so he could “pop the clutch” and get it going, but that didn't work. Seyda made a phone call, then had Dan open the hood so she could pound on the battery; after that, it started and we could continue with our errands! Seyda is patient as we speak Spanish slowly with her. She’s generous too; she always thanks us for our help and has even treated us to lunch or Ice Cream!

One Saturday, we were treated to an afternoon at Temaiken Zoo with Cindy and “Lilita” (Liliana Reza, our newest missionary here) and a few others. The weather cooperated and we enjoyed the animals and ice cream on the way home! Another recent blessing was an evening for couples at the Altos church. We enjoyed a Christian movie called “Not Easily Broken” (American, dubbed in Spanish, with English sub-titles!), hotdogs and popcorn, and a discussion about the values in the movie with the other couples!

Our work in the Regional Office seems more intense now, as we strive to keep up our responsibilities and identify, technologically, how much of the same work we can do from our home near St. Louis, Missouri, after we return at the end of April.

Again, most days I'm just in awe that God has actually given us the opportunity to live and work in Argentina, enjoying the culture and the wonderful people here!  On both ends of the spectrum, we continue to be incredibly blessed by the people AND by technology!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

February – Both summer and autumn!

February is part of summer here in Argentina with kids out of school and families in and out of church as they take vacations. Some days are incredibly hot and we feel it especially when we walk out of our air-conditioned office and head for our un-air-conditioned house with all the windows open. Even the cleaning lady for our building says, “Hay como un horno afuero!” (It’s like an oven outside!)  When there are no retreats or camps on the Regional Office grounds, we gladly enjoy a couple of hours at the pool…

We took an enjoyable 3-hour boat ride to Montevideo, Uruguay, to comply with the laws of being here on a visitor’s visa (must not stay more than 90 days at a time). The 3-hour boat ride (each way across the bay) was enjoyable, as was the bus tour, the shopping area, and delicious meals at a chic restaurant!  

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Routine and surprise...

It seems that nothing has been routine for several weeks - with the holidays, filling in for coworkers on vacation, enjoying a retreat with visiting church leaders, not to mention a sweet new missionary! While all those things are interesting and fun, it’s good to get back to a regular schedule of expectations! That is, until my computer died!

My faithful notebook computer just quit, without warning. Dan’s diagnosis is that it shorted out inside somewhere. The good news is that my-husband-the-computer-guy has been able to retriever all my files from its hard drive! The bad news is that I’m going to have to wait until we return to the States to replace it. (This was the computer that I carried with me everywhere for work AND personal files AND communication!) More good news, though – Dan was able to piece together 2 computers for me to use, one in each office that I work in! And, since I can still read email at our house on my Kindle, life will go on!

Since I always have a good time creating something new in the kitchen, it was fun to make Pumpkin Overnight French Toast and have Cindy and Liliana (we sometimes call her ‘Lilita’ to distinguish her from the other Liliana, our boss) over for breakfast one Sunday morning. (Sundays still feel strange here when we don’t have a service until evening.) We talked the entire morning, thoroughly enjoying the company and conversation!

On Monday, we watched some of the Presidential Inauguration on Dan’s iPad when we went home for lunch, and watched the rest from the Internet news during dinner. As I get older, I think I’m more aware and more interested in current news and world events.

This week had very fluctuating weather – hot one day, then cold and windy and rainy the next! We were able to use the pool on a hot day and I baked banana bread on a cooler day! One hot day turned out to be an Argentine holiday and Cindy invited us to use the pool at the seminary. Work time has settled into something more predictable for me, although Dan is always busy with something computer-related and is never idle!

The next Monday, I took a plate of banana bread to the construction guys working on the new duplex on the Regional Office grounds that we’re hoping to live in soon! Most weeks, they work 6 days, and we are enjoying watching the progress!

We were contacted by Nicolas, an Argentine friend we met here, a few years ago, when we were here with Extreme Nazarene Ministries. Nico was a high school student then and subsequently attended Mount Vernon Nazarene University. He has a degree in music and, at Christmas, he assembled and led a choir singing “O Holy Night” at the Altos church. He has gathered the group again (choirs are very rare here) to sing a special piece for Easter and has asked us to join them too. We’re thrilled, as we’ve missed singing in a choir! Electronically, he sent us the sheet music and recordings of the song to become familiar with it. Our first rehearsal with the group was fun, as well as hard work. We’ll be singing in Spanish, of course, and it will be a capella and memorized! It’s so good to be included and connect with this church family!

God provides the social interaction we’ve been craving, as well as all the physical things we need! He continues to amaze us how he cares for our every need.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Happy New Year 2013!!

The New Year has started off with several new experiences, people and many opportunities to see His hand at work...

We celebrated New Year’s Eve in a small town in the Tres Rios (Three Rivers) delta area of Argentina with Jorge and Irma Julca and their family as well as Cindy and Dany.  All are missionary friends here. The Julcas and Dany are from Peru (Jorge is the seminary president here) and Cindy Downy is from the US. 

We set out Sunday morning with Jorge and Cindy driving 2 cars to the town of Gualeguaychú (say GWAL-eh-gwy-CHEW), about 2.5 hours northeast of Pilar, through the river delta area.  The fields reminded us of Illinois – corn and soybeans – except for the standing water in many of them.  On the far side of this cute river town was Termas de Gualeguaychú , a popular resort with a small hotel, a camping area, and quite a few “bungalows” (slept 6) and other small houses (for 4 people).  It also had several swimming pools and, under roofs, their heated pools!  The Julcas were very resourceful, bringing some food in a cooler (like Dany’s homemade chicken salad and homemade pocket bread), buying some food to cook there, and eating out for some meals!