Monday, January 18, 2010

January 19

Bogota- Day 6

We are now facing our last day here in Bogota.

We knew it was going to be a rushed day but had no idea how rushed.

One lady wanted to take us out because I had brought her son into the US to go to school. She was to meet us at 9:30 after a 9 AM breakfast of cafe, juice of some origin I do not remember, huevos, pan y kiwi and papaya. Breakfast was delayed by 15 minutes, and she, too, was delayed by 15 minutes.

Then we got in a taxi and headed for the Bogota museum of Gold. (Note to self- Jim, you do not fit in Bogota taxis … just deal with it.) Come to find out, the taxi driver did not know where the museum of gold was located and ended up dropping us off at the national museum … where we went Tuesday.

So we had to take another taxi to the museum of gold. What was really fascinating is how proud the Colombian people are of their heritage. This lady, and another with her, proudly showed us artifacts of their heritage, even taking the time to explain much of it to us. Even when watching them, you could tell they were very proud of their heritage.

We needed to be back at the house by 11:30 so we could be at the airport on time. We were actually purchasing souvenirs at 11:30, or should I say they were purchasing souvenirs were being purchased for us. correspondingly, we left the house at the same time we were to be in the airport.

Well, lunch was not to be on this day, because they set up another security check inside the gate. Still, the exit from the country was relatively smooth; we still had God’s favor on us.

We had a smooth ride into Ft. Lauderdale but then it got chaotic. Our luggage was the last off the plane, we were the last to go through customs, and then, we had some serious security checks, including both of us having to go through the line twice and Cheri even a third time. I am not sure what the full deal was, we were well-experienced at this. I guess God was examining our patience. (I failed again.)

We refused to run to the gate becasue I am simply getting to old to run through airports anymore. As we approached the gate, the anouncer was proclaiming “this is the last and final call for flight 400 to Chicago O’Hare. Cheri and I almost missed it.

Funny, we were 49 minutes early getting into Colombia.

That concludes our trip; it was simply fabulous.

I cannot come close to describing what all God did in us and through us in this journey.

But I can’t wait to do it again.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

As I posted last, we got a one hour reprieve in that this day will begin one hour later … and the sleep was much needed and desired.

Breakfast began with a huge plate of mandarina and papaya … way more than we needed. Then there was Colombian chocolat, which is not one of my favorites because it seems a little thin/weak. There was also a glass of some wonderful juice and I really wish I remembered the name of it because it was incredible. I thought that was it and that we were through … then they brought around tamale which in Bogota is wrapped in Banana leaves and contains corn meal, meats (chicken and pork for this one) and lots of vegetables. I was made to understand that this type of tamale was particular to this local area and that they differ all throughout Bogota.

I go to spend some time with the school’s English teach and we had a great conversation; he basically asked me to teach him some things and because of my love for languages, I was delighted. (BTW, I even had to help our interpreters a couple of times with their Spanish vocabulary not because I know Spanish, which I don’t (Yo hablo Espanol une poquito)… but because I know Latin … which I do.

Session 5 was about to begin and I was ready for it. I was first able to share with these teachers regarding how to deal with post-modernism on their teaching situations. This was not planned but was one of the recurring questions that was prevalent throughout individual discussions throughout the day before and this particular morning. (I used this time to encourage these teachers NOT to despair about their students desiring to take away all of the foundations, but rather to tell their own personal stories. It is true that part of post-modernism is the concept of situational ethics and relativism, but we can get so “bugged” by these concepts that we end up doing nothing. The object instead is to take advantage of what DOES work, and that is the telling of the story … so I encouraged the teachers to “tell their story” about life in Christ.

For session five’s teaching, I taught on Christian stewardship in the working life, including finances, skills, etc. I taught from Ezra about the concept that the people had become lazy in their work of repairing the temple, and instead, had been working on their own homes and neglecting the temple, and how God had taken His blessing from them because of this switch. I then reminded my hearers that God had called them to a particular task and not to become lazy or overly content in their performance of that task. This was well received and opened up the service for a great time of God-empowerment upon the people. There were also some prophetic words given over individual leaders. (Many testified later that their lives were really changed through this time of ministry.)

After a 15 minute break, Cheri and I co-taught the final session. Man. was it powerful? We taught on the promises of God. (Remember that the theme was “Ministers of the New Covenant.) Because there had been so much stress on the reality of covenant and the qualifications on our part as covenant-keepers, it also became important to review God’s part as He is the perfect Covenant Keeper. Cheri’s part of this session was very prophetic as she simply ministered in the prophetic word over the teachers. I moved in with a prophetic word over the school as a whole; God is clearly enlarging the Bogota school in an awesome and powerful way and the administration was deeply moved by the things God was showing them.

After we finished teaching, there were more activities among the staff, including the annual initiation of all new staff into the swimming pool. (We viewed this from a distance.)

At the close of the day, after loading the bus, we were treated to a wonderful mixture of chopped fruits in their natural juices; it was absolutely phenomenal.

Then we rode back to Bogota on the grueling road trip over the Andes Mountains and their hairpin turns.

When we got in, we were exhausted and ready for a good nights sleep before our last morning in Bogota.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bogota- Day 4

Thursday kicked off our actual teaching for the preparation of the teachers and staff. Of course, we began the day with devotions at 7 AM. Today‘s devotion would be from Ephesians 2 and would deal with the actuality of who we are in the flesh and who we are in Christ Jesus. After about 15 minutes of worship, 15 minutes of direction and teaching, each person was instructed to get alone for 20 minutes or so and seek some guided truths from Ephesians 2. This time of introspection was a critical beginning for the retreat. Our theme for the weekend was “Ministers of the New Covenant” and this launching pad was the simple understanding of who we were/are.

Then, of course, came breakfast at 8 AM. This morning saw some of that delicious Colombian cafe and I had to have mine con leche just because that is the way I am used to it there at the retreat center. I Must admit that they produce some of the finest coffee I have had; even Cheri likes their coffee and she is not even remotely a coffee-lover. We also had some delicious fruit juice, jugo de mandarina. Then there was pan y huevos. Then there was a lot of fruit, including passion fruit, mango, and mandarinas. (I need to say upfront that every meal was probably twice as much, if not more, than Cheri and I are used to eating. But its so good and we get it so rarely, why not jump in and take advantage of it.)

My first teaching was at 9 AM. (BTW, each teaching session was to last 90 minutes, including praise and worship.) I taught on the actuality and power of a covenant and entitled it “God’s Relationship: A Relationship of Covenant.” My translator was Diana and she did a marvelous job. It was as if her spirit connected with mine; she had all the voice inflections and animations. I was so proud of her … and she is only the same age as my son, Jamie. I had forgotten how seemingly cold this Colombian bunch was in the first two services and felt somewhat disappointed that I did not get a greater response than I did. (It is a good thing that I am not used to relying on responses during my teachings to enable my forward progress.

Cheri and I mixed the program up a little; I was also supposed to conduct the second section, but to give me a break, she took session number two. Her interpreter was Daniella Orozco. Dani did a good job but did not connect with Cheri like Diana did with me. This left Cheri a little frustrated but she pressed on. Her session was entitled, “Pure Heart” and dealt with getting and keeping a healthy and pure heart through forgiveness and corresponding freedom, etc. She, too, forgot that Colombians, at least those from Bogota, do not connect immediately, even if most knew us from last year. She, again, was frustrated but knew that God had brought us there for a great purpose.

Then came lunch. Lunch consisted of much more than either of us should have eaten all of but it came with guanabana leche which is probably our favorite drink in Colombia. Sopa (which is traditional with most meals in Bogota) consisted of a chicken broth, along with huge chucks of chicken, and about every vegetable one can think of. Of course, there were chunks of queso to eat as well. Oh yes, then there was a delicious carrot salad. (They had another name for that too but I can’t remember it … Hey, did I mention that we love Colombian food?)

We did get about 30 minutes to take a break before starting up again.

About 2:30, I led session 3. My message was entitled “Integrity” and dealt with Integrity as the highest quality in the minister of God. I used Dani this time to see if there was a better connection with her and me than there was with her and Cheri. There did seem to be some connection. I did print up all of my scriptures for her in Spanish so that she would not have to struggle to come up with some of those words in a fashion that seemed familiar to our audience. That seemed to be the needed ingredient. The response I received was much greater than earlier as I basically presented three Biblical leaders to them: Saul, David, and Absalom, along with their corresponding character traits. I then asked them which type of leader they wanted to be: one who started out well but left God and thus, was rejected by God; one who started out well, messed up but repented and thus, became known as a person after God’s own heart; or one who started out badly and ended up worse. This produced a great time of introspection as much deep prayer and cleansing, repenting tears were observed.

After a 15 minute break, Cheri was back up for session 4. In that 15 minute break, I was able to type up her scriptures in Spanish. (OK, copied and pasted.) She used Diana as her interpreter and there was a powerful connection between them. Diana was so moved by the message that Cheri was speaking that she she was visibly shaken (through both tears and other emotions.) Although we only had planned for 90 minutes, this session went for about 130-140 minutes. It wasn’t all speaking either; there were prophetic words going forth, people were dropping to their knees in repentance, and others were simply receiving their blessings for the day. It was a super service. Oh yeah, Cheri spoke on “First Love” and touched on Developing a life of intimacy with God in order to bless others. Her primary passage was that from Revelation regarding leaving your first love. I cannot say enough regarding how strong the anointing was in those last two services/sessions.

Of course the day is running long by now, but there is enough time factored in for this very kind of thing.

We are through speaking for the day.

We rested a little and then it was time for a BIG supper. This time our meal was another traditional Colombian meal with arepa (type of bread) and beans and rice with beef flank steak and again, much fruit. One thing I failed to mention in earlier posts, most of the fruit we ate at the retreat was raised there on the grounds of the retreat center. Again, we ate way too much … and then they bring out some custard-like dessert made out of Guanabana and drizzled with a leche-based glaze. I didn’t have room for it … but I ate it anyway and boy, am I glad I did.

After a few late night activities, we headed to bed for some much needed rest. After all, Day 5 starts at 7 AM again. But Julio knocks on our door and says, we can sleep in and that the day will begin at 8 AM. Praise the Lord!

Friday, January 15, 2010

What a great but tiring day this has been.

After spending much of yesterday getting to know our two translators, we found ourselves worn completely out. So we went to the church today and walked around the campus, then turned our attention to a small town name Sopo. It is a typical little Colombian town so we walked around a little and took a lot of pictures. Cheri and I love our Colombian family so we made sure to take pictures with them and of them. The we had lunch at an Argentine restaurant where I had Porkkys which is bar-be-qued Pork loin (and I rarely eat pork) accompanied by papas with sour cream. Additionally, I had another wonderful fruit juice from Colombia, mango, while Cheri had a jugo de Pina. She also had a filet minon which was absolutely delicious. On the way out, we stopped at the milk factory store named Alpin and purchased a few snacks for the road. Wow, the pastries and custard stuff was incredible. I have no idea what we ordered but I do know that it was delicious. (BTW, we had eaten breakfast at Julio’s and had mandarina juice, chocolat, huevos y pan. Is it starting to sound like all we did was eat? We did eat a lot but Colombian food is so good.) We also got to see Raphael again. He is a good guy and I look forward to seeing him at the retreat.

When we got back home, we re-packed to head to the retreat. It is about a 2 1/2-3 hour ride from the school (depending upon the traffic) and we had to take a bus to get there. The bus was packed and the driving was night-mare-ish. (How do you drive 5 vehicles side-by-side in a 3-lane road. I don’t know but I saw it more times than I care to remember.) We went over the mountains along long windy roads to the small village of Sasaima. (I did notice some military activity along the side of the road. It was dark but I could see 20-30 soldiers seated along the road. I have no idea what forces they served with but I was reassured of God’s presence with me when I noticed that I still had no fear.) The retreat center we travelled to once belonged to Jimmy Swaggart Ministries 20 or so years ago and it is absolutely beautiful. It is teeming with natural fruit trees of every kind you can imagine. It also has some of the most beautiful birds living naturally on the grounds. I fell in love with the wild, yellow canaries that love to sit in the ceiling of the worship center when Cheri is speaking. I didn’t notice them with me, but then again, I was preaching.

We settled into our rooms and ate again. And then we went and had about an hour of praise and worship and prayer. It was an awesome time and let everyone know what we were there for.

I meant to write this journal entry Wednesday evening, but by the time me head hit the pillow, I was gone. CHeri was too.

Day 4 we will begin our times of teaching and preaching.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Grandmother Mackey
“My Hero”

I so much wanted to be at Grandmother‘s funeral to honor her today. I am in Bogota, Columbia in South America, instead, serving the people of this country. I learned serving others from Grandmother so I guess there is really no better way to honor her in her death than to let her live through me.
See, when Grandmother was old enough to retire and sit back and let others do for her she was still delivering meals-on-wheels and nursing those who were sick … she was still serving. When she could have just gone home and accepted disability, she went back to school and became a licensed practical nurse and served others.
Grandmother never stopped learning … she was a life-long student. And , she was one of the wisest women I’ve ever known.
Grandmother was an adventurer at heart! Some of my greatest memories are trips with her or just being at her house. It was always an adventure! She traveled all over the United States and I loved hearing about her trips. The walks she took us on thru the cemetery and the stories of the horse’s head and the like …. I loved all her stories of growing up … such as the hand coming thru the window to get her. My adventuresome spirit came from her … thus I am in South America today training Christian leaders and , just maybe, I will transfer some of her spirit to them.
One of my greatest gifts is the rocking chair she gave me. See, when I was a small baby, I developed whooping cough. Papa and Grandmother Mackey didn’t have a rocking chair so she bought one to rock me in. She told my mother that if I lived that the rocking chair would be mine. When I look at that rocker I remember my Grandmother and her giving and loving spirit that gave me life.
I will miss her so but I am determined that she will live on thru me and that I will pass her spirit on to my children and my grandchildren so that she keeps living!
The spirit of Grandmother Mackey should never die. She was an awesome woman and she leaves a great legacy and a challenging example to each of us.
Grandmother … I love you and I’m so glad you are in Heaven now and you can be the “adventuresome you”again. Thank you for the love, the adventure, and the example you left behind. You definitely did not live in vain. I can truly say “you really lived” and I’m so proud to have your blood running thru my veins.
Have fun in your new adventure and one day I’ll see you again!
Cheri Fricks Garrett

Bogota- Day 2

Today was another great day in our South American Journey. We began the day by meeting Pastor Pedro from Medellin for breakfast. (For all of my CLC family, we are fasting 21 days with you, but we began last week because we knew we would be guests of the Orozco family here in Bogota. So we took a 7 day fast, took 7 days off, and will continue with you on days 8-21.) For breakfast we had scrambled eggs with ham, a delicious homemade bread filled with nuetella spread, papaya, cafe con leche, and jugo de naranja. Then we met with Pastor Pedro with Julio as our interpreter for about an hour and a half to discuss our plans for our upcoming Medellin missions journey in April 2010.

Afterwards, we went to the local Christian school and reacquainted ourselves with old friends, as well as met new friends. (It was especially good to see school pastor Juan Carlos who was so vital to last year;s retreat.) Additionally, we met our interpreter for the week who took us to the Colombian Botanical gardens and the Museo Nacional de Colombia. We also had lunch together and a cup of cafe leche together. It was a good experience to meet Dianna and to learn each other’s nuances of speech. (She did help Cheri and me with our Spanish but much more is needed.) We were also accompanied by our new “little sister” Daniella who promised to be our interpreter in Medellin in April … at least for Cheri as she ministers to the mothers there. (Btw, for lunch, we ate at La Cucharita Columbiana where Cheri had a traditional Columbian meal, Bandeju Paisa with limonada natural and I had Pechga de Pollo con light frutas [melon y papaya], ensalada, y papas accomanied also with limonada natural. Of course, we both had to have some chicarron y zarapitas.

It seemed awkward, but afterwards, we gave our left-overs to three homeless gentlemen across the street; they were so thankful. (I have never done this before but found that many Christians there do that very thing and it seemed very right to follow suit.

I did get cussed out in Spanish from a local street vendor who wanted to sell me his wares; I was tired and not buying … so he was angry with this Rolex-wearing man from the USA. (btw, I don’t own a Rolex; I wear a $89.99 Fossil watch my daughter gave me one Father’s Day.)

In the evening, Dianna’s husband Andres, drove us back to the house. On the way, we participated in the carnage that is traffic in Bogota. (We missed all of that yesterday because it was a holiday.) I can’t believe they actually drive like this … and all of those motor cycles, wow!

We spent a quiet evening at the house resting, checking emails, and further preparing for the retreat.

We are very excited with what God has brought us here to do and we anticipate His ministry through us to these wonderful leaders and teachers of Latin American Christian Schools.

I am not sure we will be able to blog Wednesday evening because I do not know what internet accessibility looks like at the Conference Center … but I will be sure to write the blog, even if I cannot post until later.

Pastor Jim & Cheri

What a great day. It actually started last night when we got to the hotel in Chicago by the airport. We worked on our teachings for the retreat and then went to bed … around 11 PM … only for Cheri to wake up at 2 so we could be out to the airport by 3:30. (And, yes, you are correct, that’s only two hours of sleep.)

It was very interesting at the Chicago O'Hare airport as several homeless people were sleeping in the chairs by check-in. I did not mind because it was EXTREMELY COLD outside with numbers hovering around 0.

I had fussed and grumbled about paying extra to pre-book our seats but, on both flights, we had side-by-side exit row seats that were three to a section, and the third person didn’t show up. We had leg room and side space to stretch out in.) Talk about the favor of God!

We had two great flights from Chicago O’Hare and Fort Lauderdale. Did I mention that Chicago was hovering around 0 when we left; Ft. Lauderdale was 38, but Bogota was 82 …wow! Again, I feel as if we’re walking in God’s favor.

We were met at the airport by Leila Oroszco, the Julio picked us up. We got to the house around 4 PM and went and ate at Crepe’s and Waffles. Cheri has langastinos and guanabana leche while I had pollo de curry and jugo de mandarina. We ate with our Bogota family which includes JUlio, Leila, Laura, Carolina and Carlos, and Daniella. They are such a wonderful family and friends.

WE are often asked when we come here if we feel in danger and the honest answer is “no.” we are so well taken care of and watched over that danger is never even considered.

Anyway, not much else has happened but, on a tragic note, we have discovered that Cheri’s Grandmother Mackey passed away early this evening and we found out that my dear friend Rick lost his 5-day old granddaughter Riker today due to complications at birth. I know that God is with both families during this difficult time.

I am going to turn in for the evening. Sleep seems precious right now. We look forward to having Breakfast with Pastor Pedro from Medellin tomorrow AM. I don;t know fully what God has in store but I do know it’s good.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Last night we drove through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park … in the dark … and in the snow, ice, and fog … and less than 30 mph. It was treacherous … and wearing on the nerves . In fact, I found myself getting very anxious and uptight. That’s a lot for someone who prides himself for being Mr. Calm, cool, and collected. So I have discovered some new stuff in me to work on this year. And you know, I can’t accomplish the task alone; I need God’s help. But with His help, I can break this thing.

We had a difficult day all around yesterday. We visited Cheri’s mom in the nursing home and she is really seeming;y going downhill rapidly … at least her mind. That is never a beautiful observation.

Then Cheri fell as we loaded some furniture in a storage building … so she is now experiencing soreness from that.

But God is with us and guiding us and I know all WILL BE well.