Thursday, January 28, 2021

The joys of living among South American wild critters


For boys—of all ages, including grown-up boys—living in that far-flung outback, Lomalinda, was like living in paradise.


All kinds of wild critters lived alongside us and Matt and his friends roamed at will for hours searching for them. He was only beginning to discover the adventures of fishing, chasing iguanas, making earthworm farms, collecting exotic fish for aquariums, making walk-in cages for tropical birds, and sharing our plot of earth with ocelots and anteaters. (See a photo, below, of Tommy Gardner holding an anteater. Also, click on this link to see a fascinating video of an anteater and her baby.)


On one of our first afternoons, Matt came running through the screen door, sweaty and breathing hard. “Gotta put away this shield,” he said, tossing it on the porch. He and Glenny had been pretending they were natives. “We’re gonna throw rocks at the bulls.”


Bulls? That didn’t seem like a good idea—or even a sane idea—to me so I tagged along to investigate. In the softball field below our house stood two Brahma bulls, white-gray, with humps on their backs.


Glenny must have sensed my concern, so he explained that local vaqueros (cowboys) let their cattle feed off our grass, and the kids threw rocks to herd them away from homes. Matt had such fun chasing those bulls that he didn’t even notice he’d lost a loose tooth. (See photo below of one of the neighborhood Brahma bulls.)


Little by little, we acquainted ourselves with all things Lomalinda, sometimes through experience, other times through stories. We soon learned that Lomalindians collected pets—not just dogs and cats and aquarium fish and snakes. They also opened their homes to anteaters and naughty monkeys and tropical birds, like toucans and parrots.


Many pet parrots sang songs, and one of them even practiced the scales. And up at the Cromers’ house, every time their dog barked, Patt yelled, “Bonnie, shut up!” Once when they were parrot-sitting, the parrot learned to bark like Bonnie, and then holler, “Bonnie, shut up!”


And then there’s the story of a couple of parrots living near a chicken coop—and they started clucking. Other parrots called out, “Knock, knock!” when people arrived at the door, and some laughed like their owners. People told stories of the two parrots that talked to each other in Spanish and English, and the obnoxious ones who flew away calling, “Bad bird! Bad bird!” Another hollered “Volleyball!” at five o’clock when Lomalinda’s offices closed and people headed to the volleyball courts.


There’s much more I want to tell you—stories about howler monkeys, and boa constrictors, and anacondas, and about swimming with huge stingrays and pirañas (piranhas).


Be sure to come back next week for some awesome stories!


Thursday, January 21, 2021

God understands our awkward lurches and still loves us


Have you ever watched baby birds learning to fly?


I’ve marveled while watching a mama bird train her little ones in our neighbor’s yard. It’s as if she chirps out, “Watch me! Do what I do!” And then she flies from birdhouse to telephone wire, and her little birdie flails its wings and follows. 


Next, she flies from telephone wire to rose bush, her baby flapping its way to her side.


Then she soars from the rose bush back to the roof of the birdhouse. The babe flutters its wings, hesitates, wavers, flaps those wings hard, lurches upward, and stumbles onto the roof with a less-than-graceful plunk.


In Lomalinda, I was like a baby bird learning to fly. God blessed me with a number of “mama birds,” lovely people who gently showed me how to live life there in that out-of-the-way place—people like Karen McIntosh, Ruth Hockett, and others I’ll tell you about in coming weeks.


Their generous help reminds me of Deuteronomy 32:11 and God caring for Israel the way a mother eagle cares for her young: she hovers over them, spreading her wings. She gets them going and watches over them, carrying them on her wings.


That’s what several Lomalinda people did for me—they got me going, and in the process, I made some wobbly attempts and suffered a few awkward lurches. They checked in on me and kept cheering me on, “Watch me! Do what I do!” And, when necessary, they carried me on their wings to soften my less-than-graceful plunks and thuds.


God was so good to send those dear people to me. And now that I think of it, no doubt they, too, floundered and got flustered when they were new to Lomalinda. No doubt even the seasoned ones didn’t get everything right all the time.


They had already experienced what Teddy Roosevelt spoke of: 

“It is only through labor and painful effort, 

by grim energy and resolute courage

that we move on to better things.” 

They were modeling for me how to live that way.

They, like me, were recipients of God’s generous, gentle grace.


No matter what our struggles were, 

or are, or will be, 

we can live day by day wrapped in His loving arms. 

We can enjoy His approving smile. 

We can live with hope.


As A.W. Tozer said, “We please [God] most not by frantically trying to make ourselves good, but [by] throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections and believing that He understands everythingand still loves us” (A.W. Tozer, The Root of Righteousness).


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Learning from those willing to take knee-buckling, breath-stealing leaps of faith


Agreeing to apply to Wycliffe Bible Translators required me to take a scared-out-of-my-wits leap of faith.


Agreeing to move to South America took another hysterical, blind-eyed leap of faith.


Getting on that plane in Miami and flying into Bogotá—that required a brave-but-wild-eyed dive into the scary unknown future.


And then walking into the scene of, and hearing stories of, the Marxist-guerrilla bombing of our Bogotá facility that had occurred only days beforethat plunged me into a terrifying reality. Dear God, what have we gotten ourselves into? Putting one foot in front of the other, and taking the next step, one foot in front of the other, required another sobbing, howling leap of faith.


Over the next three years I would witness those around me—my new neighbors and colleagues and friends—live their lives with ingenuity and patience and stubborn perseverance and hope.


They faced ongoing tests of faith. And every time, I witnessed their willingness to take knee-buckling, stomach-cramping, breath-stealing leaps of faith.


What I faced, in settling into Lomalinda,

was nothing compared to what many of them

had already faced

and would continue to face for decades.


It used to be, in the first half of my now-long lifetime, that Christians spoke of and wrote of dying to self and instead, living for God and His purposes and plans. Dying to self: setting aside our own hopes and dreams and plans and dedicating ourselves to God’s hopes and dreams and plans.


But in recent decades, I haven’t heard our Christian leaders and teachers calling us to die to self and instead to live for God. Perhaps it’s no longer a popular way for Christians to live. What a shame!


God gave me and my husband and our kids the great privilege of spending three years with a couple of hundred men and women and their kids who, over and over again, chose to die to self and instead, to live for God.


They didn’t talk about that much—I rarely heard anyone verbalizing that. No one strutted around with a holier-than-thou attitude. They just kept slogging along, trusting in God.


Taking a clear-eyed look at the challenges

and real dangers they faced,

recognizing the uncertainty of their wellbeing,

plunging forward into an unknown future,

they kept taking more mindboggling leaps of faith,

dying to themselves and placing God first.


Lomalinda’s people stayed faithful to the divine urgency

God had placed in their souls.

A number of them, some now well into their eighties,

 are still working on behalf of Colombia’s indigenous people,

still working to provide them with Scriptures

in their own languages.


They put their faith and deliberate trust in the Lord with all their heart, not relying on their own understanding, welcoming His grace and mercy, His strong hand of blessing to guide and hold them (Proverbs 3:5, Psalm 48:14, Psalm 139:10).


Theirs was, and still is, a glorious, sacred journey, 

a testament to the steadfastness of them all 

and to God’s love and faithfulness.


“Here is my mind—think through it to show me what love demands; here is my will—guide and direct all my words and actions; here is my heart—come and live in me. . . . Thank You, Lord, that with this commitment, I have died to myself. . . .” (Lloyd John Ogilvie, Silent Strength for My Life)


Friday, January 8, 2021

The value of asking questions—and getting answers


Lomalinda and I hadn’t gotten off to a good start—in fact, it was traumatic—but after a few chaotic days, I’d turned a corner.


The time had come to steady myself and take a calmer look at all that seemed so foreign, to look toward an unknown future—the next hour, the next day, the next week—with maturity and optimism.


The time had come to embrace a can-do spirit. I could make progress by breaking my duties into small chunks, by taking deep breaths, and by asking questions of those who had lived in Lomalinda longer than I.


Sometimes pride has made me hesitant to ask questions, insecurity has made me reluctant to ask for help. But asking, and getting answers, can go a long way in solving problems, eliminating mysteries, and making much-needed progress.


Asking questions of my new colleagues, seasoned Lomalindians, reminds me of an experience I had on one of my first days in Lomalinda. And the memory makes me smile. Oh, the myriad things I had to learn! And how surprising some of them were!


“Wednesday is vegetable day,” Karen MacIntosh had told me. “A big truck brings produce based on what we order the previous week—I put an order in for you already. Next Wednesday morning, drop off your basket at the commissary. You have a great big basket, right?”


I nodded, remembering how the commissary manager, Esther Steen, insisted I needed one. Now I knew why.


“Good,” Karen said. “When our crew delivers your fruit and veggies Wednesday afternoon, I’ll come over and show you what to do with them.”


What to do with them? I wondered what she meant. What’s not to know already about fruits and vegetables? I’d been cooking since I was a kid.


Sure enough, Wednesday afternoon an aged truck lumbered and whined up and down Lomalinda’s hills delivering bulging baskets of produce, and soon Karen Mac arrived.


“First, we scrub them in soapy water,” she said, filling the kitchen sink.


“Then we’ll soak everything for twenty minutes in Lugol, an iodine solution to kill parasites. Those nasty little bugs can really mess up your digestive tract. And cause a lot of embarrassment in public.”


While I stood beside her scrubbing, I didn’t recognize some of the produce. I puzzled over some round fruits, yellow or gold in color. “Are these miniature grapefruits?” I asked.


“No, they’re oranges,” Karen smiled. Oranges? That was a surprise.


My questions continued until I worried I’d asked too many. But then I spotted small round things, green and covered with thick, warty skin. I had no idea what they were, but pride welled up and I told myself, You’ve asked too many questions. Don’t ask again.


Eventually, though, curiosity got the best of me and I blurted, “What are these?”


Karen laughed. Maybe she remembered asking the same question years earlier.


They’re lemons. Watch this,” she grinned, slicing through the green rind. It was orange inside.


Oh, yes, I had so much to learn

about living in Lomalinda,

and some discoveries,

like what a lemon looked like,

made me laugh out loud.

And laughter is always good medicine.


Noticing the good stuff, finding the joy

I began to notice more good stuff going on in Lomalinda .     God was offeri ng me new opportunities. He was offering me a new perspectiv...