April 1, 2016

Drawing in the Bible?

In case you haven't noticed, I post book reviews at the link in the above menu. This has been a hobby for some time that I really enjoy, as books are sort of important in Casa Hagerman. Today, on the book review blog, I shared about a new way I've found of making my time with the Lord come alive. Rather than make you click over there, I'll make it easy and post it right here. Have a great weekend, friends!

BOOK DESCRIPTION: The ESV Journaling Bible provides the perfect way for you to keep a journal of your spiritual life right inside the Bible that you read and study every day. With covers and formats that look like the finest journals, the Journaling Bible features two-inch ruled margins for writing observations, reflections, prayers, praises, and journal entries. This unique Bible makes a great gift and lasting keepsake for anyone who values God's Word.


  • Cream-colored paper
  • 2" ruled margins
  • Book introductions
  • Ribbon marker
  • Smyth-sewn binding

Wanting to enhance my Bible study time and find a creative outlet for expressing what I learn, I got a new Bible. This one has extra space along the outside of each page so that I can take notes or illustrate what I've gleaned from that page.  I did lots of research about the different types available and found that I wasn't the only person thinking along these lines.

There are one-column, two-column, blank pages between the scriptures, leather covers, hardbacks, and the list goes on. The Bibles come in NIV, ESV, NASB, KJV, and NKJV. You can even choose between blank margins, lined margins, and margins that already have some graphics included, which you color in and then add your own personal touches. So many choices!

Thankfully, artistic Bible journaling is pretty popular right now, so there were tons of places I could lurk before making my choice. I found blogs and Facebook groups, pinterest boards and youtube tutorials. This is great news for a non-artist like me who WANTS to make beautiful things but doesn't quite know how.

I finally decided on the one-column (meaning there is only one column of scriptures per page) ESV from Crossway, with a solid cover and an elastic band that keeps it closed when not in use--and also flattens the pages I've just drawn on.

There are several theories of how this should be done, but I've found that within the communities of journalers, there is surprisingly little judgement and tons of encouragement. Some choose to only use the margins and never cover the actual scriptures. Others cover portions or all of the scriptures, usually in a background color that enhances the illustrations or words they've chosen to focus on. Still others do their study in the Bible then illustrate in a separate drawing pad. So far, I fall into the first category. I have chosen to highlight or underline the scriptures I'm focusing on but I don't cover them. Those who do, obviously use other Bibles for reading or study, and this artistic version serves as a creative journal only.

I've been pleasantly surprised at how many options there are for using this Bible. Of course, I can write my notes without fear that the little yellow sticky paper I had available at the time will fall out later. These notes are permanently attached to the page! I can use pens and simply letter a verse that stands out to me. Or I can take a giant leap and draw along the sides, top, and bottom of the page, since there is so much space for expression. I'm careful to date each entry so I can look back and see where I've been on this spiritual journey.

Many of the illustrations I've found are shared from people just like me--okay, more artistic versions of me--who choose to make their work available. They are gracious to allow copying, so that's pretty much what I do right now. When a verse stands out to me, I generally have an idea of what it "looks like" artistically, so then I google away until I've found something close. Sometimes I trace it onto my page, and sometimes I just use it as a guide. I'm quite thankful there are so many artists out there who are okay with this.

Here are a few resources for those who are interested in getting started.

Ideas from Pinterest (You could get lost here, digging through the bazillion boards devoted to bible journaling and #illustratedfaith!)

One of many Facebook groups dedicated to sharing ideas and asking questions

Illustrated Faith, an official page with products, message boards, and events

A series of blog posts about doodling, with daily projects and step-by-step instructions

A large collection of Youtube videos specific to journaling in your Bible

Happy arting! I'd love to see how you illustrate your Bible in the comments below.

...continue reading
Blogger Tricks

November 3, 2015

Moving Back to the US

There hasn't been a blog post in a while, but we have actually been spending the last few months in the United States, after quite a scare with the health of one of our parents. It turned out to be good timing (if things like this can have good timing), in that the lease on the storefront where we host The Bridge and also our apartment were coming up. So two of us left as soon as possible while the other two stayed behind to finish packing our personal stuff and all the contents of The Bridge, move it into a couple different storage facilities (spare rooms at friends' houses), and take the next flight out.

We spent this "furlough" differently than the ones we'd had in the past. Instead of running from church to church several times a week and trying to replenish our stock of socks and underwear and food supplies on the days in between, we actually slowed down and stayed put. We went to one church (except for a few visits when we saw family members in other areas), settled in a bit there, and let the girls get involved in a youth group again. We heard sermons in English and sang songs we'd not heard yet. We went to a prayer retreat and sent the girls to church camp. We caught a couple of family reunions and saw people we usually didn't have time to visit with. We went to homeschool co-op and took SAT and PSAT tests. And we breathed a little.

Of course, during this time we lived with Ken's parents and got all up in their health situations, happy to be there in person rather than catch the details by phone or email. Ken was able to help his dad out at work, since his health has declined to the point that he's not really able to do it alone anymore. And as it got closer and closer to the time to take that return flight to Paraguay, it became more and more clear that God was moving us back to the United States. 

To be honest, I kinda had that feeling just before we got on the plane in Paraguay. I was standing in the kitchen, and I can't explain it, except that something inside me shifted. I have always had a sort of terror in Paraguay whenever anything big goes wrong, that this would be the thing that sent us back to the US. My accident, Ken's surgery, any one of my surgeries, you name it. I would get this heart-racing, nerve-killing dread of moving back to the US, like there was just no way our time in Paraguay could be over yet. And when we'd come "home" for furloughs in the past, I was fairly miserable. I spent the two months pining for Paraguay--the people, the ministry, the life there. I endured the furlough visits as part of what had to be done, but there was this pulling in my heart to get back to Paraguay ASAP.

Not this time.

That feeling in my kitchen was like a little snap, and then I just knew that something felt different, that there was no more dread and that could only mean one thing--God was preparing me for a change.

So I had an open mind but didn't really say anything for a billion reasons. Number one was that it wasn't something we were even talking about in our immediate family yet. Something we'd not considered at that point. The last thing we needed was to bring in a bunch of voices before we'd heard God's clearly enough to discern it. I also wanted to be sensitive to other people's feelings, and until I was sure, it didn't seem fair to mention it to extended family or friends as a possibility, just to say, "Well, sorry we got your hopes up, but we were just feeling things out and we were mistaken." Kinda cruel, especially to the grandparents. And, well, just like in the call to move to Paraguay, I wanted mu husband to hear it from God before he heard it from me. And he did.

We questioned Him. "Are you sure, God? This is a great time in the ministry! We worked for so many years to get The Bridge off the ground and funded, and now that it's running so well and has a great community built up, NOW?!" 

We questioned us. "Are we being fair? Are we considering all sides of this? Are we reading into every little thing and mistaking it for a sign from God?"

We questioned our mentors. "Does this make any sense to you? Why would God do this NOW?!"

Despite our reluctance, God got right to work confirming and reconfirming His will to the point that we could no longer deny that this was definitely what we should do.

We made the decision to hold off on a public announcement until we were able to go back to Paraguay and talk to the core group of The Bridge in person, explaining what's happening. Ken and Camille left last week to do just that.

They are there now, in Encarnacion, sorting through seven years worth of life in Paraguay, loving on our wonderful family protector (our dog, Niko) one last time, deciding what we will be able to fit into the suitcases they'll bring back, what can be sold, what will be given away. They are talking to people we've worked with in ministry and finding out what we can put in the hands of those continuing the work there, and saying goodbyes on behalf of our whole family to those who have become like family to us. They hope to be finished in the next couple of weeks and get back here, where we will begin the transition to American life.

We will live where we did before our move to Paraguay, in the upstate of South Carolina. There is much to do now, much that has changed. God has given us that peace that passes all understanding, in knowing that we are following His will, but there are still things that are, well, just difficult. Please pray for us as we make this move and adjust to a whole different sort of life. We're starting fresh, so Camille will be deciding where to go to college, Ken will be looking for a job that still allows him time to work with his dad, and Caroline and I will be finishing up her last years of high school. And we will be open to visiting churches that are interested in hearing what God did in the last few years in Paraguay--how he used some very ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary plan.

Thanks for following us on this journey the last seven years. 
...continue reading

March 4, 2015

A Love Story Comes Full Circle

Last night I had the great honor of being part of a beautiful ceremony, one that marked new beginnings and testified of healing and the power of love.

photo by Fatima Garcia
A few years ago, I told you of my friend and fellow missionary, Julie Kurrle, who, along with her son, went to be with the Lord in a tragic car accident. Her husband and the sweet little toddler they were in the last stages of adopting survived, and many of you have asked me over the years how they're doing. I want to share some of their story with you now, with his permission.

When I first "met" Julie, it was through the internet, and we communicated back and forth about what I should expect when our family made the move to Paraguay. She was a source of inspiration and encouragement, and when our families finally met, it was quite a happy day. She became one of those go-to friends who just "got it" and was easy to talk to, a joy to listen to. A few years later, our ministry circumstances changed and we realized we'd be living just a few miles from the Kurrles, I was so excited about the possibilities of seeing them much more often. The fatal accident happened just before we moved, so that never became a reality.

Norberto and little Anahi suffered minor physical injuries and were able to focus more on recovering emotionally, as impossible as that seemed at the time. He was transparent about that recovery, sharing on Julie's blog and on facebook about the stages of grief he was working through, about how they were surviving, about what God was doing in his heart and in their lives through the months and years that followed. It was an honest, sometimes brutally painful process, and I'm sure that his willingness to share about it helped many people.

We saw them from time to time, and I was always humbled by how much Norberto was leaning into God. How much he focused on what this meant for the future and what God wanted from him now. Sure, he had questions and hurts and he didn't shy away from expressing those to God, but he always came back to "God is good, and I trust Him." 

About a year after the accident, I attended a ladies retreat with our local church. It was bittersweet in a way, because I couldn't help but remember that the last retreat I'd attended was with Julie, and how we'd stayed up in the night giggling and telling stories with a few of the other gals. This time, one of my roommates was a lady I'd seen around but not gotten to know yet. Her name was Nancy, and we hit it off right away.

Nancy was a sweet, kind, reserved sort of person, who laughed at my jokes and seemed to want to goof off, but there was a dark cloud over her. I finally got up my nerve to ask, and she shared how she was raising her two children alone after her husband was killed in a work-related accident not too long ago. I was shocked at how much strength poured out of this tiny, quiet lady. I knew her kids from church, how helpful and kind they were. Her little girl had played the harp beautifully at a recent event, and her early-teen son was a member of the praise team, active in the youth group with my girls. I knew she was one of those moms who's super-devoted to her kids, working hard so that they can be active in their interests and pursue their talents.

After the conversations turned from tears to smiles and then to laughter, I asked her if she thought she'd ever love again. She had a little spark in her eye when she told me she was beginning to feel like one day that might be possible.

I guess I don't have to tell you what happened next, for those of you who are acquainted with my big mouth. It went a little something like this: "Nancy, I have this friend... Well, it's still too early for him, but Nancy, he's the perfect family man. He's this and he's that and he's a gentleman and he's devoted and most importantly, he is a solid man of God." After a trillion details about his life, a lightbulb clicked on above her head, and she said, "I think the pastor has told me about the same man!"

It turns out that he had. Fast forward a few months, and the pastor invited them both to dinner, where they met each other and broke the ice. It wasn't time yet, but Cupid had strung up that arrow and there were sparks in the works.

A bit later, Norberto decided to take the trip he and Julie had planned for so long, and he traveled with Anahi around the world to meet relatives from afar and visit with their loved ones. It would seem that God worked some major healing in the heart of Norberto during this time, as He was also working in the heart of Nancy. 

When Norberto and Anahi returned, he went straight to Nancy's house and made it official. He was ready. They took things slowly, working hard to blend their families and making decisions about what would be best for all of them. Nancy's two children--this beautiful, smart little Nicole, and Marcos, who had stepped up to be the man of the house in his dad's absence--got to know Anahi and Norberto as they spent time together at family get-togethers, picnics, church events, and barbecues. 

And then they showed up at The Bridge all together. They were carrying a little note with a ribbon tied through it and I knew what it meant. My friends had set the date and were ready to become one big happy family. 

I have to tell you, when I saw Nancy walk up carrying Anahi in her arms, that baby girl clinging to her and then running off to dance on the sidewalk, I felt a twinge of "This is so not fair." I was so thrilled for both of them to find love again, and especially to find it with each other, but I remembered the messages back and forth with Julie, her frustration about how long the adoption process was taking, how she wanted to finally meet the baby they'd bring home, how she longed to hold her and prayed incessantly for her. And how she never knew that all her prayers were so that another woman would raise her. 

Then I remembered that GOD DID KNOW

He wasn't surprised by any of this. He didn't go into shock when the rest of us did. He didn't wonder how things would turn out or try to wrap His head around the why's. He knew. And all those prayers my friend prayed before she ever met Anahi were being answered even in that moment. I'm positive that if it were possible that Julie were looking down at that moment, she would have been overjoyed that Nancy was there, loving her baby, loving Norberto, making their home complete again and carrying on in the ministry. I'm positive. How could I not be overjoyed, too?

I learned that these two, apart from what they'd suffered and their love for God, have a lot in common. They grew up in two different towns, just a few miles apart. Those towns are basically colonies of immigrants from populations that are not native to Paraguay, with their own distinct personalities and cultures. Both Nancy and Norberto have a handful of brothers and sisters, and both sets of families get together to sing (which we witnessed last night). Both are pastors' kids, and the list goes on of how evident God's hand in their lives was, weaving their stories together into a perfect design.

So last night, I watched these beautiful people, full of the love of the Lord and love for each other, honor their pasts as they looked forward to the future, promising to be together the rest of their lives before God and their children and their friends and relatives. Norberto was escorted in by the two daughters who looked like princesses in their royal blue gowns. A few minutes later, Nancy's proud son walked her to Norberto's side. Siblings of the bride and groom sang. Norberto's brother directed the event and Nancy's pastor, who is also a childhood friend of Norberto's, spoke about God's view of love. A photo show detailed the story and the people who had led to that moment. The bride and groom recited their original vows then repeated after the pastor as they placed on each others' fingers the rings brought forward by Anahi. It was a beautiful time of healing for so many people on both sides of the equation, a night full of tears, but this time, those that were of sadness were quickly replaced by joy. Overwhelming joy.
photo by Rocio Ginard
Congratulations, Norberto and Nancy! May God continue to use you to shine His light all over the world, and may that light warm your hearts and home as you live happily ever after.
...continue reading

February 22, 2015

Beauty and the Book

We have found The Bridge to be the perfect spot for small get-togethers with a purpose. 

On Valentines Day, the teen girls of the Sweet Tea mentoring group gathered again to finish our study on Redefining Beauty according to God's standard.  These precious gals listened, took notes, asked questions, and went home with some print-outs to hang near their mirrors. They even graciously sat through all my mistakes in Spanish. Throughout the days that followed, I enjoyed the conversations that opened up as a result of what we all learned.

One week later, we held our first book club, all in English! A dozen or so of us spent the past week reading The Giver, highlighting passages that stood out to us and even creating art inspired by what we'd read. Then we met on Saturday to dig a bit deeper, with fun activities, lively discussions, and thought-provoking discussion questions. We were inspired by the main character, who, once he understood the difference between life and abundant life, wasn't content to settle for less and wanted others to share in what he'd discovered. I think we lit a flame under this group, which will continue to meet every other week. We decided to watch it with those who had come trickling into The Bridge as we were wrapping up our discussion.

Some of the things we're trying out now are a little out of our comfort zones, new things that come to us as vague ideas and get fleshed out through a lot of prayer and study and advice from the been-there-done-that crowd. We're so thankful to finally have the facility where we can host these events, building relationship with these young people and helping them on their journey.
...continue reading

February 16, 2015

To Camp or Not to Camp?

When I first began teaching the 25 students of a special English language/culture program, they told me excitedly that one day we'd go to camp. There were stories of speaking English only for days at a time, and nervous giggles about how they'd ever be able to do that.  Fast forward to almost two years later and it's time for that very camp.

We loaded up on a bus--all of them plus me, the one "adult" of the crowd--to make a six-hour trip to the rustic campground.

We were a few minutes into our trip at this point.
Nestled in giant trees of mangoes, bananas, and just about whatever other tropical fruit you can imagine, this place was a site for sore eyes after all that bus time. I gave them a big pep talk before we piled out to drop off our bags and find the rest of the 90 students who'd come from three other locations across the country. My teens were nervous about how well they'd be able to understand and speak with their peers, so it took a little shoving to get them off the bus and down the path into the jungle.

Yep, there I am in the center of the back row.

After lunch, a welcome speech, and an icebreaker, we split into five groups. Luckily, my group stayed in the dining hall for what was to be the first of a three-day series of classes put on by peace corps volunteers. Did I mention that it was incredibly hot? Well over 100 degrees with enough humidity to make a cactus sweat. I fanned myself with my schedule and tried to keep my water bottle full.

With a few minutes left in that first class, a cool breeze blew through. Uh-oh. I knew what that meant. I jumped up to close a few doors and check to see where all the electronic equipment was plugged in. Within a few minutes, we were in the full-fledged fury of a serious storm.  The lights went out, I unplugged everything I could find, and the kids started gathering the stuff that the wind was blowing around the dining hall. Despite the rain blowing in, no one could bear to close the windows on the much-needed, refreshing wind.

We watched as that wind got stronger and stronger over the next few minutes, causing the huge mango tree outside the door to bend its biggest branches far enough to touch the ground way beneath them. After a few times, it finally snapped. And we heard other snaps, only able to imagine what they might be because the rain was too strong to see far off.

It turned out that we were in the safest spot of all the campers. Others were in much smaller buildings, but thankfully, no one was in the cabins, because some of those were hit by the falling trees and lost parts of their roofs.  We didn't hear these stories until hours later, when the others made their way to the safety of the dining hall.

By the time the storm slacked off, it was getting too dark to do much. So we went in small groups back down the little paths now littered with the fallen trees, assessing the damage and getting our stuff out of the cabins. Later that night I accompanied one student and a couple other adults into town for a trip to the pharmacy, but only after we waited at a few places for men with chainsaws to make a way for us to pass. At some spots, we had to turn around and find a new way because the trees were just too massive.  Seeing how much damage had been done all around, I was very grateful that God protected all of us and that the storm came when it did, rather than an hour later when we would have all been out in the open on the soccer field, unprotected and far from the dining hall.

We all slept in that dining hall that night, and after calling parents and buses the next morning, we packed up to head home. Without water and electricity and with the threat of more storms later that day, it was too risky to stay. The change in plans was disappointing, but we still had the opportunity during the 24 hours of the camp to meet new people and make unforgettable memories in crazy circumstances. And we got in a lot of quality time together on the 12 hours of the round-trip on the bus.
...continue reading

February 9, 2015

A Few Photos of the Fun We Have

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of extra activities and travels, those things that usually pop up from time to time but happened to all come at once this month. Right in the middle of that was a trip to Asuncion related to my teaching job.

I love teaching English every weekend to a group of around 25 teens who won scholarships from the US Embassy to attend. As part of their sponsorship, they also learn cultural and historical facts about our country, participating in some of our holidays throughout the year. (One of their favorites so far was the Thanksgiving Feast a few months back.)

Last week, I went to the capital for a conference hosted by the institute where our class takes place. They do these every few months, and it's a great opportunity to get to know the other teachers better while I hone my skills as an educator. That made it worth me getting up before the sun to catch the bus with my coworkers and spend half the day traveling to the conference. ;)

That's me sitting on the front row on the left corner.

As soon as I got back, it was time to plan for a few special events in The Bridge. Friday afternoon, 25 of the peace corps volunteers who work in this area of the country held their monthly meeting at our youth cafe. We have tons of respect for these young adults who come here for 2 1/2 years as part of making the world a better place and exchanging culture, so we were thrilled to meet them and share stories.

The next day, we hosted Another World 2.0, an event for youth that involved trivia, music, tournaments, and just all-around good times. The first of these events back in December gave us the opportunity to make a lot of new friends who have been hanging out at The Bridge ever since, and this time we also had a full house.

Needless to say, we were a little zonked by the time the alarm clock went off for church the next morning, but it was a great week full of learning with the added bonus of meeting new people.
...continue reading

January 23, 2015

Empty Nest or Full House?

My baby, the one who was born just a few short days ago, is 18 today. How did that happen? She came out already grown, knowing way too much about what was going on around her and making sure she let us know that she knew. She could talk long before she could walk, so she set about using her vocal leadership skills to get her almost-twin Bryan, born 6 weeks after her and already walking, to go retrieve toys and her pacifier. She hasn't stopped honing this skill since.

This week is also the last week of her homeschooling career, so despite that we don't have any sort of co-op to join with for a graduation ceremony, her high school days end the same day she becomes a legal adult...mayor de edad in Spanish.

These past two years have been a big time of preparation for the next step, something that wasn't quite decided until very recently. After a lot of talking, praying, and consulting, several visits to colleges in the US, a few to colleges here, and still more talking and praying, she has decided that she will stay here in Paraguay with us.

I'd always imagined her flying away to university life the instant she finished high school, with me depending on skype and her grandparents and a lot of prayer. But as we went over the options she could choose from, she talked a lot about a gap year, that time after high school when some young adults (did I just use that word to describe my BABY?!?!) step away from formal education and explore a bit, looking into things that interest them but maybe they didn't have time to pursue while studying. The goal is to find out what it is in life that makes you passionate, what fulfills you and makes you feel you were born to do this.  Of course, many folks don't find that out until way down the road, but if it's possible to learn this BEFORE investing years of your life into studying for a degree, that's a plus.

So she will take some classes, volunteer a bit, carry out some internships--we're not exactly sure WHAT this time will look like. We trust the Lord to open and close doors for her and speak to her heart while she is seeking Him and His will.

I'm excited for her, I'm nervous for her, I'm nervous for me.  I was just talking to another parent-of-teens this week about mommy guilt, and for missionaries, I think it's easy to throw on a pile of it.
Are my kids going to be permanently damaged for this? Have I destroyed their chances for ___? How will they ever feel at home? Will they marry here or there and will that make them happy or leave them feeling like they're missing something? Should we have ___?  Why did we ___?  
In her wisdom, her reply to me was, "If it wasn't the mission field, it'd be something else. You're just able to put a name on it more easily than some." I'll try to remember that.
It seems that as parents, we're aware all along that we do things wrong, that we're human and we mess up this mothering thing, that we have regrets. The difference when they're younger is that we're able to say, "Well, she has __ more years at home, so I'll make up for it in that time." Then comes that big birthday, that big graduation, and we are suddenly aware that the clock is up.

So I consciously decide today, like so many days before, to place her back in the hands of the One who loaned her to me, while I enjoy the extra bonus of getting more time with her than I'd expected. :)

...continue reading

January 19, 2015

Chicks of The Bridge // Chicas de The Bridge

Mentoring teen girls is close to my heart.  It's something I've tried to be actively involved in no matter where we lived, and having these little get-togethers we affectionately refer to as Princess Club is part of that.

I have been working this past year with the team at more to be--the ministry founded by Elisa Pulliam dedicated to "equipping moms, engaging teens, and encouraging mentors." They offer lots of studies, worksheets, and printables that I've been working my way through translating, so naturally, I wanted to try them out on the gals in my little corner of the globe!

This past Saturday, we hosted the first of such meetings that's been held at The Bridge. It was an odd time of day--lunch-time on a weekend--but since many of the girls I invited are part of my English class that ends at that time, we thought we'd give it a shot. We named it Sweet Tea and sent out cute little invitations with pretty colors and a tea cup with steam coming out the top of it, although the heat here meant we'd actually be drinking the iced version in plastic cups.

The young ladies snacked on little sandwiches, sliced veggies with ranch dip, and chocolate chip cookies, trying to decide if they liked our version of southern party foods, while we watched a few videos and looked at photos about what different cultures find beautiful. Then we talked about what really makes a girl beautiful, and the problem with looking for affirmation in the wrong places.  They filled in the blanks and commented every now and then as we worked our way through the study.

At the end, I told them that the only place to fully understand their real beauty and worth was through an intimate relationship with God, giving each of them a little card with the graphic below, except in Spanish. I also explained that I wasn't there to pressure them into anything (they get enough of that already), but that I trusted that God was already calling to them, whispering to their hearts in that special way that means He loves you and wants you to love Him back.  
I'll be honest. We've been here a long time now. We've been planting seeds and loving kids and investing in their lives not only spiritually, but holistically as well. We don't always see the fruit of that. While I know very well that God is at work behind the scenes, I don't always get to see His hand in motion or see things come full circle, and I'm okay with that, really. I know enough to know that He's always, always drawing people to Him. But I have been hoping that God would let me experience that, praying that He'd let me be part of the harvest in another area than the seed-planting, that He encourage me in this sorta dry time to know that our investments aren't in vain.

A couple days later, I got a text from a girl I only recently know. She joined my English class a couple weeks ago and surprised me by showing up at the girls' meeting. She asked me a few class-related questions then got right to it--She was sure that the words I said at Sweet Tea were just for her, and she wanted to know how to get right with God. We had a beautiful conversation that ended in her reconciling with the Lord. She's a born leader, one of those people who goes her own way and has no desire to follow the crowd. I'm looking forward to how God will use her personality as she grows in Him. Please pray for her and for the other young ladies who are learning what they mean to God and what He wants to mean to them.

**Find this study and many free, downloadable resources, by clicking here.
...continue reading

January 13, 2015

Cosplay, Anyone?

Spiderman, Super Mario, Darth Vader,Wolverine, Dr. Who, Jack Sparrow, and a few ninja guys. And me.  I sure didn't expect to find what I did when I agreed to go at the last minute to this cosplay event.
cosplay (costume + play) -- dressing up like a specific character and role playing a short skit or dance related to that character; most commonly selected from pop culture personalities, anime, comic books, cartoons, movies, video games, or television.
No, this isn't REALLY the mythbusters guy, but
pretty close, huh? For the record, I went dressed as
Arrow, the greenish arrow-wielding hero of comics
and a new TV series, but I couldn't handle the
over-100 and high-humidity temperatures,
so no more costume. 
I didn't expect to meet so many young people who are involved in this subculture, to have so many opportunities to explain why we live in Paraguay, and to invite all these new friends to The Bridge.  I expected a few people to show up on this terribly hot day in the middle of summer, at the event being hosted a few blocks from our apartment. Walking in the door, I realized I'd grossly underestimated how many people love this hobby. I'm betting you already know folks who do it, they just haven't told you yet. ;)

At this particular event, not everyone came dressed up. Many were curious fans or have some sort of business connected to these characters.  There were booths for karaoke, for playing video game tournaments, for admiring or buying handmade statues of the characters or their props (think Thor's hammer), for picking up a sticker or t-shirt of your favorite cartoon show.  And then in the evening, various cosplayers took to the stage for role playing. Some acted out a scene from a show or movie, some sang a song, and some just jumped around on stage fighting "bad guys". The point is for these "cosplayers" to make a costume at home from basic things you'd find around the house.  A 2-liter bottle spray-painted and decorated to look like an oxygen tank is valued much more than a store-bought prop.  So these kids got to really show off their creativity, not only in fabricating their outfits, but in staging a skit to demonstrate who they were representing.

Now those of you who know me know that I'm not very creative, but I greatly value creativity.  I think it's one of those things we've somehow stifled over the years in the Christian community, but I fully support redeeming the arts and chipping away at the misconception that only those who draw pictures of Jesus on the cross or coming back in the clouds are valid artists. I don't go with the thought that only those who sing praise and worship are using their talents for the Lord, and all others are wasting what they've been given. I think God has given us some crazy-cool abilities and we haven't begun to tap into all the ways they can bring Him glory.

So, yeah, off my soapbox and back to my story. One of the folks I met is a young man who just opened a comics store here in town. Of course, I invited him to visit us, and he showed up a few days later. We ended up joining forces with him to have a friendly trivia day at The Bridge.  The pictures below give you some idea of the fun we had that day, when 50 teens and young adults showed up, many of them for the first time.

trivia contest with cool prizes

new friends who learned what The Bridge is all about

a little time in between games for some music by one of our "regulars" at The Bridge, Jake

camp and youth-group fave "Clang That Thang"

Since the event, we've gained a whole new group of young people that come quite regularly to The Bridge. These are exactly the kids we've been looking for and feeling called towards. They don't fit into the little boxes society tries to put them in, have more questions than answers, and don't have it totally together yet--what a privilege to get to be part of their lives at this stage of their "figuring it out," all because of the fun of cosplay. 
...continue reading

January 2, 2015

2014 Holidays in Paraguay

After a lot of deliberation, we decided to take our mid-sized fake Christmas tree down to The Bridge and let it stand in the front window.  It was fun to decorate it and explain our tradition to folks coming in, and that way the lights weren't making our house even hotter. Every evening, a young couple brought their baby girl by to stand outside and watch the twinkly lights. We invited them in but they said she was in that grumpy part of day and the lights were the only thing that seemed to calm her down. Glad we could help. 

We decorated a small white one we found at a little tienda on the corner for our house, leaving out the lights altogether.  I figured that if it's sparkly white, who'd see the lights anyway, right? 

We had a beautiful rainstorm the week of Christmas, bringing temperatures down into the tolerable range in the evenings.  When Christmas Eve rolled around, we went to the home of one of my English students, Jake.  His parents are sweet folks who live a little bit out of town, in what Jake calls the jungle.  I guess it technically is, but after hanging in the Amazon, I don't use that word lightly.  ;)

Jake's sister was visiting from Buenos Aires, Argentina, which brought our total to 8 people all around the midnight table under a huge mango tree, with plates full of grilled chicken and beef with brick-oven-baked cornbread and bowls of fresh fruit salad.  Camille contributed a pan of peach cobbler just like Mother used to make.  I think it was a hit because the man of the house asked for the recipe four or five times before the night was up.

At midnight, fireworks went off all around and Jake lit a few Roman candles. We all sat around chatting in the cool breezes for a bit longer before heading home to wait on Santa Claus.  And then we four Hagermans got up the next morning to celebrate Christmas Day, knowing that we were some of the only people in the city awake. A little after lunchtime we heard the stirrings of our neighbors and a few cars were seen on the streets, but mostly, Paraguayans spend the 25th sleeping off the celebrations of the night before.  

For New Years, our nearby fellow missionary friends, along with our friend Walter. We had the meal a little earlier this time--around 9 PM--then waited for the rain to slack off enough to go to the river.  It seems everyone for miles and miles around was there, waiting for the fireworks that were sure to happen at midnight.  As it turned out, the rain put a damper on the festivities, and the only fireworks were those that people had brought themselves or restaurants nearby did.  We made our way out of there pretty quickly because small children pointing Roman candles and bottle rockets into the crowds just didn't sit very well with us, and the littlest ones didn't care for how loud the explosions were.  I heard, "Are you sure they won't reach us?" more than once, and I couldn't in good conscience say that I was.  Sitting inside their car, however, we had a lovely view of the ones that made it high enough in the sky to show their colors.  

The next morning, I awoke to the smell of something quite heavenly.  Our friend (a mom extraordinaire) was baking doughnuts. You are aware that we don't have doughnuts here, right? I have handled giving up Wal-Mart much better than giving up Krispy Kreme these last years, so to say that I was excited wouldn't do justice to how I felt when I smelled what was coming out of the oven.  What a way to start the New Year, right? 

Hope you all had a great season of sharing and celebrating, too!
...continue reading