December 10th will mark one year for us in Chile. Time really seems to be flying by. When we arrived one year ago, my Spanish was barely enough for me (Mike) to get by with. My main goal for our first year was to improve my Spanish. I think I have been able to do so. I still have my problems, and a thick “gringo” accent, but it is adequate for most situations. We quickly found a cheap little apartment to rent in about the area we wanted to be in. We have excellent access to public transportation from here, as well as street markets and supermarkets.
I praise and thank God for the opportunities He has given us to minister here. In January (just a month after we got here) we went on a youth retreat and I was able to teach the Bible portion of the lessons for each day. I also started to integrate into the preaching rotation and help with the preparation of Sunday School material.
In February, as you all know, we experienced a very strong earthquake. We were able to comfort our neighbors who were very frightened at the time. We spent the following week planning how we could help nearer to the epicenter. I went with a group of guys from a couple of churches to a coastal town where we distributed food and other supplies and helped with the manual labor such as tearing down unsafe houses and helping people digging through rubble for their belongings. We have also been to another town where there is ongoing work with the Swansons.
I have continued since then to be part of the regular preaching rotation in the local church. It is good practice for my Spanish and preaching skills, and of course, an opportunity to preach the gospel. After one sermon, two people came forward to be baptized. I have also been able to be part of a home group, I have been able to make friends, and to visit people from the church. The planning of Sunday School lessons has been very rewarding, and together with a fellow named Ivan, we recently completed our lesson plans for the book of 2 Corinthians. I also get to teach Sunday School, alternating with Ivan.
In addition to these ministries, I get to be part of the leadership meetings for the local church, helping to plan sermon topics, address issues and such. It is helpful for me to watch and learn how things are done here, what meetings are like, how people address issues, etc.
We have been able to travel and get to know several churches throughout Chile, meet some former missionaries, and go to a conference for ministers and their wives. I was able to make a lot of contracts through those meetings, that I hope to be able to use for future leadership training.
Tabi has also had a lot of opportunities since being here. She too was part of the youth retreat in January, and has been part of the earthquake relief. Since her focus is on media ministry, she filmed some of the work that was being done on the coast and made a video for it. She has also produced videos for the local church and a DVD for the Swansons (the missionaries with whom we work most closely), among other miscellaneous projects. Another missionary family, the Thurstons, have allowed Tabi to work with them. They have been on the field for 40+ years and have a lot of valuable experience and wisdom to share. Tabi volunteers there and thereby gains experience that will help her when she is able to set up her own media ministry in the future.
God has given us a lot of opportunities and a lot to be thankful for. Our whole life can be a ministry for Him if we’ll allow it. For example, buying fruit in the street market, Tabi struck up a conversation with a vendor. A couple weeks later, we were able to get a couple that hadn’t been to church in a long time into a local Church of Christ. Now we are developing friendships with other vendors. We’ve gained the trust of our neighbors in our apartment building, and I foresee good things coming out of that.
I thought I would include in this one-year anniversary edition a little about our life here. Most of you already know that our seasons are opposite the US. We are going into summer right now and have sun almost every day. Highs have been upper 70’s to mid 80’s for the last couple of weeks. It is still odd to walk into the supermarket and see Christmas trees and ornaments alongside beach towels and swimsuits.
Twice a week, each neighborhood has a street market with fruits and vegetables, called a feria. There are several that we can easily walk to, but the closest is only a block away and occurs Tuesdays and Fridays. On those days, they close the street early in the morning. By about 10 AM most of the vendors have set up their booths. Most of the booths sell fruits and/or vegetables, but there we usually have a fish and seafood booth or two, a few selling plants, some selling clothes, others with kitchen supplies and other food items. There is one stand selling hotdogs and sandwiches. The whole thing ends in the early afternoon. We usually prefer buying meat at a butcher or at the supermarket (Wal-mart even owns a supermarket chain here), rather than from the street vendors
On weekends and holidays, we can walk to another type of street market that is sort of like a flea market, called a persa. This street market sets up on Saturdays and doesn’t end until Sunday night. Bigger than a feria, it sprawls across 10 to 20 city blocks. Instead of food, here we can find clothing, kitchen items, appliance parts, pet supplies (and pets), sunglasses, toys, and even paintings. Some items are new, but a lot are used. If we get hungry doing all that “window” shopping, sprinkled all through thepersa are little food stands selling hot dogs, pizza, and sandwiches. Or you can get ice cream, candies, desserts, or juices.
As fun as it is to wander through the persa, it’s also fun to hop on the bus and head down to one of the malls in Santiago (Santiago is a large, modern city), or to visit one of the beautiful parks and see the street performers entertain passersby.
Well, this coming year promises to have a lot in store for us as well. Our new home has made the news a few times this year. From the earthquake to the 33 miners to a major fire just this week killing 80+ people. But God has been good to us, has given us opportunities to serve, and has allowed us to grow spiritually as well. We pray that He will continue to allow us to serve Him effectively.
We thank each of you for your prayers and concern for us through this year and into the future. We are hoping that we will be able to visit the US toward the end of 2011, including the National Missionary Convention and will look forward to seeing as many of you as possible! May God bless you in the Christmas season coming up, as we remember the blessing He has given us in sending His Son to be our Savior.