A link in the Chain

A few weeks ago I heard the sad news of the passing of the son of a missionary couple very dear to me. When I finished reading their letter my mind went back over 20 years ago when I had briefly met David. I was in Chicago with this family and I was heading down to Bolivia. I don’t remember why, but my flight out of The Windy City was at a very early hour of the morning and David drove me to O’Hare Airport. We had to wake up around 5 a.m. and the ride must had been no more than an hour. He dropped me off and that was it; I never saw him or knew of his whereabouts ever again. It never occurred to me to ask about him; I was his family’s friend, but not his.

It was upon knowing about his death that I realized that among the numerous people God had used to direct and bring me to Bolivia, David was on the list. In a simple, casual, quiet and apparently insignificant deed; he was a link in the chain.

This incident taught me a lesson: to help people that come my way; folks I had never met before and will never see again, much less receive a “thank you” note.  The unknown, the uninvited, the outsider, the unfamiliar and the perfect stranger might need a hand…my hand. Surely in a small, but big way I can be a blessing to someone today.

 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’          Matthew 25:35-40

 

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Published in: on March 23, 2017 at 5:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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20 Years

20 yearsAs I was thinking and preparing to write about today, the day that marks my arrival to Camiri/Bolivia; I looked up words related to “milestone” which refers to a turning point, age, events, happenings, incidents, landmarks etc. Among one of them was the word “survival” and I smiled. Twenty years ago I didn’t know how I was going to be able to make it through one day… one month…one year. At this moment, I am writing this blog in the quietness of my hosts’ house, Mr. and Mrs. Train, now gone to be with the Lord. In this table, where I now have a laptop, the Trains had a nice big and heavy electric typewriter from where I wrote my first update with my first impressions, experiences and goals for my visit to Bolivia. I still remember that first day here; everything looked different, felt awkward and smelled peculiar. The days and the years ahead from that day are the days and years from the past 20 years and today everything looks normal, feels familiar and smells natural.

IMG_20160830_053510I would like to summarize these 20 years quoting from C. S. Lewis who always seems to know how to express with the right words what’s in the human mind and heart:

“Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord.”

“The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”

“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”

Published in: on August 30, 2016 at 5:54 am  Comments (1)  
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Useful Tool (5)

Not too long ago one of my students asked me “What did you want to be when you were a kid?” He gave me a skeptical look when I answered him “a teacher.” As if it would be impossible to become what you dreamt or wish to be as a kid. In my teen years I also became interested in “missions” and like my student, I had my doubts as well that one day I would be doing missionary work and teaching at the same time. I never imagined the process, the where and the how, but little by little, step by step God made all things fall into place and even circumstances and events I thought were “a waste” made sense of why I had to go through.

when I grow upThe thought of me fulfilling “The Great Commission” in the “traditional” way (preaching to strangers in a foreign land with different language, food and customs) was the most scary thought.  That is why I love what I do and where I am. It is a blessing for me to serve my Lord in a school setting for the following reasons: 1).- People don’t know me as missionary, but as teacher. 2).- The classroom has given me close contacts. 3).- The school provides work hours and I don’t forget the feeling of excitement for weekends and days off. 4).- Teaching, if anything, is influence. 5).- Teaching is a lot of fun.

I know God calls each one to different things and areas of ministry according to the gifts given, personality, background, training, etc. However having a teaching certificate is a useful tool in the Lord’s work wherever you are. As for me, there is no greater joy.

“It is a beatiful thing when

a career and a passion

come together”

 

Published in: on May 26, 2016 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Useful Tool (4)

When I was 15 my dad registered me in driving school and then he gave me a Volkswagen beetle which was my transportation to the technical high school approximately 10 km (6 miles) from the city. Today I admire my parents for trusting me with such responsibility for which I recognize I wasn’t always that responsible and had my fender-bender experiences. The most tragic accident I had (and it wasn’t totally my fault) was while leaving school, one of my classmates suddenly and unexpectedly walked into my lane and her head impacted and shattered the windshield. She, thank God, had a solid-rocky hard skull and was unhurt, but to me was so traumatic I did not want to drive again. My dad literally forced me to “take the wheel” that very same day in another car he had and I learned my lesson to drive slow and carefully.

That VW beetle was sold to save money to pay my first year of college in the USA. The new owner died after crashing on the same road I took every morning to go to school and oftentimes no respecting the speed limit. This is one of the events that makes me soberly think about the “what-ifs” of life.

Volkswagen-BeetleOnce in a while I drive down memory lane and get nostalgic when I see a VW beetle. I remember the hard lessons that taught me to become a safe driver, the fun times I had with friends and the benefical useful tool it has been at various times in my life. I recall the experience of getting my driving license for the first time in Mexico and in the USA and driving in Spain and Venezuela, all with joy and satisfaction.

Now I live in a small city where most places are at a walking distance and seldom wish for a car, except for few occasions. I thank God for the lessons and the experiences and above all, for preserving my life up to today.

 

Published in: on May 19, 2016 at 6:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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Useful Tool (3)

The first English words I learned were from my mom when I was a child. I had purchased what I thought to be a coloring book and then I noticed it had strange words with each picture. When I asked my mom what they were, she said “English” and I repeated after her “Apple,” “House,” “Good Morning,” “What’s your name,” “I Speak Spanish,” Etc.  I became so interested in the words  that my parents registered me in an ESL Institute in which I spent whole afternoons in classes after regular school.

I thought I had a good knowledge, grasp and degree of expertism of the language until my first year of College in the United States of America proved me wrong. I had, and still have, a long way to go. I am not bilingual. In English, as my second language, I have my limitations in fluency and comprehension. Although I have had, and still have, my moments of frustration, failure, disappointments and dissatisfaction with English; more often than not, I have enjoyed the learning process of a new language and culture.

Charly BrownI have always been a person of few words with difficulty to express. As I grow older I feel the need more than ever to take challenges, to conquer fears and to keep learning. I recognize the urgency to keep using English, to continue to listen to it, to read it, to write it and to speak it. This blog is one of my self-imposed disciplines to do something that is not natural or easy for me. And needless to say, with all my inadequacy, weakness and shortcomings in the English language; it has been a useful tool in my life. I recommend and encourage all to invest money, time and effort into learning another language.

Different-Vision-Of-Life

 

Published in: on May 12, 2016 at 5:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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Useful Tool (2)

music makes me smileGuitar, Piano, mandolin and accordion are instruments I have tried to learned and can play somewhat, but I can’t say I play them with proficiency. I wish I would had been more disciplined in my classes or in ear training so I can play skillfully and precisely by ear.

One day, after Mr. Train heard me play in his house the keyboard piano, in his desire and eagerness to encourage me to be more musically active, said “In the land of the blind, the one-eye man is king,” but at school and church there had always been excellent capable musicians. When for some reason, one day, there was no music teacher to start school with the National Anthem; I grabbed the opportunity to play the accordion, but as many National Anthems, the Bolivian one is a hard piece of music. Mr. Train wasn’t impressed and asked me not to try to play it since my poor attempt might be offensive to nationals. In other words, the land of the blind could survive without the one-eye man as king for one day.

“You don’t learn to swim outside the water”; someone told me once. I sure did keep seeking the moment I could play. Now it has been many years since it is my duty to start school singing, memorizing a verse, praying and Yes, I play the National Anthem every Monday morning!

I am still a one-eye man; I am musically handicapped. My musical ability is unpolished and rough. I am not as talented as I wish I were, but music is a useful tool I received as a gift to fill the void when needed. A room with music and people singing have an unconcealed magic able to bring smiles and cheer up the heart.

mp3-songsInspiring-beautiful-music-quote1

 

 

Published in: on May 5, 2016 at 5:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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Useful Tool (1)

My first experience in the kitchen was during my freshman year in College as a dishwasher. I also had to mop the dinning hall as volunteer service hour. After that year I went back home and helped my parents in the family bakery business doing some errands for them, but with little to almost none involvement in the kitchen. When I went back to College and the Head Cook asked me if I wanted to take the job of baker, I don’t know how I dared to say “yes” with no experience at all. I just told him I would need some help with the measurement system (kilo vs. pounds) to which he kindly explained and patiently taught me. He also took me to work at summer camp in the kitchen where the work-hours were really intense and where I practiced the skill of cooking and baking just about everything in the woods as an invaluable lesson. To make a long story short, in the end; I spent more time in the kitchen cooking, baking and washing dishes, pots and pans, than in any other college activity.

Sometimes, during exams period, it crossed my mind “what would it be like to be in College without having the need to work?” Looking back, I am absolutely thankful for the degree I got in education, but also for the culinary exposure and training I received all those years. I haven’t re-read many college textbooks after graduation, but over and over I find myself going back to my Cook Books looking for something new or just to my favorite recipes.

Above all, I have been able to be of use in a broader sense as a missionary-teacher in many school and church activities. Now, cooking in Bolivia is another story worthy of its own blog in another time, but for now I want to say: Cooking is a trade I did not imagine or plan to have in my curriculum vitae, but it has enhanced and enriched my life. It is a useful tool in any place, with any people and in all occasion. Many good things I enjoy start with “F”: Faith, Family, Friends, Fun, Flowers, Friday, Food and even Failure is good if we learn from it.

skinny cookbakingFinally, according to this quote, I have to gain some weight to be a “trustworthy” cook.

 

 

 Fondly dedicated to Dean Dover and Pete Landis, the best cooks and bosses ever!

Published in: on April 28, 2016 at 5:46 am  Comments (2)  
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Dear Me

This is a question I read sometime ago: If you could sent a letter to yourself aged 16, what would you write in it? Today, August 30, 2012 date in which I celebrate 16 years of living in Bolivia,I’ve decided to take the challenge.

A LETTER TO MY 16-YEAR-OLD SELF

Dear me,

Wish I could tell you that you will be able to write and explain things in a more lengthy and detailed manner, but after 30 years you are still a straightforward, few-words, go-to-the-point kind of guy; so this letter will be short, as usual, but do not worry, you will learn to force yourself to be less laconic. Even though now you think your shyness will be an obstacle, you will do and carry out many things that will make other people think you’re an adventurous extrovert. Your desire to study abroad will come true and even if you now think that God has not given you many talents, He will use you in a place prepared just for you in another country. You will be a teacher and will speak in front of many people with a strong voice. You will stop regretting being weak for your weakness will be the key to find your strength in the Lord and the means by which you get  more understanding and can be of encouragement to students like yourself. Just wait, in a few years being thin will be more popular. You will see that with every year things do get better even though the outer man is wasting away, the inner man is being renewed day by day and in the end you will conclude with thanksgiving in your heart that you wouldn’t want to have it any other way.

“Be strong and of good courage for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”

sincerely,

Me.

PS.

Cyber communication as you see it in the fiction futuristic movies will be real and in the not- too- far future!

Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 5:29 am  Comments (2)  
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Swimming Pool Birthday Party

It’s the end of Spring and the beginning of Summer and we get storms and showers “sandwiched” in heat waves. For my swimming pool birthday party there were some drizzle, mostly dark gray clouds covering the sky and by the afternoon some nice sunshine. My 25 guests, some of my closest friends, were brave enough to come to celebrate with me my 46th birthday. Party began at 10:30 am, the pool water was warm, the plate lunch served at 12:30 included chicken “milanesa” (breaded meat fillet), rice and salad; the cake was a gift from one of my friends. We were there until 5 pm.

Then at the young people’s meeting I shared childhood pictures and anecdotes, served chocolate cake topped with whipped cream, chocolate pudding and strawberries and we ended up the celebration in a fast-food restaurant afterwards.

I am thankful to God for life, for one more year, for people who have been close to me in one time or another, here and there through today’s modern way of greeting: emails, phone calls, text messages, facebook, blog, etc. I can say that life is good because GOD IS GOOD, He is so good to me.

You can see more pictures in my facebook album.

Published in: on December 22, 2011 at 8:31 am  Comments (2)  
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Lessons from my injured finger

1.- My pain is never the ultimate pain “Is it nothing to all you who pass this way? Look and see if there is any pain like my pain…” Lamentations 1:12. Although it is natural to think that my sorrow is the greatest, others get to suffer more.

2.- When something hurts, life is never the same ” If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…” I Corinthians 12:26 a. That pain changes the normal routinary way of life.

3.- Appreciation for what it is and works well.  “…if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” I Corinthians 12:26 b. I am now more thankful for the parts of my body that are working.

4.- X-ray shows reality. “You have searched me, LORD,    and you know me.” Psaml 139:1 It has been said “out of sight, out of heart” but internal damage sooner or later shows on the outside. God sees through my heart and sees sin accurately.

5.- Left hand/ right side brain is now in used. “Who am I that I should go?”  Ex.3:11. It feels inadequate and it does not do things with the same skill and competence than my right hand; but my left hand is now my good hand.

Published in: on November 24, 2011 at 8:11 am  Comments (4)  
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