Tuesday, August 08, 2006

no ordinary monday

It sure wasn´t. So many things to share...but I will share just the most memorable, our dinner with the Gutierrez family. Andrea and I had invited them over to try in some small way to convey our appreciation for everything they have done for us in the last few months to make our life in Las Brisas so wonderful.

I tried a new recipe (sweet and sour chicken), plus some standbys (rice and glazed carrots), and the chicken took FOREVER to cook (I'm slowly learning how gas stoves work), and I was worried the family was going to come over and have to wait a long time to eat, but at about 7:45pm David (their son) came to the door, and told us his father was on the way, and at la hora nica (8pm) they arrived and dinner was served. It was perfect timing, of course, because the chicken had just finished, and I had time to distribute it evenly among 6 plates—well, I thought we were a total of 6, but in fact the abuelita (grandma) of the family came over too, and so we wound up being 7...7 people around a table that normally seats four (!). It looked like it was going to a tight squeeze, and the plates were really close together, but it appeared in the end that we had just enough space, just enough dishes (the only clean dishes left in the cupboard after dinner were coffee mugs), and just enough food (after the main course, Andrea asked everyone, “Alguien quiere mas?”--anyone want more?, and I turned to them and interjected, “Sinceramente, no hay mas”--honestly, there is no more--and everyone burst out laughing). But Alicia and Francisco had brought ice cream, and between that and the Matagalpan coffee, no one went hungry.

What a rich time we spent together. Some of the topics of conversation during dinner: pets (the Gutierrez family has this adorable chihuahua named Oggi who came over midway through dinner and stood guard at the door as though he were protecting us), music (David plays guitar and piano), food, Nicaraguan history (particularly regarding the Costa Atlantica), Matagalpa (the region of Nicaragua de donde la familia es), teams (Alicia is a dentist and she and Dr. Francisco hosted a team of medically trained people out in Matagalpa last week at a clinic there), language learning, family, politics, and more.

And as if that weren't enough for 2 and ½ hours, Alicia suggested we conclude by sharing some passage of Scripture that meant something to us, and Francisco shared from John 15, and then I shared from Philippians 3 (“whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ"). I almost started crying by the end. Alicia then shared the amazing story of her mother's poor health and how the entire family spent a day fasting and praying and that God healed her. Then Francisco shared a lengthy story about (and requested prayer for) a community in Rio Coco (near the border with Honduras) named Amak which has been heavily affected by what can only be called the forces of spiritual darkness. A huge group of women have been affected by some kind of spiritual hysteria, which has both physical manifestations (convulsions, vomiting), and spiritual effects (women in hysteria “naming” other women who then are affected by this same malediction). We spent some time in prayer (David the son is an eloquent prayer), and then concluded by singing a worship song in Spanish called “Eres Todopoderoso”.

It is hard to convey in words what a special family Francisco, Alicia, Karin, and David are. (They have another son Roberto who was away at school tonight). To me, they represent the essence of the unmerited favor of God in my life here. What have I done to deserve these amazing vecinos? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yet they have taken us (me and Andrea) into their hearts, treated us like members of their own family, offering us their time, energy, resources, love, and prayers without hesitation.

I come to give, but find myself receiving so much each day. The compassion and kindness of God poured out into my heart and life through the generosity and gentleness of people like Francisco and his family never ceases.

And I never cease to be amazed.

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