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Ready for some “alone” time

I’m definitely an introvert…

We had a wonderful time in Reynosa this week at Casa Hogar Benito Juarez. These trips are physically and emotionally draining, but I never regret going. And even tho I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Mexico… I’m also looking forward to getting home, catching up on a couple of projects, and having some good “alone” time to process everything that happened this week.

Thursday morning, I had a chance to share a little bit during the devotional time at Casa Hogar. The last time I was in Reynosa, I learned a few of their favorite worship songs in Spanish… so I brought my guitar and played them this time.

I love Spanish worship… there are ways to say things in Spanish that just don’t work very well in English. As I’ve been learning, I’ve had to look up some words and phrases that I didn’t completely understand… especially where they use idioms we don’t have in English. But that’s been a good thing for me. When I listen to an English worship song, I’m just hearing things that I’ve heard hundreds of times before. I don’t have to think about it… so too often, I just don’t. The words (rich and meaningful as they might be) are just empty containers if I don’t put something of myself into them.

But when I’m learning a song in Spanish, because I don’t know the language fluently, I have to think about what I’m saying. And because I like to share things that are meaningful to me with others, I also think about how I would say it or sing it in English. And when I take the time to do that, even simple words and seemingly trite phrases come to life for me.

I need to get to the place where I can be that way… even with the songs I sing in English. But that can’t happen with an over-programmed life, without any time to just be alone with God and free from distraction.

Altar Call

I’m in Reynosa this week with a group from my church, and this morning we visited a small church not far from the orphanage. I had an opportunity to share a couple of worship songs that I learned in Spanish — and that was both nerve-wracking and really, really neat at the same time :) Brought back memories of a bilingual church that I used to attend in New York… and stirred up a few other thoughts as well.

The church wasn’t “in your face” Pentecostal, but it was clear that they were open to some of the charismatic stuff. At the end of the service, there was an altar call. It wasn’t the kind of high-pressure over-the-top thing that I’ve tried so hard to stay away from… but I was kinda surprised by how much I enjoyed it… and how much I missed that sort of thing. And frankly, I’m still not sure about whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing — to find myself kinda longing for something that I’ve also been running from for the last 5 or 6 years.

I shared this with someone, and they asked me if I missed being the person doing the praying or the person receiving the prayer. I answered “Both, I guess.” But after that conversation, I realized that I really need to change my answer to “neither.” Yes, there was a time when I was a part of prayer teams that prayed for folks on the road and in some of the big “hot spot” churches. And yes, there were times when I have been on the receiving end of things too. I have both fond memories and nightmare stories from both perspectives. Something that remains a great mystery to me is how on the same night at the same altar, one person could be (apparently) healed while another was (apparently) harmed.

But for the majority of the time that I was involved in charismatic/pentecostal churches, I wasn’t at the altar during prayer times. I was on the platform — leading worship or being a part of the worship team.

During “revivals”, the worship set at the beginning of the service was nothing compared to the worship time at the end during the altar call. It could go on for hours… and often did. I might not have been comfortable with everything that was happening at the altars all the time… but I loved that extended time of worship: not following a program… not worrying about whether or not we’d beat the Baptists to our favorite restaurants… just spending time in corporate worship and prayer.

And I think that’s what I really miss, what I’m really longing to have again. I just don’t know if it’s possible for a church to worship with that kind of abandon… and not also abandon orthodoxy.

March Trip to Casa Hoga

Two years ago, when I came here for the first time with my church, this was an intimidating place for me. I was stepping into something for which I was completely unprepared. I’m not a big “children’s ministry” person. I understand some Spanish, but I can’t speak it. And because Mexico gets a lot of negative press, it was a little scary to make that first trip. But now it just feels like a second home. The campus here is very comfortable and secure. And many of us from CCI have built strong relationships with the leaders and the kids. When you’re on campus, it’s easy to forget that you’re in another country. But not far from the children’s home, there are colonias (neighborhoods) that quickly remind you of the poverty that Casa Hogar’s kids come from.

This is only my 6th trip to Casa Hogar, and it is the 2nd time I’ve been responsible for bringing a group of girls down here. Some folks thought it was a little crazy to go on a missions trip without any men… and even I thought it was a little crazy to go to a Spanish-speaking country without anyone to act as a translator! Yet somehow, it seems to work out. I’m convinced that what we are doing is a “God thing,” and these “girls trips” have turned out to be some of the best we’ve had!

This week was the first time that we did it completely “on our own.” Usually, we meet someone on the US side and follow them through the border crossing to Casa Hogar. It’s not really a big deal – it’s very close to the border. But the prospect of getting lost in Mexico and maybe even having to ask for directions (in Spanish!) was intimidating. Mexican roads, especially those off the beaten trail, are far less permanent than US roads. We’ve come down here before only to discover that a road we used to take was washed away or closed! Fortunately, nothing like that happened this time. We were proud of ourselves that despite a missing road sign and making an accidental u-turn, we still found our way to the orphanage!

But this trip has still taken me far beyond my comfort zone.

There is another group here for the weekend, a Mexican church that has been using the facilities for a retreat. They’ve been staying in the house that we usually use… so we’ve been staying in the girls’ dorm.  There are no doors on the bedrooms, just sheets hanging from curtain rods. All five of us are staying in one room with a bunk bed & 3 mattresses on the floor. That’s a little more “togetherness” than I’m used to, but it wouldn’t be half as bad if had a door that we could close. I don’t like knowing that folks can just come in to a room where I am sleeping. During the day, if we are resting or trying to take a nap, the kids that are still here play right outside of our room and come in and out all the time. Our room is also right next to the kitchen where the workers prepare breakfast early in the morning. It’s not that I feel endangered… I’m just used to having some peace and privacy, and that’s not possible in the dorm. I’m definitely not getting enough sleep.

The dorm has a large “community style” bathroom for the kids, and that’s the bathroom that we’re using this time. (The adult workers who live here have private bathrooms in their apartments.) It has several toilets and showers in one room… without a locking door. It’s not fun to try to use the toilet or take a shower knowing that at any time, anyone could walk in on you. The toilets have little stalls with low walls (you can see over the if you’re standing up) and a curtain for some measure of privacy (even tho I can see through the curtain when I’m in the stall, so I’m sure it’s somewhat see-through the other way as well… and the curtain moves with the breeze & any time anyone walks in front of it…)

It’s nothing like a “normal” American public bathroom with high walls and locking stall doors. The shower stalls have translucent plastic shower curtains on them… but there is no private changing area, so either you change inside the shower stall behind the translucent curtain, or you change out in the open. I’m sure this situation is fine for the children who live here… but I’m a 36 year old woman who prefers to take care of her bathroom needs without an audience :/

The majority of the Casa Hogar girls weren’t here the first two nights that we stayed here… but they are coming back this afternoon. I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the kids again… and I’m looking forward to some of the plans we have for the kids and the workers… but I’m not looking forward to having that many more little faces peeking through the curtains!