Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reliance on Jehovah Part II

After several closed doors to apartments that were eitner too expensive or too far away from our Bible studies, we have decided to accept the invitation of a couple, Susy and Diego, from our congregation to stay with them temporarily. Our former co and his wife used to stay in a small unit behind the couple's home. That way, we can continue our search for a permanent place without the pressure of a deadline.
Last week, I went to Punta del Este...here are some nice pics.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Lessons in Reliance on Jehovah Part I

Hello friends,

It's been a turbulent, emotional few weeks leading up to today.  Christine and I feel as though we are living in the middle of a movie. We have finished one chapter, but several chapters lie ahead (lol, I know I sound so dramatic. Are we talking about a movie or a book?).  Hence, the name Part I.

The Robbery
A few weeks ago, we were robbed of a substantial amount of cash, and Christine was robbed of her camera. We would not have known a robbery had occurred if it weren't for the fact that Christine's cash stash went missing twice. The first time it was missing, we thought she had misplaced it. But when she stored some more cash in the same spot, and then came home to find that it was gone along with the camera, we both realized that someone must have come in. We think that our neighbors have been watching us and that they probably climbed through the kitchen window, which unbeknownst (word?) to us, was not secure.

It was on a Sunday, after the meeting, that Christine called me from home in a panic to tell me that the money was gone. I was still at the Kingdom Hall, and her call sent chills up my spine. I went into denial mode immediately and numbly decided to continue out in service.
 On the way to the territory, as the terrifying realization set in, I finally was able to tell my preaching companions that we were probably robbed. I had some pretty funny suggestions...one was to put a toothpick in the edge of the front door so that if someone breaks in, the fallen toothpick would indicate that someone invited had come. Another was to sprinkle a lot of salt in the front entrance so that the robber's footprint would be imprinted. The funniest thing is, I absentmindedly called Christine and was explaining to her these suggestions in earnest.   She desperately told me to just come home, and also (totally unrelated) that she was sorry she ate the rest of our pound cake because she needed something to calm her down. LOL, poor thing.

In the end, our super supportive elders helped us make a report to the police, and we stayed for a week with a missionary couple, feeling antsy about going back into our apartment.

Should We Stay or Should We Go?
Before this robbery occurred, Christine and I were dealing with the stressful decision of whether or not to sign a one-year contract with our landlord. Until now, we had been signing 3-month contracts, but the landlord wanted us to commit to a year. Without sunlight, the apartment was becoming a great source of emotional vexation for Christine. It was especially difficult for her to imagine herself living in this cave for another year, although she was resolved to stay if it was Jehovah's will. As for me, although I did not like the apartment, I was not motivated to move without a clear sign from Jehovah that this place was really not for us.

 Our deadline to let them know of our decision was November 30th.  We had been praying that before the deadline, Jehovah can provide us an apartment with sunlight, that was good for service, furnished, and was within our price range. As if to test our faith, an apartment came up that had sunlight but was out of our budget and without some necessities (like laundry machine). We rejected it, resolving to stick to what we prayed for.

The week after the robbery, we were dealing with the same question. As the deadline approached, Christine and I felt the impending doom of having to speak with our landlords on the subject of the one-year contract. Nothing realistic had come up at all for the apartment search. Christine and I continued to pray intensely for Jehovah's specific direction.

So, November 30th. The deal-breaker day. Before calling our landlord, we called a sister who was a real-estate agent, to see if she knew of any apartments. She mentioned one on the same block as our apartment, that had a laundry machine! We told her we would go see the place on Tuesday. We  hoped our landlords could give us time to look at that place before deciding on the one-year contract.
When we finally called our landlords, we were shocked to find out what their plan was: They wanted to move back into this apartment on DECEMBER 15TH. Yes, in two weeks!

This was a clear indication from Jehovah that it is TIME TO GO!

Round I Lessons
(Yes, I know it sounds cheesy but I really feel like we are in training now.)
1. Both Christine and I are really experiencing what it means to "not lean upon our own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5,6)
We were very tempted to take matters into our own hands by just going for the apartment that was not within the budget that we prayed for. However, sticking to our prayers, and asking for a specific sign from Jehovah not only helped us learn patience, but strengthened our friendship.
2. I've learned that being a true friend, like the one in Pro. 17:17, means that you stick around when they are having a hard time emotionally, and not just being a fair-weather friend.
Also, Jason Mraz's song helped a lot (currently obsessed with this one): "I won't give up on us"
3. Jehovah is humble and merciful. Surely, with his help, we could stay here and endure one more year. But if we keep asking in faith, He will sometimes yield and grant our requests.

Of course this test is not over, the next round is looking for a place to stay within two weeks!

And in between I'm supposedly going to a beach town...something I bought off of Groupon.

Anyway, it's all in Jehovah's hands!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sixth Bethel visit and First Argentinian wedding

 Sixth Bethel visit

Laura and I teamed up to bring our Bible students, Yanyan and Yayan ( no they are not twins or even related, just similar names) to Bethel. 

We were given a good tour by Darya, a sister from our hall. I think the girls were impressed that all the expenses to maintain Bethel came from donations.

Random facts to impress some people....
For those of you who have never been to New York Bethel, here are 2 stats about the Argentina Bethel:
# of magazines printed per hour: 32,000
Tons of literature distributed from the branch: 120 each month

 If you haven't noticed already, I've been trying to cultivate an interest in statistics and numbers....ok, so 2 pieces of stats is not a lot but it's a start.

 First Argentinian wedding

Finally, a chance to witness an Argentinian-style union! Analaura, a lovely sister in our congregation, married Ariel, a nice guy (yes it is a common guy's name not inspired by little mermaid).  Since the wedding reception was 2 hours by bus away from Buenos Aires, we stayed with our friends near the hall of the wedding. 

Yes, of course, I had to do something a bit different for the wedding. This time, my dear roommate Christine took on the task of making my hair into an updo. She also helped me put on fake eyelashes. Yes, I  did feel like quite a Barbie!

Makeover artist & awesome roommate

All the Single Ladies...except the one on the left and the one in the pink dress!

Cupcake madness

The week before the wedding, Christine and I, plus another sister, volunteered to make 200 cupcakes for the guests at the wedding reception. The funny thing is, our oven could only fit 6 cupcakes at a time, so we were up until pretty late making those cupcakes. By Friday night, we were quite tired of all the butter and sugar flavor from the endless taste tests to perfect the frosting...
Headline: Computer geek turns to expert cupcake froster!

Lomas de Zamora 
The day after the wedding, I stayed to hang out with the Lomas congregation, the only other Chinese congregation in Argentina. It was a very warm congregation of 40 publishers, mostly language learners. After the meeting, almost everyone went out for ice cream.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Farewell to Charlie & Kay

Last week, we had the last visit of our circuit overseer and his wife, Charlie & Kay Kim. They will be serving in Santiago, Chile exclusively in Spanish for their next assignment. Although it was a bit sad to see them go, I have a feeling we might see them again.

It was a busy, slightly chaotic week, as usual, but I really enjoyed the fine-tuned talks that Charlie gave. I also had the privilege of taking his lovely wife on Liping's study.

Things learned
My favorite talk that Charlie gave was the final talk on Sunday. It was very simple but well-done. Off the top of my head....some of the main points:
- The theme was "Keep your eyes fixed upon things above" (Col. 3:2)
The four images to keep in mind are:
1.Neh. 4:14 : Jehovah
2. Col. 3:1: Jesus
3. Mt. 11:12 Kingdom
4. Re. 14:6,7: Angels

To emphasize that we must focus exclusively on Kingdom interests, Charlie held up a piece of paper with his right hand and asked us to focus on the single dot in the middle. After waiting for all of us to focus on that dot, he held up another piece of paper with left hand and asked us to try to focus on both dots at the same time. Of course, it was impossible. So, he drove the point home that we cannot focus on materialistic or other worldly goals and focus on the kingdom.
Charlie with Esteban translating

Letting loose with Kay!

Yayan, new Bible student...her first time to a meeting other than Sunday!

C+T with K! 

Comical lunch!
Thankfully, Christine was able to grab the Thursday slot to invite Charlie and Kay to our home for lunch. Our original idea was to have no more than 8 people, but the guest list grew to 12, which is significant since our apartment capacity is quite small.

I thought we did a fine job of planning the meal.  We stayed up the night before preparing most of the food. I made cabbage soup & steak, and Christine made chicken, salmon, and an avocado-based lemon pie (sounds weird but tastes great!)  We were congratulating ourselves for  avoiding Martha syndrome and being able to just focus on service the day of the lunch.

Everything was in order when we arrived home, and the idea was that all we had to do was heat up the food. As guests started arriving one after the other, however, the kitchen transformed into a hidden panic center. First, Christine discovered that the salmon we had picked out for Charlie (he can't have meat due to gout), had not been scaled. So, she was frantically scaling the raw fillet. Then, as all the food was already on the table and ready to be served, it dawned upon me that we didn't even bother to check if we had enough utensils. And we didn't!! Not enough soup spoons or forks! While preserving a calm exterior, my inner panic alarm went from slight to extreme. We had 4 pairs of chopsticks though, which came in handy. And, we found 2 slightly bent up plastic forks that we had meant to throw away and never got around to it, whew! Some guests had to drink the soup with small teaspoons, jaja.
     We survived! Nobody died!

Here was the funniest scenanario: After breathing a sigh of relief in realizing that we had somehow managed through the utensil disaster (everyone was eating with something other than their hand, thank goodness!), I realized that I didn't have a single utensil to eat with, no fork, no chopstick, not even a spoon. I didn't want to look awkward since I was seated right next to the circuit overseer. So I looked over to Christine's bowl, and saw her plastic fork which was missing a prong. She was in the kitchen so I figured she wouldn't need it just now.  I grabbed it and started eating my salad casually. When Christine came out of the kitchen, she was ready to sit and eat and then recognized her fork in my hand. "Is that my fork?" I kept eating with it and answered back "Yea" with the tone of 'you got a problem with it?' Christine wanted to eat, so of course she said, "Can I have it back?" and I had to give back the 3-pronged plastic fork to its rightful owner, darn! Right in the middle of enjoying a nice, crisp salad! Charlie also saw and giggled. Besides the fact that I couldn't enjoy my salad, I still didn't want to look like the only person who didn't have something to eat with. Finally, I remembered that I brought back some extra chopsticks from the States and ran into the room to get a pair. I was in such a hurry to tear the wrapping off that the plastic sticker holding the chopsticks together was still flapping around while I used them to eat.
Anyway, the best part of the lunch was that Charlie and Kay really made an effort to take personal interest in Liping and Angelina, the real Chinese in the group. They really commended their efforts and encouraged them to continue progressing.

Christine's avocado lemon pie

Assembly groove

Hello friends,

Just wanted to report on our assembly.
Here are some stats:
Peak attendance: 331
Baptized students: 2
Countries represented: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, United States 

1. Again, the Chile Chinese congregation performed wonderfully for the drama this year. The main sister, who acted as the righteous Christian, was actually not from the Chinese congregation, but she was able to lip-sync perfectly to the recordings.
2. Both Christine and I had minor parts in the assembly, Christine as modern-day Martha, and me as the sister who can't informal witness.

3. On the way to the assembly, we met 2 sisters from Ikike, Chile, who are learning Chinese. Ikike is a small city where a missionary couple had been sent recently to start up a Chinese group. Anyway, one of the sisters had never left Chile before, let alone attend a Chinese assembly. Jehovah really makes sure that His message travels to the "most distant part of the earth", even for the Chinese field!
I also met a 14 year-old girl who just started learning Chinese. She took the plane up from Mendoza, south of Buenos Aires, with her mom to attend this assembly.
On the way to assembly, Ikike sisters behind me.

Lovely girl from Mendoza
Chillin' before the program starts

4. I met 2 sisters from Uruguay, who brought their Chinese Bible student for the first time to the assembly. Their Bible student, a young Chinese girl, had found the Witnesses through her husband. She had always wanted to learn more about the Bible. She has been studying the Bible in English with the sisters and making good progress. There were some complications in applying for a visa to attend this assembly since she has not received residency privileges. Fortunately, she received her visa just in time a a few days shy of the assembly.
With Chinese Bible student who traveled from Uruguay, and mom, of course

5. It was wonderful to welcome two new Chinese brothers, one in his 20's from Lomas, and another from Chile. Gaby and I met one of them, an older Cantonese brother, during our trip in Chile. He had studied for 6 years, and used to be an atheist.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Random Observations and Reflections

 After taking this trip, I have come to realize a few things:
1. Chinese people are more everywhere than I realized! I have to carry more Chinese Bible literature next time!
We met quite a few Chinese backpackers in Ephesus and Cappadocia. In addition,  Chinese yuppies (young upper class professionals) were everywhere on Santorini, all glammed up in designer clothes.  We witnessed a mass wedding on Santorini island where 5 young Chinese couples were wedded right on a hill above the Aegean Sea.

2. Athenian customer service
Don't ever expect the happy-go- lucky friendly customer service attitude you are used to in the States. Most Athenians in the service profession do not have a customer service concept, and are quite impatient if you ask them to repeat something, or to do a little extra. For instance, I asked a waiter on the cruise to Santorini if he could add some hot water for my tea, and he told me to go to the counter myself.

3. Ancient Athenian concept of the Human in comparison to the Bible
In the audio tour we were given, we learned that ancient Athenians believed that humans were divine beings, and that humanizing their gods made them more real. The Bible already tells us that we are made according to the image of Jehovah, and yes, hence, we are a most unique and intelligent creation. Thinking that God is human, however,  just makes one more prone to a prideful and self-reliant attitude...just what Satan wants. Really, can't we just recognize that Jehovah is so much greater than us? (Romans 1:20) Ok, I'll step off the soapbox.

Last night near the Acropolis

Day 17
Tomorrow morning, I am flying out of Athens.
On a spiritual note, we were able to squeeze in two meetings with the Athens Chinese congregation and a visit to Bethel within the last five days. 
The Athens Chinese congregation is quite small but made up of very zealous publishers. Many Chinese people showed up on the Sunday meeting. The Greek sisters work very hard on their Chinese.

I had actually booked a nice hotel in a ghetto area, and I was really praying that we could safely make it home after the Wednesday night meeting. What an answer to my prayers when a lovely sister offered to take us home before the meeting started!

Today, tracking down Bethel was a bit difficult. It was located on a very busy highway full of office buildings. I thought I had the wrong address, but after half an hour of wandering around and asking, a kind man pointed us to the right direction. I don't think I was smart enough to decipher the mini map that the sister drew for me on the metro map.

I thought the circle on the top right meant a cul-de-sac, but finally realized it meant the large circular highway. Anyway, we finally found Jehovah's house and were given an excellent tour.

Cyprus. The red line is the border that Turkey made when it invaded Cyprus in 1947, displacing the local population and replacing it with Turkish, The border is diminished now and Greek-speaking brothers in the South are starting Bible studies with those in the North.
With Andreas, our English-speaking tour guide

Along the Aegean Sea

What day am I on for this trip?
Day 16
In Santorini right now. Time really stops here. One can stare at the sea for hours.
The past few days have been full of discovery.... I know that sounds cheesy. But what I mean is, Athens and Santorini are full of little paths that lead to a spectacular view of the sea and mountains, not to mention an archaeological site dating back to 5th century bc.

Best moments:
Best Moment #1
 The Areopagus rock, it vol.2, p.246, Acts 17:19,20
I could not find this place the first time I went to the Parthenon, but I went after the meeting on Sunday. Because the shorter path was closed, I hiked uphill, taking a strenuous, roundabout route. Getting to the top was really an unforgettable experience; I was sunburned with achy legs and in a full-length dress not exactly suited for such a hike (it would have been too much time to go to hotel). But the idea that Paul set foot on the same rock to teach, and that we are doing exactly what he did by preaching God's kingdom gave me a profound sense of fulfillment. To top off the experience, I asked a Chinese girl to take my picture, and passed her a Paradise tract, which she gratefully accepted.
Areopagus Rock

Plaque in Greek describing the account of Acts 17

Best Moment #2
Watching the Aegean sea while onboard the star ferry
I have never experienced anything quite as beautiful as the dark blue, clear waters of the Aegean Sea. 
Approaching Santorini from Athens by ferry was just wonderful....being surrounded by the sea really gives one a sense of deep peace and contentment.
It was a blessing to be on the sea, thanks to Jehovah and to my generous mother. I was getting a bit tired of the concrete jungle of Buenos Aires.

Best Moment #3
The bus ticket counter
After arriving to the main bus terminal on Santorini island, we had to catch another bus to our hotel. We were looking for here to buy tickets and found this place.
We counted that the "tickets on the bus" sign was posted 9 times on this small space...hahaha...obviously the locals were tired of answering the same questions over and over again, especially on where to buy tickets.

Best moment #4
Hiking from Fira to Imerovigli
On TripAdvisor,  Santorini is described as a hiker's paradise.
And it really is!
I have never enjoyed hiking so much as I have enjoyed it here...especially when you are rewarded with unforgettable views. My mom and I hiked leisurely for about 2 hours, and then boarded a bus to Oia to view the famous sunset. It was a perfect day!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Above and below in the Bible Land

Fun and significant happenings for the past two days:
1. I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to get on the hour-long balloon ride overlooking Cappadocia, where first century Christians settled for sometime.
2. Ducked underground to visit tunnels dating back to the hittites
3. Explored ruins of ephesus & hieropolis
4. Soaked in the waters of Pamukale's mineral waters

Tonight is my last night in Ephesus. Visiting the ruins of the Artemis temple and the theater where silversmiths revolted against Paul really made the Bible account just come alive!
it also made me realize how far true worship has spread. One wt article on Ephesus reminded readers to reflect on the endurance of the Christians in the hostile environment of Ephesus, and how just as false religion came to an end there, it will come to an end on a global scale.
Funny short story....
Since we can't communicate in turkish, we have been using the Temple of Artemis as our reference point to get back to our hotel, because it is a 5 -minute walk to the temple ruins. It dawned on me today that I probably won't ever have the opportunity again to use the Temple of Artemis as a reference point!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Icing on the Cake

This morning, we got up at 4:30am to take our flight to Cappadocia. After arriving, the hotel transfer shuttle drove for over an hour to reach our hotel. We are resting up from the long morning, in a room that has a 300-year old history!
In a glance, yesterday's events.

Day 6
We really learned to use the various modes of transportation to get around Istanbul, and found everything very accessible.

We took the tramway, funicular, and taxi to visit Chora Church, which was preserved from the 11th century. I just loved the mosaic art.

We also went to Dolmabahçe Palace, which was built with a definite European flair. Too gaudy for my taste. I definitely felt this museum was overrated. It was very hot in the palace, which made it difficult to concentrate on the obligatory tour. The tour guide's english, or "turkglish" was really hard to understand.
Towards the middle of the tour my mom and I quietly escaped. We were rewarded with this magnificent view of the Bosphorus Strait.
From here, we stumbled upon a ferry cruise that toured the Bosphorus Strait for around $7USD per person. Very good deal, and what a lovely view!! That cruise was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
On a side note,  I forgot to mention that we were able to see an original of the Ishtar Gate of Babylon in the Archaeological Museum the other day...
After our lovely cruise, we took the bus and got lost in some obscure area, but found our way to where we could take the tramway to our hotel. We made an unexpected discovery some beautiful ancient city walls.

The diet continues:
#10 Pita bread with doner kebab chicken meat
#11 Lovely custard dessert with Turkish tea at the palace
#12 I think this was a pork kebab sandwich we had after docking on the Kabatas port. It was wonderful!

#13  Bread pretzel. Not my personal favorite but if you are hungry, it's good to chew on.

We were rewarded with a lovely sunset at the end of our long day