Saturday, February 25, 2012

Living on multiple levels: Santa Cruz version

Right now Hal and I are in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  As I got up in the darkness just before dawn this morning, the sounds of roosters and tropical birds greeted me. I remembered the rain on the roof sometime in the middle of the night. As the day slowly grew lighter, traffic sounds added their own tones, reminding me that in spite of all the rural atmosphere, this is a city. Taxis and buses, roosters and the parrots flying over the red tile roofs give a decidedly sensuous start to the day.  A new day in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
 The view from our balcony

This is one of the realities, one of the multiple levels, I am living now: the level of cultural diversity, the sights and smells and sounds of a specific place that both challenges and delights us.  This is part of the richness of life we are so privileged to enjoy.

Speaking of sounds is good way to begin because we are basically here in Bolivia to listen.  It’s been two years since we’ve been in this place where we’ve spent more than 25 years. Our task right now is to listen and learn. What is God doing among Friends in Bolivia? What are the challenges and hopes people carry today?  We are spending time with church leaders and pastors, with people in the Bolivian Evangelical University, and especially with students, friends and fellow disciples of Jesus who have become part of our lives. And this opens us up to levels of reality on both the community and personal levels.  And this is the heart of why we’re here.
 Visiting with, Emiliano, one of the pillars of the Friends movement in Santa Cruz
 Helping Sergio put the finishing touches on his masters thesis in mission

As international/intercultural travelers, we are also very aware of living our adventures on the physical level.  This does not get easier with age and experience.  Quite the opposite, our bodies don’t seem to be quite as adaptable to sudden changes of climate and diet.  Although I don’t intend to go into detail about this, it is certainly a reality and one of the multiples levels we experience.  (There are, unfortunately, moments when this is the primary reality!)

Another very real and simultaneous level of reality I’m experiencing has to do with what I’ve been reading. I loaded up my Kindle with great material for this trip, and for the last week I’ve been deeply into Eric Mataxas’ biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is certainly among that “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) cheering us on, and I’m learning much from his life and witness, comparing the challenges he faced in German church of the 1930s and -40s with those of the church in Latin American today.  I finished the book last night, and this morning Hal looked at me in surprise and said, “Nancy, you’re crying.”  I hadn’t realized it, but I had been in the middle of an imaginary conversation with Bonhoeffer, trying to process his story by entering into it.

Another level of current experience is family. Our kids and grandkids are never far from our thought and prayers. Thanks to modern technology, we can keep up to date, not only with big decisions, but with the funny things the grandkids say.  Like three-year-old Peter correcting his mother when she told him to “Chew your food up good before you swallow.”  “No, mom,” he responded, “it’s ‘chew my food well’.”  He’s right, of course, but how did he know that?  And why is it important that I know that he knows that?  I’m not sure, but it’s part of my experience today, making me smile each time I think of it.

If I’m beginning to sound a bit schizophrenic, let me say that there is a center that holds all this together.  The good Quaker testimony of Jesus in the midst of his people applies in several senses.  I find that Jesus is also the center that holds all my levels of experience together, the hub that orchestrates all these levels of reality, creating beauty.  I’ve been reading and re-reading the book of Colossians this month, meditating everyday on a verse or phrase. It’s a spiritual discipline that helps me center on Jesus and reminds me that I’m here to listen.  The verse that Hal and I chose for pray for this trip is Col. 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…and be thankful.”

That’s a good note to close on.

1 comment:

  1. Once again you invite me to become centered--in Jesus, no less. Bless you for this invitation.