So that happened…

So that happened…

You know when… 

You know when you´re feeling really overwhelmed with something and on the verge of crying but trying your best to hold it in and then someone asks “are you okay?” or “do you need a hug?” and then you release full on Niagra Falls levels of tears….? Well, over the past four weeks (yes – I´ve officially been here four weeks since yesterday, crazy!!) I´ve had my fair share of moments like that. I do something embarrassing just about every day (I considered doing a whole blog post on embarrassing moments but I´m whimping out, sorry haha) and some days are just so long and confusing that I come home and try not to cry but end up crying anyway when my host family asks the very simple question of “Como fue su día?” or “How was your day?” 

The crazy thing is that even on those days where I end up crying because things are hard or confusing, God has this way or bringing peace to the situation. This post is going to be about two moments that happened last week that will seem so small, but meant so much. 

So that happened… #1

I have this English class that I teach after school 3x a week and let’s just say, it´s not always the easiest. The kids are actually very polite and fun, but because of the reality of the school environment, schedules are always changing and the number of kids in my class has dropped dramatically. I walked into class last week and there was literally no one in the room… I was so sad because how am I supposed to teach a class to no one?? I waited 5 mins, 10 mins, 15 mins, and finally 3 kids showed up. I decided to just start the class with 3 kids. I planned my lesson for at least 10 kids, but 3 it was. 

I was about to write something on the board when one girl asked what the meaning of “Shape of You” was. Now, if that title isn´t ringing any bells – it´s the name of a popular Ed Sheeran song. I laughed because how on earth was I going to describe to a 12 year old what that meant (because in reality, it´s about how the singer is in love with the shape of a woman´s body). I decided to just try and translate the words literally first. Of course I forgot how to say “shape” in Spanish so I proceeded to draw shapes on the board. Then, I drew a woman on the board and tried to explain how it was a metaphor for how much he loves this woman and the shape of her body (why oh whyyy I actually tried to explain this to 12 year olds, I´m not sure). In my attempt to explain this all as quickly as I could, I managed to draw the world´s WORST drawing of a woman, EVER. (check out the picture I´ll put at the bottom of the post for proof) I basically drew a blob with hair. Well, the kids thought it was the funniest thing in the world and one kid even said “it looks like her hands are knives” and granted, it really did… I couldn´t help it, but I burst out laughing with them. I couldn´t believe how silly my picture was. We spent the next 3 or 4 mins laughing so much at how much I clearly couldn´t draw that I think the kids forgot all about the fact that I just explained a slightly inappropriate song title to them and that there were only 3 of us in there.

All my stress and sadness about how small the class was, diminshed. At this point, 3 more students had joined the class too. We then continued the class and I taught them all about different activities (walking, swimming, running, etc.) and I acted each one out to them in an attempt to get them engaged and interested. It worked really well and they loved it! They loved it even more though when we got to one word in particular… I hadn´t thought properply about writing “dance” on the board until we got to it. Suddenly, I was playing a random song off my Spotify and “dancing” infront of all the students. If you know me at all, I can´t dance to save my life. But, thank goodness I could laugh at myself because I think it made the students’ day -the crazy “gringa” dancing infront of them. One girl even ran up to the front and asked if she could dance with me, so I took her hands and danced with her for a bit until I told her we had to continue with the lesson. 

You see the thing is, I was so worried about that class that day. I usually have at least 10, sometimes up to 17 kids in my class. But none of that mattered because I ended up breaking the ice and reaching a new level with the kids that were there, and all through my terrible artistic skills and embarrassing dance moves. So, moral of the story – if you can´t dance, it might actually come in handy one day 🙂 

So that happened… #2 

This next moment is a little sweeter. And shorter. I came home one day last week and cried to my host family because the schedule at the school keeps changing here and I spent a few too many hours waiting around that day and it had just got to me (and made for a kind of long and boring day, to be completely honest). My host mom and grandma were quick to give me hugs (and even chocolate) and comfort me until I calmed down.

Now fast forward a few more hours… I was calmer at this point, but still feeling a bit down about the day, so I tried to describe some of the things I’m doing in school to my host family to try and start conversation. I explained how I’ve been teaching the kids a song in English and Spanish about God’s love. I asked if they knew the song, “Cristo me ama” or “Jesus Loves Me” and before I knew it, my grandma pulled out her old hymn book and found the song in Spanish. We ended up singing every single verse together (turns out there’s more than just one verse to Jesus Loves Me) and one song led to the next and soon enough we were singing hymn after hymn, for hours. Some of them I recognized the tune, others were brand new to me, but I sight read anyway. It was so special. Just three woman standing around an old hymnal singing and praising the Lord together. I didn´t always know what I was singing and we all weren´t always in tune, but it didn´t matter. It didn´t matter that I don´t know perfect Spanish and they don´t know more than maybe 5 words in English. We were just three people who love the Lord singing together. 

(The featured image for this article is of the old hymnal!)

So what am I saying?

I don´t always have silly or special moments like that every day. Some days really are just long and hard. But, the truth is our Lord knows us and knows what we need. He knows what will make us laugh and lift our spirits and he knows how to use gifts and talents that have, or don´t have for that matter, to connect with His people. Allow yourself to be strong enough to be weak enough to let God handle it. Because, He knows what he´s doing – especially when we don´t. 








Adventures here…

Most of my week (Monday through Friday) is spent at the school in Chol Chol where I’m helping. However, on the weekends I get to explore! I’m very grateful that God put me in the hands of a host family who wants to show me around and a mentor that worked hard in advance to connect me with local people here who are around the same age as I! So here´s a little bit about some of my adventures here over the past few weeks…

Adventure #1 – El Campo

El Campo is the countryside! I have actually been able to go to the Chilean countryside a few times now, for various things. I visited 2 different families and even the land where my Chilean “grandmother” used to live. Each trip was between 35 mins and 1hr and 15 mins away from where I’m living. The countryside is very beautiful. It’s winter here, which means it rains a lot and is very cold, but our trips were still fun despite the weather! My first trip to el campo was just to look around and take in the beautiful nature! I learned that the national flower of Chile is the copihue (pretty and pink!!) and that if you’re careful, you can even swing on some of the branches (haha, my little 6 year old host brother taught me that one!) 

My second trip to the countryside was to visit the bishop´s sister and mother. This was a very special trip. I couldn´t communicate that much to either of them while I was there (still trying to figure out Chilean Spanish), but I did my best to smile and be appreciative of everything. I got to explore the land and even watch my host family knock fruit down from the trees that had not yet fallen during the change of season. I also learned that if you pronounce “membrillo” (the fruit) just a little bit differently…well, let’s just say it’s not a fruit anymore! Haha!! (Oops, gotta laugh at yourself when that happens!) 

My third trip to the countryside was to visit another family. It was a quick visit,  but also a very special one too. I think I might save the details of that one for another post! 

Adventure #2 – Temuco

This past weekend I got to go on a city tour of Temuco (the city where I’m living!). I went with a local girl, Carol who is close in age to me and studying to be an English teacher. We went to the Pablo Neruda train museum, the football (soccer) stadium, and this beautiful lookout spot (Cerro Nielol). It was a really fun day getting to explore and spend time with a new friend! 

Adventure #3 – El mar

This adventure might have been my favorite! This past Sunday, we got in the car after church and drove just a little over an hour to the town of Puerto Saavedra by the sea, or “el mar.” We only actually stayed there for probably 20 mins, but it was worth all the time in the car because it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I wanted to cry it was so beautiful (although if you know me at all, everything makes me cry!! haha) It didn’t rain, the waves were beautiful, and we even got to see the sun begin to set. It was one of those days that just leaves you in complete awe of God’s creation. 

My first hello from Chile!

My first hello from Chile!

Who am I?

Hi! This is my very first blog post from Chile, where I am serving as a SAMS bridger for just over 2 months. This is the start of my third week here, and I figured I should probably post something to share about my experience so far! My name is Juliet Millard and I am 21 years old. I´m going to be a senior at Grove City College this fall where I´ll be finishing my final year as a PreK-4 Elementary Education major and Spanish minor. 

What am I doing here?

I applied to be a SAMS bridger almost a year ago and had know idea where I would be placed or what I would be doing. All I knew is that I would prefer somewhere Spanish-speaking. Well, many months later, and here I am in Chile!! I am living with a very sweet host family in Temuco and commuting daily to the town, Chol Chol where I am helping at an Anglican school here. My days consist of time spent helping with the English classes and Religion Classes. I´m also teaching my own English class/workshop for 45 mins after school 3x a week! 

What is God doing?

That’s a big question. But, God is doing a lot. There are some incredibly faithful people here that are doing amazing things for God´s kingdom. It´s encouraging to see how intentional many of the people I´ve met here are with their walks with God. I think the greatest way I’ve felt God’s presence so far though, has been through other people. I’m a very people-oriented person! I love spending time with other people and making new friends. However, my transition here in Chile has been pretty difficult for me. I was super nervous to travel down and I´m having a much harder time than I thought I would communicating (Chilean Spanish is quite the challenge!!), which has made it very difficult to make new friends and be a “people person.” But, God has been placing people along my path to help me every step of the way.

On my very first flight from Pgh to Toronto, I ended up sitting next to a girl who was my age, from my city, and getting on the same connecting flight as I was in Toronto to Santiago! We ended up talking the whole flight and navigating our following connection together. I don´t know if I could have done it without her! (Shoutout to Haley if you ever happen to see this!)

Then, when I landed in Santiago (where I was crazy nervous about figuring out my connection), out of nowhere this man saw me and helped me every. single. step. of the way through the airport. He helped me check in, go through security, and find my gate! It turns out we were headed to the same flight anyway, which made it easier for him to help me, but I didn´t know him, didn´t ask for his help, but he just saw me and knew I needed it. He wasn´t sketchy, had no malicious intent, and didn´t want anything from me. He simply wanted to help. Just because. 

Here in Chile, I am very grateful for the people God has placed in my path too. I have a wonderful host family (who let me come home to them and cry after long confusing days where I feel like I only understand two percent of what people say to me) and mentor family (thank you Smith Family for always driving me everywhere and asking how I´m doing)! But, I’m especially grateful for the English teacher here, whom I´ve connected with. She’s only a few years older than me and so kind and helpful. Without her, this whole experience would be a million times harder. We speak in Spanish but she graciously lets me make a million mistakes, ask a million questions, and never gets mad or frustrated. She has shown me everything I need to know in terms of navigating the school here, and she too, has let me cry when I was overwhelmed with emotion and all that comes with being in a new place! (Thank you Fabiola for being so wonderful!!) 

How can you pray?

First and foremost, please be praying for all of the teachers and students that I’m spending most of my time with here. Pray that the Lord will give the teachers all the patience and strength that they need each day, and that the students would have the desire and willingness to listen and learn. 

Second, please just be praying for me as I continue to navigate this new experience – especially Chilean Spanish!! I have discovered I´m really not that great at Spanish… haha! It makes everything a little harder when I have a really hard time understanding everything everyone says! 

Thank you to everyone for all your support and I promise I´ll post more pictures once I figure out how!! 

A difficult bible passage

Last Sunday (17 August) I visited an English-speaking church here in Santiago. The Pastor preached about Jesus’ interaction with the Canaanite woman (Matt 15:21-28). I believe the Pastor was trying to make a point about the necessity, for all Christians, of growing in discipleship and witness to the world around us.

The passage describes how the Canaanite woman approaches Jesus to plead a deliverance for her daughter, who is demon-possessed. Instead of immediately granting her request, Jesus makes two cryptical (in light of the situation) remarks: (1) I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; (2) It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.

In his sermon, the Pastor suggested that, at that stage of his ministry, Jesus had a limited vision of  what his Messianic mission actually was. At that point, it was suggested, Jesus thought his ministry was strictly limited to the Jews, and that he could not extend it to Gentiles. This caused him to make a remark (No. 2 above) which was downright rude to the woman, i.e., he implied she was a “dog” which (at least, from a modern viewpoint) is certainly highly offensive.

However, the Pastor said, the point of the passage is that by the woman’s clever reply, i.e., Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table, Jesus had his mind changed by the woman. He learned a lesson from her, which caused his vision of his ministry to widen, so that he then understood that he was also to minister to the Gentiles. The Pastor subsequently went on to draw parallels with other biblical characters, e.g., Peter, Jonah, Thomas, etc., who also had similar limited understandings at some stage of their lives, but had then learned and grew as a result of their mistakes.

I listened to this sermon with profound disquiet. While this biblical passage is certainly a difficult one to understand (afterwards, I read several commentary discussions of the text), I would hesitate for a very long time before using it to suggest that Jesus had such a blinkered vision of his mission that it lead him to blunder so badly, and to deliver a horrible insult. Also, I think that it is very ill-considered, pastorally, to link this purported behavior of Jesus to that of other fallible, and even downright disobedient, people, just in order to make a general point about discipleship.

A more widely accepted interpretation of Jesus’ actions in this story is that, by apparently resisting the plea of the Canaanite woman to heal her daughter, Jesus was actually testing and strengthening her faith in him, by requiring her to persevere in her petition to him. There was no question of him “having his mind changed” by the woman’s persistence. He was actually using the occasion to teach a serious spiritual lesson to her (and, since it is recorded in the gospel, to us) of the importance of persevering in prayer.

However, I suspect, rather, that he already knew what he was going to do (i.e., grant the request), and that his remarks, while directed ostensibly to the Canaanite woman, were actually intended for his disciples, as an indirect way of challenging them to face their prejudices about ministering outside of their own religious culture, to the Gentiles.

Several years ago I recall reading a very engaging and, to me at least, convincing, alternative interpretation of Matthew 15:21-28. It’s in an extended comment on the passage by Don Richardson in an article called “A Man for All Peoples” in the “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” missionary text book. [I also think it is an excerpt from his famous book: “Eternity in Their Hearts.”] Richardson sees this passage as an acted-out object lesson for the disciples, which is meant to reinforce Jesus’ teaching in the passage immediately preceding it (Matthew 15:10-20), on the difference between real versus figurative uncleanness. Initially, he suggests, Jesus feigns indifference to the claims of the woman. (It must have been feigned, since he had already healed many Gentiles, and to refuse this one would be inconsistent.) Then, when the disciples follow his apparent “lead,” and ask him to send her away, he deliberately makes the two provocative statements (Nos. 1 and 2 above) to set them up.

It is worthwhile quoting Richardson’s exact words here: ” No doubt his disciples thought his [i.e., Jesus’] reference quite appropriate for the occasion. But just when their chests were swollen to the full with pride of race, the Canaanite woman must have caught the a twinkle in Jesus’ eye and realized the truth! Yes Lord, she replied ever so humbly, not to mention subtly, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table! ” Jesus then healed the woman’s daughter, thereby forcing the disciples to question their previous assumptions.

Of course, Richardson, as a missionary and missiologist, would tend to place a mission-oriented interpretation on this passage, but it is enormously better than suggesting that the author and finisher of our faith was confounded in his ministry by a clever piece of human wit.

Some as big as your head

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus!
There is a very well known old song called “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts.” It has, as part of the refrain:
I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts
All alike and standing in a row
Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head …
Well, I’ve never seen a coconut as big as someone’s head, but in Chile I have often seen vegetables as big as someone’s head: cabbages, broccoli, and, best of all, cauliflowers! Just to prove this, I cannot resist sharing the photograph below, which was taken a couple of months ago. Yes, that’s a mugshot of me, and, yes, that’s a cauliflower I’m holding!
The Lord has blessed me by letting me live in a country which has excellent produce: fruit and vegetables, etc. Throughout most of Santiago there is a network of street markets which meet at different locations on different days of the week. There is a market every Thursday and Sunday on a street about six blocks from where I live. Every Thursday morning I walk over with a little wheel cart I have, and buy my fruit and vegetables for the coming week. 
The prices are very competitive (often about 50% of the price in the supermarkets), and the quality is excellent. A kilo (2.2 lbs) of apples can usually be bought for around 350 Chilean pesos (about $0.70 US, or 40 UK pence). The cauliflower in the photograph was about 600 CP ($1.20 , or 70 pence). I love fresh fruit and vegetables, and usually return from the market very happy with my purchases.
A quick glance at a map of South America will show that Chile is a long narrow country on the western side of the “Southern Cone,” about 2500 miles long, and an average of about 100 miles wide. Because of its geographical shape and location, Chile has a wide range of agricultural conditions, which enables a similarly wide range of produce to be grown. There is usually some part of the country where a particular crop is being harvested at any given time, so there is always fresh produce available.
Chile is rightly famous for its fruits and vegetables, which are distributed internationally, and sold in supermarkets in the US and UK. However, as I have personally seen in the UK, where Chilean imports are very expensive, the rest of the world does not have the advantage of being able to buy them at such low prices. It is truly one of the blessings of serving the Lord in this amazing country.

Worship leaders in the making

For the last three years, or more, I have been teaching a weekly guitar class at our church’s children’s ministry outreach to the local community. During this time I have had about 10 students in total pass through the class. I try to restrict the class to no more than three children at any one time, because, if I have any more than that, then I cannot give each of them the individual attention needed. I also take children only of about 10 years and older. We have many smaller ones who come to the children’s ministry, but when they are younger than 10, I find they don’t have the attention span and powers of concentration needed to make progress. Each child also needs to have access to a guitar, to practice at home.

My approach is very elementary. I start off by teaching the children basic chords, using chord diagrams, and then give them simple praise songs to sing which use these chords. I start off with a song that requires knowledge of (say) only D and A, which they can usually pick up quite quickly, and can get joy out of singing to their families at home. I also start off with a very basic strum pattern to accompany the song. Then comes the next big challenge, i.e., to learn the G chord, which requires a much bigger stretch of the fingers of the left hand. This usually takes several weeks, depending on how much they practice at home. When this is accomplished, it opens up a wider choice of new songs for the children to learn. Following this, I go on to teach them the C chord, which also takes some time to master, and then they learn their first minor chord, Am. All of the time I try to incorporate new songs which use the new chords, and to have the children learn other ways to strum the guitar. At each stage I try to enable them to obtain some little reward for their work, which is to actually enjoy their playing and singing praise to the Lord. Recently, I also taught them how to play “Cumpleaños feliz” (“Happy Birthday to you”), which they absolutely loved!

My main difficulties with my guitar students have been maintaining consistency of attendance at the classes, and getting them to practice regularly at home. I continually emphasize the importance of this, both to the children themselves, and to their parents, upon whom a lot depends. My current students have very supportive parents who encourage them to come to the children’s center regularly, not just to learn guitar, but to participate in the other activities and classes. They are all doing quite well, and the first photo (above) shows them playing together in the church and leading a song for the offertory.

Although my approach is simple, it has been quite successful. Two of my former students, one of whom knew nothing about the guitar when she started, are now playing in our church youth band. Together with two other young people, they have already provided all of the music for several of our church services, and want to increase their involvement in the future. This is very encouraging. They have now progressed to the stage where they understand enough music to be able to select their own new music, and teach themselves the chords and playing techniques required to perform it. However, at this stage, another aspect of the learning process becomes important. This is to recognize that, as church musicians, their main function is not just to perform the music for its own sake, but to see their playing and singing as a ministry to lead other people into worshiping God.