Sunday, November 27, 2011

High School Retreat!

As eleventh grade small group leaders we were able to participate in a wonderful weekend with the high school student with challenging spiritual devotionals and small group sessions. The sessions were 30 minute devotionals followed by 20 minutes of meditating on a single verse and ending with small group discussion. The devotional topics included: God’s holiness, importance of repentance to someone as an accountability partner, unity and love of the body of Christ, and confession/ reconciliation with each other.  These topics really challenged the students to reflect on their attitude and relationships with their classmates, family members, and other relationships.

The time of meditation was also a great experience for the students because the students have heard for years that they should be meditating on the Word, but they really didn’t know how to meditate on the Word until this retreat. So often it is easier to talk and pray to God but never take the time to listen and reflect on the words in the Bible. We had exciting conversations during small group about some of the observations they made during the time of meditation on the single verse and how the verse applied to their life.

Another significant highlight from the small group times were the activities that went along with the discussion. During one of the small group sessions, the students were partnered up and then asked to share a struggle, or a sin that they are dealing with.  Fortunately, the students know each other rather well, which allowed for them to trust another classmate enough to be an accountability partner, so they can pray for each other in that area of struggle in their life.

A second small group activity was the “confession caterpillar” in which each student had just a couple minutes to talk with each one of their classmates and ask the partner: How have I offended you?  By asking this question, it allowed students to bring up ways in which they have been hurt by the other person. This was a significant activity for our 11th graders because many of the students have gone to ECA since early elementary school and have been offended by a classmate, but rather than confronting that classmate, they shove those feeling and hurts deep down and become bitter toward their classmate. One student said, “I didn’t realize that some of my facial expressions can be offensive because they think I am judging them and that I am better than them!” Another student said, “I didn’t realize that my jokes are so offensive.”  Lastly, one student said, “I didn’t realize how proud I was and how arrogant I am toward my classmates!”  The students had deep wounds from each other while the offender had no idea! Some students were bitter toward each other and through this weekend, they are able to start the healing process through reconciliation and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Holidays in Bogota

For Halloween last week, decorations were commonly put up in windows of the apartments and at the gates of the apartment ‘complexes.’ We went to the mall for our monthly "end- of- the- month" treat: an ice cream cone. The mall was packed with dressed up parents taking their dressed up kids to go trick- or - treating from store to store!  Wow! It was crazy to see some of the outfits, some cute, but most of them scary... even the adults! I can see why many Christians here stay sooooo far from the Halloween scene as possible. 

 Looking onward to this month , according the school calendar, we have multiple days off of school we have a day off for “All Saint’s day,” “Independence of Cartagena,” and two days off for Thanksgiving (thanks ECA being an  American school). We are thankful for the days off of school to relax a little bit at home and visit with others. We are not sure what we will be doing for Thanksgiving.  We decided not to go on a get- away trip for three days with a number of other staff from the school. We intend to keep it low key, maybe get together with another family or two.  One thing we made sure we packed to bring down with us for our tradition was: Thanksgiving, a Time to Remember by Barbara Rainey. Last year, we read this book for the first time, which is about the Pilgrim’s sacrifices and God’s provision for them.  The book is arranged in such a way that it can be a short read or a longer more detailed account of history, which will be nice to alter the story/ devotional as the our family grows. Plus, it comes with a CD of worship music… wonderful!

Christmas season is in full swing! It is a bit weird to see the Christmas season without seeing Thanksgiving or fall seasonal items out. Considering they don’t have fall and Thanksgiving as we do in the States, it makes sense that the Christmas items are out now since Christmas is the next major holiday.  The mall has a big Christmas tree, snow- flake lights up on light posts,  ‘snow drifts’ made of plastic hanging over the side of the mall to look like icicles, and oversized presents that decorate the outside walking areas.  Seeing the snow decorations makes us chuckle because Bogota never sees snow, yet they associate Christmas with snow. Infact, most of the world does not have snow at Christmas time. The Christmas music we have heard thus far in the mall has been the same Christmas music we would hear in the States.   The decorations are not yet finished but we have been told that once all the lights are up, there are multiple power outages in our area due to the energy being used for the decorations! Guess we will get to have a cheaper electric bill with all the blackouts!