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Posted in bible, Nation of Georgia

Decisions & Baptisms

Everything works a little different in Georgia than it does in America. I know this is nothing new to most of you. But even how the Georgians go about making a decision is completely different. You see, the key to decision making in Georgia is group collaboration. What do I mean? Well, two people in the Telavi church have been waiting to be baptized for over a month. The hold-up? Waiting on the entire church to agree upon a day and time to go to the river.

One might think that this would just require a quick conversation, maybe a vote on the best day, and a decision essentially made by church leaders. But not in Georgia. No, here it requires endless conversation…debates even… on what would be best. Numerous days would be chosen, all eventually cast aside because someone didn’t like it. Which leads to more debate and conversation. And new ideas presented…all to be shot down. The fact that anything ever gets done with this kind of process is a miracle. And you can ask the Colorado team that was just here – this process is the same regardless of what decision is being made. It all requires the input of every single person that might ever be affected – ever.

Now, if anyone from the Republic of Georgia is reading this, please know that I explain this process more from a position of sharing how life is different here than to pass judgment on this way of life. While I believe that God placed leadership in place for a reason – and making decisions for the group is part of that (you know, so it doesn’t take months to make a single decision), I understand that not everyone follows the American way. And there are plenty of areas where we Americans could really learn from Georgians. For instance, I am daily blown away by how Georgians are so hospitable and show care for others. And don’t get me started on how much they care about their relationships with others – family or not. There are plenty of areas where we really could learn from each other.

So with that said, today we finally had a baptism. How did we come to the decision to have it today? Well one of the people being baptized is leaving the country tomorrow. So at 11:12am I received call stating that at 11:20ish everyone was meeting at the Pastor’s house to carpool to the Alazani River, and if I wanted to go, I needed to come now. Yes, I literally received 8 minutes notice of a baptism. I was just walking up the 3 flights of stairs to my apartment after finishing up my language lesson, so I turned and headed back down without even going in…and headed to the river in jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers. And it was hot…and the water looked so refreshing, it made me wish I had taken a few minutes to grab some shorts and flip flops!

But the baptisms did happen. And both people were extremely happy to finally be able to take part in this symbol of their faith. All in all, it was a great time. My American-ness just wished I had time to prepare πŸ™‚

The good news – it wasn’t about me. It was about these new believers, and giving God the glory for what He is doing in their lives. Thank you Lord.

Posted in Nation of Georgia

Bitter-sweet Ending

For the last week, we have had the honor of hosting a team from Colorado. They come from a church that has adopted the country of Georgia, and are therefore supporting both myself and the Ocasio’s, as well as supporting whatever projects are needed in the region. The team has been amazing. They are four guys that came with the purpose of working – and working hard – to build bathrooms for the church building (squatty-potties, but at least we finally have something other than a tin shed with a hole in the ground!) as well as a stage – where there has been just a cement slab in the sanctuary. To say we are grateful for this team would be an understatement. They accomplished so much in only a week, in addition to providing some much-needed fellowship for us Telavi-based Americans.

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Our gorgeous new stage!

As they left this morning, it hit me how much fun this week has been. And how much I am going to miss having them here. They were great company, but it was more than just that. I am now realizing how much I miss that group dynamic. Yes, I have the Ocasio’s, and oh how grateful I am for them! But there is something special about a group of people coming together for work & fellowship. Especially when it means you don’t have to think about speaking another language or making cultural missteps. There is truly something special about having people that understand your sarcasm, that get your jokes, enjoy the same things and just understand in general where you are coming from.

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A Georgian feast at the best restaurant in Telavi

So now that they are gone, it will be a little lonely. At least until this evening when the Ocasio girls come over for a slumber party πŸ™‚

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The Georgians (and us honorary Georgians) in front of a 900+ year old tree in the center of Telavi. This is the same tree as the one of the U.S. team at the top of this post.
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Hallelujah Week

Hallelujah week – that’s the only way I can think to describe this crazy, busy, chaotic as only Georgia can be, scary, challenging and blessed week. Let me explain by starting at the beginning, okay technically a little before the week began – last Saturday.

Saturday (the Sabbath here in Telavi) started out as normal Saturday. Church starts at 1pm, and I went as usual. There is a new child, about 12 years old, that has been coming with his grandmother for the last few weeks. After the service, Pastor Dato opened the floor to prayer requests, and this boy stepped forward. Not only was he asking for prayer for his family to know Christ, he wanted to dedicate his own life to Christ for the first time. What a miracle! His grandmother has been such a huge part of the growth of the church, and now you can see it spreading into the other generations.

Then, we fast forward to Monday. Included in the funds raised before I came to Georgia was funds for a used vehicle. I have been putting off that purchase so that I could come to know the town of Telavi intimately, but walking everywhere. But that has really limited my ability to do, well, everything. So I decided to make the leap and start looking for a car. I started the search at the end of last week, and on Monday we found the perfect one. Not only has it only been owned by Americans, but it has been owned only by embassy workers in Tbilisi, so it has a spotless record, including detailed maintenance records. We went to Tbilisi on Tuesday to see it and test drive it. Because I am purchasing it from an embassy worker, the embassy is taking care of all of the paperwork including title, registration and car passport (yes, care need passports here). I go back this Monday to pick it up. It runs well, and has 4WD so I know I will be able to get around the hillside of Telavi in the winter snow. Ugh…that’s what I dread, driving here in the snow. With very few driving laws in place, and even fewer enforced, I can only imagine the chaos of driving on ice and snow. But I guess that’s for a future post. πŸ™‚

On Wednesday, after my language lesson, I met with the pastor’s wife for some Georgian discussion practice. I am pleased to say that I only had to ask for the meaning of a few of the words – much better than last week’s meeting! Of course, I am still struggling to come up with the words to respond. And she is much better about speaking slowly so I can catch the words as she speaks them, then most. But it is improvement, and after a few fails this week, that is what I really needed to see. And after my lesson & discussion practice yesterday, I feel like I will eventually get there. Now to just memorize all of these verbs!

So while this last week was a lot of the same, normal chaos, I can definitely look back and see God’s handiwork in the week. I hope to see more salvations in the coming months. And I know that God was in the purchase of the vehicle. As for my language acquisition, I see progress – some in comprehension, and some in my reading (I now own a Georgian Bible, and use it alongside my English version daily).  God is good!

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Babylon’s One Language

Today I had another “Georgian as my second language” experience. It all started because I have finally found 2 people to help me practice my newly developed language “skills” (I use that term loosely). Since I will be spending a couple of hours with each of them every week, I did what is expected of Georgians – I baked something to give as a gift when I enter their home. Banana bread – that’s all I wanted to make. But as I popped my first loaf into the oven, I realized I didn’t have enough sugar to make additional loaves. So, I ran to the little market down the block. 

The little store only had one bag of sugar left. And it wasn’t a large bag either. I attempted to ask them if they had any more in the back, but it went terribly wrong. They kept telling me that there was no discount on sugar, but if I was looking for butter, they just marked down one brand that they carry. I kept telling them no thanks, I needed more sugar. And they just kept telling me there was no discount. So I purchased my little bag of sugar and left. 

As I was walking home, it dawned on me what had just taken place. I was using the word for “more”, meaning higher. Not the word for “additional”. They thought I was trying to get them to give me a cheaper price on the sugar, not get additional bags. Aye carumba! 

Tonight at the church prayer meeting, the church elders began to explain to one of the new believers about the story of the Tower of Babel, and how everyone spoke one language until God scattered the people and confused their tongues. And it hit me that I can blame them for all of my language issues here in Georgia! 

Not really, but it did make me think about how we communicate with God. No matter how confused our tongue may get, no matter how much we stumble to find the right words, God always gets our true meaning. And since we have the Holy Spirit in us, we can always fall back on our spirit language to help! I am so grateful that I have a God that wants to speak to me, wants to hear from me, and is willing to be patient when it’s just too difficult to put my thoughts and feelings into words. 

Posted in Nation of Georgia

Water anyone?

As I sit and wait to leave for church on this beautiful Saturday, I realize that the electricity has gone out, again. I’m so glad that I showered, dried and curled my hair, and did everything necessary to get ready long before it was time to go. I’ve realized since being here that I can be an early bird, and it has many perks. 

For one thing, the town waterworks only runs in the morning. So if I don’t get up early enough to make sure my apartment’s water tank gets filled, I could go a day without running water. Secondly, I have come to value my early morning (6:30ish) walks to the spring to get drinking water… especially since I am usually the only one awake and outside, with a few exceptions (taxi drivers and the night shift street sweeper). This town lives at night, so for most the day doesn’t even begin until around 10am…there is no such thing as a 6 or even 7 am rush hour. 
I’ve also realized how happy I am to have those bottles of drinking water, since my home’s plumbing depends on the electricity-powered pump. It’s funny how the smallest things can be an issue…like realizing you still need to brush your teeth before church only after the power goes out. 

All in all, though, you learn to adapt quickly to these minor inconveniences. After all, the town is a wonderful place to live, and the people are amazingly hospitable. And now I can’t wait to get to church and see everyone. πŸ™‚

Posted in Nation of Georgia

Children in Georgia

Since my focus here (once I learn the language) is to recruit and train people to work with children, I thought I would share what I have learned about the kids so far.

First off, as I have shared before, kids are very important to a family, and a village/town. Kids here walk everywhere by themselves, or in groups, because they are completely safe. Just a couple of days I was talking with a Georgian about this, and he said that they have no concern about their children going off by themselves, because they do not have the “really sick” people like we have in America. And if anyone did do anything to a child here, he and his house would go up in flames before the cops could arrive. And when speaking with a mother about children walking off in a store, she commented that here they do not worry about where they went, but how much candy they were being fed.

Secondly, because children are the focus of the family, they tend to be given everything that they want. Early on children learn that if they scream loud enough, they will get what they want. And so they do. This entitlement is different than in America, though. In America, it is about getting the most expensive stuff in order to buy love. In Georgia, it is more about the little things…like not wanting to wait for anything (because as a child, you can walk into a store and cut in front of the line). Rather than focusing the spoiling on things and possessions, they tend to spoil with attention and little gestures of affection and pride.

A third thing I have noticed is that the kids do not spend much time in school. In fact, they rarely go for more than 3 or 4 hours a day. The days are broken up, and kids go to school at different times…some in the morning, some in the afternoon, some in the evening, with classes ending at 7pm. I could probably write an entire post or two on their education system, but let me sum it up in this way. Kids do not learn much at school, especially since they don’t go for very long. So for the important subjects like math, science, etc. they pay for tutors to actually teach them. And that is in addition to homework and all of the extracurricular activities that they pay tutors for…like piano, violin, dance, etc. You think kids in America are over-scheduled? Try handling all of that each day…

And lastly, kids here seem to turn into restless teens. I know, that sounds just like in America, but it’s true. These kids are looking for something more. And so they start drinking and smoking at a young age (I have not yet found anyone that can say if they have a legal age for either), partying, staying out late (after all, it’s “safe”) and just generally look for something fulfilling in all of the wrong places. There may not be the intense peer pressure like in America, but they still all have the desire to fit in, to find where they belong, and figure out who they are – despite what the culture or their parents tell them about who they are.

They are all looking for Christ, without realizing it. Oh, what fun I will have once I am able to start the ministry phase of my time here!

Oh and one last thing…yes, fidget spinners have officially become a thing here. They are now in every little neighborhood corner store. πŸ™‚

 

Posted in Uncategorized

And now we have language…

My first week of language lessons is complete, and boy am I ready for a break. It’s been far too long since my brain had to work this hard! I can feel the synapses struggling to fire…to reignite after too many years of idleness :). 

Ok, so it’s not that bad. In fact it is actually going pretty well. I can already introduce myself, speak about my family, say numbers, tell time, give directions and conjugate a few simple verbs. And I am learning how to properly draw the letters.

I have been purposefully going out to buy one or two things each day so that I can use my new language skills. And it has been a blast. I love learning new things…and to be able to use it right away? Even better! This weekend I have a lot of homework…some writing, some memorization. But if it means I can one day break thru my communication limitations, it is totally worth it. 

And I have taken some time to have some fun, too. Yesterday was National Children’s Day, and I was able to attend the festivities, which just happened to be taking place right below my apartment balcony. And I have taken some time to finally unpack all of my luggage. I still need some more organizational tools…like cabinets πŸ˜€. But I am slowly getting there. One day at a time, right? 

Well, that’s all for now. Can’t wait to share what new adventures I will have next week!

Posted in Nation of Georgia, bible

Georgian Independence Day

Today was Georgian Independence Day. The town of Telavi held a celebration right in the center of town that ended, like in the States, with a great fireworks show. 

As I stood in the doorway to the little corner store watching the fireworks display, it hit me how, despite all of our differences, we all want – strive for even – our independence…freedom. 

Here on Earth, we may think that we need to struggle, to fight, wage war in order to “earn” our freedom. But that is not what is required in God’s kingdom. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” All we have to do is accept it. 

God already won the fight for our freedom. He’s just waiting on us to realize that. To recognize who we are in Him. Only then can we truly be free.

I just pray that God will use me to share that with the Georgians I meet along the way.

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Week 1 in Georgia

Well, my first week (okay so only my first 5 days) is coming to an end. I have been keeping a notebook of all of my observations this week, and I thought I would share some with you.

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This is the view from the room I am renting for another week. This picture is looking north towards the Greater Caucasus Mountains. They are still snow-capped, and will be for a few more weeks. It is colder than normal for May, and they are getting a lot more rain than usual as well. But as you can see, it is a gorgeous town, and countryside.

The roads in the town are all paved…but to different degrees. The two main roads going north/south and east/west are nicely paved, very smooth, and easy to travel on. The rest of the roads are paved with only stones. They are very bumpy, uneven and not at all straight. And since there are not really a lot of sidewalks (outside of the town center) you have to walk on the bumpy road – usually in the very middle of the road since those stones have been driven over more, making them more even and easier to walk on.

The road between Tbilisi and the town I am in is also paved. However it too is very bumpy, uneven and winds thru the mountains. I am not ashamed to admit that I became quite queasy on the drive that first day in country.

The people are so kind and friendly, and welcoming. Hospitality really is a joy for them. However I do not have any pictures with them yet, because they hate having their picture taken.

Thursday, we went out to a village. It was wonderful to spend time with the only two believers in that village. The story of how they each came to know Christ is quite amazing. One of these days I will share with you those miracles. On the way back into town, we experienced my first ever Georgian “traffic jam”…getting stuck behind a herd of cows heading home from the pasture. Then a little while later another – this time waiting for hundreds of sheep to cross the street.

In Georgia, homes have very small “living rooms”. Instead, the home is based around the dining area. Supras, large feasts, are a way of life, where they invite everyone they know to come and eat – just fellowship in general. Here, time, or more specifically – scheduling, Β is almost irrelevant. They don’t make to do lists, don’t calendar events and appointments. Everything here is focused on one thing – relationships.

Even in the church things never go as planned. Tuesday night there was a prayer meeting. It was “scheduled” to go from 7pm to 8pm. However around 7:10 the pastor finally started the meeting by sharing a scripture. Then we were going to turn to prayer. But a new believer started asking questions about the scripture…then other questions. And the prayer meeting turned into more of a Bible study almost, where the pastor and other mature believers were able to pour into the two new believers in attendance. It was 8pm before anyone even bothered to look at the time. Then we still had to pray, so we spent about 10 minutes in prayer before dismissing. In our American way of life, that could have been an issue because it was not the “time nor the place” for the questions. However, just think of the personal growth that was possible because they were willing to put aside their schedules to share with their brothers in Christ.

I have been praying about how I should handle just those differences. After all, I am a type A personality that likes to keep lists just so I have the satisfaction of crossing things off of it. I am task-oriented with a strong work ethic. And none of those things are worth the time of day (I even use phrases focused on time to get a point across!) here. But this morning, God reminded me of the story in Luke 10 where Jesus visits Mary & Martha. Mary is happy to just sit at Jesus’ feet and absorb everything he has to share. Martha, on the other hand, is task-oriented. She is busy preparing a feast to celebrate that Jesus has come to spend time with them. She gets frustrated, complaining to Jesus about Mary, and Jesus’ response is not one that aligns with our American way of life. Jesus says that Mary has found what is important – and he will not take that away from her.

I came to Georgia to share how Jesus wants a personal, intimate, loving relationship with every Georgian. But how can I do that if I am not willing to set aside my own personality quirks in order to build, have, and share in relationships the way that they do? God showed me that I am like Martha – I can be too task focused, and miss out on the relationship aspect of what I am trying to accomplish. I am not saying that I need to walk away from who I am. But I need to find a balance that will allow me to expand who I am so that I can focus on that relational culture.

There are so many more things I want to share with you, so I may have to start posting more often than once a week. We’ll see :). In the meantime, thank you for all of your prayers! I had the easiest travel to Georgia that I have ever had, I have adjusted to the time difference much quicker than I ever imagined (hardly any jet lag!). And I am already starting to formulate words (my language studies will not start for another week). I can definitely sense the difference your prayers are making.

Be blessed!

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I Can’t Say Thank You Enough

It’s been a long two years, but the wait is finally over. I leave for the Republic of Georgia this evening! 

I just want everyone to know that I appreciate all of the prayers and support from all of you. When I say I could not have done this without you, I really mean it. As with any journey, times of discouragement came. But it was in those times that I felt you praying for me, received a word of encouragement that was desperately needed or simply heard a word from God. 

So now that I am packed and ready to leave, what I need more than ever is for you to just keep doing what you’ve been doing – praying for me. This is not the end of my journey. It’s just another phase of it. And I know I am going to need all of the prayers I can get.

So in advance let me just say this again – THANK YOU!