Missionaries Jim and Liisa Tino serving in Chile and globally

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How to Peel a Tomato

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The other day I was talking to a lady who runs a bakery in my neighborhood.  I was asking her about Bryan, her 13 year-old boy with autism.  She is very excited with the progress he has been making in his new school, but she is even  more proud of what she has accomplished with him at home.  “He can get up and prepare his own breakfast, ”  she said.

“Oh,”  I commented.  “And what have you taught him to cook?”

“You know, the essentials…eggs, toast, and how to peel a tomato…

Now, I must tell you for Chileans it’s practically a sin to serve tomatoes with the skins on!  There are lots of yummy tomatoes to be purchased, at half the price as in the USA, but there’s the tricky task of peeling them.

I learned from the matriarchs of my family that you do this by quickly dunking the tomatoes in boiling water and then slipping off the skin.  Basically, we only did this for canning purposes.  But this IS THE WAY to take the skin off a tomato.  So, needless to say I was quite surprised when I began to observe the Chilean daily method for peeling tomatoes.

Apparently, any ole sharp knife will do.  I’ve seen people weilding what could almost be called a machete around that small, red juicy fruit!   So you start at the top and make a long, curly ribbon as you slip the knife around and around the luscious gem – kind of like we try to do with an orange, but it never quite works out.  Then, you hold the tomato in the palm of your hand and make several cuts down into the flesh – hopefully not reaching the flesh of your hand!  Next, you slice horizontally and the small chunks of tomato drop down onto your dish or pan, ready for use!

So, this week I decided to make my Grammie’s spaghetti sauce.  I had a whole kilo of tomatoes on which to practice!  It was not a pretty sight, but all the juices and chunks dropped directly into the pot for simmering.  Fresh oregano and basil from my outdoor market completed the dreamy aroma that filled the house.

As the sauce simmered I pondered…had I never come to Chile I would never have known that you’re not supposed to eat tomato skins.   Nor would have I learned the essential and true method to peel a tomato!

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Notice the bandaid….ooo that stings when the tomato juice gets in!!

 

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TREASURE IN JARS OF CLAY

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claypot sm“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do no lose heart….we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.” II Cor. 4:1,7

I saw this verse in action last week.  It happened while visiting Valparaiso, Chile.

Valparaiso is a city built mainly on a series of hills – about 40 or so – that rush steeply to the Pacific Ocean and are covered with humble homes precariously perching one on top of another.    It is one of the oldest settlements in Chile and has many historic sites.  When it’s not the rainy season, things get pretty dry, but the constant breezes coming off the ocean are refreshing.

Unfortunately, all the right conditions exist in this picturesque city for the easy spread and monumental destruction caused by wildfires.  In 2014, wildfires ravaged about 10 of these hills destroying about 3000 homes, leaving 15 dead and 500 wounded.   Approximately 12,500 people were left without a place to live.

The Lutheran Church of Chile has been busy giving aide and relief since the first terrifying moments.  Not only have we been giving physical relief, but we now have relationships with many affected families and are teaching them from God’s Word about our Savior, Jesus.

Recently, as we went to Valparaiso to share God’s love and lend a hand, we were given a tour of a more recent fire zone in a different neighborhood.  The causes seemed to be faulty wiring.  Because the houses are built so close together, the fire spread quickly and burned 11 homes.

As we gazed at the destruction, we spotted a clay pot, intact, in the middle of the rubble.  It had withstood the fire and was titled as if it had just been emptied of its contents.  Wow!  That’s exactly what God has called us to do:  carry His Spirit inside of us and be ready to pour it out wherever needed.  It may be in the midst of fire or storms; in places of desperation or confusion; among friends or strangers.  He promises to hold on to us…to be our Guide and Protector, and to supply us with exactly what is needed.

I’m probably starting to look a little like that beat up, singed clay pot.  But that’s okay.  It is important to remember that we are His vessels, created with a purpose, designed to serve others and to carry the treasure, which is Jesus.  He is the Light and only Hope for this world in which we live.

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Dance like….the world is watching!

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I want to tell you about a girl I met while at a woman’s retreat in Argentina. Let’s call her Cynthia.

Actually, I didn’t really “meet’ Cynthia. But we shared the same experiences at this inspirational Lutheran conference. Usually my group sat behind her and her mom and all her aunts. I observed their participation in the events. Together we sang, prayed and were moved by the power of God’s Word. But Cynthia moved me, because she was a down-syndrome woman.

On the night of the “noche velada” – a type of variety show that included a female comedian, a soprano virtuoso and an all-boy folk group with a modern twist- Cynthia was obviously excited about the booming music. Her aunts were constantly trying to contain her to the row of chairs that marked their area.  The band got the crowd singing to old favorites and clapping to the “chamame” beat.  Suddenly they began playing an introduction that elicited “oohs” and “”ahhs” from the crowd.  As they hit the chorus of the song, EVERYONE was singing and Cynthia was dancing on top of her chair in front of me!  Her mother pulled her down, but she bolted in front of her aunts into the center aisle where there was room to dance.  She waltzed – quite flamboyantly- slowly between the crowds.  She smiled as she spun, flinging one arm above her head and pressing the other across her stomach.  The band picked up the tempo and the impromptu choir sang louder.  The aunts in front of me patted her mother’s arm and said “Look at her. She’s having a blast!  Let her dance!”  Soon, a young pastor joined her and gave her a couple of twirls.  Cynthia looked like the Belle of the Ball!

But as the song began to wind down, and the pastor returned to his section, the focus was on the solo guitarist. Then it was on the lead singer as he held out the final note….impossibly long. Finally, the crowd erupted with applause as the piece ended.  I turned to see my Cynthia half-way back in the center aisle.  She was beaming – bowing from side to side – as if the applause was for her.  She looked like she was searching for the flash of cameras when I snapped this photo.  One of her aunts reached out to her to pull her away from the embarrassment.  But Cynthia, was NOT embarrassed.  She had danced as if no one was watching, while expecting the whole world to be watching!

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That is definitely hard to do.  Rarely can we toss inhibitions to the wind and let our inner-Cynthias out.  When God inspires us to praise and thank Him for His incredible creation or for His grace and mercy in our lives, do we let it all out?  And when we’re thrilled with the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and sent His Spirit to live in our hearts, do we quietly nod in case someone might be critical?

I’m going to look for more opportunities to dance (oh no, groan my children)!   And when the music is over, I’m going to stand proud and let people know why I dance!

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“Like streams of water in the desert…”

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terremoto rock

Poor Chile! It seems that recently she has had more than her share of disasters. Starting with earthquakes and a tsunami in 2010, to wild fires and a major earthquake last year, and then torrential rains causing mudslides last month…and now an erupting volcano…you begin to wonder what’s up.

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Well, for starters, the pastors of the Lutheran Church in Chile have had many opportunities to show God’s mercy.  God has used these disasters to open many doors to the Gospel.  Church people have been volunteering and sharing their strength and their faith.  When humans have physical needs, their hearts are often more in tune to their spiritual needs as well.

But real change is not quite that easy.  Old habits are hard to break. Learning to walk with Jesus day by day is a sometimes frustrating process.  And, there’s the stress that the aftermath of a disaster brings.

As we recently visited the area of Iquique where the earthquake of 8.2 magnitude happened a year ago, many things looked like they had returned to normal.  The temporary housing camps made by the government had  satellite dishes propped up on them.  Some residents had converted part of their 160 square feet living space into a store front selling candy, soda and eggs.  We heard rumors of family disputes and people who had gotten involved with drugs and violence.

As we knocked on the doors, people were still happy to see us. One lady apologized for not being able to offer us anything….not even tea.  That’s what Chileans usually share during a visit.  She explained they didn’t have any water that day because the community tank was not working.  I noticed she had two chunks of ice from her freezer sitting in a bowl on the table slowly melting.  She told us she was “collecting water”.

Isn’t that how the Gospel works sometime?  We hear about it.  We read it. We acknowledge that it’s there, but our lives continue on unchanged.  It’s like a chunk of frozen water.  The tea bag sits beside it, dry and almost flavorless.  When we let the ice warm up, slowly it melts into our lives and brings refreshment and life.  The soothing words of the Gospel wash away heartache and pain.  When we immerse ourselves in it, like the tea bag, flavor is dispersed all around.  Suddenly life has meaning!

We visited with this lady for quite a while.  As we prayed together, you could sense the peace and confidence in Jesus returning to her soul.   She offered her backyard as a gathering place for the contacts we had made, and said she would spread the news of our visit around the neighborhood.  The next day at 7 pm we had more than 20 people listening to God’s Word, singing and praying in her backyard.  The “frozen water” had melted and the Gospel was at work nourishing many with the Good News of Jesus our Savior!

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Kiwi Apple What?

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I am SO thankful that God continues to teach me as a missionary that there are many ways to live a life. I mean, in Canada they serve french fries with vinegar, right? In Venezuela hamburgers include a slice of ham and maybe a fried egg. In Chile hot dogs have smashed avocado on top….

And it’s not just food differences. Etiquette and expectations differ world-wide. I was shocked during our first years in Venezuela when an older woman walked into the middle of a church service and said “Buenos dias” to everyone down the center aisle – as the preacher paused in his sermon. But, I quickly learned it was important to do the same every time I walked into a doctor’s office or boarded a bus. To skip that cordial greeting would be rude!

Sometimes I felt put-out when when after arriving punctually to a latino-hosted event, others were joyfully welcomed 2 or 3 hours later. I mean, in the States that wouldn’t be respectful. In fact, in the USA where “early is on-time and on-time is late” I was charged a fee and sometimes lost an appointment because I was a few minutes past the hour.

“Back home it’s not like this….why doesn’t everyone do it my way…”  Thoughts like this often pass through our minds.  If we’re smart, we hold our tongues, but secretly know EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING…

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Then we come across delightful surprises like this bright green sign that caught my eye.  It was hanging below the familiar golden arches, but it was something new!  Kiwi?  Why does Chilean McDonald’s have kiwi in their menu?  I thought kiwis were a New Zealand thing….but I bought the sundae anyway and it was AMAZING!

Then, I googled Kiwi and was surprised to learn that Chile is the #2 exporter of kiwis!  Quite the fascinating little story.  Of course, it wasn’t news to any local Chileans.  How many other surprises are there in this country for me to learn?   As I said, I am SO thankful for every opportunity to see, to taste, to hear, to live!    Keep your eyes open.  Ask questions.  Live the life God’s given you to the fullest!

 

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DeVine Chile part II

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grape arbor sm“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, apart from Me you can do nothing.” Jn 15:5

grape vine smMaybe my fascination with Chilean grapes is rooted in my confirmation verse, John 15:5.  I’ve always loved the picture of a strong, woody vine rambling over an arbor, with clumps of purple goblets draping down.  And I’ve imagined how much fun it would be to tromp out the juicy sweetness of those little fruits with my bare feet (Lucille Ball-style, for those of you who’ve seen the episode!) in a huge wine-making vat.  I also must admit I have become quite enamored with the Chilean Carmeneré wine!

The story of Carmeneré is quite interesting. It seems the original Carmeneré vine from France fell subject to disease and imperfect growing conditions in Europe causing it to almost disappear. Cuttings from these vines were imported to Chile in the 19th century.   However, over the years the vine was not recognized as a unique, specialized grape, but was used to mix with merlot and other red wines.

In the last decade Carmeneré has been rediscovered. In Chile, and other parts of the world, it has been exalted and recognized as a stand-alone, exquisite crimson red wine. Efforts have been made to recuperate and appreciate its true nature.

As I look around Santiago and see the spiritual confusion of the people, I wonder if God’s truth hasn’t been diluted and lost.  Throughout  its history of injustice, dictatorships and revolution, Chile has become a country that has almost forgotten God.

God’s Word says clearly that there is One Way.  Jesus, God’s Son, is identified as the the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  We are here to point to the One who shed His crimson blood to set us free from disillusion and deception of a life of sin.  Chileans need to hear the Good News of Christ and find true Hope for their lost lives.

The original Vine was planted long ago.  It’s time to reconnect, cling, and bear fruit! lots of grapes sm

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DeVine Chile!

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handful of grapes sm

 

 

 

I am ABSOLUTELY fascinated by the UVAS DE CHILE – grapes of Chile! They come in all shapes and sizes.  Most of us in the United States buy them at Kroger’s or Publix  this time of year.  But here I am, taking walks around Santiago and spotting the leaves crawling over someones gate or wall.  What joy when I find a clump of  white, pink, green or purple “uvitas”.  A handful makes the perfect energizer while I’m jogging!

Or, if I’m not in a neighborhood with vine-draped sidewalks, I can buy a couple of kilos like these at an outdoor market …for less than one dollar a pound.

And then, there’s the wine!  Ah….the delights of Chilean vinyards!

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The Sidewalks of Santiago

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Every day I do considerable walking around town. It amazes me how many handicapped kids I see being pushed in their wheel chairs or strollers by their mom or “tia” (auntie). Maybe it’s because there aren’t many options for these children. Maybe it’s because they do not have the resources to find a school or a rehab center.

I checked the stats, and there are 2,068,072 disabled people in Chile – the highest percent living in Santiago!  According to the report, 69% have been diagnosed with some sort of disability and 75% have received some health assistance from the government.

However, only 2.9% have received any social attention and it is estimated that .3% have had some type of counseling. Even more shocking is that just 6,612 disabled people are being educated. That’s .32% (three HUNDREDTHS of one percent) of the handicapped population!!

I am suspecting that God has a plan for us as Lutheran missionaries in Santiago, Chile to reach these families. It seems to be more than a coincidence that our coworkers, Rev. Cristian & Ethel Rautenberg, have two handicapped boys. They are Argentine missionaries who have been serving in Chile for almost 15 years. The love and joy they show in their family is a strong witness to a life with Christ. My husband and I consider it a blessing to be in team ministry with them.  Who knows what God can do with us in this city of 5 million people needing the Lord!

Would you pray that God would direct us to reach out socially, academically, and spiritually to these people?  Pray that He leads us to just the right property to purchase for our ministry center. Pray that He continues to build His community of believers so that we can reach others – especially the physically and mentally handicapped – with the Good News of Jesus!

The Rautenberg boys with a friend from church in Christmas program

The Rautenberg boys (on left) with a friend from church in 2014 Christmas program

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Miracles

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Cristobal sm 2I have to share the story of Cristobal, a cute little curly-top Chilean boy in our mission church. For a 2 1/2 year old, he has a huge vocabulary and a crystal clear cartoon voice that is usually competing with my husband during the sermon!

But we love this kid to pieces, especially since as an infant he was diagnosed with a serious kidney disease. His parents are thankful to doctors who performed a tricky surgery removing the damaged kidney and making changes so he could survive with just one.

In December he went for his regular check-up to make sure the kidney is functioning well. After several tests, the doctor shared a surprising update with his mother. It appears that the kidney that had been removed has grown back – perfectly! The doctor couldn’t explain how. He said, “This just doesn’t happen”.

Filled with excitement and gratitude, Cristobal’s mother told the doctor she knew how it happened.  “We pray to an all powerful God. There is nothing impossible for Him. All glory and praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Watch for God’s mercy and power all around you. He’s making miracles happen daily. He comes to us in the miracle of a helpless Babe in the Christmas manger. He comes out of the tomb and announces victory over sin, death, and Satan. His body and blood miraculously come to us in the bread and wine for our forgiveness.

Join us in thanking God for Cristobal’s miraculous healing!

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Christmas is in the air…

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It’s fun to observe the signs of Christmas in different countries. Chile is definitely similar to the USA in the shopping category! People are going CRAZY in the malls and streets. Lots of special “Christmas Fairs” are set up.  They’re like big flea markets of EVERYTHING you might need – including the Santa (Viajito Pascuero) climbing up a ladder that everyone hangs in their kitchen window.

In Venezuela kids took to the streets on roller skates and roller blades during the holidays. Here in Chile I saw something unique tonight…Street Ping Pong! One family rolled their ping pong table out of their garage onto the street between 2 parked cars. When it’s a pleasant 70 degrees, why not?!

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