Monthly Archives: July 2008

Pastor Guillermo

Pastor Guillermo

Until now, regular readers of peace for the journey have known me as Elaine’s husband and her number one fan. Now for the first time I am a guest contributor to her blog, which coincides with another important first in my life—my first mission trip outside the USA.

A team of 16 young adults and chaperones left our church on July 16, 2008, for the South American nation of Bolivia and a new orphanage established by the Methodist Church of Bolivia. The Andes Mountain range is second only to the Himalayas as the highest in the world and is home to the Aymaran Indians, the native people of Bolivia. For ten days we called this harsh, desperately poor but splendid place our home.

Tacachia rests at the end of a forty mile stretch of winding mountain road. My sense of “belonging” in that little village was challenged from the very beginning. As one of Tacachia’s newest residents my name was a problem: “Billy.”

Billy is the name that I have answered to for almost forty-one years of living, but to a rural population that spoke only Spanish and Aymaran, none of them had ever met a “Billy” and had great difficulty pronouncing my name. I had a choice to make: to insist that everyone in my new home struggle with a name that defied their tongues’ best efforts, or I could change my name. The choice was easy. My high school Spanish teacher had us use the Spanish equivalent of our English names in class. Thanks to those lessons from long ago I quickly exchanged “Billy” for “Guillermo,” which is Spanish for “William.”

Instead of loosing any precious sense of my identity, compromising my standards, or watering down the Gospel message, the Lord led me to a deeper understanding of what it means to “deny myself.” When Jesus said to His disciples, in Matthew 16:24 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” Jesus meant that we have to be willing to replace our standards with His standards. As long as we stay close to the place we call home and the local church we call our own, self denial may not seem like a big deal. But what does the Lord require of His people when He leads us among strangers?

I believe that Acts 1:4-8 is concrete proof that Jesus does not use a “sliding scale” in measuring mission work. The idea of local missions, verses overseas missions, and one being better than another is an invention of man and not of God. Wherever you are, if you are a baptized believer in Jesus Christ, you are in the mission field. As missionaries, there is an ever present temptation to value our station in life, our title, our accomplishments, our circumstances, to the point that the world around us feels like they have no hope of relating to us.

To the people of Tacachia, “Pastor Billy” was a name their tongues could not grasp. They could not greet me. They could not introduce me to their neighbors. They could not hope to have any kind of intimate relationship with me, because “Pastor Billy” was the name of a stranger who wanted to remain a stranger. But “Pastor Guillermo” was a welcome guest who wanted to know them and wanted to be known by them.

What about my other names? I am a United Methodist pastor. I am an Elder in the Church. I have an undergraduate degree from Pfeiffer College and a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. I am proud of all these names—up to the point that these parts of my “identity” might become an obstacle in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Ten days with Pastor Guillermo taught me that my own selfishness has been the biggest obstacle in keeping me from sharing the love of Jesus.

Ten days with Pastor Guillermo taught me that Christians have to be willing to deny the things we often prize the most, for the sake of the least and the lost.

Ten days with Pastor Guillermo taught me that Christians have to love Jesus more than we love denomination, or education, or anything else that might build a wall between us and those He sends us too.

Ten days with Pastor Guillermo taught me that the most important thing I have to offer the Lord on the mission field is my obedience.

As it was with Pastor Guillermo, so I want it to be with Pastor Billy. I want to love others more than myself and to prize relationships over ego…Christ above self.

The lesson of my mission field has not been an identity crisis, but rather has been the fertile soil to finding my true identity in Christ. Not everyone will need a trip to South America to learn how to part with their selfishness, but as Elaine will attest, I’ve never been very good at doing things the easy way. God used Pastor Guillermo to humble Pastor Billy.

I’m so glad for the occasion to have met him in the little village of Tacachia.

peace for the journey~

If you want to learn more about the medical mission society that helped us organize our trip to Bolivia, please click on this link to Curamericas. Details about the Kory Wawanaca Children’s Home of Tacachia, Bolivia can be viewed at their website.

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Cristo Amado (Beloved Christ)

Greetings to all of you faithful bloggers who clicked on Peace for the Journey to read Elaine’s writing. Alas, you’re stuck with her son instead. I’m Nick, the eldest (!!!), and I was part of a recent 16-man team from our church who went to Tacachia, Bolivia for a mission trip. Mom asked me to write a little something for the blog, and though I lack her writing prowess, here goes!

I’d never been on a mission trip before, much less one out of the country, so I understandably had some worries and anxieties prior to leaving. How would I do speaking Spanish? How would I do with limited electricity and cramped sleeping quarters? Would I be able to do the very difficult work on the farm? Most importantly, though, how could God bless others through people who were completely and utterly different from them in almost every aspect of life?

It became clear to me as the trip progressed that this trip was something that God had planned for me before He’d even breathed life into me.

Tacachia offered many formidable challenges for us 16 Americans. The language barrier, the elevation (Tacachia is approximately 12,000 ft. above sea level), the sleeping situation, the food, and the labor all daunted members of our group at one time or another. However, God blessed me in innumerable and unspeakable ways. He didn’t break down those barriers for me; instead, He ensured that I wouldn’t have to deal with any of those in the first place.

*The altitude didn’t really bother me (rare for people in our group).
*I didn’t contract even a minor disease or so much as an upset stomach (even rarer).
*And I knew enough Spanish to hold basic conversations with the people of Tacachia (rarer still).

With God’s help, I set out to share His love with others, and I believe I did that everyday I was in Bolivia. Playing soccer and volleyball with the kids from the village, doing a Daniel in the Lion’s Den skit, and helping dig a canal and make adobe bricks were all ways in which I was able to share God’s love with those Bolivians. Looking back on the trip, though, it is obvious that the people of Bolivia were more of a blessing to me than vice versa.

Everyone was so kind and loving that I must confess I was envious of them at times. Family means everything to Bolivians…how often do we hear that in the United States? I grew closer to people there than I did with some members of my graduating class. For the first time in my life, I really felt like family with people who weren’t genetically related to me. The love was so evident and so thorough and so joyous that it permeated everything that they did with us.

The most vivid and eternal memory I will take from Tacachia occurred during the church service we attended the last night we were in the village. During the previous Sunday’s service, we had sung a Spanish hymn that was a congregational favorite and I thought to myself “That song was pretty good.” During the closing Wednesday service, I found myself hoping “Please let us sing that cool song again.” I didn’t even know the title…

Lo and behold, as the service drew to a close, the musicians began to play that song, which I later found out to be titled “Cristo Amado” (Beloved Christ). As soon as I recognized the song and heard all the locals singing it, a joy that I have rarely experienced crashed over me like ocean waves. Though I did not know the words and thus could not sing along, I have never felt the presence of the Holy Spirit as tangibly as I did during those five minutes. Everyone was singing and clapping and pouring their hearts out to their Beloved Christ.

Following the service, I really wanted to learn the song, as I thoroughly enjoyed it. I told Pastor Antonio in Spanish that I had really enjoyed the song, not knowing how to ask to copy the words down. He responded with a huge grin, and holding a hymnal and paper, he asked me in Spanish if I wanted to copy it down. In that moment, elation filled my heart and I have not been able to stop thanking God and the people of Tacachia for the love and blessings they’ve so wonderfully showered on me in the five days since I learned that song.

As 1 John says, “How great is the love that the Father has lavished upon us, that we might be called children of God!”

Cristo Amado (Beloved Christ)


O Cristo, Cristo amado! (O beloved Christ!)
Alumbra pues mi camino (Light up my way)
Para llevar tu palabra (So I can take your word)
A pueblo desconocido (To the unknowing home)

Jehova es mi Padre (God is my Father)
Cristo es mi Salvador (Christ is my Savior)
El Espiritu Santo (The Holy Spirit)
Es mi Fortaleza (Is my stronghold)

Our Cristo Amado is so wonderful. Won’t you go share Him with others? After all, as Henry Burton’s hymn says:

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going,And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;That’s how it is with God’s Love,Once you’ve experienced it,You spread the love to everyone You want to pass it on.”


A Zoo’s Pondering (part five): Made for Him

A Zoo’s Pondering (part five): Made for Him

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100).

My heart is tender tonight—ready and waiting to receive the embrace of two fine men. They’ve crossed the Equator and back again and are approximately three hours away from the punctuation of a journey that began eleven days ago. My emotions have walked the extremes. But mostly, what I feel right now is love.

Not a love for things or stuff or trinkets that can be quantified, but rather a love for people whose measured worth is unquantifiable.

People. The sixth day wonder of God’s creative genius. The final brushstroke of God’s divine masterpiece. He saved the best for last.

We are that last. We are the exclamation point on a creation story that some have deemed implausible. Not possible. A stretch that requires more ignorance than sense. To some, we are nothing more than the evolution of this.

But I don’t see it. Instead I see this.

Apparently the furry guy didn’t get the memo and stayed as he is.

That, my friends, is a stretch that requires more ignorance than sense, for we are the implemented plan of the Divine. His name is God, and we were created in his image for his glory and renown alone (Jeremiah 13:11). We are the favor of our Father’s eyes, and he rejoices over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

His weaving of us in our mother’s womb leaves little room for debate. Fearfully and wonderfully, he took the task of our becoming (Psalm 139). And from the very beginning, he fashioned us with the mark of eternity (Ecc. 3:11).

This is what sets us apart from every other created being. We bare the marks of forever. There’s something about us that looks like him, and through the power of the Cross, we participate in the divine nature that allows us to embody his Spirit within (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Gorillas and monkeys and chimpanzees are, quite frankly, adorable. I love to ponder them and their ways. But for all of their uniqueness, I can’t hold them. Can’t talk to them. Can’t share matters of the heart with them. Not really. I could try, but a one sided communication fall shorts of true, lasting connections. And I am after connection. One on one. Heart to heart.

So is our God. He created us with the connection in mind. And for the time span that has existed from Eden until now, he has been in hot pursuit of our noticing him. Of recognizing that we are not a separate entity, void of Eden’s pulse but, rather, that we are uniquely tied to the pulse of our Father.

We were made by Him. We were made for Him. And I, for one, cannot think of a better way to close our zoo ponderings than to simply take a few minutes to ponder Him.

There’s a wonderful video clip by Louie Giglio that sheds some light into this truth. Honestly, I’ve only now thought about it as I’ve been writing. Many of you have seen it before, but I think it worthy of our second glance. And for those of you who’ve yet to watch it?

Well…it is eight minutes of your day wisely spent. Do yourself a high and holy favor by taking the time to watch this through to the end. Indeed, God created you with his image in mind.

Thank you, each one, for spending a week at the zoo with me. I have loved walking these steps of creation’s glory through a different set of lenses. My prayer is that you, too, have been able to witness the truth of Jesus Christ through these modern day parables. They have the capacity to speak a word to the human condition if we only allow ourselves the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the mind to conceive the sacred possibilities within.

It’s all around, friends. God’s truth in our present. As you enter into your Sabbath day of rest, may you be ever more aware of the Father’s whispers and of the Spirit’s wind as he blows through your frame with the sure glory of your everlasting. I love you each one. You have been life to me in these past eleven days.

As always,



My Surrender

My Surrender

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9a).

Some days you get the Audience you’re after.

Some days you receive the inconceivable light of heaven in a way that allows you a glimpse of a Father’s astounding glory.

Some days your spirit runs in the freedom of a hard fought surrender.

Today was one of those days for me.

There has been a laying down of some dreams, my friends. A profound moment of clarity that has come to my soul and one that is rarely allowed by the flesh. But this flesh is tired and weary of the pursuit. Not of the dream, but of thinking that it has to blow in the direction of my well-intentioned breath. It doesn’t have to. Not anymore. That is the beauty of surrender. It frees the heart to live in the dreams of a holier wind that breathes with a better intent.

I have tasted this deep clarity twice before. But their witness awaits another day. Today’s witness belongs to an early morning altar christened by the willing tears of sacrifice. They still flow—these tears of mine. No longer sad, but rather as sweet and cleansing and with the joy of the resurrection that follows a sacred dying.

I don’t write my thoughts this night to push the envelope with my Father…to micro-manage a favorable end to the story. I write it here because my Father has already pushed the envelope with me, and he desires to be the one to manage my end in his favor.

I chronicle this point in my journey with you because there are some things–some points of worship and surrender in our lives–that need the witness of words. Why?

Because after an altar’s bow, there always comes a day when God moves on our behalf in a more perfect direction. And when that happens, we can come back to our stone of remembrance and cry out the words of the prophet Samuel…

“Thus far has the LORD helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12).

The Lord has helped me. It matters not the sacrifice. What matters is the peace that has arrived with the letting go. God has brought me to the end of my striving, and today I raise my Ebenezer in praise knowing that new seeds—sacred seeds—have been planted within the soil of this heart.

I punctuated my soul’s stir with an early morning run. The sky was clouded with grey, yet my heart was filled with the praise of release. The first song that cycled through my IPOD was the one embedded below. As the chorus echoed deep within my soul and through these lips, the clouds broke, and I received the Audience that I was after.

I like to think that there was something about my song that caught the attention of heaven and her King. He’s certainly caught mine, and so I pray…

You, my Father, are my amazing Best. You have strengthened my heart for the journey this day. My heart…my today, tomorrow, and my rest belong to you. Whatever you choose to do with my surrender is your choice, not mine. Humbly and with the heart of joyful release, I commit to the road of your forever. It’s yours to navigate. Bring me safely home to you. Amen.


Thank you for allowing me to share my heart this night. We will return with our final “Zoo Pondering” sometime this weekend. And if you think about it, I sure would appreciate your prayers for the workteam returning tomorrow from Bolivia. They won’t be home until the early morning hours on Sunday. Shalom!

A Zoo’s Pondering (part four): Made for the New

A Zoo’s Pondering (part four): Made for the New

Updated bonus to this post…

When I began blogging several months back, I wanted a header photo that included a dirt road/desert with a “journeying” type of theme. I came across the photo above and knew it was the one! Last night, while perusing photos on istock of Bolivia, guess what picture popped up? Exactly. Apparently this was shot in the Uyuni desert in Bolivia. I didn’t realize it then, but God did. How cool is our Master Weaver?!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

God knows how to send a message, even when we least expect it.

I won’t lie to you friends. It has been a long nine days since my husband and son left for Bolivia. There have been moments of self-sacrifice that have seemed too much for me. Moments when I have been tempted to grow some seeds of resentment for being left behind. I knew it would be tough. Not just because of the 24/7 that would be required of me for the family who remained, but also because of the experiences I would never be able to live with my husband and son as they poured out their lives for the cause of Christ.

They were called to the much, while I am struggling to exist within my seemingly little. The ordinary never lives as vivid as the extraordinary, and for a few days now, I’ve been nursing a severe case of the mundane.

Rather than facing another night of kitchen duty, I packed the three “left behinds” into the van and headed to our favorite Mexican restaurant. The name of the local eatery? None other than LaPaz. Mid-way through our salsa and chips and quesadillas, my son’s cell phone rang. On the other end?

His brother calling from LaPaz, Bolivia. We haven’t heard from the team in eight days. They’ve been in the mountains of that country doing missional work at an orphanage. Communication has been non-existent. But now on the tail end of the trip, they are back in the city and were able to call from a pay phone. When the phone finally made its way to my ears, I heard my husband crying. He is eager to come home and to tell me of his journey.

Our conversation was brief, but he relayed a message to me that is worthy of my pen this night. As only God could orchestrate, it fits perfectly with my ponderings from the zoo.

It’s a story that breathes the witness of a butterfly.

Of moving from this…

to this…

Last night, my husband was asked to speak to the orphaned children in a service of closing benediction. He told them about Jesus and the cross and the Father who longs to call them as his own. At the end of his message, he gave an altar call of sorts. This was unfamiliar territory for these children. They were unsure as how to respond. The translator talked them through it, and once they realized what was being offered, several came forward to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Billy told me it was an Acts-Pentecost kind of moment. A people moving from a place of human abandonment to a permanent place of sacred adoption. Kingdom work found its way onto the soil of a Bolivian mountainside this week, and all heaven rejoices over the salvation of many young souls.

As I walked through the zoo with my children, pondering the animals and their confinement, I witnessed the beauty of this one creature who no longer knows the confinement of his metamorphosis. The butterfly flies free. He flies beautiful. He flies changed and unencumbered by the darkness of his becoming. His life will be short, but he will live it in the release and the lovely of God’s grand design for his life.

His old is gone. His new has come, and all because of a Father who understands that a tomb is required for the new to birth.

The story of the butterfly.

It belongs to us, for we are that butterfly, and we have been given the commission to bring God’s lovely to the captives who have yet to fly their sacred release.

They are all around us. We don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to find them. We only have to look to our neighbor. Our co-worker. Our fellow church-goer. Our family. Our friends. Our strangers and our enemies. Christ is making his appeal through us. That is a high and holy calling, no matter our seemingly little or extravagant ordinary. Whether we stay or we go, we live the righteousness of Jesus for all the world to see.

We are the closing benediction of a Calvary grace that painted love’s redeeming work on a Judean hillside not so long ago. This is the power of the Gospel. It transcends time and space to breathe current and real to those with hearts to hear.

And even though Bolivia currently boasts the snow and cold of winter, there are some butterflies who soar this night, begging the budding of Spring. Easter has come to an orphaned people who desperately needed to know that there is a Father who loves them, and for that, my friends…

I will gladly suffer my ordinary. In some small way, perhaps, I have served my portion in God’s agenda for something far greater than my little. And thus I pray,

Forgive me, Father, for thinking that my ordinary was not enough. It was my allotted and necessary portion this week so that your work could be accomplished in extraordinary measure. Thank you that I will one day meet these children. If not here, then there. Before your throne as one people in one voice shouting the blessed benediction of our forever. Holy, holy, holy are you Lord. Worthy of glory and honor and our praise forever. Surround your new butterflies with the tenderest of care, and let your beauty fly unencumbered through them. Amen.

Copyright © July 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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