Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Three things you will never regret doing


How to do you balance God time, family and work time? Its definitely a constant that requires wisdom and has its ups and downs. As I move into a new season of life, as a husband, father and leader in my ministry, I ask these questions more often

More often than not, I have been on the busy side of life. Busy attending my family, busy attending ministry opportunities, often sacrificing my own spiritual and physical health in the process.

Over these four decades of my journey, I have found that there are three things that should never be an afterthought, and cannot be delegated. These are three things I never regret doing in any given day: time with God, time with family (wife, kids) time for exercise. I have failed on all three at different seasons, and had to come back to some kind of balance with the corresponding apologies.

As I plan some of my activities for the next three months, I am looking at Spending the early part of the morning, before the kids wake up alone with God. Then after the kids are in school, Nancy and I spent time reading, reflecting and then we look at our schedules as we are fusing two families into one. And for personal health, I signed up to run a marathon at the end of August.

Just thought I share about these three areas in life, which I personally consider being the lifeline to a healthy, godly and balanced life.





Friday, May 8, 2015

Internet after 61 days

About three hours ago I was able to connect to the internet from my home after 61 days of waiting. Since moving to Capitan Miranda, 30 min away, from Obligado my previous place of residency, I have been making some adjustments. I won’t tell you the very long story filled with disappointments, long calls and frequent trips to the internet provider to Encarnacion, our state capital.

This time my patience was pushed to the limit, since a lot of the way I communicate is by internet. I have even considered my waiting for the internet as one of Gods test to develop more of the fruit of the spirit. During a sermon a week ago, I shared how this issue was really stretching my niceness.

I have been logging on from my phone to answer urgent emails and once a week drove to the public library and occasionally to a public café. Since I was dealing with Copaco, the government internet provider, I knew things would be slow, but not this slow.

Hopefully for the rest of this year and beyond I will never have to wait 61 days to get a decent internet connection. I know some of you missionaries who work in the deep bush don’t have access to the internet. So I truly apologize if I am complaining.

I think though that for most of the civilized world does not wait that long for these services anymore.
So guess what I will do this weekend……download all kinds of stuff and leave my computer connected just for the fun of it. I am really due, for some serious catching up online.


Just thought I will share with you. . . 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Three years of healing

One year ago, Good Friday fell on April 18th, the anniversary of the accident and the anniversary of the day I died emotionally to my dreams and hopes.  When my wife and son were tragically taken to Heaven after our car collision, I went into my darkest hours, days, and months. I wanted to be gone with my family instead of facing the life I had left to live.

As I wrestled with my emotional death and my pain, I also wrestled with my theology. I knew that God is good, that He is omnipotent and could have kept us from this accident. I also knew that, for Christians, death is not an issue because we are citizens of another world.  Yet, even as I knew all that was true, I was still in so much pain and had so many questions. 

I relived my death that day, on April 18th, 2014, but only two days later, on Easter Sunday in Orlando, Florida, I was challenged to celebrate life. In my home church that day, Pastor Rob challenged us to hope and to live in hope. If the disciples rejoiced with the resurrection of Christ, who am I to wallow in the pain and hopelessness that death brings? That was the beginning, a key turning point in my journey toward healing and fully living again. I decided to personally incorporate the message of hope into my daily life.

One year later, I am married to Nancy, a beautiful, inside and out, and godly woman. I am father to three great kids. I have new dreams. I am gradually stepping back into preaching, teaching, and leading my new family. During my (very little) free time I am back into biking and running. So much good, so much hope, so much joy has filled my heart again.

No longer will April 18th be a date on the calendar that digs me into the past and into paralysis, guilt, and pain, but a day that drives me forward into resurrected living.

I believe that thousands of prayers have reached the throne of God. I am on a new path. I am still on this journey and the process is ongoing, but I am strengthened and transformed by the power of God. I did not choose this path, but it’s the one that I am called to live. 

Three years after the accident, I am smiling, hoping, and embracing life again. I would have never thought this to be possible after so much pain. Thank you, my friend, for being a part of my process of restoration. Thank you, God, for your presence.

Friday, March 27, 2015

My story with Nancy

I met Nancy towards the end of 2013. We were introduced by a pastor, a mutual friend of ours, who knew about our losses. Nancy lost her husband in September 2011 in an accident at work. I lost Julie and Timothy in April 2012.

In the midst of grieving, neither of us was looking to rebuild our families for a long time. So when this pastor said to me, "Norberto, there is a beautiful widow you should meet," I was not really interested. As a favor, I went to his church, and Nancy and I were introduced to each other after the service. We exchanged numbers and agreed to get together sometime.

However, neither of us was ready for a relationship at the time. But over the next seven months, we met a few times, our kids played together, and something began to stir in our hearts for each other.

That was when I left for my sabbatical, last year in April. During that time, Nancy and I stayed in touch, praying for each other, committing our feelings and each other’s lives to God. Neither wanted to get emotionally involved, and we resisted a deeper relationship for some time. Both of us were cautious of affecting our kids with our decisions.

In September 2014, we started dating. God answered prayers and we fell in love. On December 30, I proposed to Nancy. She said yes. We got married on March 3 in Encarnacion, Paraguay. The pastor that performed our wedding was the one that introduced us. 

Although close friends and family have been part of the process, I have not shared our story publicly via this blog until now.  

More about Nancy and her two kids (Mark, 14, and Nicole, 11) in next posts. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Looking back - 2014 A year of healing

2014: A Year of Healing
Fifteen years ago, in 1999, Julie and I were making wedding plans. We were in seminary, and the big news was about Y2K. Still in school, we wondered what the future would bring after we finished our degrees.
In August 2000, Julie and I were married. We were both so excited about beginning a joint future together. A few months later, we embarked on one of the longest possible drives on Earth. We drove for a period of 70 days, crossing 13 countries to arrive in Paraguay, exhausted but excited to begin our lives as full-time missionaries.
As I look back, I realize just how much we were able to enjoy and do as a family over this past decade:
Between 2002 and 2010, we helped pioneer and direct what was, until recently, the only Christian radio station in southern Paraguay. Today the station is self-supportive and under national leadership, and is now launching into television.
Between 2002 and 2012:
·        Dozens of teams served in construction, teaching, and training. Classrooms and churches were built, and the people here were empowered by these teams.  
·        Resources were delivered to ministries and leaders. The largest purchase was the transmitter for the radio station.
·        Young people were hosted for short- and long-term internships, and now serve in missions locally and internationally.
·        Dozens of motorcycles were delivered to national pastors and leaders across the country.
·        An interdenominational prayer breakfast was started. Pastors come to enjoy good food, to fellowship, and to pray together.
Between 2004 and 2011, we helped establish the Paraguay Children of Promise, a child sponsorship program. Today, more than 100 kids in various locations in Paraguay and Argentina are benefited. Julie had been training Sandra who, one year before the accident, took on leadership of the program.
Between 2007 and 2010, we had the privilege of building our own home with help from friends, an inheritance, and a mortgage.
Between 2009 and 2013, we began ICCI, a training and discipleship center. I stepped down as director after the accident. Five students who began at ICCI will soon graduate from a sister Bible-training school.
Between 2011 and 2013, we became interim pastors at a local church. We were asked to help transition the church after a painful past. Today, a congregation of more than 200 is moving forward, strong under the leadership of their new pastors.
Between 2002 and 2012, I learned to love one woman, who brought out the best in me, who made me a husband and a father, and who inspired me to dream and never quit. I treasure the life we had and thank God for allowing me 12 incredible years with Julie.
Between 2005 and 2012, I learned to love and care for my first son. This boy gave me tremendous joy to his very last hours on this earth. His inquisitive spirit is a legacy that spurs me into a new chapter every day since the accident.
Between 2010 and 2011, Julie and I went through the adoption process to become the proud parents of Esther Anahi, who brought so much joy into our lives.
Since 2011, I have had the privilege of being the father of the cutest little blonde, who gives me kisses and hugs every single day. She is a reminder that life continues, and that love exists.
Since 2012, my sister Nila has blessed us with her presence. She has become like a mother to Anahi, and has accompanied me in my darkest moments. I am excited for her upcoming wedding on February 28, 2015.
Every day since that very dark morning in April 2012, I have been picking up the pieces and gradually crawling out of the deep pain. Healing is slowly happening, joy is returning, and I am beginning to dream and hope about a pleasant and exciting future.
As I look back on 2014, I can see that it was a year of healing. I intentionally retreated, taking a sabbatical season to rest, explore, be present in Anahi's life, and ask some life-changing questions. I stepped away from all major activities to focus on my inner life, and on letting the rhythms of life determine my pace. Getting to this point, even just acknowledging the need to carve out space, has been a slow process, but it’s a process that's probably saved my life.

My hope is that future newsletters will reflect more and more new plans, new activities that I hope will spring out of the new life and restoration that I am experiencing. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Prayer and Fasting

I felt led today to take the day to pray and fast. I believe we all know the power of prayer, but often have a hard time exercising prayer. I am very guilty. There is no need to quote a list of scriptures about how prayer was a part of Jesus ministry and how it can make a difference in our daily living.

Two interesting things happened already in the past two hours. One, I felt prompted to go and encourage my neighbor and remind him that he is not alone. His wife left him for another man, a year ago. He is grieving alone and trying to make sense of the live he has to face right now. I rode my motorcycle to his place and took a few minutes to talk with him. With teary eyes he told me about his kids, bills and hardships. He thank me for coming and for sharing time with him. I realized after coming back home, how easy it is to pass by people close to us and not realize how much pain they might be going thru.

The second incident has to do with Julie. I felt prompted to let go of her phone number. It might sound silly, but I have kept her phone, and paid a reduced ($2) monthly fee almost three years now for her phone just to keep her line active. For months after the accident, I lived in denial, as if I was expecting a call from her any minute. I wanted to believe it was a dream which I would wake up one day and everything was going to be alright. I loved when she called me. I had a special song programmed, designated to calls coming from Julies line, 0985-189-535. That was Julies number for almost a decade. I let it go today.

In letting go of the past, I realized that expecting a phone call from Julie was totally unrealistic. But I think it provided a link between us. I needed something tangible I could hold on to. So I went to the my phone service provider and asked them to cancel Julies phone subscription. I am not sure why I waited this long, but I believe this was the day to do it. And I also believe there is a connection with this day being a day of prayer and fasting. God seems to nudge me in days like these to take steps of faith.

I realized too, that today is the 18th. It marks two years and seven months since the accident.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nila: sister, aunt, mother. For such a time as this.

Nila is my youngest sister. I am the oldest son, followed by Mark, then Priscila, and finally Nila. One day after the accident, Nila said to me, "Norberto, if you need me, I am here." My mind was foggy; I could not make rational decisions. I must have said, "Come and stay with me for a while." That same week she moved out of her apartment and into my house, where she lives to this day.

During her time with us, Nila has become an important role model for Anahi. We all cried together that first year, almost every day. She has
cared for Anahi when I needed to go on trips or attend meetings. She has done grocery shopping, cooked meals, and cleaned up after Anahi.

While others have given financially, prayed, and loved on us, Nila has given almost three years of her life to serve her brother and niece. I thank God for the loving family he has given me, and especially for Nila.

This year, she met Ricardo, a wonderful young man, in Asuncion, Paraguay. They have been dating for a while now and are planning to get married on February 28, 2015. Nila is excited and ready to soon begin a new chapter in her life with Ricardo. I am enjoying these times with Nila as she picks out colors and works on her wedding program. I believe she will be a wonderful wife and mother. Nila tells me that Anahi taught her indirectly about being a mom and loving unconditionally.


I thank God for Nila. I believe God will continue rewarding her for her service to Him and her family. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Michael, a missionary friend leaves Paraguay after several years of service.

After several years of service, Michael and his wife Viviana are leaving Paraguay. Michael came as a single missionary to help Paraguayans learn about beekeeping and thus improve their income.

Not only did Michael serve with bees, but he taught at ICCI, our bible training school in 2011 and 2012. During that time he spotted a wonderful Christian girl, whom he fell in love, later married. They are both on their way to the U.S., to pursue God's next in their lives.

We worked together for a season, before and after the accident in 2012. Michael has worked closely with different families and groups. Among his works are the peanut sheller, which allowed locals to shell 50 times more peanuts per hour than doing it by hand. This peanut sheller was also duplicated in Puerto Barra, Naranjal, another location, where the Ache tribal group lives. 

Thank you, Michael. For more on Michael and his journey visit…Facebook at Projectwhynot


Norberto

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two years and six months

Last Saturday, October 18th, marked two years and six months since the accident. I believe I have come a long way since those first months when all I wanted is not to be around anybody and just cry and cry. I am experiencing healing as the months and years pass me by. 

Taking a break while in Asuncion and having fun

Somewhere in Colorado in 2006

Timothy helping with baking in our second home
This month, Timothy would almost be 9, while Julie would have turned 38 past July. My prayer lately has been: God, now what? How will you be using my story for a higher purpose? 

Here are some pictures that I treasure when I celebrate the life of the wonderful wife and son God allowed me to share for over a decade.

Christmas 2002. Just arrived in Paraguay

Julie with my Priscila and Nila

Extended family vacation in 2003

Trip to Arizona, Texas, furlough 2006. Having fun
I treasure the memories with Julie and Timothy and keep them tucked in my heart, knowing that many more good things lay ahead. 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Interruptions

If you are a missionary or someone that has lived outside the northern hemisphere, you can probably relate to the inconvenience of power and internet outages.

As I traveled over the past months in the USA and a few places in Europe, I never faced a power outage, and rarely even an internet shortage. Now I am back in Paraguay, and just this weekend I had to postpone one of my emails seven times. Internet comes and goes. With the rain and strong winds, we have had at least 10 power outages in the last two weeks.

Getting used to this new routine that’s so disruptive is taking me a little longer this time around. To maximize my time, I am starting a list of assignments for the phases of a typical day that includes power failures, internet outages, water shortages, knocks (many of them) at the front door, and unexpected services (speaking at funerals, filling in as a translator without notice).

Here is the list so far (Julie would be very proud of me):
·       
  •       When the power is out: Work on fixing things outside, all manual work.
  •       When internet is down: Work offline and rush to post during small windows.
  •       When people aren’t knocking at the door: Get my house organized.
  •       When it does not rain: Rush to hang the laundry outside.
  •       During Anahi's naps: Rush to get concentration/thinking work done.
  •       When the water is gone: Get water from a nearby pond for bucket showers.


I am seriously considering using solar power to keep some of my equipment running during the power outages. I am also considering putting a sign out front with visiting hours.

As I am writing, the clouds in the sky are telling me that rain and winds will probably shut down utilities in the next two hours . . . so I need to respond to urgent emails and get this post in before interruption #22 happens.

Another not-so-obvious interruption? Driving 7 hours to the capital city on Monday to send important mail sent out and do paperwork.


Norberto