Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Happy Birthday, Anahi: Part Three

Happy Birthday, Anahi: Part Three

Anahi continues to grow and mature into an incredible girl. She is learning to read and write. She actually knows all her letters and reads easy words. She has also been taking violin classes for the past few months. She loves to jump with the music; at church she claps and follows along with the singing with great rhythm. Anahi also makes friends very quickly.

I often find myself staring at her and wondering what God has in mind for my girl. Why has God chosen me, this family, this home, to be her community of love and support? At night when I put her to bed, I thank God for his love and mercy and for bringing Anahi first into my life, and now into Nancy's life.

Anahi is finding her way in our new family. Although she struggles with the normal sibling rivalry, as time passes her connection with Nicole and Mark and Nancy is growing stronger. God is the only one that can truly bond our lives together.
This morning I looked at some pictures and realized how much Anahi has grown. As I am writing this, I have postponed for the third time some of my personal studies and activities because Nicole and Anahi asked me to play with them after dinner this evening. I realize how important it is to bless my kids now with the gift of time and lots of family moments, and to teach them the importance of living close to God. Quality time with my three kids now is one of the greatest gifts I can give to them.

I've been a bit down on myself over the past few weeks, even though I am surrounded by a loving family, a loving God, a church, and many friends around the world. I've wondered, "What does the future hold for us as a new family? Which area of ministry should I be focusing on more? What are some of the priorities I should be pursuing this coming year?" You know those moments. But this weekend I was challenged by the pastor at our congregation to believe that God is walking alongside me. I don’t have to have all the answers; I don’t have to fear the future. He is with me, and I know I will make it.

And everything seemed okay again this morning when Anahi got up and said, "Daddy, I love you. You are the best." I was blessed and ministered to by my little girl. Happy 5th birthday, Anahi.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Happy Birthday, Anahi: Part Two

So much has happened since that day. Anahi came to live with us only about one month after we met her. She loved Timothy from the beginning. Julie was an incredible mother; a dream had come true in her life. God had given her a little girl, whom she named Esther because she had arrived in our home for such a time as this.

Esther became part of our family. We went on our first family vacation a few months later. We had popcorn and movie nights. The kids and I played after work in the afternoons. Julie was able to see God answering her prayers and satisfying her deepest longings to have a baby girl. Between September 2011 and April 2012, we had such wonderful times. We were very busy, living life and doing ministry together in Paraguay.

Anahi learned to walk with Timothy. Julie and I got to enjoy not only the Latin American spring, which officially begins September 21st, but also a spring season in our marriage and our ministry. We had been married for almost 12 years. The year before had been extremely busy and hard personally. Since Timothy was born seven years earlier, we had not been able to have more kids. Only two years before the arrival of Anahi, we had moved into our own home.

We had seen the ministry of the radio station grow and succeed into autonomy and have an impact in the Paraguayan community and were getting ready for our fourth trip back to the States for furlough, a trip we took every three years to see families and friends in the States. Tickets had been purchased; we had our itinerary laid out.

That’s when the accident happened on a cold, foggy April morning on our way to Asuncion.
Later I realized how Julie is definitely on furlough, enjoying the best ice cream and the best road system (she always told me she missed the paved roads of the USA). She and Timothy have made it home.

Anahi is only five now. As she grows and understands, I will be telling her the story, a story of redemption, grace, and so much love. First the love of God the Father, and then the love of Julie, who was a voice for the abandoned and homeless. And finally the story of my life, of how God has changed me in the process, from not considering adoption to embracing first Anahi and now two more kids as my own. Today, I cannot fathom my life without Anahi. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Happy Birthday Anahi (part 1)

Happy Birthday, Anahi

Anahi turned five this week. She arrived in our lives after a long wait and a season of challenges, in ministry and personally. On a personal level, we had struggled with infertility for many years. In ministry, we were pioneering the ICCI Bible school and walking alongside a struggling church as interim pastors, as well as shouldering other ministry responsibilities. The adoption process we'd begun as a result of our infertility was going nowhere, to the point that we were ready to give up. The paperwork seemed endless. Stamps, copies, legalizations, interviews, background checks, and so forth. We were getting tired of the countless trips lasting 10 to 12 hours to the capital city for meetings and interviews. We were stretched emotionally and financially to the max.

But one phone call brought a new season into our lives. It came on a Monday morning at 10 a.m., on July 18th, when the director of the adoption agency called us with probably the best news we got in 2011. She asked if we could be in Asuncion in the next 48 hours at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 20th. She said: "You are eligible to take home a little girl, if you still want to proceed with the process."  

We cleaned the crib one more time and made sure the girl toys were all ready. We rehearsed with Timothy some manners as to what the arrival of a little girl would mean in his life. I purchased a new memory chip for our camera. The house was spotless. We headed out for Asuncion very early and got there before our interview.

We stepped into the office and were greeted by the director. She was very kind and thanked us for our patience during the two-year process. She brought out a picture, printed on plain A4 paper. The quality was average. But when I saw the smile in that little girl's eyes, I burst into tears. I did not want to make a show of myself, so I remember swallowing my emotions and trying to keep them to myself. I instantly fell in love with that little girl. She was incredible. I felt that she was made for us and that God had ordained this moment since Creation.

The director said, "If you sign this paper today, your next step will be to spend a few weeks interacting with Anahi in the foster home. Based on how Anahi reacts and connects with you, you can take her home sooner. If she struggles with adjusting to you, you might need a longer transition time; otherwise she could move into your home soon."

The interesting fact is that all this happened two days before Julie's birthday. I remember her saying, "This is my best birthday gift." For the next seven months, we became a family of four, excited about the future with our little girl.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

From my journal this past week, Sept 2015

I began to occasionally journal in my last year in high school. One of my professors challenged us to keep a log of lessons we learned as we took his, bible and ethics class. Although not very regularly, I kept a journal to this day. Here is an entry from last week:

It's 9:45 p.m. We are moving into spring in only one week. Today temperatures reached 95 degrees. Forecast tells us it will be a hot summer. Farmers are worried; prices are at a two-year low.

“I finish my day tired. I was very busy today. I just helped Nancy put Anahi and Nicole down to bed. We packed Mark's bag for a weekend camp. After getting the kids out the door to school this morning, I spent about 3 hours networking on Skype, and 4 hours with unscheduled guests, attending the cable repair man, crawling into my ceiling to connect some cables. I worked on some papers and forms on the computer, and studied some for my exegesis course, which I teach in two days.  The internet went out two times for approximately 1 hour. And there was a 10-minute power outage, as well.” (From my journal today)

It helps to share a day in my new life. I would love to sit down with you (family member, personal supporter, prayer warrior, or friend) and drink a cup of tea and catch up. I am sure you have a lot going on and much to share, as well. I would love to hear about it and connect in that way. But we both know this is impossible right now.

I find myself in a new season that is gradually unfolding. There are new responsibilities, new schedules—in a way, I am re-engineering life and dreaming new dreams. I know I need to be brief. You are busy, and I should get to bed soon.

Anyway, thanks for being there during these last years—many of you since Julie and I crossed the Paraguayan border in our Chevy Suburban in November 2002. It’s been a quite a journey, to put it mildly.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Anniversary approaching

On August third, I have been newly married five months. Nancy is Gods gift to me after losing Julie. It does not mean, there are moments I wish I could still have Julie with me and we did not have to go thru so much pain.

But as they say, time has a way of healing. Time has a way to help you forget the pain. Today, August 12th Julie and I would have celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. Our plan was to travel Europe, just the two of us. We began saving back in 2010 for this occasion.

Yes I would like to be with Julie in Europe now, enjoying the scenery with the woman I thought I would grow old with. A lot of healing has happened, but the void will never be filled.
Today I am in a very different place with different people doing different thinks. I will probably never comprehend, I just take a day at the time and try to enjoy, serve and live fully.

These are some things I am doing different.

  • I enjoy each meal with my new family with intensity.
  • I don’t stress too much if my to do list does not get done today
  • I try not to over commit and try to save the world.
  • I will still continue traveling whenever I can afford it, now with Nancy
  • I will still continue believing in the power of marriage
  • I will continue to make a difference in this world

At the end of August I will approach my six months anniversary with Nancy. Life circumstances have changed, but God has not. I consider living a privilege. I believe my task is unfinished, so I am eager to see that new ministry continue to unfold.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Back to school after 13 years

I recently began to pursue my Master's in education. I had postponed my desire for more formal training for a while, and then with the accident in 2012, going to school was the last thing on my mind.  Over these past few years, however, I have had the chance to teach at various Bible schools in Paraguay and Argentina, and I see opportunities for helping in this area in the churches I am in contact with. I believe that continuing my education will help me to be a better teacher, pastor, and missionary.

Two years before the accident Julie and I founded ICCI, a small Bible-training center targeted at helping Paraguayans to discover their calling and preparing them for ministry. We had to give up this particular dream (although several students continued and are finishing their education this coming year at a sister institution), but training others remains at the heart of what I love doing in ministry. I love to learn, and I also love to help others grow and discover truth about God and about life.  God put incredible teachers in my path during my undergraduate and seminary days, and not only formal training but also informal experiences have nourished my desire to help others grow and discover their God-given potential.

I am enrolled in a two-year program at Universidad Nacional de Itapua, only 10 miles from my house. Our class meets every Thursday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. to learn about creating curriculum, educational policies, technology in education, and research. I hope these tools will help me better serve God and the people to whom I am called to minister. Lord willing, I will walk down the graduation aisle sometime next year.  Thanks for your support.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Highway Six, empty during soccer game

When Paraguay is playing soccer against another country, everyone seems to make time to watch the game. Such was the case this past Saturday evening. I chose to go on a jog to take advantage of the empty roads and enjoy some quietness.

Paraguay played against Brazil in game that is part of the Copa America 2015. After a 1-1 tie in regular time, the game was decided on penalty kicks.

I was amazed again, how soccer brings everyone to a halt this weekend. Brazil is a big rival, one that's hard to beat. So imagine the celebration after the game.

Our major interstate highway 6 stood practically empty during the 90 minutes of game. There are two games left in this cup. If Paraguay wins, it will be the champion of this Latin American cup. Paraguay so far won two cups, 1953, 1979, out of the 44 played.

Friday, June 26, 2015

My new Family

Since March 3, I am married to a wonderful, beautiful, godly woman who turned my world around. And, in addition to continuing to love and enjoy my little Anahi, who will turn 5 in September, I am now the proud dad of two adolescents, Mark and Nicole.

Mark turned 15 on March 14. He is becoming a young man. He loves to play his guitar and drums. Mark went through a lot when his dad tragically passed away after an accident at their farm when he was just 11.  He has a sensitive heart to God. He is gradually embracing me and making room in his life for his new dad.

Nicole is 11 and is in the 6th grade. She plays the harp very well. She loves to play with her cat, and in her spare time, she creates beautiful bracelets that she sells for a small fee. Nicole is very sweet and bright. She is very curious and loves her sister Anahi. I love getting her hugs and kisses as I come home from work or put her down to sleep.

Anahi is the little girl that God placed in our lives back in 2011. She has been my little angel, both before and after the accident. Anahi is 4 and currently in kindergarten. She is very perceptive and asks a lot of questions. She loves her pet parrot and spending time with her new mommy.

Nancy is the woman that I strongly believe God has placed in my life. I fell in love with Nancy in 2014 and could not let her go. We are now happily married, discovering life together and believing that God has given us a second chance to be happy and build a new marriage. Nancy is 34. She lost her husband four years ago. Currently Nancy is beginning a four-year theological training course. She is sweet, cute, and has a heart for God and family. I am so blessed.

 Norberto. You know me, but I will share some, too. In my spare time (of which there is very little recently), I read. I began running again and will be signing up for several races this year. I am currently beginning a two-year Master's class called docencia universitaria that meets once a week at the local university. I enjoy my new life and look forward to my new role as parent to three children and husband to Nancy.

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. . .