Esther Pavao
I was reading Luke, one of the bible books I have to read before my passage, and I hit a verse that I've read a couple times and heard before, but never really thought a whole lot about.
 9:23--If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

I was just thinking about how we say that we want to follow Him, and we deny ourselves, but only one time. And then when someone asks us what we've given up to follow Him, we bring up the one big thing we've given up to follow Him, but in our daily lives, there's so many things we hold on to. At least I do. and I know that I'm not the only one.

The word I want to point out is 'daily'. There are days I just don't feel like it and so I make excuses to keep holding on to whatever it is I'm being asked to give up: my time, my money, or whatever. Jesus made a point of using the word 'daily' so that I don't use the excuse, "I did that for you last week." or "Can't they ask someone else? I've been doing that." No, the point is that I keep denying myself daily, not weekly, or taking turns with people or whatever alternatives I come up with.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today.
Esther Pavao
I wrote a few things while I was in Mexico, but when we were on the internet, I didn't have time to post them. Here's one of them.

They take everything the Bible says so literally. I'm used to people making excuses for themselves or giving themselves room to make mistakes. These people don't do that. They are either following God to the letter, or in sin. There is no middle ground. There is no "gray area". They live in black or white. If God says, "Confess your sins to the brethren." Then by God, they stand up and confess every deed, every word, every thought. (I'm really basing this off of one of the brothers. He stood up in a service and recited everything he did wrong that week.) Oh, God, give us the courage to stop riding the fence and do exactly as You've asked, without the excuses, without allowing ourselves to reason away our sins but to put it away from ourselves, exactly as I am seeing here.

I feel so convicted here. Even the smallest complaint seems so selfish. People here have it so much worse than I can imagine. There is a girl here who is 19, just a little older than me, who has a baby with brain damage. I don't want to even think about raising kids for several years, and I for sure don't want one who will have something wrong with them, and have to struggle with that for the rest of my life. But she does have to, and yet, I see her loving her baby, and cuddling her and talking to her and it's just brought her closer to her husband, not further apart. It's so sweet to see them all together.

I have no room for complaints. God has blessed me with more than I deserve. How can I continue to find fault in the gifts He's given me? So far, He hasn't asked me to move to another country and give up my whole life like Jason and Nicole, and after two weeks, I will go home to a clean house, hot showers, a warm bed, electricity and a washer and drier, and not be required to give more than a few hours a week to God. I don't want that. I don't know what I'm asking for when I say this, but I don't want to go home and forget what God has taught me while I was here. I don't want to take my blessings for granted, even if that means giving them up. In all honesty, I'm probably not ready to give them up entirely, but I want to be ready when God asks me to. And if He doesn't ask.....well, I'll probably begin to wonder what's wrong with me. I want to be counted worthy to sacrifice my life for Christ's. I have felt complete peace inside like never before.

I've spent a lot of my teenage years very restless and wanting to just get up and do something, anything, to show that I'm willing to follow God. I get the chance here every day to sacrifice myself and serve, and know you're impacting people with everything you do. I think the hard thing will be to go home and do the same thing, because maybe the need isn't going to be right in my face glaringly obvious, but it is still there. I think the struggle at home will be to find the need and meet it. No, there's no glory in that like there is here.

I need to go now, but I intend to write more while I'm here.
Esther Pavao
I have found a new hero to add to my list, so I'd like to share her with you. She's actually the first living person I've put on here.

Her name is Nicole Fitzpatrick, and she is one of the most inspiring women I’ve not only met, but heard of as well. I don’t know how to describe her to you without telling you what she does, so I am going to take you through one day in the life of Nicole.

Morning begins at 6:00 am when she gets out of bed and reads her bible. This is one of the only times she gets to herself, and it is very short. After maybe 15 minutes, she will go and start hot water for tea and coffee for the men when they get up, waiting until this is finished to brush her teeth and hair. She then begins cooking breakfast for everyone who lives in the Village. The number of people changes frequently, because some people live here on the weekends, some during the week and some permanently, but the number is anywhere between 20 to 40 people. Sometimes the other ladies help her, but they almost all have young children and haven’t all learned yet how to carry burdens like she does and she carries most of  the weight.

She does not sit down to eat until the men and children have eaten, and almost as soon as she is finished, she gets up and begins cleaning up after everyone. If there is a sister who needs her attention, she will stop and talk with them or help them with whatever it is that they need before returning to cleanup. There are several sisters with high blood pressure, so she often checks their blood pressure before and after meals, and has to constantly make sure that they are drinking plenty of water and not coffee. (They do not make this easy on her.)

This sounds like a chore, cleaning up for 40 people practically alone, but I haven’t told you under what conditions. There is only cold water, and runs under no pressure whatsoever. It comes out in a drizzle. The floor is packed mud and isn’t smooth, but I don’t know how to describe it to you. It’s lots of little bumps of mud. I’ll try to attach a picture. There are two ducks and one cat that reside in the kitchen and are constantly underfoot. There is always someone in there dirtying dishes you just washed.

When cleanup is done, she begins washing laundry. This isn’t as easy as throwing your clothes in the washer and coming back 30 minutes later. She doesn’t have a washer, and even if she did, there’s no electricity to run it. You have to soak all your clothes in a tote of ice cold water to loosen the mud caked on them first. (It rains 8 out of 10 months here, so everything ends up covered in mud, and the children find it very fun to roll around and play in it.) She then takes each individual piece of clothing and lays them one by one on a washboard. For those who don’t know, it’s a textured board for washing clothes. It’s pretty primitive, but very common here. She sprinkles dry soap all over the item of clothing and begins to scrub it by hand, made no easier by the fact that she has a bad back due to a car accident several years ago that has put her under several back surgeries since. When it’s all sudsy and the mud is gone, she rinses it. There is a barrel of water that stands by the washboard sink and a bowl that sits next to it and she has to rinse the clothes bowlful by bowlful of water. She then tosses it into another bucket of cold water with some fabric softener in it.
She washes everyone’s laundry, so this takes a lot of time. Elena and I together took the better part of a morning and half the afternoon doing it. She then wrings all the clothes out by hand, and hangs it over the clothesline which isn’t stable, and if it falls, all the clothes end up in the mud and have to be washed all over again. This has happened numerous times. Since it rains constantly here, you have to just wait for sun to dry the clothes. If they hang there long enough to mildew before sunlight dries them, they have to be washed again.

She usually isn’t done with laundry before she has to begin making lunch for everyone and this begins again, with her making sure the ladies with high blood pressure don’t drink coffee and making sure all the men are taken care of before she sits down to eat.
Somewhere in there, she finds time to homeschool her kids, and clean her room and office, do the office work for the ministry, keep Jasmine out of the mud (which is a full-time job in itself) and I have no idea what else.

 She doesn’t get to see much of Jason, though when she does, it’s with at least 20 other people there, and the ladies and men do not eat at the same table (culture barrier) so she doesn’t even get to sit by him at mealtimes. Almost all the stories I’ve heard her tell about here, she begins with “Jason was on a trip to _____.” He often travels to do what God has asked of him, and she holds down the fort here, practically alone. Though I’ve never heard her complain about this or mention how little she gets to see him, she states it just as a circumstance in a story.

She was telling me a story about how Jason wants to raise their kids just like Mexican children get raised, and she struggled with wanting her kids to be able to drink milk. One Mexican thing (I can’t call it a tradition, but I’m not sure what else to call it) is that when mothers do not have enough milk or don’t have clean water, they put coffee in babies’ bottles. And all the kids here drink coffee. Nicole wanted her kids to drink milk, and Jason didn’t want to show their own kids anything better than the other kids. And when it came up with her and Jason, all she told him was, “If that’s what you want me to do, I’ll submit to that, I just want our kids to be healthy.” It was very awakening for me. I have told my mom that I will never marry because I hate the idea that it’s always the wife who has to submit, and this was a situation that she definitely had good grounds for what she was asking for, yet she was willing to give that up so that they weren’t giving their own kids preferential treatment.

From the moment we got here, all we’ve felt from Nicole was a desire to serve and take care of us and make sure we had an easy time, even though we came down to help her. There has never been any complaining, or anything from her like that.

She is my new hero.