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Welcome to chromatic heart, my online portfolio where I display my art, writing, photos, and music. My blog is where I write about my travels, thoughts, and life experiences. While you're here, read a poem or two. Look at my art and photos. You can also listen to my music while you browse around. I hope you enjoy your time here!

A Day in the Life of a CELTA Trainee ; October 4, 2014

Dear friends,

Now that I'm finished with the CELTA, I finally have some time to write a blog update! They weren't kidding when they told me it would be "intensive." Here's a little bit about what my life has looked like for the last four weeks!

The CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) course follows the same syllabus worldwide. It was developed by the University of Cambridge and is very standards-based, so it's widely recognized as one of the best qualifications for TEFL teachers. Now my portfolio will be sent to Cambridge to be reviewed and to ensure I met the standards. So as you can see it is kind of a high-pressure course. You have to do well and show improvement over the 4 weeks, or you won't get the certificate! (I got the certificate, just don't know what "grade" I got yet.)

So in my CELTA, there were 10 trainees. There were four Australian men, one British man, one Canadian woman, one Colombian woman, and me and two men from the U.S. Both of our course tutors were British women. At first I was surprised that I was one of only 3 Americans, but I loved being part of such an international and multicultural group!

Something I didn't expect was that the coursebooks and most of our materials were teaching British English. Logically, I should have expected that—it is a Cambridge course after all! But boy, did we have some laughs over the differences between American, British, and Australian English. In Australia you brush the floor (not sweep), and you wear your thongs and sunnies to the beach (and eat Vegemite like I eat Nutella). In England you wear trousers, not pants (but let's hope you wear pants too). You don't "have" things, you "have got" things. But you "have" everything else (a nap, a shower, a rest, a coffee, a laugh...). Oh, and in America you actually say the "r" sound at the middle or end of a word (because nobody else does!) (I guess in Canada you "twist someone's rubber arm" too.) (And in Colombia, you laugh because that American just sounds ridiculous trying to say the r's in this tongue twister: "rápido ruedan los carros cargados de azúcar al ferrocarril.") (There. I covered everyone!)

So here in Bogotá, the course is at a language institute called International House. The foundation of the course came from teaching two classes of Colombian adult students who signed up for cheap English classes for 4 weeks. My 9 colleagues and I were divided into two groups of 5 for the whole course. My group started by teaching the Upper Intermediate class for two weeks, then we switched with the other group to teach the Elementary class for two weeks. Each of us taught 4 lessons at each level, for a total of 8 lessons. In our lessons we were expected to continually improve over the course. We also had 4 assignments: a case-study on one student, a grammar assignment, creating a reading lesson, and reflections for further development after the course.

So here's what a typical day looked like for me. I woke up at 7:00, got ready for the day, and walked three blocks to IH (so glad I live so close). Class didn't start till 10:00, but I got there early because I usually had assignments or lessons to work on. I worked in the computer room, or helped my colleagues get ready for their lessons. If I taught that day, I would be frantically printing out handouts, materials, and lesson plans to be ready for when the students arrived at 10:00! Then I would teach my lesson, along with one or two of my colleagues (depending on how long our lessons were). The English class lasted for two hours, so the students left at 12:00. Then us CELTA-trainees had a short break and came back for feedback at 12:15 or so. Our tutor gave us feedback on our lessons, talking with our group about what we did well and what we could have done better. Then we had our lunch break from 1:15-2:15. My colleagues and I ended up going to the same menu-of-the-day restaurant for all 4 weeks because it was cheap, and good, healthy Colombian food! Then we would go back to IH for two Input Sessions, one from 2:15 to 3:30, and then 3:45 to 5:00. In these sessions our two tutors took turns teaching us all kinds of things about teaching techniques, lesson frameworks, grammar, basically everything you can think of about teaching English. Then, from 5:15-6:00 (and sometimes later) we had Assisted Lesson Planning, when the tutors helped whoever taught the next day with their lessons. So after that I would go home, eat something small for dinner, and then get to work on my assignments or lessons for the rest of the week. A couple of nights before I taught or before an assignment was due, I was up till 2 or 3!

As you can see, it is a life-consuming course! Even on the 3 weekends, I had to work on lesson plans and assignments, besides do laundry, go grocery shopping, clean my bathroom and all that fun stuff. Luckily, at least once a weekend I got to go hang out with the friends I've made in Bogotá. The couple I connected with through Iris have introduced me to some great Colombian friends. Last Saturday, I got to go to a Christian conference called Passion and Compassion, about living with passion for God and compassion for other people. So I had a little time to hang out with friends, but most of the time I was busy.

I'm relieved that the CELTA is over, but I am also very satisfied. I learned so much in these last 4 weeks! Of course I learned about lesson planning, language skills, teaching methodology, etc. But I was stretched in more ways than I expected. I learned how to evaluate my own teaching, respond to feedback and criticism, give feedback to my colleagues on their teaching, and give detailed assistance to others for their lessons. I feel like I grew as a person, professionally, and I feel fully prepared for a real job as an English teacher. This was also such a great time of relationship building. My CELTA-mates and I got along well and became friends. I also got to know a few of the Colombian students. It was a joy to teach them.

That sums up my CELTA experience! My next step is to apply for teaching jobs and see what opens up. I'm going to stay in Bogotá for now. I can't wait to actually start teaching and put everything I've learned into practice!

~ Sarah

10:26 PM  |    |  

Inverted Culture Shock ; September 21, 2014

Some things about Bogotá, Colombia are not very shocking.

• The traffic, noise, and air pollution of a big city
• Being smashed between people standing on a crowded TransMilenio bus
• Spanish everywhere
• The armed, armored policemen stationed on many street corners, day and night
• Having to constantly be aware of my surroundings and keep an eye on my belongings
• The fact that McDonald's and Burger King are fancy restaurants
• The focus on physical appearance and obsession with fashion and beauty
• The prevalence of American movies, music, and pop culture
• The way people drive, and rush hour traffic jams
• The trash in the streets
• Street vendors selling food, pirated movies, clothes, jewelry, coffee, you name it
• Homeless men and women digging through trash to find things they can recycle for pay
• The cheap prices of food, transportation, and housing

All those things seem pretty normal and expected to me. Living in Quito, Ecuador for 3 months in 2012 definitely prepared me for Bogotá. Bogotá is larger, more globalized, and overall more developed than Quito, but the cities are also similar in many ways.

So, you may be surprised by the things that have been shocking to me.

• The bubble of American/English-speaking culture in the house I'm living in
• The casual, frequent use of profanity by my housemates
• The fact that a couple of them feel the need to drop the f-bomb every other sentence
• How normal it is for many of them to drink and get drunk
• Some of their choices of conversation topics
• Basically, the complete lack of reference to God in the lives of the people I'm living with

What is this showing me? That the truth is that I've been in Christian bubbles my whole life. I grew up in a Christian family with Christian friends. I went to a Christian college. Even in my travels to other countries I've been in Christian groups. In Ecuador I was part of a Christian study abroad program. In Mozambique I was at a Christian missions base. In Nepal and recently in Cartagena and Medellín, I was part of Christian missions teams.

Of course I've thought of this before, and have acknowledged that yes, I have led a somewhat "sheltered" life. But this new environment is really highlighting it to me.

I'm living in La Candelaria, the historic, colonial neighborhood of Bogotá. It has its own unique architecture and culture. It's the only part of the city that I would call "pretty." This is where tourists come to see the numerous monuments, museums, churches, and historic buildings that you can find around every corner.

It is also, apparently, where the foreigners come to live, learn Spanish, and teach English. Most of my housemates are now English teachers, who completed the CELTA course earlier this year. Hence, the fact that it's not Colombian culture that's shocking me at all. It's the culture brought here by foreigners and expatriates. There should be a term for that... I'm going to call it inverted culture shock.

It's creating an interesting effect in my life and thinking. It's similar to something that happened to me when I was about 14 or 15. I was in a time when I seriously doubted God's goodness and even His existence. My thought was that just because I grew up in a Christian family didn't mean Christianity was true. But God used the simplest little thing to revive my faith: the fact that many people don't know Him. (It happened one day through talking to people who weren't Christians on online discussion boards.) My perspective was reversed when I realized I already had what many people spend their lives looking for, but miss out on: Jesus. How could I doubt Him? How could I despise the gift of a Christian family, given to me freely? A Christian family meant that God decided to give me what everyone is looking for! I didn't have to waste any of my life searching, because I already had Jesus.

What's happening now feels somewhat the same. Everyone's searching for something to fill the void that exists in all of our hearts without God. The people around me are trying to find that fulfillment in things like alcohol, smoking, friends. Many of them are avid world travelers, and they find excitement and fulfillment in experiencing new places and cultures. This is intriguing to me because as much as I love traveling, the actual experience of being in a different country seems void and empty if you don't have a purpose and mission for being there!

What the people around me don't realize is this: what they're really looking for is Jesus.

Only Jesus satisfies. And He really is everything we need. His Spirit fulfills every need we can have. And He is greater and more satisfying than anything the world can offer. The sweetness and tenderness of His love and presence with us every day is greater than any other experience.

I'm realizing this is a key element of a missionary lifestyle. To be filled with the love of God and let it overflow into the hearts of others... and to live in such a way that makes them curious about what I have that they don't.

God has sent me not only to the "mission field" of Colombia, but also to the fellow English teachers I'm living with. Holy Spirit is leading me to love and pray for them, to honor God with my words and actions, and to declare the name of Jesus around them. Because Jesus is all they really need.

11:21 AM  |    |  

Colombia Outreach: Cartagena ; August 30, 2014

After my team's trip to Medellín, we returned to Cartagena and worked with several different ministries. We went to a hospital and prayed for the sick, seeing several healings. We did some door-to-door evangelism in poor neighborhoods. We shared in churches and saw the Holy Spirit moving in His people. Among countless salvations, healings, and people touched by God's love, here are some other highlights.

church On the Sunday after our Medellín trip, we shared in Liney's church. Liney (our team leader, who is from Cartagena) preached at all 4 services, and the rest of us shared testimonies from Harvest School in Mozambique. From left to right, this is my team: Liney, Andrew, Josh, me, Cora, and James and Meagan who are married.
For one day we joined with a YWAM university ministry and went to a university in the city of Barranquilla, an hour and a half away. We held a meeting where Christian students could bring their non-Christian friends. We shared the gospel and some testimonies. We prayed for the students, and several of them were healed, received Christ as their savior, or were touched by the Holy Spirit. university
cartagena One night in Cartagena we went out to do street ministry. We brought roses to give to prostitutes. We went out in small groups and simply talked to the women and prayed for them. We told them that they are beautiful, that God loves them and that they are worth so much to Jesus that He died for them.
To plant our other stake we went to the highest point in Cartagena, where there is a monastery. We had to go down the hill from the church to find dirt to plant it in, which was prophetic in a few different ways. The Lord looks past the nice surface image into the heart. His kingdom belongs to the poor in spirit. He goes low to those who are dirty, poor, hungry and desperate for Him. stake

It was an amazing outreach and those are just a few of the stories. My favorite part of the outreach was just getting to minister in so many churches, youth groups, and small groups. The Lord used us to build up the Colombian church. We brought testimonies of revival from Mozambique and other parts of the world, and God used our words and prayers to water seeds of revival in Colombia. We did more church ministry than I expected, but I believe that building up the church is just as important as going to the unreached, because the Christians in any place are the ones who are staying and can reach the lost in their own cities. God simply used us to fan the flames of their love for Him and their passion to see His kingdom here on earth!

I am currently in Bogotá, Colombia's capital. I flew here on Thursday and will be here for seven weeks. It already feels different, being here without an outreach team, but the Lord has provided connections! The couple I'm staying with just moved here as missionaries three months ago. I've already been able to join them in homeless ministry, as well as in thought-provoking conversations about following Jesus! The Father really does provide everything I need, including connections with people with the same heart and the same Holy Spirit!

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support! I am excited to begin this new season in Bogotá. I move into the student housing for the CELTA on Monday, and the course begins on September 8 and lasts four weeks. A key prayer request is that I would have the mental capacity for the intensive course, and still have time and energy to partner with ministries and build relationships!

4:00 PM  |    |  

Colombia Outreach: Medellín ; August 16, 2014

Medellin

Thank you all for your prayers and support during my time in Colombia! It's a privilege to be here as an extension of my friends and supporters back home. God is moving powerfully here! I'm excited to be able to exalt the name of Jesus and declare to you some of the amazing things He has done.

My outreach team was in the city of Medellín from August 12th through the 15th. In Medellín, many amazing things happened that made me feel like I was living in the middle of Jesus' instructions to His 72 sent-out disciples:

"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.'" (Luke 10:5-9)

For our 4 days in Medellín, my team stayed in the house of a generous family. Our host was truly a man of peace to us, and acted as a guide to take us to all the different ministries we partnered with. Several Christian university students also live in his family's house, and they generously gave their rooms to us for our time there. The family and students cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for us every day, without us ever asking for it.

On our first day there, during a break, we were talking with one of the students living there, a young man named Jay. We'd seen him walking with a cane since we arrived, and we asked if we could pray for him. He told us there was a problem with his leg and hip. So we laid hands on him and prayed, then asked if he felt any better. He walked around the room and kept pausing and looking at us, smiling because he was so surprised that he had no more pain in his leg! Jay was completely healed. Not only could he walk without his cane around the room, but then we all hiked to the top of a mountain in the center of the city. Jay came with us, and felt fine all the way up and back. "Stay in that house… Eat what is set before you… Heal the sick who are there." The kingdom of God surely is near us!

Medellin Medellin
This is a view of Medellín from the top of the mountain we climbed. The mountain is in the center of the city so you can see the entire city. It was quite a view! At the top of the mountain we planted one of our team's two stakes, a prophetic act of claiming the land for Jesus. It was a powerful moment as we shouted "Jesús es Rey" (Jesus is King) over the city!

Another highlight of our time in Medellín was spending a day at a ministry in a poor neighborhood. It is a ministry called Pa' Mi Barrio (For My Neighborhood), which works with the children in the neighborhood. The ministry provides classes like Art and Theater to supplement their regular school classes, and provides lunch every day. We spent some time with the teenage students and prayed over them after hearing some of their testimonies. Then we ate lunch with and played with the younger children, and in the afternoon we went around the neighborhood praying for a couple of families.

That afternoon we went to the house of a widow who had lung cancer. We came to pray for her healing, but while we were praying the Lord revealed unforgiveness in her heart that was at the root of her cancer. We asked her about it and she said she had never forgiven the men who killed her husband. My team prayed while the director of Pa' Mi Barrio led the woman through forgiveness. She accepted that she needed to forgive those men just as Jesus forgave her own sins, and willingly repented of her unforgiveness. After that, the director told the woman that if she wanted God to heal her, then she would need to give up her smoking, the physical root of her lung cancer. The woman agreed and decided to quit in that moment. With peace and even joy in her face, she got up and got her pack of cigarettes, then tore them in half one by one. She threw her ashtrays away too. Although we believe in faith that her cancer was healed, we do not know for sure. But to me, the miracle was the woman's immediate response and her visible faith and trust in God. It was a testimony of the Holy Spirit giving her grace and empowering her to give up both unforgiveness and smoking. It was a privilege to be there and be a witness as God set her free from what had been entangling her!

Jesus is just so good and nothing but good! In Medellín we saw so many Colombian brothers and sisters touched by His love. His compassion for the poor and hurting flowed through our simple prayers, healing hearts and bodies. He used our little four days in Medellín to show His love to His Colombian bride. I wish we could have spent more time there, but we shall see if God brings me back!

4:00 PM  |    |  

Greetings from Colombia! ; August 12, 2014

Dear friends,
I'm happy to tell you that I've been in Cartagena, Colombia for four days now, and it has been great! My outreach team leader is a young woman from Cartagena, who has been in Mozambique since January. Our team has 6 other members: a couple, two guys, and two girls (counting me). The rest of the team all came straight from Pemba, Mozambique where they just finished the Iris Harvest School (the same school I attended last summer). I met the team in Miami and we flew here to Cartagena together.

We have all been bonding very well. God was working in all of us even before we met, making this a team with singleness of heart and mind. My prayers for unity have been answered. It is amazing to see how God put each person on this team with our unique gifts and skills. I'm praising God not just for the new friendships that I'm making, but also because it is clear that He brought us together for a specific purpose here in Colombia.

Since we arrived in Cartagena we have been resting and getting to know the city and the people. We are staying at a YWAM base and it is great to meet other missionaries here. I've had plenty of opportunities to practice my Spanish already. After almost two years of not speaking Spanish, it is coming back to me swiftly, and I am able to communicate with people here! Thanks, God for answering that prayer!

Today my team is flying to Medellín, the second largest city in Colombia (after Bogotá). When I "signed up" for this outreach I never expected that we would be going to another city, but while the team was in Africa they were all getting a clear sense from God that He has ministry for us to do in Medellín. I am honestly so blessed and excited that through my time here I get to see three of the main cities of Colombia. It is beyond my wildest dreams and the Lord coordinated it all for me!

While in Medellín we will be sharing and preaching at a few different church groups, including a YWAM DTS where we will get to share with other missionaries-in-training about our experiences in Mozambique and with Iris. We'll do some ministry with the homeless as well, and we'll also be working with a children's ministry for one full day.

Please pray for our week in Medellín and the churches and people we'll be sharing with. When we get back to Cartagena we will be sharing in more churches and doing more ministry with groups like families that have been displaced from their homes, and children and orphans.

Thank you so much for all your support and prayers. I'm leaning on Jesus in this trip and knowing He is leading me through it all! His love sustains me!

In Christ,
Sarah Cory

11:30 AM  |    |  

Trust Looks Like Something ; July 6, 2014

What does trust look like?

I've been wrestling with this question for a few weeks. In Mozambique the catch-phrase was, "Love looks like something" (one of Heidi Baker's sayings). Love looks like compassion... like feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, like looking into the eyes of the broken and listening to their heart, like crying with those who are mourning and in pain.

I've been in a kind of restless season, and I've been wondering: Trust must look like something, even in the here and now. What does trust look like?

Some of you who'll read this know that I was working as a 4th grade classroom assistant (tutor) from January through the end of the school year in May. I really enjoyed the job and getting to work with kids as well as learn from experienced teachers.

I didn't reapply for the job for a few different reasons. The main reason was to pursue teaching English abroad. This is something I've wanted to do since I added a TESOL minor in college. Since God has called me to missions, I've always thought that teaching English would be a good place to start.

So I've been looking around, and there is an opportunity for me to get my TEFL certificate in South America (which I feel is where God wants me to go). I also have the opportunity to join a 2-week missions trip in the same country, that would transition right into the 4-week intensive TEFL program. This is coming up soon! The missions trip starts on August 8. The only hold-up is that I am waiting to hear if I am officially accepted to the missions team. Then I can book my flights.

I'm not used to waiting for an answer under a time crunch, especially when it comes to international travel. I'm used to planning trips far in advance. For example, I knew I was going to Mozambique 4 months before I left. I knew I was going to study abroad in Ecuador at least a semester in advance.

Oooh! So this is how I learn to trust You, Father.

"Don't worry about your life! Can worrying add a single hour to your life? Your heavenly Father didn't give you today so you could worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow has itself to worry about! All you have to do is seek God's kingdom and His righteousness now, and He will provide everything you need." (my own paraphrase of Jesus' words in Matthew 6:25-34).

If I'm going to be a missionary, God may be asking me to get used to a life of unknowns. My daughter, I hear Him say, trusting Me means leaning on Me and holding My hand even when you have no idea where I'm taking you next!

I'm reading a book called Daring to Live on the Edge: The Adventure of Faith and Finances, by Loren Cunningham, founder of YWAM (Youth With A Mission). This book has been teaching me a lot about what trust looks like. Here are three ideas.

1.) "Those who listen to God will find themselves doing things they can't complete without His help. They will take steps of obedience, then allow God to do His part. In other words, Bible faith requires that you do the possible and let God do the impossible. Faith only operates when we have no other resource but God." (Cunningham, p. 24)

So trust can look like waiting. Sometimes, to others, waiting just looks like inaction, and inaction looks like apathy. But inaction can also mean that you've finished the steps that God has told you to take, and now you have to wait for Him to do His part. That's trust.

2.) "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear... the one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18, NIV) That is one of my life verses. What it means to me is that if I'm afraid or worried about anything, I'm not abiding in His love!

So trust can look like fearlessness. Fear and love are incompatible—in the same way, worry and trust are mutually exclusive. The opposite of faith isn't actually doubt—it's fear. I believe that when you know you are fully, completely loved by God, you literally have nothing to be afraid of. I believe that, though I know I don't always live it. What do you think: Is it possible to be afraid and have faith in God at the same time?

3.) That leads to my last point... "Whenever we speak of trust, we have to know the one we're being asked to trust." (Cunningham, p.23)

Trust looks like knowing what God is like! Trust me (ha)... if you don't really know God, you'll have a rough time putting all your trust in Him. Personally, looking back at all the times He has come through in my life, I know He is worthy of trust. He's proven it. If you look back through your life, through His promises, you'll see what He's done to draw you towards complete faith in Him.


So right now, for me, trust is looking like leaning on my Beloved (see Song of Songs 8:5). I know everything I have comes from God. Every good and perfect gift comes from my Father who never changes (James 1:17). I know that God has a plan for me, and whatever that plan is, He will carry it out. It's not up to me to make things happen... that's His job. "I cry out to God... who fulfills His purpose for me." (Psalm 57:2)

If you made it this far, thanks for reading... I'd love to hear your reactions and responses in the comments.

3:29 PM  |    |  

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