Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Valerie is 11 today!

Valerie celebrated her 11th birthday with a slumber party this past Friday and then today, the real day of her birth, she and her friend put on a fashion show with our family dog, FOFER!
we hope you enjoy this short 2 min. video!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Our new church: CCI El Hatillo

At the beginning of the year, God guided Alfredo and I to become part of the pastoral team for a new church in our neighborhood “El Hatillo” located 30 minutes from Tegucigalpa, Honduras where we live. And since I can not escape from CCI our church’s name is: CCI! (Comunidad Cristiana Internacional).

This video highlights the family focus we have as a church. Alfredo and I work directly with the children and youth ministry (0-18 years old), providing vision, oversight, teacher training and curriculum development for the Sunday School classes. Alfredo preaches regularly as well.

Our vision for the children and young people is To glorify God accompanying children and youth (families) in their spiritual journey from birth until college.

Alfredo and I are happy to be able to collaborate together in this adventure and we are part of a team of deeply talented leaders, among whom are the founding pastors Peggy and Isaac Vilorio, who are people with much experience and knowledge in church environment. We have the great joy of meeting in a spiritual retreat center called Villa Gracia so most Sundays School Classes meet outside, outdoors!

I share with you a 9:30 min. video that my photographer friend Gaby Argueta prepared in order to visualize what this church is and what it is in process of becoming. (I think you will find the photography fabulous!)


I personally have felt challenged since this life project is so different from the ministry of camping. The main difference being that church happens happens every week! We no sooner finish one good Sunday School class, than seven days later must be prepared for another! On the contrary, when I plan and finish one camp, there’s a long time until the next one starts. Alfredo often reminds me we are running a marathon, not a sprint. This helps me to keep perspective but, any way, teachers must be prepared, a curriculum for the different age groups must be chosen and/or written, and continual strategizing on how to best accompany these families in their spiritual journey with their children. I believe God loves to give me challenges such as these, where I find myself saying weekly: Lord, apart from you, there’s nothing I can do. Thank God we have other people in the Children and Youth Pastoral Team who are passionate about experience-based education and creative, non traditional teaching methods; therefore we are not alone, but in good company.

What challenge has God given you that keeps you restless and in daily need for strength and wisdom to face it?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What exactly is Lisa working on in her studies?

What exactly will I be studying and reading and thinking about during my last several years of PhD studies?

Glad you asked!

Here's a presentation of my research topic which is Leadership Development in Latin America, the format is a new "anti-powerpoint presentation" program called prezis.

If it feels a bit academic, press on (literally you press the forward arrow and off you go!), I invite your thoughts and comments!

Any thoughts? share them with me in observations below!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Alfredo's 45th birthday celebration!

Here's a fun video to watch which gives you a glimpse of how we celebrated Alfredo's birthday at the end of last month.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Valerie's First Swimming Competition!

Here's a short (less than 2 min.) video of our first-born swimming. She can now beat Mom in freestyle (not yet in breaststroke!) and promises to continue improving.

Enjoy the video! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNI9BUJvvXQ

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mission Accomplished! Relationships built and playground too!

This team of rugged camping folks from Ligonier Camp and Conference Center (owned by First Presbyterian Camp of Pittsburgh, PA-FPC) has
succeeded in building relationships with fellow camping leaders in Camp Roblealto, Costa Rica. Robert Bruneau is the camp director there and both Robert and I are supported by FPC. I joined the team, traveling from Honduras with my children and Haidy who works with us in Honduras to take advantage of the opportunity to build relationships with the staff and board members of the camp I attended as a child!

Harmony seemed to be a consistent theme of the trip:
* Few times have I seen the depth of fellowship shared by team members, until I realized that these people were used to living together in harmony while serving at camp all summer long and during the rest of the year. We were joined by the maintenance staff of Roblealto for the entire week as well as several days when even the office staff joined forces with us to build specific elements.
* Valerie and Victor and Nicole, (Robert and Nina's oldest daughter who was born exactly one hour after Victor was born) enjoyed each other's company like never before. One day, Nicole rushed to her parent's side to give a report of their time together: Daddy, you should see the harmony (she actually used that word!) we have together. Valerie, even when she loses in Wii to me or Victor, says: Good job! I mean we rarely fight!
* Four days after we began work on the playground, we inaugurated in (as you'll see in the video clip below) with the children and families of the Camp staff. There's nothing quite so satisfying as starting a job and bringing it to full completion--seeing children play freely and adventuresomely on all the elements! This 8 min. video will show you the whole process, from the inauguration working backwards to the construction phase! (if you can't see this video, please go directly to the video located at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kp7VwypaETE

Tell me about a project you have gotten to start and finish!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Short-term Missions Team in Costa Rica

Leader’s Cabin, Camp Roblealto, Costa Rica

We sit in a circle, a team formed of folks from Pittsburgh, Panama and Honduras. Fifteen folks who will not meet all together again until we are at the feet of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but for this week are enjoying a growing sense of family.

Valerie laid against my legs and as she looked at the song sheet, she whispered: Whenever we sing, I get so calm and tranquil inside.

Robert Bruneau, took the guitar and asked us to open our hymnal (our Bible) and we sang directly from Psalms 117, 48, and 46—in Spanish. Patrick, director of Ligonier Camp & Conference Center (outside of Pittsburgh) asked for lots of repetition to try and get those words down—he tended to lapse into French!

Afterward, Victor and Valerie and Nicole (Robert & Nina Bruneau’s daughter) climbed up to Victor’s bunk & held their flashlights high in the air to shine down on their books-When I checked in, Nicole said: We're having a reading party! Victor was reading Lord of the Rings, book 1, Nicole was enjoying the cartoon-like illustrations of my Games Encyclopedia and Valerie was reading a mystery. Their delight to be together is matched by their parents’ delight to be together again.

Alfredo is home in Honduras holding down the fort and the children and I are here to accompany this team made up of folks from Ligonier Camp and First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh. Our goal has been to build an innovative playground for Camp Roblealto and here are the results:

We'd love to have you join us in prayer for:

  • Pray for the reminder of our time with the team, Oct. 5-11, for each of us to sense God’s direction for our lives, and for the five full-time staff members from Ligonier to deepen in their love for this Camp.
  • Pray for the additional four days during which the kids & I will have special family time with Robert & Nina, to create unforgettable family memories as well as to freely discuss important issues Christian Camping International, Latin America.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My first article published in a professional journal!

This article comes as fruit of a class I took from Jim Plueddemann on Education and Culture. He challenged the entire class to try and get our final paper published and thanks to his exhortation I submitted my article to the Common Ground Journal: Perspectives on the Church in the 21st Century.

As part of Christian Camping International/ Latin America, I have belonged to a number of multicultural teams but until this class, I never gave much thought to any of the cultural dynamics that might be at play as we worked together. This class with Jim opened my eyes to see how we may be misjudging some areas of conflict as "immaturity" or "difficult personalities" when in reality there was a strong cultural component. This article describes a bit of my journey as it explains the name of that cultural component (high and low power distance cultures or vertical / horizontal cultures) and provides some understanding as to how to maintain team harmony. I invite you to read the article below (or follow this link: http://www.commongroundjournal.org/volnum/v08n01.pdf to read it)

The abstract of the article reads:
Threats to multicultural team harmony may come from a variety of sources such as immaturity, lack of shared vision, or from a compelling task to unify everyone; but one aspect that tends to slip under the radar screen is difference in power distance. This article shows how characteristics of both high and low power distance in cultures influences team members’ concepts of what team harmony is and how it is created. The creation of a third culture, a counter-cultural temporary Christian community, can offer a multicultural team a way to suspend cultural expectations and work together.

I'd love to hear your thoughts-click on observations to share!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Do not linger

This is what I sensed the Lord advised me regarding lingering over what people had written to me for my 50th birthday. The more I ponder exactly what my influence has been in someone’s life, the more I expose myself to the danger of pride. So, for me, do not linger is good advice. As long as I would read with an eye toward what God had accomplished and how I was merely an instrument in His hands, God would get the glory.

What a subtle temptation since outwardly it looks the same but inwardly God knows my heart and He warns me of danger ahead if I try to figure out how I did this or that, or if I should try to do more of this and less of that… all those ponderings assume that I am the key player. Wrong assumption. I am merely a tool in the Master’s hand, to be used or not used as He sees fit.

This lesson is like a revolving door, it keeps coming back to me given that the nature of missionary work is all about influence. Even my job title, Director of Leadership Development (Christian Camping International, Latin America), lends itself to strategizing about how to influence others who will in turn influence others…on and on the chain of influence goes. I am convinced that I am a link in that chain, but need to remind myself over and over that Someone else is in charge of creating the chain and making the connections. I am to remain faithful to walk in the Spirit and be responsive to His promptings.

What has the Lord been prompting you to do recently? Any good advice you want to pass along to me? (click on the comments below to share)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Embrace the pain

What odd advice.

One would prefer to avoid the pain not embrace it.

Yet with regards to the loss of my parents I have to remember this sage advice: Embrace the memories that coming to Pittsburgh brings. Embrace the bitter sweetness of familiar streets, neighborhoods, shopping plazas, restaurants and churches.

It’s here in Pittsburgh with every visit home that I experience afresh the pain of the loss of my mother and father. Since in Honduras I live far from anyone who knew me before I was a college graduate, there’s no one to tell me stories of my parents and siblings (Brian and Kim) or share anecdotes of my childhood or youth. So while it’s a source of delight to hear those stories, there’s also a twinge of pain at the reminder of their passing. Thus the advice: Embrace both the joy and the pain.

My children’s ears perk up when someone says… Hey Lisa, remember when we…They don’t know anyone in Latin America that knew me as a child. In the same manner, my ears perk up when someone comes up to me at church and says: I remember when your mother taught at Women to Women at Memorial Park Church… Or your father had such a great sense of humor, we sang in the choir together…

Yesterday as I was driving by Pine Creek Plaza, I pulled in front of the Great Wall, one of my father’s favorite Chinese restaurants. My mind was flooded with memories of long, lingering meals and talking in Spanish to the waiters and busboys from El Salvador who worked there (he couldn't get over the irony of Salvadoreans working at a Chinese restaurant!). The kids just climbed onto my lap and we cried together-after which I did order take out!

It’s just that we live in such a different world than the one I was raised in. It’s good for my soul to re-visit my grief with every visit home to Pittsburgh, to pass by Memorial Park cemetery and put a flag on my dad’s grave for Independence Day, to rejoice when some woman tells me how God used my mother to bring her closer to the Lord and God’s Word, to eagerly reminisce with my parents' friends about the memories and hear them say: Your mother would be so proud of you, of your children… you look just like her… your father would have said this or that…

I have tried to embrace the pain these past three months, to lean in to it for just like it hurts to be reminded that my kids no longer have their grandparents to enjoy, I also relish the fact that God gave me a rich legacy in my parents and an abundant heritage in Pittsburgh of very supportive churches.

Valerie, Victor and I return to Honduras Sept. 1.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A walk down memory lane

That’s what today was for me and some eighty folks who were able to attend my 50th birthday celebration held in Fellowship Hall of Memorial Park Church, Pittsburgh, PA.

Ann Thompson and Susie McCabe prepared a delightful program with refreshments provided by the renowned hospitality committee led by Shirley Sedlacek. Pastor Kevin Gourley brought us together reminding us of saints who have served in Memorial Park years gone by (Keith Brown, Dick Todd, Jay Passavant, Bobbie and George Anderson…) and then we began our walk with testimonies by friends who knew me when I was a little child and progressively through the decades. My mother’s name was mentioned frequently as was my father’s, which served to remind us all of the bountiful legacy I have inherited. My pastor from my junior high years until this day, Jay Passavant was present to add his perspective as were friends from my days in Youth Group (Betsy Meister Gourley). Chuck and Henri Doren brought a fresh perspective as they shared about the mutually beneficial investment short term missions teams have made in their partnership with me from 1999 until now. Charlie Beck clarified how I spell WORK TEAMS in capital letters, with an emphasis on WORK! My very own niece, Shannon Rose, shared as did Valerie and Victor and finally Alfredo which you will note in the video clip.

As I sat and looked at the faces of so many loved ones, tears filled my eyes and I thanked the Lord profusely for the privilege of being loved so unconditionally while present as well as far away. I observed how people lingered long after the formal program ended, just enjoying visiting dear brothers and sisters whose paths they haven’t crossed in a long time. There are few things I enjoy as much as watching people relate deeply and relating deeply to others myself. I watched my children be embraced by folks who spoke of having held them as babies and played with them on some long ago missions trip. They heard people speak endearingly of their Nana Anderson whom they long to meet in heaven. Valerie was amazed when one woman said: Your Nana Bobbie Anderson would have cried with joy had she seen you on stage speaking of your mom and singing her Happy birthday in Spanish, at which point, another woman chimed in: But dear Valerie, she is beaming with joy as she watches from the cloud of witnesses. Amen and amen.

This is the part of my world that my children and husband only taste and see when they are in Pittsburgh. These funny stories, warm embraces (Valerie observed that Americans hug when they greet versus Latins who kiss on the cheek), and reminiscing fill out what Alfredo calls those “30 years” he never knew me (we met when I was 30). I am known in Latin America from 22 years on so people in Pittsburgh have a historical perspective of my roots, my family and my growing up years which I savor each trip north. I have relished the opportunity to thoughtfully read through the cards and notes that were sent, appreciating the parenthesis people made in their lives to give expression to their love and affection for me.

My heart is filled to overflowing or as Victor would say: My love buckets are full. Indeed, mine are full for the next 50 years!

I invite you to enjoy this brief walk down memory lane by clicking on this link which will take you to a short video clip of the day’s events.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Chivalry is not dead..... a la Victor style

This is material for Family Circle!

Mom: Victor, are you being a gentleman to the girls in your class?

Victor: I don't need to.

Mom: Why's that son?

Victor: Because the doors are always open.

Long pause. LOL.

Mom: Yes dear, but there are other ways to be a gentleman than just opening doors. Being kind, sharing....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Church wedding of fellow CCI team member-Bessy Macotto

It was an honor to participate in the wedding of our dear friend and fellow CCI team member Bessy Macotto. We have had the pleasure to get to know her husband, Argentinan Tito Cofre. We all participated in their wedding ceremony, with Valerie carrying the Word of God and Victor the wedding rings.

The fact that Bessy found such a man of God who loves, cherishes and accepts her (and vice versa) is truly a gift from God. As you know, I met Alfredo as an older single, after I had started to wonder if the Lord was going to give me that gift so I can identify with Bessy's wonderful story and we have all shared their joy. They returned to Argentina last week and will serve together in CCI/Latin America until Bessy completes her three year term of service in South America and then they will return to Honduras to seek the Lord's guidance as to the next steps.

It has been a pleasure to meet Tito and appreciate his patience and strength and depth as a man of God. We share these photos to celebrate God's gift together with those who know and appreciate her as our dear friend and fellow missionary.
If you want to see more pics: click on this link:
Boda Religiosa Bessy y Tito

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Camp Counselor Training (126 hours)

Starting in Feb. and ending this month of May, I have collaborated with CCI AL/Honduras in teaching 20 church leaders how to serve as counselors. One aspect of this particular group is that they all have camps planned within the next several months to put their newly formed skills into practice. There's nothing quite so practical as good theory and that's precisely what we like to see in those that take our CCI Latin America training courses.

As you see these pastors, youth group leaders, Sunday school teachers, Directors of Christian schools, join me in praying for God to:
  • Remove any obstacles that would hinder them from implementing what they've learned, like "we've never done it this way before", or "if the kids look like they're having too much fun, it can't be spiritual".
  • Give them a spirit of humility to approach others with new ideas and approaches to ministry.
  • Strengthen them for the long haul, since this is not a sprint but a marathon and in order to make changes, it takes faith, prayer and strategic thinking and planning.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Training workshop for Ropes Course facilitators: Honduras

One of the events I look forward to the most are those where we develop facilitators of low ropes course initiatives. On the outside, being passed through a "spider's web of string" or falling into the arms of a group of people or climbing a wall, might look simple. One might think: Anyone can lead this activity. But in reality it's not as simple as it looks. Leading it well requires a lot of training in safety measures and most difficult of all is learning how to inductively lead the participants to gain insights into themselves, group process and related Biblical principles.
As you look at this picture, ask yourself, what type of feelings might I have if that was me?
This gives you some idea as to the level of skill the facilitator must have to draw out those feelings, discuss them within the group and make sense of them in light of scripture (learning to trust others is a key issue that causes difficulty for many).
That's why we invest over 48 hours of teaching and practice from Friday night to Monday afternoon. They are taught in small groups of 8 people with two trainers.

As you view the slideshow below, pray for the 40 facilitators who have been trained to use their new found skill to promote godly living and playing and pray for the team of 10 trainers to be given God's strength and wisdom as we teach others purpose-driven recreation.

If you have problems viewing the pictures below, you can go directly to this site to view them in picasawebalbums: http://picasaweb.google.com/lisaandersonumana/TallerDeAcertijiosNivel1CCIALHonduras2629DeMarzo2010?feat=directlink

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bessy Macotto's marriage to Tito Cofre

Bessy Macotto, a Honduran, is a fellow missionary with Latin America Mission, serving as the Director of Christian Camping International in South America. She has been a dear friend to our family, such that our children even call her "Tia" (Auntie) Bessy. She, like me, found her "Prince Charming" in a foreign country and who was also a student in one of CCI's counselor training courses, both of whom are older singles just like Alfredo and I . We rejoice with the gift God gave them in each other. Because they both traveled from Argentina to Honduras, Alfredo and I were able to attend the "Engagement Ceremony" where Tito Cofre, the gentleman she met while serving in Argentina, asked for her hand in marriage on March 29, 2010 while at her parents home in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Acto de compromiso entre Bessy Macotto y Tito Cofre

Then, they performed their civil marriage ceremony, which in Latin America, is a separate ceremony performed by a notary lawyer. This ceremony took place on April 11, 2010, exactly two days before we celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary.
Boda civil en casa Umana-Anderson

By the way, today is Alfredo and I's 14th wedding anniversary!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Victor's award for God's glory!

Victor received an award this Sat. March 20, for the best athlete in men's gymnastics for 2009.

As Victor sat and listened to the numerous politicians give their speeches before the awards were given, he motioned to his father and asked:
Daddy, what are they saying? I can't understand anything!
(It appears politicians the world over have something in common!)
Thirty minutes later, Victor again motioned his father: Dad, they are only giving out awards to the people up on the stage, what about us athletes?
Finally, his patience was rewarded!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eight-hour Workshop on Purpose-driven recreation given by CCI AL/Honduras

I reduced 8 hours into an 8 min. video, with pictures and video clips highlighting our time together with 44 participants from 5 different ministries. They in turn minister to over 500 children and young people, so the multiplying effect is great!
Eight hours of experiential education is visible in this video clip as first they experience recreation like many have never done before.

  • We played cooperative games.
  • We didn't penalize anyone.
  • We didn't eliminate anyone, everyone played.
  • We didn't offer prizes or trophies, just the pleasure and joy of laughter.

We are thankful to the Sunday School class of First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh for giving us a donation that enabled us to offer this training and equip them with volumes from our Games Encyclopedia.

We are thankful to AFE School for letting us use their facilities and for the folks at CCI AL/Honduras for providing the trainers!

(double click on the video to see it directly in youtube.com)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mariangel.....a girl that was saved for a special purpose

What a tragedy!

How sad!

How outrageous!

How evil!


All of this has been said and even more since we heard of the murder of a single mother (Mirna Garcia) and the failed murder attempt on her only daughter Mariangel (she is in Valerie's grade). Mariangel did however suffer 5 bullet wounds! This just happened on Tuesday, March 2nd. The doctors who performed the surgery on Mariangel all say she is a living miracle. The wounds caused by the bullets should have taken her life. But they did not. God preserved her life for a purpose.

Every Thursday morning, several mothers from Academia Los Pinares (the school my children attend) get together to study the Bible. This year our focus has been to help our kids to build a Christian world view. Two days after this incident us moms gathered, together along with our children, to discuss God’s perspective on this incident. (Our children did not attend school that day since school was cancelled due to numerous cases of H1N1 influenza.) Since Valerie is Mariangel’s classmate, so she and her mother have been to our house on several occasions.

With this group of mothers and our children we studied the life of Joseph. All the kids volunteered different pieces of information about Joseph’s life until they put together the whole story. We remembered the details of the sufferings that Joseph had to endure. Then, we read about the perspective he had about his own life and suffering in Genesis 45:5-8 "And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” "So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”

Then we compared the life of their classmate, Mariangel, with Josepth’s life and these are the conclusions that children arrived at:

  • She is suffering but God can take something wrong and make it good.
  • God is in control.
  • God saved her for a reason.
  • God has a purpose we can not understand at the moment.
  • Mariangel has to trust that God has a special plan for her life.

Valerie gave us the idea of everybody writing a letter to Mariangel to encourage her with this new perspective and with Scripture. When the timing is right, we will deliver the letters to her and read them together.

We left the gathering with another perspective on life. This life on earth makes more sense when we see in light of all eternity.

As mothers, we left determined to be change agents in all the ensuing conversations we have on this topic. Obviously every family at the school is appalled by the news. There is a bank account open so Mariangel receives aid with her hospital bills (see information below of how you could also contribute) and many mothers are doing shifts at the hospital to keep company to this little girl, but throughout any conversation, more than fixating on the gory details or speculations, we want to comment on God’s perspective and keep praying for Mariangel.

I invite you to be a partner in prayer for this girl:

Psalm 27:10 "Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.”

Let us pray that God will be Father and Mother to Mariangel and He makes her feel His presence in a supernatural manner.

Psalm 9:9-10 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

We pray for the preservation of her life against the evil ones. May she live free of anguish and anxiety and may she trust the Lord.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

We pray God leads relatives and close friends to make wise decisions for Mariangel’s future.

And eventually…

Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

We pray that Mariangel will be filled with hope, joy and peace in spite of these circumstances.

PS: Tonight, God led me to the hospital to have the privilege to be at her side, first to ask about her relationship with Jesus, to give her the pressed flowers Valerie made for her, and then to review the details of a Bible class I had given to Valerie's second grade class on heaven. This served as preparation for when, together with her doctor, the hospital's psychologist, aunt and cousins, we gave her the news that her mother indeed was alive and well, but at Jesus' side in heaven. Please continue to pray for her as she deals with the shock of her mother's departure and the unsettling reality of having to move in with her aunt (who fortunately is a believer in Christ) when she gets out of the hospital.

*Basically all her hospital bills are being paid for by donations from families from the school. If God leads you to collaborate financially you may make a donation to Latin America Mission in my name, Lisa Anderson-Umana, work funds-Mariangel.