A German City of Roses – La Ciudad de las Rosas

“Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.”

Psalm 96:13

This morning we anchored in the harbor outside Puerto Montt, Chile. We took a tender into shore. We boarded a bus at the terminal and headed for Puerto Varas a German settlement about 20 minutes drive from the Port. As we drove down the hill into Puerto Varas and turned right into the town square, we saw streets lined with beautiful Rose bushes. Not just on the square, but all the streets of the small town. Being summer the bushes were bursting with rose blooms, like a giant rose garden.

We stepped off of the bus and walked across the street to the shore of Lake Llanquihue. It was a sight to behold! Across this massive lake Osorno Volcano jutted toward the sky with it’s snowy peak pointed upward, appearing that the volcano comes up out of the lake pointing to the heavens and praising God. The beauty of God’s creation was surrounding us. We watched the people enjoying the beach, walked the streets, had a coffee and shopped for a few gifts before heading back to Puerto Montt.

Back at the harbor we decided to head toward the Angelmo Fish Market in the “Old Port.” It was a bustling place with lots of vendors selling fish, food, art and trinkets. There were also a slew of local restaurants to choose from. We picked one with a view of the harbor and great local cuisine and enjoyed lunch.

After eating lunch we visited a number of street artists and purchase several small paintings with scenes typical of this part of Chile. Art is one of our favorite souvenirs when we travel abroad. All in all, It was a beautiful sunny summer day and it could not have been more perfect, it was the kind of day that made you want to lift your hands and praise God for His goodness to us! Come let us Praise the Lord!

4 Seasons in one day – Punta Arenas, Chile

This was a day that made it hard to believe we were in the middle of summer in South America. We docked in Punta Arenas early in the morning. As we did a walking tour through the city, the wind picked up and made the walking cold and difficult. We walked through the historic downtown as we learned the history of this old city.

We walked up a flight of stairs taking us up the hillside to a patio that overlooked the sea and the city below. From this vantage point we could see the beautiful colors of the painted rooftops in many colors across the city below..

As we walked in the streets this cold and windy morning, we began to look for a place that we could get coffee. Through out our time is South America we struggled to find good coffee, but we hoped this day would be different. We came across a Coffee shop and we heard they had the best coffee in Punta Arenas, so we stopped in and gave it a try. We ordered an avocado toast to split plus coffee. The owner of the shop had spent several years living and working in a coffee shop in Australia and brought his knowledge back to his home town to open a new coffee shop.

As we finished our coffee and toast and headed back out to the street for our walk back to the Port, the sun shown on our faces and he wind had stopped. We felt warm as we walked and began to understand why it is said in Punto Arenas you will experience all four seasons in one day.

The Chilean Archipelago and the Amalia Glacier

“The City was pure gold, clear as crystal, and its wall was made of jasper.”

Revelation 21:18

As we cruised North out of Ushuaia through the Chilean Fijords we witnessed a part of nature that appeared unchanged since it’s creation. I realized that the world around us for the next few days could only be seen by ship, or perhaps helicopter. We would see some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen in my lifetime.

An archipelago is simply a chain of Islands. The Chilean Archipelago goes for nearly 1000 miles. As we navigated the fjords North, we passed 5 glaciers, all of them a sight to behold on our way to Punto Arenas, Chile. Punto Arenas is on the windswept Pacific Coast of Patagonia another one of the many faces of Patagonia. We spent the day walking the streets of this hillside town, learned it’s history, drank some good coffee and shared an avocado toast. This place has a reputation for having 4 seasons in one day. This mid summer day felt more like Fall or Winter to a couple of Californians.

Back on the boat, the next day about mid day we approached the Amalia Glacier. As we came closer the water began to turn to an aqua blue from the sediment from the melting ice. When we entered the bay that was home to the glacier, the water was nearly white next to the blue ice. The ice in certain spots was white as you would expect, but in others it was a shade of blue that I am not sure I can describe to you, a deep, rich, bright blue, a color of heaven. I am still fumbling for words to describe what I was seeing.

All that to say this piece of God’s creation was almost too beautiful to accurately put into words, and pictures did not seem to do it justice. The Apostle John in Revelation 21, is trying to describe in human terms the vision that God gave to him. I have a sense that is what it will be like when we get to heaven and see it for the first time. We will be overwhelmed by it’s beauty and not be able to find words for what our eyes are seeing. What a gift to see the Amelia Glacier, a great preview of what is to come!

Ushuaia the Southern Most City in the World.

“For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Acts 13:47

When I read the many passages in the New & Old Testament that mention the “ends of the earth,” I never thought I would actually be there, but that is where we have spent the last few days. 

Ushuaia, Argentina is the Southern most City in the world. We arrived there in the late afternoon, but there were gale force winds and the ship could not dock, so we had to anchor in the harbor over night. Early the following day we were able to dock. We went with a group of people to Escondido Lakes. It was a spectacular drive through glacial carved mountains and canyons, scenery unlike anything we had seen before. It was beautiful!

We spent some time walking along the lake and snapping photos. On our way back to town we stopped at a sheep ranch and had lamb cooked in the traditional style over a fire pit. It was delicious! They also kept and trained Siberian huskies as sled dogs for tourists in the winter. They must of had 50 of them in an enclosure. 

The actual town of Ushuaia is built up a hillside from the water in a cove. It was a bustling town with lots of activity. It reminded me of some combination of San Francisco & Rozaje, Montenegro. Very cool place!

We left port a little early, at 3:30 pm, because we would be cruising up Glacier Alley passing 5 glaciers as we navigated through the Chilean Fijords. We had made plans to have dinner with a Jewish Couple we met on the ship from Atlanta. We sat at a window on the starboard side of the ship that gave us a stunning view of the glaciers as we passed by. It was jaw dropping!

The combination of seeing the most spectacular landscape I have seen in my lifetime and the interesting dinner conversation about Judaism, faith and Jesus was almost surreal. When I read in Acts that God calls us to be “a light to the Gentiles,” I am reminded of our responsibility to be intentional to share our faith with those who don’t know Jesus. But today, God sent me to the ends of the earth to share my faith with a Jew and I pray that someday he will find the true Messiah, Jesus. 

Cape Horn: The End of the World

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”

Psalm 37:4

For some reason on this trip I keep going back to 1982. In 1982 my parents had moved from Southern California to Northern California. They moved to a small town in the Central Valley called Lodi. One summer day I had to go to the travel agency (they use to have those before Expedia & Travelocity) to purchase a ticket to fly to Southern California. As I was sitting in the lobby waiting for someone to assist me, I noticed the different travel posters up all over the walls, all of exotic places around the world. One in particular stands out in my mind, a poster of Hawaii. I remember praying a prayer telling God that I had a desire to see the world, and if it fit in with His plans for me, could He give me this opportunity. Fifty six countries & five continents later, God has answered that prayer.

The ultimate achievement for seafarers for hundreds of years has and continues to be, to round Cape Horn where the Atlantic and Pacific come together. This is the Southern most point on the South American continent, some of the most dangerous waters in the world. Over 10,000 plus lives known have been lost trying to make their way around the Horn. It is also a graveyard for sunken ships who have attempted the treacherous journey.

As we left the Falkland Islands our last stop before the Horn, we were filled with excitement and a little bit of nervousness. In talking to some of the crew on the ship about going through the Drake Passage & around the horn, they said you never quite know what you are going to get. One guy told me “I once went through and it was like glass and another time there were 30 foot waves.” Yikes! We had a two day journey before we would reach Drake Passage and the Cape Horn. The first day and night was calm. The Captain said we would have mild winds, but on the second day we will see who the Cape really is. Yikes again!

Day #2 we were expecting a rough ride and little sleep, but we slept through the night. We awoke early and the wind was blowing around 40 knots, with moderate waves, not too bad. We made our way to breakfast and then the upper deck on the bow to watch as we approached the horn. We had perfect front row seats for the adventure of a lifetime. We rounded Cape Horn around 10 am and it was beautiful! Cape Horn is actually an Island and we made a 360 degree circle around it. Only one family lives on Cape Horn, the Lighthouse Keeper with his wife and children. Other than that the Island has no inhabitants.

After we circled Cape Horn, we headed North to Ushuaia, Argentina through the Beagle Passage where Charles Darwin traveled on his exploration ship the Beagle. More on this tomorrow.

As I have reflected on this experience, I sat in awe, in awe at the beauty around me, like nothing I have ever witnessed before. In awe at God’s 40 + year long answer to a prayer I prayed when I was 19. I am reminded that God cares about the details, the small things in our lives, He cares about our desires. This was surely the ultimate travel experience I could have and I am so grateful to God for fulling the desire of my heart. I heard it said that the world is a book, and if you don’t travel it’s like only reading one page. I think this is true. Travel has taught me that the world really is a small place, and people are more alike than you think. Most importantly God loves them all and desires to show himself to the world through us.

War in the Falkland Islands

When I think about the Falkland Islands, I am immediately taken back to 1982 when Ronald Reagan was President and Maggie Thatcher was Prime Minister of Great Britain. I was in college in 1982 and remember the British Invasion of the Falklands, but I did not really understand the issues or why the Falkland Islands were important to Great Britain or Argentina.

I imagine the Argentines claimed ownership of the Islands because they were off their coast. The British first came to the Falklands and developed a settlement in 1700’s. After giving up the islands to the Spanish, in 1833 Britain retook the Islands and has been in possession of them ever since. The Falklands Islanders number 3,662 and they are a proud British people, many who’s families have been there for generations. We meet one person who’s family has been on the islands for 7 generations.

When the Argentines invaded under the leadership of President Leopoldo Galtieri they made several miscalculations. First was they thought there would be perceived as liberators by the Falkland Islanders, but they were not, they are British sovereigns and wanted nothing to do with Argentina. Second, they did not think the British would come all they way from England to defend the Islands, until one day an entire Armada of British Ships showed up at their doorstep to liberate the islands. The war lasted 72 days before Argentina surrendered to the British.

We arrived in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands early in the morning and we were excited to see this very unique place. We took a tender from our Boat into picturesque Stanley Harbor and disembarked, almost immediately it was apparent how much the Falkland Island war still impacts them today over 40 years later. We did typical tourist things on shore. We ate the most amazing fish & chips and we visited a beach where many penguins nest and live. We were told it took 10 years for the Argentine mines to be cleared from the beach so it could be used again by locals.

We visited the Anglican Cathedral, the Southern most Anglican Church in the world. It’s a beautiful brick church with stain glass windows. Inside the walls were lined with plaques in memory of the members of the Church who were lost in the 1982 war.

We left the Cathedral and continued walking, we came to a war memorial commemorating the British and Falkland Islanders who gave their lives in the 1982 war with Argentina. We saw two soldiers and a woman placing a wreath and leaving a Falkland Island flag to honor someone who’s name was listed there. There is a bust of Margret Thatcher at the memorial with this inspcription:

“They are few in number, but they have a right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiances.”

Margaret Thatcher

I was reminded that the Christian life involves a “spiritual war,” one we fight everyday against the devil and his demons who are trying to defeat and destroy us. He is an enemy invading a person that belongs to Jesus. This passage in Ephesians 6 is a great reminder, kind of one like the war memorial on Thatcher Drive in Port Stanley. I would like to sign off with the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6: 10-12:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

A Day in Patagonia

Sometimes you have a picture in your mind of what a place will be like, well Patagonia was one of those places for me, and it was quite different than I expected. We pulled into Puerto Madryn, Argentina at 7 am as the sun was rising. It was a warm & beautiful day.

At 8am we headed for a small Welsh Village about an hour away from Puerto Madryn, called Gaiman. Puerto Madryn was settled by 150 Welsh immigrants in 1865, who were escaping poverty in Wales and looking for a better life. This wave of immigration was followed in the early 20th century by a large settlement of Basque immigrants. This struck a cord with me as I remembered my Grandfather Louis Barrenechea’s telling me his sister Maria had immigrated to Argentina in the 1920’s. I wondered if she was one of those who settled in Puerto Madryn?

Raising sheep is one of the major products of the region, mainly done by Basque ranchers. As we drove through the countryside, I had to adjust my idea of what I thought Patagonia would be like. I was expecting, mountains, rivers and lots of trees. I know parts of Patagonia do look like that, but not this part. It was flat, arid and had no trees. It kind of reminded us of Northern Nevada.

We arrived in Gaiman, and drove through the small village stopping at a Welsh tea house for traditional tea, bread & cakes. It was great! We were serenaded by a Welsh choir singing tradition Welsh cultural songs and hymns. As a community they have worked very hard to preserve the Welsh culture and language in Patagonia. Most of these descendants of the original Welsh settlers speak Welsh, English and Spanish. They have done a pretty good job preserving their culture as It felt like a little bit of Europe carved out of Argentina.

We have more of Patagonia to see in the days ahead. I am excited to see what it will be like as I hold my expectations with an open hand.

2 Days at Sea

As we sailed East from Montevideo Uruguay and then south along the Coast of Argentina, we saw the color of the water change from a muddy brown to an emerald green. The water is brown in the Samborombón Bay from the silt that flows out of the mouth of the Rio de La Plata River, flowing all the way from Brazil. As the water flows into the Atlantic Ocean it is filtered by the power of the currents and turns a beautiful sparkling green.

There is a perspective that comes from being at sea where as far as the eye can see there is only ocean. When I experience the power of the sea, I am reminded of God’s power and the way he uses the experiences of life to filter and purify me, refining me in His image.

As we sailed toward Puerto Madryn, Argentina the land faded away as the Atlantic engulfed us. It is on these days at sea that you have a chance to settle into a sabbath rhythm of sorts. I slept in, worked out, read, prayed and took a nap at my favorite spot on the stern with a panoramic view of the Ocean. This is also a good time to meet interesting people.

One person that stands out was a guy named Steve and his wife Anne who we met at lunch. They are from Pennsylvania and we had a lot of interesting conversation. He is a twin and shared 3 months ago he lost his twin brother to an unexpected illness. It was sad to hear the heartbreak he is going through. He said the experience has brought a dark cloud over his whole life.

As I was thinking about the things Steve shared, I was thinking “what a great place to be to process the difficult things of life, the open seas of the Southern Atlantic.” I know when I am quiet, the wind is blowing in my face and I am staring at the power of the Sea, it’s a great time to think and be reminded of the power of God in my life.

With each new conversation I have I seem to learn something. A life is an amazing thing. The experiences and stories of peoples lives make their mark on my soul and offer perspective to my story. I am grateful for Steve & I pray God’s healing and peace in His life.

Dia de Los Reyes!

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Revelation 3:20

As we drove through the streets of Montevideo, Uruguay, it seemed a very sleepy town. Most of the shops and business’ were closed and we saw very few people walking through the streets, as we drove along the 17 km of condo buildings along the coast line.

Finally, we asked a local, “it’s Friday, where are all the people? It’s a holiday, Dia de los Reyes (day of the 3 Kings), everyone is at home!” Oh that’s right it’s January 6th!

What Is Three Kings Day?

“Three Kings Day or the Feast of Epiphany is a holiday that commemorates the day the three wise men — Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar — arrived with gifts for baby Jesus. Three Kings Day or Epiphany is celebrated by Roman Catholics on Jan. 6, as the culmination of the 12 days of Christmas.”

We never thought we would show up in Uruguay on Latin American Christmas but it looks like we did. As we walked through the streets of the old city we noticed the beauty of the architecture of the homes, in particular we noticed the doors. It seemed there were no two alike (they clearly did not buy them at Home Depot), some looked new and freshly painted, others looked very old, even ancient. We began to snap pictures of the doors and buildings, to record them and make sure they would remain in our memory.

Being captured by the sight of these doors seemed fitting on Dia de los Reyes. As the country around us, really the continent around us, in a way, was celebrating the opening of a door. When Jesus came into the world over two millennium ago, he opened a door for all of us to have the possibility of knowing God as a Friend, Brother & Father. What amazes me most is this is not an offer that God made to a select few, but to all mankind, no one is excluded.

Today, I hope we are all reminded of the love and sacrifice it took for Jesus to open that door for us to know His love and grace. My prayer today is that we will know the love of God made possible through the door Jesus opened, and especially the people of Montevideo, Uruguay!

We’re Lost!

“This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” John 18:9

After cutting it close on making our flight to Argentina, it was great to be walking the streets of Buenos Aries. Standing in the square below “Casa Rosada,” the Argentinian Presidential palace, where Eva Peron (Evita) once stood on the balcony, legendarily throwing pesos down to the people of Buenos Aries, was quite an experience.

Just 10 days ago, 5 million Argentine people were gathered in the streets to celebrate Argentina’s World Cup win, wow, I would love to have been there for that! With all its history and interesting sites, Buenos Aries has lots of problems. They have an inflation rate over 90% per year. The inflation problem is primarily from printing $, social give aways, and lots of Government corruption. They have a poverty rate of over 30% and a very apparent homeless problem.

Probably the most noticeable reality is the Godlessness that has crept into Argentinian Culture. A once vibrant Catholic Country is now mostly agnostic. Very sad to see!

After we finished our bus tour and grabbed lunch, we realized that we had wrong directions to where the shuttle bus would pick us up and take us back to the boat. We must have walked 5 miles trying to find the pick up location, until finally we realized “we’re lost!” We tried calling the boat, but the number we had would not go through on our cell phones. Finally, after several attempts to get correct directions we managed to find the location and our ride back to the boat.

When you are lost, there is no better feeling than being found again! What was once one of the most vibrant world economies with a vibrant Christian culture, now it citizens struggle to keep food on the table and a roof over their head. They brag about being the first country in S. America to legalize gay marriage and concede that their churches are more museums than they are houses of worship.

I was reminded that when I was lost God found me, and he desires to use me to help others who are lost find their way back to God. Tonight Mary-Beth and I had dinner with a couple we just met. The husband is 91 years old. He confessed to me that although he says he is a Lutheran, that he really does not believe in God. I asked him, how did he come to the conclusion that there is no God? He said “I know a lot of smart people who believe in God, but I have lost my faith, maybe it’s all the evil I see in the world.”

Thomas may have lost his faith, but I am encouraged by the words of John 18:9 when Jesus says “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” Say a prayer with me for Thomas that he will once again find his faith in God.