Until next time

In my final days in Bolivia I was thinking about the future and how my time in Bolivia will affect or have an influence on it. Will a change just happen or will it be more of a conscious decision? A wise man recommended that I write a list of things I never want to forget from my time in Bolivia and then keep that list a reminder as life goes on.

My list could almost, if read aloud, go on for seven months because I would like to remember everything. But here is a short portion of a long list that I would like to share with you.

I never want to forget…

  1. The generosity of so many people. I could have been perceived as a rich North American who did not need anything, but people chose to be generous to me. They invited me into their homes, work spaces, and lives. These were simple acts of kindness, but for me meant so much. I never want to forget to be generous to whoever and by whatever means.

2. What it feels like to be a guest in a new culture and language. The humility and patience it required to learn and embrace the newness. The times of rejection and frustration were difficult but they made me cherish the times of acceptance and understanding so much more. I never want to forget that the testing of faith produces perseverance.

3. A little boy at Talita Cumi begging me not to go back to Canada. Clinging to my legs saying how much he loves me. Spending the past seven months with him, seeing him grow and mature and then having to walk away, was one of the hardest things about my time in Bolivia. I never want to forget that heaven is my home.

4. Monday night youth group. The energy of the kids, the honesty of discussion, and just the overall fun factor was amazing. To have the opportunity to be with youth in an environment where they are searching to grow in their faith was amazing. It was also interesting to see the wide variety of cultures and world views represented in the youth group. I learned so much from being with them. I never want to be too proud to ask, listen, and learn from someone who is younger than me.

5. Holding a 6 year old boy at 3 am, staring at the stars. It was the last night of camp. He couldn’t stop scratching his mosquito bites and in his discomfort and lack of sleep began to cry. And so I sat, he sat next to me until tiredness trumped itchiness. I never want to worry about tomorrow because my life is in the hands of the maker of the stars.

6. When a different 6 year old boy ran away from his home. I could do nothing to change his mind, so I follow him and pray.  When he said he hates his home, wants to leave, and doesn’t want to talk, I pray. When he got too tired of running, he sat down on one side of the garbage-filled drainage ditch and I sat down across from him and watched. I watched this boy cry uncontrollably and I tried to imagine his life at six and then I started to cry. I never want to forget that it is God who ultimately changes lives. And as much as I want to make everything right, I can’t do it on my own.

7. Sitting on the top of a mountain with four other people, all from different countries. Watching the sun set while eating mandarin oranges. Hearing the sounds of the river, road, and birds. All of us different people who come from different cultures, and have different past experiences. But all of us now working together, brought together because of Christ’s continued work in this world. I never want to forget that I am a part of something bigger.

8. Unlocking the church early Sunday mornings. Singing as I set up chairs and tables and plug in sound equipment. Praying for the service, for the ministries, and for the relationships made that Sunday.  The peace and joy that came from work, that I didn’t necessarily enjoy, was incredible. I never want to forget to do everything as unto the Lord.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in prayer, financially, or by other means. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity in Bolivia.

If you would like to hear more about my time in Bolivia or would like to stay connected my email is  dailycello@gmail.com

Going where He sends me next,

Andrew

 

Joys

April is coming to a close which means I have just over 30 days left in Bolivia. Each day is filled with new joys. Joys like receiving good morning hugs from the little boys at Talita Cumi or overhearing a guy standing behind me on the bus listening to TobyMac.

We had a big birthday party for all the young kids at Talita Cumi early in April. This is a very special time; they each get one gift from one sponsor. And this gift is new… and it is theirs. Because they live in a house with 21, soon to be 28 other children it is rare that they have something that is theirs.

On that note, the children’s home is receiving seven new children. Please pray that their transition into the home would be good. Talita Cumi has become such an amazing family for me, each day I am filled with joy because of the relationships I have there. I am not looking forward to the day when I have to say goodbye. But until that day I am focused on making the most of everyday with them.

Bill and Heidi, the Tia that bakes me cookies, have been so kind to me. They wanted me to get out of Santa Cruz so they took me on an overnight trip to a neighboring town, called Samaipata. On the way there we stopped at some beautiful National Geographic worthy waterfalls.

It was so nice to get out of the city, because it is a higher elevation, the night was cool for the first time in forever. Nothing was frozen but… J In the morning before we left, Bill took me on a tour of El Forte de Samaipata. This is an ancient Inca, Chanes, and Guarani ruins. I wish there was a better word than amazing but I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Work at the church has picked up a bit. There are just lots of changes in volunteers and workers so lots of communicating and organizing. But I enjoy working alongside the people at the church very much. They are very generous and kind to me. I am so humbled by people’s generosity.

I had the opportunity to go and to host some music concerts this month. I can’t wait to be a part of an orchestra  again, teaching cello has been a good supplement though. One of the concerts was held at my church was performed by a youth choir/ orchestra. Church ended at noon, but the youth choir/ orchestra did not seem to be heading out, in fact the leaders of the group were getting comfortable, so comfortable that most of them fell asleep. I asked one of the kids when they going to be heading back to the city where they were from. They said our bus should be here by 4:30pm.

And to be blunt, our church is not a theme park. So me and twenty five energetic kids, stacked the chairs and played soccer in the sanctuary with a tiny baby’s ball from the nursery. When they got tired of that we started to talk and I mentioned that I could play cello. So one of the two cello players from the orchestra gave me her cello and asked me to teach her something. I played the hobbit theme song from Lord of the Rings and immediately I was surrounded by about twenty people. For the next hour one person after another tired to learn the cello and play the Hobbit melody. It was fun way to spend the time.

Youth group is going very well, the kids there make me laugh so much. I also got another opportunity to substitute teach Physical Education to grade 8 and 1 classes at the English school.

Thank you for your prayers, Skype calls, and support.

I am enjoying today more and more and looking forward to tomorrows joys.

He Knows

Ahhh… it is nice to be back in routine, and by routine I mean the routine of constant change. Life in Bolivia is feeling more and more familiar though. There have been quite a few teams from North America here in Santa Cruz. It has been fun to help translate and work with them. Having company is always nice too. I have a trip planned up into the mountains to a city called La Paz, in early May. It will be great to get out of the city and see a little more of Bolivia.

Work at the church is going great. I am spending more and more time with families from the church. One family has been especially generous to me, feeding me, taking me to different places outside the city, and giving me more food again.

On Easter Sunday, after an amazing potluck and service…

I got stung by a huge Black Bee on the hand. It hurt quite a bit but I didn’t think much about. Headaches and swelling increased throughout the night. I went to Talita Cumi in the morning unable to bend two of my fingers. One of the Tias recommended I go to the clinic to get an injection, I gratefully declined, knowing how much Bolivians love shots and injections, and then she insisted.

So off we went, a Tio (a male staff member; uncle) from the home took me to the clinic where we waited in line for about an hour. The whole time he was encouraging me to act like it was really painful, so we could get in faster, it did hurt but I didn’t want to act like a whimp. Finally I got in the room, which wasn’t really a room, it was split by curtain, that they sometimes closed. The hour before I had passed the time watching people get treated from the waiting area. The first nurse told me to lie on my stomach because the shot was going to be injected into my butt!  I thought, oh great, all the people waiting are going to see my butt, and… what happens if I faint when my pants are down.  Lying on my stomach running the comedy sketch through my head I saw blood spattered on the wall and a bin full of bloody needles on the ground, but was so grateful to have a clinic to go too.  Later on a second nurse came in and told me that they would inject the shot intravenously in my arm, what a relief, kind of. I didn’t faint and the swelling and headaches went away in just over a day.

Talita Cumi had their 16th year Anniversary in March as well, so we had a big party with lots of games and food!

Tia Heidi works at Talita Cumi, is from the States, and she is the best. She bakes me cookies, is always very encouraging, and is also a very talented artist. She had seen one of my so called “doodles” and asked me to paint a mural in the boy’s house. It was so fun, and it will hopefully be in the home for a long time. The quote reads – It doesn’t matter where you start, but where you finish.

Please be praying for Talita Cumi as there are some family situations that are less than ideal. Many of the kids are struggling with their unimaginable pasts, and in turn cause interesting home dynamics.

Talita Cumi has become such an amazing family to me. Filled with brothers and sisters, uncles, and aunts who are all so patient and encouraging towards me. I have the privilege of working alongside Tia Teresa, my Bolivian grandma, in the kitchen at Talita Cumi. She has not only taught me so much about Bolivian ideals, culture, and food, but also has been very encouraging to me. The biggest encouragement I get is when she says “el sabe” which means “He knows”. Not really a typical compliment. Not being understood for most of my time in Bolivia has been hard. But not being able to understand has been even harder. So when I hear Tia Teresa say “He knows” it shows that she trusts me to understand and to do whatever the task is.

I believe God enjoys the same compliment, because he knows. He knows me. My past, my future, my circumstance, he knows. I as I live out my different, non-routine life am learning the surrender of those words, and how my trust in God affects everything.

Psalm 139:1 “You have searched me and you know me”

Different

Hello, to start I would like to apologize for the late February update. Secondly I would like to apologize for the same intro as every other blog posts. I can’t believe I only have three months left in Bolivia. My time here has gone by so fast. I shouldn’t be surprised but I am still surprised at all the “different” here in Bolivia. I have been involved with so many different activities and interacted with so many different people it is truly a blessing.

The kids at Talita Cumi started school beginning of February. It is a much more relaxed atmosphere at Talita Cumi because the kids are not at home all the time and when they are home they have work to do. I now get to help the children with their homework quite a bit mostly just English and Math though. But I never realized the difficulties of going to school as an orphan. They have to get the Tias to sign their homework, the kids have trouble going to play because they can’t be driven and need supervision, and unfortunately lots of them get bullied. These kids have a very different schedule compared to other kids their age. I got to pick up the younger kids who went to afternoon school. It was exactly what I imagined, hundreds of uniformed kids running out of the gates, ice cream sellers tempting all the children as they ran past. Then seconds later seeing some parents being dragged by their child to buy ice cream before they walk home. After picking the kids up from school a Tia and I bused back to the home. But while we were walking back from where the bus stopped, with four children, two men made a highly inappropriate sexual comment to the Tia. I was shocked what they said and that they said it in front of me and the children. She said that happens almost every day to her. My heart broke for her and for the kids who grow up expecting to be mistreated is just normal.

I had the unique opportunity of subbing in for a teacher at the English school. I taught a grade seven Social Class for a week. This was all in English thankfully but it was really nice to get to know some of the kids in the class better. It made me consider becoming a teacher for a bit, but when they found out that I was 18, their respect level crashed and burned a little. More to come for what’s after Bolivia later on.

Each year the school takes the Jr. High to a camp. A couple weeks after teaching I was asked to cabin lead at this camp. I was with the grade eight boys for three days. It was an amazing time with lots of food, laughter, and hours awake. Camps in Canada schedule for sleep but camps in Bolivia sleep is more of a suggestion.

The theme was Superhero, and being the competitive cabin leader I am I rallied the troops and took home the gold! One of the chores I was asked to do was to ride in the back of a 30 foot tarpped luggage truck to and from the camp to make sure nothing broke, fell out, or stolen… very bumpy, but worth doing.

 

 

Upon returning from the camp, I quickly got dressed up and biked to meet a friend who was putting on a Broadway music concert in an art gallery near the center of town. She had asked me to accompany her on the cello for a song. It was truly an honor to play with her. It was a beautiful evening of music. So grateful to have generous talented friends here in Bolivia. Getting home with a cello on a crowded Bolivian bus was also a memorable experience.

More music happens Wednesdays now that choir has also started up again. It is a fun group of people, unfortunately I have missed a lot of practices due to camps.

One morning I was biking to Talita Cumi in the left lane. It had rained the night before causing 2 foot deep puddles on the right side of the road, so I couldn’t bike with traffic mom. A car drove past me and a man carelessly spat coca leaves on me, warm, saliva covered grossness. It was the start of a rather long day, I won’t get into it but it involved paying fines for being in Bolivia illegally, realizing my trip to Argentina was almost pointless, and finding out my debit card was lost.

Teaching cello and being a part of a men’s Bible study at the church are two things I look forward to in my week they’re very energizing times for me. The guys who are in the bible study are probably who I am closest with. One of the men at the bible study is now giving me Spanish lessons also! I really appreciate all the friendships I have made. Work at Trinity Church is great. I never thought I would enjoy the administration side of church as I do. Please pray for a new pastor for the church.

There is a holiday here called carnival. During this time alcohol is consumed like water and people are encouraged to prank people. Needless to say, it is typical for church groups and children’s home to leave the city and go to camp. I went to a camp with the Talita Cumi kids over the holiday. Upon arrival I realized I was there with the church the Talita Cumi kids attended as well. There were no beds just foam. But the kids were excited so so was I.

I met a lot of new people all of them spoke only Spanish, it was very difficult for me to understand all the different accents of kids and when they all talk at once it is almost impossible. Tio Nick was the other guy leader for the Talita Cumi kids, and he did lots of translating for me (Thanks Nick!). I really thought my Spanish was improving but having to lead the kids through four days of activities was way out my abilities. I found it hard not being able to have spiritual conversations with the boys. The camp was quite fun minus the lack of sleep and the extreme amount of heat and mosquitoes. On the last day of camp for the final game we did an obstacle course with our teams. This was great fun, one of the obstacles was to crawl through the insect infested mud, gross but fun. I may have ingested a little of the mud also; consequences… enough said.

My third and final camp in the month of February was the Sr. High camp for the English School. For a time reference this was the week after the Jr. High camp. I was in a cabin with the nine and ten boys and there were three leaders between all the boys.

 

I knew some of them from youth group, the others I didn’t know at all. Again sleep was not important to them. This was a very hard five days for me due to a couple of factors. It broke my heart to see so clearly some of the boys believing lies about themselves and not caring about it. But God is the God of my circumstances and I drew very close to him over the week. The camp’s speaker did a great job of teaching. The week was also a relaxing break from Spanish. One of the more exciting moments was getting my hair cut by some of the boys in my cabin on the last night. They didn’t do a terrible job, but they did do rather awful.

 

In addition to cutting hair many of these kids have never made a snow ball so while I was defrosting the freezers, that we brought from the school, at the end of camp. We made snow men and threw ice shavings at each other; it was nice to get four minutes of winter.

 

For me the juxtaposition of cultures, people, and ideas helped bring clarity. I have learned so much since I have been here and to be honest I couldn’t decide what to share and what not to. But seeing so much newness brings a child like perspective to the world. So for now have patient endurance to love God passionately and others selflessly.

 

Out the door

I apologize for the lack of communication… the last month has been a whirlwind of highs and lows, twists and turns, and just a good time in general.

On Christmas Eve everyone at the children’s home was running around cleaning, decorating, and cooking. I was mostly cooking the 60 pounds of meat we had. The kids were so excited. All of the Tias and other staff member’s families were coming at night for a fiesta. The kids prepared performances like skits or songs that were put together into a short program for all the guests. I got to Skype my family in the morning and introduce them to my new family at Talita Cumi. It was so fun, all the Tias and children were very kind to my family. They were especially fond of Jonathan… sorry Mom, Dad, Grammy, and Grandy.

I was also a tad stressed because some the Tias decided to tell me that there would be no rice at the party. No rice?! The news broke my heart as rice is the one thing I can eat a lot of and nobody seems to notice. Rice is also very Bolivian and I thought the fiesta guests would be disappointed as well. But it turned out they cooked the rice closer to the time of the fiesta to keep it hot and not sticky.

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When all the non-rice food was cooked, I biked home and headed off to church for our Christmas Eve service. This was also the first day I got to play cello! It was a beautiful service; I got to be a part of a special song “Mary Did You Know” by Pentatonix with a much, much better vocalist than me… so fun. A beautiful service, that was announced to be one hour long, starting promptly at 7pm, but in traditional Bolivian style there were about twenty people who came late, as in arriving for the last fifteen minutes.

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We cleaned up the church and rushed to Talita Cumi to begin the fiesta celebrations. I was relieved to see three large pans of rice on the table. After the program and the meal, fireworks began to fly, sizzle, and pop everywhere. The boys went crazy throwing fireworks at each other under vehicles. They put sparklers in dry piles of grass to try and start fires… so fun. But being full of food and out of energy they slowly drifted off to bed.

Christmas morning we all woke up. And a local mission team brought breakfast then played some games with everyone dressed up as clowns. It was a little strange but apparently very cultural.

 

After the games they presented each child with a gift, bikes, abnormally large dolls, and mp3s. For the rest of the day we just played with toys, listened to music, and ate more food.

The third step, the eating more food part, is the one I should have skipped because I woke up boxing Day morning with more pressure in my gut than a fire hydrant.

I had food poisoning.

Fortunately I was prepared, I had brought anti-coming-out-both-ends medicine with me from Canada, unfortunately I was house sitting for a family and didn’t bring my medicine to that house.  It was the worst I have ever felt in years. All Boxing day I was… well…I won’t get into it. But I did not have a lot of energy for the next couple days. The Penner’s were very kind in caring for me during this time, with soups, meds, and ginger ale.

I spent New Year’s Eve fast asleep in recovery mode.

On New Year’s Day, I was invited to go to the pool with Talita Cumi. Two of the children’s homes in Santa Cruz use a local pool because they are closed to the public on New Year’s day. It was lots of fun swimming, laughing and choking because I was swimming and laughing. This is an annual tradition for the kids.

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The next major event was with Talita Cumi also. It was just another day, I did what I do, and around three o’clock a Tia asked if I wanted to go hand out gifts with the kids. I said sure. So we loaded up in the mini-bus with food and gifts and started to drive. I had no idea what was really happening. About an hour out of the city we came upon this little village.  We asked some of the locals where a poorer part of town was drove there and started to walk up and down the streets saying “All children met us at the park in 15 minutes for games!” When we finished our inviting, there were about thirty kids of all ages with their parents surrounding the mini-bus.  A Tia lead some camp style games then talked about Jesus. We handed out candy and gifts to the swarm of little hands. It was the most “white”, if you will, I have felt in Bolivia so far. But was an amazing experience, sharing in the joy with the kids and their families. I apologize for the bad pictures and lack there of, I really felt like a tourist.

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Speaking of tourist, I needed to go get my passport re-stamped in Santa Cruz. A few other people were in the same situation as I was so we went down to the government office, only to find out we couldn’t do it there. We had to leave the country in order to get a new stamp, the rule changed in December, which is par for the Bolivian course. Eventually I headed out to the border with the others. Traveling south to Argentina through the jungle, fields, and foothills was beautiful. Seven hours in a car with air conditioning was such a blessing. When we arrived in the border town we had slight difficulty finding the international border crossing.  Because… the only road to the border was down this road…

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It took about two hours to get the fines canceled on my card then get it re-stamped to go back into Bolivia. Then I went to the bus station and found the cheapest bus I could…which turned out to be the mothers with small, crying children bus as well. The seven hour drive to the border took close to eleven on the way back because the police at every stop would come on and check for something… not sure what, I just pretended I was asleep so I didn’t have to show them my bag. I arrived in Santa Cruz around 6 AM. I walked home, showered, crashed hard for just over an hour, and then went to go do my duties at Church. Fast trip to Argentina.

But while wide awake on the bus I was looking out the window at the foothills of the Andes. They were giants dressed in sequential shades of night blue. Familiar and unfamiliar stars showed their faces against the night sky. Also clouds, appeared frozen like ice sculptures, were almost a source of light themselves. It was peaceful and beautiful this sleeping-not sleeping ride home.12583967_1738763596356091_2070377640_n

One of the excitements of Bolivia is the spontaneity of life. I went to a church meeting on a Friday morning expecting to just talk about bulletins and power point. I left with the opportunity to share/ preach the next Sunday at Trinity Church. This was a stretching experience but well worth doing. It’s easy for me to see how God has prepared me for the challenges and opportunities I have had here in Bolivia.

After speaking in church, Nick and I went on a hike in the rain forest. It had just rained a ton, but we still went. We packed food to cook at the top of a hill. We endured extremely hot heat (like 40 degrees Celsius), slippery clay, thorns, vines, and millions of ants but we got up there. Starting a fire you would think would be fairly easy, but it was not. I would light the match, blow on the wood and sweat dripping from my face would pour onto the rain soaked wood. Being the genius that I am… not… I decided to spray sunscreen on the fire and it worked okay until I went to blow on it again. The combination of smoke, hot and humid weather and sunscreen fumes almost caused me to black out. I was a little dizzy for sure. Smoke/fume inhalation and ant bitten, swollen hands and ankles aside, it was a grand adventure.

New things in my schedule are this, I facilitate a men’s Bible study on Fridays at the church. This is mostly in English but there is still quite a bit of Spanish used. Also I teach cello lessons twice weekly in Spanish, which makes it a healthy challenge for me. Both of these things I enjoy very much.

The lessons I have learned this past month can be summed up, in Jonathan Ardell style.“It’s a dangerous business, [Andrew], going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R Tolkien

Please pray for Talita Cumi as some of the older teens are leaving the home and beginning life outside the home. Pray for Trinity International Church as we seek a new pastor. And pray that I would l learn how to rest and trust in God’s promises more and more each day.

Thank you all for your Skype calls, Facebook messages, love, support, and prayers. I am grateful for you all.

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Paper Highway

I have been in Bolivia for a month and a half already! Thank you all your prayers, Skype calls, and Facebook messages. They are so encouraging and make a huge difference. I have learned so much already in this exciting, new, and challenging place.

One of the biggest lifestyle changes I have had since my last blog is that I have a bicycle. Bikes are great in the flat city of Santa Cruz because they save money and time on buses, but also are a source of entertainment and fun for the boys at Talita Cumi.

Talita Cumi Children’s Home is an amazing part of my week for many reasons. I take Spanish lessons twice a week but I learn the most by simply talking with the kids (and youth as some of them are only a year younger than me), reading Spanish books to kids, and helping the Tias.  Tias are the “aunties” who take care of the children (“uncles” are called Tios). They all are so patient with me as I learn the culture and the language. Some of the kids find it funny when they teach me a wrong word, but it is always easy to tell if they are telling the truth. Electronic Dance Music is the home’s favorite music genre, so often dance parties will break out while we are working or playing. Sometimes we get a little too distracted and then have to have a refocus/ calm down meeting. I have been spending most mornings in the kitchen, this time is beneficial to share life and funny stories with some of the children and Tias. Tio Nick (an intern with MCC) and I take the kids to the local park where we have bike races, play soccer, and climb trees. The boys love climbing trees… mostly because Nick and I are the only people that allow them to climb to extreme heights.

Trinity International Church, the church where I intern at, is also amazing. Apart from the regular activities such as making the PowerPoint, bulletins, and organizing people to serve on Sundays, there are many side jobs which are very entertaining and culturally rich. Such as, when I ran a table at the community garage sale (where people camp out the night before so they can get all the best deals), hosting music concerts, or finding a pedal for a piano. I have met some incredibly kind people, who have been so generous with me. I certainly feel a part of and loved by the church family.

You may have thought it was a little random that I mentioned I had to get a piano pedal for the church keyboard. Which it totally was, but on my way to the Yamaha store… well… I was biking around town to some local markets looking for a used pedal. There were none to be found. So I was on my way to the Yamaha store with very little understanding of where the store actually was. Biking aimlessly around Santa Cruz was fun to say the least. With Josh Garrels pumping through my head phones I weaved in and out of the slower moving cars, sometimes riding in the dry cement drainage ditches, and occasionally taking short cuts through markets. I was feeling, probably slightly, over-confident in my biking and navigating abilities.  I entered a round-a-bout and moved to the inside lane because I needed to go around the whole circle. At this point, I should mention that round-a-bouts here have lights to stop traffic so others can enter. I had perfectly timed my entry into the round-a-bout with the lights so I didn’t have to slow down or speed up. But suddenly a van, ran a red light and pulled in front of me! I tried to brake, but didn’t have enough time. So travelling approximately 20km/h, I pancaked into the rear passenger door of this van, leaving a tire mark and a fist size dent in the car. Ouch. Startled at what just happened, I managed to quickly drag my bike into the middle of the round-a-bout. The driver asked if I was okay, then drove off. The bike and I were totally fine apart from a couple bruises on both of us. Every day I laugh out loud about it, and thank God for his protection.

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The local English speaking school has a youth group that I volunteer at each week. This is probably the highlight of my week. There are some amazing students who are so funny… sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. But we also have great conversations about life. Many of the youth are missionary kids, so they have traveled a lot and their sphere of friends and influences is often changing. I realized again the incredible privilege I have to be a part of their journey to knowing Christ more.

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I am endeavoring to rejoice always in all things, because I am constantly being rescued by God’s unfailing love and grace and mercy. God has been disciplining me in simplicity. He reminds me how fleeting life is, and that my actions, my words, and my life are merely ink marks on a paper trail to the King.

During the Christmas season we anticipate the coming of Christ. And looking at the incredibly intricate story of how God became flesh leaves me in awe. But now, we have to do more than just remember the person of Christmas, because Jesus is coming again. And we get to be the Abrams, Saris, Davids, Isaiahs, Johns, Zechariahs, to mention a few of this new story. The king has come, and is coming again.  Live full because of forgiveness, live missional because of mercy , and live recklessly because of His blessed assurance.

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Rebuilding

It has been just over a week since I arrived here in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. And wow, what an incredible week! It’s been a full time job trying to figure out culture, language, names, and occupations. Figuring out where I am and where I need to go next and how to best get there are part of the daily adventure.

I am now moved into my new building, the EFCCM guest house, were I be staying for the rest of my time in Bolivia.There is a couple as well as a local family that live here too, so the common areas are shared. The “base” or the house where I am staying, is relatively close to the Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center and the church. There are also a couple of markets nearby where I can pick up groceries (and some sweet pants). The best way to “Get Slow To” anywhere is by bus. There are no bus stops so I join the masses and just flag down the bus wherever I am and get off the bus wherever I like. Lots of starts and stops and sweaty people. It’s nice being tall.

The EFCCM Guest House

12188729_1715049122060872_128826565_nThere is an amazing community of smart, joy-filled believers here with whom I have the privilege of working. The Penners (my supervisors) http://pennerfamilybolivia.weebly.com/ have been so welcoming, driving from place to place, getting me set up, feeding me, and the list goes on. Also the Penners immersed me in the cultural art of eating out. Eating out here is relatively safe and inexpensive and best of all, the food is delicious. From Peruvian squid to alligator cooked in lemon acid to salteñas to maracuya. Take out food is available at local tiendas (like a mini food store that a local family operates out of their garage) almost every eight houses.

12208109_1715309532034831_1291736291_nA Fruit called Maracuya
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Top: Shawarma      BL: Frosted Flakes like cereal       BR: salteña

12205022_1715317688700682_1482135100_nFrothy Fresh Lemonade

Here is a brief summary of a typical week: Sunday I will be at the church helping with the worship team, PowerPoint, as well as administrative responsibilities.  Monday morning I work at the Children’s Home. Monday night I’ll be helping out with the local youth group. Tuesday I have Spanish lessons. Wednesday I’m at the orphanage in the morning then have choir at night. Thursday almost all day I will be at the Children’s Home helping with administrative work, food prep in the kitchen and the kids with homework. There is also opportunity on Thursday to play soccer with the kids at the Children’s Home. Friday I will be working on the final preparations for Sunday. Saturday I have another Spanish lesson and some down time.

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Rubble on the road near my house

Outside some of the homes there are big piles of bricks and dirt. This often indicates that the house nearby is in the process of renovations. In the lower lying regions most renovation are due to water damage from flooding. In the future these piles of rubble will be used to patch the local roads. An effective system, unless you are trying to drive.

CS Lewis said, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

My heart is like a house. When I allow God to chisel away the old habits, motives, lies masking themselves as truths, He renovates my life. My hurt, pain, and sin is now exposed, but my Redeemer not only redeems me but he also redeems my past. My prayer is…
Dear Living Water,

Because sorry is not enough, I will sacrifice myself. When words don’t prove my love, may my heart and actions suffice. When the result of my day is dirt, I am asking for a flood to move through me. Wreck me. Renovate my heart. Reside in me. So that I may tell of your strength, share your goodness, and walk in love.

Amen

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