Can you believe we are at the 6-month mark ( not that we are counting!) of living in Bolivia?
Our last post was about hope and we continue in that sentiment both in our communication, our lives and our ministry. Thank you, as always for your prayers, we cherish them as they encourage and strengthen not only our lives, but the lives of our church, our mission, and the wider community. Big news ( well, not really), our shipped belongings, about 10 small boxes finally arrived about 3 weeks ago. I now have my kettle, mixer and slow cooker and the girls have some Lego. Life is that much sweeter as I have been baking again! But where are my kitchen scales? Converting recipes from cups to grams is a right pain…Surely there must be an app out there in ‘App’land?
Family: The girls have just completed their first full quarter, the third quarter of the school year, which means only one left to go, they break up at the end of May. They both did super well in their classes, have started to forge some lovely friendships and really enjoy their teachers. We could not be happier or more proud of them; it has been a challenge and they have had their struggles here and there, as have we, but all is well! We find doing homework in the air-conditioned library at school a blessing, especially in this heat and humidity! The days have been long with the hour commute either side, however, we have used the time well, reading, chatting, people watching. We discovered the 72 line has a few special buses with air conditioning! Serious rejoicing happens when we spot one driving towards us. We are truly grateful for these little ‘treats.’
Hard to believe our Liliana will be 10 next month?! She is a wonderful daughter, a sensitive, deep thinking, and caring soul. We are so incredibly blessed by her. Getting back into the routine of school was a bit of a shock, to begin with, but she has settled in really well. She has made it onto the merit roll this quarter which is a fantastic start and testament to her hard work and determination to do her very best. Her lovely teacher says she is very encouraging towards her classmates, motivating them to work hard and participate in class discussions, making her teachers job that more enjoyable. To be able to work hard and talk, now that is a gift! Liliana has always been the more serious sister, but she has a very quick-witted (and cheeky) side to her and a laugh which is contagious… She still ( since last year) wants to be a policewoman, with art and music as pocket money earning hobbies! I think she’d make an amazing high court judge, but honestly, anything she sets her mind to, she will excel at. She loves playing chess with Daddy, especially at the large tables in the Plaza Principal in the city centre. She has started taking Clarinet lessons again, which she loves. She continues to read at every opportunity while walking, eating, and sleeping! She finished the 3rd quarter of the year by participating in the school’s theatre production of Narnia, as a Dryad, a spirit of the Tree turned into a statue by the wicked White Witch. Liliana would love to hear from you, her e-mail address is email@example.com
Anayah lives life in the moment. She is an amazing daughter, independent, kind and caring, yet absolutely crackers! She brings laughter into our lives with her made up language called bloo-bloo – forget Spanish and Guarani! Forever recycling AND stashing what we consider rubbish, under her bed at every opportunity; everything has a purpose, right? Anayah has also settled into school really well; making friends, embracing learning the ‘American way.’ She has a lovely, gentle teacher, a super fit for her. She has more homework than she has ever had in her 7-year-old life, but hey ho, she is dealing with it ever so well…most of the time. She has adapted to the heat and humidity better than we thought, she is like a proper Bolivian- she seeks shade at every turn! She has also mastered ‘Spanglish.’ She is not taking any music lessons just yet but manages to play her recorder for her stuffed animal audience on the weekends. She love has loved being reunited with her Lego and a few other bits and bobs that arrived in our shipped belongings 3 weeks ago. She loves her wheelies, little wheels that you can attach to any shoe and off you go. She can even wear them for recess! Their school here is a bit more relaxed than they are used to. Mrs. Allen would not be impressed. Anayah would love to hear from you, her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew is enjoying his time here in Bolivia. He is finding the humour in everyday life that gets (very) lost in translation. He is busy fine tuning his Microfinance plan. He enjoys taking trufis and micros as it gives him a sense of connection to the locals. He just spent a week in Cochabamba at the language school, he is working very hard at his Spanish! Here is a little blurb from him so you can get a flavour of his experience:
One of the things that we have not purchased yet and will probably not for a while is a car- they are so hugely expensive here. But the good thing is that we take the local buses, called Micros, and the other public transport which are Trufis (Taxi Ruta Fija, fixed route taxi). These give us the ability to really observe Bolivian life. Trufis are a people type carrier or just a normal car that plies a regular route around the city. You just hail it and if there is space hop in. Thus far we have shared rides with live chickens tied up in bags, tradesmen with large tools, (even a door) en route to work, women with all kinds of food en route to market, various weird and wonderful dogs and a multitude of race and religions. The great thing is for adults it costs around 40p a ride and for kids 20p, irrespective of how far you are going. We do get inquisitive looks as the El Gringo family piles in, jabbering away in Spanglish.
Driving in Bolivia: Traffic lights are a different thing altogether in Bolivia, they are just about recognised as a form of command, but the light changing to red does seem to be a universal signal to accelerate! Anyway, traffic stopped at lights is seen by the enterprising Bolivians as fair game for hawking all kinds of goods to a captive market. Selfie sticks are popular, food, snacks, newspapers, drinks, phone chargers, clothes and hats, sunglasses and a variety of nick nacks, There are also various acrobatic displays, such as juggling whilst spinning a bicycle wheel on your head. All viewed from the comfort of your seat.
However, we have noticed a darker side to this; there are a lot of young children on the very busy main roads, either selling items or simply begging for money. As we have delved deeper to understand why, we have been told it is organised; families or gangs send the kids out on the street to get money, however, if they don’t deliver, this is grounds for some serious consequences. On my way to drop the girls off at school the other day, I observed something that broke my heart, a young boy of maybe 10, no older, squatting in the door of shop sniffing glue. Sniffing glue here is a major epidemic, it is addictive, there is no control on sale and it is cheap and plentiful. There were two thoughts that immediately sprang to mind. Firstly what has caused that young boy to be in that state? Secondly, how can he now be helped? I was reminded of Jeremiah chapter 8 where Jeremiah is talking about what breaks God’s heart. I am sure that God’s heart is broken by seeing that young boy in that predicament. When our heart is broken by the things that break His, he prompts us to act. As to how that young boy got into that state, the answer lies possibly in the traffic light scenario. Afraid to go home, to be beaten or abused if he has not earned enough money, so starts a life living of addiction and rough living the street.
On a slightly less serious note: There are loads of roundabouts here, so a bit of a similarity to the UK. Here rules exist, but are not followed. Driving appears to be a free for all, think Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but not quite as scary as what I have observed in Cairo some years back! Health and safety rules are practically nonexistent, so forget about seatbelts…I’d love to hear from you: email@example.com
I feel like since I have written this blog, I have said enough so I will keep it short! I am enjoying the culture and like Andrew, the public transport. Oddly, or not, I find it is my time to pray, contemplate things on a different level, and observe people. I don’t know if you read much about the recent St Petersburg bombing, but I was struck by the woman that died shielding her daughter, who lived. It really moved me-isn’t it what most of us naturally want to do, provide for and protect those whom we love? This prompted me to reflect on some of the families I have gotten to know here and how the provision is not always that straightforward for many reasons. I see faces ridden with worry, guilt, disappointment and pride as people see themselves a failure in their own eyes and the eyes of others. It is sad as some can’t see a way out, their identity is rooted in provision. It is my hope that we are able to bless others greatly as we have been blessed, that through prayerful support and listening hearts, we can share the hope that we have in Jesus who loves us dearly and ultimately is our provider.
I read to the girls classes at their school. I really enjoy it and find myself quite animated in doing so. Last week I read Shel Silverstein’s, The Meewhoo with an Exactlywatt , to 5th grade ( Lil’s class) and I think I may have gotten a bit carried away as when I looked up, the whole class was silent and staring at me as if I was a lunatic. Liliana ensures me that they look forward to my reading, or perhaps it’s me making a fool of myself! I am reading the BFG to Anayah’s class, equally as fun, but as they are that much younger they join in my silliness, thankfully!
Church ‘campamento’ (camping) took place over the long 4 day Carnaval weekend at the end of February in a nearby area called Porongo. Many people escape the city fiesta to camp or travel as the festivities can turn rather disorderly and violent with the drink drive rate skyrocketing! The theme of our camp was Sal de la Barca, get out of the boat! Based on Matthew 14 26:33. We had great fun together reflecting and discussing how we as a Church and individuals can listen to the Lord’s call on each of our lives, ‘Come’ when he calls us and trust in Him as we obey. We also focused on our identity as children of God. In our free time, we took walks, played loads of volleyball and swam in the pool. We were divided into groups and on the last evening, all groups had to put on a skit. Ours was the story of David and Beersheba, which was excellently directed and acted, so, yes, WE WON! We, as a family, represented by Andrew, planted an acerola tree in the land adjacent to the camp which was recently gifted to the church. Many other families planted fruit trees as well. We are also growing yucca (a staple food here) in this plot of land which was planted just as we arrived in Bolivia. The idea is that the yield from the crops will one day be a revenue stream to help aid the Church’s future ministerial projects. What a great innovative initiative! Look forward to seeing the ‘fruits’ of our labour. It was such a wonderful weekend as we spent time together with our new church family, getting to know each other a bit better. We borrowed a tent from some English friends living here, which was rather large. It was called the ‘Peart Palacio’ by the rest of the camp.
The Bishops’ visit: The Bolivian Anglican Diocese is linked with the Birmingham Diocese in the UK, so for the first time, Bishop David came and brought a team here to see first hand what the Lord is doing among his people in Bolivia. We loved being part of the welcome and enjoyed fellowship in our church in Santa Cruz and community of Satelite Norte with Bishop David, Archdeacon Simon, Bishop Maurice (Former Bishop of the Southern Cone of South America) and Steve, Comms Director. It was wonderful to meet them all, share our work and vision with them. If you are interested in watching the video they made of their Bolivian visit, please check this out http://www.cofebirmingham.com/news/2017/04/05/bishops-comment-bolivia/.
I am also quite excited to have Gillian, Maurice’s wife, as my mission mentor with CMS. Gill has extensive experience in this part of the world and she and Maurice were SAMS mission partners from 1967 – 78 and 1990 – 2002, with Maurice becoming the presiding bishop of the Southern Cone. Gill organises the Latin American prayer calendar and is on the Latin America Forum and she and Maurice are based back in the UK now.
Campaña Medico: Our mission in Satelite partnered with the Santa Cruz Lions Club to offer medical advice, treatment, and medicine to the community of Satelite Norte. We had about 80 people visit. This may be the one and only time in the year that some of the people have access to a doctor. We did not have enough space to house the dentist chair and equipment, so we used the house next door! We handed out information to all who came inviting them to our upcoming Alpha course and current ministries for the ladies and children. We are hoping to offer another medical campaign later this year.
Dentist visit: We were fortunate to have 2 student dentists in training at our disposal to visit our Sunday Children’s ministry to give the children a dental check up. If required, they were offered further treatment at their university, gratis ( free)
Alpha Course: We started this course on the 1st April in place of our weekly Saturday evening Bible study. We planned for 30 adults, hoping we would see 20 and 30 came with 8 children! Slightly different to other Alpha courses we have been involved in, parents tend to bring their children as they don’t have a spouse/carer to look after them at home. We have just completed week 4 with 34 adults and 12 children and 6 helpers. We are now catering for 50 + people! I have been cooking all meals at home, and actually if planned well, it is not an arduous task. I am calling it Lisa’s Ministry of Food, sorry don’t tell Jamie. Much to our amazement, people show up early to Alpha, one lady comes 30 minutes early! There is ‘Gringo’ time and ‘Bolivian’ time, this even surpassed Gringo time expectations. If you are curious, gringo is not derogatory to us!
Ladies jewelry making: The jewelry making has come to a natural end as we have run very low on supplies. We are just about to move into sewing! This has been quite a few months in the waiting as our sewing machines have only just arrived about 3 weeks ago. Our first task is to learn and teach how to use the machines, then teach the ladies how to sew school uniforms. This will not only benefit the local children and save them money, it will also equip women with a newly acquired skill, allowing them to the potential to sell their goods at the local markets, providing much-needed and welcomed income.
Sunday children’s ministry at Satélite Norte: we have had loads of fun in fellowship with these beautiful children. Every Sunday afternoon, after we attend our own church in the morning in the city, we gather with the children in Satélite Norte to worship and learn about our amazing Lord together. Recently we have focused on: prayer, creating our own prayerful hands craft and writing prayers; God’s big love and how we feature at the centre of it with a giant love heart (photos above) and writing letters of thanks to Jesus for his sacrifice on the cross for us. On any given Sunday we can have between 25-35 kids.
There are a great many needs in the community of Satélite Norte and the mission is at the heart of it all. Pastor Belisario ( we call him Bely), and his wife Claire, mission leaders, have been building Christ centred relationships here for over a year. We are seeing the fruits of this labour of love and have had the awesome privilege to join in! In December, a local man was arrested unjustly, without evidence, only on an accusation of theft and placed ‘on remand’ awaiting a trial. Andrew and Bely visited him several times in prison, collected food parcels for him and his family; we all joined in prayer together with our main church in the City. The conditions of the place were absolutely awful! We have such respect for people involved in prison ministry. Thankfully one of the part-time pastors in our church is a lawyer and was also able to visit and support him both pastorally and professionally. Sadly, here, you are guilty until proven innocent. This poor man was thrown in jail and his wife and 2 teenage daughters left to fend for themselves. Praise God, last week, after 4 1/2 months he was freed from jail as there was no evidence to support his staying there! He never saw a trial. Now he begins the process to find work and get back on his feet. To many of us, 4 months out of work might not seem that long, but to a person who lives from paycheck to paycheck and is the only breadwinner, it is really, really tough. Please join us as we continue to support this family through prayer and fellowship. Realistically he is out on something similar to bail and to be honest, we are not quite sure as to the next steps here as it continues to be a delicate situation, Both he, his wife and girls come to the Alpha course and the girls help at the children’s ministry on Sundays. Also pray for the justice system here- there are many men in this very same prison awaiting trial dates for much longer than our brother in Christ, that don’t seem to appear. We know of another person recently imprisoned, unjustly, however, as we are on very much on the periphery of this situation, we only feel right in asking for prayer that the darkness would be exposed and justice served. It is a highly sensitive and deeply complex case that has been going on for some years which has affected the lives of many of our friends.
We are also supporting a family that has run into deep financial problems and did not know where to turn, so they came to the mission seeking advice, prayer, and support. This is a big deal as pride can often be a huge stumbling block in this and many cultures. These situations can seem quite bleak and dark, whether self-inflicted or not; our hope as a mission and church is to be that Christ light that penetrates the darkness, leading people through it in a respectful, sensitive manner that gives hope and provides a new way forward to a fresh start. We are just so encouraged as we see glimpses of Heaven on earth as we focus on building loving, trusting relationships within this community we serve. Andrew is passionate about Microfinance; helping people find a way up, and out of debt and poverty, to empower them. He has been in close contact with 5 Talents ( Microfinance Charity in US and UK) and has found their business model inspiring, helpful and applicable to not only this couple but others who need assistance in getting their business off the ground but don’t quite have the capital or confidence to do so. Andrew has been instrumental in walking beside and guiding this particular couple, with Bely and Claire. Together they have worked out a financial plan to clear their debt and begin to move forward in planning the path to more long-term, sustainable income.
On the move…we were supposed to move at the end of this month, in fact, I started this blog last week and wrote that we were moving this weekend. We just found out this Saturday that there is a delay in the gas inspection in the house and until that happens, the work can’t be completed. We are fortunate to learn that our current apartment has not been rented so we will stay here until the end of May. It is frustrating as we had the move all planned, but we understand these things happen and we need to handle it with grace. The leading up to the new house has been amazing- let’s just say the house found us. It is a lovely house closer to school, yet still connected to the City and the work we are involved in. Getting to Satélite Norte will be slightly more of a trek, but we can handle it. We will have a guest room or 2 so we look forward to welcoming visitors soon ( hint hint). We are grateful to the landlord in the US as she called the Church looking for missionaries to rent her house here. She has been amazingly flexible, reducing the rent by 25%, and agreeing to some changes in the house. We have been blown away by her generosity. She even said we could have a pet !? Everyone wants a dog. Andrew wants a Rotweiller.
We had a wonderful Easter week, Semana Santa, as it is generally called in most Latin American countries. Girls had the week off so we took the time to visit the local zoo, see a movie in the cinema, our first one since our move here. The girls took part in the Resurrection Drama on Easter Sunday and I made hot cross buns for breakfast that took place after the 7am service. Andrew took part by making ‘huevos revueltos’, scrambled eggs, for the church. It was an amazing day.
Many have asked how they can send us letters, etc. Unfortunately, the postal system here is not reliable, at all. There are only 2 post offices in all of Santa Cruz, a city of over 2 million. Need I say more? We have had the use of a PO Box of some friends, however, we hope in the next few months to get our own- we will keep you ‘posted.’
- Wisdom, compassion and listening hearts towards the families/individuals we support as noted above.
- Justice-specifically cases as mentioned above
- Guidance and wisdom for Andrew’s Microfinance plan
- That the Church in Santa Cruz, the Mission in Satélite Norte and all of Bolivia would continue to be a place of hope, grace, and love in the community it serves
Prayers of thanks:
- Home provision
- Alpha attendance, openness, and commitment of those attending
- Girls’ school and friendships
- Community confidence in our mission in Satélite Norte
Until next time…
Much love to you all!
Lisa, Andrew, Liliana and Anayah