Greetings in 2020-we hope your Christmas and New year celebrations were joyous!
Thank you SO much for all your messages of encouragement and prayers, specifically over the last few months of 2019. Bolivia seems to be on the long and winding road to recovery with a constitutionally installed interim President, and both political parties agreeing to a brand new election to take place on Sunday 3rd May, 2020. Please continue to pray that this ‘interim’ period continues to be peaceful and productive for Bolivia as she heals, fights for democracy, and seeks peace and justice. What you have heard in the international news about a coup isn’t at all what has taken place, so I plead with you, don’t believe it! The wounds of the past in this beautiful country go deep, therefore much ugliness, corruption and injustice is being brought to light- a good, yet hurtful thing. However, we look forward with great hope and faith towards restoration and reconciliation in this great land!
I wrote this post just before the Presidential elections in October, it then fell off my radar completely until a friend noticed an additional name ( Daniela) to the family sign off in my last blog post and wondered if she’d missed something…she had not!
In our Bolivian church everyone seems to be biologically related and when I say that, it’s not an exaggeration. It’s wonderful, and if I am honest, I am slightly jealous. For the majority of my ( Lisa) adult life, I have lived very far away from my biological family. I left ‘home’ at age 18 for university, only returning to visit. Then I moved states, countries and continents, in fact, today 10th January marks 20 years of living outside of my beloved home country. It has been difficult and yes, at the cost of missed births, baptisms, birthdays, weddings, graduations, being with mom and dad in their final years and the everyday-being far from one’s family can be lonesome and unfamiliar. In my immediate family, I have 8 siblings, 24 nieces/ nephews, 33 great nieces/ nephews(1 on the way!), and 2 great- great nephews all living in the US. On Andrew’s side we have Mum (my MIL), girls’ Grandma of 88 years ( 89 this month), 4 siblings, 12 nieces and nephews from a 1 yr old to a recently graduated from University! – there is a lot to miss with family between us. It’s been over 4 years since I have seen my US family. We are grateful though, as it’s been a dream to travel, live, work and serve in distant lands, embracing and learning new cultures and languages, stretching ourselves and pushing our boundaries, but it doesn’t mean we don’t struggle as we miss our biological families.
Family is not only biological, as you know…
Family and community are an essential part of our lives and I believe that this is true not only for us, but for all humanity. I believe God meant for us to interact with one another in family form, as a community- a group of friends, a church, an adoptive family, a foster family, or a traditional familial setting. The world today tries to tell us we can do all things on our own, in our own strength, for ourselves, by ourselves. Community in all it’s goodness and fullness loves and serves each other, carrying each others burdens, living through the highs and the lows, encouraging one another, meeting together, sharing hospitality and friendship. God, as our Abba (Papa) Father, makes it known that family/community in it’s many forms is central to His heart for us, through his own son, Jesus.
15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! Romans 8: 15-17, The Message
While visiting our UK sending church last summer, St Johns Hartley Wintney, we sang an absolutely beautiful hymn in the early morning service that has stayed with me since. Andrew wove it into his talk that day and I had scribbled it in my journal just after we sang it. It affirms so much about the body of the Church- the family we are in Christ, the global church. As we strive to be family, we share in each others suffering, weeping, rejoicing, laughing and celebrating as we faithfully walk alongside each other and love one another on this journey. On this very day when we met as a church in both services, we did weep and pray together, as we were mutually saddened by the sudden death of our friend and sister Kayla. Click here for the lyrics. Hymn #635 Brother, Sister let me serve you.
Speaking of family, ours has changed a bit…
Meet Daniela, she has grown up in an orphanage here in Santa Cruz, arriving at age 10, the same age as our daughter Anayah is now. Last June she turned 19, reaching the maximum age to remain in the home. She has a biological family, a family of 30+ at the orphanage and now she has us. For obvious reasons, I will not be sharing the circumstances in this post of why she is not with her biological family, that is her personal story, however, I will share how our family fits into her story , and she into ours.
We met Daniela Christmas 2017. As a result of volunteering in her ‘home’ about 4 months in, I was asked to help translate for an internal training. My polite no thank you my Spanish is not good enough for translating was not accepted- I know! When the training came to a close, the weekly meeting started. During that meeting I committed to, admittedly without asking Andrew, welcome Daniela for Christmas- it’s tradition for the kids in the home celebrate Christmas with families every year, giving them an opportunity to share in family life outside the home and giving staff a well deserved day off to spend time with their own families. That Christmas was very special as we also had our niece Charlotte visiting from England-our first family visitor. Daniela joined us the following Christmas as well as other planned occasions throughout the year; the girls get on very well, they share a love of reading and laughing, Daniela’s infectious smile and sweet, gentle manner fit in well with our girls.
Last year, suggested by Andrew, we met with the director of the home in which Daniela was living to ask one simple question, knowing that she was reaching the maximum age limit for living there… What’s next for Daniela? That question and subsequent answer brought her to where she is now, living with us for a transitional year.
So, what is next for Daniela? She’s been with us for almost 5 months now; it’s been a time of adjustment, of deep challenge and joy for all. The girls get on well and spend most of their time together laughing! Daniela has started volunteering at the orphanage for children with disabilities located next door to our home, 3 mornings a week. Her dream is to work with children, and serving next door has opened the door to new possibilities – she really loves it. Andrew and I are investing in her, guiding her into her own little bread baking business. She goes to night school Mon-Fri and will do so for another 2 years after which she will receive her Bolivian baccalaureate.
In her leaving party from the orphanage, she spoke about how being a mother is so much more than giving birth to a child. She told of how she had been praying for a family for 10 years and how she feels we are an answer to her prayer. Gulp.
We would love for you to join us as we pray and seek to provide Daniela with a safe and secure space to grow in confidence, that as we invest in her life, we will both teach and be taught by her. That we will encourage and be encouraged by her, that we will model biblical love, grace, patience, commitment and integrity for her. That we will be mutually blessed as we are family for and with her, caring for one another as we live in faithful anticipation of what good things God has planned for his precious family.
This is a new chapter in the Lord’s story for Daniela’s life and our lives; what a privilege that our stories are woven together.
Thank you for loving us and praying for us. Do let us know how we might pray for you.
With much love and blessing in 2020,
Andrew, Lisa, Liliana, Anayah & Daniela