Who am I?

My photo
Monrovia, Liberia
I live in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa with my wife and youngest son. We are recently arrived in Liberia where we are serving as missionaries with Evangelical Church Missions working under the Liberia Evangelical Mission. For most of the last thirty years we have served under ECM in Bolivia, South America. We are the happy parents of four children and the proud grandparents of two grandchildren.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Post Christmas Musings

Now that Christmas has come and gone and we are awaiting the New Year I thought I would just include a number of thoughts for your enjoyment:

Holiday songs you have probably never sung:

I'm Glad I Had A Hot Christmas (Tune: I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas)

I'm glad I had a hot Christmas
Without the cold and dreary snow
Where children are coughing
And not ever stopping
Because they've played out in the cold.
I'm glad I had a hot Christmas
And should you like to have one, dear,
Leave behind the cold that's so drear
And come and visit us next year.

What Do You Do With A Broken Toyota? (Tune: What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor?)

What do you do with a broken Toyota?
What do you do with a broken Toyota?
What do you do with a broken Toyota?
Call the mechanic in the morning.

High, high up the bill rises,
High, high up the bill rises,
High, high up the bill rises,
Pay the mechanic in the morning.

Radiator leaks, getting hot all over (3x)
Call the mechanic in the morning.


Fuel pump broke, so the motor won't go on (3x)
Call the mechanic in the morning.


A/C quit, only makes it hotter (3x)
Call the mechanic in the morning.


(Other verses maybe added by simply substituting whatever car part in the lines.)

Trivia question: Which Christmas Carol is the "Bolivian Carol" - Angels We Have Heard On High, Angels From The Realms Of Glory, or Hark! The Herald Angels Sing?

Answer: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - Second verse, Late in time, behold him come!

What are your New Year traditions? Here are a few Bolivian customs:

Want to travel next year? Take a walk around the block at midnight with an empty suitcase in your hand. Eating 12 grapes right at midnight will bring you good luck for the next 12 months. Counting some bills from your wallet as the new year strikes will bring you wealth. It is also lucky to be showering as the new year begins. And finally, pay attention to the color of your underwear. Red will bring love and passion into your live. Yellow is for happiness and money. Green will bring prosperity. If you want more friends wear pink. White will give you hope. Want a new wardrobe for the coming year? Wear your underwear backwards New Year's Eve or wear new clothes to the party. While all this will happen if you buy the underwear you are wearing, the results will be even greater if the underwear you are wearing was given to you as a gift.

On a more serious note, I hope you all had a blessed Christmas celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus and the fact that God became man for our salvation. Have a great New Year as you follow him into 2010.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings, These are a few of my favorite things . . ."

No offense meant to Julie Andrews, Rogers and Hammerstein or María van Trapp, but wild geese that fly may be one of their favorite things but I find nothing favorable about wild goose chases myself. Today, for instance. I had a fairly defined list of what I needed to do, in order.

1. Go to the seamstress and turn in torn pants while picking up repaired skirt. Maybe can fix pants while waiting.
2. Take car to mechanic (again) because air conditioning still not working after paying for repair.
3. Go to print shop to pick up evangelism booklets that are ready as of almost a week ago.
4. Take electric drill to repair shop.
5. Buy peanut butter.
6. Go to lawyer's office and pick up tax certificate.

Here's how the morning went.

1. Leave torn pants but don't pick up skirt because skirt not done yet. Come back tomorrow.
2. Air conditioning working today so no use to go to mechanic. Try again tomorrow.
3. After paying don't pick up booklets because they are not ready yet. Come back tomorrow.
4. Don't leave drill at repair shop as they no longer do the work there. Take to other location tomorrow.
5. Buy peanut butter. (Some small things go right once in a while.)
6. Lawyer's phone rings busy but no one in office. Go back tomorrow.

So you get the picture. One out of six ain't bad. Some days it might not even be that good.

I usually am not one to wax poetic about such matters. Nor am I prone to find deep spiritual truths in all of life's petty problems but one thought came to me (surprise) as I was coming home from my wild goose chase. Isn't it good that God goes on wild goose chases? Maybe I should say sheep chases.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

Merry Christmas.

ps: I cannot figure out how to put captions on my pictures so here is the caption for the photo attached with this article. "I don't have a picture of wild geese or sheep so this cow outside our church will have to do."

The Rest of the Story:

So I went back this afternoon to try to get the drill turned in to the repair shop. All well and good. But on the way home the car died again. Fortunately it was only a couple of blocks from the mechanic. The diagnosis: fuel pump.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cookies Anyone?

As every good Christian knows, an important part of Christmas is Christmas cookies. At least in our house. And we think that is one tradition worth sharing so on Saturday we invited the wives of our Santa Cruz pastors to our house to make Christmas cookies. Niki and Lisa Hoffman had prepared the dough ahead of time so it was ready to be rolled, cut, baked, decorated and eaten. I, being a male, was not invited to the party but I managed to crash it every little bit to take pictures and hassle the ladies a bit. (They love it.) However, no one offered me a cookie!

These ladies are a special group of women who love the Lord and love their husbands and stand by them in the pressures of ministry. We thank God for them and pray for his blessing to be especially felt by them during this special season of the year as we celebrate the birth of Christ.

Niki had prepared plenty of dough not knowing for sure how many ladies would come. so we have some extra for lots of cookies to share. So, if you're in our neighborhood, stop by for a cookie, a conversation and have a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Big Bird Goes To Graduation

This last weekend (November 26-29) was the national congress of the Bolivian Evangelical Holiness Church, our denomination here in Bolivia. As usual, the missionaries were there to be a presence. The congress is when the business of the church is taken care of and church officers are elected. Also it includes an ordination service and the Bible School graduation.

James, Kevin and I arrived late at the graduation and so the first half of the event was over. They were getting ready to begin the actual graduation ceremony. Now Kevin was sort of dressed up as he was escorting one of the graduates down the isle. But James and I were far from our Sunday best. It was cold (all this took place in the Alto of La Paz) and since I am a cruzeño (Santa Cruz person) I was cold. I had on an old heavy coat and jeans. Under the coat I had a bright yellow and black fleece. Under that I had my shirt. Well, we were standing in the back when I heard, will Pastor Gordon please come to the platform. I thought, Oh no! I'm not in the program and I'm not dressed for this occasion. The people on the platform were all dressed in lovely suits. So there I sat on the platform looking more like Big Bird than a missionary.

Now Bolivian custom is to invite different people to hand the diplomas to the graduates. So, after a while when it was time to hand them out both Kevin and James were invited to join me on the platform. Now, as I said, Kevin didn't look too bad, but James wasn't much of an improvement over me. He had on jeans, tennis shoes and a Nike windbreaker. We were quite the contrast to the rest of the men. And then it seemed to me that I was invited to hand out more than my fair share of diplomas and have my picture taken with each graduate that I handed a diploma to. (Unfortunately I do not have a picture to show you.) Those poor graduates will forever be stuck with a graduation picture of them with Big Bird.

Now, you might ask, did I learn anything from this experience? Nope, except stay away from Bible Institute graduations.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chaos in Bolivia?!?

The following article was written for an edition of the Challenge several months ago but they did not use it. So, not to waste my creative talents, here it is . . . (I tried to include a picture but the server wouldn't let me. What is it about me and my writing, anyway?

“You have been selected to provide an article for the Spring issue of the Challenge. The theme is ‘Finding Contentment in a World of Chaos.’ Don’t be late!” My first reaction on reading that sentence from the office was panic. There is always panic when I am selected to write. But then I wanted to throw up my hands in resignation. Chaos! They want me to write about chaos! Where in the world will I find an example of chaos in Bolivia, a country known for orderliness and exactness? (It is true that Bolivia has had nearly 200 coups in it’s less than 200 years of history but that’s not chaos, only routine politics.) Driving! That must be it. They want me to write about Bolivian driving habits. Now that’s chaos, at least it seems that way at first, but once you are around a while you begin to realize that there is method to the seeming madness. Perhaps they want me to say something about the church. I must admit that at times our services can be a bit chaotic with tambourine bands, electronic bands, lots of loud speakers, people shouting, weeping and praying out loud and all at the same time, not to mention an occasional dog or chicken passing through the service. And then there are the kids . . . . But I don’t think that is particularly noteworthy. No, there isn’t much chaos in Bolivia but examples of contentment are easy to find, at least in the church. Many of our brothers and sisters have come out of deep spiritual chaos. But the peace and new life they have found in Christ have provided them with a sense of contentment. It’s true, the traffic is still terrible, the political scene unstable, and who knows what new chaos tomorrow will bring, but the contentment that they have found in Christ seems to override it all. Chaos? I guess I’ll just have to wait for a different topic. Maybe next time it will be efficiency. . . .

Friday, November 13, 2009

Testimony From a Friend

Victor Choque is one of our pastors here in Santa Cruz. He has been a faithful student in the Bible Institute here as well. But over this last year he has been battling cancer. Below is his testimony. I have tried to not clean it up but have left it as close as I could to his original writing.

I am 42 years old and am married to Rebeca Apaza. We have three children, two sons and a daughter. I was born in La Paz and worked in a mattress factory there. I was transferred to Santa Cruz. While working there in July 2008, I hurt my back while lifting a heavy mattress. It hurt so bad that I was unable to continue working. It kept getting worse until, in December, I could not stand up. So in January I was admitted to the emergency room of the Workers’ Hospital.

They put an IV in me with vitamins and three days later transferred me to a regular room. They took blood samples to analyze. The results came back that I had multiple myeloma. The doctor told me that I should have another test done with a specialist. That other doctor confirmed that I had multiple myeloma. The doctor also took two bone samples and the results from tests were the same, multiple myeloma.

I began treatment with different medicines. The doctor also prescribed radiation treatments but the Workers’ Hospital has no facilities for radiation treatments. They were going to transfer me to a private hospital but it was going to cost 5,000 bolivianos ($715). My wife went to talk to the social worker and was able to have the price lowered to 3,500 bolivianos ($500). Next we told the president of the [Santa Cruz] District [of the Bolivian Evangelical Holiness Church] and his wife about my situation. Pastor Elías, the district vice-president, came and visited me and I told him also. In this way we were able to find enough money that we were gong to need to pay. (The pastors of the district took offerings and the mission also helped with finances.)

While I was in the hospital the missionary, pastors and brothers and sisters in Christ came to visit me, always encouraging me with words and prayers, asking God to make me well. In March I was released to go home but was unable to walk. I had lots of pain and was required to rest at my house. One night I began to have chills. At 4am I began to vomit and my wife had to find a way to get me to the hospital where I was again admitted to the emergency room. In there they did various tests on my blood, urine and saliva. The tests came back showing that I had pneumonia. I again was given a unit of blood and my strength came back.

After being in the emergency room for five days I was again put into a regular room. I began to receive radiation therapy every day. One day after having a treatment, I was very weak. I was being treated for multiple myeloma and pneumonia but my lungs were not getting any better. The doctor gave me a new medicine and put me in a room by myself. I was there until the month of April. I continued to receive the radiation treatments but also needed to have 30 antibiotic shots, three a day for ten days. But the hospital did not have the medicine. When my wife went to inquire how much they would cost to buy them, they told her that each shot would cost 300 bolivianos ($42.85) or a total of 9,000 bolivianos ($1285) for all of them.. My wife and I were both shocked to hear how much they would cost. We both began to cry and I asked where we would get enough money to buy the medicine. But my wife said, “No, Victor, I will find the money somehow.” Days went by and we asked God to help us find the money and to be able to get the medicine at a lower cost. One day, my wife found the medicine at a pharmacy with a price of only 100 bolivianos ($14.30) each. I gave thanks to God. We bought the medicine and within ten days of having been given the prescription the doctor began the treatment.

As a result of the radiation treatments, my blood cells were dying and I was not the same. I was unable to eat. The doctor suspended my treatments because of the effect it was having on my blood. The multiple myeloma was advancing and I had to receive two more units of blood plus a unit of plasma. I also had to receive in my stomach shots of white blood cells. I asked God to let me live or die, whatever he wanted.

My physical state was not like before. I was completely skin and bones and had no energy. The doctor gave me another medicine for the multiple myeloma and did more blood tests. The tests showed that I was also anemic. The doctor told my wife that she should be prepared for me to die at any moment. When she heard that she began to cry. When I saw her crying I also began to cry. Together we began to ask God for help, as she told me what the doctor had said. As we prayed I began to think about the things I used to do – play, dance, laugh, and work. And I felt very sad about my children, the youngest of whom is only six years old.

I was unable to eat meat because my teeth were loose. I could not chew healthy food like meat and dry foods. I cried out to God to give me hope to live. I never lost faith. I was able to finish the treatment for the pneumonia. They did tests and took x-rays and found that the pneumonia was gone. I gave thanks to God, but I still had the multiple myeloma.

The doctor said that I needed to find blood donors because I needed two more units of blood. I received one unit and then the other. Every day I asked God to give me life so that I could again be with my family. And the day came when the doctor discharged me.

In May I could not move. The doctor did not want to continue treating me. They brought me home. I was all but dead. I could hardly even talk. On seeing my wife and children I cried. And so I was for three days. But I began to eat a little. Every morning I would wake up alive and give thanks to God. My teeth began to grow strong again and I began to recover my strength. I went for another blood test and was told I needed another unit of blood. I asked the brothers at church if someone could donate a unit of blood. I also asked God that I wouldn’t need to have more blood. After doing another test, it showed that I did not need the blood. I gave thanks to God.

I was dead but now I have been revived. Today I am living and can walk a little bit with the help of a cane. Each month I have to return to the hospital for four days of treatment. And so I always give thanks to God.

Note: It is quite common for the families of hospital patients to have to find medicines and supplies for their family member. Victor is covered by the national health system which only pays for doctor services and room charges in state run hospitals. It does not cover medicines and special treatments. If you would like to contribute to Victor’s continuing needs, (his monthly medication runs about $150) donations may be sent to Evangelical Church Missions, 9421 West River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55444. Be sure to specify that your donation is for Victor Choque, Bolivia Emergency Medical Fund. Thank you.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Of Sausages and Pastors

On Saturday we hosted the pastors of the district at our home. Since we now live in the mission house again it is an easy thing to do as it is quite well set up for hosting. Seven of the invited pastors came. So we are improving, last time we had 6. We began with the food, simple fare this time, sausages, chips, salad, jello , koolade and cookies. Of course they like to eat. But after the eating the real business began. First I read a couple of emails that had come from the national church president asking for information and reports from the district that had not yet been sent. Then I introduced them to some great new evangelism tools that we have been able to get for use. Finally, the big question of the day was, who is going to be the new district president. Our annual conference session is this coming weekend and a new president needs to be elected, No one really seems to want the job. The guys that are pastoring don't like the idea of leaving their churches for a different position. The outgoing president does not want to continue on. So quite a long and loud discussion took place. (It had to be loud as we were outside on the covered patio but it started to pour down rain so you had to speak loudly to be heard.) Although no final agreement was reached, it was good to have had the chance to talk over the different possibilities before the conference session. Pray with us that God's choice will be discerned as our pastors and church delegates meet together this Saturday and Sunday.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Saints Day

Yesterday, November 1 and today,November2, is the celebration of Todos Los Santos here in Bolivia. Todos Santos is the celebration of the dead. In the Ayamaran mind, when someone dies, their soul (ajayu) must begin a journey to its eventual resting spot. Until it reaches the place of rest, it must be helped by the living. If it does not receive the help that it wants it can then take vengeance on the living and cause untold problems, suffering and death. On November1 at noon the souls of the dead return to the homes of their relatives. The family must make adequate preparations for the return of the souls. A special table is prepared with all the favorite foods and drinks of the dead person. Coca and alcohol are also a very important part of the offering. In addition there are special breads (t'ant'awawa) shaped in the form of people, sometimes with the face of the person pasted or painted onto the bread. Also there is bread shaped like a ladder. All these items must be arranged in a very specific way on the table. At noon the family gathers to await the arrival of the soul. The day is spent around the table, eating, drinking and praying to the dead. On the next day the whole event is removed to the cemetary where the food is again spead out, but this time on top of the grave. The family gathers there until noon when the souls return to their journey. After three years of faithfully completing these obligations, the soul is then ready to go to be with the other dead and join them in becoming a type of god. The living family members celebrate the completion of the three years because now they will not be bothered by the soul of the dead person. It is a system that is based on fear, not love. Now I am sure that for many Bolivians much of this has become an empty ritual that is more social than religious. But the truth remains, that many Bolivians are enslaved by their fear of the dead. Satan uses this fear to keep people enslaved. Often people will see their dead relative alive somewhere but it is in reality demons playing tricks. These people, more than anything, need to hear of the victory of Christ over death, Satan and demons so that they can become free of fear and live in the knowledge of God's great love for us in Christ.

One more quick thought. I just read a posting by someone who had visited the witches' market in La Paz. They treated the whole thing as an innocent superstition to be dabbled in. But this too is based on fear. I know the anthropologists are saying that we should leave people alone and not spoil their happiness and way of life. After all, isn't it better for them to live in fear each day than in the freedom from fear that comes from knowing Christ? You figure it out . . .

Monday, October 26, 2009

How Much Is A School Worth? or Anybody Have A Spare $50,000?

Liberty School was a special project of our national church here in Bolivia. It was started some years ago under, shall I say, false pretenses. The brothers had the idea that a school would not only serve the community (which needed the school) but also would be a source of revenue for the church. So under those assumptions, the Liberty School was opened. Part of the expectation has been met. It has proven to be a ministry to the neighborhood. With monthly fees running less than $15, Liberty has been able to offer the poorer families of the area a private Christian education. The parents are happy with that. They like the values that the school has instilled in their children. But the other half of the expectation never came to pass. Charging $15 a student will never transfer into revenue. Rather than generating revenue for the church, the school has cost money over the years. (Now I could have told them that would happen but who listens to me, right?) So now the school is in a big bind. It needs around $50,000 now to do much needed maintenance and build a new classroom building. The church is struggling with what to do with the school. Do we keep it going or shut it down? One thing is certain, without an influx of money there will be no choice. Please pray for the leadership of the church as they struggle, wrestle, fight with the future of the school. Pray that if it needs to continue that somehow God will provide what is needed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

But For The Grace of God . . .

I was in La Paz a couple of weeks ago to do some business. I had stopped to allow a shoe shine boy to polish my shoes. (Shined shoes are a thing in Bolivia.) I began talking to the "boy" who was shining my shoes. Actually he was 18 years old and his name was Denis. He doesn't know anything about where his family is. At age 10 he was taken to a children's home to live by his parents. There, they were given an evening meal, a bed and breakfast in the morning. Then they were all turned out onto the street until evening. At about age 15 Denis left the home and began living on the street. Now three years later he is still on the street and shining shoes to earn enough to eat. He is going to school and hopes to be able to finish high school. He still has three years to go.

My heart went out to this young man. What hope does he have for the future? And then another thought came to me: where would our son be if he hadn't found us and become a part of our family? Would he be like Denis, living on the street, always scrambling for enough to eat? Thankfully, I don't have to know the answer to that question. What would have been is not in our realm to know. But what about Denis? Will he find something to give him hope? Will he come to ever know the love of God in Christ for him? Will he ever know that God will not kick him out on the street or abandon him? I can only hope so.

Monday, October 5, 2009

How Not To Interpret The Bible

Bible study is an important thing to do. In fact it is so important that we need to take great care in how we study it other wise we may come to the wrong conclusions. One danger we need to avoid is wooden literalism, that is putting the letter of what is written above the spirit of what is written. Now for my story.

Last week I was in La Paz along with James to take care of some things that needed done. Every year we have to submit a report to the government about our activities, finances and so on as a religious institution. Well, the government did not like our report from last year so they sent us a love letter telling us what we did wrong. Ok. We responded with a letter, repented of our many failings and thought we had everything taken care of. But when we arrived in La Paz we discovered that the government had sent us another letter. Apparently they did not like my first letter. Specifically they did not like the fact that last year only two people (James and Jenny) were holding all four offices that our by-laws require. There must be four people holding four offices. Now the problem was that in 2008, James and Jenny were the only career missionaries on the field after Niki and I had gone on furlough. Our by-laws also specify that field officers must be accredited by the mission in the States and they tell us that only career missionaries are able to hold offices (which makes sense, to me). I had written and explained our situation that there had been only TWO people in the country and so they had to hold all four offices but that this year we had taken care of that situation since we were also in the county. So, we had our secretary write another letter explaining all that again. But we also decided that it would be a good thing for James and me to go and talk to the lady in charge. Which we did. In fact, it was the lady who wrote the letter who listened to my explanation. There were only TWO in the country and so it was physically impossible for FOUR different people to hold the offices. But that still did not satisfy her. Our by-laws say FOUR officers and FOUR there must be. Well she finally did acknowledge that we could not go back to 2008. I asked her what we should do in the future if we have a similar situation. Plan ahead, was the reply. (Of course. Why didn't I think of that?)

I'll leave it to you to figure out the moral.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Morning Flexibility

MOnday mornings have been sung about, written about, analyzed and everything else. This is Monday morning and it has been far too atypical. The air conditioning in the car has not been working right (I guess that global warming has hit my car) and I decided that I should take it in to get it fixed. Everything is fine, they said, except that it is not cooling like it should. Could I come back in the afternoon? That's when the real mechanic will be in. Next it was to the Bolivian Evangelical University to check on paying a scholarship for one of our students there. True to form, I didn't end up having enough money for what we need to pay. But it needs to be paid today or he will be booted out of class. Could I come back in the afternoon? So I guess that pretty much lines up the afternoon. Flexibility. It is a great word that summarizes the number one trait you need living in Bolivia. Yes, you need a call from God (extremely important), Bible training, cultural sensitivity, a heart for people etc. But if you're not flexible none of that will get you very far. Is God flexible? I think so. We are studying Genesis in our Sunday School class. When things went wrong in the world God didn't just throw up his metaphorical (because God is spirit and technically has no hands)hands and quit. Instead he became flexible and adjusted to the current situation. Expulsion of man from Eden, the flood, the tower, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all examples of God's flexibility until he brought the final solution, Jesus and the cross. So I guess if God could wait thousands of years of being flexible I can wait a few hours. Maybe I should get out the old Gumby doll while I wait. Talk about flexibility!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

We Did It

We did it. We made it. 2 1/2 months apart, we made it without becoming loony or anything. Well, almost not becoming too loony. Just a little bit, ok. Tomorrow morning Niki arrives back home. Boy will I be glad to see her. You don't know how much your other half does until you have to do it too. I now understand why wives hate to cook (it consumes your thinking - what do I fix for the next meal?), do homework with the kids (math again!) all that stuff. So now she will be back and I can relax! At least get my own work done.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mr. Mom KO'ed by the School System

I'm down but not quite out, although close. Last week the departmental education ministry announced that all schools (private and public) were to be shut down for a period of ten days in an attempt to curb the spread of the flu. The swine flu (no offense meant to the pigs and hopefully none taken) is is in epidemic proportions in Bolivia and the authorities fear for the safety of students in schools. So, here I sit with Mark and 7 days of homework. This is a test of any sane parent's ability to cope. But a parent without the other half is bound to end up looney when all is said and done. I've already made my reservation at the happy home for happy people - I'll be needing it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pizza and Pastors

This past Saturday we had the Santa Cruz district pastors over for a taste of American style pizza (that means pizza without corn, asparagus, eggs among other things). Six of the invited ten were able to come. We had a good time sharing and laughing together. Kevin and Lisa Hoffman came to help put the pizzas together and then Kevin shared some of his testamony with the pastors giving them the chance to know him better. I had planned to show them a video after eating but instead the conversation turned to a discussion of the necesities of having some form of active discipleship training going on in each church and especially with new converts. That led into a very open and honest discussion about the Bible Institute program here in Santa Cruz and what we are doing that is right and what we are doing that is wrong. I thought, "this is worth more than a video", so the video had to wait. There would never have been this kind of frank discussion at a formal business meeting of the district. So I thank God for the day with the pastors and pizza. Now we'll have to see what we can get if we serve them fried chicken, taters and gravy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mr. Mom (or is it Mrs. Dad)

Mark and I have been bachelors since the middle of June when we returned to Bolivia from the US without Niki. Until she returns in September I will continue to be the Mr. Mom of the family. What a tough job. I have had the kids before in the past for short periods of time but this is the first time I have been with one of them without Mom around for more than a few days and it is tiring me out! I've come to realize again the importance of the many things "the little woman" does (cooking, laundry, entertaining children etc). It seems like you spend more time planning food than almost anything else. Which also brings me to another observation. I have learned that in ministry there are times when the ministry needs extra attention and time. But there are also times when the family needs the extra time and attention. This has been one of those times. Real life ministry is not about a 9 to 5 job. It's a lifestyle. So I guess I'll have to keep on being Mr. Mom (or maybe it's Mrs. Dad) until the real Mom gets home.

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's Party Time (Again . . .and Again . . . and Again . . . and)

Who would have thought that partying would be a major element of a missionary's ministry? If this secret gets out, the mission is apt to be over run with applications!

Living as we do in a country where relationships are very important (more so than schedules and meetings) it is extrememly important to keep them solid. Sometimes that means partying with people. While we don't party all the time this last week was an amazing number of such occasions. Monday was a 60th birthday dinner for the José, the guard on the street by the mission house. Tuesday was a 50th birthday party for a fellow missionary from another mission. Wedne
sday Mark and I were invited to the home of a Bolivian couple for "snacks" (read that enough for supper). Thursday morning I had company for breakfast, a couple from the God Is Love church. Friday I hosted a farewell open house for the Wolheters as they are moving to Cochabamba. Finally on Saturday was the one year birthday party for Osvaldo, one of the Sunday School kids from our church. As part of the party I had the privilege, along with his parents, of dedicating him to the Lord.

As I said, it was a bit extreme last week but partying can be a very real part of ministry. So, let the party begin!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

To Go Or Not to Go . . . That Is The Question

How do you make decisions? I hate making them because they are so hard to do and I fear making the wrong choice. Now big decisions are ok, like are we going to move to Iraq? Do I rob a bank this afternoon? But its those little decisions that bug me. I always am the last to place my order at a restaurant because I can't decide, chicken or beef, breakfast or dinner. That's why at my favorite restaurants in Bolivia I only order one thing, pork at Don Miguel and Fetuccini Gratine at MichaelAngelo. So today I had to make a decision do I go to church or not?

Bolivia is battling the Swine Flu. Santa Cruz is the center of the epidemic. There have been at least two deaths in the city. So, the government decreed that all sporting events, bars, karaokes, concerts, theators and church services are to be canceled or closed for the next 15 days. But I knew that our church would still be holding services. So, do I go or stay home? Is this a case of obey God rather than men or a case of submitting to the authorities since it really is a health issue and not a religious issue.

So I debated. I wanted to go. Mark would be happy if we didn't. They were counting on me to teach but this is a health emergency. My salvation doesn't depend on whether I miss a church service but what about my testimony to the church and to Mark, for that matter. So I debated back and forth. Finall, with fear and trembling, I decided that I should stay home and submit to the government decree. So I went by the church on Saturday to warn them that I would not be there. Decision made.

Sunday morning I am cooking muffins for breakfast. It is almost time to leave for church if we were going. I take a quick peek at the news and see that the Catholic church is not cancelling Sunday services, just additional activities. So now what? A new element is introduced. At the last possible moment I announce to Mark that I am going. No time now for a shower nor to shave. Barely time to get there before my time to teach.

And that is how I make decisions. I am comforted in my flawed process to know that, from what I am learning in Proverbs, even if I fail to make the best decision God can still control the outcome.

So maybe next time I'll try something new off of the menu (but I doubt it).

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Retreat and Go

My son and I spent this past week at a retreat for missionaries held at a local resort setting (sort of a 5 star affair but, as someone said, two of the stars must be black holes). Anyway, it was a good week to be away and have the chance to tank up a bit. When you are involved in constant giving in ministry you need those times to be refueled. I thank God for the opportunity it was for us. NOw back to work.

As a mission we are reading Coach Your Champions: The Transformational Giving Approach to Major Donor Fundraising by Eric Foley. It is challenging us to make sure that we are not just looking for money from our supporters but that we are helping them to grow in their faith. I like the concept but am not sure how to apply his ideas when we live and work a continent away from the people who support us and pray for us. If you have read the book and have any thoughts, or if you haven't read it and have thoughts on the subject, feel free to share them. We want to be used by God both in the lives of our brothers here and of our brothers up north.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Open for business

I am not very bright when it comes to "modern" technology (anything beyond a simple calculator and tv remote). But I wanted to see if we can make a go of this. My goal is to provide a forum for those who are interested about the ministry of Evangelical church Missions - Bolivia as we work along side our Bolivian brothers to establish local churches, train leaders and make an impact in our neighborhoods for Jesus. So we'll see. My goal will be to post something new each week. I hope you'll join with us and see what God is doing in our corner of Bolivia.