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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Humor from Nature

When I was a kid we used to have in Sunday School now and then filmstrips (with accompanying record) called Parables From Nature. Well, a couple of weeks ago while we had company from the States we were at the Butterfly Gardens and looking at a cage full of big spiders. On or near the cage were a list of rules for how to handle spiders. As a friend and I read them we both had the thought that they also apply to how to handle a women. So here is my Parable from nature.

1. Never place two spiders in one terrarium, since they are very territorial and fight to death.
2. Clean the terrarium one a month.
3. Put water every day.
4. Never use insecticides in the same room where the spider lives.
5. Don`t handle the spider all the time, Let the spider walk on your arm or hand. Try to not bother the spider.
6. These spiders are docile, but if she feels attacked she can "biteu" (bite you).
7. Try to not push the spider. The spider has some hair in the body and this can cause irritation and allergic reactions.

I think you can make the application.

Suffer the little children . . .

This past Sunday was a district wide children's rally. Although only four of the churches were there (frustration), there might have been around 200 kids. It's hard to tell, they are so small and the building was kind of big. None the less, there was enough enthusiasm for a crowd twice that big. I was invited to tell a story to the kids. I used the story from John 9 about Jesus healing the man born blind and tried to present a basic Gospel presentation. The kids were really pretty good at listening but the setting was not real conducive for a formal invitation. But I trust that the Word still brings fruit.

(The picture has nothing to do with my story. I was only goofing around, which is the only time that anyone will ever take my picture.) Besides me, there was music. . .

a contest, clowns and puppets. The group doing the organizing did a great job. I hope this will become a normal feature of the district's life. It is good to see a renewed interest in the kids and in child evangelism in both the district and the denomination at large.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Learning Factory

Last post I presented some about Liberty School in La Paz. This time I want to present the Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center or SCCLC. SCCLC is a pre-kinder - grade 12 school that is located just down the road from our house. The school was begun twenty some years ago as a place where missionary kids could receive a quality education in English that would allow them to integrate without too much difficulty into the educational system in the US. Today the school has an enrollment of around 190 students that represent a good number of different nationalities including Bolivian, US, Canadian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and others. Although the school has always kept the education of mk's as a top priority, enrollment is open to others as well. Currently about 50% of the students have parents that are classified as missionaries.

We were first introduced to the school when we moved to Santa Cruz in 1997 and enrolled our three older kids in SCCLC. At SCCLC our children have received a good solid educational foundation from an unashamedly Christian world view.

Not only our children have been involved in the school but Niki and I as well have played some roles in its ministry. Niki is the director of the Discovery Program and works with students with learning disabilities and other challenges. I have served on the school board every year that we have been in Santa Cruz except for one.

Conducting a Christian school run by foreigners in Bolivia has its challenges. Government regulations are changing and we are hard pressed to keep up. Teacher recruitment is also a challenge. Most of the teaching staff are missionaries (both career and voluntary status) from the US. But it is becoming more difficult to find teachers who are willing and able to come and teach. In the past our mission has helped provide teachers (Chad and Emily Jackson, Molly Treiber) but currently has no one at the school except for Niki. There are still openings for the 2010/2011 school year that need to be filled. If you or any one you know might be interested in helping to fill this need please fill free to contact me (goelliott@cotas.com.bo) or the office of Evangelical Church Missions (ecmissions@usfamily.net).  Thank you. YOu can also find more information on SCCLC's website: www.scclc.org

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Liberty School

When our national church first started talking about establishing a school a number of years ago I was a bit skeptical. I questioned whether or not they had the personnel and expertise to do it. Also I wondered about their motive since there was a lot of talk about how a school would bring in money for the denomination. But when the school was begun it did seem to be a dream come true for the church. They were able to find teachers who were willing to work for small salaries to teach kids from poor families. However, the school was never profitable from a financial point of view. But nevertheless, the school continued and grew and was having an impact in the lives of its students for Jesus. Yet it also seemed to be a source of conflict within the church. It seemed to never make budget and required more and more attention. Also the meager infrastructure was woefully inadequate for the necessities of a school. To make a long story short, it fell on hard times and student enrollment was dropping off each year. Finally it became apparent that either something radical would have to be done or the school would need to be shut down.

In the middle of this crisis, the La Paz district churches began to reconsider the value of the school and conducted a rather detailed study as to what possibilities there were for the future. One of the things they found out in interviewing parents of students was that the parents liked what they were seeing in their children who attended there. Evidently the school was having an impact on lives as it operated with a Christian atmosphere. But despite the positive things, the infrastructure was causing parents to look elsewhere for the education of their children. The La Paz district, after ending their study, concluded that the school could indeed have a future but would require major investment. So the district leadership made the proposal to the national church that the administration of the school pas into the hands of the district for the next years. The district would then invest in the school and try to revive it.

This year is the first year of that agreement. Enrollment has stabilized and significant improvements are under way at the school.

The pre-kinder and kinder rooms have been given an overhaul.

There is now a computer lab with 20 computers and, thanks to Mario Castro who is overseeing the project,  internet access.

And a new classroom building is underway. Also, something of special interest to me, is that the high school students are studying some of the basic Bible institute courses in their religion classes.

The district is investing $50,000 in this project. The current changes are just the beginning phase of what they hope to be able to do. I am excited by what is happening as it seems that the La Paz district has finally gotten a vision for the impact the school can have in its neighborhood.

Please pray for the needed financing to cover this first phase and for the future phases. Pray for the teachers to show Jesus' love to the students. Pray for the students to be receptive to the Gospel as they see the love of Christ in their teachers.

Finishing this building is part of the future phase. Currently the lower level is being used.

Monday, April 5, 2010

What Do Missionaries Do, Anyway?

Years ago I visited Bolivia when I was in college. After seven weeks of following the footsteps of Mark Frink and Duane Erickson I felt like I had a pretty good introduction into what a missionary does. During the first month of my stay, there was also a family visiting. While at the airport to see them off back to the States, one of them turned around and asked, What does a missionary do, anyway? Hmmm. Good question. Had they not caught anything that went on during their visit? In this post I want to give a partial answer to that question. I say partial because there are many things that I do as a missionary and it would be too long of a post to mention them all.

One aspect about missionary life that is often overlooked is just the time and energy needed to live in a culture that is not your own and having to deal with many things that we in the US do not have to deal with. Paper work is number one on that list. Just a couple of examples. We are in the process of renewing Mark's Bolivian passport. As a Bolivian/US citizen he travels with two passports: a Bolivian one to leave and enter Bolivia and an American one to leave and enter the US. When we went to immigration to renew his passport (everything must be done in person, nothing is done through the mails) we brought with us all the documents required on the list that I had picked up from immigration some days before. But there was a glitch that I had not thought about. While examining Mark's birth certificate they noted that Niki's name was listed as her maiden name, which is true Bolivian format. But all her other identification has her listed with her married name in true US format. So, how to prove that the two Niki's were indeed the same person. I had anticipated that there could be a question as to whether or not we were Mark's parents so I had brought along a copy of his adoption decree. So helpfully I suggested that that document might help. WRONG THING TO DO! "What? He's adopted? Well that requires a whole other list of documents that must be supplied. Here bring these back in." OK. One big problem in this list. There is a document that we don't have and upon investigating with a lawyer, we discovered that there was good reason. The required document did not exist when we adopted Mark. Only newer adoptions are issued that document. But that doesn't matter. "Yes, of course it is illogical that we are asking for a document that does not exist! But you must present it."

Two lawyers, a trip to La Paz, a document sent back and forth by courier and a lot of frustration later we still have not received the passport (a process that is supposed to only take 48 hours, by the way). What do missionaries do? PAPERWORK. (I realize now that I dealt somewhat with this issue in my last entry from a bit of a different slant. Oh well. The passport still isn't issued and I am still trying to learn patience.)

Another more recent example occurred yesterday. Easter Sunday was also municipal and departmental elections in Bolivia. We, as foreigners, were required to vote under the risk of severe penalties for not voting. So Niki and I had registered some weeks ago in order to be able to vote yesterday. but when we got to the polling place we discovered that Niki's name was not on the list. Upon further investigation we were told that the issue is that she only has one last name on her document and so was ineligible to vote. Our Canadian neighbor lady was told the same. So, in order to protect herself from the consequences of not voting Niki will have to go to the electoral court in this next week and explain what happened and, hopefully, receive a document rescuing her from whatever dastardly things that happen to those who don't vote.

On the lighter side, what do missionaries do, anyway? Sometimes I prepare to preach sermons that will never be given because I thought I was being invited to preach somewhere but the pastor only meant for me to make an appearance (which is quite alright with me, by the way). Recently I prepared a set of stick puppets to use in a message on John 9 only to arrive and discover that I was not going to preach I hope that perhaps they will be useful in another setting. Below you will find my artwork so enjoy the story!

One day Jesus saw a blind man begging.

The disciples wanted to know who sinned that he was born blind but Jesus said that was not the case. But in order to show the glory of God he must keep doing the works of God. So Jesus put mud on the man's eyes and told him to go wash.

The man came back seeing.

The neighbors can't believe it really is him.

His parents know that it is him but are at a loss to explain how he recovered his sight.

The pharisees and leaders are certain that Jesus cannot be anyone good because he healed on the Sabbath.

The man's testimony - once I was blind but now I see!

I believe in Jesus.