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, July 27, 2010

Will You Be My Valentine?

July 23 is Friendship Day (Día de la Amistad), which seems to me to be sort of like Valentine's Day for us. The church had announced that there was gong to be a talent night that night. I didn't think that much about it, as I have no talent, but when I arrived I discovered that this was much more than a talent night. It was a full blown party for Día de la Amistad. There were games, presents, Valentines for all, special musical presentations, food, a good presentation of the Gospel and lots of people. On the average our local church has a small group on Sundays, but this evening there was a good group of visitors from the neighborhood. I was reminded again how, even thought it is a fairly small congregation at this point, that it is making an impact in people's lives beyond the four walls (actually we only have two walls in the church as it meets on a patio) of the church. With God's blessing and help, the day will come when our attendance will grow because people have come to know Jesus through the ministry of the church.

These were my Valentines. I really like the one on the
    right hand bottom that is addressed to "Girl Friend."

Sunday was the anniversary for the Light of the World (Luz del Mundo) church. It was celebrating its 10th anniversary. I arrived at what I thought was a judicious hour, but they were still setting up for the celebration.

As you can see the church still needs to be finished. Little. by little the construction will be done as finances are available.  It is in a great location, right on one of the main bus lines for the zone.

The decorations were pretty standard, balloons and all-purpose-Bolivian-paper (i.e. toilet paper).

There was lots of music, both congregational and special.

Elías Flores, the Santa Cruz District president, brought the message.

Pastor Johnny Flores (I think no relation to Elías) got the day off from preaching to simply enjoy the celebration.

After about three hours dinner was served to everyone, a yummy plate of hot chicken salad with rice (Salpicón) 

followed by cake.

Will you pray for both these churches as they seek to expand God's kingdom in their neighborhoods?

Monday, July 19, 2010

General Conference Report Rumors and Reasons, Part 2

Today I want to finish up my report on our trip to the States so I can get that off my chest. In the first installment I tried to dispel a couple of rumors by giving the unvarnished truth about them. In this post I have one more issue that I would like to address. Let's call it the "Miami Incident".

Our national church president, Vicente Ticona, was given a visa by the US Consulate in La Paz that would allow him to come up to the general conference and represent the Bolivian church. As he would be flying by himself I thought it might be best if I met him in Miami and helped him get from there to Minneapolis. He seemed to like that idea. I tried to carefully explain to him what to expect both at the airport in La Paz as well as the airport in Miami. I told him about having to go through immigration in Miami and then through customs. I explained that I could not be back there with him but would wait right outside the door for him. If he did not see me he was to wait for me. I would be there.

The day before he was to arrive in Miami, I flew south. After waiting most of the next day it was finally ready for his flight to arrive. So down to the customs waiting area I went. I was pleasantly surprised to see a friend, Mike, who was waiting there for his own family to arrive. But I didn't see Vicente. Soon passengers were coming out the door and lo and behold there was another friend, David, but I didn't see Vicente. I saw lots of passengers but no Vicente. By now I was beginning to be a bit worried. Had something happened? Had he not made the flight? I called his wife in Bolivia to make sure he had left. He had. But I never saw him and he obviously was not waiting outside the door as I had suggested that he should do. To make a long story short, I never did find him and I missed my flight back to Minneapolis. Now, if I had had the presence of mind to think that he might not have done what I told him, I would have gone to the gate for the Minneapolis flight to check on him. But I didn't. I did not expect him to leave the customs area. But he did. We managed to miss each other and he went on down to the gate and boarded the flight for Minneapolis, leaving me behind. To put salt into the wound, not only did he board the plane but he was given a first class seat. In fact he was given a first class seat all the way from La Paz. Why or how I'll never know! I purchased his ticket. It was definitely for the back of the bus. I have never flown first class to or from Bolivia. But I won't hold that against him.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that I had to spend an extra night and day in the Miami airport. When I arrived back in Minneapolis, did I hear, Welcome back. We're glad you are ok. Sorry about what happened. No, I most definitely did not. Instead I heard things like, How was Miami. So you decided to come home. Did you enjoy your vacation in Miami? All said in a less than sympathetic tone. When I suggested that I would soon be returning to Bolivia and wouldn't have to hear such things anymore and wouldn't be back until they had all forgotten it, I was asured that they wouldn't and so I wouldn't. O well.

But I am a big boy. I can still hold my head up high. But should you happen to hear any snide remarks about my navigational abilities, well at least you now know my side, the true side, of the story.

When I did finally catch up with Vicente we had a good two weeks before the general conference in which we did some touring and visited, among other places

The Minnestoa State Capitol

The South Sioux City Evangelical Church

Lake Superior at Duluth, Minnesota

And Wadena, Minnesota where we met with some of the church people and toured the tornado damage.

All in all it was a good time with Vicente and I think that God's blessed his ministry. He is proving to be a good president for the church, perhaps more about that later.

Well, I will end this for now. I need to go to the drug store, that is, if I can find it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

General Conference Report, Rumors and Reasons

Now that General Conference has come and gone and I am back safely home in Santa Cruz it is time to get Cháiro back into its rhythm and to dispel some nasty rumors that have surfaced recently regarding the author of this blog. So read on.

First of all the most important news out of General conference, as far as the mission is concerned is the election of Dr. Bruce Moyer to the position of Executive Director of Evangelical Church Missions. He will move into that position on October 1, replacing Duane Erickson who is stepping down after many years leading the mission. Duane will be missed by all of us here in Bolivia. We have appreciated all his years of servant leadership of the mission. We will also miss Jessie who is an equal part of Duane's leadership. May God bless both of them as they enter into a new phase of life.

                            Duane examines a new gold colored potato gun given him by the office staff.

At the Thursday night International Banquet at General Conference Duane and Jessie were honored by the denomination and I was asked to say a few words of appreciation for Duane and Jessie. In the background on the wall during the program a slide show was being shown of different things from Duane and Jessie's life. Low and behold, as I was approaching the platform to share some heart felt comments about them the following picture flashed up on the screen with the title superimposed over it - "How Did This Get In Here?":

How indeed? is the question. I would like to take a moment to clear up any misconceptions that this unfortunate photograph might bring to mind. First the story behind the photo. I was visiting my co-worker Kevin Hoffman in Cochabamba. He wanted to go swimming and asked me to go with him. But I had not brought along my swimming suit. No problem. My other co-worker, Jenny Wolheter, was also there. James has extras, she said, and I could borrow one of them. So what did she send up to my room by the hand of Kevin but a Speedo style suit. Not one to be unkind to my fellow missionaries, I felt the only prudent thing to do was to put on the Speedo. But as you can see from the photo, I hardly have a Speedo body. So, in the name of modesty, I first put on a pair of boxers and then proceeded to apply the Speedo for the ever popular layered look. That is the story, pure and simple. How or why my fellow co-workers conspired with the office staff to disgrace the Erickson presentation is beyond me. But I am willing to let bygones be bygones and allow past offences to be overlooked.

But that is not the only unfortunate thing to have arisen at General Conference regarding the innocent author of this blog. On Tuesday evening there was a dinner for the missionary staff, office staff and members of the mission board. On each table was a small card entitled Missionary Trivia or some such thing. It was meant to be an innocent game (I will give them that much credit) to allow the attenders to learn little known facts about Evangelical Church missionaries. Imagine my alarm and surprise (was it really a surprise?) to read the first question. While I do not have the document in hand it read something like this: What missionary was arrested for driving without a shirt on? Now this is an old rumor. A quick check with Snopes on the internet would show the falseness of this rumor and attack upon my character. While not as vicious as the original rumor which stated that I was arrested for driving NAKED, I would like to purge the air of this once and for all. I was not arrested nor was I driving naked. The story behind the rumor is simple and clear. We had just recently moved to Santa Cruz. My wife, Niki, was sick with some kind of lung thing which required her to receive treatments at a local clinic. I had taken her in the evening for her treatment. We were getting in the car to return home and, as it was a hot Santa Cruz evening, and as we were not yet accustomed to the heat, I simply pulled off my tee shirt for the drive home. (We had no car with air-conditioning in those days. Now we  do.) As we approached the Chiriguano circle on the second ring to turn onto the two way avenue to go home, the police were stopping all cars and checking licenses. The officer simply said to me, as I handed him my license, Young man, wear your shirt while you are driving. There was no mention of arrest, handcuffs, nor an embarrassing mug shot. I did learn, however, that in Santa Cruz it is indeed a law that you must wear a shirt while driving, a regulation that I have carefully followed since then. So I would like to once and for all put to rest the arrested driving naked rumor.

There is more to come about my adventure in the States but it will wait for another entry. Thanks for coming back after my absence and  keep reading for the rest of the story.