Who am I?

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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, October 25, 2010

Can You Believe It?

I have writer's block. Here it is Monday and I am supposed to post something but I have no idea what to write about. I am glad that I was able to sign the papers on the "new" car. It's a Toyota Highlander 2004. It has a few stains and signs of its age but I am hoping it will prove to be a reliable vehicle for our field. It is the one vehicle about which everyone was in agreement. So that must mean something.

I feel like a new father! I love my car. (I have not let Niki drive it yet.)

Yesterday was a pastors' meeting for the district. It went well. It began with a message by one of our pastors and then the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon was taken up with reports of different kinds. I just love meetings but it is good to be with the pastors and leaders. They are a great bunch. One of our pastors is going through a very difficult time in his personal life right now. Please pray for him. Thanks.

Finally a word about current events in Bolivia. The government has passed a new law dealing with child protection issues but tucked away in the law is a provision declaring 12 years old as the age for consensual sexual relationships. It has generated a lot of criticism from parental groups, psychologists, doctors, the church etc. The government is responding by saying it is meant to protect minors and their rights, that it is stiffening the penalties against anyone who would violate a child,  and that the outcry is misdirected. Who is right on this one? What does the law actually mean? I am not sure but I don't think it is for good even if well intentioned. Please pray for Bolivia. The only solution to its problems is God.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a New Toyota (Well, not so new, maybe)

I know you are tired by now of hearing about car troubles and such. But that has been my life as of late. Now we are in the process of buying a new used vehicle. I have looked at more vehicles than I care to think of. One of the first was a Suzuki Gran Vitara - but decided it was too small in the luggage department, although a very nice car. Below are just a small sample of what I have looked at.

This nice 99 Toyota Land Cruiser also runs on bottled gas - but the bottle takes up at least half of the cargo area and you have to crawl over it to get in and out of the back. Price - $22,500. Decision - too much gas!

Now this next little beauty was eye catching.

A 2004 4Runner for only $19,000. A real nice car, blue color. nice interior. Problem - one head on too many and the right corner of the engine wired together. Oh well, I was really hoping on this one.

Next was the Ivan Cruiser (my name for it). a 1999 nice Land Cruiser, nice body and so on. But, Car Fax discouraged me.

Then there was this 4Runner, half 1998 and half I don't know what. I like half and half on my cereal but not in my cars.

This leads me, then, to this sweet little car.
A 2004 Toyota Highlander, $18,000. So far everything checks out good. Car fax is encouraging, ny coworkers are ok with it. Just need approval from the office and my mechanic. (He nixed my last find.) I have an appointment to drive it a bit more today and run it by the mechanic. So, unless some unforeseen thing happens, it may end up in the Elliott garage.

I share this to illustrate that things which are often fairly easily accomplished in the US just take a lot more time in a developing country like Bolivia. And basically there is no protection for the buyer. So you have to make sure that paper work is ok, taxes are paid, the car is in the country legally and so on because you have no one to blame but yourself. I guess that is part of why your missionary friends need so much prayer. So thanks for praying.

Monday, October 11, 2010

On The Care And Feeding Of Missionaries

How do you care for a missionary? That is a good question. Missionaries, like anybody in professional ministry, give most of the time and often have little opportunity to receive and replenish. Our mission board (Evangelical Church Missions) is aware of that and tries to take good care of us. So, this last week, our board arranged for a pastoral counseling couple to come to Bolivia to spend some time with our field crew.

Charlie and Margie Wilson, who serve with Barnabas International, spent not quite a week with us giving us encouragement and getting to know our team. The first evening they were in Santa Cruz they gave a seminar on marital communication. There was a nice group out for it and the presentation was quite on target.

The next day was run around with Gordon and see the churches in Santa Cruz then off to Cochabamba that evening to meet with the entire staff.

Despite sick kids and a sick Mom, we enjoyed the fellowship with the others and Charlie and Margie had the opportunity to become acquainted with everyone. We also had time for a trip up to the Cristo (a statue of Christ a little bit taller than the famed one in Rio de Janero).

The choices for getting up the mountain to the Cristo (Charlie thouoght we said we were going to a pre-school) are driving in a car, climbing the 1400 stairs or going up in the gondola. We chose the gondola. Evidently a good choice according to the warning posted at the gondola station.

There was time for Uncle Gordon to take the kids for ice cream while the Wilsons met with some of the other missionaries.

Sunday morning some of us went to hear JJ preach at a small struggling church in Cochabamba. He will be helping out for a number of weeks.

After some more time together with the Wilsons and a birthday celebration for James it was back home to Santa Cruz.

In between all the partying we had good visits with Charlie and Margie who patiently listened to our joys, concerns and just general chatter. Thank you for being there to listen. Sometimes that is all it takes to care for a missionary -  someone outside the loop with whom to share. We look forward to having you return next year!

Car Update Again

I have news to report on the ongoing saga of our vehicles here in Santa Cruz. The Land Cruiser was sold about two weeks ago and the Surf is going today. We thank the Lord for his help in this matter. Now I have to do some serious car shopping. If you are a mechanic I wish you could come with me. I am intimidated, to say the least, about buying the right vehicle. But God's promise for wisdom can even include vehicle shopping, right? So hopefully before too long I can give you the good news about the new wheels. Stayed tuned for further updates.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pastors, Death and Mercy

Yesterday evening I arrived home from a weekend in La Paz where I attended the quarterly Junta Pastoral (pastors' meeting) along with James and JJ. These meetings are not my favorite thing to do, candidly speaking. But they are necessary in the life of the church. The day Saturday was spent mostly in reports of one kind or another. One of the best reports was on Liberty School. However, since I was not there (I was visiting someone in the hospital - more on that below) I cannot give you a personal account but I understand that the pastor in charge of the construction program, Mario Castro, really challenged the brothers to see that they can do the needed work at the school without relying on the North (read that USA) for the financing. He then challenged the pastors about making a monthly commitment toward the support of the school. Sunday morning I was invited to teach Sunday School, although I really preached. They had given me the text from Matthew 25, the parable of the Sheep and the Goats at the last judgment. As I told the pastors, that text really makes me uncomfortable and I have to ask, how many times have I left Jesus out in the cold?

Sunday afternoon I went over to see the how the new construction is going on the school building. I was quite happy with what I saw. A new  small cement court for a version of soccer, has been poured and the loza (cement slab that will be the roof of the first floor but the floor of the second level) has also been finished. Next will be the job of pouring the floor and putting up the walls. The goal is to have everything done before January in order to be able to show parents and prospective students the progress the school is making.

Saturday afternoon I skipped out of the session in order to go the hospital where a former pastor is a patient. Zenobio Cusi was active with the youth of our churches in his early years. Then he fell back into the world and for quite a long time was not around. Then he made a genuine repentance and returned to the Lord and to the church. He served as secretary of the national governing board of the church for a term. But then the call of world again seemed to be too strong for him and he once more returned to the world, conscientiously making the decision to leave the Lord behind. As he told one of our other pastors, life was better now that he was away from the Lord.

A week ago he and his family and some others went together in a van to a fiesta somewhere in the campo (country side). Alcohol is always an integral part of these festivities and apparently this one was no exception. On the way back to La Paz, Zenobio's son-in-law was driving the van. The combination of alcohol and too much speed resulted in the van rolling over several times with deadly results. Zenobio suffered a broken shoulder and leg and foot. But he was lucky. His son-in-law, his daughter, his wife, a sister of his wife and a granddaughter were all killed. (There may have been a couple of other deaths as well along with this family members. I am not real clear on that point.) A number of our pastors had charge of the burials. While Zenobio was able to see the caskets briefly at him home, he was in surgury while the funeral was being held.

When I saw him he seemed to be in a repentant state. I think he realizes now the cost of serving the world instead of the Lord. He was truly a recipient of God's grace to be spared to be given another opportunity to repent. Why was he spared and his wife not spared? Why id the young granddaughter die? I really don't have an answer. Was it simply chance and the laws of nature at work? Did God directly interviene to spare Zenobio? I don't know that either. But this I know, Zenobio needs to make a firm commitment to the Lord that will not waver. Will you join me in praying for him that he will let God get a hold of his life so tightly that he will never want to go away again.
Special music was provided by this band.

Installing newly elected officers.

Offering includes products as well as money.

New Liberty School building going up.
The new soccer court.