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.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Tribute To Duane Erickson

No. Duane is not dead. I want to make that point very clear. However, after many years as executive director of the mission, Duane Erickson has stepped down. I thought I would use the occasion to share a few memories about Duane and Jessie.

I first met Duane and Jessie when I had the opportunity to visit Bolivia for seven weeks in the summer of 1977. I was getting ready to begin my senior year at George Fox college and wanted to have the opportunity to experience a little bit of mission life for myself. I knew God was calling me in that direction but had no specific idea as to where or with whom. Anyway, Duane came to the airport in La Paz to pick me up. I don't remember much about first impressions and all that but the next day he took me with him out to register TEE students in the country. At one church they served us each a plate with some boiled potatoes. I remember Duane saying to me, "I always break these open in case there is a worm inside." And sure enough, when he broke his open there indeed was a big old worm cooked into the potato. Then the drink was brought out to pass around. As I saw the brothers bringing out what for all the world appeared to be beer bottles I began to wonder about what kind of outfit this was I was visiting. But Duane seemed to be drinking it so I assumed it would be ok. It was cheap pop. I learned that cheap bolivian pop comes in "beer" bottles.

Some of our best memories come from the time when Duane and Jessie lived just down the street from us in La Paz. There was the time when Duane sat on a pencil and the lead broke off in a delicate spot. Good thing there were nurses in the missionary community.

Then there was the time we were having prayer meeting at Duane and Jessie's. Our children we off entertaining themselves while we prayed. Boy was that a mistake. Dori, who was quite little, discovered Duane's supply of bb's for his gun and proceeded to eat them. When she opened her mouth a large handful of bb's came pouring out.

Another time we had a work team visiting. Dinner was at the Erickson's. After lunch, one of the men on the team laid down on the couch. Jessie, who was always attentive to visitor's needs, questioned him if he was feeling okay. His response, "Every day I see Duane lay down after lunch and take a nap and no one ever asks him is he's okay!"

After becoming executive director Duane was down visiting. We were walking down a road in Santa Cruz going to the home of some brothers when a fairly good sized goat approached. I was in the lead and gently turned his head away from me. The goat walked on past us and then, without warning, butted Duane for all he was worth. I am sure it had to hurt but did we ever laugh. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

On a more serious note, Duane and Jessie were great people to work with. Duane believed in me at times when I wasn't so sure I believed in myself. He was always encouraging and supportive. And Jessie, well maybe one more story will sum up our experiences with her.

Niki and I were gong somewhere and Jessie was going to watch Daniel and Dori for us. So we walked them down the street to the Erickson's house and rang the bell. In those days we both had the same young lady working for us. Her name was Esperanza. While waiting for the door to open, Daniel looked at us and said, "Dori likes Esperanza, but I LOVE Auntie Jessie."

I guess that about sums it up. We love Duane and Jessie. It seems a little weird to think of someone else being in Duane's office (no offense meant to Bruce Moyer, our new director). The Erickson's have been a part of our Bolivian experience from the beginning. We pray for God's best for them as they enter this new phase of life. And no, Duane is not retiring. He is continuing working at the office but in a new capacity. He no longer has to carry all those burdens and be troubled with all his problem "children" on the various mission fields of the church. Why, who knows, with the reduced stress in his life even his hair may come back!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hail to the Chief and the Champs Go Marching In

The last week of November was an important event in the life of our mission here in Bolivia. Our new executive director came to spend Thanksgiving with us and to let us get acquainted with each other. It is not that we did not know Dr. Bruce Moyer before, but this was our first experience with him as mission director. I'm not sure who was on trial here, Bruce or the missionaries, but in my opinion he came through with flying colors.

We all celebrated Thanksgiving together at JJ and Randi Guerrero's in Cochabamba.

It was the beginning of the trial by fire for Bruce as we introduced him to THE mission game Settlers of Catan. If I remember correctly, he held his own as a newbie but didn't win. I'd like to say that I won but I didn't do that either. (But I made up for it when we played a game here in Santa Cruz and I soundly thrashed both Bruce and Duane Erickson who was accompanying Bruce.)

After all that hard work it's always time to rest, right?

Friday was the big meeting with Bruce and all the missionaries. I came away from that meeting feeling good about the choice of Dr. Moyer as our new director but also a bit of sadness at the end of the Erickson era in the mission.

Saturday morning we left for La Paz to get in on the tail end of the church's national congress (like our general conference in the States but yearly). We arrived just in time to hear part of the report on the new proposed law regulating churches and missions. The government is trying to find a way to put more pressure on the church (both Catholics and Evangelicals) while promoting Andean religion. One way is by trying to control at least some of the offerings the churches gather. Also it appears the church will no longer be able to preach against some sin (like homosexuality) or against the occult (Andean religion is the worship of spirits and demons) as that is being labeled racist and intolerant. We will see how far the government actually goes with this and what all the implications for the church and mission will be. If there is enough fuss the government may back off on some of the proposals.

Good food is always a part of Congreso.

The cooks are always an important part of any event.

Saturday evening was a combined Bible Institute Graduation and Ordination service.

Prayer of consecration.

Greetings and congratulations.

On Sunday morning Duane Erickson, outgoing mission executive director, gave the morning message emphasizing the need to return to a strong evangelistic thrust in the church. Bruce also gave some words of greeting and encouragement.

National church missions department representative parys for Dr. Moyer.

Following lunch we were able to meet with the national board of the church to discuss two very specific projects. One project is the ongoing upgrading of Liberty school. (You can read more about that in my earlier post on November 9, 2010). The second project is the establishing of a pension fund for our pastors here in Bolivia. This fund will be used to provide some income for retired pastors as well as for their widows and to address major medical needs. Although the project is quite new, there are already pastors and churches that are paying into the fund and a number of widows and elderly pastors have received some help. (If you or your church would like to help with either of these projects please contact the home office or write to me at goelliott@cotas.com.bo).

Sunday evening I was to fly home to Santa Cruz while Bruce, Duane and our other missionaries drove back to Cochabamba. I was sitting in the airport with a headache, dead tired fooling around (dare I say it, I was playing a game) on my computer when all at once a loud commotion came through the main doors into the airport. A large group of mostly males were singing(?) and making lots of noise. Before long a drum had joined in. I wasn't in a very jolly mood and certainly did not feel like joining in whatever festivities were going on. But I had to find out what was what. I soon discovered that the group were fans of Oriente Petrolero, one of the professional soccer (futbol) teams from Santa Cruz. They had just won the league champoinship that afternoon playing in La Paz. The noise seemed to be dying down a bit when the team itself entered the airport. Then everything broke loose. Drums, singing, shouting, etc. and my head throbbing along with it all.

After going through security I discovered that I had the privilege (or maybe the bad luck) of being on the same flight with the team and its fans returning to Santa Cruz. All the way home on the plan the singing, noise, bangin on the sides and roof of the airplane continued. o well, I was feeling better by then but still did not care to join in the celebrating.

At last we were in the airport and I could get a taxi and escape all of this. But wrong! Half of Santa Cruz had turned out to meet the team. The traffic was so bad that it took us about 40 minutes just to drive from the terminal to the highway (less than five minutes normally). Then the highway was jammed up and my taxi drove down the wrong side (this was at night) for a long ways until some helpful policemen made us cross over the middle division and get onto our own side.

All in all it was quite an adventure. And I too must add my congratulations to Oriente for their win. It is their first national championship in a long time.

Tuesday evening Bruce and Duane returned to Santa Cruz and the next couple of days were spent in talking with Bruce as a couple, touring the churches, having lunch with the district board and yes, a couple of Settler's games.

 Friday morning I sent the bosses off to Brazil where they are meeting with the missionary crew there. All in all it was a great visit and we heartily welcome Dr. Moyer as our new leader. Our prayers and cooperation will be with him.