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, January 31, 2011


For those of you who have played my little guessing game the answer to the question, What does your church have that most of our churches in Santa Cruz do not have, is WINDOWS. By that I do not mean holes in the walls but I mean glass windows such as you would buy at a store or have built into your home. I got a lot of good guesses as to what was the answer, many of which were well thought out and maybe true in their own way, but the proper answer is windows. (Probably my favorite wrong answer was "ME!")

Windows come in handy for a lot of things. For instance, on Saturday Niki was invited to a meeting of the leadership of the district women's societies. It was held downstairs at the Dios Es Amor (God Is Love) church. When we came in and sat down, because it was a bit of a warm day on Saturday, Niki commented that maybe it wasn't too bad to not have glass in the windows as there was a cool breeze floating in (But, of course, with glass windows you could open them as needed). However other things where soon floating in as well. First off was the pleasant odor of human waste from some outhouse. Not so nice. A glass barrier would help keep that out. And the ever present bugs that find open windows a standing invitation were, well, present. But the worst thing was the smoke. The neighbors decided to burn something, maybe yard refuse, but the pleasant breeze was bringing in the smoke. Before long, not only did out clothes smell of it, but our eyes, noses and lungs were full of it. Again, a well placed window or two could have helped greatly.

Now that was one afternoon's experiences. I could add other things like rain coming in, cold in the winter, noise from the neighbors, loud music from the karaokes, parties and so on.

This new little church needs a couple of windows.

The view from a window at Dios Es Amor.
 Windows. What an amazing thought.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Riddle Me This

What does your church have that most of our churches in Santa Cruz don't have?

Leave a comment with your answer or email your answer to me. goelliott@cotas.com.bo

Get Ready, Get Set, GROW

It is a well agreed to statement that recognizing that you have a problem is a first step in solving it. So our church leaders here in Bolivia, after examining the church's direction and activities for the last number of years, have come to the conclusion that we have a problem as a church that needs to be addressed. We have become careless in our response to the Great Commission to make disciples. It is not that we have quit planting churches, it is not that we have quit presenting the gospel to lost people, it is not that we have quit seeing new converts come to our churches. But we have become careless in our making disciples. It is one thing to have a convert, it is quite another thing to make a disciple out of him. (Now that might be an interesting discussion - can you be a convert without being a disciple?) And so our church leadership is taking steps to try and help us to address the problem. The church is embarking on a three year emphasis of Renewing our Commitment to the Great Commission. As a first step in this renewal, the church is conducting regional seminars across the denomination to teach about how to structure discipleship within the local church. This past weekend the Santa Cruz/Cochabamba seminar was held here in Santa Cruz. The guest speaker, a Bolivian regional coordinator for Campus Crusade for Christ, did a very good job of examining what is necessary to make disciples.

The first night's topic was using the tools that God has given for discipleship.

At the end all the participants received certificates.

Those in attendance were very receptive to what was being presented. The next step in the process is to begin to form discipleship groups within each local church. While not a program as such, the national church is preparing some models for how to do that and suggest materials that can be of help. By the end of the year, the goal is to have discipleship groups operating in all of our local churches. An ambitious goal, yes, but one that needs to be pursued. Please pray for the national church as together we take this new challenge to become recommitted to the Great Commission.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday

Recently I helped celebrate three different birthdays. The first two were celebrated together. My co-workers, James and JJ and I were in La Paz to attend the quarterly pastors' junta (conference). James and I stayed a couple of days extra in order to do some cleaning and organizing in one of our storage rooms. Since we were there we decided that we should take advantage of the time and treat our secretary, Lidia, and husband to a birthday dinner for her. She is hitting the big 5 oh this year. I thought it might be a nice gesture to also invite the president of the church, Vicente, and his wife to go along with us as well. When I said something about birthday and lunch she was very excited. She misunderstood me and thought that I was talking about Vicente because his birthday is also approaching, two days after Lidia's. So I was a better man than I thought! I was hitting tow birthdays with one party. Anyway, it proved to be a good time together. The food was good, the cake was so-so, but the fellowship was great. I thank God for Lidia. She has been working for the mission for more years than I have. I also thank God for Vicente. His leadership is proving to be very effective in the church. So Happy Birthday and Happy Birthday.

Yesterday (Sunday) I was invited to another birthday party. This time it was for Masiel Sarahí, an extremely cute little two year old girl.

The party was held at the church and there were lots of eager attenders. The kids played games

The Train

Musical Chairs

Sack Race

I don't recommend this one . . .

having kids chug pop and gobble bread. I was waiting for a disaster to happen!

And, of course, the killer piñata!

and ate goodies until the time for the cake.

Happy Birthday was appropriately sung , the candle blown out and the cake served along with cheese empanadas.

I had the privilege of dedicating Masiel some months back. Her mother attends our church and asked me to preform her dedication. The unfortunate part of the story is that Viki is a single mother. Like too many other young Bolivian women, she got involved with a guy (who was also in the church where she was attending), became pregnant and then left by the father to fend for herself. Viki has recognized her error and is trying to live as a Christian mother. Unfortunately the father has not recognized his responsibility. I asked the father's brother, who was at the party along with his parents, if his brother had any intentions of making things right. He didn't know.

Will you please pray for Masiel, Viki her mother, and her father that soon this beautiful young girl can have the stability of a complete family united in love for each other and for God.

Viki and Masiel

Monday, January 3, 2011

Holiday Highlights

Our Christmas season this year was filled with a variety of activities. Thanksgiving, the official kickoff of the Christmas season, was celebrated with our visitors from the States. That was followed by the national congress of the church up in La Paz. The month of December brought the usual flurry of Christmas related activities including Niki's annual open house for the staff at the Learning Center where she works with kids with learning disabilities. James and Jenny Wolheter and their boys came for a two week visit before Christmas. JJ and Randi Guerrero and their kids came a week later, so we were all together for Christmas. That was fun. The house was full. In addition to our co-workers our daughter Dori was also able to come home for Christmas so it was a great time together.

The day after Christmas the president of Bolivia gave everyone a surprise gift. He announced that gasoline was going up over 70% and the price of diesel was going up over 80%. That did not set too well with the public and there were immediate marches, strikes and roadblocks. Santa Cruz remained calm but La Paz was basically shut down with angry marchers demanding the resignation of the president. Then came New Year's Eve and the president announced that he was rescinding the price increases and other things he had decreed at the same time. So everything is back to normal, whatever that is. (I only had to full up our car once at the new prices. If I had known I could have waited a day and not bought any of the high priced gas.)

The highlight of our Christmas break was our vacation (two nights and three days) at a resort out by the sand dunes. Have you ever read the Bernstein Bears book, The Worst Vacation Ever (or something close to that title)? we decided that our trip to the dunes was about equal to that book. There was a broken window in the shower to let in the bugs. Dori's bedroom was overrun by ants. The swimming pool was freezing (I don't know how it could be that cold on such a hot day). The dining room would only serve the expensive half of its menu (meaning no sandwiches, pizza or other things that we wanted). And when the rain came, well there wasn't much to do. At least it didn't come into the cabin. But by the time everything was said and done we had had a good laugh or two. While I don't think we will be returning (good deal or no good deal) we will have more laughs remembering the event. One good thing was that we went with some good friends so we all laughed together about our poor choice of location.

There were a couple of sad moments as well during this season. My brother's wife ended her battle with cancer a few days after Thanksgiving and went home to be with the Lord. They had been married 39 years. Our son Daniel and his wife Naomi lost their first child when Naomi had a miscarriage over New Year's Day.  But the Lord holds the new year and us in his hands and his presence will continue to go with us in these days.

May you have a very blessed New Year as you walk with the Lord of all our years.

Silent Monks Hallelujah Chorus

You will really enjoy this rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus.

Silent Monks Hallelujah Chorus, posted with vodpod

Happy New Year

The New Year has arrived. In one sense it seems like it should not be here yet and in another it seems like it has been slow in arriving. Everyone has their own holiday customs. Your family might have some New Year's traditions that  you keep. Our family doesn't except that we stay up until midnight (big deal!) and usually play games. Also fireworks have become a part of our New year's celebrations since living in Bolivia. Last year about this time I printed a few Bolivian customs for you to read. I decided to reprint them so here they are:

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.

A couple of  additional items I have since learned: Climb a ladder or lay on a table. I am not quite sure what that will do (maybe bring a promotion and lots of food?.

Of course we know that the New Year is not controlled by such things but that our God holds us and the New Year in the palm of his hand. Isn't that good to know?

Have a Happy and Blessed New Year as you follow Jesus.