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.

Monday, March 28, 2011

When Your Grown Children Return . . .

News Item: Boomerang children seem to be the norm these days. These are the kids that go off to college or out on their own only to return home in a few years unable to make it in the real world. What's a parent to do? It's hard to turn your children away. The best thing a parent can do is making them understand that they are adults now and the rules have changed.

The truth is nearly 25 million adult children are living with their parents in the U.S. alone.
A recent Canadian census showed that, of kids aged 20 to 29, 44% live with their parents!


You know the old joke about the man who received a new boomerang for a present but  never used it because he could never throw the old one away. Boomerang kids, evidently, are a fixture of the current culture. It is one of those things you never think will happen to you until too late. After all, we live a continent away from our children. Just when we thought it was safe . . . who arrives on our doorstep but Daniel and Naomi. In case you don't know, Daniel is our second born child, first born son. Naomi is his wife of not quite two years. They will both turn 23 later on this year. We should have had the lights out, hidden under the bed and pretended that we had moved to darkest Africa when they arrived at the front door. Oh well, live and learn. . . .

Now that I have your attention let me set the story straight. We knew that they were coming. We even went to the airport to pick them up. We are extremely happy to have them here. We will also be happy to see them go so that Daniel can complete his last few days of class and graduate from college.

Daniel and Naomi arrived last month so that Daniel could do his cross cultural student teaching here at the Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center. He has been assisting in the 6th grade and doing a very good job. Naomi has been volunteering at the school (even substituting in kinder for a couple of days) including doing lunch duty (Yes, those boys will think twice before talking back again). This student teaching experience will fulfill Daniel's last requirements for graduation from Indiana Wesleyan University. We are very proud of his accomplishment and I will even be able to be at the ceremony. (Sorry, Niki, but someone has to stay home and tend the fires, right? I won't even eat at Taco Bell as a way of feeling your pain with you.)

But Daniel and Naomi have also come home for another reason. Daniel has long expressed an interest in returning to Bolivia to work with children. So this visit has been a chance for Naomi to get to know a little bit of Bolivia and to see if she would share that same goal. Besides volunteering at the school, she has been helping out at a newly established baby home. At this point they only have three babies, all of which are over a year old, one extremely malnourished little girl with a heart problem and two adorable little boys who are HIV positive. I don't want to put words into Naomi's mouth but it seems that these little kids have gotten a firm clutch on her heart so who knows what the future may hold. (God does, of course, but the rest of us will have to wait awhile to see.)

In an effort to help Naomi get a better feel for the country we have traveled to Cochabamba and will be visiting La Paz this coming weekend. We had a good visit at Coch and our co-workers who had not yet met Naomi had the chance to get to know her. One of the highlights of the trip for me was having my pants slit at the market by would-be thieves. They also cut a bit of my underwear but my more important birthday suit was left intact. All they got was a not so clean handkerchief that I was carrying in my back pocket. It made for some good laughs in the telling.

After our trip to La Paz this weekend it will soon be time for our boomerang kids to be boomeranging back home and graduation. We will miss having them around but also eager to see what direction God may take them and if it involves coming back here we will gratefully catch the boomerang.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Carnival - More Than Just Rides and Games

Last week was Carnival. Here in Bolivia it is a big deal, essentially a four day week non-stop weekend. While it may have some innocent activities involved with it such as water fights between friends and dressing up in costume, in the larger picture it is more than a harmless bunch of fun and games.

The main even of Carnival in Santa Cruz is the parade that is held on Saturday evening and on into the night. In that parade there are floats, bands and dancers and the carnival queen who is previously chosen by a process that I don't understand.

Alcohol and sex seem to be the two main ingredients in the celebration of Carnival with the defacing of others' property a close third. The alcohol problem has gotten so bad that the city bans the use of alcohol by anyone dancing in the parade but beer is still sold on every street corner along the parade route.

Sex flows easily in these days and will be followed nine months later by a rash of births, most of which will have been unplanned and unwanted. Still sex is encouraged by everyone and the city distributes thousands and thousands of free condoms as if somehow that will make it better. (The carnival queen proclaimed, while promoting the distribution of condoms, Sex is good and doesn't harm anyone! - Then why the condoms . . .?)

The churches often respond to Carnival by trying to get their people, especially their young people, out of the city and away from temptation. Carnival camps and retreats are an important part of that strategy.

As for us, we simply hole up in our house for the long weekend and take advantage of the time off to barbecue with friends, play games, enjoy the family and sleep.

Ash Wednesday follows immediately on the heels of Carnival offering the opportunity to confess all one's Carnival excesses and sins if they are bothering you.There is so little understanding of the true nature of sin, confession, God and righteousness. I guess that's why we are here, to try to help bring understanding of what Jesus' sacrifice really means and how he offers to freely rescue us from a vain way of life to living abundantly.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Merry Christmas!

This will be a short post because I have something else I need to do. I'll explain.

I received a call from the post office on Wednesday afternoon telling me that I had a certified letter and would I please come collect it. So this morning I went to the post office to get my letter. When I went to the certified letter desk they searched and searched and could not find my letter. Was I sure that they had called and it was not the courier service downstairs? I was quite sure but said that I would check. So I went to EMS and asked. No I did not have a letter. I also went to check my post box just in case the letter had ended up in there. Nothing. So back up I went to the certified people. Again the lady searched and searched. In fact I think she might have been ready to call out the Search and Rescue people with the dogs to find my letter. Finally she produced it. Do I have a claim slip from my box? There was supposed to be a claim slip in by p.o. box. Without the slip I could not pick up the letter. I would need to go and complain to the people in the box section. So down I went. I explained my predicament to the lady at the window who disappeared into the bowels of the post office. After what seemed like a rather lengthy time she reappeared with an armload of letters and the missing claim slip. Why had none of these letters reached my box? The reply was Didn't you tell me that you didn't have your key? I had said nothing about my key. No I had my key for my box that was right there. There was nothing in my box. She would have to come and see. Sure enough I had a key for my box. Oh. For whatever reason a different box had been assigned my number and all my mail had been gong into the other box.  She would see that it was now closed since I had a key for my box.

It all had a happy ending. I went back upstairs to pick up my registered letter which you will hear more about in an upcoming post.

I had wondered why we received no Christmas cards this year. I just figured that with email, FaceBook and so on that no one was sending us any this year. But here in my arms was now a whole pile of Christmas mail, birthday cards for Mark, and even those necessary documents that had gone astray, at least that is what I thought. So, the reason this post is short and simple is that I have to go read my Christmas mail. Thank you everyone who sent it. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

WWII: Inside Hitler's Bunker - Photo Gallery - LIFE

WWII: Inside Hitler's Bunker - Photo Gallery - LIFE

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

When Nothing Happens . . .

Do you ever have one of those weeks when nothing seems to grab you? You know, nothing special seems to happen, nothing to write home about, so to speak. It's not so bad to have those kinds of weeks, when the pace of life flows normally along. But it's a Bad Idea when you are supposed to be writing a weekly blog. I confess, I am stumped. (Our big event was spraying the yard for ticks) In fact this last week was more outstanding for what didn't happen instead of what did.

Monday afternoons I am supposed to have an individualized class with just two students. Shortly before I was going out the door for class the phone rang. It was one of my students saying that they could not have class that day. (I didn't catch all the reason - not too important anyway.) Wednesday evenings I have another class - around 11 students in this bunch. I drove out to the church for class but no one was there. That's not too surprising. I am usually the only one on time. But this time nobody came -  except the pastor who informed me that no one would probably be showing up because of all the heavy rain. Now I understand that, with the rain the buses don't run on time, the roads are mud, the church is cold. But it is still a little disconcerting when all your students stay home. (If you teach in Bolivia long enough you will have that experience. I remember the first time it happened to me, I was sure that I was a failure and should not be teaching anymore. But, lo and behold, the next class they were there.)

Social conflict is nothing new in Bolivia but we are currently having our share of it again - this time over food prices, wages and bus fares. So there have been strikes and protests going on all around the country. Last Friday was supposed to be a strike. But not even that happened. What's a guy to do who has to write when nothing takes place?

The one big event of the week was our going to Güembé with Daniel and Naomi on Saturday. Güembé, known otherwise as the butterfly garden, is a fun place to go once in a while, and this time was no exception. The water in the pools was a bit cool at first, but the day was pleasant enough and we enjoyed the butterflies, the birds and the water.(We did get in trouble with the lifeguard but that's another story.)

I am glad that God is the God of the mundane as well as the exciting and that he goes with us no matter what the week. So even though it was a non-eventful week and I was not captured by aliens, bitten by snakes or threatened by a wild band of roving terrorists, I was still being kept by the one who goes with us at all times. And that, I suspect, is enough.