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, June 28, 2011

District Activities

The Santa Cruz District Junta (gathering) was this last Sunday. Held three times a year, the junta is when all the churches in the district get together for a Sunday morning worship service and Sunday School. This junta was held at the Rios De Agua Viva (Rivers of Living Water) church in Plan 3000. Although it was a very chilly morning the church was full of people.

You never know who you might meet at a junta.
 Six of the seven churches in Santa Cruz were represented plus the Los Andes church from La Paz had sent a group down for the junta. (The one church that was not present was the reopened Casa de Oración church. Since it has recently started services again it was decided that it was best to keep it open. there are around 20 kids that are attending the church now.) Juntas are always a mix of LOUD singing,

Tambourines are the in thing right now.


This small group met in the courner to have their lesson in Quechua.
Don't they look like little angels listening so well in class?

I'm not sure what the youth were doing. It looked to me that they were just milling around but I was assured they were doing an activity.

preaching, food

The cooks and food preparations are always an important part of the junta.
 and visiting with friends. All in all, a good experience.

Two weeks ago was another district function - the annual seminar conducted by a representative from La Paz. These seminars always prove to be a source of encouragement for the brothers. This particular seminar was conducted by Pastor Angel Condori and was stressing the need to recommit to evangelism. It was a well conducted and thought out presentation with a good amount of audience participation. Seminars always include food and this one was no different. the plate of oven baked chicken was excellent as was the fellowship.

Angel is one of the best.

It is these kinds of opportunities that remind me how blessed I am to be a part of the ministry in Bolivia. God has gathered together a good bunch of leaders for the work and I am privileged to be included in their number.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Family Complications

Family - like Irma Bombeck once said, the ties that bind and gag. Of all our relationships in the world it is family relationships that often prove to be the most complicated, frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking. That certainly is no exception here in Bolivia. With the loose moral standards and societal pressure on young girls to have sexual relationships before marriage it is no wonder that family ties can become difficult.

Yesterday I ran into a lady who attends one of our churches. She was with her 16 year old daughter who used to always attend with her but has not been at church for quite some time. "Felipa" (not her real name) after exchanging some small talk began to tell me about her family.situation. She is the mother of five or six children. The first two were not fathered by her husband. (Not an unusual situation in Bolivia.) A sense of animosity had developed between the older daughter and the step-father. It grew to the point where the older daughter left home and had no desire to return because of the resentment and hatred she felt for her step-father. That was when she also stopped coming to church. Felipa's heart was broken for both her daughter and her husband. But the depth of faith that Felipa has in the Lord's ability to work things out is amazing. After time and much prayer by Felipa, both the step-father and the daughter were able to forgive each other and have the hatred and resentment cleansed away by the Lord. Felipa was very happy as she told me this. But now the second daughter is experiencing some of the same issues and is making poor choices for friends. Felpia asked me to pray for her daughter that God will also bring about reconciliation in her situation.
Please pray with me as God brings Felipa to mind, asking him to grant wholeness to this family.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mitzraín Perez

I had stopped by our Heavenly Zion church to check on the Bible Institute class meeting there as I needed to talk with the teacher for a few minutes. I missed the teacher and, after chatting a little bit with some of the students, I was starting to leave. Just then one of them asked me if I could stay a few minutes as there was a family problem. I agreed wondering what the issue could be but as I followed him into the house I saw right away what was happening. Lying on the bed was 11 year old Mitzraín. This young boy had had several severe health crises during the past one to two years. Now he looked extremely fragile lying on the bed. He looked dehydrated and worn. Had his parents had him to a doctor recently? Yes, that morning, they thought. Didn't he need to be hospitalized? His father did not want to do that again because of the financial strain on the family and the demand for time that a hospitalization would require. Being with the child in the hospital would prevent the father working and having the money necessary for the bill. What did the doctor say? He just needed to be given natural minerals from fruit juice. I tried to tactfully tell them that the mission would come up with financing if only they would take the child to the emergency room of a good clinic. They would tell the father when he came to get Mitzraín and give me a call. After a bit more discussion we had prayer together for the boy and I left with a heavy heart thinking that the little guy could not last much longer without better care. I waited at home for the phone call which never came and so I gave up and went to bed. At 2:30 that morning I received a call. Mitzraín had slipped from this world and was now in the arms of Jesus. On Monday morning, the next day, he was buried with much love, tenderness and many tears.

Another child has died that probably did not need to die. I was reminded of another of our believer's who lost their young daughter because they did not get her to the doctor soon enough and the dehydration had already taken its toll on her body. An intern doctor once told me that diarrhea is the leading cause of infant death in Bolivia. Parents do not take their children to the doctor until it is too late. The lack of  money to pay for basic treatment is to blame.

From my western point of view I do not understand at all how a parent can contribute, albeit many times unknowingly, to the death of a child by refusing to seek basic medical care. I admit, my initial reaction to Mitzraín's situation included anger at his dad. And yet I know his dad loved him very much and was an attentive parent. After my initial anger I finally began to understand that I don't understand the vicious cycle of poverty that holds so many Bolivians in its grip. When providing food on the table is a struggle it is hard to justify money spent on doctors who may or may not be trusted.

So Mitzraín becomes another victim of poverty. His parents will struggle with grief and possible feelings of guilt. I pray for understanding of their plight, I pray for them to find hope in their grief, that their marriage will remain strong and that they will take comfort that Mitzraín is indeed safe in the arms of Jesus.