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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy 50 Anniversary Avelino and Josefina!

This last Saturday evening I had the privilege to help a very special couple here in Santa Cruz celebrate 50 years of marriage. That is an amazing accomplishment for Bolivia considering the low level of life expectancy and the high rate of couples who never marry. Avelino and Josefina Perez were married in our Viacha church by Bob Trosen, our first missionary sent to Bolivia by the mission board. Through these years they have learned to grow and mature in their relationship with each other and with God and their faith in Jesus is very evident to all. I have heard Josefina say several times how she had to learn to be a good wife and treat her husband with love. Their love for each other, their children and their neighbors shows clearly in what they do. The celebration was planned by their living children (four sons and two daughters). They had other children who they have already deposited in Heaven and with whom they will some day be reunited.

The celebration itself was a true Bolivian event. Announced for 8 pm it began about 10:30 pm. The main bulk of the celebration was a reaffirmation of their wedding vows. I was pleased to have been asked to do the officiating. Following the ceremony was a reception with lots of LOUD music, a midnight supper and cake around 1 am.

So I add my good wishes for Avelino and Josefina. May God bless their remaining years together with love, goodness and grace.

Josefina and Avelino with Jenny and James Wolheter

Sharing cake.

Bryan and Molly Canny share in the festivities.

Niki with Bryan.

Fireworks started off the celebration.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Forgot The Roast? No Problem!

Today's post is three short unrelated items. No creativity, no rocket science, just three straight forward reports.

1. About a week ago the Santa Cruz district had its annual congress session where churches give reports, new ideas for the district are discussed, accepted or discarded and new officers are elected for the district. It began on Saturday afternoon and ended Sunday evening. The highlights of the congress for me were: the heavy thunder storm that struck on Saturday evening so that we finally had to call it quits and go home because no one could hear what was being said. The church has a tin roof which makes lots of noise in the rain. Hurray for tin!; The re-election of the district president, Elías Flores, and the district secretary, Rubén Perez.Both of these men are servants of God who serve humbly and faithfully. They have been a joy to work with in the past and I look forward to continuing to work with them in this year; The acceptance of a plan that will involve the churches in giving scholarships to university students who are preparing for ministry. the mission has been giving scholarships for a long time. This is the first time that the district is committing itself in this way as well. That is a great step forward and I thank God for it.

2. On Saturday we had our first meeting for potential volunteers for the tutoring center here in Santa Cruz. There were around a dozen men and women who came for this first meeting. It is exciting but also a bit scarey to see how god is putting this together bit y bit. I am reminded of what Meredeth Schefflen said many times. (She was the founder of the Bolivian Evangelical University). Find something that is too big for you to do and then see how God does it. The tutoring center fits the bill in my mind. I don't know where the personnel and finances will all come from but I am looking forward to seeing what God is going to do.

3. I learned something new about Bolivia this last week when I arrived at the airport in Santa Cruz to fly to Cochabamba for a meeting. Let me suggest a hypothetical case or two to share what I learned. Let us say that you are on your way to Gramma's house in La Paz and you forgot that you were to bring a roast for dinner. Or say that you are heading to your son-in-law's home for a cook out but you didn't remember that promised to bring the burgers. You're already in the secure area of the airport. No way to leave and go find a store. But then you look and remember and a smile comes over your face. No problem you simply fo to the meat store in the secure waiting area of the airport. That's right. Fresh meat all packaged and ready to go. So pick up that roast (sorry there are no potatoes to go with it), buy those burgers and be on your way with peace in your heart knowing that the airport meat store has once again saved the day!

I am not making this up. A customer checks out what's fresh at the airport meat store.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Koocking, Kids and Kamp

This past weekend Niki and I had the privilege of cooking for the Santa Cruz Christian learning Center high school youth retreat. Although there was not an overly large number of people to cook for (around 80) it was a challenge for us to know how to plan and prepare for that large of a group. The menu was simple enough, spaghetti, hamburgers, chicken, taco salad, cinnamon rolls and breakfast burritos, and we did as much ahead as possible to make preparations there as easy as we could. But it still involved a lot of work.

Thankfully we had good help (another missionary couple plus a couple of Bolivian ladies)

and the kids were quite willing to eat what we put out.

My big day was on Saturday when I had to grill hamburgers for lunch and chicken for supper (There was no available working oven except a clay wood burning oven designed to cook bread). I had trouble getting the firs going becasue of the altitude but one of the other cooks knew just what to do so she rescued me and dinner was done on time.

Although from our perspective food was the foremost item the goal of the retreat was to challenge the kids to go deeper in their spiritual lives. The speaker was Aaron Breakfield, ECM missionary from Brazil. He did a good job of speaking directly to the kids and challenging them to live faithfully for the Lord.

We arrived back home late Sunday afternoon. Then early Monday morning it was off to visit the Santa Cruz district youth camp where I was scheduled to speak on that morning. We left the house in plenty of time but did not realize that we were going to hit a roadblock on the main drag out of town. (I think it was a group of frustrated neighbors trying to get the city's attention.) That caused us to arrive late at the camp as we had to follow slowly in line with a million other people (more or less) who were trying to get around the roadblock as well.

The camp had as its theme being a good soldier for Christ. Almost everyone was dressed in some kind of camouflage wear. Activities during the weekend had included running to the river, calisthenics, obstacle course, propelling down a cliff and other fun military type activities and, of course, lots of good food as only the church women can fix. I would never have gone to a retreat like that as a kid but everyone there was having a great time.

Reviewing the troops. you can tell I'm a general by the bulge in the belly.

When it came time for the session where I was to speak the commandant of the camp told everyone, in no uncertain terms, that they were to listen carefully. Yes sir, they all replied at the top of their lungs. What a great idea, I thought. Maybe we need this guy to give a pep talk before every lesson I teach. Now because we had arrived late my time was cut into about half so I had to make some quick revisions and changes to my presentation. I was asked to share on holiness and my text was Exodus 19. I thought that my presentation suffered some from the last minute changes but at the same time I felt that God was helping me in what I shared.

I am thankful that I had the chance to be involved in both of these youth retreats and turst that I was able to have a small part if what God is doing to raise up godly young men and women to serve him here in Bolivia.