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, July 30, 2012

Rhythm or Stay on Beat

Everyone needs a little rhythm in life, right? Rhythm keeps us all moving on beat and helps us mark the  passage of time. This past week a couple of events took place that are a part of the rhythm of the ministry here in Bolivia. First, the  Luz del Mundo (Light of the World) church,celebrated its anniversary. Church anniversaries are an important part of the rhythm of life in the Bolivian church and each congregation carefully keeps track of its founding date and celebrates it each year. Celebrations sometimes include special evangelistic meetings and other events. Often they are several days long and other times just Sunday. They usually involve lots of music and maybe even a cake.

The celebration at Luz del Mundo was lots of loud music with rhythm

followed by an excellent sermon by Pastor Jhonny on the family.

Jhonny's youngest daughter.

 Lunch was salpicón, kind of a potato salad with shredded chicken, green beans, peas and carrots. I thank God for this church and pray that it will really be a light to its world.

As you know by know if you read Ch'airo very much, part of my weekly rhythm is working at the tutoring center twice a week.

The gates are now up on the New Hope Tutoring Center. That should help keep kids in and the wrong people out. The center property has been robbed several times.
Since this was the first week back at the center following school winter break, I decided it would be a good time to introduce some new rhythm to my kindergarten and pre-kinder kids. We started a rhythm band. How fun can you get! Even sober little Jesús (Jesús is a very common name in Bolivia) gave a smile as we sang about Jesus and banged our instruments in time to the melody.

New Hope Philharmonic Rhythm Band, Gordon Bernstein directing.

 We're probably not quite ready for a grand performance at Carnegie Hall but we might be after a little more practice. (Yes, our CD's are available!)

That's it for this week's post. Have a good week and don't forget to enjoy a little rhythm in your life.

Friday, July 20, 2012


You might say that we are milking this for all it is worth but Niki and I decided to have one more 30th anniversary fling, this time with another couple whose anniversary is close to ours. Although our anniversaries were in June this last weekend was the first chance we had to get away. We decided to go out to the town of Pailon and visit the work that is going on there among some of the Mennonite colonies.

The drive out was fine. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon and traffic not bad. Just before arriving at Pailon there is a checkpoint/toll booth. I had already paid our road fee when we left Santa Cruz so I handed my slip to the attendant and he, after stamping it, handed it back and on we went. But there is also a police checkpoint at the same place and a policeman was stopping traffic. When it came my turn he indicated that I needed to go to the window and show my documents. No problem. I had my ID card and driver's license. When I got to the window the officer informed me that I needed to give him 20 bolivianos. Ok. I handed it to him but wondering why I needed to give it. FInally I asked him what it was for. After all, I had paid my fee and had my slip to show it. His response: You need to hurry. There is going to be a strike. Ok, so there is going to be a strike but what does that have to do with my giving him money. Again I asked him. In fact I told him, respectfully, that I didn't believe him that I needed to pay. Where was there any indication that this was a legitimate fee. Could he please show me? At least he needed to give me receipts. His response: You need to hurry. There is going to be a strike. Yes, I had heard that before. In the middle of the conversation another driver came to the window. His slip was simply stamped and he was sent on his way. Hmmm. I asked the officer if I could please have his name. After all corruption is corruption. He gave me his name. I also wanted his ID number. He never produced that but reached into his drawer and pulled out 10 bolivianos to give back to me. I reminded him that I had given him 20. Reluctantly he produced another 10 bill and gave it to me as well. Now I could leave.

Afterwards as I reflected on the incident I thought if he hadn't been so greedy and only asked for 5 I would have given it to him without much question. But 20 was a lot more than the usual required voluntary fee. Anyway it provided fodder for a lot of humor during our stay.

We stayed in guest apartments at the Trans World Radio station. Very nice and fully furnished. We had a good night's sleep and the next day dawned sunny and bright, if not overly warm. We had decided that at noon we would drive into town and eat a nice lunch together. By now the strike that the kind officer had warned me about was in full force. The highway was blocked at several points between Pailon and Santa Cruz. But we were able to drive to Pailon without difficulty although we did observe people stranded by the road waiting in vain for their normal transportation to arrive.

After a good lunch of grilled pork, rice, yuca and salad we headed back to the radio station only to discover that the blockade had expanded and that there was now one between us and the radio station. So off to adventuring, we headed down a dirt road following a couple of other vehicles who seemed to know where they were going. After a nice sightseeing trip through rustic countryside and farmland we eventually found ourselves on the highway again on the other side of the road block.

The next morning, the day we were to return to Santa Cruz, we discovered that the road block was now even closer to us, just up the road. Ok. We had plenty of food and our friends so we prepared to stay another night if necessary. But lo and behold, by about noon the blockades were lifted and we decided to hightail it home while the getting was good.

Now as I reflect on this little trip, I am challenged by my own words to the policeman. Corruption is corruption. Living here in a country were corruption is at every level, do I contribute to it? At what level am I willing to overlook it and live with it, put up with it and even accommodate it and when do I object? Hard questions. The Biblical prophets call us to promote justice, to let it roll like rivers. So. . . what do I do as a believer and foreigner? How do I work for justice and truth? Good questions at the least. Perhaps life changing at the most.

While I ponder the answers for me I feel a snack attack coming on. Could you give me 20 bolivianos so I can consider these things over a Toby burger and fries? Until next time . . .

Friday, July 13, 2012

Retreat, Revive, Roll

Last week was the annual World Gospel Mission Bolivian field retreat. (No, we have not switched missions. Yes, we are still with Evangelical Church Missions. No, we are not considering switching.) WGM has invited our mission to participate in their annual field retreat for years. In fact, since before we were on the field. This year the retreat was held at a place not too far out of town so there was no long drive to get there. (We did take a wrong turn coming home and, well, how shall we say it, we saw a little extra country side. Kind of like the old days when I used to say to the kids coming home from church, "Let's take a short cut" or "I wonder where this road goes . . . "). The weather was great for the first two days and the rain kindly held off until the next to the last day.  There was lots of food and fun to go around. One of the highlights was our own 4th of July fireworks show. (It somehow seems more important to celebrate when you are outside the country.) But best of all were the sessions. This year's speakers were a retired Salvation Army Officer couple. Both shared speaking duties and shared from the heart and from the Word. One of the focuses of the meetings was on the Word and its importance in our lives. It was good to be challenged again about guarding the basic things in life. I thank God for the good retreat this year. I felt like I retreated, was revived and went home ready to roll.

The morning following the retreat I left for a five day trip to La Paz. The immediate reason was the quarterly pastors' junta. Every three months the pastors of the church have a two day meeting to review what is happening in the church and to discuss any business that may be. Sometimes these meetings can  turn out to be a bit combative with lively debate but this one was quite calm. I was encouraged by the reports of new churches and new opportunities. The missions department is launching a new project to raise money for a missionary center where leaders can be trained, not only in Bible and theology, but also agriculture and other skills helpful in serving in the countryside in Bolivia. The pastors are committing themselves to purchase square meters of land at $20 a meter. That is a big step for them. The need is great and opportunities are there for expanded ministry. Please pray for this endeavor. Thanks.