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, September 29, 2014

Peter, The Church and Children

Yesterday, Sunday, it was my privilege to teach the kids' class at our district junta. I have not done it for quite a while and so was a bit unsure as to what it was gong to be like. I had my lesson and craft preparations done, songs ready to be taught and sung and then came Sunday. It all came back to mind.

Bolivian children are cute, adorable, lovable, funny and undisciplined, especially in large groups. The room we were in has been newly finished but echoes. That didn't help. Nor were there enough chairs when we started. So the first ten minutes or so was just trying to get everyone situated. More chairs were brought in and a make shift bench made out of a plank and some bricks.

The helpers I had did a great job in trying to keep things down to a dull roar. However as we begin to sing a new song the kids interest was captured and they sang along and did the motions. "I am the church, You are the church, We are the church together….." That was the theme for the day that we are the church; not a building of brick and cement but people are the true church.

Although it doesn't look it, there were between 65-70 kids

Then came story time. It was the Acts 12 account of Peter being imprisoned and the church praying for him. Who was praying? A building? No. It was people, the church, who were praying.

Peter in prison, in my own art style.

The church praying

An angel rescues Peter

The church rejoices over God's answer to prayer

Following the story was craft time. We made stick puppets representing Peter and other characters in the story and then each child drew their own face on a styrofoam plate with their name and the caption: I am the church.

Craft time was wonderfully chaotic and noisy. But the kids seemed to have a good time and enjoyed making the crafts.

"I am the church"

The morning was rounded off by a lunch of Bolivian chicken salad and juice to drink.

I admit that I was a bit happy (and tired, and not too happy about the mess that had been made) when it was all over. Nonetheless, it was a blessing to with the kids yesterday because "I am the church. You are the church. We are the church together." And it is these kids into whose hands God will intrust the church tomorrow.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

What Do You Do When The Lights go Out?

Last Sunday evening I was invited to preach at our Plan 3000, "Rivers of Living Water", Church as they celebrated their 20th anniversary. I gladly accepted the invitation when it was extended to me. The Plan 3000 church and I have a good history together, especially in its earlier years.

When we first moved to Santa Cruz from La Paz, the church was still very new and quite fragile at that point in its history. The brothers and sisters were meeting in a small plywood walled room at a school located next door to where the congregation hoped to build its building. During the course of that evening service I remember that a young man shared about his faith in Christ. That young man was David, who was to become one of my Bible Institute Students and pastor of the church for several years.

I had been in conversations with the district about beginning a branch of the Holiness Bible Institute in Santa Cruz. It wasn't long after that first visit at Plan that we began holding institute classes. There was a fine group of 15 students or so, several of them , including David, from the Plan 3000 church.

As the months went by the church began to build on the lot next door. Soon they had some walls up, no roof or floor yet, and began to hold services in the shell of the building. Somewhere along the line we had decided that this was the place that we ought to be attending church and so every Sunday we were helping out; Niki taught children's Sunday School and helped one of the young ladies in the congregation to learn how to do it, and I helped with teaching and preaching as requested.

The day came when the roof was on and the church was ready to pour a floor in the new building. We had a work team that was coming and so it was decided that they would help pour the floor. On that work team was a young lady named Jenny who shoveled sand and dirt and mixed cement as well as the men. Today Jenny Wolheter still laughs about that when we mention it to her.

There are other memories from the church, some good and some sad. The sudden death of Bernardino, a well loved pastor, saddened the congregation. They also experienced the tragic fall into sin of one of their pastors. Members have come and gone. Some have walked faithfully with the Lord while others have fallen away. Pastors have labored with mixed results. But through it all the church has maintained open doors and a witness in their zone.

All these kinds of memories were gong through my mind the night of the anniversary service. The service opened with lots of enthusiastic music. The tambourine girls were playing their best and the congregation was singing. There was definitely a feeling of celebration. As it neared time for the message all at once the lights went out. The music stopped and the pastor in charge wondered what to do. What to do? Why, continue on, of course. The light of the Gospel is not dimmed by the lack of electricity. Twenty years ago the lack of electricity would not have been a great problem and candles and kerosene lamps would have been lit. But not now. Instead the modern equivalent are cell phones. All over the church, people turned on their phones, some with little flashlights, and there was enough light by which to to see. Even the preacher (that was me) got out his phone and turned it on so he could see his text and notes. The lights did eventually come back on, just a few minutes before the end of the message and the evening ended with cake and conversation.

I thank God for the church at Plan 3000. I thank him for the light that the church has been and will be as they follow him in reaching out to their neighborhood.

Preaching by cell phone.

Pre-service prayer.

Making a joyful noise by tambourine.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Back Home in Bolivia Again

We arrived back home in Bolivia on August 21. It was a very good feeling to be getting off of the plane in Santa Cruz and to have the feel of being home again. It was even better to see Bryan Canny waiting to pick us up and take us home.

And yet being home has taken some readjustment. Drivers still honk their horns before the light turns green. Paperwork and documents that we have always done before are getting harder to do. Not to mention more expensive. (We inadvertently paid twice the amount we should have at the bank for one document we were getting. No refunds, no problems! Just consider it a donation.)

We are thankful for the small apartment where we are staying on the property of a sister mission. It was good to see our dog, Hershey, greeting us at the gate and genuinely remembering who we were. And it is good to be with the brothers and sisters after an absence of 16 months. And yet it is different. We know that we are not home to stay, but that we have a new home awaiting us in Liberia, West Africa. The brothers know that too and so there seems to be a bit of distance and sadness as we greet each other with the typical Bolivian abrazo. And as we had our first council meeting together with our fellow missionaries it seemed different to be discussing decisions and future things of which we will not be a part.

I suspect that these three months will go quickly and then we will be boarding a plane again in the first stage of our journey to our new home. When the time comes it will be with mixed emotions that we leave home in order to go home. But in the meantime we will enjoy all things Bolivian while we can.