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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

O When The Souls Come Marching Home . . .

This coming weekend marks an important event in Aymaran society. November 1 is La Fiesta de Todos los Santos (Todos Santos), or All Saints Day. It is believed that at this time of year the souls of the dead return to this world to eat, drink and take back with them the things they need for life in the other world. The souls arrive in a great caravan and find their way to the homes of their loved ones who must make proper preparations to receive them. If it is a “hot” soul that returns, that is one who has recently died, the preparations must be especially elaborate. Special breads are baked, shaped in the form of people. Fruits of all kinds are gathered together, including those things that are out of season, and other favorite things of the deceased are prepared and laid out on a makeshift altar consisting of a table covered with a black woven shawl or poncho.

The souls arrive at noon on November 1. Upon their arrival the family members begin to share the food in the name of the deceased and to pray. These prayers and eating continue throughout the day, into the night and end at noon on the following day when the souls return to their own place.  The remainder of the food is gathered up and taken to the cemetery where the family continues the feast on the grave of their loved one. The prayers continue along with the eating until all is gone. None of the food offerings may be left over.

If the family of a deceased person completes this obligation for three years in a row, they are then released from the necessity to continue welcoming the soul to the house and the soul will stay in its own place with the possibility of becoming a type of god to guard and protect his family.

You may ask why the family goes through all this for three years following the death of a loved one. It is out of fear, because if the soul returns and does not find things to its liking it will punish the family with misfortunes of all kinds. On the other hand, if the soul is pleased with its reception it can bring prosperity to the family.

What a great contrast this is from the Christian hope of eternal life in Jesus. Through the years the Bolivian Evangelical Holiness Church has been faithful in proclaiming new life in Christ. Those who receive the good news of the gospel no longer live in fear of the dead but rather live with a hope of spending eternity in the presence of the Lord.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Farewell WIth The Pastors and Other Things

These last two weeks have seen a flurry of activity for us. It started out with a farewell given to us by the pastors of the Bolivian Evangelical Holiness Church in La Paz at the regular quarterly meeting of the denomination’s pastors. I was asked to preach, not really to preach but to share my testimony of how we became involved in Bolivia and my reflections on where the church is now as compared to where it was in the beginning. I am not given to being overly emotional while preaching but I shed some tears while trying to express our appreciation and love for the brothers who were there. After my sharing we were presented with some gifts and then properly greeted by each one present with a traditional Bolivian abrazo (handshake – hug – handshake) and kind words. Following the service there was a cake in our honor and many pictures taken with different brothers and sisters. All in all it was a good day with lots of memories, laughs and tears.

I have never played the lottery. I suppose that if I did I would only be throwing my money away. Whenever I buy a product that has some contest going on, instant winner and all that I always get, “You are not a winner. Try again.” But somehow or other I managed to win the airline upgrade lottery. Right after the farewell in La Paz I headed to the airport to fly to the States to attend the annual board meeting of the mission in my new capacity as Liberian field superintendent. When I purchased my ticket for the trip a few weeks before, I was offered an immediate, $16 upgrade to business class. At first I was suspicious. What was this going to really cost me? Lots of money at the airport? All my frequent flyer miles? But after a phone call I was assured that there were no hidden strings. So I flew to the board meeting going first class. Wow! It could become addicting.

When I returned to Santa Cruz I had diligently filled out my custom’s form on the plane. But I had misread a question and answered incorrectly so I changed the answer. When I gave the form to the lady she looked at it and said, “You didn’t sign it.” I had forgotten so I went over to a desk to sign the form. Then she sent me over to have my suitcase examined by an agent. While he was looking at my stuff she appeared with a new form. “You have to fill this out again because you made a change on it.” Ok. I took the new form and filled it out, signed it and returned with it. I figured that I could go now since I had had my luggage opened already and the form filled out again. No. “You need to go over there and talk with an agent.” So a second agent began to open my luggage. When I told him that it had already been opened he told me to go on but the lady was there again. They still didn’t like what was on my form. I had tried to be honest and answered yes to a couple of questions about items that I had. So the agent looked at me and said, “You need to fill this out again and you need to answer NO to all the questions.” Ok. So back I went for the third try. This time no one gave me a form so I removed one from the tablet of forms. I filled it out AGAIN, SIGNED IT, ANSWERED NO to all the questions and turned it in. “Where’s the carbon copy?” Do I have to fill it out yet again? “Just go,” they told me. I was by then about the last person and I am sure they wanted to be done. So much for trying to be honest. I guess they weren’t worried about a little fish like me.

Two days after arriving home we had our second garage sale. It is amazing how much stuff can be accumulated even in a “third world country”. But we were glad to sell most of what we had out. Following the sale we had invited the district pastors and wives to come for a meal. So Mark, Bryan and I did the cooking while the sale was going on and then served the lunch. It was a pleasant time of fellowship, singing and sharing together. And, as frosting on the cake, they bought most of what we had left from our sale at a special pastors’ discount!

I share my meanderings with you because these are the things that I will miss about Bolivia. I will miss the times of sharing with pastors, eating, laughing and praying together. I will miss the warmth and love that these brothers and sisters have so consistently shown us. And, yes, I will even miss filling out custom’s forms three times to get it right.