Saturday, November 22, 2014

Navidad all over Bolivia

If you're looking for different ways to share this Christmas I want to share a few that I think are worthwhile:

1. Navidad en Bolivia. This is a program we started a few years back to help an after school support with at risk students. They majority come from indigenous backgrounds and have parents that hardly speak Spanish.  They struggle in school and a few friends of mine from the States, Canada and Bolivia dedicate themselves every afternoon to helping catch them up as well as teach them about the Lord. Here's a sample screenshot of the site-you have got to check out this artwork!  For $16 you can provide a Christmas gift for one of these talented children.
2.  Sponsor (part of) a team! We are taking a trip back out to Potosí!  Lord willing we will have a team comprised mostly of Bolivians, with potentially a few from the USA (including my sister(s) and a friend!).  We appreciate your prayers, and if you are interested in sponsoring one of these young people with a heart to serve in the mountains for a week of their Christmas break, you will be a part of blessing their lives as well as the kiddos and families we will get the opportunities to meet.  Here's the team site that includes some info about what we do and the teams we've had in the past (including some of their experiences).

3.  Donate items.  Resources for activities to do with the kiddos. (Last year we took a Parachute that was donated to the clown that went with us that year) and the kids LOVED it!  Other good practical gifts are: small toys, pencils, coloring books, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mittens, socks, lotion, etc. I also recently saw some Child Evangelism Fellowship picture books that make the stories more vivid for the kiddos.  A lot of these things we can buy here (Except the books and parachute, I think), so let me know if you prefer to send money and we can buy it here to save from the hassle of shipping etc.  I'll be happy to send pictures back to you! :)

Friday, August 22, 2014

9 favorites about Bolivia!

1.  Coffee/tea time.  Especially when I'm with the Vargas or Spies families!  We sit around and sip our hot beverages and talk about all sorts of interesting things.
2. Lots of walking.  We take lots of public transportation and it's a great way to figure out the city, observe the people I live around, and not worry about the traffic.
3. Licuados.  This is like a light milkshake.  Fresh fruit, a little bit of sugar and either water or milk (that's milk in the bag). My favorite is strawberry or banana.  Try it sometime!

4. Tiendas.  No matter where you are there is a tiny corner store less than 5 minute walk away.  They have all the necessities (toilet paper, bread, milk, butter, and tons of other things).  And the prices are similar to the bigger stores!
5. Fresh fruit and vegetables.  There are amazing produce stands and for pretty inexpensive.  The flavor is so much better and fresher!
6. My garden!  Talk about seeing the fruit (Or vegetables in this case) of your labor!  So many good analogies too--The importance of weeding, watering, cultivating, etc.  Someday it will be grown enough to be impressive enough for a photo-I hope!
7. Learning Quechua!  Miss Ely is teaching me and we started this morning. This will be challenging, but right now it's fun!
8.  Playing sports.  Fortunately so far, I've been living in environments where there were enough people for teams.  I hope my skills are improving, but either way it's a fun time and a good way to get to know people a little better.
9. Speaking Spanish.  I quickly realized how much more I have to learn, although I think I will always feel a little bit like that...for now I want to brush up.  The goal is to not immediately be identified as a foreigner.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Random thoughts from a sleepless night

  1. Trust God no matter what.  Because after all, His goodness isn’t dependent on our circumstances.  I’ve been reminded over and over for the past few weeks that God calls us down paths we never would have chosen for ourselves.  No one would choose death, injury, sickness, conflict, loneliness, war, abuse, disaster, etc. But that’s part of living in a fallen world, and the presence of God doesn’t mean the absence of these things.  The presence of God means we don’t walk these roads alone.  He’s the one we cling to, because He’s the one who cares about our hurts, He wants us to come to Him, trust Him and find our strength in the One who gives us breath every morning. 
  2. If He cares about the lesser, of course He cares about the greater.  I was provided some things from my hopeful list--you know not necessities, just desires.  A lamp, a rug, a mirror, etc.  Through some thoughtful friends I was loaned some things--the things from my list-they had no idea what I was praying for. My friend was provided a job, in a really cool way.  It was a cool reminder that God’s got this.  My life looks really different than I thought it would, but I can be confident that He knows what’s best and will get me right where He wants me.
  3. Give thanks. Always. I’ve been reading in Psalms and David is always giving thanks and telling the people to give thanks.  He can be in the middle of a war, betrayal by a friend, mourning the death of a loved one and He still gives thanks. And I should to.  I have plenty to be thankful for. 
  4. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.  Everything.  Sometimes I have to remind myself of the big picture, and remember that anything I “suffer” here, is a small thing compared to the glory of seeing my Savior face to face. “If Christ be God and died for me then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” -C.T. Studd.  These are my adorable grandparents.  They've been through some really crazy stuff too, this is where I found them one day this summer.  Singing from the hymnal, "It will be worth it all when we see JesusO".  Timely reminder from some who have experienced-and are experiencing-some significant changes that have caused them to lean hard on God.  

    Ok, I think that's it for me...I'm off to sleep. Buenas noches.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lessons learned while hiking the treacherous mountains of Huay'ku Mayu at sunset

Last Thursday is the day I arrived in Cochabamba.  I cannot believe I LIVE in Bolivia now.  It's been a hectic two weeks filled with visa paperwork, a trip to Potosi, and a few work projects and visits.  It's been fantastic!
Potosi felt longer than usual because we visited fewer communities and spent more time in each, and we took more day hikes than usual.  Abby and I talked about all the analogies/lessons we learned from our afternoon-late evening hike to see a woman sick with bronchitis and her grandbaby sick with an infection.  This is what we came up with:
1. Sometimes you have the luxury of stopping to take a break---and sometimes you don't.
2. Sometimes you can't see the bigger picture and just must keep taking baby steps-one foot at a time.
3. There is great value and peace in having an experienced and trustworthy guide.
4. Sometimes you CAN see the bigger picture-and when you can, you should soak it in and then remember it when you can't see the end goal.
5. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger".
We were thankful for hermano Vicente who led the way.  He is a single man who walks all around the community to visit people there because he believes it is so important that they hear the message of love and hope of God's word. (He also provided us with fresh mandarins from his Shakira shoulder bag).  Overall though, I loved the hikes! It's a great opportunity to take in the scenery, and seeing the homes of the people and meeting the older generations provides a more realistic look into normal every day life there.

Friday, July 11, 2014

8 Things I Forgot.

I just got back to Bolivia yesterday for the 8th time.  Yes, that’s right.  And it turns out that the combination of my lack of observance and selective memories have meant lots of good, funny, and embarrassing experiences already!

Here’s a 8 of the things that I have forgotten.
  1. That Cochabamba Bolivia does actually get cold!  I always would say that Cochabamba is about 70 degrees every day, the winter just means it’s a little cooler at night.  Well, it’s a lot cooler at night.  When I landed in La Paz to 40 degree weather I remembered at one point when I lived in Cochabamba when I had EIGHT blankets on my bed-and used all of them at once!
  2. How friendly people are here.  I knew it was cultural to greet friends and acquaintances, but I forgot that it was cultural to greet complete strangers too! Walking down the street, getting into a trufi (public transportation mini-van), in places of business, etc.
  3. You need your passport for all visa application meetings.  (*that was the embarrassing one).
  4. I need a pillow and vest/jacket with a hood to sleep on planes.  (Hence the one hour of sleep). All of a sudden I’ve become some sort of rookie traveller!  
  5. How pretty Bolivian Spanish is!
  6. How much we walk!  I thought that not running=no exercise.  Boy was I wrong!  Not having a car means you must walk to catch the bus or trufi that happens to go where you need to go.   
  7. That plans will change at least 10X in one day.  Flexibility is so necessary to live as a sane person.  You decide to laugh or cry. 
  8. That I don’t look like everyone else here!  (Sometimes I forget and think that I really look hispanic, or sound bolivian...but I quickly am reminded by my accent or a mirror, or others’ responses that I don’t).  But I still pretend...
I'm sure there will be many more in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.  And I know I have so many new things to learn and I can't wait!  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Last days in the USA...for now!

And they included:
A roadtrip with stops in North Carolina to meet cousins and Georgia to meet my cousin's baby.
Welcoming Bekah back to the USA!
A wedding for another cousin, also in Georgia.

Relaxing with friends...also in Georgia.

Visiting family in Houston.
Meeting my newest (TINY) foster-nephew.
Celebrating Independence Day with my family and friends.
Tubing down the Comal river with siblings, friends and my oldest niece-it's so fun that she's old enough to go do stuff with us now-and enjoy it!
Celebrating Grandma's birthday, and Her & Grandpa's anniversary. Sweet examples of unconditional love.
Reunion with college friends!

Visiting my friends from work-they've changed me forever!
Lots of eating, running, sleeping, packing, laughing, playing, crying, etc.  I'm so thankful to all of you who have chosen to be a part of this journey with me--and have allowed me to be a part of your journeys with God, your families, and careers too.  It's quite a ride, and I can't imagine doing what I do, without the joy, peace and hope that God gives so generously.

In case you wonder what's next:
I will fly to Bolivia tomorrow.  I will do paperwork for my one year visa which will take a couple of weeks, and a few hundred bolivianos.  Then I will go with a team of about 6 or so people to Potosi.  There we will have a kids camp--sort of like intense VBS.  Then when I get back to the city hopefully my visa stuff will be almost done and I will head to ETNOS in Santa Cruz where I will jump back into classes for literacy, teaching, medical training, translation, learning language and culture, rugged living skills, etc.  Other than that, I'm starting from scratch.  I know that the facilities are a little more rugged than in Missouri, and I know I will have some chores to keep up the grounds, and will find some friends and a church there (*soon, I hope!).

The hardest thing is saying goodbye-because even as confident as I am that I am going where God is leading me, I will MISS people here like crazy, especially my familia, friends who have become like family, and the little ones who hopefully will not forget me while I'm gone.
 This is my second niece.  She and her sister's said they won't grow up while I'm gone.  The oldest suggested putting something really heavy on her head-to which they all agreed! ;)


Friday, May 30, 2014

What is "Volunteer Summer"?

It's what you do when you only have 3 months in Ohio before you move to Bolivia!
This is what I've labeled Summer of 2014.  I applied for a job and then it fell through and I decided that three months is not very long to get to know and connect with hundreds of people... so I decided to let it be a volunteer summer!!

So this is what it has looked like.

Lots of good conversations over dinner.

Babysitting for friends’ kids.

Helping weed and plant flower beds.

Visiting widows and senior saints. (Mrs. E. is 94 years old and so awesome!)

Helping put in a fence.


Spring cleaning.

Playing frisbee.

Attending wedding showers, birthday parties, graduation celebrations and weddings (three coming up!!), Bible studies, etc.

Teaching 4, 5 & 6 grade girls Sunday School.

Sharing at kids’ corner (story time at Sunday evening church service).

Holding babies.

Telling stories...
and listening to stories.


Meeting with my pastors.
Lots of adventures

 Filling the gas tank!

I couldn't have asked for more.  It really has been an incredible time of learning how to love others, listen to others, and serve others.  I hope I’m being a good student-because this is really good to know. (And so fun!)
It's been really neat to have the time to go visit people-just for fun.  It's sweet to have the freedom to help with little things to make life a little easier for my friends. It's sweet to be around to celebrate milestones in the lives of those I care about. 
I’ve got a plane ticket to Bolivia!  I’ll be leaving Ohio June 25, and my heart is just so sad to think of leaving this place.  I really am so overwhelmed by the kindness of those that have taken me in, fed me, encouraged me, prayed for me, and who spur me on to go do what God is calling me to.  It really does mean the world to me. 

In case you didn't know, I'll be in Santa Cruz Bolivia for 18 months finishing up some classes (the rest of the course I started in Missouri--in Bolivia though, since that's where I will serve, Lord willing).  I will learn more about phonetics, linguistics, literacy, teaching, medical care, translation, etc. I'm in Ohio for relationship building and "partnership development"--which is raising a team of encouragers, supporters, and friends to keep me going, and who hopefully will realize their hugely important role in seeing the world reached with the Gospel. I hope to represent you all well, and recognize the role you play in getting me where I'm going-both physically and emotionally.  God made a whole Body so we work together to see the task finished.   

Finding LIFE!

What were we made for anyways?  To have LIFE, I tell you!   However “life” is a word that we just throw around.  I submit that you can live...yet, have no life at all.  Andrew Palau is the son of evangelist Luis Palau, and he decided he wanted nothing to do with God.  He pursued alcohol, vandalism, and pleasure and remembers one day that God revealed to him that it was garbage.  He was spending his life on things that brought him death. (Focus on the Family).

Sometimes I find myself in conversations that go something like this:

Joe is drinking again. 
Jane left her husband for another man. 
Jack is going back to school and applying for another job. 
Joan is going to another church.
Janay has a new girlfriend
... you get the idea. 
We then discuss why they are still wandering and I find myself wondering what these people are actually pursuing.  It seems that they find pleasure in these things--and some of them aren’t bad things in and of themselves--but I suspect that they think that they will find life at the end of their pursuits-the happiness they’ve been seeking.   The “happily ever after” that the world tells us can be had.

The answer to highschool dropouts isn't better schools and more funding.  The answer to absentee parents isn't more classes.  The answer to broken families isn't more vacations, date nights, and romance.  The answer to addiction isn't more programs or medication.  The answer to cut down on crime isn't more education or harder sentences. Don't get me wrong, these things can be good things.  But they're a resource not a solution.  They don't fill that inner hole and ache.  They might address some of the symptoms but dont cure the disease.  I'm convinced that the answer to the problems in our society are only remedied by finding life just where it's made to be found.
We were made to have a relationship with our creator.  Chris Tomlin says it really nicely in his song, "Born that we may have life".  Try to think about a perfect holy just God who would send His innocent baby to a world that He already knew would mistreat, reject and ultimately kill. BUT He knew that was the only way we would ever find true life.

Lets think about what our Creator said.  The one who made us in love and with a purpose states that our sin brings death!  The first sin by Adam and Eve resulted in cursed ground, physical death (eventually) and a separation from God.  They were removed from the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:17, 3:19, 23, 24). This death may be an immediate physical death, but more often it results first in a broken relationship.  I remember the hurt look on my mom’s face, or the cries from a younger sister when I did something hurtful.  An apology, note, or gift didn’t undo what I had done.  Our actions affect the harmony in a relationship.  When we look at God’s promise to His people, He says, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may loving the Lord your God by obeying His voice and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days...” (Deut 31:19-20). God provided the law for man to follow to be pleasing to Him, but it revealed man’s need for a savior.  He couldn’t keep the law and instead kept turning to idols, or his own efforts to live a good life.  So God provided a solution to our situation.  He provided a Savior.  His only son who was able to live a perfect life pleasing to God.  And by His death he paid the penalty for our sins, and provided a way for us to find life! In

Jesus said, “I am come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” John 10:10. 

Christ’s death didn’t just save us from an eternity in hell as punishment for our sins--which is what we deserved, but He died so we might have LIFE!

“ were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life, inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood...the blood of Christ”. I Peter 1:18-19

“And He Himself [Jesus] bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to rightesousness, for by His wounds you were healed.” 2 Peter 2:24

This life is found in Christ Jesus. Sometimes I think about Jesus and the crazy things He said.  Some people left Him because they just didn’t get it.  One time He asked the remaining disciples “ ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and come to know that You are the Holy One of God’ “. John 6:68-69.

There is no one else I would rather follow.  And despite my wandering heart that looks for life in all the wrong places, and a world that tells us that life can be found in all the wrong places I know and have seen that my God is The One who has the words of life.  And I truly have never felt more alive than when I am following Him. I pray that those of you who are seeking life in all the wrong places will seek for life from the giver and sustainer of life. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

1673 Miles

I did it!  Longest solo road-trip ever-but I made it with the most stops possible to see friends!  It really is the best way to road trip! I’ve had plenty of bad hotel experiences that I would rather go a little farther (or shorter) to stay with people I know.  Plus it’s extra hang out time which leaves me feeling even more refreshed and happy! 
It was neat to stop back in all the places I’ve lived in the USA and some that I’ve just visited a lot.  Here’s what those four days meant to me. 
Stop 1 (Thursday morning):  Dallas Texas to see Nicole.  Nicole’s been one of the best friends I ever could have even dreamed up.  She’s spontaneous, hilarious, godly and able to help keep me on track (if you know me at all you know that this I need this so bad!).  She’s getting married to Joel in June and then they are planning to continue missionary training together. 
Stop 2 (Thursday night-Friday morning): Camdenton (“Roach”) at the Missionary training center.  I saw a bunch of great friends there and was able to sit in a folk catholicism class, communion/chapel, and my old discipleship group (this is a picture of all of us in December-now there's one more baby!). 

Stop 3: Chicago IL (Friday night-Saturday morning)  to see a few of my friends who I lived with in Bolivia.  So fun to see all that God’s continued to teach us from our time there FIVE years ago!! (*Can’t believe it’s gone by so fast). Matt & Elsa are now parents and Jen is now married!  Then i hopped over to the neighboring suburb of Evanston and saw Natalia who is a great friend of my little sister! 

Stop 4: Jackson MI (Saturday evening).  Had dinner with one of my favorite families in Michigan.  Scot was one of my teachers at the Bible school and his wife April became a really great friend.  There was another graduate from the Bible school who is now a missionary in Brasil and getting ready to teach literacy in the village.  It was so cool to hear about the next stips for me-and for Scot and April to see what they are a part of even though they are working as missionaries in Michigan they get to be a part of seeing lives changed in Brasil and around the world.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it takes a community to raise a missionary!  Then I got to see my Dean and her family! (This is Me & Martha last spring)
Stop 4: Detriot IL (Saturday night-early Sunday morning).  Bethany was another coworker of mine in Bolivia.  She since married Paul and all of us have been able to spend lots of time together.  They let me crash in their guest room frequently.  I got to meet their little sweetie who joined their family in December.

Stop 5: Camden Baptist Church (Sunday morning).  This is my home church and I’m so excited to spend a few months here.  It was a super full morning of catching up with friends and meeting new people.  Perfect way to end the road trip!  I’ll be staying with a lady from my church who has been so kind.  She didn’t even know me before yesterday other than over the phone and I’m so impressed that she would take a stranger into her home for 2.5 months! 

I know all you Texas folks are wondering, so the weather so far has been so nice.  I hear it might snow soon. :/  But I found an awesome running route with great smelling pine trees, calming rivers and ponds, and quiet neighborhoods.   

Favorite Roadtrip tunes:
*My Victory-Jimmy Needham
*Creere-Tercer Cielo
*Sparrow-Audrey Assad
*Almighty-Wayne Watson
*Life in Color-OneRepublic
*Celebrare to Amor-Jesus Adrian Romero

Thanks to everyone who fed me, gave me a place to sleep, encouraged me along the way, and those who made my time in Texas awesome! Y’all are amazing and unforgettable. 

And a HUGE thanks to Katie for letting me use her car! I'm unbelievably blessed. :)

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Movie!!!

Here's a video of the week-basically some pictures and video clips.   It was an incredible week, and as always, God continued to show me my need to depend on Him and the fact that in Him is the hope and peace that we ALL so desperately need.  Loved these songs, loved the scenery, love God's goodness.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV
Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaias 41:10 NVI
Asi que no temas, porque yo estoy contigo;
no te angusties, porque you soy tu Dios.
Te fortalecere y te ayudare; 
te sostendre con mi diestra victoriosa.

Isaias 41:10 Quechua

Ama manchakuychu, qanwanmi ñoqaqa kashani, 

ama pisipaychu, ñoqaqa Diosniykin kani,
ñoqan kallpachasqaykipas yanapasqaykipas, 

ñoqan hap'iykusqaykipas atipachisqaykipas, nispa.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

In honor of Australia day: Anzac Biscuits

My friend Kate gave me this recipe when I was living in Bolivia so I could properly celebrate Australia day when I no longer lived near any australians!

1 c. rolled oats
1 c. plain flour
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. grated coconut
2 T. Golden Syrup
1/2 c. butter
1/2 t. baking soda
1 T. boiling water
pinch of salt.
Mix oats, flour, sugar and coconut together and set aside.  Melt syrup with butter.  Mix soda with boiling water and add to syrup/butter mixture. Then add to dry ingredients. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 8 minutes. 

You can get the Lyle's golden syrup at World Market (or maybe in the import section of other big grocery stores).

Sunday, January 19, 2014

To Bolivia and back-forever changed.

This is Neymar.  His parents travelled with us-his dad was the bus driver! (*aren't bolivian babies just the cutest???!)

In case you hadn't heard-or if you wondered we all made it back from Bolivia.  Definitely a great time with some really neat folks.  I'll be posting things to the TEAM blog, so keep checking there for pictures, reflections from team members and maybe even a video or two...
I was so blessed by the group of young people who are excited to know the Lord and serve Him--even when they felt miserable or the work was less than glamourous.  The weather was much rainier than usual and so we had a smaller turnout (some kids walk very far, but due to rain and flooded rivers they couldn't make it).  But we definitely enjoyed the ones we did get to see!  I will write more soon! 
Here's our team. 

Before we loaded the bus for Potosi. 
During.  This was the last village we stayed in before showering!!!
After.  This is us at the airport with a few visitors from previous trips.  Eliana and her son Jesus travelled with us last year (far left), Edwin far left sitting on floor was my first patient ever, and Waldo (far left holding Jesus) is the dentist/clown that travelled with us for the first 4 trips.