Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 26-30

June 26, 2013

Last night, just after supper, some unexpected visitors arrived to the mission.  They were missionaries at a sister project (a mission school) about two hours away.  They had come to town to buy food and supplies, but were unable to make it back due to the rain.  The road back to the their mission crosses 7 different rivers and the first one had flooded the road, so they had to turn back and stay the night with us.  I felt really bad for them.  They’re clothes were soaking wet and cold.  We got them some food and prepared the beds for them. Between the three of us guys at the house we were staying in, we got them in dry clothes and then had a really good visit with them.  They left this morning, praying the waters had resided enough to get back home.  Evidently the Lord heard our prayers and they were able to make it because they didn’t come back to stay again.  :)

I have met missionaries here from so many places already...the U.S., Venezuela, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Trinidad, Guyana, Colombia, and Canada. And I’ve only been here less than a week!  It’s pretty exciting to see so many people from different backgrounds, cultures, languages come together to spread the Gospel!

Nothing too exciting happened today.  Other than going to town this afternoon to buy Bibles for the kids, as well as to distribute at two other mission projects, I stayed on the mission site.  I was able to go for a walk and take some pictures of the property.  I’ll try to upload some pics when I get to a faster internet connection.  Tomorrow Warren and I leave for Rurre.
A kitchen made from a shipping container on the mission in Santa Cruz.  

The back of the TV Station

Front of the TV Station

My first restaurant meal in Bolivia....Delicious!!

Couldn't resist taking a pic of this beautiful little guy.


June 27, 2013

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.”  Ps. 19:1

As I write this entry, I’m sitting in the mission airplane, at an altitude of just under 6000 feet and going 106 mph.  :)  We had to leave a little later than originally planned due to weather here in Santa Cruz and then at Rurre.  But we finally took off about 11:30am.  The flight should be under 4 hours.  It’s really interesting watching how Herman (one of the mission pilots) operates the controls.  It’s a small plane and there was just enough room for the three of us and our luggage.  But the ride has been very comfortable.  And the views are out of this world!  For a good portion of the flight, it has looked like we are flying over snow-covered ground because of the clouds.  We’ve seen some pretty heavily flooded areas too from all the rain the area has had.  As I sit here and look at the views of either side of me, I can’t help but think of how small I am and how Big God is.  And the words of the Psalmist come to mind.  “What is man that thou art mindful of him?  And the son of man, that thou visitest him?”  Ps. 8:4  Who am I that the Lord of all creation would want to save and have a personal, living relationship with??  Looking down from this altitude, you can’t see a single person.  It’s hard to even see cars or trucks on the roads.  But I know that beneath me are millions of people in the town and cities, each with their own trials and tribulations...some rejoicing and living a good life; others trying to make sense of circumstances and just survive.  As I contemplate this, my mind cannot wrap itself around the vastness of this world God has created and all that pertains to it.  But isn’t it great to know that we serve a God that knows each of His children by name, knows their lives better than they themselves do and is working all things out for the good of those that love Him?!  What a blessing!  What hope!  

The cockpit of the mission plane

About to load up!

In the air.

Looks like snow!  :)

Herman and Warren

It's not very clear, but that's the airport here in Rurre.  :)

We made it to Rurre!!  We landed about 3:15pm.  The airport is nothing but a shack with a runway (at least most of it is paved.  :) ).  Samuel and Raul, two missionary volunteers, met us at the airport in the orphanage’s truck to pick us up.  We went and got something to eat at a local restaurant (a favorite of all the missionaries here because the food is excellent and they have free wifi!  :) ).  So I was able to send some emails to family and friends.  After eating, we went to the market to pick some items I’d need here:

Mosquito net = check!
Mattress = check!
Blanket = check!

Now we’re finally off to the orphanage!  The truck’s cabin only seats two, so Raul and I rode in the back.  That’s the best seat to take in all the beautiful scenery!  I didn’t know it before, but Rurre is a very big tourist spot here in Bolivia (which kind of surprises me since it’s such a small town and somewhat more isolated that the rest of the country).  People come from all over the world (Turkey, Germany, Australia, Israel, etc.) to hike the mountains, explore the forests and trek the river.  The mountains are lush and green, with some pretty impressive peaks.  Since it’s been raining a few days, all the grass and trees are a bright green and just beautiful to look at.  

After about 15 minutes of driving, we made it to Familia Feliz.  Today was the last day of class for three weeks, as Bolivians have their winter break now.  There are some kids here whose family cannot support/provide for them the whole year, so they send them to the orphanage for the school year and the kids go home on breaks.  So some of the kids left today to go back to their families for a couple of weeks.  But there were still a good many here to greet us.  You ever get that feeling you were being watched??  As the truck pulled in the gate and drove towards the back of the property where the houses are, all eyes were on the “newcomer”.  :)  Some kids excitedly waved and yelled.  Others timidly looked on from a distance.

We unloaded my stuff at the house I’ll be staying at.  I’m staying the house with Raul.  He leaves in a week or so to go and teach at another mission school.  He’s a super nice guy!  After unpacking, they called us for supper.  It hadn’t been too long since I had eaten, but they had a plate fixed for me, so I ate again.  :)  Some of the girls had cooked supper....rice (grown here on the orphanage) and sauteed vegetables with lemon tea.  It was very good!  

At supper I was able to meet some of the kids here and spend some time talking with them.  Let’s see if I can remember all of their names....Moises, Agustín, John, Sandra, Rebecca, Amy, Micaia, Emiliana, and Abigail.  Yep, that’s all of them.  They range in age from 7-18.  Warren was telling me the background of some of them and it broke my heart.  No one should have to experience what some of these children have already had to live through in their young lives.  Please keep them in your prayers, as most are still dealing with some serious issues.  I’m going to try to get pictures of each of the kids to post later so you can put a face with the name and learn a little more about them.

I also spent a lot of time talking with Samuel (Sam).  He’s a 19-year old volunteer missionary from Venezuela.  Great guy and very funny!  He’s already planned a 4-day campout/hiking adventure for him, myself and the 18-year old orphan on a nearby mountain in a week!  :)  I’m looking forward to that.  Sam’s got a great sense of humor and has a good relationship with the kids.  Also keep him and his family in your prayers.  

After all this excitement, I came home to set up my bed, take a shower (cold, of course, as there isn’t any running hot water --- but keep your fingers crossed and pray because someone may be making a sizable donation in the very near future and if/when that happens, we’ll be able to do some major improvements to the infrastructure here on campus and running hot water will be one of them.), write this entry, have my worship and go to bed.  Now that I’ve written this entry, it’s off to the next two items on the list!  Good night everyone.  Thank you again for your prayers.  Please know that God is hearing and answering all of them.  It’s been an amazing four days!  :)  God bless you all!


My little room.  :)

Armando (left) and Moises (right)

From left to right:  Emiliana, Abigail, Rebecca, Miguel and David

Rebecca, Miguel and David

Rebecca and Miguel (siblings) -- Rebecca is almost totally deaf

Abigail, Emiliana and Amy

Some of the kids playing the puzzle.

One of the houses on the orphanage.

Director's house

Melissa's house (the orphanage's founder)

My house




Making fresh grapefruit juice.

Three of the classrooms in the background.

David, Moisesito, and Sam

The Big House - the girl's dorm is upstairs and the kitchen, dining area and classroom are downstairs.

Agustin, Armando, Juan, Raul and David.

 June 28, 2013

Feliz Sabado!  Happy Sabbath!  What a wonderful week!  I am truly blessed beyond measure and thank the Lord for His Goodness and Mercy towards me.

Since winter break for the kids started yesterday, we got to sleep in a little later today.  (Normal wake-up time is around 6:00am for the kids.)  I woke up around 7:00am, had worship, and then went out to see what needed to be done.  I met a few more kids that I didn’t meet last night.  Then, Sam and I took 8 of the boys in the big truck to a farm about a mile down the road.  Familia Feliz built a small home for this family a few months ago.  The family consists of a husband and wife and their young son, Damien.  Damien is probably about 8 years old I’m guessing.  He is, however, mentally retarded and is somewhat physically deformed.  But he loves to smile and laugh!  We weren’t there 10 minutes before he ran up and started hugging me and wanting to play.  He has a big heart.

We went to this farm because there were three fallen trees that a friend of the orphanage was going to cut into lumber for us to use.  This man was awesome with a chain saw!  And after about two hours, we had the truck loaded with a bunch of cedar lumber to use for various projects around the campus.  The boys behaved themselves well for the most part.  I had to have a talk with two of them (Juan and Armando) about not doing what was asked of them the first time though.  They had taken a piece of the lumber to the truck and wanted to stay and play in the road.  I called for them to come back to where we were, but they ignored me.  So I walked over there and as soon as they saw me coming, they started heading towards me.  I kindly, but very firmly, explained that they’re expected to do what is asked of them the first time.  I told them that I knew they didn’t know me very well yet, but I have three kids and assured them that I know how to handle disobedient kids.  They quickly apologized and headed back to the group.  :)  I had already been warned by Warren, Sam and Raul that the kids like to push the limit and see how much they can get away with.  So far, that worked great because there were no other issues all day with any of them doing what I asked of them.  Hopefully it stays that way.  Although Moisesito (a 6-year old Dennis-the-Menace with the cutest smile you’ve ever seen) did drill holes in Sam’s rubber boots.  Lol.  But he’s one of Sam’s kids so he handled that one.  :)

We got back, unloaded the wood and were finishing up just as lunch was being served, so we quickly washed up and headed to the kitchen area.  Here, the kids are all divided up into 5 homes and eat meals in their respective homes as a “family”.  However, since many are with their families during the break, most of us eat together now.  After lunch, it started raining again and the kids were getting restless and bored.  So, I went and got the brainteasers and Square Scramble puzzles I brought.  They asked if there was a prize if they solved them.  I said “Sure.”  I figured that would keep them busy for 15 minutes or so and give us time to plan another activity for them.  Boy, was I mistaken!  The absolutely LOVED the puzzles and brainteasers and worked on for almost 3 hours!!  I couldn’t believe it. 5 of them were able to figure out the brainteaser or put together one of the puzzles, so now I have to figure out what prize I’m going to give them.  :)  I’ll see what I can find in town on Sunday.  I was very glad when two of the girls, Amy and Emiliana, put together a puzzle.  Emiliana is 11-years old and very shy.  Amy is 22, but has the mind of about a 12-year old.  She has been very depressed these last few days because the other girls left to go home to their families and she doesn’t have a “home” to go to.  So we’ve been trying to make her laugh and plan a special outing just for her, since she’s the oldest and has been here a long time.  But when she and Emi put together that puzzle, you should have seen the smile on her face!  It was priceless!  It made my day.

At 5:00, we sent the kids to get their showers and get ready for worship and then supper.  At 6:00, everyone met for worship.  Melissa (the founder of the orphanage) and her kids (she has 8 that she has legally adopted and two more in process) joined us.  Two of them, Charlie (5-years old) and Grace (about 6-years old(, came “running” up to sit next to me.  I put “running” in quotations because Gracie is on crutches.  She only has one leg and is missing a few fingers.  But she can “outrun” the best of them on those crutches!  They stayed by me the whole time. Normally, everyone receives the Sabbath outside, but since it was raining, we met in the main building.  We all set at the tables and sang several hymns that they children chose.  Then, Armando read a devotional thought and we discussed it a bit.  Finally, everyone held hands in a circle and we sang one last hymn and had closing prayer.  Then it was time to “greet” everyone to welcome the Sabbath.  Since I’m the “new guys in town”, I got to start.  So I walked on the inside of the circle and shook everyone’s hand and wished them a Happy Sabbath.  As I went along, everyone else followed behind me, so that everyone greeted each other.  It was a blessing indeed to see how reverent the kids were during worship and how enthusiastically all 24 or so of them sang the hymns!  After worship, we ate a simple supper and the kids went back to their respective homes to get ready for bed.  

Worship outside.

Charlie and Gracie

Gracie, Rebecca and Melissa
Well, I better wrap this up.  I’ve only been at Familia Feliz 27 hours and they’ve already asked me to give the sermon for the kids tomorrow, so I’ve got to get ready for that.  I pray they Lord will give me the words to speak to them  that will draw them closer to Him.  I’ve never preached to such a young group before, so I’m a bit nervous...but excited at the same time.  I won’t be all by myself up there, though.  The kids take turns participating in the service, so David and Armando will be up on the pulpit with me to give the welcome, opening and closing hymn, prayer and Scripture reading.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’ve learned so much this week, especially these last two days here at Familia Feliz.  And I’ve come to see the world in a different light and appreciate my many blessings more.  My heart breaks when I hear what some of the kids have dealt with/are dealing with.  But I am so happy that they are safe here and have a place to call home and learn that there are people that love and care for them.  They have so much love to offer and are constantly trying to get your attention, give you a hug, hold your hand, etc.  I look forward to that beautiful day when Christ returns and there will be no more broken homes, deformed bodies, slow minds or tears in a child’s eye...but rather all will be whole, perfect and happy at the Feet of Jesus, never more to remember the pain and sorrows they now experience!  Even so, come Lord Jesus!


June 29, 2013

What a great day!!  It was my first Sabbath here in Bolivia and it turned out to be a very memorable one.  It started off with a great morning worship and a great breakfast...fresh papaya, porridge, homemade bread and homemade peanut butter.  :)  Then it was off to church.  Sabbath school was very nice.  We only had one big class since many of the kids are not here.  A group of four small children (5 and under) even did special music and sang us a song.  They were precious.  Then it was time for the main service.  I was a little nervous about the sermon, but it went very well!  The kids were engaged, participating and seemed to be can only hope!  :)

After church, we changed clothes and went to have lunch...another delicious meal!  Salad, rice (grown here on the property) and the best black beans I’ve had in a long time!  Kudos to the girls for a job well done!

Special music by the kids.

Armando and David accompanied me during the service.  They did a GREAT job!

The church on campus

I went for a little walk around campus right after lunch.  All of the sudden, I felt like I was the butterfly conservatory in Key West again.  There were probably 40-50 butterflies flying all around me!  There had to be at least 15 different kinds.  All sizes and such beautiful colors!  (Jenney, you would have loved it!  :))  Add to that the vibrant color of the flower after the rains and the songs of the birds and it made for a very beautiful afternoon!

Then, Sam, Raul and I decided to take the boys to one of the nearby mountains for a hike.  It’s called “La Cruz” (The Cross) because someone erected a large white cross at the top of it.  So we loaded the 12 boys up on the truck and headed out.  They were more than excited to leave the campus and explore...and I was very excited to go for my first hike in the Bolvian jungles!  By this time, the sun had come out and it warmed up very quickly.  The hike up the mountain was quite intense.  It was very steep and muddy from all the rain, so there was a lot of slipping and sliding.  We had to stop and rest several times, but we finally made it the top.  The view from there was breath-taking.  I’ll try to post pictures.  Then we went down the back side of the mountain to a nice little waterfall.  We spent some time there, then kept hiking.  A few hundred yards above the waterfall was another area the kids loved.  It was another small waterfall, but the way the rocks were “set up”, it formed a perfect water slide for them that ended in a small pool of water.  They spent a good 45 minutes showing off their “sliding skills”.  Sam even joined them.  :)  They had a lot of fun.  Finally, it was time to head back to the truck, as the sun would be setting soon and we didn’t need to be in this uninhabited jungle after dark.  We made it back to Familia Feliz in time to have worship all together and dismiss the Sabbath.  This time, we had it outside.  Everyone formed a circle, sang hymns, gave testimonies and praise reports, then greeted each other as the new week started.  It was a very nice Sabbath indeed!

We climbed to the top of this mountain.  It may not seem like a very tall mountain from the pic
but it was a nice little hike!  :)

The view of Rurrenabaque from the top of the mountain.

Surrounding view.

David, John and Sam -- Tired after a long climb uphill.  ;)

The waterfall

David, Raul and Agustin

Juan sliding down the natural water slide.


The fearless Sam!  :)

The local church in Rurre

All of us guys, then, headed into one of the houses to make supper.  On the menu was rice, salad, french fries and fresh grapefruit juice.  You should have seen how this team of guys came together to make a fantastic meal!  :)  There were four adults and 8 boys in the kitchen helping in some way.  It was great.  And they really enjoyed the meal.  Let me tell you...these boys can put down some food!!  

Getting ready to start supper.

David, Miguel, Warren, Armando, Raul, Moises, Moisesito and Juan

Afterwards, everyone did their part to clean the kitchen and get things ready for breakfast in the morning.  Then, off the bed.  After the long hike today, they were more than ready to go to bed (and so are the staff! :) ).  

Well, I’m signing off now to head to bed too.  We have breakfast at 6:30 and worship at 7:00 in the morning, so gotta get my rest now.  

Thank you all again for your prayers!  God bless!


June 30, 2013

This morning was my first time watching the boys by myself.  Sam, Warren and I made breakfast (oatmeal and pancakes :) ) and had worship with the boys.  Then, the man that cut the lumber for us on Friday came by to cut down a couple of tress on the back side of the property.  Familia Feliz has 250 acres, so it’s a nice walk to the back of the property where the trees were.  Sam went to help him.  Warren, Raul and two boys went to town to run errands, so I stayed to watch the other kids.  (Sam and I will head to town later.)  Raul is leaving tomorrow, so he had to go get his bus ticket and arrange his travel plans.  He’ll be missed here.  

So after everyone left, the boys cleaned the table and washed the dishes.  Then, each one washed his own clothes (by hand, of course) and hung them to dry.  After laundry, we took out all of the mattresses to air out and take in some sun.  A few of the boys still wet the bed, so they definitely needed to be aired out.  After all the chores were done, we went to see how the tree-cutting was coming along.  Armed with two machetes, the boys and I set out walking through the banana groves and jungle, heading to the rear of the property.  The boys excitedly showed me where they had planted watermelon plants a few weeks ago.  When we got to where Sam and the other gentleman were, the boys eagerly watched as the lumber was carved out of the tree.  I took my camera and was able to get a few really good pics of some beautiful butterflies.  There are so many different kinds here!  They are just beautiful.  

After about 30-40 minutes, it was time to head back to start lunch.  Little did I know, however, that before getting back to the house, I would have my first “run-in” with David.  David is an 11-year boy that is extremely smart and, up to this point, has been nothing but helpful and respectful.  We asked him and Moises to carry a piece of lumber back to the storage shed.  They accepted and started to carry it until David realized the Miguel, one of other boys, wasn’t carrying anything.  He didn’t think that was fair and quickly protested.  He said that if Miguel didn’t have to carry anything, then he wasn’t going to either and threw the board down.  This is where the father in me kicked in.  :)  I walked over and had a nice little talk with him, explaining that he is expected to do whatever is asked of him, regardless of who else is doing whatever else.  He still stood there and refused to pick up the board.  Once again, I explained the situation to him again, reminding him of who was the child and who was the adult and told him again to carry the board.  I made sure to let him know that either way, he was going to carry that board back regardless of how long it took him and that if he chose not to do it right then, he would be punished when we got back home.  He stood motionless.  So, without raising my voice, but with that very serious “parental authority” tone that everyone gets when they have kids and with “the look” in my eyes, I told him once more to pick up the board and carry it with Moises back to the shed.  He immediately picked it up and started walking back.  That was the end of his rebelliousness.  When we got back, I was getting ready to start lunch and David comes and starts to help with everything....he lit the stove, put the water on for the rice, cut the cabbage for the salad, got the tomatoes for the salad, finished cooking the rice, etc.  It was great!  Total change in character.  By this time, everyone was back from town.  I went to talk to Warren about what had happened with David and to see what the disciplinary procedures were here.  He told me it was up to me...that whatever punishment I wanted to give him, he would support me in.  He told me that David has a very rebellious side and is one that pushes the limit a lot.  You have to let him know that there is no room for debate from the get-go or he will try his best to run over you.  Warren had already had to put his foot down with him pretty heavily.  

So, after the boys cleaned up after lunch and the other boys were playing, I took David aside to talk to him about his behavior this morning.  I asked him why he reacted the way he did, but he didn’t answer.  I explained the expectations to him again and told him that I really appreciated how much he helped me with lunch and that that’s how I want to see him all the time...with a smile on his face, helping in any way we can.  There are a lot of kids here and everyone has to do their part so that things can run smoothly.  He said he understood.  Then I told him that for his punishment, he had to miss some of play time and work instead.  So I took him to the house I’m staying in to clean up some.  It hasn’t had people in it for a few weeks and needed a good cleaning.  So he had to sweep and scrub the floors and clean the counter.  It wasn’t that bad of a job at all, but the fact that the other boys were playing and he wasn’t made it worse for him.  But he didn’t complain at all, but rather went right to work and did a very good job.  After he finished, we talked again and had prayer together.  And as I type this, he’s sitting beside me putting a puzzle together.  Hopefully that was enough for him to learn his lesson and we won’t have to go through this again.  Keeping my fingers crossed!  :)

Other than that, all has gone well today.  It started raining again just after lunch, so we were kinda bummed about that because everyone’s clothes are not drying and the kids can’t play outside as much.  But hopefully it’s just a passing shower and the sun will come out again soon and dry things up.  

Well, Sam just came back and said we were about to head to town, so I’ll wrap this up so I can post it today.  Greetings from the jungle and God bless!  :)

UPDATE:  Just got to talk to family and friends!!  So good to talk to everyone.  Sorry the connection wasn't the best in the world.  Love you guys!