Monday, July 22, 2013

July 14 - 21

July 14, 2013

We spent most of the day in town today.  Before heading out, I had about 6 of those apple bananas for breakfast.  It’s so easy to get hooked on them because they are so sweet!  Although Jodi told me today that they are nothing when compared to the bananas in now she’s got me wanting to go to Guyana just to taste their bananas.  :)

In town, I had to run a couple of errands to pick up some items that I needed.  I also had to take my dirty clothes to the laundry mat since we haven’t had any running water this week to wash them with.  Then, I spent the next few hours online, talking to family (or trying to at least...the internet connection was really slow today.  Sorry guys!) and uploading pictures from the trip this week to my blog.  That took about 3 hours.  I had lunch at Narguila’s...a falafel sandwich, with hummus, lettuce, tomatoes and avocado and a side of french fries.  Then I splurged and had a brownie (vegan) and a fresh peach/strawberry smoothie.  That really hit the spot on this hot afternoon!

At 4:30, everybody met and we headed back home, stopping on the way to get gas.  When we got home, we had supper, then Jodi, Warren and I had an informal meeting about classes, the new student missionaries that will be arriving in a couple of weeks, duties, etc.  I found out I’ll be supervising all of the male volunteers, as well as teaching Math (7-8 grades), Spanish Language (3-8 grades) and English (5-6 grades).  Classes are supposed to start tomorrow, but that may change still.  All schools in Bolivia have been on winter break for the past two weeks, but we heard today that the government has extended that break for another week.  If that’s the case, then our break will be extended as well.  If not, then we’ll start tomorrow.  But we won’t really know for sure until tomorrow when we see if any of the town kids that attend our school show up.  I’ll let you know how it goes...

Oh!  I forgot to tell you in yesterday’s post that we got a new addition to Familia Feliz yesterday.  The mother of one of the toddler’s that Melissa has (and is currently in the process of adopting) showed up yesterday morning before church and left her 3-week old daughter!  :(  I couldn’t believe it.  You always hear of things like this happening, but to see it with your own eyes is so different.  My heart broke.  The baby looks very sickly.  She doesn’t have much color at all.  As much as I hate to say it, she almost looked dead.  But Melissa is taking very good care of her and has cleaned her up, keeping her well-fed and meeting all of her needs.  I’ll keep you posted on her...

Well, time for bed.  Gotta get up early tomorrow, as we may have class.  I just wanted to thank you all again for your prayers and means more than you know!  I, too, am praying for you all.  May God bless each of you!


July 15, 2013

Today was a very busy day.  It started, as usual, with my morning devotion.  Then, at 6:45, Sam, Oriel and I had the guys’ morning worship, followed by breakfast at 7:00.  School starts at 7:30 and we were waiting to see how many kids would show up.  A good number came, so we had classes today.  However, two of the teachers are not here because they had meetings, so it was just Warren and I teaching today.  He took grades 3-6 and I had grades 7-8 all day.  (Starting tomorrow, though, we’ll be changing classes so I’ll only be teaching Math, Spanish and English.)  I only had 7 students today (I think there’s a total of 13 students in the 7-8th grades).  That was marvelous!  I’m used to having 180 students, so I almost didn’t know how to react with so few.  :)  

Things went really well, though we had a little rough start.  Two of the girls had decided they were not going to do anything in class today.  I’m not sure if it’s because their teacher has changed or what, but they just sat there, wouldn’t participate, answer any questions, do what was asked of them, etc.  So I had to have a talk with both of them.  Sandra, who lives here at the orphanage and who has never given me any problems, understood quickly how things were going to be and her attitude changed immediately after our conversation.  However, with Anait, the other girl whom I had never met before this morning, things weren’t so easy.  I talked to her alone for about 10 minutes and she refused to look at me, respond, anything.  She said she didn’t want to and therefore wasn’t going to.  Well, you can guess how well that went over with me.  :)  I had to kindly, yet very firmly, remind her that she was the student, I am the teacher and she has no say-so whatsoever as to how things are run in the school.  I told her she was not going to be disrespectful and was going to do what was asked of her or else she would not stay in the classroom.  There’s a whole field that has to be cut and cleaned at the rear of the property...she is more than welcome to spend her 4 hours a day there working with Samuel and Oriel.  (That’s one good thing about being a private school...we can dictate how the kids spend the school day...:) ).  So the choice was hers.  Guess which one she chose?!  She decided to stay in class.  She kept her head down on her desk for the next ten minutes or so, but after that, she started taking notes, participating, giving answers, etc.  By the end of the morning, you couldn’t tell there had ever been an issue.  Crazy, huh?!  No matter where you go in the world, there are always kids that will try to push the limits and see what they can get away with.  Hopefully that solved this problem and I won’t have to have this conversation again.  (Fingers crossed! :) ).

After school was out, we had lunch.  Then I went and looked at the only house on campus that is unoccupied.  We’re trying to have all of the male staff in one house (a guys’ dorm, per se) and I had to decide which house I wanted...the one I’m living in now or this other one.  The unoccupied one will be better.  It has two bedrooms downstairs, a living/dining area, a small kitchen and a bathroom.  It also has two lofts upstairs.  So it has more sleeping quarters than my current house.  And since there will be 5 staff and 4 boys, plus myself, we need all the space we can get.  So this week, I’ll work on cleaning it up and getting it ready for us to move in to (probably next week).  I also have to make a schedule for morning and evening worship at our house, as well as kitchen duties (since we’ll be eating with the girls, it’s only fair for us to help out in the kitchen).  Warren is going to give me the afternoon work schedule for everyone (all the kids and staff work on the grounds from 2-4pm every day) and Jodi will give me the church services schedule and I’ll make a master schedule for all of the guys, so they will know exactly what they are supposed to do and when.  

After checking out the house, it was time for the afternoon work.  We had four groups...Warren’s group was working in the garden, Juan’s was cutting grass and clearing that back field, Jodi’s group was drying some of the rice that was harvested a couple of months ago and my group was working on odd jobs on the grounds.  Sam and Oriel were working on the greenhouses by themselves.  We divided all of the kids up and got busy.  The kids will work in their respective group for a week and then rotate, so they will work in all areas over the course of the month.  Today, my boys and I raked up and burned the grass that had been cut on the path leading to the back field.  We were able to finish about half of it today by 4.  We’ll do the other half tomorrow.  

After working, I made the boys some lemonade.  It was quite hot today and we needed something refreshing.  Then, Sam, Oriel, Velissa and I took three of the boys to get more oranges.  We got 300 more oranges and a few more coconuts.  

We came home and while the girls were finishing preparing supper, I exercised a bit.  Trying to work that back into the schedule.  Then it was supper time.  

After supper, we had to take several empty barrels to the creek to fill them with water (since the water is still out).  We hooked up a pump to a motor and was able to fill them very quickly.  Then, Sam and I had to fix a problem with the electricity in his house.  And that finally concluded the day!  It’s now 8:00 and I’m pretty tired!  After I finish this entry, I’ve got to prepare classes for tomorrow before having my worship and hitting the sack.  I’m going to sleep well tonight!

It was a good day, though.  Everyday I’m learning something new, either about the kids, about myself, about life or about God’s love.  I am truly blessed beyond measure and praise the Lord for this opportunity to be here!

Good night all!  God bless and remember....


July 16, 2013

Today was another full and busy day.  I followed my morning routing (personal devotion, male staff devotion, breakfast) and then headed to school.  Today we started having the students change classes.  This was a totally new experience for them and while some really liked it, others vocalized their discontentment with the new arrangement.  But no worries...they’ll get used to it.  :)  I started out teaching Math to the 7-8th graders.  They are a good bit behind where they should be...especially when compared to the curriculum for 7-8th graders in the States.  Some still have a problem with their times tables.  So we spent the class reviewing basic multiplication and division.  I also had to teach them how to work out their problems and show their work.  Evidently that’s not something they do here, as none of them have ever showed their work in solving math problems.  I have a feeling it’s going to be a long process to get them where they need to be.  Please keep this in your prayers.

Next, I taught the same 7-8th graders language (Spanish grammar).  We’re reviewing/learning (for some) the parts of speech and how to identify them in sentences.  My third class was language (Spanish grammar) with the 3-4th graders.  This was the class I was most worried about simply because I’ve never taught elementary age kids before.  But it went pretty good.  We’re learning basic parts of speech (nouns, verbs).  The challenging part is there are a couple of students in this class (as well as in the other classes) that cannot read.  So we’re going to have to figure out a way to teach them to read and keep them caught up with class.  Jodi and I were talking about this tonight and will be trying to come up with some ideas to put into place.  Again, prayers are appreciated.

My fourth class was language with the 5-6th graders.  I’ve been warned that there are several kids in this group that like to I went in strong with them and really laid down “the law” and their expectations.  They did very well, though.  I only had one little incident with one of the kids.  Since I don’t know all the kids yet (as some are externals and don’t live on campus), we were going around the room and introducing ourselves.  When I asked him what his name was, he wouldn’t answer.  I asked three times and got no response.  That really aggravates me...the indifference.  So I asked one more time, to which he responded “I don’t know...I don’t remember my name.”  So I had him leave the room and wait for me outside and I would help him to remember his name.  :)  I got the class started on an assignment and went out to talk with the student.  Like with the other students yesterday, I let him know what the expectations are and that he will comply with them.  If he doesn’t, he’ll spend the next week or two in the field working instead of in class.  I didn’t talk to him in a threatening manner, but I did let him know that he is going to do what was asked of him.  This is a private school and being here is a privilege, not a right.  So, I gave him a choice...we can do things the easy way or we can do them the hard way, but either way, things will be done my way.  We can either start over and act like this incident never happened and go and have class or he can go to work.  He then said he’d like for us to start over.  So I extended my hand and introduced myself.  He shook my hand and said, “My name is Wilder.”  He then proceeded back into the classroom and did everything that was asked of him without any problems.  I’m starting to see that a lot of the kids like to get away with as much as they can and like to push the limits.  We’re gonna have to nip this in the bud quick-like.  

My last class today was English with the 7-8th graders again.  That went well.  Then, the school day was over and I went and had lunch.  After lunch, Warren and Jodi had to go into town to send some emails.  So Sam, Nickisha and I were in charge of the work session from 2-4.  We divided up the kids and headed out to our projects.  We had more projects than adults, so Sam and I had to go back and forth between two groups each, so I did a lot of running around the campus today.  We got a lot accomplished though.  

At 5:30, Velissa and I went jogging and then did some cardio exercises when we got back.  Then, we had supper and I headed to take a shower.  It was a hot day and the cold water felt really good.  :)

At 7:00, Sam, Oriel and I had our evening devotion and at 7:30, we had a general staff meeting.  That went well.  Warren updated us all on some things and some changes that will take place.  He also told us about the student missionaries that will be here in about 3 weeks and about some of the goals we have for Familia Feliz and the students.  We finished with prayer and headed to our respective homes for the night.

I’m pretty tired, so I’m going to close out now so I can have my devotion and head to bed.  The alarm clock is going to go off all to early in the morning.  

Thank you all again for your prayers!  Please keep them coming.  The kids need prayer, the staff needs wisdom, patience and guidance and we really need to get this water situation solved so we can have a reliable source of running water.  Also, we found out today that one of the most faithful donors Familia Feliz has had, who has been consistently giving a sizable donation every month for the past 8 years, is no longer able to continue.  So we’re losing that steady monthly income.  But I know that God is Faithful and will provide for all of our needs.  I’m excited to see how!  Again, please keep us all in your prayers.  Thanks again!  God bless you!


July 17, 2013

I’m starting to get used to getting up earlier again... though I must admit I do miss sleeping until at least 7:00!  School went very well today.  No problems with any of the students, other than 8 of them not doing their homework.  But not to fret...I told them today if they come to class without their homework two times, they have to work in the fields or garden during school hours everyday for a week!  :)  Two kids came up to meet tonight to assure me that they’ve already completed their homework.  :)  Evidently previous teachers have let them turn in homework whenever they finished it...there wasn’t a set deadline that was enforced, so I’m having to change that.  I may have to make an example out of one of them, but then everyone will be a “believer.”  

After school, we had lunch and then the kids went to work from 2-4.  I didn’t join them today because I had several things to do for school and to get ready for the new volunteers.  I spent most of the afternoon making worship schedules for my older students, worship schedule for my male staff and kids that will be with us, kitchen duties schedule, as well as making the list of house rules for the guys dorm.  I’ve got to get it all together and get it to Jodi this week.  I’ll also be teaching a baptismal class starting on Friday of this week.  This class will basically be a Bible study class for those kids that have recently been baptized.  So I prepared for that class as well.   Then, I was able to make a special treat for the staff....peach cobbler!  That’s Jodi’s favorite dessert and one of Warren’s as well.  And since the oven was working today, I thought I’d take advantage of that.  It was a new recipe, so I wasn’t 100% sure how it would turn out, but it turned out very good!  There wasn’t a bite left over, so I guess everyone enjoyed it.  :)

By this time, it was time for supper.  Then, we had about an hour before prayer meeting.  I took a shower and got ready for church.  The church service was really nice.  Jodi was in charge of it...but right at the start, she asked me if I would translate, so I was up there with her the whole time.  She talked about the importance of daily prayer...both for thanksgiving, as well as for making our requests known.  We took praise reports, then divided into groups of six to offer prayers of thanksgiving.  Then came back together, sang a hymn and then took prayer requests.  We then got back into our groups and prayed again.  It was very nice to see and hear the children pray.  Their prayers are so sincere and, if I may say so, quite eloquent.  They were very detailed.  I love to hear them pray.

After church, my little buddy Charlie came running up to me and gave me a big hug.  He insisted that I carry him back to his house.  I gladly accepted...but let me tell you, this little boy is heavy!!  He’s 5 years old, but very stocky and big-boned.  But he has the cutest smile you’ve ever seen!  :)  

A little later, I met with Warren and Jodi to talk about the plan for Friday, since the school schedule on Friday is a little different.  The students have a lighter schedule on Fridays (music, P.E., art, etc.).  On Friday, we’re also taking the 7th/8th graders to a local sugar cane farm for them to see how the cane is harvested and processed.  I might join them, as I’d love to take sugar cane juice.  And Friday I don’t have any classes to teach, so I’m free to go.  But I’ll have to see if anything else comes up.  

Sunday, Warren and I are heading back to Santa Cruz to do the next step in our visa process.  I’m not looking forward to the ride there, as it’s going to take about 24 hours to get there.  :(  But, such is life sometimes.  So I won’t be able to call home on Sunday, as I’ll be traveling.  But I’ll try to get into town before then if I can.  If not, then I’ll be able to do it from Santa Cruz.

Well, more tomorrow.  It’s bedtime now.  God bless!


July 18, 2013

Today was another good day...busy, but good.  School went well.  Didn’t have any problems with kids acting up in my classes.  I did have three students that didn’t do their homework for the second time this week, as well as one student did skip his last class, so those four will not be in class starting tomorrow for about a week.  They’ll be spending their mornings working in the garden, in the shop, in the back field, cleaning classrooms, cleaning the campus, etc.  The idea is to make them a little miserable with all the work so they’ll prefer to do what they’re supposed to in class.  Although I knew a few would try to push the limits, I was hoping we wouldn’t have to make an example out of anyone.  But at least now all the students will see the consequence of not doing what they’re asked to do and hopefully it will deter others from following the same footsteps.  

So, a couple of days ago, Warren told me I’d be in charge of all the male staff on campus and gave me title, “Dean of Men.”  Well, today I got a couple of more “titles”.  I’m now principal over the upper grades!  I’m still not sure how that happened.  Warren has also placed on as “head” of a few other committees.  I’m going to stop asking him any questions because every time I do, I get more responsibilities.  :)  

I spent the afternoon grading papers, planning classes and getting things ready for my absence next week.  Velissa will be my substitute, so I want to leave everything in order for her.  I’ve already talked to the students about my expectations for their behavior while I’m gone.  They also know that if they don’t do the homework or classwork next week, they’ll be working instead of being in class too.  (Really trying to nip these problems in the bud.)  Warren and Jodi need me to go into town tomorrow to run some errands, make some copies, pick up some supplies, etc. so we went over all of that this afternoon as well.  I have a whole list of things to do and places to go tomorrow!  It’s going to be a busy day.  Before heading to town, though, I’ll be heading to the sugar cane farm with the older students.  

The peach cobbler was such a success yesterday that Sam got some canned cherries this morning for me to make a cherry cobbler today.  So I made two small pans of it.  It turned out really good too, except for one small evidently they don’t pit the cherries here in Bolivia.  I didn’t know that, as I’ve never seen canned cherries with the pit.  So I didn’t know to remove them before making the we had to take the seeds out of each cherry as we were eating it!  :(  But everyone still liked it and finished both pans.  Jodi told me I better not come back from town tomorrow without more peaches to make a peach cobbler for Sabbath afternoon!  :)  Hopefully I’ll be back in time to get it made before Sabbath starts.

We had supper, then I finished some odds and ends from earlier before heading to worship with the guys.  Jorge, one of the students that lives on campus, came back today.  So he joined us.  He seems to be a good kid, but has gotten into a lot of trouble in the past (fighting, bullying, etc.).  He’s run away a couple of times too.  He’s been told that if he gets into trouble again, he’s going to be asked to leave and not invited back.  Since today was my first time meeting him (after having heard all of the stories about him), I spent some time with him this afternoon and got to know him a little better and had a nice little chat with him.  I let him know that he’ll be staying with us in the guys dorm and that he’ll be under my care now (previously he was with Samuel).  I went over my expectations and the rules again.  I don’t want him to be expelled.  I really think he can do better...he just needs some guidance and consistency.  He’s really kinda opened up to me already and has wanted to spend time with me.  I’m praying I can be what he needs and help him to be what he needs to be.  I told him he better behave while I’m gone next week....I don’t want to come back and find him not here.  He said he would behave and will be here when I get back.  Keeping my fingers crossed...:)

We also have a former staff member here again.  Noel was a student here previously (I believe) and then worked as a staff member.  He’s in college now and is on break, so came to spend a week here.  Melissa brought him to me this morning to introduce us and to see where I wanted him to sleep, etc. We got him set up in a room and he joined us for worship tonight (and will be joining us for his stay here).  He’s a really nice guy and seems to have a big desire to serve God.  I’m looking forward to getting to know him better in the short time I’ll be with him.

After worship, I got things ready for tomorrow, had my personal devotion and am writing this entry.  Now, I’m heading for bed.  One good thing about these busy trouble falling asleep at night!!  :)  Oh!  A praise report...we’ve had running water for the past two days!!  Not sure what has happened to cause the change (actually, I do know...God has heard and answered our prayers!!), but it’s been really nice to enjoy running water again!  Thank you, Lord!  And thank you all for your prayers.  

Good night and God bless!  Maranatha!

July 19, 2013

Today was another FULL day!  After worship and breakfast, I headed to the school.  I needed to talk to the other teachers for a moment, as well as make sure that my 4 students went to work today instead of to class.  Then, all of the 7-8th graders loaded up on the truck and Juan, Nickisha and I took them down the road to the sugar cane “plant”.  I put that in parenthesis because I use the word loosely.  There was one large, wooden, homemade manual mill with which they extract the juice from the cane.  The mill was very impressive, especially knowing that this very humble, poor family built it with their own hands.  Everyone took turns pushing the long “handle” around in circles to move the mill and extract the juice.  After a few minutes, I got to finally taste the “fruit of my labor” first glass of sugar cane juice!  It was very good!  Really sweet...the canes were quite mature, so they had longer to sweeten up.  We were there for about an hour and a half milling the canes and brought home about 2 gallons of the juice for those that couldn’t go.  All of us that went were able to drink as much as we wanted there.  I did have to handle a disciplinary problem with a couple of the students while we were there, but it was still a very nice and educational trip. I learned a, I got a really good workout!  (’d be proud!  :) ).  It was tough to push that handle around!  Really worked your calves and legs!

After we were done there, we headed back to school to drop off the kids for them to finish the school day on campus.  Then, Juan and I headed to town.  I had a very long list of things to do in town today!  (Make bank deposits, airmail receipts to the mission office in Santa Cruz, make some phone calls, pick up supplies, pick up some food, email the incoming student missionaries, print off documents and make about 800 copies, go by the pharmacy, and a few more.) It took me about 7 1/2 hours to get it all done!  But I’m very glad I was able to do everything.  Plus, I saw a blue and yellow macaw and a monkey while in town today!  :)  

I made it back just in time to get two pans of peach cobbler made for tomorrow before Sabbath.  Jodi pretty much threatened me if I didn’t make peach cobbler for tomorrow.  :)  We had worship, then I loaned my computer to Juan and Emy for the boys to watch two Nest Bible videos.  The kids love them and it’s a special treat for them.  Then I put together the order of service for church tomorrow and let everyone know their assignments.  Finally, I was able to come home, take a shower and get off my feet for a little bit.  They were very appreciative!  :)  I did find two interesting little friends in the bathroom when I went in.  I’ll post pics below.  :)

When I got back, Jorge came running up to me as soon as he saw me and pretty much stayed by my side the rest of the night, until I came to my house.  For some reason he’s taken to me over these past two days and we have a really good relationship.  I’m glad he’s comfortable with me.  I really want to try and help him get on the right track.  It’s obvious he’s looking for affection and for a role model.  I pray I can be a part of that.  He asked me tonight how long I was going to stay here.  I told for at least a year, but I wasn’t’s in God’s Hands.  He told me he never wanted me to leave.  :)  It was a really good moment.  Definitely makes all the work and sacrifices worth it!  As do all the hugs the kids give me.  They are more of a blessing to me than they know.  And it feels really good to do something good to help others, to be a positive influence and to allow God to use you.  When I look at these kids, I see so much love, but also, so many needs.  Each one has a story, a past that they have to deal with.  And while all of their basic needs are the same, the deeper needs are all different.  As I think on this, I am so glad we have a Heavenly Father that never abandons any of His children (there are no orphans with God!) and that can meet each and every need in the perfect way for each of His children!  It’s a wonderful, comforting and hope-filled thought.

Oh!  I wanted to update you all on the baby that was left here last Sabbath.  I’m very happy to say that she is doing MUCH better!!  She looks great!  Her color and complexion has improved 200%.  She looks healthy and happy.  She is eating well, sleeping well and is doing much better than when she was dropped off.  The mom did show back up a couple of days ago and wanted to take her back, but DFACS (well, the Bolivian version of it) didn’t allow that.  The lady is 21 years old, has a 5 year-old daughter that she gave up to her mother, an 18-month old son that Melissa has (because the mother gave him up) and this newborn, which she gave up as well.  She’s also had two abortions.  So the case worker has said that she won’t go back with the mom if at all possible.  It wouldn’t be a safe and stable environment.  Melissa is looking to adopt her, along with her brother.  There’s a lot involved, though, so we’d appreciate your prayers, that God’s will would be done.  Thanks.  I haven’t told you the baby’s name yet, because it hasn’t been decided yet.  :)  Melissa likes Liliana, but none of her kids like it.  They like Lian.  So it’s up in the air.  I’ll let you know what’s decided when I know.  And I’ll try to get pics of her to post, so you can see this precious little girl.

God bless you all!  Happy Sabbath!  


July 20, 2013

Today was another wonderful Sabbath!  We all attended church on campus at Familia Feliz today.  After breakfast, I made sure everyone knew what part they were playing in Sabbath School and in church service.  I taught the adult class.  We had some very good discussions.  Warren had the sermon today and, as has been the case every time so far, he did a great job!  He had a little “surprise” for me though...I had to translate his sermon for him!  :)  It went well, though.

As soon as church was over, I had two “manna moments.”  (That’s what I call those instances when God just blesses me in a special way when I least expect it.)  Armando, one of the boys I watched the first week I got to Familia Feliz, ran up and gave me a BIG hug!  He had a big smile on his face and held tight for a long time.  Then, Charlie, Melissa’s 5-year old adopted son (who usually sits with me during the services we’re together) also gave me a big hug and told me something I won’t soon forget.  He said, “I used to have two friends, but one left (Raul, the other volunteer that left a couple of weeks ago.) and now I only have one friend and it’s you.”  Made me feel really good!  :)

After church, we changed clothes and headed for lunch.  Once again, Jorge was my shadow all day.  He got into a little trouble in Sabbath School because he wasn’t doing what he was asked to do.  So we had a talk about that and the importance of obeying and being reverent in church.  He was very upfront and honest with me in telling me what he did wrong.  After our talk, I had him go and apologize to Nickisha (his Sabbath School teacher), which he did very willingly and sincerely.  

After lunch, the kids wanted to watch a bible story, so I got my computer out and put on a few Nest Animated Bible Story videos.  They really like those!!  After that, Jorge, Moisesito and I went for a little hike in the jungle on our property.  We didn’t go very far, but had a really good time.  We found a vine hanging from a very tall tree and took turns swinging from it (Me Tarzan! :) ).  Then, Jorge wanted to see who could climb the vine the highest.  I was never good at climbing ropes in school, so I was a bit concerned here.  Moisesito went first.  I think that boy is part monkey, because he shimmied up that vine really quickly and got about 10 feet up.  Then it was Jorge’s turn.  He only made it about 6 feet because he started laughing and lost his grip.  The pressure was all on me know...I really didn’t want to be shown out by a 6-year old!  :)  Thanks to Rick and all the pull-ups and push-ups at the gym, I wasn’t!  I made it about 15 feet up, then figured I better head back down as I wasn’t 100% convinced that the vine would hold me up very much longer.  After “monkeying around” for about 30 minutes, we headed back home to get ready for worship.

We all had worship in a circle, as usually on Friday and Saturday evening.  We sang about 10 hymns I guess.  These kids love to sing.  Again, Jorge was on one side of me and Charlie on the other.  Right after worship was over, I had another “manna moment.”  At the end of worship on Friday and Saturdays, everyone walks around the circle and wishes everyone a happy Sabbath or happy week (depending on if it’s Friday or Saturday) and shakes their hand.  Well, when Jorge got to me, he shook my hand and then threw his arms around me and gave me a hug.  It may not seem like much to others, but it meant a lot to me...especially knowing what I do about Jorge.  So I was very blessed today!

After Sabbath, we went to eat supper.  Warren and I talked about the school, plans for classes, the incoming student missionaries, dorm arrangements, etc.  I’ve got to come up with the sleeping arrangements for the male volunteers and the four boys that will be under our care.  I’ll work on that this week.  I did find out that Jorge will be living with me though.  Warren wants him to have a more stable and consistent environment.  So I’m very excited about that.  :)

After supper, I had a million and one things to do.  I’m leaving here at 6:15 in the morning to head to Santa Cruz, so I had to pack for the trip, finish planning my classes for the week, give lesson plans, etc. to Velissa and go over everything with her.  I also got called over to Melissa’s house to help them with a couple of things, so I didn’t finish until very late.  It’s after 11:00 and, for those of you that know me well, you know it’s way past my bedtime...especially when I have to get up early the next day!  So good night all...until tomorrow! 

God bless you!  Maranatha!

July 21, 2013

It’s 8:54pm and I’m on the bus to Santa Cruz.  I’ve spent all day traveling.  I left Familia Feliz around 6:30 this morning and traveled from Rurre to Trinidad by car.  We left Rurre at 7:30 and got to Trinidad just before 4:00.  It was a long trip!  Then I had to get to the bus station to get my ticket to Santa Cruz.  When I got there, I felt like a piece of fresh meat in the middle of a pack of vultures!  No sooner had I gotten out of the taxi than I was surrounded by men trying to get me to pick their bus company to travel with.  I mean, there were 4-5 men all talking to me at the same time, trying to out-do the others.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  :)  I finally picked one, got my ticket, then took a moto-taxi to a nearby hotel that had a restaurant where I could get some vegan food.  They had free wifi, so I was able to check my emails and make some phone calls.  I got some very sad news sister-in-law’s grandfather passed away last night.  He had cancer.  While I’m glad he isn’t suffering anymore, my heart is heavy for the family.  I wish I could be there for them.  Please keep Jenney and her family in your prayers as they go through this difficult time.  This is yet another reminder of how fragile life is, as well as of our hope in Christ.  I eagerly await the day when there will be no more death, pain, sorrow or tears.  Even so, come Lord Jesus!  

We’re scheduled to get to Santa Cruz around 6:30 am.  I’m going to try to get some sleep now.  It’s been a long day.

God bless!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

July 7 - 13 ---- Amazon Pampas Tour!!

July 7, 2013

Today was another laid back day since it was our day off and we spent the vast majority of it in town.  We spent more time there than we had originally planned.  We left around 9:00 am and returned at 7:00 pm.  But it was nice as I was able to talk to my family back home in the States, as well as email and chat with some very dear friends and former students. 

There was one downside though...when I woke up this morning, I didn’t feel very good.  My stomach was hurting and I was nauseous.  I couldn’t eat the pancakes I made for breakfast because I just wasn’t hungry and felt kind of yucky.  That feeling continued throughout the day.  But then, around 4:30, it got much worse.  I had a splitting headache and a fever.  I felt really exhausted and spent the next hour or so with my head down.  Couldn’t eat anything.  I did have a fruit smoothie to have something on my stomach...and it was delicious (strawberry and mango)!  But I just couldn’t drink a lot of it.  I also tried to drink some tamarind juice, but just wasn’t feeling it.  We met the girls (Nickisha and Wanetta) at the bus station to take a cab back home together.  The way the driver was driving down the very bumpy road didn’t help me any!  :(

When I got home, I took a shower and had my worship.  Now I’m in bed, writing this entry before calling it a night.  It’s only 7:45.  

I’m hoping it’s just a 24-hour bug.  Tomorrow, Sam and I are supposed to go hiking up a mountain in the jungle with two of the older orphans.  But if I feel like this, we’ll have to postpone the trip.  :(  I’m praying...

Well, good night everyone!  I pray each of you had a very blessed day and were able to enjoy the many blessings of our Lord today.  God bless!


July 8, 2013

After a long night of waking up several times, sweating profusely and tossing and turning, I feel MUCH better today!  I had a little headache when I woke up, but it quickly went away.  God is Good!  We did end up postponing our hike though, as it was supposed to rain today.  We’ll probably go on Wednesday or Thursday.

Warren’s wife, Jodi, arrived around 2am with two more volunteers from Guyana, Velissa and Uriel.  Not only are Warren and Jodi serving as temporary directors of the orphanage, but they are also over the 14 mission schools in Bolivia and Guyana.  So, they take turns traveling to the different schools to complete their duties there.  This trip, however, extended much longer than they had anticipated (3 months!), so Warren was quite happy to have his wife home again!  :)

We spent the morning getting more fruit for the orphanage.  There’s no better way to start feeling better than spending time out in nature, eating fresh oranges and drinking coconut water!  :)  Sam and I took three of the kids to pick oranges.  After about an hour or so, we had the 500 oranges we needed.  :)  We also got 40 more coconuts while we were there.  I’m LOVING all this fresh fruit!  

After we left this “chaco” (farm), we stop by a local church member’s house and got some plantains, papaya and yucca.  Then, heading home, a lady was selling watermelon on the side of the road, so naturally we had to stop and get some!  :)  The back of the truck was FULL of fruit.  We made it back home around noon and distributed the goods to the different homes.  And for lunch??  You guessed it!  Fruit!  Oranges, papayas, coconut and a watermelon/coconut water smoothie.  Delicious!  

In the afternoon, we finished putting the trusses up on the second greenhouse.  They went up rather quickly.  Then, at 4:00, Wanetta and Velissa joined Sam and I for a run.  That was nice.  I kept running a little farther after they stopped...and I was glad I did.  As I was running, two red and blue macaws flew over my head!  It was a beautiful sight!

After a shower, it was time to fix supper.  It was more of a challenge today because we’re still without water and needed to wash the pots/dishes (since we were without water yesterday) we had to be creative.  But it all worked out and we had a very good supper.  Baked potatoes with Venezuelan sauce (guess who did the sauce?! :) ) and vegetable stew (lentils, tomatoes, turnips, carrots, onions, garlic, etc.).  Very good.  :)

Well, another day in the jungle comes to an end.  Time for bed.  Until tomorrow...God bless!


July 9, 2013

Today was another good day.  This morning, several of us went into town for various reasons.  Juan, Emi, Melissa and three of her kids went for the day, while Warren, Sam and I went for just a couple of hours to pick up some more supplies and get some information.  One of the things we went to find out was how much it would cost to drill a deep well here on site that would be a constant and reliable water source for Familia Feliz.  We were quoted a price of US$55 per meter, plus the price of the tubing and pump.  Depending on how deep we’d have to go, it would cost between US$2000-US$5000.  Please pray about this.  We desperately need reliable running water!  If any of you reading this (or someone else you know) might be interested in donating towards this project, please send me an email ( and I can get you the details and any of information you might need.  Thanks!  There is an old well on the property that we may be able to fix up and get running for cheaper.  We’ve got to see about having someone come out and assess it.  Again, please keep all of this in your prayers.

We didn’t go to the mountain today either.  But that’s okay...we’re doing one better!  :)  In talking to Warren, he mentioned that the two girl volunteers (Wanetta and Nickisha) needed a break and he wanted them to be able to do something off campus before the classes started back on Monday.  So we’ve decided to go on a tour of the pampas area of the amazon!  5 of us will go...Wanetta, Nickisa, Edgar (Melissa’s oldest adopted son), Sam and I.  We leave tomorrow (Wednesday) and will be gone for three days and two nights.  I’m really looking forward to this! I’ll be sure to take LOTS of pictures and post some.  I’ll try my best to blog while I’m gone and keep you all updated on things.  I’m really excited about seeing different aspects of God’s creations.  :)

When we got back, I fixed lunch and was about to sit down to eat when little Miguel came up crying.  He said he wasn’t feeling well.  When I touched his head, he was burning with a fever.  His eyes and throat were hurting too.  We got him a bath and took him to Nickisha and Wanetta who put their medical missionary training to use.  He’s feeling a bit better now.  After I got Miguel settled, I came back and finished lunch.  Then Sam and I took the other four boys (David, Moises, Juan and Armando) to see about getting some scrap lumber from the lumber yard nearby...but they were closed.  So we came back home.  Then we found out that we had to pay for our trip today, so Sam, Uriel, Moises, Juan, Armando and I went back to town to take care of that and pick up some good insect repellant to take with us.  :)  We got the boys an ice cream and that made their day!  They could’ve eaten a gallon each if we would have let them!  

Melissa and her kids rode back home with us.  On the way, Melissa and I talked a lot about the kids here.  She filled me in on many of their backgrounds and situation.  Again, it broke my heart.  She said that about 95% of them have been sexually abused...both boys and girls!  There was much more, but I won’t put it all here.  But it definitely puts things into perspective more and gives me much more to pray about!  Please join me in praying for these children (for their physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing), as well as for the millions of other children that have gone through or are going through the same situations all over the world.  Surely Christ is coming soon!

We came back home and Sam and Uriel fixed supper while I packed for tomorrow’s trip.  Now, I’m about to head to bed and get a good night’s rest...I’ve a big day tomorrow!  :)

God bless all!  Maranatha!

July 10, 2013

(Disclaimer: The next three posts will be long ones!  :) )

What a day!!  Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  Well, almost.  :)  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s back up.  I woke up, had my morning worship and got ready to leave.  When I woke up, though, something was bothering me in my right eye.  It felt like there was a piece of dirt or something in it.  I rubbed my eye to try to dislodge it, but no luck.  I washed my eye out, but still no luck.  Oh well...I went on out to meet everyone to leave, hoping that it would work itself out soon enough.  It was quite aggravating though.  We left Familia Feliz at 7:30 and were in Rurre by 8:00.  We were supposed to be at the tour place by 8:30.  Before getting there, we stopped to get breakfast and pick up some insect repellant.  My eye was still bothering me and was starting to get red.  I washed it a couple of more times and even put eye drops in it, but I couldn’t manage to get whatever was it in out.  Finally, I asked the girls if they would check it for me and help me out, as it was really bothering me.  After a couple of minutes, Wanetta extracted a very small piece of “trash”.  I was very relieved and thanked her for her help.  When I looked at what was causing my discomfort, I was amazed at how small it was.  In my eye, it felt like it was much larger (maybe 1/2 inch)...but in reality, it was about the size of a pinhead.  I thought of a couple of spiritually applicable object lessons with that.  

We ended up leaving around 9:00.  They said it would be a three-hour car ride followed by a 3:00 boat ride to get to our cabins in the pampas.  So we loaded up in the car and headed out.  It was then that we saw that the Lord had answered our prayers from the night before.  We had heard that many people that go on these tours get loud, obnoxious, use foul language, smoke, etc....especially those from Israel.  So we prayed last night that the Lord would put us with a quiet group...and specifically one that didn’t smoke, drink or cuss.  A tall order, I know.  But God came through as always!  We were grouped up with three other people....Roxana (from France)and Ash and Andy (from Australia).  They are very nice people.  We found out that Ash and Andy (two guys) have been touring South America for the last two and a half months.  They started out in Chile and Argentina, then worked there way up to Bolivia.  They’ll be here (in South America) another 2 months or so before heading back home.  But we haven’t had one single problem with any of the issues we were concerned about!  God is Good!  It may seem like a small issue to many, but to us it was important and a direct answer to our prayers.  

So we leave Rurre and no sooner had we started on the dirt road to Santa Rosa where we would take the boat than our adventure began.  About 5 minutes into the drive, a big truck was stuck in the middle of the road.  That section of the road was quite muddy from the rain from two days ago and the driver of the truck thought he could get through, but was mistaken (I can think of another good spiritual application / object lesson here...a little more on that later on).  As a result, the whole road was blocked and traffic was backing up on both sides.  We got out of our taxi to wait in the fresh air, while our taxi driver joined the other few to assess the situation and try to come up with a solution.  They tried putting dry dirt under the wheels to give them better traction, but no luck.  A bus showed up and they asked him to try to pull the truck out, but the driver refused.  So they kept trying to get the truck unstuck.  At some point, one of the tires on the truck now, not only was it stuck, but one of it’s tires was flat.  After a while, another big truck came and agreed to pull it out.  But no luck there either.  About 45 minutes had gone by and now there was a large crowd of passengers standing on the road, waiting for the situation to be solved.  One taxi came pulling up and his brakes failed and he ran into another parked taxi.  There wasn’t too much damage though...but that certainly added to the “chaos”.  :)  Finally, a group of men dug enough dry dirt to put on the far side of the big truck stuck in the mud to make a very narrow “path” on which they hoped to be able to get around the truck in their cars.  Boy, was that interesting to watch!  The first two were able to get by fine (one was our taxi!).  The next car almost flipped over.  The fourth one got stuck and had to be pushed out by several men.  Then, another taxi got really stuck and when he tried to get out, his front bumper broke and they had to take it off to get the car out (which took a good 15 minutes in and of itself).  It was a really interesting morning!  Lol.  I’ll post pictures below.

Finally we were on the road again.  We drove about 15 minutes.  Then we got to a road block.  I’m not sure why the road was blocked by cars though...I’m guessing it was some manifestation.  Regardless, our taxis couldn’t cross.  So we had to get out of the cars and carry all of our gear about 1/2 mile down the road where a Land Cruiser was waiting for us.  We loaded up that car and got set to continue the trip.  There was a man selling oranges on the side of the road, so I bought 25 of them for our group to eat, since it was quite hot and we were thirsty after standing in the sun for over an hour earlier and carrying our gear now.  The oranges were sweet and juicy and hit the spot nicely!  :)  

Now we really started our car ride.  It lasted about 3 1/2 hours.  And it was one of the longest 3 1/2 hour car-rides I’ve been on!  It was a dirt road the whole way and FULL of pot holes.  The driver didn’t go over 35 mph the whole trip and we felt every bump in the road!  To make things even “worse” (not really, but a little), the Land Cruisers here are not set up like the SUV’s there in the States.  There are two front seats, then two bench seats, one on each side of the truck, in the back (facing each other).  So 7 of us were somewhat squeezed back there with some of our luggage for the entire trip.  Since the roads were dirt and it was sunny and dry, dust came in through all the windows and within minutes all of us (and our things) were covered in a layer of orange dust.  But it wasn’t all bad.  The views were nice and we even saw a couple of alligators in lagoons on the side of the road.  Plus, it gave us a chance to get to know the three other members of our tour group.

We finally made it to Santa Rosa, where we got lunch (included in our tour...all meals are included) to go and headed to Mididi National Reserve to catch our boat.  Once we got all of our gear loaded on the boat, we pushed off with Antonio as our guide.  

The next three hours were nothing like the previous ones!!  We had such a good time that it’s hard to put into words!  And we saw so much wildlife!  As soon as we started on the river (a portion of the Amazon river), we saw cranes, turtles (not a novelty for this Georgia-boy, but the Australians were very amazed with the fact that turtles sunbathe on a tree.  They had never seen turtles on trees before and found it quite amusing.  :) ), fishers and then a big black crocodile.  They can be very aggressive.  But Antonio got us in very close to see it (about 10 feet from it!).  Just on the other side of him was a smaller alligator.  This river is FULL of crocs and alligators!  We probably saw at least 40 on our boat ride to the cabins.  We were able to get very close to close as 5 feet!  Antonio said the alligators are very mild and docile during the day, spending most of the day sleeping/resting and sunbathing to warm their bodies.  They are afraid of humans.  The crocs, on the other hand, have no problem confronting intruders, so we were very careful to respect their space.  :)  

We saw more cranes, turtles, cormorants, herrings, hawks, an eagle, a great-horned owl, many smaller birds (of all colors)...but then it got even better!  We saw many monkeys!  There were mainly howlers, capuchins, and squirrel monkeys.  The howlers stayed high up in the trees, but the squirrel monkeys can right up to our boat when we got near to the shore where they were.  Antonio showed up in the middle of the boat with a banana in his hand and guess what?!  Are you ready for this?!  The monkeys jumped on my shoulders and head to get the banana and stayed there to eat it!  I actually had wild squirrel monkeys on my head!  It was amazing!!  There were probably 15 of them and they took turns jumping on most of us in the boat.  It was a wonderful experience!  But there’s more...the highlight of my day (as far as what animals we saw is concerned) was just a few moments away.  Those of you that know me well know that my favorite animals are dolphins.  They have been ever since I was a small child.  (I even got to swim with some wild dolphins with my family on vacation was great!) Well, today we saw not one, not two, but eight river dolphins!!  Both gray and pink.  Again, about 5 feet from our boat.  It was amazing!!  They are quite different from salt-water dolphins, but just as elegant and fascinating.  I tried to get some pictures, but it was a bit challenging.  Never fear...I’ll get some more before I leave. I can’t wait. Okay...I’ll try to wind this down now.

We finally made it to camp....a cluster of cabins on the bank of the river.  There are several groups staying here (with a total of about 40 people), but it’s still very laid-back, informal and peaceful.  So far, no loud or obnoxious people (Praise God!  :) ).  When we got here, though, no one else was here.  They had popcorn and juice ready for us when we arrived.  We unloaded our gear and got settled into our rooms.  Our tour guide, however, looked at us kind of crazy when we asked for two separate rooms (one for the girls and one for the guys).  He thought we were joking at first, but when he realized we were serious, he led the girls to another room.  Guess it’s the first time they’ve had that request, as they always put everyone from a tour group in the same room.  Not with us.  :)  

Then, we decided to be a bit adventurous (yeah, that’s what we’re going to call it.  :) ).  We decided to go for a swim in the river! read right.  We went swimming the same Amazon river where we just saw all those crocs and gators.  But evidently it is very common here.  All of the guides said that it’s perfectly safe during the day (but not to dare try it at night).  We spent most of the time diving off the dock of the camp.  The water was quite least 18 feet.  We never touched bottom.  After about 15 minutes of diving, the five of us decided to swim across to the other side of the river and back.  We did it successfully, without anyone losing any limbs...:)  And now we can saw that we swam across the amazon river (and have pictures to prove it)!  :)  (I can already see the expressions on some of my family members’ face as they are reading this...:) ).  

After swimming, we took showers and got ready for supper.  The tour company has been great at accommodating us and is providing us with very delicious vegan meals.  Antonio, however, is convinced that we are from another planet after the room situation and now his finding out we don’t eat meat.  :)  At supper, the eight of us sat together (the five of us from Familia Feliz and our French and Australian friends) at a table in the dining hall.  All of the guests had arrived now and the room was full.  When the food was brought out to the table, all of the other tables started serving themselves and eating.  Before we did, though, we told our friends that we were going to ask the blessing over the food and asked if they would like to join us.  They said sure and I had the prayer.  It was interesting, though, what Roxane and Andy said when we asked them if they wanted to pray with us.  Roxane said, “This is only the second time in my life that someone has asked me to pray.”  To which Andy responded, “This is the first time for me.”  I was really glad we asked.  I pray God is answering another of our prayers, which is to share His Gospel with someone on the trip.  While seeing all of this beautiful nature is wonderful and we are thoroughly enjoying the experience, that is not the reason we are here.  There are no coincidences in life....rather divine appointments.  I truly believe that God has orchestrated the events in such a way that these specific 3 individuals would form part of our tour, that we would all speak a common language (the other group that traveled today with us with the same company is a group of Israeli’s and they speak very little English....and smoke, drink, cuss, etc.), etc.  I believe we are here for such a time as this to show God’s love to those around us.  And that is what we are praying for...and I know God is answering (again, more on that in a little bit).

Supper was great.  We had two types of salad (a tossed salad and a tomato and herbs salad), sauteed vegetables, french fries, rice and pasta.  After supper, we made plans to meet in the girls’ room to have evening worship together at 8:30.  That gave us about 15 minutes to brush our teeth and relax a bit.  Sam, Edgar and I came back to our room (where the Australian guys are staying as well) for a few minutes.  On the way, Sam said, “I wish the guys would ask us what we are going to do now.  That way we can tell them we are going to have worship and invite them to join us without seeming pushy.”  I agreed.  Well...we serve a Mighty God!  No sooner had we walked in the room than Ash asked Sam what we were going to do!  We looked at each other with a smile in our eyes and he proceeded to tell him that we were going to have worship together and invited them to join us.  They declined, saying that they were very tired after the long day, but would like to join us tomorrow if that would be ok.  So we told them that we will meet for our morning worship at 7:30 and that we’d love to have them join us.  As we left, Sam and I reflected on how God worked things out just as we had hoped and were even more convinced that He was leading things. 

At 8:30 we were in the girls’ room and started our singing two of my favorite hymns...Nearer Still Nearer and I Surrender All.  The girls are staying in a room that is above a commons room area with a tv and dvd player, ping pong table and pool table.  And off this commons room is the deck, with several chairs overlooking the river.  As we sang, we could hear the tv going, men playing pool and ping pong and the conversation of many people that were seated on the deck or in hammocks nearby.  It wasn’t the quietest place to have worship, but it was still very nice.  And that closeness of everyone worked in our favor because, just as we could hear everyone else, they could hear us!  So, like it or not, they were our audience for our song service, prayer service and worship service!  :)  After we sang, we had opening prayer.  Then I led out worship.  Some of you know (and I alluded to this earlier in the blog) that I like to find object lessons in my day-to-day find some spiritual application at every opportunity.  I almost make a game out of it.  It’s fun and I’ve learned a lot by doing it.  Well, today I shared two object lessons that I had learned from today and asked the others to think back over the day’s activities and share one that came to their mind as well.  At first, they were silent, trying to come up with something, but after a couple of minutes, we had 8-10 objects lessons linked with Bible verses that were being shared.  It was very nice.  We followed that with a reading from the devotional book “Maranatha”.  Then, we took prayer requests and finished with closing prayer, thanking God for this wonderful day, His many blessings and making our requests known to Him.  We especially prayed for our new friends, that they would see Christ in us and would indeed join us for worship tomorrow.  It was a very good worship service.  I can’t wait to see how God answers our prayers!

Worship ended and I came outside and sat in the hammock on the bank of the river to type this blog.  As I write, there are about 6 jungle frogs hopping underneath me, the sounds of many more frogs, crickets and other jungle creatures in the background, bats flying over the river eating mosquitos and a beautiful, starry canvas above me.  It has been almost a perfect day!  I never would have thought I would have experienced the things I experienced today.  Who would have thought four months ago that I would be in the Amazon, seeing crocs, gators and river dolphins, playing with monkeys, meeting people for all over the world and being able to share my faith with them?!  It’s almost surreal.  It humbles me to see how God works...His ways and timing are perfect!  I am truly blessed beyond measure.  I join my voice to the Psalmist as he says, “This is the day that the Lord hath made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  May God bless you all in a special way today.  I pray each of you have been able to experience His love and presence as much as I have today!


July 11, 2013

Today, like yesterday, will be a day I will not soon forget!  We woke up and met in the ladies’ room for morning worship as planned.  None of our new friends joined us, but we’re still hoping they will before it’s all over.  Nickisha and Wanetta were in charge of worship this morning.  We sang two hymns and had opening prayer.  Then, Nickisha read one of my favorite passages...Matthew 6:26-34.  We talked about we, as Christians, should not worry as much as we do.  We serve God Almighty who has everything in His Hands and has promised to answer our prayers and work everything out for our good.  Who needs to worry with promises like that from a God like that?!  :)  Easier said than done, I know...but still true nonetheless.  Again, our worship could be heard by many of the other guests, so we are praying that small seeds are being sown.  

After worship, we had breakfast...fresh fruit (oranges, papaya, banana, watermelons), pancakes, some kind of doughnut things and cake.  Once again, the meal was very good.  

After breakfast, while we were waiting to leave for the activity of the morning, I had a pretty amazing experience (which would set the tone for the rest of the day).  As we walked down by the river, we saw that there was an alligator right near us just off the shore of the river.  It was about 7-8 feet long.  Antonio, our guide, got some raw meat out and lured it over to him.  He tapped it on the nose with the meat and it opened its mouth to try to eat the meat (which Antonio pulled away to keep him there longer).  He then asked me if I wanted to feed it!  I couldn’t resist.  So with a piece of raw meat in my hand, I stood directly in front of him (you don’t stand on the side, as their peripheral vision is very good...standing in front, they can’t see you quite as well and it gives you a bit of an advantage) and tapped his nose several times with the meat, which spawned a series of bites as he tried to grab the meat.  I was very careful to stay in front of his snout the whole time and watch his every movement.  At one point, he jump up to grab the meat.  It was pretty cool!  By this point, many people had gathered around to see.  After a couple of minutes, I threw him the meat.  Sammy got some pictures, so I’ll post them.  Afterwards I sat in amazement of the what had just happened.  I just “played with” and fed an alligator!  Not a farm-raised gator...a wild gator in the Amazon!!  It was a very invigorating experience.  :)  

We then put on our rubber boots and loaded up on the boat.  Our next stop??  Anaconda and cobra hunting!!  (Not to kill them, but hopefully just to see one.) We rode about an hour down river.  We came to a somewhat marshy area and headed out on food in search of our “target”.  Our group was joined about the other group of Israel tourists for this activity.  It was very hot and the mosquitos were something fierce indeed!!  I mean, they were on a mission and we were their buffet it seems.  But I brought three kinds of repellant and we doused ourselves pretty good with them and there wasn’t too much damage.  I didn’t get a single bite actually.  

We all kinda separated a little bit, walking slowly through the tall grass (taller than me!) and then through a more open, marshy area looking for any sign of an anaconda or cobra.  Nickisha, Wanetta and I found it kind of amusing that here we were actually looking for a snake!  After about 35 minutes or so, we found one....a young anaconda.  It was about 8-9 feet long.  Now, for those of you that may not know this about me, I am NOT a snake person!  I do my best to avoid them at all cost.  I can handle spiders, bugs, etc. but I do not like snakes.  I tell you this to preface what I’m about to tell you.  (And I hope that Josh is reading this because he would be very proud of me!)  I am trying to face my fears and, with God’s help, overcome them, especially since snakes are very common here in Bolivia and many have been found at Familia Feliz.  I need to be able to not be so afraid of them.  So when I found out that we were going to go looking for snakes, I prayed a lot and asked God to be with us and protect us (obviously), but to start taking my fear of them away.  Mind you, I don’t want to be best friends with them by any means, but I don’t want to be terrified either.  :)  The two guides grab the snake, secured the head and then picked it up for us to see.  Everyone was very standoffish as the guides held it.  (Mom, you might want to stop reading here for a few sentences...:) )  I’m not sure exactly what came over me, but I walked up and asked if I could touch it.  Did those words just come out of my mouth?!  They said yes and I found myself touching the largest snake breed in the world!  Then, the totally unexpected happened...they asked if I wanted to put it around my neck and I said yes!!  I still can’t believe it.  I had this wild, dangerous snake around my neck and shoulders!  It was cool to the touch and very strong.  I could feel it’s muscles contracting as his moved around my neck and body.  The other guide still held the head tightly (he asked if I wanted to hold it, but I respectfully declined...I’m not quite ready for that steps.).  I had the snake on me for about 3-4 minutes, which may not seem like a long time, but trust me...when you have 20-lb, 8-foot long anaconda wrapping itself around your neck and body, it is a long time indeed!!  Everyone was asking me questions at the same time....what does it feel like?  Does it hurt?  Does it feel cold?  Is it choking me (because it wrapped itself fully around my neck a couple of times)?  Everyone was taking pictures of me, even the people that didn’t know me.  After I did it, most of the rest of the group decided to put it on them as well.  Those that didn’t at least touched it (all except two I think).  We got some really good pictures.  I’ll post some for you to see too (again, mom, you might want to scroll past those).  I still can’t believe I did that.  I mean, I really don’t like snakes.  And not only did I touch it, and then hold it the longest, but I was the FIRST one to do it.  I NEVER would have thought that would happen!  So God is working mightily to help me overcome my fears.  The verses came to mind, “Perfect love casts out fear.” and “I have not give you a spirit of fear...”  God is working on me.  So, before lunch time today, I have fed a wild alligator and held a real, live anaconda!  Who would have thunk it?!  :)

After everyone got all the pictures they wanted with the anaconda, they took it a bit deeper into the bush and let it go.  Then we made our way back to the boat.  One the way, we were hoping to see a cobra, but no luck.  We did, however, see the evidence of’s recently-shed skin.  

On the boat ride back to camp, we encountered more river dolphins, monkeys, gators, crocs and many birds.  We also saw two sloths, a male and a female.  That was a neat find.  

At camp, we rested for about half an hour before lunch was ready.  And boy did we have a lot of food for lunch!  Soup, stew, rice, carrots, beets, green beans, potatoes and fried plantains.  Really good!  Lunch has just ended and in the tree just outside of the dining hall is a beautiful toucan!  It’s a different kind than the ones I saw at Familia Feliz.  I’ll try to post a pic of him for you to see too.  

We have about an hour of free time, so I’m taking advantage of it to write this entry (so as not to have so much to write all at one time tonight.  :) ).  We’re about to head out to our next for pirañas!  I’ll let you know how that goes when we get back...

Okay, we just got back.  We had a really good time!  We went about 30 minutes up river and off into a little bay area to try our luck fishing.  Antonio put some meat in the water to attract the fish.  Within 5 minutes, Nickisha and I had caught the first two fish...two sardines (as they are called here).  Let me just add here that Nickisha is a GREAT fisherwoman!  :)  She caught more fish than anyone else. We fished for about 20 minutes before anyone caught a piraña, but once the first one was caught, more started showing up.  We moved to three different places to fish over the course of two hours or so.  In total, we caught about 35 fish.  I caught a few sardines, one dog fish and one small piraña.  Edgar caught the most pirañas though.  It was pretty exciting.  

After fishing, we went to an open area beside the river to watch the sunset.  Many other tour groups came as well.  They had a volleyball net and a soccer field, as well as a snack bar, so people started playing the different sports and eating/drinking.  Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.  However, when the sun set, only 4 or 5 people were watching it.  It went totally unperceived by the vast majority of the people...and that was the reason we were there.  It made me think of Jesus’ words in Matt. 24:37-39.  “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.  For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered the ark.  And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”  How many people are ignorant of all that is going on in the world today, that we are living in the very end times, that Jesus is coming again very soon and are not the least bit concerned because they are busy “entertaining” themselves or just plain busy?  Is that the case with you?  Is that the case with me?  It made me think...

After the sun set and it got dark, we loaded back up in the boat to head home.  We saw many bats out flying around and the eyes of gators in the water.  

We got home, took a shower and supper was ready for us.  Spaghetti with homemade sauce, vegetable fried rice, tostones (fried green plantains), tomato and cucumber salad and garlic bread.  Once again, the food was excellent.  

After supper, we went to the ladies’ room and had worship.  It was another good one.  We took turns talking about the different object lessons that had come to mind today during the activities.  I thought it would be nice to share a few with you that the group came up with.

  • Just like us fishing for pirañas, Satan throws bait at us to get us “hooked” on sin and if we fall for it, he will reel us into his trap.  We must watch and be sober at all times.
  • When we get looking for anacondas, the grass was very tall and very thick.  You couldn’t see where you were walking.  We simply followed Antonio.  We compared this to walking by faith and not by sight.  Many times in this life, we will have to go through trials and difficulties and may not be able to “see” past them.  We must not despair, but follow in the Footsteps of our Heavenly Guide.  He will get us to safety.
  • Many of the animals here are camouflaged and are hard to see when you just skim the surface.  You have to really look for them.  The truths of the Word of God are like that.  There are many hidden treasures in them that must be searched out by His children.  
  • On the same note of animals being camouflaged and blending in with their surrounding, we talked about how many “Christians” today are trying to blend in with the world and follow their customs instead of standing out and being easily observed.  Christ has called us to be a holy and peculiar people.  He has called us to come out of Babylon (the world) and not to conform ourselves to it.  
  • Alligators and crocodiles sunbathe (take in sunlight) all day to raise their body temperature and take in the heat they need for the night.  We, too, must take in Sonlight everyday so that we will have the light (faith and trust) that we need for our night season as well.  

There were many more brought up, but I just thought I’d share a few with you all, to get you thinking.  Hopefully they speak to you as they have to us.

Well, it’s time for bed.  Tomorrow we have one more activity before packing up and heading back home.  Time has gone by really fast and all of us would love to stay here a couple of more days...but we are so grateful for the time that we’ve had and all of the wonderful experiences we’ve shared!  We have been blessed more than we can say.  Indeed, we serve a Mighty and Awesome God and Creator, to whom we give all glory, honor and praise! 

God bless!  Maranatha!

July 12, 2013

Good morning!  This morning I awoke to the sound of howler monkeys giving us a very interesting sounding concert.  It was like nothing I have heard before and is hard to describe.  I think it may have been two males “disputing” over territory from the intensity of it, but I could be mistaken.  Either way, it was neat to hear.  :)

As has been our custom, we met in the ladies’ room for worship.  We talked about the Shaking and how we must be faithful to Christ in all things and at all times.  It was another nice service and I was blessed to share it with Edgar, Sam, Nickisha and Wanetta.

After worship, we had breakfast.  Fruit salad, bread with jelly and a type of fried pastry made with bananas.  I want to add here that, even though Ash, Andy and Roxana never joined us for worship, they have waited for all of our group to get to the table and for us to have the blessing at every meal before they serve their plates or eat.  We have been very pleased with this, especially since none of the three practice any religion.  Today at breakfast, all three of them said “Amen” as we finished praying.  Then, as we were eating, Andy asked me if I was Catholic or Christian.  When I answered that I was Christian, several questions about Christianity.  I sent up a quick prayer and answered them the best I could.  I’m really praying that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in the lives of these three people and that they will be submissive to the Spirit’s calling.

After breakfast, I went back to the room to change clothes before the morning activity...are you ready for this?!  We spent the morning swimming with the river dolphins!!  Talk about being a happy camper!!  Antonio took us to this inlet or bay area where three rivers meet, providing a wonderful feeding ground for the dolphins.  When we got there, there were another two groups there already, swimming and playing with the dolphins.  Our group quickly joined them.  The water was a bit chilly at first, but we didn’t take notice of that too long as the activity we were participating in took prevalence.  :)  There were both the gray and pink river dolphins there.  The biggest one I saw was about 10-12 feet.  There were about 7-8 total there I believe.  We stayed there for about an hour and a half.  Then it was time to head back to camp to get ready to leave.  :(  

Once back at camp, we packed up our things and loaded them on the boat.  Then we went and ate lunch...rice, cucumber, tomato and herb salad, roasted potatoes, fried yucca and an eggplant and vegetable sauce to accompany the rice.  It was fantastic!  We thanked our cook for the amazing food and for being so helpful and going out of her way to accommodate our vegan diet.  

We then loaded up on the boat and started back on the hour and a half boat ride to the entrance of the park.  

Our Land Cruiser was there waiting on us when we arrived.  We transferred our bags from the boat to the SUV and began the dreaded voyage back on the long, bumpy, and very dusty dirt road.  That was, by far, the worst part of the trip...but I can’t complain.  The driver we had today went much fast and we were back in Rurre in just under 3 hours.  Warren and Jodi were there waiting for us when we arrived.  We said our goodbye’s to our three new friends, wishing them the best of luck as they continued their trekking through South America.  Then we loaded up on the truck and headed back home to Familia Feliz....but not before stopping to get some fresh tamarind juice to quench our thirst after the long, hot trip back.  :)

So here I am back home third Sabbath here in Bolivia has started and I’m reflecting on all of the wonderful things that I have seen and experienced during the last three days.  So many blessings and wonderful memories!  So many opportunities to reflect on God’s creation and His love.  But one thing sticks out in my mind right now and has been on my mind all day.  This morning,  when I went to change clothes before going to swim with the dolphins, Andy was in the room changing as well.  We had just come from breakfast where he had asked me some questions about my faith.  Back in the room, out of no where, he asked me a question that has stayed with me all day.  He said, “Hey Miguel.  Do you think your life would be different if you didn’t have your religion?”  I quickly responded “Most definitely!” and gave some reasons for it.  He thanked me for my answer and said that other Christians he has met have said the same thing.  He added that every Christian he has ever met has been extremely kind and very generous.  These two things really stuck out to him.  I was very thankful that his encounters with Christianity have been positive ones.  He asked me if I thought our religion played a part in the kindness and generosity of Christians.  I said yes and explained that we, as Christians, should always strive to imitate Christ and reflect all aspects of His Character at all times. He was satisfied with that answer and we left for the morning activity.  But his question continued ringing in my ears... “Do you think your life would be different if you didn’t have your religion?”  I know the answer is (or at least should be) a definitely “Yes!”  But I wondered if it really would.  Don’t get me wrong...I’m not downplaying a relationship with Christ, by any means...quite the opposite.  I asked myself if my relationship with my Savior forms such an integral and essential part of my life or if I’m just “playing religion”?  If the latter is true, then my life really wouldn’t be that different if I didn’t have my religion.  Only if Christ is my all in all, if I trust Him 110% of the time (not just when all is going well and I lack for nothing, but when life is at its darkest and I can’t see past my trials), if I die to self daily and follow Christ would my life be different, drastically different, if I didn’t have Christ in it.  I thanked God for this wonderful lesson and reminder.  It’s funny how God works I was hoping God would use me to teach Andy, Ash and Roxane something about Him (and I still pray He did) when God used Andy (someone without a relationship with Him) to teach me a lesson about Christ!  We serve a Mighty and Wonderful God!  

So, as I sign off for tonight, I leave you with the question... Do you think your life would be different if you didn’t have your religion??

God bless!  Maranatha!

P.S.  If you'd like to see even more pictures from our trip, you can check out the album on Facebook.  Here's the link:

July 13, 2013

Happy Sabbath!  We went to church in town again today, as a choir from sister church in another district was coming.  Before going to church, though, I took a book about Christianity (Steps to Christ) to the travel agency we traveled with this week and left it for Andy.  He, Ash and Roxanne left for the jungle tour with the agency today and will be back on Monday.  They have to stop by the office when they get back and he’ll get the book then.  Please continue to pray for him.

Back at church, the choir had special music during the sermon today and will be giving a concert this afternoon at 4:00.  They sang very well.  There were about 35 members in the choir, ranging from teenagers to people in their 80’s!  Most were of indigenous decent and many were pure indigenous.  One of the songs they sang was in their native language.  Oh how I wished I could understand and speak it!  It sounded really nice.  

David and I had to have another one of our little “conversations” after church today.  He was sitting up front with many of the other kids and was talking and playing during the service.  I got his attention and told him to stop playing and be quiet.  After a couple of minutes, he was at it again.  I told him two more times to stop.  Then I signaled for him to come and sit with me.  As soon as he saw that, he turned around and stopped looking at me.  I had to signal for him to come 5 times before he came.  Not a good thing!  Especially when we’ve already talked about obeying the first time he’s told to do something.  After church, I talked to him again, reminding him of our previous conversations.  I also reminded him of where he was and the proper behavior in church.  He  So now we have a worker to dig the trenches in the new greenhouse next week!  One way or another he’s going to learn...I just hope it’s sooner than later.  I hate being “mean”. 

After church, we came back home for lunch.  We ate lunch with the girls today.  But while we were waiting for them to get everything together, I had the absolute best bananas I’ve had in my entire life!  Sam picked them from a tree on the property here earlier this week and we had to wait on them to ripen.  They are the smaller bananas -- about half the size of the typical banana there in the U.S.  But boy are they so much sweeter than any banana I’ve ever tasted!!  Sam said that in Venezuela, they’re called apple bananas because they taste kinda like an apple.  I can’t really explain it other than being absolutely delicious!  I can’t wait to have more for breakfast tomorrow.  After lunch, we shared our pictures from the past three days with Warren, Jodi, Uriel and Velissa.  By this time, it was time to head to the concert in town again.  Sam, Jodi, Velissa, Uriel, Wanetta and I went.

The concert was very good.  Several of the choir members played guitar-like instruments in a special service, which was followed by a short sermonette by one of the members.  Then, the entire choir sang several selections.  After the service, the choir members asked to get a picture with us, since we were visiting from the orphanage and were foreigners.  You would have thought that we were celebrities with all the pictures they wanted to take with us!  :)  After the photo session, we all headed to get some tamarind juice, then grabbed an avocado, cucumber and tomato sandwich before heading to play a new sport to me...Wally Ball.  I had never heard of it before, but it’s just playing volleyball inside a racquetball-like court.  All the same rules of volleyball apply, but you can use the walls to bounce the ball.  I didn’t play since I was still in church clothes, but the rest played a couple of games with the local church members, as well as with some members of the visiting choir.  We had a good time fellowshipping.  

It’s been another wonderful and eventful Sabbath.  Now it’s time for my evening worship and then off to bed!  Good night all.  I pray God blesses each of you in a special way today!