Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The value of a smile? Priceless!!

November 26, 2014

It’s hard to believe that a month has gone by since my last entry!  My apologies.  The end of the school year is always a busy time and this year, it was even more so.  So many things have happened, so many opportunities for God to work as only He can (and He did!) and so many wonderful memories.  

Omar leading out Wednesday night prayer meeting

Here are the highlights:

We ended our Bible studies at the Army base for this year last week.  It was a bitter-sweet event.  We are so happy that these soldiers were able to learn about God’s Word and finish the study.  And even more ecstatic and proud of the those that have turned their lives over the Christ!  But now, no matter what else is going on, our Friday evenings will have a certain void in them.  The young men at the base hold a special place in our hearts, as we have become family over these past 8 months.  Please continue to keep them in your prayers.

Jose Carlos, myself and Benjamin

Leaving church

Classes ended on November 20th.  :(  The kids were excited to not have classes anymore (as were the staff if truth be told :) ), but we were not excited about the kids leaving campus.  For a couple of students and staff members, however, it was harder than others, as it was a permanent goodbye, as they will not be at Familia Feliz next year.  Even for those of us that will see them again in a couple of months, it was hard to see the kids leave.  We truly are a family.  These kids are like my own kids.  There just a deafening silence and empty feeling when all the kids aren’t there.  But I know time will pass by quickly, as it always does, and that, very soon, they will be back….and I am anxiously waiting for that day!  :)

Micaiah and Jocabed in the pacai tree.

Sabina hanging from the pacai tree, trying to reach the fruit.

Pacai fruit...the reward for the girls' hard work.  :)  You eat the white, fleshy part around the seeds.  It's very good.

On Sabbath, Nov. 15th, we had a very special church service.  Four of our own students (Alan, Kevin, Omar and Sabina) requested baptism, so the three churches came together for this wonderful event.  Two other soldiers from the Army base also asked to be baptized, so they joined us that Sabbath and committed their lives to Christ.  Words cannot describe what I felt as I watched these four kids give their lives to Christ and publicly declare their love for their Savior!  I have watched these students grow and mature throughout this past year and am simply amazed at the work that God has done in and through them!  If you only knew their situations, their trials, the questions they have asked and the conversations we have had!  I couldn’t be more proud of all of them!  This is what it’s all about.  This makes all of the trials, sacrifices and hard work worth it a hundred times over!  Again, please pray for them as they embark on this new spiritual journey.  

Our 4 students and two soldiers that we baptized.  Praise God!

Kevin and Pastor Ronald



Abraham (soldier)

Gabriel (soldier)


Just after the baptism.  Such a proud and happy moment!

We got two new boys last week from Social Services.  Joan is 8 and Miguel is 4.  Their mother committed suicide by pouring gasoline on herself and lighting herself on fire.  :(  Joan’s father has never been in the picture and Miguel’s dad has been very negligent and abandoned both boys.  Both boys, however, are doing very well and have adapted excellently to Familia Feliz.  Joan is very respectful and obedient.  Miguel is….well, 4 years old.  :)  He hasn’t had much discipline at all it appears, but has made great progress in the short time at FF.  Keep these two precious boys in your prayers as well. They have been through a lot.

Joan (on my back), Miguel (in my arms) and Rodrigo (in front).  

The three musketeers yet again...Rodrigo, Miguel and Joan.

We had a visit from two parents of two of our students on the same Sabbath as the baptism.  Rodrigo’s father and Edwin’s mother came to visit.  They have been living together off-and-on for a couple of years now.  Both, however, have been physically abusive to their kids in the past.  When the boys saw them arrive at FF, they hid.  Rodrigo really didn’t want to see his dad.  He told us that “he beats him with a stick.”  He didn’t speak to him very much the whole time he was here.  (However, as the father was leaving, Rodrigo did run outside and call him.  As the dad looked back, Rodrigo, from a distance, yelled, “It’s a sin to work on the Sabbath!”  lol.  From the mouth of babes….:).  The following Monday, I took both boys to Social Services to talk with the social worker and let her know what was going on.  A meeting was called with both parents and myself to discuss the issue.  However, neither parent showed up.  A second meeting was called and both parents advised.  Again, neither showed up.  As such, temporary custody of the boys as been given to Familia Feliz until the parents meet with Social Services and it is proved and assured that the boys will be safe with the parents.  If that is not the case, they will remain with us.  Two more boys to add to your prayer list.  

Two weeks ago on Sabbath, Familia Feliz was in charge of the service at Nueva Esperanza.  The students did everything!  What a blessing and privilege it was to see them lead out in all parts of worship!

Belzabeth leading Sabbath School

Victoria helping Belza with Sabbath School

Benjamin had the sermon.  He did a great job!  Preached about the parable of the ten virgins.  So proud of you Benjo!!

Oriel and Anissa had special music.

We got a new volunteer.  Karol, from Argentina, arrived on Nov. 5th.  She will be here at least a year. She has already been such a big help!  We are very thankful for her presence and willingness to serve.  Welcome to Familia Feliz Karol!  :)

Karol with our little sleepyhead Rodrigo.  :)

Arriving with Karol is a friend from Argentina, Gabriela.  She is a dentist and came for three weeks to help out.  This has a been a HUGE blessing, as she worked almost non-stop to see all of the kids, most of the staff, as well as individuals from the community and some soldiers and provide the work and care that their teeth need free of charge!!  She even allowed staff and the kids to be her assistants and help with the work.  :)  Dental care, like so many other aspects of personal hygiene, isn’t a priority for most Bolivians unfortunately.  As such, there were way too many extractions, but we are thankful that their mouths are in much better health now!  Aside from the extractions, Gaby did root canals, fillings, cleanings and even made tooth for a couple’s dentures!  Most of the staff and even several of the students participated in the extractions, which they loved!  :)  Thanks to this visit of Gaby, several of the kids have expressed a desire to study dentistry now.  As most had never visited the dentist before, they never knew of the existence of this “world” and the possibility of a future career in it.  Our hope is that they will continue in their pursuit of a professional career to better their lives, as well as the lives of countless others.  The kids absolutely LOVED getting to know Gaby and spending time with her…and I know the feeling was mutual.  :)  So Kudos and many thanks to Gaby for all of her hard work and willingness to serve!  The days were long (starting around 5:30 am and ending several nights at 11:00 pm), but she never complained and always had a smile on her face.  You will be missed at Familia Feliz Gaby!

Somewhat of a challenge being a dental assistant with a  little monkey (Rodrigo) on your back, but wouldn't have it any other way!  :)

Gaby, Jose Carlos and Jonatan

Gaby, Keila and Jordan

Keila fell asleep while Gaby was working on her teeth.  She was out of it!!  :)


Gaby and Omar.  Omar loved helping.

Omar's first extraction!  :)  He's decided to be a dentist.

Jordan's reaction while watching the extraction.  :)

Second extraction for Omar.

Even the little ones helped with the clinic!  :)  Here is Juan Carlos and Rodrigo as assistants.

Belza after just extracting one of her sister's teeth.  She also wants to be a dentist now.

Rodrigo's teeth before seeing Gaby.  As you can see, LOTS of problems!  But, thanks to Gaby, all of his teeth are pearly white now!  My little man is SO proud of his white smile...he walks around smiling all the time to show it off!  :)  Love this little guy!

We had a scary incident last week with two of our students.  Jocabed and Edwin got ahold of a candle and some matches and were playing with them (obviously without the knowledge of the staff).  After lighting the candle a couple of times, they decided to light some coconut fibers on a table outside by our fire pit.  They then had the brilliant idea of putting some gasoline on the fibers.  :(  As soon as they lit it, the flame burst out and burned Jocabed’s left arm very badly.  Thankfully, she is ok.  Gaby also has much experience in the medical field, so she immediately treated the arm and took care of it every day.  There were many tears on the part of Joca the first couple of days, but she is doing MUCH better now, thank the Lord!  And both kids have learned a very important lesson!  We thank God for His watch care over these children and for taking care of them, especially in times like these!

Jocabed's arm being treated after the burn.

Last weekend was the last one that all the kids would be on campus.  So we decided to have some fun.  On Sabbath afternoon, we headed to the “Toma”, the creek and waterfall in the jungle where the community water comes from.  Even though it’s only about 2 miles from Familia Feliz, it’s 2 miles IN the jungle.  There is a path/road most of the way and then you walk the rest.  It took about an hour to get there.  Nothing like seeing scarlet macaws, monkeys, toucans, reptiles, tarantulas and waterfalls to know you’re in the jungle and to appreciate God’s creation!  :)  It was absolutely breathtaking!  Both kids and volunteers had a great time and no one wanted to leave.  

Dodging trees in the jungle. Fun times!!  

One of the monkeys we saw.

Moving a fallen tree out of the path in the jungle.  If ever in the Bolivian jungle moving a tree, try to stay away from the red ants...they bite fierce!!

At the waterfall in the jungle.

Jose Carlos and I.

Three "soldiers for Christ" (Jose Carlos, Belzabeth and Benjamin) showing off their muscles.  :)

Small group pic.

On Sunday, we had a “Fun Day”.  We had a blast!!  The day started out with a 13 km (8.1 miles) run from Rurre to the Familia Feliz campus.  Almost everyone participated and I was shocked at how many kids made it the whole way running!  Oriel went behind everyone in the truck and picked up anyone that was tired or wanted to stop.  But the vast majority ran and/or walked the whole way.  It was a lot of fun!  I think we’ll make that an annual event!  :)  Once back at Familia Feliz, Anissa made an amazing breakfast fit for champions….breakfast burritos!!  :)  They were a big hit.  Following that, we had games for a few hours (tug of war, sack races, water balloon volleyball, other water balloon games, etc.).  We ended the day getting fresh coconuts and heading to the river to cool off.  It was a perfect day and a wonderful way to end the year with the kids.  So many memories were made!

Omar getting coconuts, Boivian-style.

Jose Carlos in the tall coconut tree.  They shimmy up these trees like it's nothing!


Moises, Gaby and Omar in the river.

Miguel and Joan

Jose Carlos, Juan Carlos and Belza


Jhon and Josue

Daniel, Yulixa and Josue being thrown by Jonatan.  :)

Just before the run from Rurre to Familia Feliz

Omar and Jose Carlos

Yours truly

Devious little Jhon.  :)


Tomorrow, in the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving, commemorating God’s watch care and blessings God bestowed upon the settlers during the harsh first-year in America.  It is one of my favorite holidays because, aside from the great food and time with my awesome family, it serves as an opportunity to reflect a bit deeper on God’s Hand in my life, on how much He has done for me and how blessed I truly am.  This year, as I sit and reflect now upon all of the events of this year….the ups and downs, the accomplishments, the disappointments, the dreams, the failures, the laughter and the tears…I must admit that I am probably the most blessed person on the planet!  God has truly been there for me and blessed me in more ways that I can express and MUCH more than I could ever deserve.   I have the best family anyone could ask for, three adorable and healthy biological children that I love with all of my heart, 29 “adopted” kids here at Familia Feliz that always know just what to do or say to warm my heart and show me Christ’s love, the best staff I could ask for who are always willing to go the extra mile and more friends than I can count who have blessed me with love, laughter and support.  I cannot thank God enough for these things.  As I sit here and ponder on so many of the experiences that I have had this year, tears come to my eyes.  To see God work and to actually see part of the fruits of your labor is priceless.  When I think of how far some of these kids (as well as the soldiers) have come, how their lives have changed, how they have grown spiritually and given their lives to Christ, I can honestly say that it doesn’t get any better than this!  To have teenagers feel comfortable enough to talk with you about ANYTHING, to come to you with their concerns and questions, wanting to know how to forgive people, how to better share their faith, how to withstand mocking and scorn in their home communities for their faith, how to best reach their siblings and parents for Christ….it’s extremely humbling!  And then, as they are leaving to go home, to hear them tell you, “This has been the best year of my life!”,  “You are a dad to me.  I love you!!”, “I don’t want to leave!”, it warms your heart like nothing else!  This year has had it’s share of trials, difficulty, suffering and tears.  But I am thankful for those experiences as well and wouldn’t trade them for anything, for it is through those that God is able to purify our characters and to strengthen us through our weaknesses.  Words cannot begin to express my gratitude to God for directing my paths and leading me here to the mission field and to Familia Feliz!  I never imagined so much happiness, fulfillment, testing of faith, and love.  He continues to blow me away time after time with His ways and I look forward to the future and all that it holds.

Sabbath evening vespers

Group pic of our wonderful family!

I encourage you to take a moment now to reflect on all the blessings that have been bestowed upon you and your loved ones…not just the “big”  ones, but the ones that perhaps you take for granted at times.  Take a moment to really realized just how much you have and then, take time to express that gratitude to God.

Two more reasons to be thankful...we saw these two beautiful birds this past Sunday.  Simply stunning!

May God bless you all!