Sunday, April 20, 2014

What a week!!

April 17, 2014

And I thought the week of my last entry was a busy and tough week!  Isn’t it funny how that happens sometimes?  As soon as you think you've seen it all or things can't get any “worse” (per se), you quickly learn the opposite is true?  That’s what it’s been like this week.  

It’s definitely been a trying week for me.  Jodi and Oriel left for Cochabamba last Tuesday (April 8th) to complete some of their residency requirements.  Upon arriving, they found the system down nationwide, so they were unable to complete everything in the time we had initially planned.  What was supposed to be a 3-4 day trip has turned into two weeks, as at the time of this writing, they are still not back yet.  Then, on Friday, April 11th, Hunter, Chris and Amber left Familia Feliz to head back home, as their year as student missionaries came to an end.  On Thursday evening, we had a little “Going Away” party for them.  We played games, watched a video the three of them made for us, shared memories, enjoyed cake and peach cobbler and tried to enjoy our last evening together to the fullest.  We had a really nice time.  The following morning, after breakfast, it was time to say or goodbyes.  It was definitely an emotional experience for all of us.  Hunter, Chris and Amber are part of the Familia Feliz family and have done so much for us and the kids during their time here.  They will truly be missed!  Sam and I took them to the airport and saw them off.  One more reason I’m looking forward to Christ's return…no more goodbyes.  I so look forward to that great reunion on the shores of the Sea of Glass!  

Me and Hunter at the airport

Amber, Hunter, me and Chris...our last moments together in Bolivia.

Then, that Friday afternoon, we had a couple of situations arise at Familia Feliz that required immediate action.  And as a result, I’ve spent every day this week meetings here on campus, as well as in Rurre and Reyes (another town about 30 miles away).  I cannot go into details here (and even if I could, you’d probably have to take the day off to read it all), but suffice it to say I’d rather not have another week like this one!  And it didn’t help that we were shorthanded on staff.  We went from 11 to 6!  But God is Good and has blessed us with a wonderful group of volunteers and they really came together to fill the gap this week!  Thank you ALL so much!  I do solicit your prayers for all of us here at Familia Feliz, especially for those involved and for me, as I realize my insufficiency to handle things without God’s Guidance and Wisdom.  

There was also a virus going around this week and several staff and children caught it (including me).  And our dear sweet Janet had the chicken pox this week.  :(  Everyone is better now, but we were really stretched thin there for a while.  

Janet handling her chicken pox like a CHAMP!

I know it may not seem so in these couple of short paragraphs, but A LOT has happened this week.  A lot of trials, obstacles, and difficult situations.  And I must admit, there were moments where I wasn't sure if I’d make it through.  But serve an AWESOME God and  through it all, He upheld me with His Right Hand of Righteousness.  I’m SO thankful that His compassions fail not, His mercies are renewed every morning and GREAT is His faithfulness! (Lam. 3:22-23)  And amidst the trails, He sent “manna moments” to brighten the days and get me through the difficulties.  Since I’ve shared some of the “obstacles”, let me share some of the good moments as well.  First of all, my son, Ezekiel turned 5 years old on April 10th!  I can’t believe how quickly times goes by.  I couldn't be more proud of my little buddy!  I love you Zeke!  

Secondly, we started our Bible studies at the army base again.  If you’ve read by blog from last year, you know how excited I am about this door the Lord has opened and how much I’ve been looking forward to starting up the studies again with this new group of soldiers.  There are 84 new soldiers so far, 20 of which are stationed at a sister base nearby.  So out of the 64 soldiers on our local base, more than 50 were present at our meeting on Friday now.  Everyone from Familia Feliz went (except Shundel and Janet since Janet wasn't feeling well).  The kids sang special music for them.  It was really fun getting to know the new guys and teaching them the songs.  Just like the previous group, these young men love to sing.  :)  We had a really good study.  God provided and we were able, once again, to give a brand new Bible to each soldier so that he can read and study it daily.  At the end of the meeting, four soldiers came up to ask for a copy of the songs we sang and several others wanted to know when we’d be back again.  Upon hearing that we’d return on Friday, we heard several soldiers sigh and say they were hoping we'd be back the following night.  You just don't know how that warmed my heart!  Even in the midst of stress, confusion, and trial, the Lord blesses His children with grace, mercy and strength, signs of His Presence with us during the rough times.  What an Awesome God we serve!

The kids leading out song service at the base.

The soldiers singing.

Special music by Familia Feliz

The Bible study.

God bless!


April 19, 2014

Update:  I just wanted to update this entry.  I know I mentioned it being a rough week in my above entry….and it has been.  But the last two days have been full of blessings and I just had to share.  Thursday I was able to stay on campus all day (which that in itself is a blessing!) and that afternoon we all played games outside.  It was a hot day so we played with water balloons and did different team-building activities.  We had a blast!  That was a nice break from the stress of the week.  

Rodrigo and I playing...He's LOTS of fun!  

But the greater blessing came Friday evening.  We all went into town for the Bible study at the army base.  The kids really enjoyed going last week and they asked if they could join us again.  When we arrived at the base, the soldiers already had everything set up for us and were anxiously waiting for the meeting to start.  Sergio, Omar, Janet, William and Raquel joined us at the meeting. They are the family that owns Narguilas, the restaurant in town where we always meet at.  There were about 53 soldiers at the meeting and I could tell they had been practicing the songs we sang last week.  :)  We had a good study about the Bible and it being the Word of God.  Then we talked about God's love for us and Christ’s sacrifice, since it’s Holy Week here in South America.  At the end of the meeting, seven soldiers made the decision to give their lives to Christ!  Praise God!!  Words cannot describe how that made me feel!  Then, we broke off into small groups for prayer.  In my group, every single soldier gave a prayer request.  They are concerned about their families, comrades, friends and their personal wellbeing.  After praying with them, we took some pictures and sang happy birthday to Maria, one of our students.  The army band members actually went and got their instruments to play for us.  Maria loved it!  :)  Again, the young men didn’t want the meeting to end.  And to be  honest, neither did I.  It was a big blessing to me!

The group of soldiers that gave their hearts to the Lord.  Amen!!

Happy Birthday Maria!
All of the soldiers with their Bibles.

All of the soldiers and the rest of us.  :)

On the way home, we had a bit of a scare.  About three miles from FF, we passed a man lying motionless in the middle of the other lane of the road.  We stopped and backed up to check on the situation.  It was dark and late (about 10:00 pm).  When I got out of the truck and walked towards the man, my heart sank, as I honestly thought he was dead.  He didn’t move at all and there was liquid  all under his head and upper body.  Sam, Jonathan and I approached him while the kids and female staff stayed in the truck.  About this time, a motorcycle stopped also.  The man driving the bike knew the man on the road.  He came over and called the man by his name and tried to wake the man up.  The man moved and it became immediately obvious that he was drunk.  We were able to get him up and the man on the motorcycle walked him home.  As I rode the few miles home, a sense of relief came over me that this man wasn’t dead and that the Lord had sent us that way when He did.  The road is really dark at night here as there are no street lights and that man could have been run over extremely easily.  Yet another blessing of God’s mercy and caer for His children.

We made it safely back home and got the kids to bed.  Then, I went outside to think and pray.  As I stood in front of the Big House, looking up at the beautiful, starry night, I received yet another blessing.  A meteor shot across the sky, its green “tail” brightly contrasting the black sky.  What a beautiful sight!  It was the perfect ending to the night!  

Wednesday night service at the church just up the road.

You know, as I sit here and type this entry, reflecting to all of the activities of the days past, I am so thankful to God that I am where I am, doing what I’m doing!  I can honestly say that the past three weeks have been full of challenges and obstacles that I’ve never had to face before.  And it has been…rough to say the least.  But, at the same time, I’ve never loved a job more!  Working in the mission field with these kids and this great staff, doing our best to lead our little group of children to Christ’s Feet…and sharing the Gospel with everyone we can truly does fill my heart with more joy and love and hope than I can express in words.  From getting a drawing from one of the kids or a hug from a teenage boy, thanking you for listening to seeing their eyes light up because you take time to play with them to hearing their heartfelt and sincere prayers in your behalf completes you in a way you never thought possible and makes all of the trials and sacrifices worthwhile.  It is truly a GREAT feeling to be in the Lord's will!   I pray each of  you experience this feeling today as well!  Blessings to you all!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 4, 2014

April 3, 2014

It’s been yet another busy week…and one full of more “adventures and new experiences” than last week.  The only thing is, they’re the type of “adventures and new experiences” you don’t want to repeat again.  The week started off nicely, with a town day with the kids on Sunday.  It rained that morning, but by noon, the sun was out in full force and we didn’t get wet (but we definitely felt the heat!).  We had a good day with the kids and I was able to get a lot done in town as well.  

Another rainy day here in the jungle...

The next day was definitely a Monday!  I taught my sciences classes and was doing some work around campus after my classes when one of the volunteers called me from across the campus.  I looked and saw him walking quickly towards me with one of our boys.  I could tell something was wrong.  It turns out that this boy was arguing with another boy over a desk and he proceeded to try to choke the other boy, literally.  The staff quickly separated the two, but said it was a pretty scary experience.  The sad thing is, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened with this boy.  He is mentally handicapped, so he doesn’t properly understand or measure the consequences of his actions and, as such, has put a couple of the other kids in some potentially dangerous situations before.  Jodi and I kept him with us through that afternoon, when we had to go into town to pick up a new volunteer, Dorca, who arrived from another small town in Bolivia.  Once we picked up Dorca, we headed to Social Services to do some paperwork on two other children and explained the situation that happened that morning with this boy.  After talking with them and analyzing our situation, Social Services informed us that they were going to look for another place for this boy, as they didn’t want to put any other child in harm’s way.  It was a tough decision because you really don’t want to see any child leave our institution to go to another, as ours is the only Adventist one.  But we have to look at the good and safety of all of the children.  

Then, as we were leaving Social Services, Juancito’s mom was walking by and came up to talk to us.  Juan had gone home to her house for the weekend, but hadn’t arrived back to school yet.  She told us that she didn’t send him back because a very serious situation had occurred at their house.  Her husband (who is 71) molested their 4-year old daughter. :(  Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened, as that is why we have Juancito in the first place.  My heart just broke right there on the side of the road.  Juan wanted to stay with his mom this week to make sure she and his sisters were ok.  We agreed.  So he will be back on Sunday.  However, upon another visit with Social Services on Wednesday, I was given a little update on the case.  The man has been arrested and is in jail.  However, the authorities are investigating and the situation has become more complicated.  I cannot go into details here, but please keep this family, especially the four children, in your prayers.  They are really needed.  Thank you.

Study hall with the kids.

Working in the garden.

Tuesday, Oriel and I went to town again.  I had to meet with the Mayor’s office and pick up some supplies, as well as meet with the Coronel of the army to plan our Bible studies this year.  He is very excited about us continuing our program and is much more open about his plans for his soldiers (specifically stating that he wants them to draw closer to God, the church and to be baptized).  One of the elders at the local church found me and told me that his aunt wanted to talk to me as soon as possible.  So I went to her house.  She told me that all of her children are in the world and have never wanted to have anything to do with God.  But one of them, the day before, told her that he wanted to change his life.  He wanted to know more about the Bible and about God.  He even told her that he was going to go to church with her on Sabbath.  This came out of nowhere, she said, and that she felt God was answering her years of prayers.  I’m not sure exactly how, but the young man told his mother that he wanted to come and visit us at Familia Feliz for a few days, to help out around the campus and to learn more about God.  So she wanted to know if we could help him.  She had tears in her eyes as she talked.  I told her we’d be happy to do whatever we could.  So I made arrangements to meet and talk with the young man this coming Sunday.  Please keep him in your prayers as well.

Singing with the girls...

Jodi helping Janet with her daily walking exercises.  :)

After finishing everything, we hopped in the truck to head home.  It was around 7:00 pm.  We got about halfway home when there was a roadblock.  A taxi union was protesting because the government hadn’t fixed a bridge there.  So they weren’t letting vehicles through…only motorcycles.  I went and talked to the person in charge and introduced myself and explained that I had to get back to the orphanage.  He knew who we were and said that he would gladly get us a vehicle on the other side of the roadblock to take us to FF, but we couldn’t get our truck through because there were probably 40 cars in front of ours.  So Ori and I headed back to town to find a safe place to leave our truck until the protest was over.  I called the Coronel and he graciously agreed to let us park it inside the Army base.  Then came the fun task of finding someone to give us a ride back to the road block so that we could walk through it and get to their vehicle on the other side to take us home.  By this time, it was 8:30 and dark.  The taxi’s were not running as they knew about the road block and the motorcycle taxi’s usually don’t travel on the highway at night.  If they do, they charge three or four times what they do during the day.  We finally found two motorcycles that agreed to take us.  We had them meet us at the army base while we parked our truck.  When we came out, however, they were no where to be found.  They just left us.  So now, Ori and I are on the side of the road, waiting for two empty bikes to pass by that are willing to take us.  We finally get one and I send Ori ahead.  If he could just get to FF, then he could get on our motorcycle and come back and get me.  So he leaves.  About 5 minutes later, another bike stops and agrees to take me.  It was a beautiful starry night, so I was enjoying the view as we rode and taking advantage of the time to pray.  There was a big truck in front of us as we traveled and as soon as the driver was able to, he passed the truck.  Just as soon as we got in front of the truck, I heard a loud “bang!”  I looked back and the back tire of that truck had exploded and come off the truck.  Had we still been behind the truck, the tire could have hit us and caused us to have an accident.  I immediately thanked God for his watch care and protection.  God is Good!  I guess Satan wasn’t too happy about the meeting with the Coronel, the plans for the Bible studies and the situation with the young man in town and sought to discourage and/or hurt us however he could.  But I am so thankful that “Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world”!  

I arrived to the roadblock, walked through and didn’t see any vehicle there to take me home, so I just started walking.  If Ori got a ride, he would be back to pick me up soon.  I walked about 5 minutes before I found Ori.  :)  There wasn’t a vehicle for him either so he, too, started walking.  The roadblock was only about 4 miles from FF, so we continued our journey, talking about the events of the day.  After walking about 3/4 of a mile, a truck pulled up beside us.  I’m not sure where the truck came from because no trucks were getting through and I didn’t see it pull out of the few driveways we passed.  But a young man was driving it and his family was with him.  They stopped and asked us where we were heading.  We said Familia Feliz and they told us to hop in.  We graciously accepted and within minutes were pulling up to our driveway.  I offered to pay the man, but he wouldn’t take it.  He just smiled and told us to have a good night.  He looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him.  Perhaps I had seen him in town sometime or he may have been someone we have given a ride to before (as we always pick up anyone that is walking to or from town when we go in)…I couldn’t be sure who he was.  But for Ori and I that night, he was a kind soul sent to give us a ride after a three-hour ordeal trying to get home.  And we certainly appreciated it!  Everyone was asleep when we arrived home, so we got something to eat quickly and headed to our respective houses too.

The next morning, I learned that Jorge (who arrived here in December) had run away the afternoon before!  As if the week hadn’t been crazy enough, now we add a run-away to the mix.  Evidently he didn’t do his homework in study hall the on Monday night, so his free time was taken away on Tuesday.  He didn’t like that, so he just left.  We looked all over campus and on our property, but no luck.  So I had to head back to town on Wednesday to file the report with Social Services and the police.  When I got to Social Services, the lady saw me coming and signaled for me to come on in.  She told me that she had been calling me all morning but couldn’t get me (we don’t have cell service on the property because we’re too far from town).  She said that she received a call this morning from Social Services in Reyes (a town about 35 miles away) and that Jorge was found there and taken to their office.  I was relieved to know that he was safe.  She gave me the office number there and I called and spoke with the supervisor.  She told me that they were able to find his birth certificate (which in and of itself is amazing because Jorge has been in the system for almost 4 years now and no one has ever had his birth certificate.  No one even knew his last name…not even Jorge.  So we couldn’t even register him for school.) and that she had his last name.  She told it to me and proceeded to tell me that they were able to located one of his uncles who lived there in town.  They were placing Jorge with the uncle at that moment.  I was almost speechless.  I never expected that.  So I guess there was a happy ending to this scary event after all.  But I also ask that you keep Jorge in your prayers, that all will go well and that he will not forget what he has been taught about God.  

I also found out that there was a powerful 8.2 earthquake in Chile and Bolivia today.  (Actually, I only found out because I had several messages from family and friends checking on us to see if we were okay and if we were affected by it.)  Last I heard today, there were several confirmed deaths, hundreds of injuries and thousands affected.  Once again, God has had His Hand over us and has spared us from any consequences of another disaster.  We felt nothing here and everyone is perfectly fine.  Thank you Lord!

I got back home in time to take a quick shower and head to prayer meeting on campus (which had already started).  You know, there’s just something special about going to worship services here.  I obviously had a lot on my mind from the events of the last three days.  But as soon as I walked in church, a sense of relief came over me.  Dorca was leading out the devotional thought (Thank you Dorca!) and was telling the kids  how we are all a special treasure to God.  She had made little bookmarks with a Bible verse confirming that message and given one to everyone.  She then challenged each of us to go and trade our bookmark with someone we have wronged or offended in any way and at any time and to tell that person that he/she is a special treasure to God and to us.  As I looked around and saw all of the kids standing up and seeking forgiveness and hugging each other, I was moved.  It was a very nice service.  We ended with group prayer.  All of the guys met together in the back of the church for prayer while the ladies met in the front.  We kneeled down and everyone had a chance to share a praise report and prayer requests.  I learned there on my knees that while God had been watching out for me and Ori in town, His angels were right here on campus with the staff and children here.  The truck had gotten stuck really good in the mud and it took everyone on campus about half an hour working hard to get it unstuck. They had put a big wooded post under the back of it to use as a sort of lever to help get it unstuck.  On two occasions, the post popped out of place and came within inches of hitting two staff members in the head.  And everyone was thanking God for His protection in that experience.  The kids opened their hearts and asked for specific prayer requests with a  very humble and yet expecting heart.  We had two students and one staff pray for all of the requests and thank God for His Goodness and Mercies toward us.  It was a very nice and reverent prayer session.  We all came back together, sang a hymn and then were dismissed with a  prayer.  And as I was walking out of the church, with kids hugging me, I realized that this is what it’s all about.  No matter how stressful the days, no matter what trial we confront, at the end of the day, we are God’s special treasure and He will always be there for us and bless us according to His will.  And that overshadows anything that this world or Satan can throw at us!  

Kevin and Jose Carlos at buddies.

Yulixa, Micaiah, Yancy and Jhoel at worship.

I think someone enjoyed the peach cobbler a little too much.  :)

Until next time….may the Lord hug each of you with His loving Arms and bless you in a special way!