Friday, May 30, 2014

May 30th, 2014 -- A Name Change?

May 29, 2014
Have you ever wanted to change your name??  Ever wished people called you something different?  I have to admit that I have always like my name, so I’ve never thought about changing mine.  That is, until a couple of weeks ago when I heard a song by the Nebblett family (a small, Christian family that has recorded a CD).  It is a beautiful song that, while being short, contains a very powerful message.  I thought I’d share it with you.  It says:
I will change your name
You shall no longer be called
Wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid.
I will change your name
Your new name shall be
Confident, Joyfulness, Overcoming One
Faithfulness, Friend of God, One who seeks My Face.
I have always known that God will give each of us a new name on Heaven.  But after listening to this song and pondering its meaning, I have come to the conclusion that I’m ready for a name change, as this song refers to our daily Christian walk here on Earth.  What a wonderful God we serve that is willing and ready to change our “name” and give us His Name and His qualities!  
It’s been another busy couple of weeks here at Familia Feliz.  When I last wrote, we had lost Sammy but gained John, so we still had the same number of staff on campus.  During these last two weeks, however, that changed.  On the Sunday after my last entry, Jonathan and Jancy left for Guayaramerin, Bolivia (on the Brazilian border) to stamp out of the country and complete their necessary visa work to obtain their residency.  The process normally takes about 5 days total, including travel time.  So we expected them back by last Thursday.  However, they encountered some difficulties and their 5 day trip has turned into 12 so far.  Then, last Tuesday (two days after Jonathan and Jancy left), Dorca was invited to serve as a missionary in Guyana and provision was made for her flight there.  She gladly accepted the offer.  The only thing was, the flight was for that Friday, which meanth she had to leave Rurre the following morning to get to Guayara to catch the flight.  So we were down to 5 volunteers on campus.  And when you have to teach grades 1-9, with 11 subjects for each grade, that can stretch you pretty thin!  :)  So I’ve been the dean for the older boys, as well as the English, Science and Math teacher for grades 5-8 these last two weeks, as well as helping in the kitchen.  Plus, these were the last two weeks of school, so we had final exams this week.  It has proved for early mornings and late nights, but God is so Good and all of our needs have been met and we have lacked nothing.  Amen!
Little Janet.  :)

Sabina, Victoria and Belzabeth helping demolish an old building on campus.

We also advanced a good bit on phase one of our orchard.  We now have the first 56 trees planted (orange and tangerine) and I must say, it looks really nice!  :)  What do you think?

Last Friday, we had a pretty bad storm here in Rurre.  Five trees fell on our campus and part of the roof of one of the classrooms was blown off.  But we suffered no major damage, Praise God.  One of the trees fell within 5 feet of the Big House, but didn’t hit the house.  It only knocked down the clothes line.  God is Good!
With that storm came a cold front…so the temperature has really fallen this past week.  Before it was in the upper 90’s.  This week, it has been in the 50’s.  And while I must say that that was my favorite temperature when I lived in the States, I have to admit that even I was cold this week!  :)  I guess living in such a hot and humid environment with hardly any temperatures lower than 75, your body just gets used to the heat and your blood thins and you feel the cold more.  Either that or I’m getting old.  I personally vote for the first option!  :)  It has been nice to have some cooler weather though.  It has felt more like fall at home. 
Warren and Jodi’s daughter, Taylor, also arrived for a visit last week.  She’ll be here for a month of so.  It’s been nice to catch up with her and have an extra pair of hands helping around.  Thanks Tay!  :)
The meetings at the army base are still going strong.  The young men are still excited about learning more and are “daring” to read the Bible and pray aloud.

The soldiers were cold at our last meeting due to the cold front.  They came prepared.  :)

I mentioned that this week was finals week.  That means that the first semester is ending and most of the kids will be going home for their winter break.  They leave tomorrow (May 30th) and won’t return until August 3rd.  It’s a longer break than usual, but we have several projects and improvements we need to get done over the break, as well as recruit some more volunteers, so hopefully that will allow us to get everyone done before the second term starts.  But I have to say…I am REALLY going to miss these kids while they’re gone! :(   
For their end of the term Language exam, they had to write an essay about the most important lesson they have learned this term at Familia Feliz.  I thought I’d share a few of them with you.
“The most important thing I have learned this term at Familia Feliz is how to live with other people in harmony.  At first it wasn’t easy, but I’ve learned to be patient and to forgive.”   
                                                       Victoria, age 15
“I have learned that it is wrong to lie.  I told a lie to one of the volunteers a few weeks ago and got punished for it.  I definitely learned my lesson and will not tell another lie.”
                                                       Edwin, age 11
“The most important thing I have learned is that God loves me.  I have learned to draw nearer to him and that He wants me to be a missionary.  He is always here for me and is preparing a home for all of His children in heaven.  I want to be there with Him forever.”
                                                          Jose Carlos, age 14
“I learned how to pray and to have my personal devotion.  Before coming here, I didn’t know how to pray and never had personal worship.  Now, I realize how important it is and do it everyday.  I have even learned to pray out loud and in church.”
                                                            Omar, age 15
“I have learned many things here at Familia Feliz….how to love, how to forgive, how to work, how to cook, etc.  The teachers here are very friendly and always willing to help.  Most importantly, I’ve learned to put God first and to obey Him.  He wants what is best for us and loves us.”
                                                     Belzabeth, age 15

I was deeply touched when I read these and the other responses.  That is what it is all about!  That’s the reason we are all here.  Even though, at times, we may think we are not making a difference or that the kids are not learning what we are trying to teach them, in reality, they are!  They are watching, listening and learning.  Our goal here is to lead them to Jesus’ feet and to teach them to walk in His Footsteps.  May God continue to help us as we strive to meet that goal everyday.
Please continue to pray for us as we work here with the children and the people of Rurrenabaque.  Also, please remember the children in your prayers as they go home for vacation. Pray that they will remember all that they have learned here, especially as far as their spiritual life goes. Thanks! 

God bless you all!  


Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 17th, 2014

May 17, 2014
“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.  The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.  It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”  Lamentations 3:22-26
Daniel, Fermin and Sammy got into the charcoal.  :)

When I think of all that has happened in these last two weeks since my last blog entry, these verses come to mind.  I am so thankful that the Lord’s mercies are renewed everyday.  He has an endless supply available to each of His children, with an extra portion of great faithfulness and He willingly and lovingly gives it every day.  What an amazing and loving God we serve!  

The future site of our orchard!  

So, let me catch you up on what’s been going on on our “neck of jungle”.  :)  Last week, we had a scare on campus.  Dorca, one of the volunteers, fell down a flight of stairs when coming out of the girls’ dorm.  He hurt her back and leg a bit, but said that she felt pretty good…that she just needed to lay down and rest some.  Two days later, however, she woke up and had lost some of her vision. Everything was blurry and was flashing in and out.  She had a bad headache and was vomiting.  We took her to the doctor who ran some tests and examined her.  He concluded that she was suffering from a  migraine as a result of the trauma from the fall and gave her some medicine for that.  He said that she didn’t have any nerve or bone damage and that she should be back to normal within a couple of days.  That was a relief to hear, from Dorca and for the rest of us.  We gave her the medicine and the next day, she woke up perfectly fine…no headache, vision was fine, balance was good.  The only thing that bothered her was the muscle that she fell on on her back.  Since then, she's had no more trouble whatsoever.  She is walking fine and the pain in her back has subsided.  Praise God!  We are so glad that she is fine and that the situation wasn’t worse.  

We went to the sugar cane place this last week to get some fresh cane juice.  Here we are "juicing" the cane.

Last Sabbath, six of the soldiers accompanied us to church!  That was a indeed a blessing!  They thoroughly enjoyed it and assured us that they would be back.  The church members also got to  meet and talk with them and did a good job at making them feel welcomed.  We had two really good Bible studies with them last week and this week as well.  Attendance is still high and they love to participate.  They are still racing each other to read the Bible verses aloud.  :)  Their enthusiasm is simply contagious.  Both times, we’ve gone with all of the children and staff from Familia Feliz and it has proved to be a blessing to everyone.  The children absolutely love going and interacting with the soldiers.  They’ve done special music, help the soldiers look up the verses, lead out in prayer, etc.  I couldn’t be prouder of their role in these meetings and the example they are showing to these young men!
Some of the kids leading song service.

On a sadder note, my dear buddy Sammy left to head back to Venezuela this week.  He decided it is time to move on and to continue his studies.  He left on this past Monday morning.  Sunday night we had a going away party for him.  We had cake, laughter and stroll down memory lane with the aid of a slideshow of many pictures we’ve taken with him and the rest of us during his year and a half here.  He then spoke to the kids, thanking them for all that they have taught him and asking their forgiveness if he had ever failed to represent Christ as he should have.  I was very proud of him.  Later, he gave each student a picture he and the child with a personalized message on the back.  The kids really liked that.  There wasn't a dry eye in the house.  Sammy will be greatly missed, but we know that God is with Him and will continue to use him in great ways wherever he goes.  We’re praying for you Sammy!  

After the "Gowing Away" party, we had to throw Sam in the creek just one more time!  :)

Our Goodbye at the airport.

Everyone signed this shirt for Sam before he left.

Just as Sammy had told us about his plans to leave, the Lord provided someone to take his place (isn’t that just like God?!).  John Alex arrived a few days before Sammy left.  John is from Uruguay and was studying theology at the Adventist University here in Bolivia this year.  However, due to some circumstances beyond his control, he had to stop studying.  He had heard about Familia Feliz and decided to come and serve here…and he has already been a tremendous help and blessing to us!  John has an extensive knowledge about plants and trees and has been working extensively on our new orchard.  A donor has sent money for us to plant an orchard on our property (another WONDERFUL blessing the Lord has given us!) and John has just the experience we needed to get this accomplished.  We should be planting our first set of trees this coming week.  Then we’ll be working on getting more ground ready to plant more.  When all is said and done, we’ll have about 500 new fruit trees planted!  Amen!  But not only has John helped in the agriculture field, but he has fallen right into place with the kids as well.  He is serving as a dean for the younger kids, helping in the kitchen and with worships.  We are very excited to have John with us!  Welcome John!  
John preaching this Sabbath.

We had two staff birthdays this week…Jonathan and Jancy.  So the guys went out to dinner to celebrate them.  We had a really good time.  Lots of laughter and fellowship.  We also made a cake at Familia Feliz to share with the kids.  
Jonatan, Oriel, me, John and Jancy

Ori, me and John

We were finally able to register all the kids in school this week as well.  Due to all the flooding in Bolivia, the system was delayed in opening for registration.  But it opened this week and I was able to register everyone (except one student because of an error with the system…it doesn’t have us listed as teaching 1st grade...but they are working on getting that remedied.) without any problems with the system or with the Ministry of Education!  You just don’t realize how excited I was to have that happen so smoothly!  :)

One of our students, Kevin, and his family found a baby monkey last week.  So we took a little trip up the road to his house to see it.  It's a little howler monkey.  He's about a month old or so they believe.  Cute and friendly little thing.

As you can see, a lot has happened during these two weeks and the Lord has blessed us immensely…and we are so very thankful for those blessings and renewed mercies.  Aside from that which I have already mentioned, I have been blessed personally in other ways this week as well.  Another student came and told me that she wants to dedicate her life to the Lord by serving as a missionary when she finishes school.  Amen!  You just don't know what that does to my heart!  Plus, Omar led out in prayer during Sabbath School and Divine Worship today.  That may not seem like a big deal to many, but to me, it was definitely a manna moment!  Omar is very shy and reserved…and is learning Spanish.  His first language is an indigenous language called Ese Ejja.  And to see him stand before the church this morning and lead out in prayer in Spanish, not one, not two but three times did more to my heart than I can put into words here.  I was so proud of him!  Another blessing came in the form of a new friendship with John Alex.  We have spent many hours just talking since he has arrived and I am extremely grateful for this new friend.  He has taught me a lot and probably without even knowing it.  You see,John has an amazing testimony.  He is 23 years old and suffers from Parkinson’s disease.  It started when he was 16 and went undiagnosed for over 5 years because no one suspected that a teenager would be suffering from Parkinson’s.  He experienced so many different trials. It go to the point where he couldn’t walk properly, tripped and fell often, his hands bent backwards and the chair/desks that he sat it shook with his body.  People looked at his differently.  Many accused him of being a drug addict having withdrawal symptoms.  He went to doctor after doctor with no luck on a diagnosis, much less a cure.  But finally, he went to Argentina to a specialist who made the diagnosis and now his disease is very much controlled with the right combination of medication.  He can now lead a very normal life and, to be honest, I haven’t seen anyone more grateful for the second chance and with such zeal for living in a very long time!  He is an inspiration and I am very happy to have him here with us at Familia Feliz.  One more blessing…:)  I was talking with a young man this week and at the end of the conversation, he said, “I thank God that I met you.”  That meant a lot to me.  We weren't really talking about anything super important or urgent…just casually talking about life, God, plans, etc.  So many things to be thankful for…so many blessings.  We serve an Amazing God!  Make sure you take time to count the blessings God has bestowed upon you.  Your day really will be much brighter if you do!
Victoria and I.

God bless you all!


Sunday, May 4, 2014

May 03, 2014

May 3, 2014
Happy Sabbath everyone!  I hope you’ve had a good week and have taken the time to thank the Lord for all of His goodness, blessings and mercy shown to you throughout the week.  We serve an Amazing God!  

Two beautiful examples of God's Handiwork I saw this past week.  :) 

It’s been sort of “business as usual” around here since my last entry.  Teaching classes, running errands in town, helping in the kitchen, working around campus, counseling the kids.  I must say, much less stressful than previous weeks….and full of God’s blessings. Since the last few entries focused more on the trials I’ve had, I wanted to take the time now to just share some of the good times and blessings that the Lord has bestowed upon me these past two weeks.  
Clearing the place where we're about to plant an orchard.

Omar posing for a pic while working.

Armando with a wild chicken that got trapped in our tool house.  :)  After a couple of pics, 
we let it go back in the jungle.  

This past week has been a rather interesting one with the older boys (ages 11-15).  I’ve definitely felt the dad in my come out.  :)  I had the whole “sex talk” with each of the boys individually this week.  At first, I was a bit nervous, as I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But it went very well.  Then, more of the boys wanted to learn how to tie a tie, so we had a little course on that.  I bought each of the older boys their own black tie, so they have been sporting them at worship all week.  :)  I also bought them each their own can of deodorant.  You should have seen some of their faces!  Most had never used deodorant before I found out, so we had to talk about how to use it.  :)  So this week was like a big “coming of age” event to them, welcoming them to “manhood”.  Lol.  It was a lot of fun. 
Jhon and I after church on Sabbath.

Jonatan, Jancy, me and Samuel last Sabbath.

And since then, they’ve come and talked to me about different things more.  One (Josue) has come and asked how he can be a missionary when he grows up!  You don’t know what that did to my heart….especially because of who said it.  He’s really shy and not necessarily the type you would expect to want to be a missionary.  But I couldn’t be happier!  He has really opened up a lot to me these past few weeks.  This week alone, he has come to my room almost every night to just talk.

Wednesday night prayer meeting.  I guess Daniel finished early.  :)

We’re continuing the studies at the Army base.  The past two have been more of a blessing than the previous two.  Last Friday (April 25th), one soldier called me over to him and said, “I just wanted to thank you for coming here every week.  These meetings are what I look forward to the most every week.  I’m an Adventist and this is the only outlet to God and interaction with the brethren that I have.  It makes such a difference to me!”  That put a big smile on my face.  He also told me, along with a few others, that he really wished he could attend church on Sabbaths, but that they don’t have free time until Sabbath afternoons.  I told him I would talk to the Coronel to see if some sort of arrangement could be made.  He thanked me, but said he didn’t think it would be possible.  I told him not to lose faith.  So, Sunday, when I was in town, I texted the Coronel to ask what time the soldiers had off on Sabbaths because several wanted to attend church.  He responded that they are given free time after lunch.  I asked him if it would be that way all year, because several have expressed an interest in attending church with us and the meetings are in the morning.  After I sent it, I prayed that the Lord would open the way for them to be able to go…that He would intervene and not let Satan close this door that God has opened.  As soon as I finished praying, the Coronel responded and said for me to just let him know how many soldiers wanted to attend church and he would make arrangements to let them leave early so they could attend!  Amen!!

Last night was no different.  We still had about 50 soldiers in attendance, with several asking for prayer, sharing testimonies and showing a sincere desire to learn more about God.  They all march in with their Bibles and studies in hand, sit down and start singing.  I tell you, it’s such a wonderful sight!  Please continue to pray for them, as they grow in Christ.  

I received a special blessing from little Rodrigo this week too.  He came up to me and said, “Here, Teacher, this is for you.”, as he handed me a card he had made for me in Art class. On the front, it said, “To: Miguel    From: Rodrigo”  When you open it up, he put a border of stickers around all the inside.  Then, on the left side, he wrote, “Thank you for taking care of me” and on the right side, “God bless you!”.  He then proceeded to give me a big hug.  Definitely a great moment…one where you feel like you’re right where you’re supposed to be and that you really do make a difference.  
Janet at Sabbath vespers.  Such a sweet little girl!

Belsabet leading out vespers.  She did a GREAT job!

At vespers with the boys.  (From left to right: Benjamin, Omar, Armando
Jose Carlos, me and Rodrigo)

Matthew 18:2-4 says, “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Whosever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  I thought about my buddy Rodrigo and his card and, with these verses in mind, wondered if I am like him in God’s Eyes.  Am I humble and obedient?  Do I recognize my dependance on God and thank him for it every day?  Does He have my “thank you card” hung on “His wall” like I have Rodrigo’s?  It’s so easy, at times, to get caught up in daily activities and responsibilities, especially as adults, that we forget that we must be as children…hat we must implicitly trust and depend on our Heavenly Father, just as a small child trusts and depends implicitly on his mother and father.  Oriel reminded us all of that in his sermon this morning.  What is my relationship with God like?  Do I trust Him?  I mean, do I really trust Him?  Definitely worth some heartfelt thought and consideration.  What about you, my friend?  How is your relationship with God?  Do you find yourself sitting (as a child) at the Feet of Christ, taking in every Word that proceeds from the Mouth of God?  Or are you as Martha (an adult), overly concerned with what has to be done, when it has to be done and how it has to be done and trying to do it all yourself?  And all the while missing out on the blessing that Christ desires to bestow upon you?  May we all take time to thank God for taking care of us and ask Him for a more child-like heart, one that will trust Him more with each passing day.  Amen!
God bless you all!