Sunday, August 24, 2014

August 19, 2014 - "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..."

August 19, 2014

Boy, what a 10-days it has been!!  Like I’ve said before, there is never a dull moment around here.  :)
Classes started back on Monday, Aug. 11th.  It feels so good to have the kids back!!  We got everyone settled in Sunday and the day started bright at early Monday morning with worship at 5:30 am.  We had a really good start to the term and the kids were happy to be back.  But, as is often the case, Satan doesn’t sit still long.  That afternoon, one of our students came and told me that she was raped by a young man in her home town over the break.  My heart broke!!  We talked for a good while.  She hadn’t told anyone else yet, so I contacted the family and had them come to the school immediately to let them know what the situation.
The next day was spent accompanying them in town to file the necessary reports, have the medical exam done and talk to a lawyer about how to proceed.   It was a long day.  I can’t go into details, but please pray for this young lady and everyone involved.  The Lord knows exactly what she needs.  Also, pray for the family to obtain the money necessary to pursue this issue in court.  Here in Bolivia, whoever files the police report (usually the victim or victim’s family) is responsible for all fees associated with the case.  And they’ve given an estimate of $2000-$3000 usd.  The family just doesn’t have this kind of money.  They are trying to figure something out, so again, please keep the whole situation in your prayers.
Then, on Thursday afternoon, we went to get oranges and coconuts for the school.  On the way back, I started having a little pain in my abdomen.  I figured it would pass, but it didn’t.  Rather it got stronger.  I told the staff I wasn’t feeling good and went to bed at 7:00.  I couldn’t sleep though.  The pain just kept getting more intense.  Finally, at 2:00 am I asked Oriel to take me to the E.R.  Something wasn’t right.  I could barely walk.  They checked me out and gave me some medicine to relieve the pain, then admitted me to the hospital.  When the lab opened at 7:00 am the following morning, they ran more tests.  They suspected it was either my appendix or my gall bladder.  Both of which would require surgery.  I really didn’t want that!  Especially in the small hospital in Rurre.  :)   Then, that afternoon, the doctor came in and said that it was actually a case of salmonella poisoning.  The symptoms of all three are somewhat overlapping, so they started treatment for that.  I felt much better all day Friday since I was on medication.  There was a district church meeting in Rurre that day, so Friday evening, I had about 30 visitors from several churches in the region!  I didn’t even know half of them.  They came, sang hymns and knelt to have prayer with me.  It really moved me to see people I didn’t know show such compassion and made me extremely grateful to be a part of Christ’s family!  Then, I received a visit from everyone at Familia Feliz.  :)  They were heading to give the Bible study at the base, but stopped by to see me beforehand.  The kids were worried about me.  They made me cards and posters.  Another manna moment.  :)  

Victoria wishing me well at the hospital in Rurre.

About 10:00 that night, though, the pain came back and with a vengeance.  They gave me two more pain medications within 2 hours, but it still didn’t ease the pain.  Saturday morning, I received a visit from the head doctors there at the hospital.  They checked me out and said that it, indeed, was appendicitis and that I would need surgery asap.  The only things was…there was no surgeon in Rurre until the following day and they really preferred I didn’t wait that long.  So, Oriel and I flew to Santa Cruz that afternoon.  We had a layover in La Paz, where the Airport doctor checked me out and administered more medication in my IV.  We arrived to Santa Cruz about 8:30 pm and went straight to the clinic.  Arrangements had been made prior to my leaving Rurre and the doctors were expecting me.  I arrived and was examined again in the emergency room by the surgeon.  He then informed me that my appendix had actually ruptured and that there was no time to waste.  30 minutes later, I was in the operating room.  I was a bit nervous, as I have never had surgery/anesthesia before.  But I just kept praying and reciting Bible promises in my head.  Next thing I knew I was in the recovery room, then in my room.  Oriel was there waiting on me.  I was still a bit groggy from the anesthesia, so I slept a couple of hours more.  After waking up, I found out that things were a bit more serious than I had thought.  They don’t know how long the appendix had been ruptured, but said that it was a complicated surgery because the liquid from the appendix had gotten into most of my intestines and they had to clean them out really good.  The surgery took about twice as long as usual.  Later, four other people from the hospital told me how fortunate I was to be alive and that it was caught in time, because it was a very serious situation.  All I can say is Praise God!  

The day after the surgery.  

As I’m writing this, I’m still admitted in the hospital.  I was supposed to be discharged this morning, but the doctor wanted me to stay one more night, just in case, since I’ll be traveling soon.  He wants to be sure that all is well.  I appreciated that.  But I must say, I was a little disappointed too.  I’m ready to be out of the hospital!  I feel really good today.  Not much pain at all.  Much better than I’ve felt since last Thursday.  So part of me wasn’t sure why he wanted to stay, since ever since Sunday, he has said that I would leave Tuesday morning.  Just last night at 8:30, he told me again I’d be leaving in the morning.  Now, something changed. However, it didn’t take long to get my questions answered.  This morning, I was able to share my faith with four different people here!  One of them is the lady that brings me my food.  She is just learning about Christ and the Bible.  We talked for a while.  Then she came back and asked me to add her on Facebook so that we could continue to talk.  She also asked me to send her Bible verses and promises that would encourage her, as she is new in her walk of faith.  Isn’t that just amazing?!  Now I knew why I needed to stay an extra day. Now I knew why there were no surgeons in Rurre and I had to travel all the way to Santa Cruz for that matter.  God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-9) and He always knows best.  We truly serve an Amazing, Awesome and Great God!!
I am scheduled to be released tomorrow morning (unless God has other plans….:) )  Then I have to renew my residency here in Bolivia before heading back to Rurre (which will hopefully happen on Friday).  Two new volunteers arrived while I was in the hospital, Victoria and Anissa.  We are very happy to have them with us!  Oriel picked them up from the airport and took them to do their residency.  I just want to take a minute to openly thank Oriel for ALL of his help this past week!  He has really been my right-hand man and helped me more than he knows.  I wouldn’t have been able to do everything without him.  And that goes for Jonathan, Jancy, John and Shundel back at Familia Feliz too, who is pulling their weight, plus taking on mine and Ori’s responsibilities while we’re gone.  I couldn’t ask for a finer group of staff members!  Thank you all every much!!
There’s nothing like sitting in a hospital bed for 5 days to do a lot of thinking and reflection.  As I looked back on the events of the week, I couldn’t help but see God’s Hand upholding me at every step of the way and opening doors.  It’s been yet another very humbling experience.  The fact that He preserved my life, even when I didn’t know it was in danger, brought me safely to an excellent clinic with a wonderful staff and great care and provided many opportunities for His Word to be shared…it’s all almost overwhelming!  But it doesn’t stop there.  The accounts department came to talk to me yesterday morning to give me a list of my expenses so far and an estimate of the total cost of my treatment here.  It was $1400 U.S. dollars.  Now, that’s cheap compared to the cost of surgery and hospital care in the States…I realize that.  But when you don’t earn a salary and don’t have $1400, it might as well be $140,000.  :)  But I tried not to worry about it.  I prayed and asked God to provide and asked my friends and family to do the same.  Here in Bolivia, you have to pay before you leave the hospital.  Especially when you live in another town!  So I knew I needed that money soon!  But I also knew that God knew my circumstances and He’s the One that brought me here, so I knew that He would work.  And work He did.  God has provided all of the money I needed!!  I know I shouldn’t be surprised at all of this.  After all, He has promised over and over that He would watch over His children and meet our needs if we would just be faithful and obedient to Him.  But I cannot help but stand in awe yet still about just how much He has done!  I have to fight the tears because I don’t feel worthy of so many blessings.  
I’m not sure what you’re going through or how your week has been.  Hopefully, it hasn’t involved any major surgery!  :)  But no matter what you are facing, I encourage you to take it ALL to Jesus and leave it in His Hands.  He has promised to take care of you and meet your needs….physically, mental, emotional, financial, and the list goes on.  So why not let Him do it?  I can tell you from experience, this week alone, that is the best thing you can do and is the best feeling in the world!  It brings a peace that can be compared with nothing else.  Trust God.  Experience a personal relationship with Him and then sit back and watch how He works and turns your life up-side-down for the better!  May God bless you all!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 9th, 2014 -- God does it again!

August 9, 2014
Have I mentioned before how much I LOVE working in the mission field??  If not, please allow me the opportunity now.  I L-O-V-E working in the mission field!!  :)  There never lacks an opportunity for God to “show up and show out” on behalf of His children and the last two weeks have been no exception.
But before I get into that, let me apologize for the delay between entries.  I spent July 9-26 in Argentina visiting my family and spending time with my kids…so I didn’t write an entry for those weeks.  It was such a blessing to see and spend time with my children!!  I couldn’t be more proud of them!  Mikaela, Julissa and Ezekiel…Daddy loves you to the moon and back!  :)

I returned back to Familia Feliz on July 27th.  I am very appreciative for an excellent group of friends/staff that did a wonderful job on holding down the fort in my absence.  Thanks guys!  
As soon as I returned, we immediately started getting ready for the kids return.  School starts on Aug. 11, but times does fly and that date would be here before we knew it.  We made school schedules, worship schedules, kitchen duty schedules, study hall schedules, etc.  (I know, lots of schedules!  But they really do work with kids.)  We got the dorms ready, cut grass around the campus, moved our library and other odd jobs.  
On last Friday, we had our weekly study at the Army base.  Boy did I miss those studies the last three Fridays while I was traveling!  The smiling faces and enthusiasm of the soldiers in participating in the services really do make my day. We had really good time and fellowship together with the soldiers.

Three soldiers volunteered to lead song service.  :)

One thing that was also on our minds was the Independence Day parade.  If you followed my blog last year, you know what a wonderful and productive event that was for us, as that is what opened the door to our Bible studies at the Army base.  The Coronel has been talking to me about this year’s parade for several weeks and wants this one to be better than last year.  So, last Sunday, we went to the Army base to practice with our kids that live locally and pathfinders from the church in Rurre.  The kids were just as excited as we were.  Despite the intense heat (102 degrees F with the heat index….and we’re in winter here!), we practiced a couple of hours and accomplished a lot.  

Before we knew it, it was August 6th…Independence Day here in Bolivia.  We met the Rurre Pathfinders in town at 7:00 am and loaded up to head to Reyes, a town about an hour from Rurre where we would be marching with the Rurre soldiers, as well as with the soldiers from the Reyes base.  
We arrived, changed into our Dress Uniforms and met with Lieutenant Davila, who ushered us through the crowd to our place behind the army’s marching band.  All eyes were on us.  No one is Reyes knew us and they had never seen Pathfinders before, so there were a lot of fingers pointing at us and people asking, “Who are they?”  It was a wonderful opportunity for us to share about the Pathfinder program and our church’s goal for the youth.

The ceremony started with the marching band playing the national anthem, the soldiers marching to the plaza in full dress uniform and several poems read.  Then, all of the soldiers exited the scene for the local schools to start the parade.  Our Pathfinder group followed the soldiers out, carrying our 7 flags.  We walked about 3 blocks and then waited our turn to march in the parade.  The Army base is always the last to march, so we had about 3 hours before it would be our turn.  We were able to fellowship with our soldier friends from Rurre.  They had never seen our Pathfinder uniforms either, so they were full of questions about the meaning of our pins, patches, colors, etc.  It was another very HOT day, especially standing in the middle of the road for all that time.  But the kids did extremely well and finally the moment of truth was upon us.  The army’s marching band was in front, followed by our Pathfinders, then all of the soldiers from both bases.  The band led the way, positioning themselves in the plaza in front of the stage where the mayor, lieutenant governor of the state, and other city officials were sitting.  We, then, started our march, saluting the officials as we passed.  As we marched, the announcer read a brief history of Pathfindering and the SDA church, along with our objective and goals.  Just as last year, the crowd cheered loudly and applauded as we marched.  Our minds were too preoccupied on making sure we did things just right, so we really didn’t pay much attention to the crowd.  But we were told that they applauded more for our Pathfinders than they did for any other group!  Both the mayor and the Lieutenant Governor applauded us and commended us on our participation.  The kids did an outstanding job!  

After the parade, we marched with the army back to the base with the soldiers, where we took a great group picture with both army bases!  We also met the Coronel from the Reyes base who was “pleased as peaches” that we were there, sharing the morning with them.  He extended his sincere gratitude for our support.  And this is where God showed up and showed out.  :)  Coronel Castro shook my hand and said that after the parade, he spoke with the Mayor and they both wanted to officially request that we come back and start a Pathfinder group there in Reyes!  The Coronel expressed his desire to have such an activity for the local youth, to restore values and lead them down the right path in life.  He even offered his facilities at the base for us to meet if we would like!  He also opened the door for us to go and start Bible studies there with his soldiers!  He told us to “feel at home” and invited us to join them for lunch.  We had made veggie burgers for lunch and took them with us, so we gladly accepted his invitation.  We spent the next two hours fellowshipping with the soldiers and officials from both bases.  It was an amazing experience!  One official, newly assigned to Rurre, spoke with me about 15 minutes about Familia Feliz, Pathfinders and our ministry.  He then asked if he could come and visit us on the weekends he has off to learn more about us and to help with our club.  He is a paramedic and wants to teach first aid and other medical honors to our kids!  Another interesting thing that happened…as we were eating lunch, they were grilling meat for the soldiers. It was taking a bit longer than expected, so the soldiers were very hungry.  We shared our extra burgers with about half of them.  They were extremely grateful.  But the fun part came when they thought the burgers were made of meat and we told them they were made of beans!  :)  They couldn’t believe it!  

Explaining our patches and uniform to some local kids who came up to ask about them.

With Coronel Sanchez (to my left) and Lieutenant Davila (to my right) from the Rurre base.

With Coronel Castro from the Reyes army base.

Some pics with the soldiers at lunch:

It was finally time to head back home.  I went and thanked both Coronel’s for their hospitality and said goodbye.  They, however, said they were the ones that owed us a thank you.  Then Coronel Castro said, “I need to apologize to you Miguel.  I just found out that you all are vegetarian and we don’t have much that you all could eat.  Please accept my apologies and know that next time, we will have vegetarian options for all of you!”  I thanked him, but assured him that we were fine and they didn’t need to make special accommodations for us.  However, he insisted that next time we came, he would have vegetarian food for us.  :)  He then invited us to return the following day for a special program the army bases were doing in honor of the flag of Bolivia.  He wanted us to be their special guests.  I told we’d do our best to be there. We said our goodbyes to the soldiers, loaded up on the truck and headed home.  
After such a long day in the heat, we decided to go to the river to cool off.  Talk about fun!  The water felt very good and was just deep enough to sit in…but these kids (and staff!) sure did enjoy that water!  :)

A fish one of the boys caught by hand (no fishing pole, bait or net!) :)

 Having fun throwing the kids into the river:

 Now, having fun BEING THROWN into the river.  :) :)

The following day, we headed back to Reyes to support the soldiers in their program.  And boy were we glad we did!  They did an excellent presentation to the flag, dressed in their uniforms, as well as other costumes and outfits they had, representing different military and civil activities/occupations.  We got a lot of good pictures!  After the program in the plaza, we accompanied them to the base to take more pictures.  Then, we headed to the “coliseum”, where the soldiers from both bases performed some agility and gymnastic activities.  The kids really liked that!  Everything finished a little after noon, so we headed back, made lunch and then went back to the river to cool off.  :)

Some pics from the gymnastics performance:

This soldiers is the only SDA soldier at the base....for the moment!  :)

A group picture of most of us that participated in the parade.  Make sure you click on this picture to make it bigger to truly appreciate it!  :)

On Friday, we got things ready for Sabbath and for classes next week.  A few more students also arrived.  Then came time to head to the Army base for our weekly Bible study.   And that night, we had over 70 in attendance!!  We talked about baptism and what the Bible teaching in regards to it.  Several showed interest in being baptized!  We’ve also started showing the Nest Animated Bible stories videos to the soldiers, since most do not have any knowledge of the Bible.  They LOVE these videos!!  So we watched the one on John the Baptist, since it went along with our topic.  We also showed a slideshow of some of the over 2000 pictures we took this week at the parades.  That was a nice surprise for them.  We ended with prayer in small groups.  Talk about a sight…70 soldiers kneeling in groups, thanking God for His blessings and lifting their requests to Him!  There’s nothing like it!

This morning, we went to church in town.  John had the sermon, while Jose Carlos (one of our students) and I joined him on the pulpit.  We’re trying to get our kids more active in church service.  Jose Carlos did an excellent job!  
After church, we went by the hospital to visit Jose Carlos and Juan Carlos’ dad.  He had his gallbladder removed this week.  Please keep him in your prayers.
Once back at Familia Feliz, we had lunch, then had a Bible/Natura scavenger hunt.  The kids really enjoyed that (and it kept them busy for over an hour!  That’s always a plus! :) ).  We then had some Bible trivia and played Bible Taboo.  For vespers, another student, Benjamin, lead the service, talking about Psalms 91 and God’s protective care of His children.  A very nice ending to a wonderful Sabbath day!
Please continue to pray for all of us here at Familia Feliz.  We have several new students this term, most of which are not Adventists nor practicing Christians.  Pray for wisdom and guidance for the staff as we seek to lead all of our kids to Christ’s Feet.  Also, pray that the Lord will continue to meet our financial needs to feed and maintain our precious students.  Thank you all for your continued prayers and support!  May God bless you in a very special way today!

P.S.  I forgot to introduce the newest member of the Familia Feliz family.  His name is Coco (coconut in English) and he has certainly been a big hit here on campus!  It’s especially a lot of fun to watch him and Janet interact!