Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Rainbow after the Storm!

September 13, 2014

“I will bless the Lord at all times:  His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”  Ps. 34:1

As the saying goes, after the storm comes the rainbow.  That has been the case during these past two weeks here at Familia Feliz.  We have continued to experience that peace that only God can give…and that, my friend, is the rainbow.  The promise.  

Church at Familia Feliz on Sept. 6

Jordan, Anissa and Victoria having special music.  They did an outstanding job!

Much has happened since my last entry.  First of all, I found out that I am an uncle again!  :)  My brother, Nick, and his wife, Janice, welcomed their first child into the world on the night of Aug. 29th (but I didn’t find out until Sunday, Aug. 31st when I went into town).  Wyatt Nicholas Tello is just perfect!  A very special blessing indeed!  

Last week I had a another special blessing as well.  I received a call from Javier.  Javier is the Civil Defense officer that we worked with during the flood here in January and February.  Some of you who have followed my entries may remember that it was his sister that was trapped when the roof of her house caved in because of a landslide in January.  She couldn’t free herself and, in a last attempt to save herself from being pulled under by the mud and killed, she had her son cut off her trapped leg with a machete.  She was airlifted to La Paz for surgery and rehab and has been there ever since.  But Javier called to let me know that his sister had arrived back home to Rurrenabaque.  Since she knew that during her absence we had been asking about her and praying for her, she wanted to meet us and invited us to her home on Sunday, Sept. 7th.  Jonatan, Ori and I went and had a really good visit with this lovely sister.  It was a wonderful feeling to see her walking (with her temporary prosthetic leg), sharing her experience with us.  It was a blessing to see the answer to so many prayers over these past 8 months!  Before leaving, we had prayer together and she invited us to come back whenever we wanted.  Please continue to keep her and her family in your prayers, as she heads back to La Paz in November for 2 months to try to get a permanent prosthesis and go through therapy there again as her body adapts to the new piece.  Also pray for them financially, as insurance isn’t covering anything and her family lost everything in the mudslide. Thank you.

Juana Cartagena and I

On Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 9, we took the kids to the river to swim for a while.  It has been very hot and humid this week (between 105-110 degrees Farenheit), and we needed to cool off a bit.  

Some pics from the river.  Lots of FUN!!!

Anissa got thrown in the "mud pit" by the boys!  

While there, I received a call from Social Services (not very many places on this part of the road has cell service, but it just so happens that there is service at the river).  They advised me that three girls had been abandoned by their parents in Rurre and they needed to place them in our care until the case could go before the judge.  They said that they would bring the girls to Familia Feliz that evening.  When we got back, I advised the staff and kids and we got things ready for them.  They arrived about 7:30pm.  Naomi is 10, Jarumi is 8 and Helen is 5.  Their parents abandoned them two weeks prior to go to Ixiamas to work.  The children were told that the parents would be gone 3 months, to lock the house door and stay inside.  They were given $7 usd with which to live during the absence of the parents.  As the parents sold the propane tank before leaving, the girls were forced to search for firewood and cook on an open fire on the cement outside.  Their meals during the past two weeks have consisted only upon rice, eggs and hot dogs. The girls expressed much fear to the social services office when they were interviewed, as they said several men tried to break into their house at nights.  They stated that this is not the first time their parents have left them like this.  Naomi also said that her father, as well as an uncle, has tried to sexually abuse her on several occasions.  By the grace of God, neither actually did.  The girls told us they have a 13-year old brother that has fled to Riberalta. They also have a 16-month old brother that the parents took with them.  Since arriving at Familia Feliz, all three girls showed great contentment and excitement.  They immediately wanted to meet all of the children and have displayed a strong desire to form part of this family.  They have openly stated to several staff members that they have no desire to return to, or even see, their parents (especially the oldest).  They say they want to stay at Familia Feliz permanently.  

Naomi, Helen and Jarumi


Precious little Helen


On Wednesday, I had to go to town to take a student to the doctor, as well as to the Social Services office for a meeting about the girls and their case.  There was a roadblock on the way to town.  Some union was protesting something.  There were cars, trucks and buses on both sides of the blockade and about 150 people standing around, trying to convince the group to let them pass.  I got out of the truck and spoke to the man in charge, introducing myself and explaining our situation.  As I was talking to him, a bus of navy soldiers drove up.  The officer in charge told the men that they had to pass.  The men protesting said that they were within their rights to protest, but they would think about letting them through.  About 3 minutes later, 20 soldiers or so were off the bus removing the trees and tires that were blocking the way so that they (and everyone else in line) could pass.  (Gotta love a bus full of tired soldiers ready to get home!  :) )  Before passing through, however, I spoke to the man in charge again to let him know I would need to get back through the roadblock on our way back home.  He told me that if I obtained a note from the hospital stating that I had taken our student there, as well as one from Social Services, they would let us back through with no problems.  I asked him again, just to be sure and once again he assured me there would be no problems.  So we went through and headed to town.  About noon, we headed back, only to be denied passage at the blockade because the man in charge wasn’t there and didn’t leave instructions for them to let us through with the letters I had obtained.  They advised us that the blockade would be lifted around 6pm that night.  :(  So we headed back to town to get lunch and to find something to do to occupy our time while waiting.  I took advantage of the situation and bought some things these new girls needed.  They only came with one change of clothes.  No toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, underwear, shoes (other than flip flops), school supplies, etc.  Finally, we were able to get through and get back home.  We arrived about 7:30 pm….10 hours after leaving FF!  

Turnips from our garden!

On Thursday, the parents of the girls showed up at Familia Feliz to visit the girls.  I explained that without a signed consent form from social services, they could not visit with them per the legal contract we have with the Mayor’s office.  They were not happy about that, but understood and, after a few minutes, left.  Naomi ran upstairs into her room as soon as she saw them and stayed there until she was sure they left.  She was very upset and again expressed no desire to even see them.  The returned that night again.  Again, I explained our policy.  They brought them a plate of food and some more flip flops.  Again, the oldest ran upstairs and would not come down.  They left after a few minutes.  

On Friday morning, both parents were back, along with their lawyer and presented me with a letter from the main office of Social Services stating that the case against them had been dropped and that they could remove their children from Familia Feliz.  I went up the road to call Social Services to verify.  Carolina said that, sadly, the letter was valid.  The district attorney evidently didn’t feel there was enough evidence to pursue the case in court, so the charges were dropped.  My heart sank.  I came back and had to tell the girls.  The two oldest ones started balling, especially Naomi.  They didn’t want to leave and especially didn’t want to go back home.  She kept saying, “He's going to beat me for saying so much!  Please don’t make me go!”  Several of our girls were crying too, as they didn’t want them to leave either.  It was a very tough morning!  But there was nothing I could do.  I felt so helpless.  We got them “packed” and took them downstairs.  The father didn’t even tell them hi, give them a hug, etc.  He just thanked me and called them to leave.  I did speak with the mother about having them attend school here as boarding students.  She said she would come back this week to register them so they could be here.  I can only hope and pray…

We were scheduled to have our evangelistic meetings at the Army base last week.  We were all ready and arrived at the base on Sunday evening only to find out that there were interdepartmental soccer and volleyball championship games in town during this week and all of the army and navy soldiers had to be on guard duty in town all week, as approximately 2000 extra tourists were in town for the games.  :(  So we had to postpone the meetings at the Army base.  Then, when I went to confirm the meetings at the navy base for this week, I was told that most of the young men had to travel and there were only a few on base.  So we were asked to postpone those meetings as well, as they really want everyone to be there for them.  It was a bit discouraging to have both postponed, but we know God’s timing is perfect and best, so we are trusting in Him.  The meetings at the Navy are supposed to start this coming Monday (Sept. 15) and run through the week. However, there is supposed to be another strike and road block starting the same day and they are saying that this one will continue until their demands are met.  So I am not sure if we will be able to have the meetings or not.  It seems to always work that way…whenever God is moving, Satan ups his attacks and tries to do his best to thwart God’s work.  We are praying about it and leaving it in God’s Hands.

Last night, we went to the Army base for our studies.  We missed the meeting last week because of the games, so it felt good to be there again, even though our hearts were saddened because of what had happened earlier that day.  The soldiers were very happy to see us as well.  Several of them told us that they really missed the meeting last week.  That made us feel good.  There were about 60 present at the meeting.  We got set up and started the study.  Victoria, Anissa and Jordan did special music, singing “How Great is Our God” acapella and knocked it out of the park!  Little did we know that we would see a piece of God’s Greatness that night.  It was the last study in this series and talked about how God calls His children and how we must make a decision in response to that calling.  We expressed the importance of this decision and shared some personal experiences.  Then, an appeal was made for those that would like to give their hearts to the Lord and be baptized.  I honestly wasn’t prepared for what happened next.  One of our students raised his hand and asked me if only the soldiers could go up, or if he could too.  When I told him that it was open to everyone because Christ wants to save everyone, he immediately stood up and was the very first one to come up.  I couldn’t have been prouder of him!  I have to admit, I wasn’t thinking about our kids when I made the appeal.  I was expecting a soldier to come up.  But I couldn't have been happier.  After Kevin came up, one by one, soldier after soldier came forward.  I kept talking about God’s love, Christ’s sacrifice and how much they long for us to accept their gift and turn our lives over to them.  As I was talking, I was praying in my mind.  I wasn’t paying really paying attention as to who was coming up, how many, etc.  When it was time to pray, I turned to those that had come forward and were standing behind me.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I was expecting 5-8 people to be there.  There were 21 soldiers and 10 of our kids standing there with their heads bowed!  Praise the Lord!  I was so proud of them, especially our kids.  Some of the ones that went forward are very shy. I would have never thought that they would have taken this stand like this, in a room full of “strangers”.  It’s very intimidating for some of these kids.  So that made it that much more special to me.  As I started to pray, there was a lump in my throat.  I never expected this.  It was very humbling.  Very.  As I stood there taking all this in, I couldn’t help but thank God for His Goodness and for His way of doing things.  His ways and His timing truly are perfect!

 The group that came up to give their lives to Christ.  Best feeling in the world to see!

A group picture of everyone at the meeting on this past Friday.

We were invited a couple of weeks ago to go to Piedras Blancas, a small town about an hour and a half from here for church.  Two of our students are from this community.  We decided yesterday that we would go today.  So we packed our lunch and loaded up on the truck early to start our trip.  Between 27 kids, 7 staff, benches, chairs, an ice chest, and lunch for everyone, our truck was pretty packed!  :)  When we arrived at the church, we were very warmly welcomed by the brethren there.  They asked us to have both the Sabbath School and Divine worship services.  It’s a good thing we’ve learned to always be prepared.  :)  Jonatan led out in Sabbath School and two of our girls directed song service between services.  Jordan was in charge of the sermon today, so I translated.  Two other students accompanied us up front and participated in the service as well.  All of the kids from FF had special music, singing “Oh, how I love Jesus” in English (thanks Victoria!  She is their English and music teacher and has been working very hard with the kids on this song.).  They did a fantastic job!  It was a really nice service with the brethren and we were blessed.

The kids having special music in Piedras Blancas

Belsabeth, me, Jordan and Omar leading Divine worship.

Jordan preaching, me translating

Beautiful Janet enjoying church as well.

After church, the blessing continued.  We asked permission to eat lunch at the church before heading back and, after receiving it, went to sit down under a tree to get everything set up.  As the kids and staff on kitchen rotation this week were getting things ready, the rest of us were fellowshipping with the brethren.  The next thing I know, I look up and see people coming with pots, pans, ice chests, plates, etc. in their hands.  The women of the church had walked to their homes (it’s a very small community) and brought back their lunches so that we could all eat together!  We ended up having an unplanned, yet wonderful, potluck with all the brethren.  I honestly don’t know how it happened.  The people at the church didn’t know we were coming this morning, so they couldn’t have known to cook for an extra 35 people.  And we didn’t know we would be eating with everyone, so we only made the same amount of rice and vegetables we normally do.  Yet everyone ate until they were full and there was still food left over.  We may not have been a group of 5,000, but I truly believe the Lord performed a small miracle for us just as He did for that group so many years ago.  What an Awesome God we serve!

Wonderful potluck with our brothers and sisters in Christ!

One more blessing I’d like to share with you before ending, although it may not be the type of blessing you might expect.  I received a message this morning on the way to church stating that it was announced last night that we may be losing a sponsor that has donated much to our school this past year.  I was told that there is a meeting with the organization and its board this coming Friday and the following Monday regarding this and was asked to pray.  At first, I was worried.  Our income already fluctuates greatly month to month and it isn’t always easy to find an organization that can support you.  But after a couple of minutes, as I remembered how God has worked in my life and here at Familia Feliz in the past….in these last two weeks alone…my attitude began to change.  I no longer saw this is a bad thing, as a “curse” but rather as a blessing.  As I was riding in the truck, reading about this announcement and processing all of this, I actually had to smile.  This is nothing more than the devil trying to stop God’s work.  I thought about the meetings at the Navy base.  On the very same day they are set to start, where the Gospel will be preached to up to 160 young men, an indefinite road block between the orphanage and town is now scheduled to happen.  Now, on the very same night when God has moved in the hearts of 31 people at the army base and here at Familia Feliz and they have decided to publicly declare their desire to give their lives to Christ, we are informed that we may be losing funding.  Am I the only one that sees the “coincidence” in this??  My worry very quickly turned to joy…for this is now an opportunity for God to work in a Mighty way on His behalf.  The larger the difficulty, the greater the miracle we can expect.  So, while I am praying for these meetings next week and ask you to do the same, I am not worried.  If we lose this sponsor, my God has a million and one ways to meet our needs.  We have not gone without yet.  Never.  And I know that He who is Faithful will always meet our needs. I am counting this as yet another blessing the Lord has in store for us!  :)

Vicoria, me, Sabina and Belsabeth.  All three of these girls cut their hair this week.  Their hair was waist-length before.  I think the new cut looks GREAT! :)

I thank you all of your continued prayers and support!  Please know that they are making a big difference the lives of all of us here at Familia Feliz!  May God bless you all!


Monday, September 1, 2014

When it rains, it pours.....

August 30, 2014

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;  Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."                            James 1:2-4

These verses have rang in my head a lot since my last post.  We have certainly been working towards that patience and perfection!!  :)   It’s definitely been a challenging week here at Familia Feliz.  Aside from recovery ing from my surgery, so much has happened.  Satan has attacked with fury it seems.  But God’s Grace has once again proved sufficient for the trials we were faced with and has gotten us through again.  

A group pic, minus a few students that went home over the weekend.
Victoria is in the pink shirt and Anissa is in the turquoise shirt (both on the left)...our two new female volunteers!

Last Thursday, after being released from the hospital, I spent ALL day working on renewing my residency.  The morning started at 7:30 and I didn’t get back to the hotel until after 8:30 that night.  It was a long day to say the least.  But the Lord is Faithful and worked everything out so that I could finish it all that day…and, in my personal opinion, worked a miracle in that I was able to walk and stand all that I needed to that day, without hurting myself.

That next Friday, Victoria and I flew back to Rurre.  Anissa had to stay in Santa Cruz to finish some documents, but would join us in Rurre on Sunday.  It felt SOOOO good to be back at Familia Feliz, in my own room/bed and with the kids!  They have all been very supportive and have gone out of their way to help me since I’ve been back.  I am truly blessed.  :)  

That Friday night, I went to the Army base for the Bible study.  I missed it the week before because I was in the hospital and really wanted to be there this time.  I know I miss out on a blessing when I’m not there.  I was able to lead out the study (albeit sitting down instead of standing up like normal) and that was nice.  It did my spirits well to spend that time with the young men at the base and welcome the Sabbath with them.

Last Sabbath, we stayed on campus for church and had a relaxing Sabbath.  I’ve definitely had to take things easier after the surgery and get tired faster.  The Lord knew I needed those hours of rest on the Sabbath to be ready for the challenges that awaited me with the start of the new week.

Here’s a quick summary of this week’s “events”:

- Jancy left Familia Feliz this past Monday to accept a call to serve in Guyana.  He will truly be missed!  That meant we were one male staff short.

-  I had my stitches removed on Tuesday.  Then on Wednesday, my incision starting bleeding, so I spent all day Wednesday in bed, resting (as much as I could, anyway).  My recovery is going well, just slow at times.  :)  I find myself getting tired much easier and have to rest.  

-  About six parents came this week to get previous grade records for their students, who are currently set to graduate this November.  Without these documents, they cannot graduate.  One girl, however, was never entered in the system in 2009.  Therefore, I cannot issue her a grade document.  I had to go to the Ministry of Education several times to find a remedy for this problem…and one in a timely manner so that she can graduate on time.

-  5 of the 7 staff members got a virus this week, along with 7 of our students.  School had to be cancelled on Thursday.  One of our girls had to be admitted to the hospital.

-  The mother of one our students, Benjamin, was harvesting oranges this week and fell out of the tree.  She fractured her spine and had to be transported to La Paz.  Benjamin had to accompany her, as she couldn’t travel alone.  She has to have surgery to put in four screws in her spine.  The surgery will cost about $3000 usd.  They are still paying for Benjamin’s heard surgery from two years ago.  So please keep this family and their financial situation in your prayers.

-  Sergio, the owner of Narguila’s and my dear friend, had to have emergency surgery this Thursday to remove his gall bladder.

-  Jordan, our third new volunteer, arrived on Friday.  We are excited about having him!!

-  John is leaving tomorrow to head back to Uruguay and will no longer be here helping us.   :(  He has been a big blessing to us and, like Jancy, will be sorely missed.  

-  The clutch started going out on the big truck.

-  There was no propane in town and we were on our last tank.

-  The student that was sexually assaulted over the break became very depressed and was considering suicide.  We had to have a long talk and then I took her to talk to a psychologist in town.  Thank the Lord, she is doing much better now, but will start weekly therapy sessions.

This is aside from the daily responsibilities of teaching, cleaning, deaning, disciplining, etc.  :)  So yeah…a pretty hectic week, full of challenges and trials.  But, as the verses above say, “patience will have her perfect work.”  Amen!  :)

The Bible study at the base this past Friday was a much needed blessing.  We are almost finished with this Bible study series.  Tomorrow, Sunday August 31st, we start out weeklong evangelistic series at the Army base.  We will have meetings every night at 7:00 leading up to our special service on next Sabbath, which will include a baptism, lunch with the soldiers, a parade in the afternoon and games that night.  The soldiers are very excited (as are we!).  Then, the following Sunday (Sept. 7th), we start another weeklong series at the Navy base in town.  That will be our first meetings with the Navy, so we are very excited about this door that God is opening and ask that you pray for all 160 Navy soldiers, especially those that will be in attendance in the meetings.  

The kids doing special music at the Bible study

Soldiers singing with enthusiasm!  :)

Today, we wen to to church at Nueva Esperanza.  Jonatan led out the Sabbath school class and it was my week to preach.  The older boys had special music.  Even the two new female SM’s participated.  Victoria did the mission spotlight by sharing her testimony of how she came here to Bolivia and Anissa accompanied Jhoel (one of our students) and I up front for the divine service.  They really hit the ground running here at Familia Feliz!  :)  We had a good service though.  I am so very thankful for the blessing that is the Sabbath and the rest that accompanies it…especially after this past week!  :)

Josue discovered my shaving cream and decided to shave for the first time, even though he has absolutely NO facial hair whatsoever!  lol.  :)  

I pray that your week has gone well and you have felt God’s Presence is a new and real way this week, no matter what you had to face this week.  His Grace is sufficient at all times and in ALL situations!  

May God bless you in a very special way today!