Monday, October 27, 2014

Snakes, Sailors and Butterflies!

Note:  I apologize for the long delay in between posts.  Our local internet cafe has been closed during the month of October while the owners are on vacation and the other internet places are not as fast (so not too many pictures this time.  Sorry.).  Plus, things have been extremely busy these last few weeks at Familia Feliz, so I haven't had much free time to be online.  But I will do my best to do better.  :)  Thanks for understanding!  Below you will find not one, but TWO posts!  :)

October 4, 2014

“Know ye not that they which run the race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.”  1 Corinthians 9:24

I love to run!  I started a couple of years ago with my brother.  It has since become a favorite hobby of mine.  Since my operation, I haven’t been able do it.  But yesterday, for the first time in over two months, I went for a run!  Four students went with me….Armando, Edwin, Juan Carlos and Omar.  It was a short run…5 km.  The three younger boys weren’t able to keep up and run the entire time, but they did a good job.  Omar, however, is my running partner and is a very good long-distance runner.  He stayed with me the whole time.  I had to run slower than before and Omar could have left me and run ahead, but he chose to stay by my side the whole time because he wanted to make sure I was ok running after the surgery.  As we were running, several object lessons came to mind.  First of all, the above verse popped in my head, reminding me that our Christian life is a race.  If we are to obtain the prize, we have to finish the race.  And I am learning that the race is more of a marathon than a sprint!  We must train our minds and our bodies to be able to endure.  Otherwise, we will not make it to the end.  Secondly, Omar reminded me of Christ.  He is always by our side, to make sure that we are ok.  He never leaves us or forsakes us.  What a blessing!  

Much has happened in the last two weeks, but I will try to summarize the events here.  I spent a week in Argentina, I had a couple of meetings to attend, as well as went to see my children.  It was a great to see and visit them again!  

While I was gone, the staff did an excellent job at “holding down the fort.”  :)  Anissa and Jordan also had to travel during that week I was gone.  They had to go to Santa Cruz to finish their residency visa.  So it was just Oriel, Jonatan, Victoria and Shundel on campus for a few days.  But everything went well and there were no casualties.  :)  I am very grateful for the help and support of the staff here at Familia Feliz!!  They are each a blessing!

The studies at the army base continue.  The soldiers are still enthusiastic about learning.  The evangelistic series have had to be rescheduled for various reasons in the past, but we are set to start on the Navy base on October 13 and then on the Army base on October 20.  Please remember these events in your prayers please.

We also pray every day that God’s angels will watch over and protect all of us here at Familia Feliz.  On Tuesday, we saw this prayer answered first hand.  Anissa was cooking the kitchen when she got burned opening the pressure cooker.  Her left hand, a portion of her right hand and part of both legs were burned. We took her to the doctor, who cleaned and bandaged the wounds.  However, she is doing fine.  She hasn’t had a lot of pain and her skin is healing well.  The situation could have been a lot worse and we are thankful for God’s watch care over Anissa and the rest of us here.

I know this entry isn’t as long as others in the past, but that is not indicative of uneventful weeks, but rather the opposite…I haven’t had much free time to sit and write as much.  I’ll try to do better next time.  :)

I would like to ask you to keep us in your prayers in a special way, as Satan is attacking all of our here at Familia Feliz.  Kids are trying to turn their lives completely over to Christ, volunteers are striving to lead by example and all are working to preach the Gospel to the people in our community…and Satan is not going to just sit idly by and watch.  Please pray for protection, for guidance, wisdom and discernment.  Pray that we can have the faith necessary to overcome the obstacles and put that faith into daily practice.  Thank you!!

God bless you all!


October 25, 2014

Happy Sabbath!  And what a blessed one it has been!  More on that later.  First of all, I need to apologize for the long delay in posting on my blog.  Things have been really busy these last few weeks.  Plus, Narguila’s (the place where we always go in town to eat and use internet) has been closed the whole month of October.  They have the best and fastest internet service here in Rurre, so I haven’t been able to get online as much.  But I will do my best to catch you up to all that has been happening here at Familia Feliz.

It has been extremely hot and humid here the last three weeks.  Temperatures have reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit with the heat index!  :(  You are literally sweating all day long.  Needless to say, everyone is taking more showers now and trying to find a cool spot in the shade.  :)

We have also been bombarded by butterflies lately!  It must be mating season or migration season or something.  There have been literally thousands of butterflies all over the past week or so.  Simply breathtaking to see!  It's beautiful indeed to see the work of our Great Artist!  :)

We had a very special visit from two mission coordinators from Southern Adventist University the week of October 6th.  Julie Norton and Karen Glassford spent most of that week with us, visiting the campus and missionaries, helping in the kitchen (THANK YOU!!), working with the kids, sharing experiences and showing Christ’s love to all here.  It was a blessing indeed having them here with us…especially for the student missionaries from Southern (Victoria and Anissa).  We’re hoping they can get back again soon for another visit.  :)  Thanks again Julie and Karen!  God bless you both!

While they were here, they went to the Friday night Bible study with us at the army base.  Two of our kids, Omar and Keila, gave their personal testimonies to the soldiers as to how Christ has changed their lives.  They were a bit nervous about speaking in front of 70 people, but they did a great job!  I was so proud of them!  As they were talking, Karen overheard one of the soldiers behind her saying, “I wish I could be a student at Familia Feliz!”  :)  That was a nice thing to hear.  Jordan and Shundel also gave a testimony and encouraged the soldiers in their walk with Christ.  We had a good meeting and then closed with prayer in small groups, thanking God for His blessings during the week and lifting up the requests brought by the soldiers.  

I blinked just as the picture was taken.  :(  We'll just say I was praying for him.  :)

The following week, the week of October 13th, we started our evangelistic series at the Navy base here in Rurre.  This was our first experience with the Navy, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect.  But as He always does, God opened the doors and touched hearts as His Word was presented.  There were about 75 sailors in attendance at the meetings.  We ended up only able to have the meetings 4 out of the 6 nights because of some things that came up at the Navy base, but the Captain has given us permission to continue them in the near future.  But in those 4 days, we were able to get to know some of the young men serving in this branch of the military and vice versa.  They are a bit more reserved and timid than the army soldiers, but I think it’s just because we haven’t spent as much time with them as we have with the other soldiers.  They do love to sing though.  :)  And even though we were not there all the days as planned, God’s Hand was not shortened…over 30 came forward to give their lives to Christ!!  Amen!!  We are looking forward to continuing to study God’s Word with these young men.  Please keep them in your prayers.

Familia Feliz kids doing special music.

Group picture!  :)

We also received two new volunteers that week.  Ana and Victor are a married couple from Spain that will be helping out here at Familia Feliz for a year.  We are very excited to have them with us!!  Welcome Ana and Victor!  

On a sad note, Shundel left this week to head back to Guyaya, as her time here was up.  We were all sad to see her go, but wish her nothing but the best as she continues to serve the Lord wherever He may lead her!  We miss you Delli!  :)

This past week, the week of October 20th, we had the evangelistic series at the Army base.  They have gone very well.  As I mentioned before, these soldiers know us very well and are more outspoken and open with their questions and comments.  The local church here in Rurre provided refreshments every night for the soldiers after the meetings.  To the glory of God, over 40 at the base have taken a stand for Christ and turned their lives over to Him.  Today, Sabbath, we finished the series and 9 people were baptized!  We weren’t able to set up a baptistry at the base like last year, so we headed down to the river and baptized them there.  After the baptism, we went back to the base and had lunch with the soldiers and officials.  Tonight we went back to the base for social night with the soldiers.  We played games, talked and fellowshipped until late.  Everyone had a great time!  It was a high Sabbath indeed!

Altar call one time to give their lives to Christ.

The group that were baptized.

I’m not sure if it’s because of the heat or the lack of rain or what, but we have seen an increase of snakes lately.  I’ve seen more snakes in the last month than I have in the last year and a half here combined.  We’ve killed several poisonous snakes on campus.  As a matter of fact, two Sundays ago, a rattlesnake went into our church building as a group of us were heading to the river.  Oriel and Jordan, along with Omar, Josue, Benjamin and I, went in after it to kill it.  It took about 10 minutes to kill and was quite upset, striking at the sticks and machetes Ori and Jordan were using to kill it.  While they were cornering it, several of the kids got out of the truck and ran into the church to see what was going on.  I had to tell them several times to back up and get back in the truck.  Having a group of small kids in the same area as an angry rattlesnake was a recipe for disaster in my book.  :)  One of the kids yelled, “Satan is in the church!”  Lol.  Gotta love their perspective on things.  We used that illustration when the snake was brought out, head crushed and dead, to remind the kids of Satan’s outcome.  :)  As I mentioned, several other venomous snakes were killed on campus lately, so we are extremely grateful for Christ’s watch care and protection over us.

And speaking of snakes, this past week the electric company came to walk our property, as they are updating the power lines and need to put a tower on our property.  So Elias (the power company guy) and I walked from one side of our property to the other, counting the trees that will need to be cut down for the power lines.  Before leaving, I said a prayer, asking God to watch over us and keep us safe.  All of the area we had to walk was jungle, so it took us over 2 hours to walk about 2000 feet, as we had to cut the bush with a machete, etc. to get through.  As we were coming down this embankment, we found ourselves face to face with a 10-foot boa constrictor.  It was asleep on a fallen tree.  While I am not a snake-lover by any means, I had to admire this creature.  I took a couple of pictures to show the kids and then we continued on our walk.  

We accidentally walked into a wasp’s nest.  Elias was stung once on the hand, but that was it.  It could have been much worse. We finally made it to the other end of the property and the power company truck came to pick us up and bring us back to campus.  Elias and I jumped in the back and the truck started driving down the dirt road.  The driver hit a pothole pretty hard while driving and I was knocked out of the truck!  It was strange…almost as if it was happening in slow motion.  Elias yelled, “No!” and tried to grab me, but couldn’t.  I fell straight back off the side of the truck and all I could do was pray, “Lord, please don't let me break or fracture my spine!”  I was trying to embrace myself for the impact on my back or neck, since that the area that was going to hit the ground based on how I was sitting and fell.  All of this happened in a split second.  I can’t explain what happened next other than Divine Intervention.  Somehow, my body turned and my left thigh hit the ground first.  Other than being sore, I wasn’t hurt at all.  The driver of the truck immediately stopped and everyone came to see if I was ok.  They wanted to take me to the hospital to be check out, but I was fine.  I have a bruise on my leg, but other than that, no other problems.  As I replayed the event back in my mind, remembering how I was siting and how I fell when it happened, there’s no explanation for me not landing on my back or neck.  And I don’t remember turning at all during the fall.  But I am so thankful that I prayed for God’s protection before embarking on this little “adventure” through the jungle!  His Hand was indeed over us and kept us safe from several potentially dangerous events!  What an Awesome God we serve!!  Plus, I thought of some really good object lessons while walking the property!  :)  

On Wednesday night, after the meeting at the army base, I drank some juice that the brethren had prepared.  I packed up the equipment and headed home.  When I got to Familia Feliz, I was having a severe allergic reaction to something in that juice.  Hives covered my body, my feet and legs were swollen, I was itching like crazy, etc.  It was late, so I took some benadryl and tried to sleep.  The next day, things weren’t better, so I had to get two shots.  They helped, but even now, I’m still suffering from the hives and itching, although the symptoms are diminishing.  Hopefully, I’ll be back to normal soon!  :)  

It is humbling, and amazing at the same time, to see how Satan’s attacks are thwarted by our Lord.  Wherever God’s children are seeking to advance His work, Satan will do all He can to discourage and attack.  Such has been the case during these last two weeks of meetings.  Many problems and difficulties have arisen.  Going to town every night for two weeks for the meetings takes a lot of time, energy and money, as well as makes for short nights (for sleeping and resting, as we get in quite late).  We (the staff) have been very tired due to all the activities going on.  Aside from what I’ve just mentioned that has happened to me, several staff members and students have been very sick, there have been a couple of issues with a few students, problems with previous students’ report cards, etc.  But in each case, God’s grace has been sufficient, His compassion has been renewed every morning and He has overcome, turning the would-be curse into a blessing.  Things could be much worse than what they are if not for God’s mercies.  All of these things are “manna moments” to me, letting me know that God has not forgotten us, but is working on our behalf.  Everyday, He shows us that He is right here with us and will bless us if we but trust in Him and continue to move forward in faith.  Amen!

I’ll close by sharing one more wonderful testimony with you.  For over a year now, we have been praying for a tractor for Familia Feliz.  We have about 250 acres and we really love to clear more of the land to increase our garden and orchard area, so that we can be more self-supportive by growing more of our own food, as well as by selling the excess.  We could also use it to cut the grass faster and more efficiently, which would provide a safer environment for the kids, as there more snakes where the grass is taller.  However, we don’t have the money to rent a tractor or pay someone else to do it.  We priced tractors and the implements we would need.  The cost was between $20,000-$25,000 usd for everything.  Obviously, that was way out of our price range, as we didn’t even have a tenth of that!  But we prayed about and left it in God’s Hands.  Well, this past Wednesday, I opened my Facebook account and had a message from a family here in Bolivia.  The message stated that they have been blessed in their business by the Lord greatly this year and they want to use part of that blessing to help further the Lord’s work.  So they are donating ALL the money we need to purchase a new tractor and implements for the orphanage and school!!!!!!  Praise God!!!!  As I read that message, I was speechless.  I literally couldn’t talk.  I didn’t know what to say.  I mean, how often do you get an email from someone saying, “Here.  Here’s $20,000 dollars for you.”??  What makes it even more impressive is that we’ve never met this couple before.  I’ve met with their daughter once, but haven’t been able to meet the parents, as we always miss each other.  God is simply GREAT!  Money is no object for Him.  If we would just take our needs, our burdens, our concerns to Him and lay them at His Feet, asking Him to take care of them in His time and way and TRUST Him to do that, how many more blessings we would receive!  

Won’t you trust God more?  Won’t you turn your life, your desires, your plans, your fears, your concerns over to Him?  He will never disappoint you if you fully place your will into His and wait on Him.  Actually, you will receive more than you ever thought or could imagine!  Christ is coming soon!  May we each strive to surrender all to Him and thus be molded into His image and ready to receive Him when He comes!  God bless you!