Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Happy New Year! Jan. 17, 2015

January 17, 2015

Happy New Year!  I pray that each of you have had the opportunity to reflect on the many blessings the Lord has bestowed upon you during 2014 and have dedicated your life to Him again now in 2015.

I had the privilege of spending the holidays with my family back home in the States.  I was able to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years there, as well as be with them for my brother’s, father’s, mother’s and my birthdays.  That was a special blessings indeed!  :)

As much as I enjoyed being back in the States, eating so many wonderful foods (and I do mean MANY :) ) and spending quality time with my family that I love so dearly….it felt really good to get back “home” to Familia Feliz!  I really missed the kids, staff and life in general here.  I arrived in Rurre on January 8th.  I went from freezing weather in Georgia to almost 100 degrees with the heat index.  :)  Gotta love living in the jungles of Bolivia!  

Some of the boys playing Twister!  :)  Thank you to all who sent games for the kids!!  They LOVE them!!

I had a GREAT “welcome home” committee when I arrived at Familia Feliz on Thursday!  :)  It was so good to see my dear friends and the kids.  Rodrigo, Jhoan and Miguel wouldnt’ stop hugging and kissing me and jumping on my back, legs, etc.!  Greatest feeling!  :)  It was so amazing to see how much Jhoan and Miguel have come along since I left!!  They are two totally different boys.  Very respectful, obedient and reverent.  Kudos to the staff on their hard work, especially to their “home parents”, Ana and Victor!  My heart leaped for joy when I heard both Jhoan and Miguel praying over their food and for worship!!  They had never prayed before arriving to Familia Feliz and hadn’t done it before I left.  It was a wonderful surprise!  Now, they both want to pray and sing hymns all the time!  It’s amazing the difference God can make, even in the youngest of lives!

Miguel, Jhoan and Rodrigo welcoming me home.  :)

Juan Carlos and Jose Carlos

I’ve only been here 9 days, but so much has happened already!  That’s something I love about being in the mission field….there’s never a dull moment.  :)  The small truck wasn't working when I arrived, only the big truck.  However, the clutch went out, so the day after I got here, I had to take it to the mechanic.  We got the truck out around noon and went to pick up some wood for our roofs that afternoon.  Two of our kids had gone with the other FF staff to pick up wood from here previously, so they were telling me how to get to the site where the wood was (we had to go about a mile into the jungle behind the man’s property).  However, when we came to a crossroad, they told me the wrong road and we ended up getting stuck.  No matter how hard we pushed, heaved, and sweated…we couldn’t get the truck out.  I ended up having to come back to Familia Feliz and getting our new tractor and pulling the truck out!  But God is Good and showed us his mercy during the whole experience.  First of all, we were able to get the truck unstuck.  He provided us with a tractor.  Secondly, it was overcast and was pouring down rain in Rurre (we could see the rain falling down the road).  We prayed that it wouldn’t rain, because if it did, it wouldn’t have been easy at all to get the truck out with all that mud.  But by the time I arrived with the tractor, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky above us!  

Heading to pull out the truck.

Last sabbath, we attended church in town.  There, I got to see more of our kids that live in town.  I was asked to teach the young adult Sabbath School class.  That was fun.  :)  But it was a very special Sabbath in that we had communion and foot washing.  Two of our kids, Alan and Juan Carlos, wanted to participate.  They had never had communion before.  I talked to them about what it means and the solemnity of the ritual.  That seemed to make them want to do it that much more.  So Jonathan and I had the privilege of sharing this wonderful experience with them!  I was very proud of their decision and how reverent they were throughout the whole time.  A very unforgettable moment!  Then, that evening, something else happened that would remain in my memory for a very long time.  Josue, one of our older students, came by late that afternoon to talk to me.  He had come the night before but was very distant and didn’t want to really talk to me.  He kept saying that he was “afraid” to.  I didn’t understand why, but didn't push it either.  I gave him a big hug and told him how much I had missed him in my absence.  Then he left.  When he arrived last Sabbath afternoon, he asked if he could talk to me, so we came to my room to talk.  He said that he didn’t know if he would be returning to Familia Feliz this year because he has “left God’s ways and living in the world now.”  My heart sunk as I listened to him and I earnestly prayed that the Lord would touch his heart and speak through me to reach him.  He said that it was too hard to be a Christian, that he felt like he couldn’t do it, so he had decided to just give up.  We talked for almost an hour.  He expressed his concerns, his difficulties, his worries.  We talked about how much God loves him and about how, even though the road is narrow and full of difficulties, Christ is right here beside us and has promised to get us through the dark moments.  We talked about so much that night!  We missed worship with everyone else, but we needed this time alone to talk.  At the end of the conversation, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said that he had made a mistake and he wanted to ask God back into his heart and to forgive him!  We knelt down beside my bed and each of us prayed.  He started and I finished.  Afterwards, he gave me the biggest and longest hug he’s even given me.  At least 30 seconds.  There were tears in both of our eyes.  I was sooooo proud of him!!  He later told me that that was the reason why he was distant the night before.  I am so thankful that he felt comfortable enough to come and talk to me.  What if he hadn’t??  So much could have been different!  Words cannot describe the happiness I felt that night!!  Communion and foot washing with two very special young men that morning and a child of the King surrendering his heart to the Lord again that evening!  It doesn’t get ANY better than that!  “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth…” Luke 15:7.  Amen!!!

Victoria and I were in charge of cooking the meals this week.  We had a lot of fun and I’d like to thank her again for her help!  She makes a mean bread!!  :)

I spent most of this week going through new student applications, working on school policies, schedules, ministry paper work and getting ready for classes to start.  There were over 70 kids that wanted to come to Familia Feliz to study this year from all over Bolivia!  What a blessing!  We literally had people traveling 18-20 hours just to come and apply!   As much as we would like to, we simply cannot accept them all.  We don’t have the staff for such a big number.  But we did accept 47 of them!  We, as a staff, met and prayed diligently to know which students to accept, as well as for the Lord to bless us as He has done so abundantly in the past.  We are excited to see what this new year holds!  We will 31 boys and 16 girls!  We would like to ask you, however, to pray even more for us in 2015.  With 18 more kids than last year, our expenses are going to increase…especially our food bill.  We also have to buy more mattresses, blankets, mosquito nets, plates, silverware, cups, etc.  I know my God, however.  He has never let me know and no one here has ever gone without what we needed.  So I know that He will provide!  I do ask, however, that you join me in soliciting His blessings.  I don’t know how He will send the money that we will need.  I just know He can and will.  :)  Also, pray for these new kids that will be joining our family this year.  Pray that they will adapt to our environment and that the Holy Spirit will work in such a way in their lives that they will make the decision to give their hearts to Christ.  Pray for us to have the wisdom and discernment we need.  Also, pray for us spiritually.  We know that as time gets nearer to Christ's second coming and as we try to reach more people for Christ, Satan is going to up his attacks as well.  Pray that the Lord will get enable us, through His Spirit, to endure the trials and difficulties that we will face this year and to do so in a way that will bring honor and glory to His Name.  

On Tuesday, the big truck died.  Nothing we did could get it to work.  Luckily, it died here on campus, so we weren’t stuck on the side of the road somewhere.  However, we can’t get it to the mechanic yet.  :)  We were able to get the small truck started (after about two hours of working on it and pushing it : ) ) and to the mechanic, so we had that fixed on Wednesday.  Then, on Thursday, it broken down again!  The clutch went completely out.  Victor had to drive it in 2nd gear all the way to town to the mechanic.  I’m starting to think that we should own stock in the local mechanic’s business.  :) 

On Thursday, we were invited to a special ceremony at the Army Base.  The current Coronel (Coronel Sanchez) has been transferred to another base in La Paz.  :(  I hated to hear the news, because we have become good friends over the past year and a half.  But I know that he will be as much of a blessing at his new post as he was here.  The ceremony was to relieve him from his duties on base and turn it over to the new Coronel (Coronel Devillar).  Jonathan and I attended.  The soldiers and officers were happy to see us, as it’s been many weeks since we’ve been there.  The Coronel thanked us for coming and introduced us to the new Coronel.  He proceeded to tell the new Coronel of our activities there at the base and how Familia Feliz and the Army base has worked together on many projects during his term here.  He talked for about 5 minutes about our relationship and then said something that really stood out to Jonathan and I.  He said, “The most important thing that Familia Feliz has done for the Army is provided the Spiritual influence and growth that these young men need.  That is, by far, the best thing they have done…provided a Spiritual environment in which our soldiers can grow and develop.  And the results have been amazing!”  Hearing these statements coming out of the Coronel’s mouth and seeing the positive reaction of the new Coronel filled me with a sense of awe and amazement at how God works!  It was definitely a “manna moment”!  The ceremony soon started and we were escorted to our seats…in the front row of the stage, right beside the visiting officers from other army navy bases!  Not even the family of the new Coronel was seating on the front row….but this is where the Coronel assigned us.  Both Jonathan and I felt extremely honored, to say the least.  Once the ceremony was over, Coronel Sanchez and Coronel Devillar came over and introduced us to the General of the Bolivian Army from La Paz that flew in to initiate the ceremony.  That’s two times now that the missionaries of Familia Feliz have been introduced to and spoken with Generals of the Army and Navy!  I’m telling you….there’s NEVER a dull moment in the mission field!!  :)  Before leaving, we spoke with the new Coronel about our goals for this new year with the army base.  He seemed very open and excited about us continuing our work there….Praise God!  I pray things continue to flow smoothly in that regard.  We are scheduled to go to the base this next Wednesday evening for a final service with the soldiers before they leave to return to their homes next Friday, as their year of service is ending.  We have made a calendar with many of the pictures we’ve taken together for them, as well as a DVD with all of the pictures, videos, songs, etc. from the year.  Can't wait to hand them out!  :)  It’s hard to believe that the year has come to an end and it’s time for them to leave.  I am going to miss seeing their faces every week.  But another group of soldiers will be here in February…one that needs to hear about the Mighty God we serve.  And we look forward to working with and getting to know them as well!  Please continue to pray for this ministry.

Pics of the ceremony at the army base:

On Friday, Victor and I needed to go into town early.  He had to turn in some paper work to the Ministry of Education office for us (which, by the way, I ask you to pray about this again.  The current Director of Education, somehow, has changed her opinion of Familia Feliz and what we do.  She has made some things very difficult for us these last few weeks.  But she informed me this week that a new Director of Education will be coming in February.  Several candidates have applied for the position, one of whom is the principal of a school just down the road and a good acquaintance of ours.  He is familiar with our ministry and is very supportive of us.  It just so happens I spoke with him for about an hour on Monday and he mentioned that he is seeking this job.  Please pray that God’s will will be done and the right person will be assigned to this position.  Thanks!!!).  I had to meet Coronel Sanchez, as we made him a Farewell card and wanted to get it to him before his flight left at 9:00.  We went to start the truck and….guess what?!  Won’t start.  For anything.  Nothing.  It’s 8:00.  Victor and I start walking towards town waiting for a taxi to pass by so we can catch a ride in.  Oh…did I mention it was pouring down rain?!  No taxis passed by.  I went and got Josue, one of our students that lives just down from FF and he was able to take us to town on his motorcycle.  So there we are, all three of us, riding slowly to town on the motorcycle in the pouring rain!  :)  Gotta love the mission field!!  Long story short, we were able to accomplish everything we needed to.  The Coronel’s flight was delayed due to the weather, which was a blessing because we wouldn’t have made it in time to see him if it had not been delayed.  He loved the card (with pictures from the past year and signed by all the staff and students of FF).  We also gave him a book about God’s love and Christ’s second coming.  Again, I’m going to miss him.  Victor headed back to FF and was able to push start the truck with the help of the staff and went back to town to the mechanic….once again!  Thankfully, the small truck is working well now.  :)

That’s another thing I’d love for you to pray about with us.  We really need more reliable vehicles.  I am extremely thankful for the trucks that we have and how God has maintained them working up to this point.  But I am praying that He will provide newer ones for us.  Both these trucks are over 20 years old.  I’d really like another small 4x4 truck for quick trips to town and a bus for when we need to take the kids to town.  That would be more comfortable and safer than the back of a cattle truck….especially with 47 kids plus staff!  So please pray that the Lord would touch someone’s (or several someones;) heart(s) to meet this need so that we can continue to meet the needs of the children and people of our community.

Today, we all packed in the small truck (all 18 of us!) and went to town.  Jonathan was asked to preach at the church in San Buenaventura today, which is across the river from Rurre.  We were a bit concerned that we wouldn’t be able to go because of all the rain this week.  The river has risen significantly.  But the boats were still crossing and we made it fine.  We had a lovely service at the church there!  The brethren were extremely friendly and hospitable.  A group of our kids had special music, as well as did Jonathan and Jordan.  Victoria played the keyboard for all the hymns….a very special treat at this church, as they don’t have anyone to play the piano.  Karol did the children’s story and Jonathan and I lead out the divine service.  Afterwards, the brethren had fruit (bananas, apples and pineapple) for us as a snack.  We really appreciated that, as it was very hot and everyone was hungry.  Also, we know that feeding 18 people isn’t cheap, so we were very grateful for their generosity and kindness.  The members of the church asked us several times to come back soon.  They kept saying that they were honored and privileged to have us there.  We felt that the opposite was the case.  :)  It truly is a blessing to worship the Lord with the brethren and share of His great love!  I also ask you to pray for this rainy season.  The rains have been coming down pretty good lately and the river has already over flooded some at the river ports and I’ve already heard reports of at least two landslides.  And we still have at least another month or so of heavy rain season.  Pray that, if it’s the Lord’s will, we won’t have another flood and landslides like last year.  But whatever happens, pray for the safety of the people of Rurrenabaque and surrounding areas, as well as for everyone here at Familia Feliz.  And that we can honor Him and serve as many people as possible no matter what happens.  Thanks again!

Crossing the river.

The views from one of the roads in San Buenaventura.

The river already starting to overflow due to heavy rains.

Divine worship.

Our kids doing special music.  :)

Jhoan, Juan Carlos, Miguel and Moises.

Josue carrying Janet.  :)

Jonatan and I.

As I sit on my bed typing this entry, I cannot help but reflect on God’s Goodness to me.  On all the blessings He has bestowed upon me, my family and Familia Feliz.  Aside from what I’ve mentioned thus far in this entry, I have at least a thousand and one reasons to thank Him!  First of all, for the three boys that have fallen asleep on my bed beside me now and for the other kids here at Familia Feliz.  I don’t think they will ever know just how much of an impact they have had and are having on me.  The love that they show and how they exemplify Christ in so many ways is priceless.  


I'm so thankful for His watch care over us.  For always meeting our needs and never leaving us.  For the freedom to worship Him, to openly study and share His word with others.  That is something that I take for granted all too often when there are millions that are not so lucky, as we have seen in the news lately.  And finally, for something very specific and close to home.     One of my dear cousins has been fighting cancer for the past few months.  She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had her thyroid removed.  Then, she was informed that she had lymphoma and a spot on her esophagus.  She is 27 and has a two-year old son.  A very scary situation indeed.  She just finished her second chemo treatment and the doctor ordered scans and tests to check the status of the cancer.  Here is what she sent to me this week: 

“My scan came back with excellent results! The spot that was on my esophagus is completely gone.Blood tests could not detect anymore thyroid cancer in my body. This either means there is none, or there is so little, it can't be detected. We are still going to do radioactive iodine in February to make sure all is dead. Even though there is still a road ahead, the light is getting bright! NO MORE CHEMO!
Thank you for every single prayer! We truly serve an amazing God! My Dr told me that in all of her years treating patients, she has never seen even the smallest spot disappear with only 2 chemo treatments!”
What a GREAT God we serve!!  Is His Hand shortened that He cannot save?  Is there anything too hard for Him?  Not at all!!  I am so grateful for His healing in my cousin’s life!  Please continue to keep her and her family in your prayers.  
What about you?  How has your week been?  Have you seen God’s Hand at work in your life in a real and big way?  Have you enjoyed more blessings than you can handle?  Or maybe you struggling with your faith, trying to just stay afloat amidst the trials of life.  Believe me, I’ve been there too!  But let me assure you that, no matter where you are, God is right there with you!  And He loves you more than you can ever realize!  He will get you through…all you have to do is trust in Him!  I leave you with a few verses to encourage you as you continue your walk with the Lord:
Isa. 59:1 Isa. 41:10 Isa. 26:3 Joshua 1:9
May the Lord continue to bless and keep you in all you do!  Please continue to keep us in your prayers.  We covet them!  Thank you all for all of your love and support!