Tuesday, January 19, 2016

All Things New...

January 16, 2016

“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.  And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” Rev.21:5

Happy new year!  I’m sure some of you might think that I’ve been eaten by an anaconda, tarantula or suffered some life-changing accident since I haven’t updated my blog in over 6 months.  But I assure you, that is not the case.  It was just the busiest semester yet at Familia Feliz and free time was a luxury I wasn’t able to afford.  I sincerely apologize to those of you who follow the blog.  But I can tell you that while it was an extremely busy and faith-trying year, it was, hands-down, the most blessed and special one yet!  We serve a MIGHTY God and He has so graciously allowed us to see His Hand work in our behalf more times than we can count!  I will highlight a few points for you:

  • We participated in the annual independence day parade again in Rurre.  This was our 3rd year participating.  However, different from previous years, we were invited to participate in three parades with the army base, as well as in a gymnastics show!  Our kids were the highlight of the parades to many people and we were featured on several local tv stations for many days.  We were also introduced to the general of the Bolivian army and commended for our participation and our presence at the army base. It was a great opportunity to shine for Christ and share our faith.  To God be the glory!
  • We acquired a transfer student from Argentina, officially turning Familia Feliz into an international school.  :)
  • Bible studies continued at the army base, with 60-80 soldiers in attendance every week.  Many hearts were given to Christ as soldiers took their stand for their Saviour!  Words cannot begin to express the joy we feel!
  • We have SEVEN student missionaries from the U.S. this year.  Candace, Courtney, Ashley, Darian, Daniella, Andrew and Kevin have been more of a blessing than they realize and put forth 110% every day to serve the needs of our school, children and community.  We are fortunate to have them and are trying to convince them to extend their stay for….I don’t know…a few years!  :)
  • We had several short term visits from people from the U.S., South Africa, Argentina, and Portugal.
  • We have had more vehicle problems than I care to admit, but through them all God has been faithful and met our transportation needs!  Amen!!
  • We had a serious scare when one of our students cut his foot with the weed eater (not the type of weed eater that uses plastic “string” but the type that uses an 18-inch lawnmower-type blade.  He was cutting grass and hit a piece of wood and the slasher bounced back and cut through two bones and a tendon.  The truck and motorcycle were broken down at the time, so we had to take a taxi to town to take him to the hospital.  This most times means waiting 45-90 minutes for one to pass by.  However, no sooner than the volunteer got to the highway to start waiting did a completely empty taxi show up.  I’m convinced that God sent an angel just for us that day!  Manfred, who had never been to a doctor’s office (much less a hospital) ended up having two surgeries (one to stop the hemorrhaging and another to fix the bones).  But again, God foresaw our need and make provision.  A group of specialists from Spain had just arrived to town to do medical work for the community.  There “just happened” to be a traumatologist and anaesthesiologist the group!  Both surgeries were performed completely free of charge for us!  Tears still start to flow as I remember how God worked so many miracles for us during this time!  Manfred not only didn’t lose a limb or toes, but obtained free specialised care from top physicians from a first-world country and made a full recovery, while giving us multiple opportunities to share God’s goodness and love.  This experience also brought everyone at Familia Feliz even closer together as a family.  It was touching to see the other children reach out to Manfred, make him cards, go visit him, etc.  For a month, no one dared to pray at any time (in class, in church, in devotions, even at the blessing of a meal) without mentioning Manfred and interceding on his behalf to our Heavenly Father.  :)
  • And the highlight of the year, for me at least, every single new student of 2015 that was of age made their decision to give their hearts to Christ and be baptized!!  We had 20 students and 1 staff baptised in 2015!!  All praise and glory be to God for His grace and the work He performed in the lives of each of these individuals!

So much more than this has happened but hopefully these few points will be enough to show God’s blessings on our small school for now.   :)  The greatest blessing, I feel, is to be able to see the change in a child’s life after coming to Familia Feliz.  Some changes are immediately, others appear to be minimal or quite small, but if you knew the child, their history and the sacrifice it took to obtain that change, you would understand the immense joy and happiness we feel as we see these “miracles” take place!  

As we prepare to start a new school year, the verse at the beginning of the entry comes to mind.  Our prayer is that God will do just that…will make all things new.  While I know this verse if referring to the new earth after Christ’s second coming, it is my prayer that that change will begin even know at Familia Feliz and in the hearts of everyone that steps on this campus.  With Christ’s return closer than ever, I long more than ever to be changed to perfectly reflect His character and to have our staff and students experience the same change.  It is for that reason that I solicit your prayers on our behalf more than ever.  Every new year brings its challenges, its trials and other opportunities to demonstrate a perfect trust in our Lord.  Pray that we will embrace these opportunities and allow them to create that character change in us.  At this writing, we have already broken the record of applicants for a given school-year.  I made 150 copies of the application in November and we have distributed them all and still have people coming to request that we accept their child(ren)!  And we still have a month before school starts!  They have come from all over Bolivia to apply.  Pray for wisdom to know which children to accept as boarding students and, specifically, for them as they embark on this new adventure here at Familia Feliz this year.  Pray for our staff (and that the Lord will meet our staffing needs), as I know we will be faced with new situations, new faces that need to see the love of God as never before.  Also pray for our physical needs…finances for food every month, changing thatch roofs to better our student housing and a new truck that will be able to accommodate transporting our students to/from town.  We would also like to begin a riverboat outreach to the many indigenous communities along our river.  We want to be able to teach basic hygiene, Spanish (as most speak their native language) and provide basic first aid and preventive medicine.  For this, we need $15,000 to purchase the boat and motor.  Pray for the Lord to provide this in His time and way so that the families in these communities can be reached with the gospel as well.

In closing, I want to leave you with a photo of two special young men that have applied to be students at Familia Feliz this year.  Their names are Kepler (13 years old) and Jhey (11 years old).  Both are pictured with me below.  They want so badly to attend Familia Feliz that they have asked permission to come and help cut grass, clean our banana field, cook and do whatever else we need.  When I arrived from my visit to the States this past Thursday night, I found them both on campus, helping wherever needed.  As a matter of fact, Jhey’s birthday was yesterday (January 15th).  Jonathan went to take them home (they live just up the road) so that they could be there for Jhey’s birthday.  Upon arriving at their home (where three families live in a two-room house…a total of 15 people!), They quickly ran up to his mother and said that the only thing he wanted for his birthday was to spend it at Familia Feliz and asked permission to return back with Jonatan that night!  The mother agreed and both have been here since.  We made him a cake and had a special celebration for his birthday, but my mind cannot help but wonder what these two brothers have experienced to make them want to come to our boarding school during vacation, and even choosing to spend his birthday with strangers, over staying at home.  Kepler was baptized in November.  Earlier this week, Jonatan made a short video of Kepler, asking him about his recent baptism and why he wanted to study at Familia Feliz.  Jonatan just thought that Kepler had a nice testimony and wanted to share it with others.  But he wasn’t prepared for the response that Kepler gave.  In the interview, he shares how someone started sharing God’s Word with his family and they started studying the Bible.   He is happy that he was able to get to know Christ and obey His commandments.  He says that he doesn’t have a father and wants to be at Familia Feliz because he wants to grow up in a Christian environment where the teachers are nice and teach values.  He says he hasn’t received any love from his father so we wants to receive it at Familia Feliz and, that when we grows up, he wants to be a pastor so that he can share God’s word with others that don’t know Him!  Once again, it simply amazes me at how God works and touches the hearts of even the smallest of children!!

Please keep these two boys in your prayers.  I know that God has a very special plan for them and am extremely happy and honored that we have the privilege for forming a small part in that plan.  How I long for the day when these heart-breaking stories will be no more…no more tears, no more pain, no more broken families!  Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Thank you again for your prayers and support!