March 4, 2016
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” Jeremiah 33:3
This verse has come to mind many times over the past several weeks! Time after time we have sought God and, as always, He has come through and in ways that have made it abundantly clear that we are in His Hands.
Fives weeks ago found me and four other volunteers heading into the Pampas to visit the home of four of our students. This was the second time I had gone to their house. It’s about a five hour car ride, then a 5-6 hour hike to their house. No electricity. No running water. No neighbors. The perfect setting to get away from it all and relax, while outreaching to the family. The scenery was breathtaking and while I was only able to stay a weekend, it was so worth the trip! I hiked the whole way in and rode a horse most of the way out. There is nothing like riding a horse beneath the jungle groves, beside howler monkeys, along side emus and watching alligators sunbath beside the path! God’s love and creativity is seen everywhere! It was a blessing indeed!
The following week was filled with preparations for the arrival of the students, cleaning, completing documents for the Ministry of Education, making extra bed frames, ordering more benches, making sure we have enough desks/tables, etc. That next weekend was spent camping with some missionaries from our sister school in Guayaramerin, as well as with some of our volunteers and students. We went to Ixiamas, which is a town about 4 hours from Rurre and hiked about three hours in the jungle. Absolutely the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery I have seen in all of Bolivia!! We visited three waterfalls which were the highlight of the trip! It poured the first night we were there, the river flooded and almost took our tests downstream, so we had to leave earlier than planned, but not before experiencing God’s creation in a new light and enjoying much laughter together. Unforgettable memories!
After that trip, we had to hit the ground running because the students were arriving that week. While my wonderful staff were finishing getting things together and ready on campus, Andrew and I traveled to Santa Cruz in search for a new truck for Familia Feliz. So we spent three or four days looking at options and trying to do a little more research and fundraising. We came back to Familia Feliz and four days later, Kevin and I went to Cochabamba to meet a donor and look at trucks there. Thanks to the generosity of several individuals and families, as well as the blessings of the Lord, I am thrilled to announce that we have a brand new big truck for the school!! It is a Hyundai H78 and should be arriving to the school within the next week or two! God is SOOO Good!!
In the middle of all of this, the kids arrived! We have 67 kids at the moment…and let me be the first to tell you, those extra 20 this year really make a difference! I absolutely love our new kids! They have already made their way into our hearts! With the increase in numbers, however, I now have 9 boys living with me. I cannot begin to express how exhausted (physically, mentally and emotionally) I have been during these past three weeks! I didn’t think it was possible to be more tired than what I was before. Words of wisdom…never make that statement! It is possible! :) We have had three kids run away….one who has a slight mental disability, another ran away three times and the last time managed to get all the way back to his house in La Paz (and 18-hour bus ride)….still not sure how they let him on the bus without an adult. Daniella managed to hit herself in the eye/nose with the back of the axe as she was cutting wood…not a fun experience, but no damage other than a black eye and a little blood. Praise the Lord! Mari Luz, one of our new volunteers, was cutting grass with the weed eater when a rock popped up and hit her in the leg, making a hole all the way to the bone. Daniella’s leg also got infected. Both had to go to the hospital several times. One of our students was walking under a tree when a branch fell and hit him on the head…head to be stitched up. Another student was running and looking towards the ground and ran into a piece of lumber that another student was carrying and cut the corner of his eye pretty deep (SO thankful it didn’t put out his eye! Literally it missed his eye by a hair’s breadth). Four students have a sore throats, as does one staff member. Another student was diagnosed with salmonella this morning. Both trucks have broken down more times than I can count in the last three weeks and are, at this writing, out of commission, so we are having to rely on taxis to get to and from town. Plumbing has gone out in two houses. Rainy season has started we think and a couple of houses have flooded, clothes and uniforms won’t dry (we have to line-dry our clothes…impossible to do in the rain!). The ministry of Education lost our grades for 2015, so that job had to be redone (along with the laborious process of new inscriptions…words cannot express that headache either!) Kevin got really sick and had to be admitted to the hospital. The doctors here had conflicting diagnosis, so he and I traveled back to Santa Cruz for better care and lab work (third trip to Santa Cruz in three weeks). Thank the Lord, it is just a virus and not something more serious like they were thinking. He is doing much better now, after MUCH prayer on our part, as well as his family, friends and many others all around the world. We returned from Santa Cruz this past Friday to find Andrew sick. Turns out he has dengue and had to be hospitalized for two days. Again, God has heard our prayers and Andrew is doing much better, resting as his body fights off the virus. But it has been a BUSY and CRAZY three weeks!
Oh! Did I mention two teenagers killed a retired teacher in town last week and their lawyer tried to send them to Familia Feliz until their sentencing (6 months from now), WITHOUT mentioning that they were being tried for murder?? I still get chills as I think about the way God moved and warned me about the case before accepting the kids.
A group from Argentina is planning on coming to FF in April to do dentistry work on the kids and community members, as well as possibly replace the roofs of our classrooms and some other odd jobs around campus. Praise God!! We are super excited and thankful for their efforts and help. So we are getting ready for that, trying to get them all the info they need, plan their travel, etc.
We are also getting ready to receive the orphans and abandoned kids from San Buenaventura, the small town across the river from Rurre. They have requested that we help them, as they have a large number of kids in difficult situations and no where to send them. So please pray for those children and for us as we seek to comfort them and meet their needs in these hard times for them. May the see Christ in us and find in Him the love and family that they have not received up until now.
And last but certainly not least, the new soldiers have arrived on base and the colonel is already asking when we are going to start our Bible studies! He went to Familia Feliz this week to personally invite us to continue the studies. He also informed us that the new soldiers will be doing some operative exercises about 5 miles from FF for a week. The location they are camping at has no water source, so he asked if we could provide water for them to drink and cook with. They also need a place to shower everyday. We told him it would be our pleasure to help! Did I mention there’s 180 soldiers?! :) I stopped by the camp yesterday to check on them and see if they needed anything. After being introduced to a few of the new officers, the colonel said, “Miguel, we would really like it if you all could come and spend some time with us while we are here and provide the spiritual component we are missing. Would it be possible for you to come by on Saturday and talk with the soldiers about your faith?” I was almost speechless! Of course I happily agreed, but was still trying to process what just happened as I walked back to the truck. The colonel of the army, who isn’t a practicing Christian, just asked us to share our faith with 180 new soldiers on the sabbath!
This is what it’s all about. Serving and sharing God’s love. We have definitely had our fair share of trials, obstacles, attacks, discouragement, exhaustion, etc. over the few weeks…many would say more than our fair share. :) But the blessings that God has poured on us outweigh them a hundred fold!! He has showed us time and time again that He is taking care of us and has blessed us more than we deserve! We have seen that in donations that come through, in nature around us, heard it in the voices of our 2016 student body as they sing in worship, and experience it in His still small voice in the midst of the storms. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything!!
Please continue to lift us up in your prayers. God is working and doing mighty things…and the enemy isn’t going to sit idly by and watch. Pray for protection, for our needs to be met (financial, physical, spiritual, etc.) and, most importantly, for lives to the touched and changed by God!
P.S. I apologize that there are no pictures, but internet is extremely slow today. :(
As I drove back to the school with one our students,