Saturday, February 17, 2018

In Brokenness You Shine

In Brokenness You Shine

When life becomes a shattered dream
That's slipping through my trembling hands
I need to know that You are near
To know You see each falling tear
When there is no one else who understands

When I can't find the words to speak
You hear the pain in each heart beat
Before I even call to You
In my deepest hour of need
That's when You come and pour Your mercy on me

Your beauty shines
Your love surrounds
Where cries of brokenness
Are found bring hope alive

Help me believe
And trust You one more time
In brokenness You shine
In brokenness You shine

Let comfort be a living thing
A river flowing from my grief
Where thirsty souls can drink their fill
And find in You their heart's release
And through my sorrow show
Your freedom and hope

How could I know when others said
A word or two then walked away
That You, the Man of Sorrows
Would come near to stay
You'll always stay

I want to see
Your beauty one more time
In brokenness You shine
In brokenness You shine

It’s been far too long since I’ve written in my blog.  I can assure you it isn’t because of a lack of desire or a lack of experiences to share…but rather a lack of free time. Things have a been so busy lately that it’s difficult at times to find the time to do basic things like sleep and eat.  But I wanted to give a short update on things.  The new school year has started and Familia Feliz is buzzing with new voices.  The idea was to have fewer kids this year, as I will be helping to build the facilities for the new school and orphanage we are building in a small town called Ixiamas (about 3 hours from Rurre) and will not be on campus as much as in the past.  As such would be the case, I decided I wouldn’t live with boys this year either, which was another reason we would have to limit the number of kids on campus.  As usual, however, God had other plans.  :)  Instead of 45 kids, we now have 70, 9 of which I am legally responsible for (not the institution, but Miguel Tello).  And instead of living by myself, I have 9 teenage boys in my house.  And while things are busier and more hectic than ever, I wouldn’t want it any other way.  

My boys and I
(From left to right.  Standing:  Alan, Andres, Daynor, me, Kevin, Freddy
Kneeling: Lesmer, Honorato, Ademar, Douglas)

I do need your prayers though. We need your prayers.  There are new kids, new challenges, new obstacles and God is the only One that can enable us to handle them in such a way that will lead these young lives to Him.  

We have kids that are addicted to alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex.  We have kids that have made some poor choices and are having to live with those consequences.  We have young people that have had trouble with the law.  We have a young man that made a bad decision that resulted in the loss of someone else’s life.  We have kids with STD’s.  We have kids that have been physical abused more than you can imagine.  We have boys and girls that have been raped and are trying to make sense of things, find their worth and identity, learning to trust again.  We have kids that have tried to commit suicide.  One girl has cut her arm at least 15 times.  Some have lost their parents to death.  Some have been abandoned.  They have been told they were a mistake, an accident, that they are not wanted or loved.  They wish they had never been born because of experiences they have had and comments made to them by those that are supposed to love and protect them.  We have girls that believe in order to be loved, they have to look a certain way, therefore they deny themselves food.  Every child here, in some fashion or another, is struggling with guilt, with a feeling of unworthiness, with loss.  Every child here has voids that they are trying to fill, while wearing a mask to try to fool everyone else (and themselves) that everything is ok.  And I wish that I could that we, as adults and staff, don’t do the same thing. But we, too, have holes and voids and wear masks.  Each of us need to experience God is a new way, an individual way.  Please pray for this to happen.  Please pray for these kids.  My heart literally breaks every time I hear a new story.  They are all the same.  They all are broken.  So please pray for them as they venture out on exposing themselves, their needs.  Pray as they relive traumas and experiences so that healing can occur.  And pray for us as we strive to lead them to Christ.  May they see Him and not us in our own brokenness.  We don’t have the answers.  But we know Who does.  Pray that Christ will indeed shine brighter in brokenness and affliction.  

Also, one other request.  As many of you know, I am starting this new project.  The need is so great here that we have to have other facilities to help these children.  Every year, our two current schools turn away hundreds of kids because of a lack of facilities.  The vast majority of those kids are turned back into environments of abuse, abandonment or neglect.  We have to do something to change that.  We have to reach these kids.  Not only to provide for their physical wellbeing, but more-so, to introduce them to Christ and His love so that their lives can be truly changed.  We have to do that.  There is no other way.  That is the Great Commission left to us.  God has been so generous and merciful and has brought together a wonderful team of missionaries to help meet his need.  I truly would be lost without each of them!  And He is opening doors so quickly that it’s all we can do to keep up with Him.  We have the land, we have planted fruit trees and will be planting more once rainy season ends.  And we have some funding to start construction.  We plan to begin building in about two weeks.  We need to build and furnish an entire campus by the end of December of this year.  Our goal is to be up and running by February, 2019.  We’re already getting requests to take kids at this new school and orphanage and we haven’t even begun breaking ground yet!  The need truly is great!  Please pray.  This is God’s project.  These are His children.  We are trusting in Him to provide the funding, materials and staff that we need.  We truly believe He is opening the doors and will part the vast sea that is staring us in the face.  

Thank you all for forgiving me for not being as up to date with this blog as I should and for taking the time to read and pray.  May God pour His love and blessings on each of you.  


Monday, May 15, 2017

Discouraged or disheartened??

I know it's been a LONG time since I've posted on this blog, but I wanted to take a moment and do so today (in case anyone is still reading it.  :) ).  May God bless you all!!

*** Disclaimer:  This is a LONG post, but one, I pray, will be worth the time to read as I share some of the struggles we missionaries face.  Please take the time to read and share.

“Into the experience of all there come times of keen disappointment and utter discouragement—days when sorrow is the portion, and it is hard to believe that God is still the kind benefactor of his earthborn children; days when troubles harass the soul, till death seems preferable to life. It is then that many lose their hold on God and are brought into the slavery of doubt, the bondage of unbelief. Could we at such times discern with spiritual insight the meaning of God’s providences we should see angels seeking to save us from ourselves, striving to plant our feet upon a foundation more firm than the everlasting hills, and new faith, new life, would spring into being.
Hope and courage are essential to perfect service for God. These are the fruit of faith. Despondency is sinful and unreasonable. God is able and willing “more abundantly” (Hebrews 6:17) to bestow upon his servants the strength they need for test and trial. The plans of the enemies of his work may seem to be well laid and firmly established, but God can overthrow the strongest of these. And this He does in his own time and way, when He sees that the faith of his servants has been sufficiently tested.
For the disheartened there is a sure remedy—faith, prayer, work. Faith and activity will impart assurance and satisfaction that will increase day by day. Are you tempted to give way to feelings of anxious foreboding or utter despondency? In the darkest days, when appearances seem most forbidding, fear not. Have faith in God. He knows your need. He has all power. His infinite love and compassion never weary. Fear not that He will fail of fulfilling his promise. He is eternal truth. Never will He change the covenant He has made with those who love him. And He will bestow upon his faithful servants the measure of efficiency that their need demands.
Did God forsake Elijah in his hour of trial? Oh, no! He loved his servant no less when Elijah felt himself forsaken of God and man than when, in answer to his prayer, fire flashed from heaven and illuminated the mountaintop.”  (Prophets and Kings, pgs. 162-166)

I have learned so many things since entering the mission field four years ago.  Foremost, that it isn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be!  I had seen the pictures and videos of other missionaries’ experiences.  I had read blog posts, websites and even talked to other missionaries.  While I had heard and read of challenges many had faced and continue to face, for some reason, in the back of my mind, I had painted a different picture of what life as a missionary would be like.  But from day one, I learned differently.  I am going to be honest with you….perhaps brutally honest…it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had!  Challenges and obstacles I never even knew existed show up on a daily basis.  And if truth be told, more often that I’d like to admit, I find myself entertaining thoughts of running as fast as I can in the opposite direction.  Don’t get me wrong….i absolute LOVE what I do!  And I can’t imagine myself doing anything else for the rest of my life.  But there are days when the responsibilities, expectations, sufferings are overwhelming and seem to crush you and push you to the point of breaking.  How many times do I have to hear a child ask why their father/uncle/grandfather/friend sexually abused them?  Is there to limit to how many mothers can totally abandon their children, never looking back?  Where are the words to explain  and convince how God can love these precious souls when they point out that even their own parents don’t love them?  How many times do we have to file an abuse report, hold the child’s hand as they the forensic exam is coldly and routinely performed, wipe the tears away as they relive the most horrific experiences of their lives, only to have absolutely nothing done about the situation and the child placed back the abusive home?  Words cannot express the agony you feel when that child is crying, screaming for you to help them, to not send them back and there is absolutely nothing you can do!  

It seems like every year, the trials and challenges increase in intensity and frequency.  This past year has by far been the toughest of them all.  The last two months have been extremely tough emotionally for me.  Aside from the above situations, there seem to be a million-and-one other things to demand your attention.  Salmonella outbreaks, broken bones, cavities, problems with the District of Education office, missing records, short-term mission groups visiting campus, medical brigades to offer free health care to the communities, dental clinics, VBS, week of prayer, volunteers leaving, new volunteers arriving, ordering food for the week, children losing their uniforms, reminding the kids to brush their teeth, making schedules, and the list goes on.  I assure you there is NEVER a dull moment!  Being bored is a luxury that most of us here cannot afford.  Two weeks ago, one of our boys cut his thigh with the chain saw.  Yes…the chain saw!  It kicked back while cutting a tree.  God is GREAT and thankfully it was only a small cut (although somewhat deep) and only needed a few stitches. The real problem wasn't so much the accident itself, but trying to keep the very active 14-year old still while it heals and avoid the wound infecting in the heat and humid jungle environment.  A few days later, I had to take one of our new students to the dentist for a filling.  He is also 14.  He had never been to the dentist before.  Bolivians are extremely, extremely scared of needles…much less one that has to go in your mouth!  To say he was nervous is an understatement.  Then, trying to convince him that that tingling, numbing and swelling sensation he is filling is normal is another ordeal entirely.  This same young man received a phone call a few days ago from his stepmother, who informed him through the tears that his father had beat her yet again.  This time, he hit their infant son in the process, causing him to fall down and hurt himself.  The dad kicked her out and threatened to kill her if he saw her again.  She was calling from the hospital where the baby was being treated.  Out student comes to my house and cries in my lap for at least an hour, asking me why his father didn't keep his promise to not hit anyone again?  He proceeded to tell me about several of the times he had been hit by whatever was on hand when his father was drunk and angry.  Then, he shared something that broke my heart even more.  His mother died three years ago (this I knew….I just didn't know the circumstances surrounding her death).  It turns out his parents got into an argument and the father got very violent with the mother, who was pregnant at the time.  She ended up being sent to the hospital.  Both her and the baby died as a result of that altercation.  And here this young 14-year old boy is reliving that experience, extremely worried about his two younger brothers that are still living with the dad, his stepmother and stepbrother who are at the hospital.  We drive him to town to the hospital to see his family, only to find out upon arrival that the stepmother had left to return to the father.  The following day, we file the report with social services.  They speak with the family and are assured that the incident will never happen again and, being content with that response, do nothing further to ensure the safety of the four kids in the home.  

We lost 3 volunteers who returned home after their term of service two weeks ago.  We lose 6 more within the next three weeks.  As of right now, we will be understaffed to meet our needs for next semester, so we are praying about that situation and trying to see how we can stretch ourselves a little more to cover the needs.  

Three weeks ago, we had a group of students do something they shouldn't have done.  Something serious.  As a result, four students were expelled and 6 others were suspended.  It was a VERY tough week!!  Three of the boys involved were “my boys”.  That was the straw that almost broke the camels back.  Things just seemed dark…no light at the end of the tunnel.  I cannot tell you how many tears I shed.  I felt like I was in over my head, like I had failed yet once more.  I came to help and to teach these children about God’s love and making the right decision, to try to improve their lives and from my perspective at the time, it seemed like I had failed miserably.  Surely there has to be someone better qualified to handle these situations, because I evidently cannot.  And if truth be told, I still feel like that at times.  I just felt overwhelmed….in every aspect of my life.  “What’s the point?”  I asked myself.  So many people look at the pictures or videos we post, or hear a sermon we may preach and seem to place us on a pedestal and hold us in high esteem.  I did the same thing before.  But no one really knows what goes on behind those pictures.  The stories and experiences leading up to those moments are unknown.  Being a parent is extremely hard!  But being a parent to 70+ kids daily, plus being a teacher, cook, gardener, dean, psychologist, pastor, nurse, doctor, principal, construction worker, maintenance worker, accountant and counsellor at the same time is even harder.  And while you know it isn’t the case, you have the notion that everyone expects you to have the answer to every problem.  (While on this note, I just want to say how much I appreciate and cherish every one of our volunteers at Familia Feliz…and at all of our other institutions as well!!  There is no way the work could be done without each of them!  If they only realised the impact they are making and how much they help….!  I love each of you!!)  But even with this in mind, I was ready to give in.  

Then, I re-read the passage at the top of this post one night in my personal devotion.  I had read it a couple of months ago and shared it with a dear friend that was going through a tough time.  And as I read it, I couldn’t hold back the tears.  It was just what I needed to hear.  While I knew that the trials were still surrounding me, I was reminded of in Whose Arms I was in.  I was reminded that the battle isn’t mine.  It’s His.  Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”  The problems aren't mine to solve.  They are His.  And He is more than Capable of handling each one and of taking care of me in the process.  I shared a song that I heard recently on Facebook last week.  The title is “The Warrior is a Child” and the lyrics say, 

Lately I've been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I'm amazing
I'm strong beyond my years
But they don't see inside of me
I'm hiding all the tears

They don't know that I come running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
(Look up for His smile)
'Coz deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

Unafraid because His armor is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I'm amazing
I never face retreat, oh no
But they don't see the enemies
That lay me at His feet

They don't know that I come running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
(Look up for His smile)
'Coz deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

They don't know that I come running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
(Look up for His smile)
'Coz deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

This song really hit home to me, because it spoke to how I felt.  I realized yet again that I am but a child.  A child that needs his Father….that Father that will love Him in the midst of the trials.  And that will forgive him for paying more attention to the “giant” (problems, trials, challenges, etc.) in front of him than to Giant (God) holding him.  Like Peter, I had taken my eyes off of Christ and looked at the waves around me…which led to my sinking.  But just as in that instance so many years ago, as soon as I called out for my Savior, His Hand was stretched out, clasping mine and pulling me to safety.  How quick I am to forget and make the same mistakes!

So, now that I have shared some of the challenges I have faced over the past few weeks, let me share with you how God has worked just this past week alone.  First of all, as many of you may have read on another of my posts, we were $2600 short in funding for this month.  That’s a LOT of money people!  But in FOUR DAYS, God sent that and then some!  Four days!  What a Mighty God we serve!!  Then, this past Friday evening, a young man came to talk with me at Familia Feliz.  We were in worship when I was called out.  He explained that he came to get our help.  He was told at the hospital that we have an airplane and do medical evacuations.  His wife had to have an emergency c-section that day and his son was born two months premature.  The local hospital doesn’t have an incubator or other necessary equipment for cases like this and the baby needed to be flown to the city by the following morning or he wouldn’t survive.  The father was desperate.  I told him I would  go and call the pilot in Santa Cruz to see if he and the plane were available.  Thirty minutes later, God worked and we had the flight confirmed.  Sabbath morning, I watched as little “Tiago” (whose head was no bigger than an orange) was loaded on the plane and transported to the hospital in the city.  He made is safely and is doing well.  God allowed me to see firsthand His love for even the smallest of His children and how He is able to orchestrate things so that they work out, where before there was no way.

But that wasn’t what touched my heart the most this week.  We are told that the greatest miracle is a changed heart.  And this week, I was privileged to see not one, not two, but four miracles.  Last week, one of my boys (Kevin) asked to preach.  He had never preached before, but said he felt the Lord calling him to give a message to his classmates and friends.  So two sabbaths ago, I was privileged to hear my “son” preach and call all of Familia Feliz to turn their lives over the Christ.  Then, on Wednesday night, another one of my boys had worship.  Remember the young boy who visited the dentist for the first time and who received the call about his abusive father?  Well, he preached on Wednesday night.  Mind you…he had never picked up or read a Bible before four months ago.  Yet, he spoke for almost 30 minutes on John 15 and the importance of staying connected to the Vine and bringing forth good fruit.  This past Sabbath evening, Eva, one of our young ladies (who has also experienced more abuse in her life than anyone should have to endure) closed out the sabbath with a very opportune message on allowing Christ to give us a new heart, one of flesh.  She reminded us of the importance of truly being born again and referred back to Alan’s message on good fruit.  But perhaps the moment of greatest joy experienced this past Sabbath morning.  I got back from the med evac just in time to hear another one of my “sons” preach.  Manfred was one of the students that was suspended three weeks ago for a bad decision he made.  And he is one of the kids that is closest to me, which made it that much harder for me.  As soon as he returned to school, he told me he wanted to preach and share his experience with the other students, so that they could learn from his mistake.  Manfred had also never preached.  Yet, this 15-year old, preached one of the most sincere, honest sermons I have heard in a while!  He preached for over 40 minutes!  That may not seem like much to some, but if you knew this boy, his past, how his mom abandoned him and how shy he is, you would understand how much this really does mean.  He openly shared his testimony, as he spoke on Jonas’ disobedience and the consequences it led to.  He challenged each of us to obey God, no matter the cost.  As I sat there watching and listening to Manfred, tears streamed down my face as I realized that not everything has been in vain.  God is working, even in the midst of the darkest moments!





Manfred and I

“God is able and willing “more abundantly” (Hebrews 6:17) to bestow upon his servants the strength they need for test and trial. The plans of the enemies of his work may seem to be well laid and firmly established, but God can overthrow the strongest of these. And this He does in his own time and way, when He sees that the faith of his servants has been sufficiently tested.
For the disheartened there is a sure remedy—faith, prayer, work. Faith and activity will impart assurance and satisfaction that will increase day by day. Are you tempted to give way to feelings of anxious foreboding or utter despondency? In the darkest days, when appearances seem most forbidding, fear not. Have faith in God. He knows your need. He has all power. His infinite love and compassion never weary. Fear not that He will fail of fulfilling his promise. He is eternal truth. Never will He change the covenant He has made with those who love him. And He will bestow upon his faithful servants the measure of efficiency that their need demands.”

I want to take this opportunity to solicit your prayers for a very specific request.  After much fasting and prayer, I have decided to start a new foundation and open another orphanage and boarding school in another state here in Bolivia.  The need is simply overwhelming and we are not coming close to meeting it.  This is a HUGE undertaking and, while I still feel under-qualified and inadequate for such a task, I am depending on God to meet the need.  The paperwork for the licensing is in process and, praise the Lord, He has already provided funding to purchase the land for the new facility!  Pray that doors will continue to open and the support we need will be provided.  We’re going to need around $500,000 to complete this project.  That is a staggering number for me to fathom at this point!  But I am doing my best to keep my eyes fixed on Christ, obey His calling and let Him figure everything out.  :)  If you’d like to partner with us to help reach more children in Bolivia and change their lives, please send me a message and I can give you more information.

I apologize for the long post…and appreciate it if you taken the time to stick with me and read up to this point.  But I felt like I needed to share this.  Are you disheartened?  Does death seem preferable to life?  Do the giants in front of you seem larger than you can handle?  If so, remember that God is right there with you and that NOTHING is too big for Him.  And nothing is more important to Him than you!  The battle is His.  Let Him fight it for you.  He has never lost a battle, nor will He ever.  “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:  I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”  Isaiah 41:!0.  

Thank you again for reading this.  Please keep all of the missionaries and the people they serve in your prayers!  We need them more than you realize.  May the Lord bless each of you and may you find the hope, comfort, peace and strength you need in our Redeemer!  

Friday, March 4, 2016

Call unto me and I WILL answer thee...

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, 

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!  


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

God is moving mountains!!

June 13, 2015

Okay….I know I’ve said this before, but I apologize for this LONG delay in updating my blog.   :(  My computer crashed and I was without it for almost a month and a half. Then things just got really hectic at the school and there simply wasn’t a lot of free time.  But I will do my best to update you on most of what has happened during these last few months.  The challenges and trials have been numerous.  But the blessings and miracles have abundantly exceeded them.  God is Great!

Juan Jose, Manfred, me, David, Jesus, Sergio

  • On March 6, 15 students and a professor from Southern Adventist University arrived for a short-term mission trip.  They came to add a second floor and replace the thatch roof with a metal roof of one of the boys’ dorms, as well as work on a couple of other smaller projects.  (Praise the Lord!!)  They would only be here for a total of 9 days, so we had our work cut out for us.  We went ahead and took off the thatch roof and got everything ready for their arrival a couple of days prior.  From the day one, the challenges started.  Rain.  It rained Friday and their flight was delayed from La Paz.  They finally made it to Familia Feliz, tired, hungry and some nauseous from the altitude in La Paz.  We got everyone introduced and settled in just in time for worship to welcome the Sabbath. Since it had rained, we had service in the church instead of our normal circle on the lawn.  The kids immediately flocked to the new “teachers” and showed them all the love they are known for giving.  We had a nice worship, followed by our tradition “Happy Sabbath” greeting and hugs.  As soon as worship was over, Freddy (the professor in charge of the trip), the boys from my house and I headed out to the army base for our first meeting with them.  What an amazing experience!  I know I’ve said it many times before, but I love meeting with the soldiers!!  I always leave so refreshed and blessed by the experience.  We have been praying for this new group of soldiers and our meetings for two months now, asking that the Holy Spirit would already start to work in their hearts and lives and prepare them for the messages they would hear throughout the year.  And our prayers were answered…there were over 100 in attendance!  And not only were they present, they were excited about the meetings.  Of the three groups of soldiers we have met during our time at the base, this one was the most excited and anxious from the start.  Our meeting on Friday as a shorter one, mainly an introduction, song service and a short devotional thought.    By day, the Southern students worked on the roof of the boys’ dorm and painting the mural in our dining hall.  By night, one group held a week of prayer for our kids on campus while another went with me to the army base for the evangelistic series there.  We always see God’s Hand at work here at Familia Feliz, but we saw it in a very marked way last week.  First of all, more than 30 soldiers came forward to give their hearts to Christ at the meetings!  Praise God!  What a sight to see them making their decisions and responding to the call of the Holy Spirit!  It warms your heart like nothing else can.  Then, as I was taking the Southern group into town one day, we were all piled in the small truck (as the big truck is broken down).  As soon as we got into town, the driver’s rear wheel flew off of the axle!  We skidded down the road, as the axle ground into the asphalt.  Once the truck came to a stop, we all jumped out and made sure everyone was ok.  Thank the Lord, no one was hurt.  The axle, though, was on fire!  We got the fire put out and I headed into town on a motor-taxi to arrange for transportation for the group and to see about getting someone to fix the truck.  We are so thankful to our Heavenly Father for always watching over and protecting us!  Words cannot describe all of the work done, memories made and blessings received from/with this group during their stay at Familia Feliz!  They definitely left a lasting impression here.  THANK YOU all again for all of your time, help, effort, sweat, and prayers!  :)

  • During the past two months, we have had about 8 students hospitalized.  Machete cuts, abscesses, UTI’s, dehydration, you name it.  Having to go to town twice a day to buy medication, talk to the doctors, update parents and check on the kids definitely proved a challenge in addition to everything else going on, but we thank the Lord for getting us through and for a speedy recovering for the students!

  • We lost several volunteers since my last post.  :(  They have returned back to their homes or moved on to other projects.  To Victoria, Jordan Alex, Jordan, Oriel, Victor and Ana, you have each been such a vital part to Familia Feliz and we are forever bettered for having spent time with you.  THANK YOU for your commitment, example, time and love for Christ that you have imparted to us!!  We wish you all the very best and look forward to having you come back and visit SOON!  :)  

  • We got a new volunteer.  Omar is from Santa Cruz, Bolivia and is a carpenter.  His is helping in our older boys’ dorm and will be teaching our Carpentry class.  We are happy to have him!
Omar and Janet

  • We got a new truck!!!!!!!!!!!!  Victoria’s church (Westvale Seventh Day Adventist Church) in New York has been fundraising for several months to help us get a reliable means of transportation and, thanks to their hard work, faithfulness and prayers, we are now the new owners of a Chevrolet Silverado 4x4, equipped with a winch and custom-made bed enclosure, with benches to accommodate for people!  We are more than thrilled to receive such a blessing!  A BIG THANK YOU to our brethren that raised the money and to all of you that have been praying with us for a truck!!  God is indeed Great and we thank and praise Him above all for His Goodness to us!

  • The students left for winter break on June 1st.  It always feels so empty when the kids leave.  Please keep them all in your prayers as they enjoy this time with friends and family.  Pray that they will stay safe and remember all that the Lord has taught them.
Some of our boys...

The girls having special music at church.

  • Last week, Jonatan and I were invited to go on a short-term mission trip to the house of four of our students.  They live in the Pampas here in Bolivia.  It was a four hour car ride, then a five and a half hour hike (in rubber boots no less!) through approximately 12 miles of pasture, bush, bogs, swamps and jungle to get to their ranch!  Needless to say, we were tired when we finally arrived!  :)  We spent a week there, sharing the Gospel with these new converts and their families.  There was no electricity or running water, but the absolutely sweetest pink grapefruit I have ever eaten!  :)  This family raises horses and cattle, so we got to see our students at work in these areas.  It was quite impressive!  They are 100% true cowboys, in all senses of the word!  Watching them lasso the bulls and horses was quite impressive!  I also had the privilege of riding a horse for the first time.  :)  Manfred, 13 years old, took me on my first horse ride…a two hour tour of their part of their property.  We rode through the cattle field, trotted through the river, and quietly walked through the coconut grove as we watched the monkeys play.  How many people can say that’s how the spent their first time on a horse?!  And I must say, my teacher was fantastic!  :)  The Pampas is full of wildlife.  We saw alligators, snakes, toucans, macaws, monkeys, capybaras, and more.  The only thing that topped the nature surrounding us were the moments we shared with our students and their family.  These kids had never seen a Bible before four months ago.  Never attended church.  Nothing.  And to hear them ask to pray before starting our walk or lead out in worship is the best feeling in the world!  I am so proud of their growth and their surrender to Christ!  It was definitely an unforgettable week!
Starting our 5+ hour walk.  :)

Our bathtub and laundry room for the week.  :)

The ranch where we stayed.

Jonatan with the skull of a crocodile the family killed when it tried to attack them.

Sabbath service out in nature...what a blessing!

  • Next week, we will be heading back to Torewa (the indigenous village we went to in January) on a mission trip with some of our students and students from the Adventist school in Guayaramerin.  We will be building them a new church, providing health care and conducting evangelistic meetings for both children and adults.  We will also be visiting neighbouring communities to talk with them about Christ and plant some seeds there.  Please keep this project in your prayers as well.  Thank you!

God is still moving here in Bolivia and especially on the campus of Familia Feliz.  We sincerely appreciate your support, words of encouragement and prayers!  Please keep them coming!  May the Lord continue to pour His blessings out upon each of you!