Well, here we are in the winter season of Bolivia, which to us is like a British summer. We have been here nearly eight months and our update to you is long overdue. I will do my best to catch you up with highlight of the last six months.
When I last wrote, we were newly arrived, excited to embrace and absorb everything we could, which continues to be the case. We had many paperwork and personal bits to sort from visas to schools, identification cards to a house move, which turned into two temporary moves! We weathered the storms of immigration law changes, inconsistent/ misinformation, changes in costs, moving deadlines and Bolivian time! We are thankful for the Lord’s provision in what seemed like a test of our patience! Thank you for your prayers which I know covered all of the above and must have included this scripture from Galatians. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
Arriving in the last quarter of 2016 has allowed for much celebrating! US Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Easter, Bolivian Father’s and Mother’s Day, the Day of the Child, our daughter Liliana’s 10th birthday and Andrew’s 52nd birthday! Our girls enjoyed being part of the Christmas and Easter dramas at our church, Cristo Luz del Mundo.
Our cultural observations: Christmas Eve is the more important date in the Christmas holiday, a late night family celebration with dinner served at around 10pm, gift opening and celebrating into the wee hours of the morning including fireworks and karaoke! Mother’s Day celebrations go on for days. We tried to celebrate like and with Bolivians, well as best we could! Mother’s Day was an easy, natural indulgence for me. I recommend you have a look into the Bolivian history of Mother’s day – it’s rather unusual. https://www.bolivianlife. com/mothers-day-bolivian-women-dying-for-freedom
The visit of a bishop
The Bolivian Anglican Diocese is linked with the Birmingham Diocese in the UK so for the first time, Bishop David Urquhart visited with his team: Archdeacon Simon, Bishop Maurice (the former bishop of the Southern Cone of South America) and Steve, communications director. It was wonderful to meet them and share our work and vision with them. If you are interested in watching the video they made of their Bolivian visit, please see: http://www.cofebirmingham. com/news/2017/04/05/bishops-comment-bolivia
Our church campamento (camping) took place over the long four-day Carnaval weekend at the end of February in a nearby area called Porongo. Many people escape the city fiesta to camp or travel as the festivities can turn rather disorderly and violent with the drink drive rate skyrocketing! The theme of our camp was “Sal de la Barca” or get out of the boat, based on Matthew 14 26:33. We had great fun together reflecting, discussing how we as a church and as individuals can listen to the Lord’s call on each of our lives – “come” when he calls us and trust in him as we obey.
Misión Anglicana Cristo Luz del Mundo Norte en Satélite Norte
We partnered with Santa Cruz Lions Club to offer medical advice, treatment and medicine to the community. We had about 80 people visit. This might be the one and only time in the year that some of the people have access to a doctor although we are hoping to offer another medical campaign later this year. We were also fortunate to have two student dentists in training at our disposal to visit our Sunday children’s ministry to give the children a dental check-up. If required, they were offered further treatment at their university, for free.
In other news…
Thursday ladies jewellery, now changed to sewing, is going well. We started with an intro to the “machine”, very user-friendly and a superb piece of equipment! We have now moved on to pattern making of school uniforms. We have managed to sell some of the jewellery made from our past “taller” (course), with funds going towards materials for future projects, helping to teach and create self-sustainability.
We have had loads of fun in fellowship with these beautiful children at Sunday children’s ministry. Every Sunday afternoon, after we attend our own church in the morning in the city, we gather with the children in Satélite Norte to worship and learn about our amazing Lord together. On any given Sunday we can have between 25-35 kids, aged 2-12.
The current Alpha Course has just finished! It was an immense privilege and a wonderful blessing to be part of a community joining and growing together, sharing meals in fellowship and discussing the foundations and depths of the Christian faith. We had 30 adults attend, mostly entire families, so we also had many young children. There were a lot of mouths to feed, but as always the Lord provided. Our oldest attendee, Don Pedro (aged 75), sadly passed away when we were about three quarters of the way through the course. We feel truly fortunate to have been a part of his life, even if for a short time. He was always the first to arrive with a smile, happy to be there, a kind, humble and gentle man! He loved the Lord and this is of huge comfort, to rest in the truth that he has gone home to be with his heavenly father. Next up for us is the Bible video series with a study after.
There are a great many needs in the community of Satélite Norte and the mission is at the heart of it all. Pastor Belisario and his wife Claire, mission leaders, have been building Christ-centred relationships here for three years. We see the fruits of this labour, and have the privilege to join in and support them in ministry. Since working alongside the community, we have witnessed among others things the sad and unjust imprisonment of a local father of two girls, as well as the joy of him being released with no conviction after five months. He then faithfully attended and completed the Alpha Course with his wife and teenage daughters. Andrew and Bely went on prison visits, supporting him with friendship, spiritual and physical nourishment.
Recently, the mother of one of the families with serious debt issues, resulting in loan shark threats, and near house eviction, suffered a financial setback due to emergency gall bladder surgery. Thankfully our “mother” church in Santa Cruz has an “Ama a tu prójimo” (“love your neighbour” from Galations 5:14) collection every Sunday which helped partly fund her surgery. She and her family also completed the Alpha Course.
Andrew continues to fine-tune his small business microfinance plan which is currently in the hands of an attorney friend to work out the contractual nuts and bolts. He is also working on an enterprise investment scheme to fund larger employment opportunities here. It’s encouraging that a local organisation has expressed interest and would like to collaborate! Andrew has gleaned much wisdom from the Book of Ezekiel as he reads about the oppression of the poor through ridiculously high-interest rates and the like. I am proud that he wants to show people an alternative view on how to do business that is essentially countercultural and ultimately points towards Jesus.
The girls are on “summer” holiday although it’s winter here. They adjusted well to their new school and worked hard in their subjects, apparent in their results. We are proud how they continue to face most challenges with a positive attitude; we learn much from them!
Later this month, we will venture to Cochabamba, named the “city of eternal spring”, for some intense language lessons and sightseeing. We all look forward to the change of scenery and adventure we will undoubtedly experience at 8,400ft. With this, I hopefully end this letter on a high, with a challenging and humbling scripture from The Message translation of the Bible:
“I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” Romans 12: 1-2
Muchas bendiciones en Cristo,
Andrew and Lisa
The Call in Action