Monday, November 27, 2017

Life's Not Fair...And Other Lessons Learned on Public Transportation

Friday afternoon, Franco and I needed to go into the city for a meeting at church. It was about the time of rush hour traffic, and as we climbed onto the bus, we quickly realized there were no available seats.

Although I would always prefer a seat, I am perfectly capable of standing. I might have sighed just a little though as the 8 young men close to us remained seated. Chivalry in not a common virtue here.

After a few minutes, a lady sitting on the bus engine got off the bus, and I sat down with the other three women sitting there. ( I couldn't find a good picture of a bus engine, but it is a box next to the driver. Actually I did, but the pictures of women hanging in the bus were not appropriate for this blog. It can function as a seat, and also a seat warmer. Great on a cold day, not so great in 90 degree weather.)  As I was enjoying my relative comfort, an elderly woman struggled to climb up the steps of the bus. She paid her fare, and looked in vain for a seat.  When she realized that all the seats were full, she reached for the rail, and remained standing.

 I looked around, shocked, but not really, as all of the young men around us pretended they didn’t see her. Even though chivalry is not common, respect for the elderly generally is.

Woman: It seems like there are no gentlemen anymore.
Man: There are gentlemen, the problem is a lack of seats....

I counted to ten, sure that one of the men around us would offer her a spot. I didn’t mind offering her mine, but it was on the bus engine, so it wasn’t ideal. Finally, when I realized that no offer was coming, I stood up and offered her my less than accommodating spot. (Not out of selfless-ness or joy, but out of frustration with the people around me.)

I wedged myself into a corner holding onto the rail, and Franco told me in English, “It isn’t fair.” I agreed. But then I started to think about my mom’s response to that complaint when I was younger.

“Life is not fair.”

It’s so true. And I think it is a lesson that we will probably never stop learning.

And for Christians, especially, I think fairness is a difficult thing to get our minds around.

We believe in, and serve a just God. A God that hates evil. A God that is good. A God that is gracious. A God that is merciful. And while all of those things are true, they can be hard to squeeze into our idea of a God that we can understand.

I have struggled with God’s fairness over the last few months. I have talked with women that had absolutely no prenatal care, and they have healthy babies. I have talked with women as they pour a mixture of cornstarch and water into their baby’s bottle, because they can’t afford milk. I have welcomed children into our home for lunch, because their mom left them without food for the day.

And in my pride, and desire for control, I don’t like that I did everything I knew how to do and my son still didn’t live. It doesn’t seem fair.

But then I think about Jesus. Jesus did everything right. He lived a perfect, sinless life, and was stilled killed. Brutally, and unfairly.

Because God is just, but He is also gracious and merciful.

And although I feel like my son's death is tragic, it really is not tragic that he was spared all of the pain of this world to be with Jesus. It is gracious and merciful.

This morning, I read a passage in Ephesians 3:14-19. It has always been one of my favorites, but this morning as I read, the Lord showed me something different.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be STRENGTHENED with power through HIS Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts though faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have STRENGTH to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.”

Apart from being the longest run on sentence in the bible, the idea of being strengthened in order to know God’s love had never occurred to me before. The more I learn about God’s character and suffering, the more I am realizing that being strengthened by the Spirit is NECESSARY in order to even try to understand God’s love.

It is so wide, so long, so deep, so high, that of course it doesn’t make sense to me. It often doesn’t look fair. It doesn’t look like my idea of what love should be. It doesn’t in my life, or probably your life, and definitely didn’t as Christ suffered on the cross.

Because God is just, but He is also gracious and merciful.

God’s love surpasses knowledge. God’s love can’t be understood apart from the strengthening of the Spirit.

May our suffering and the strengthening of the Spirit allow us to be filled with the fullness of God.

Because God is just, but He is also gracious and merciful. Even when life is not fair.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Work and Play!

The last week has been such an encouragement with my parent's visiting!

We have been very productive with my citizenship papers, diagnosed/ survived a full septic tank, substituted at Carachipampa,  went to an 80 year old lady's birthday party, visited a famous rich women's house, helped with Happy Hour, and much more.

The kids at Happy Hour love seeing new faces, and they especially love my parent's Fitbit watches. One of the little boys asked to "borrow" my mom's watch... she politely declined.

Here are a few pictures from the last few weeks:
Visiting a park similar to the Arboretum

The famous rich woman's house!

A spider in the Carachipampa science room. We have spiders ALMOST this big in our house!

Two sweet (my favorite) kids racing to put on their "spiritual clothes".

The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock -Performed by the four rambunctious boys in the back

We played dress up to remember the spiritual clothes from Colossians 3:12

All dressed up in: Patience, Kindess, Gentleness, Humility
Two weeks ago we talked about water, and how God provides.
The oldest twins! We have four sets of twin at Happy Hour!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Confession & Request

This Saturday was my first Saturday to teach again at Happy Hour. I have had a hard time going back, because there are SO many moms, and SO many little babies. It can be overwhelming at times, and to be really honest, it can be tempting to allow my mind and heart to travel, and to be resentful. I think that’s normal, but I also think it can be dangerous. My prayer is that the Lord would not allow me to be bitter, but to love the children and mothers that He has put in my life. Please be praying for that if you think about it!

This Saturday, as we were waiting for children to arrive, one of the little girls proudly showed me her children’s Bible, and asked me to read the story of Adam and Eve. I started to read the story, and a small group of other children gathered around. As I read, I was shocked at how un-biblical this children’s bible was. It was a cute little story about Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, but completely missed the point of the story. The fact that Adam and Eve’s disobedience caused sin to enter the world, and the need for a savior – Jesus.

When I finished the story, another girl asked me if I had a Bible she could have. I asked if she had one at home, and she said she asked for one for her birthday, but her mom couldn’t afford it.

I began to think about how spoiled we are by the resources available at good prices in the US and realized that the variety of children’s Bibles in Bolivia is scarce.

One of my favorite children’s Bibles is called the Jesus Storybook Bible. It has beautiful illustrations, but more importantly, every story points to Jesus. I have a copy that I use to teach, and I love to see how Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, and the Walls of Jericho falling down all point to our need for Jesus.

I have found a site online that sells this Bible in cases of 20 for $179 with FREE shipping! That comes out to $8.95 a Bible! I would love to purchase a case of Bibles for my parents to bring down in October, and give them to children that come consistently for Christmas.

Would you consider donating $10-$20 dollars (or more :) ) to provide a family with a gospel-centered children’s Bible? Many of the parents have little education, and a children’s Bible is a perfect way for them to also have a clear explication of the gospel in a way they can read and understand.

To read more about the Jesus Storybook Bible, click here.

To make a tax-deductible donation through our mission organization, you can click here.

To make a non-tax deductible donation through check, you can send a check to my parent’s house – just send me a message and I will send you the address. :)

Thank you so very much!

Teddy hard at work coloring! We learned that God is love, and that he can fix our sinful hearts. 

They loved their "dolls". Thank you Susanne! None of the kids had ever seen googly eyes before.

My 2-6 year old class at Happy Hour.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

How are you doing?

Many people have asked in the last few weeks how we are doing, and we are SO thankful for your prayers and your willingness to grieve with us. It is a hard question to answer, because we want to be honest, but there just isn't a good answer without writing a short novel.

So that's what I did. Just kidding, kind of. :) There are moments that are harder than I could have imagined. I heard a quote that says, "We expect faith to make it hurt less, but it doesn't. It keeps us from despair, but it doesn't take the pain away."

But, while grieving the loss of our son has been much harder than I expected, God's presence has also been much sweeter than I could have expected. He has provided through many of you, but most of all, He has provided Himself. And we are finding Him to be enough.

I wanted to share with you a little of what He has been teaching me in the last few weeks, and I hope it is encouraging to you as well.

I have been reading a book by Nancy Guthrie, called “Hearing Jesus Speak into your Sorrow”. This book (and her other books) have been so helpful to me over the last few weeks, and I highly recommend them for anyone who is wrestling with God’s goodness in the midst of hard things.

In this book, she talks about the story in Mark 1:40-42. A man with leprosy comes to Jesus, and says, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Then it says-moved with pity, Jesus touched him and said, “I will, be clean.”

As beautiful as this is for the leper in the story, it becomes problematic when I suffer. Why was Jesus not moved by pity for my son?  For me? For my husband? My friends and family? I KNOW He was able. Why was He not willing?

But then Jesus in His mercy reminds me that He did not come primarily to heal our bodies, but our sinful hearts. If the question is “Jesus, if you will, you can make me clean from sin.” - His answer is always, I am willing, be clean.”

He was so willing in fact, that it says in Isaiah 53:5 that He was pierced for our transgression, crushed for our iniquities. He took the chastisement that brought us peace. By His wounds we are healed.

When I see my sin for what it is, I can rejoice in what Jesus was willing to do. But too often, I see my sin as a sniffle. A cold that will most likely go away if I wait long enough.

But my sin is leprosy. A deadly, infectious disease, that not only doesn’t go away on its own, it will kill me. It had no cure. But Jesus, because He was willing, became that cure, and died in my place to forgive my sin.

I have no problem with a good God, a loving Father, allowing Jesus to suffer on the cross. Jesus being God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, became a servant, and was obedient to the point of death. Death on a cross. For me.

And yet, when I suffer, I have a problem with a good God, a loving Father, allowing me to suffer. I want to remind God of His promises. In Revelation 21:4 it says that He will wipe away every tear. Death shall be no more. There will be no more mourning, crying, or pain.

And these promises are true. But they are future promises. God WILL fulfill His promises. But they are for the coming age. Not for now. For now, Jesus promised that we WOULD have sorrows. That we would suffer. But He also promised to be with us through the Holy Spirit. So I can rest in the future promise, but I can’t demand those promises now.

Jesus came to destroy the root of death, sorrow, mourning, pain, and tears. He came to destroy sin. But for now, we live in the in-between. The already, but not yet.

Jesus was willing to heal my son from sin. He healed his little body as well. Not in a second best, or incomplete way, but entirely. He is whole and with Jesus.

Too often I want God’s promise for complete healing now. I expect what God has only promised in the coming age – right now. God’s purpose is not to rid my life of pain, but of sin.

In Luke 15:11-16, the prodigal son says to his father, “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.” In our impatience, we want the inheritance that God has promised for eternity - on earthly terms. We desire physical healing and the absence of sorrow, more than we desire our Father’s presence in our lives.

And sometimes the Lord, in mercy and grace, gives us healing, and keeps us from sorrow. Praise God for that. It is a good gift. But may we not squander that gift by pridefully leaving our Father.

May we instead draw near to our good Father, that longs to give us good gifts. Both in this age, and the age to come. May we rejoice in our salvation, the willingness of our Father to forgive sin, and make us clean. May we trust Him, knowing that one day, He will make all things new.

Monday, May 8, 2017

It's a.......

In the last three years in Bolivia, I can count on one (maybe two) hands, the number of clothes I have purchased here. And 50% of these purchases were related to my brief time teaching PE. Sweatpants. Friends and family have been very generous to send/bring maternity clothes, so even that I haven’t had to buy! 

However, in the last few weeks, I have started to buy baby clothes! Partly, I’m just so excited about cute baby clothes that I couldn’t wait to get started. But mostly, it is because of how time consuming clothes shopping is here. I really can’t complain, Cochabamba has SO many options. However, new baby clothes imported from the US are expensive, and the best option seems to be the used clothes section of the market!

I have posted a video here (If you're short on time skip to 1:30 to see the actual clothes shopping.) from a family in Cochabamba on a clothes shopping trip, but it is generally like a big garage sale. In the market, there are several areas that have blocks of clothing. Each store has a variety of clothes set up like a garage sale in the US. Sometimes there is a great selection of good quality and good prices, and sometimes not. Most of the time, baby clothes cost around $1.50 each, but occasionally there are baskets of clothes for $0.75! Last week, I also found a tomato in this bargain basket- surprise!

Anyway, since the market requires a good 45 minutes by bus, some uphill walking, and lots of patience sorting through clothes, I am trying to finish as much as possible before it’s too late. BUT, if you happen to have extra baby boy clothes lying around, my sister is coming to visit in JUNE, and she has lots of space in her suitcase. She would love to bring baby clothes with her…right Autumn? 
Enjoy a virtual shopping trip through picture! ( These are other people's pictures for the most part.)

First, we catch the big yellow "Q" bus to the bus terminal at the market.

The streets around the bus terminal are crowded, so we wind our way through traffic.
(This is why the pictures are borrowed from google, pick-pocketing is very common in the crowds.)

A few blocks into the market, there are tons of vendors with delicious fruits and vegetables.

There are also some not so nice corners...especially when the trash service is on strike....

And finally the clothes section....let the treasure hunt begin!

The treasure washed and drying in the "dryer"!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Children's Day & Easter Celebrations

I have heard many time that Bolivia has more holidays than normal days. It seems like every week we have a reason to celebrate - partly because everyone gets their own day! Most recently we have celebrated:

-New Years
-Bolivian New Years
-Anniversary of the new name of Bolivia
- Valentines Day
-Carnival (Mardi Gras)
-Father's Day
-Day of the Sea
-Pedestrian Day #1 (of four)
-Children's Day
-Good Friday

This might be a SLIGHT exaggeration, but by the time you throw in birthdays and protests in the road, we have a LOT of holidays. 

However, Easter in Bolivia is very different from my idea of Easter. Because the catholic church in Bolivia has mixed  many indigenous and superstitious customs, the evangelical church typically avoids anything related to the catholic church. Unfortunately, that means egg hunts/ baskets/ and Easter chocolates are rare. Confetti eggs are unheard of, and my Easter lunch consisted of ham and cheese sandwiches. ( We did talk about the resurrection at church though, so really I just miss the shallow parts of Easter. :) ) 

Fortunately, Children's Day this year happened to fall close to Easter, so we had a good excuse to celebrate with the kids at Happy Hour and church.

On Friday the church hosted an excursion day at a local park, and we were able to spend the day with good friends. Several families gave testimony to how God is working in their lives. It is exciting to see how God is working in and through the local church.
The testimony of a family that has been at the church for the last year, sharing about how God has changed their family since accepting Christ.

On Saturday at Happy Hour, a group of teenagers from the church came and put on a puppet show about prayer and obedience. I never did get a good count, but we served about 120 pieces of cake at the end!
Franco representing the Cowboys. :)

Someone was more interested in the camera than the puppet show.....
On Sunday at church, the same group of teenagers performed for all of the children in Sunday School, and we helped with crowd control and passing out the snacks. (My favorite!) We also celebrated Easter with baptisms after the service, and 16 people from the church were baptized!

Overall, it was a great Easter weekend. We are thankful for Jesus' death and resurrection, and for one more reason to celebrate! 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Let Happy Hour Begin!

Happy Hour is about to begin again! 

For the last two months Happy Hour, the weekly neighborhood Bible club has been on vacation. During the Bolivian Summer break, many of the children visit family in other parts of Bolivia, and attendance decreases. Since school is now back in session, we will be starting to meet again with the children and family that live in the neighborhood.

3-5 Year Old Class


Playing outside with the kids before classes start

Often as we walk to the road to take a bus into the city, or to the store on the corner we see families that come to Happy Hour and get to visit with them. 

We have also gotten to continue to studying the Bible with Jasmine (name changed for privacy). This week we will be celebrating her 16th birthday with her favorite food Pique Macho, a classic Bolivian dish. (Ill try out my new Bolivian Cookbook....) Jasmine lives with her sister down the street from us, and her parents work in a small town about 3 hours away. 

Please pray for Jasmine and her family, that she would be a witness of Jesus' love to her family, and that He would work through us. Please also pray for the beginning of Happy Hour, that we would be able to connect and build relationships of trust with families in the neighborhood.