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
-Easter

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

Singing!

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. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bible School Reunion


This last weekend we were able to spend at a retreat for the alumni of the Bible school Franco attended. He had been asked to be the speaker for the retreat, and we were able to take advantage and visit his family who live near by as well.

The Bible school is also a farm, and many of the students receive partial to full scholarships by helping with the care of the cows and crops. Franco went to the school on this scholarship and learned as much about cows and crops as he did the Bible... Almost! :)

The theme of the weekend was based on 1 Peter 5:6-10. In the morning the days started off with breakfast and a devotional, and then a time of worship and a sermon. After the sermon was a time for sports! (My personal favorite.) after lunch, we had smaller groups to discuss and reflect on the messages. I had the privilege of leading the women's discussion group, and was encouraged by the openness of the women to how God is working in their hearts and lives.

In the evenings there was another message, and testimony of the ministry of alumni. Students from all over Bolivia and some from Argentina shared about how the Lord has used the Bible school in their lives and ministries.

Below are a few pictures from the weekend:

Group Photo


Hight-tec projector set-up

Franco preaching and representing UNT!



Screen printing t-shirts     



Corn fields and the coulds covering the mountains


Finished product     


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Visa Trip to La Paz


In order for Franco to travel to the United States, the first step in the process was  to get a passport. Once we had the passport, the application was done online, and the application fee paid at one of the local banks. Finally after completing the steps, we were given an interview date in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.

The city of La paz is about a 7 hour bus ride from Cochabamba where we live, so we took the bus (for  $4.50 each) to one of the highest cities in South America. At almost 12,000 feet altitude, La Paz is a beautiful city, surrounded by mountains, and breathtaking, literally. Even with altitude medicine, the symptoms of altitude sickness start to kick in.


Thankfully, a good friend from college, Ludi lives in La Paz, and helped us find a place to stay, and took us to dinner!


The next morning, our sweet host guided us to the American embassy. We avoided morning traffic by using the cities cable car system for only 50 cents each! We finally arrived for the visa interview (4 hours early just to be safe) and took care of some last minute details for the visa. Once we were finished and had only 3 hours to kill, we walked around the city a little before running out of breath.
 


For lunch, I was very excited to find a Subway across the street from the embassy! Cochabamba does not have one, so it was a special treat! A little before 1:00, we returned to the embassy to wait in line. At 1:30 Franco went in for his interview, and I went to an internet cafĂ© nearby to wait and pray. I´m sure it was not as long as it seemed, but it was a good time to pray and remember that God is in control, and He is good, whether the visa turns out accroding to our plans or not.


After getting the good news!



After an hour and a half of waiting, Franco walked in with good news! He got the visa!!!!!! Although I had mentally prepared for the answer to be no, I was very relieved to hear the great news.



Since we had to be back in Cochabamba the next morning to teach at the school, we headed immediately to the bus terminal, and bought the cheapest/most reliable option back to Cochabmba. We calculated that we should be home around midnight if everything went smoothly.... HA!



About three hours outside of La Paz, we came to a stop at a small store in the middle of nowhere. Our first thought was bathroom break, but then it seemed too long to be a bathroom break. Then, one of the indigenous women in front of us gathered her stuff and climbed off of the bus. She returned shortly, clearly angry. Speaking in Quechua she announced something to the other passengers, and soon half of the upper level of the bus had gotten off. At this point, Franco and I decided to see what was going on, and were met with a crowd of angry passengers surrounding the driver of the bus.



                                                      Outside of the bus terminal in La Paz





We never did figure out exactly what went wrong, either a small crash, or mechanical problems, but whatever the issue was, the bus was not going any farther. I hadn't planned to start hitchiking on this particular trip, but unless we wanted to spend the night on the side of the road, it was our only option.


Thankfully, after about an hour (and lots of truck drivers turned down) a bus headed to Oruro (the next town with a bus terminal) picked us up, After about an hour and a half, we arrived at the next bus terminal and purchased a ticket for the 11:00 bus to Cochabamba. From there we had about 4 1/2 hours to Cochabamba, and arrived safely around 3:45am. Almost midnight!





It was an exhausting/productive trip, but we are so thankful for God's provision in the big things, and the little. Thank you for your prayers throughout the process!






 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Father’s Day!


In Bolivia, Father’s day is celebrated each year on March 19th. In the Catholic Church this is also the day that Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus is celebrated.

At Casa de Amor, Father’s day is always a difficult day for our kids. We are blessed to have many wonderful people in our kid’s lives both near and far, but this is a day that the kids are often reminded of the absence of their biological fathers.

This year, only three of our children celebrated Father’s day at their school by preforming a special dance and sharing a meal with their “fathers” in their classroom.

AM, B, and E were all excited to participate in the festivities, and were joined by a crowd. Tio David, the administrator of Casa de Amor, three volunteers, Franco, and I, were able to there for the dances.

B with her classmates!

AM dancing as Celia Cruz with her class!

A.M. Front and center!


After the dances, Tio David, Franco and I split up to eat lunch with each child. While I was honored to be an honorary father, I also was reminded of the difficult situation so many of our kids find themselves in. As we got to the classroom, B’s classmate was questioning her about her father. B has grown up in the home, and accepted Christ as her savior last year. When I arrived, she informed the little boy that we shared the same father. The boy looked at her questioningly, until B informed him that God was our father.

As we were waiting for our food, another classmate asked B where her mother was. She successfully ignored the question and continued talking, but it was clear she didn’t want to answer.

I left the school with a heavy heart that day, but I am thankful for the reminder that God is a good father, and that He allows His people to be a practical part of His plan on this earth. Thank you for your prayers personally and generosity in allowing me to be here in Cochabamba, and for loving the children from afar!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fresh Bread


At Casa de Amor, breakfast and dinner typically include some form of fresh bread. For breakfast, children normally eat a piece of bread accompanied by a warm drink. Bolivia is famous for its warm, purple drink called Api, but there are many other drinks that the kids also love!

Although bread is relatively inexpensive in Bolivia (14 pieces of bread/ $1) the staff takes time each week to make fresh bread from scratch. This is a great way to save money, but also an opportunity to teach the kids (and volunteers!) new life skills.

Although the kids don't exactly speed up the process, they enjoy helping the tias with the dough, letting it rise in the sun, making balls of dough, and then cooking the bread in the industrial sized oven! (Don't worry, the kids don't get too close to the oven!) 

Making the bread also helps the kids to appreciate the food they are eating. Often when food appears on the table the kids struggle to be grateful because they do not have a good concept of the work that has been put into providing and cooking the meal. When the kids eat bread, they are proud to offer bread to visitors, and are more appreciative! 

Thank you for helping to provide our daily bread!! :)

Hard at work....
Making bread in style!

Oops, I accidentally got the dough in your hair....

No one is too young to help! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New Year, New Volunteers

At Casa de Amor, we are so thankful for the love and support of people from all over the world. From Bolivia, to Denmark, to Canada, to the United States, to Ireland, to the Netherlands, to Austria, and all over the world, people are praying and giving to support the children of Casa de Amor.

This year, we also have four new volunteers from the United States and Denmark that have come to serve with Casa de Amor!

As I have served as the volunteer coordinator, I have been so encouraged by their willingness to serve and learn. It can be very overwhelming to come to a foreign country, learn a new language, meet 30 children and lots of caregivers, and adjust to a new way of doing EVERYTHING. :)

We have tried to make that process as smooth as possible, so it has been a busy week!

Last Monday and Tuesday were filled with trips to the airport to pick everyone up, and LOTS of luggage.
Waiting at the airport!

Wednesday was orientation day, and was spent getting to know each other better, learning the history of the home, practical information about living in Bolivia, and learning about the different responsibilities of volunteers.

Wednesday night we ate at a restaurant that serves Charque (fried llama meat), as a cultural experience, and rested from a long day.

A mountain of food shared by 3-4 people for about $12. 


Thursday morning the volunteers made a trip to Pairumani, a national park with lots of hiking and beautiful views. (I wasn’t able to go because I had to finish up paperwork for my two-year visa in Bolivia!)



Thursday afternoon Franco came to mow the grass (jungle) at the volunteer house, and Amber (another long-term volunteer), came to help make general repairs to the house.

Friday we had our first full day of work for the volunteers, and made a trip to the grocery store in the afternoon.

Chelsea with our littlest baby boy, and S. who starts Pre-K next week! 

Cecilie with our littlest baby girl, and A.M.!

Snack time with the girls!


Saturday was my sister, Autumn, and my friend Victoria’s last day in Bolivia, so we multi-tasked and I met with other volunteers, and they said goodbye to the kids.

Sunday morning we all met for church, and then went with a group from church for lunch afterwards. Some of the volunteers tried a typical Bolivian dish, Silpancho, and the rest of us had another typical Bolivian dish…. fried chicken. :)

Please continue to pray for the volunteers as they get settled into their schedules at the homes, build relationships with children and staff, learn Spanish, and adjust to a new climate and food!

Thank you all for your prayers for me, and your encouragement during this new and busy season!