Friday, April 30, 2010

Saturday Post -- 01/05/10

You’ll remember that last week, as I was typing our weekly entry, Amanda was sitting her exam at the conclusion of the course in primary care of the ear and hearing. And that we’d been really encouraged by her progress in the language as the week had gone on (the course was completely in Spanish). Well, Pine Ridge’s star pupil wasn’t about to let a foreign tongue stand between herself and academic achievement and, sure enough, she came out on top, with her score of 98.5% the best in the group of seven, five of whom are native Spanish speakers. Of course, true to form, frustrations soon surfaced (“what happened to the other one-and-a-half percent?!”). But we can complain not; in the face of difficult questions, Amanda kept her cool. She could teach the Prime Minister a thing or two…

There is not too much to report regarding our work, but there is certainly a palpable feeling of change in the air – and I refer not just to the welcome bout of sursthis week. Firstly, Matt, a volunteer in health and sports this month, left town on Wednesday evening; indeed he should be arriving back home in Texas around about now. Matt’s a Spanish graduate who is currently in medical training, so he was ideally suited to the work here, and equally suited to having someone around to chew the fat with. On Tuesday evening we went out to Estancia, Trinidad’s finest steak restaurant, so that Matt could sample some cut-price carnivory one last time. We wish him well in his studies and hope he’ll come back to the Fundación one day.

Secondly, being May bank holiday weekend (though, alas, the ‘holiday’ here is on Saturday), we’re rolling up our sleeves and upping tools as we prepare our new apartment for inhabitation. We’re hoping to move in within the next couple of weeks and the main challenge is the new kitchen, which is in need of a lick of paint. But calm down there, Dad – not without a good sanding down of the walls. Be still thy beating heart.

And more significantly, next Friday afternoon we’ll be having our meeting with the directors of FT to discuss our future work here, now that our first three months are up. We’re looking forward to having the opportunity to define our roles a little better but we would really appreciate prayer over the coming week, that we would feel a sense of confirmation of these roles, that the directors would be receptive to our desires and that we would be sensitive to theirs. We’ll let you know how things proceed in our next update.

One last thing. Those of you who know me well will be aware that the area of fashion-consciousness is some way down on my list of priorities – wedged between ‘Tidy your room’ and ‘Remember to leave the toilet seat down’, I seem to remember. Perhaps Bolivia is putting an end to that, but only because I’m terrified of the alternatives. Quite simply, Trinidad is devoid of suitable hair styling products for my Barnet Fair. Indeed, rare is day that I don’t look in the mirror and see a missing carwash brush luxuriating atop my head, particularly after a brisk trip on a moto-taxi. And so, it has come to this: if you’re wondering if there’s any way you can practically help us down here in the Amazon basin, you could do a lot worse than send a tub of this stuff down now and again.

Shock Waves Ultimate Effects Matt Clay. It’s just as exciting as it sounds, or for me at least. Happy hunting!

• For our meeting next Friday afternoon with the directors.
• For patience as we begin the process of moving house for the fourth time in three years!

• For Amanda’s really encouraging test result.
• For Matt and the benefit he’s brought to us all, both as a Fundación and as individuals.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Friday, April 23, 2010

Saturday Post -- 24/04/10

The major development this week at the Fundación has been the opening of the new quirófanos, or operating theatres. Until now, any surgery performed by the Fundación’s staff has been carried out in Trinidad’s military hospital, which sits on the other side of town. Given the time required to set up, dismantle and transport equipment, this added a couple of hours to any surgery session. With the facilities – unrivalled in the Beni region – now on-site, the Fundación’s health workers can expect to get home in time for dinner. Which is great news for Amanda, who is a part of the surgical teams.

Amanda wasn’t able to make Thursday’s opening session this week, however, due to the WHO ‘Primary Care of the Ear and Hearing’ which has taken place at the Fundación this week. It’s fair to say that when we discovered the entire course would be in Spanish, Amanda quickly reached for the panic button. However, she has applied herself with her usual dedication and has every confidence of passing the final exam, which takes place this afternoon. And, what’s more, her Spanish has gone up a couple of notches. As turnarounds go, it’s up there with Nick Clegg.

Unfortunately, the magic dust hasn’t quite rubbed off on Real Mamoré, who were routed by three goals to one at the weekend. Not the best introduction to local sporting ‘endeavour’ for Matt but he’ll at least have the chance to sample the surrounding wildlife when we visit the river this weekend, though swimming may well be out of the question: a big sur has quite literally just blown into town, much to the excitement of my trousers.

• For Amanda’s final exam today.
• For safety for Matt, who flies back to Texas, via La Paz, on Wednesday.

• For Amanda’s linguistic development via the course this week.
• For a well-received and well-understood sermon last Sunday, with much-improved standards of Spanish (thanks, Diego!).

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Loving Tribute to the Ginger One

To the tune of Kum Ba Yah.


"He scores goals galore, he scores goals,
He scores goals galore, he scores goals,
He scores goals galore, he scores goals,
Paul Scholes, he scores goals."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Saturday Post -- 17/04/10

This week has certainly been a boost to the old confidence for both of us. Upon entering the Fundación for work on Monday morning, I was asked by Elías, who preaches at our church, if I could cover for him this Sunday as he had to make a last-minute trip to his home town of Sucre this weekend (a most delightful city, I might add). Initially I was doubtful. In order to give my first sermon in Spanish, a few weeks ago now, I gave myself a good two weeks of preparation time. And even then, my notes were in English, which I essentially translated on-the-spot. While my sermon was generally well-received, my delivery wasn’t helped by this approach, so I’d resolved to deliver my next one with a Spanish script.

Therefore, when Elias approached me, I expected that to write a Spanish script from scratch would be impossible within a week. However, against my better judgement I agreed – and I’m so glad I’ve done so. The main focus of the message, based on 1 John 2:28-3:3, is abiding in Christ and this has certainly been an important lesson for me at this time. And as for the script, I managed to have it typed out within three days. I guess it was one of those sermons where you pick the message up as you go along! So I’m thankful to have had this opportunity. Of course, I don’t preach it till Sunday, but for me 90% of the joy in delivering a sermon is in the preparation and the rigorous soul-searching it so often entails.

Amanda has been branching out further in the community. This past Saturday afternoon saw the resumption of the arts and crafts classes at the Fundación for people in our local community. Amanda’s a crafty one herself (as I know all too well) and so was pleased to have the opportunity to enhance her considerable skills while getting alongside some of the local women, all of which gave her further opportunity to try out some Spanish. Language learning reminds one of those old Ulster Tourist Board adverts – “yea’ll neyever know unleyess yea go” chirped the old rascal by the Giant’s Causeway – the dictum proving true as we look for opportunities to take a plunge into the deep end and swim when everything within us cries “sink!”. We’re ditching the armbands and bidding the playpool adieu, that’s for sure.

Amanda will have further opportunity to work on her language with a course in ear medicine which she will be embarking on next week. With the new operating theatres due to open any week now, it’s vital that the Fundación’s health staff be fully trained up in such matters. She won’t have any English speakers alongside her, so it’s somewhat daunting, but it presents an important next stage in our language learning.

Finally, in sport, Maicol’s Libertad team were narrowly beaten 3-2 in their opening match of the championship but played with enough heart to suggest hope for the coming months. Bolivia’s number-one team Bolívar are coming to town on Saturday afternoon to take on Mamoré and I’ll be going along with Farid and Matt (a medical student from Texas who is here for the duration of April). The reverse fixture in La Paz a few weeks ago finished 8-1 to the champions. Meanwhile, Amanda will be forging porcelain flowers with the ladies. A wise move, methinks…

• For Amanda’s course next week.
• For Craig’s sermon on Sunday.

• For yet more opportunities – this time in the shape of community arts classes – for the forging of relationships.
• For the blessing that sermon preparation has proved to Craig.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Friday, April 9, 2010

Saturday Post -- 10/04/10

This week we returned to work after a relaxing Easter weekend. On Saturday morning we went out to the river with Maicol, KC, Chicho and Rachel (accompanied by Chicho and Rachel’s dogs). It had been a scorching weekend -– I’d been reduced to a perspiring wreck at frontón on Good Friday -– so to be immersed in the chocolate-brown river waters rendered us as happy as hippos.

On Sunday morning, KC, Amanda and I made an effort to get up extra early for the sunrise (see picture) and spend some time contemplating Easter morning with the aid of English songs and Bible readings. Such a feat on a Sunday morning demanded our very greatest energies, but we were duly rewarded with a great time together and pancakes for breakfast. Later on we enjoyed a great Easter morning service service with our friends at ‘El Jireh’.

Of course, we didn’t exactly have anywhere to go on Sunday due to the local elections and, five days on, with the pro-government states going with the government and the pro-autonomy states going against the government, the only thing that is clear is that Bolivia is as divided as ever! Adding to the chaos, the candidate for Bolivia’s socialist government here in the Beni region (the reigning ‘Miss Bolivia’ –- yes, you read that correctly), who came in second on Sunday to the ‘Primero el Beni’ candidate, claims to have cast-iron proof of electoral fraud and is demanding a re-count. However, her efforts have hit a not insignificant hurdle: re-counts are banned in Bolivia, a law put in place by…yep, Bolivia’s socialist government!

Note to fellow Brits: relish the next four weeks. We genuinely don't know how blessed we are.

Back behind our desks on Monday, I continued with my class preparation while Amanda, among other things, received training in the new operating theatres, where surgical work will hopefully commence in a couple of weeks’ time. I’ve asked for a shot at the defibrillators but have thus far been rebuffed in my efforts.

There’s been a significant development on the housing front over the last week. Diego and Jo’s house (next door to Kenny and Claudia’s, where we are living just now) is a two-storey with ample space, so much so that they have been planning for some time on constructing a new side entrance and turning the upstairs area into a separate apartment, with kitchen, bathroom and three other rooms to be used as the tenant deems necessary. We have been offered first refusal on the apartment and have opted to take them up on their kind offer, probably moving in by May.

We’re really thankful for this opportunity which has opened up for us. We share Kenny and Claudia’s home with Maicol and KC currently but our main living space is, essentially, our upstairs en-suite bedroom. Our long-term goal is, of course, to build our own house here. Moving into a larger, rented living space allows us to continue working towards that goal, in terms of both saving towards building materials and accumulating the items that make a house a home -- with only two plug sockets in our bedroom, fridge/freezer storage was always going to be a challenge.

That said, we will be sad to leave Kenny and Claudia’s as we have really enjoyed getting to know our work colleagues Maicol and KC better and we had been very much looking forward to sharing a house with our old friends Kenny and Claudia, when they return from Scotland in June. However, maintaining friendships shouldn’t be too much of a challenge when we essentially share the same back garden –- and what's more, I’ve barely made a dent on Kenny’s outstanding book collection!

• Continued patience in language learning -- this has been one of those weeks!
• Amanda’s mum is travelling to Uruguay on Monday for a two-week missions trip with a team from Toronto. Please pray for safety and a blessed visit.

• A refreshing Easter weekend break.
• The opportunity to move into a larger living space, where we can have a little more independence.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Friday, April 2, 2010

Saturday Post -- 03/04/10

Good evening from Bolivia and a happy Easter to you all. We’re excited to be marking our first Holy Week here and really seeing God’s hand in many aspects, particularly in the church and the Fundación’s morning meditations.

As mentioned last week, I touched on the subject of Holy Week in my sermon last Sunday. OK, ‘touched on’ doesn’t quite do it justice as the whole thing took over an hour. The desperate looks on the faces of the congregation were perhaps an indicator of their thirst for more of the gospel. Or their desperation for the bathroom. In any case, it was an important step to take on the language barrier and, well, not lose! I managed to get my points across clearly enough and I know now for next time that my sermons need not be quite as long. Which, considering how much busier life is going to get in the coming months, is only a good thing.

Excitingly, though – and with no pre-conceived notion on my part – the theme of my sermon seemed to have fit in with a lot that is going on here. Every morning at the Fundación, we have a short meditational time, focusing on a portion of Scripture. Attendance is completely voluntary, but usually by the halfway point, all the morning workers have arrived and sat themselves down. Recently we’ve been working through 1 Corinthians, with people taking it in turns to lead the study. Despite no formal programming, we have somehow managed to end up on 1 Corinthians 15 this week of all weeks, which you may already have realised is Paul’s great explanation of the evidence for, and the importance of, the Resurrection – if anything, the Bible’s ‘last word’ on the subject. The study has provoked fantastic discussions among the workers and, in all honesty, it has been a struggle not to encroach on ‘work time’ given the quality of questions being put forward.

Additionally, our current house-mate, KC, has been leading discipleship groups with the girls who attend her basketball training sessions and, apparently, my sermon answered a lot of burning questions which they had had over the last few weeks.

It’s fair to say, this has been an encouraging week for the church. And nowhere was this encouragement felt more than on Thursday night at the prayer meeting/Bible study. Our church here is like so many around the world in that the prayer meeting, unfortunately, has not been a priority of the members. Over the past couple of months we have been here, an attendance of 10 people would be a genuine cause for celebration – this in a church where you struggle to find a seat on a Sunday morning. Well, on Thursday, Diego began a study in the book of Genesis and no fewer than 25 people attended, the vast majority of them teenagers. The study was stimulating and, again, the questions being put forward for discussion were meaty! We are so thankful for this development and hope you’ll pray that God continues to work in this ministry.

On Sunday morning, unhindered by the elections, we will join with the rest of the worldwide church and mark Easter Sunday. Voting is compulsory here – in itself, that’s nothing overly unusual. But so keen are the government to ensure that nobody slips through the net that all modes of motorised transportation are banned for the entire 24 hours! So we are not anticipating huge numbers, but in our own small way we will mark that triumphant Easter morning, which ensured that one day, there will be a gathering like no other in Heaven – and, mercifully, no elections are planned for that day!

• For a continued desire among the church members to meet together for prayer/Bible study.
• For the message of Easter to ring loud and clear amidst the electoral chaos.

• For the huge encouragement of Thursday evening’s meeting.
• For the perfect timing of the Lord in various aspects of the ministry.

Finally, please be sure to check out our quarterly newsletter, which should be in your email inbox -- feel free to share it with anyone who may be interested.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda