Friday, August 27, 2010

Saturday Post -- 28/08/10

Something pretty amazing happened this morning. I was sitting in the car in the queue for the petrol pump, minding my own business, when some chancer on a motocicleta thundered in from nowhere and parked himself right in front of me in the queue. And here’s the thing: instead of ignoring this abuse of systematic restraint, the pump attendant proceeded to waggle her finger at him like a mother to a naughty child and, at which he slowly put-putted away, head down, lesson learned.

Please excuse my seemingly disproportionate levels of excitement, but round here, people don’t so much queue as elbow their way to the front, like John Prescott at a buffet. It can be thoroughly demoralising, not least because in most establishments, such loutishness is happily patronised by staff. So, when something like what occurred this morning takes place, it restores your faith in humanity a bit.

Anyway, as you can doubtless deduce from my ability to drive, I’m now leagues removed from my bed-ridden state of last week’s post, indeed, by Sunday, it was already a dim and distant memory. And I’m thankful it took place last weekend, because this weekend we’ve taken Friday and Monday off to give ourselves a short break. Indeed, after seven months of working straight, holidays are all of a sudden the new black as we’re hoping to fly to La Paz in a couple of weeks for a complete change of scene (and altitude).

And ‘hoping’ is the best way of putting it right now, because you may have read in the news that huge swathes of Bolivia are under a big black cloud right now. Winter being the dry season, this is the time of year when landowners traditionally take advantage of the arid conditions to burn down trees in order to clear space – smoke has filled the air for about two months here now. Except, in some parts of the country, the fires have been left unchecked and some 5 million acres have been wiped out. The consequences are several: the air quality is plummeting, 35 homes have been destroyed and, now that we have our very own version of the Icelandic volcano cloud, many airports (including Trinidad’s) cannot guarantee flight departures.

The government is in an awkward position, claiming it can’t afford to put the fires out from the air but so far failing to convince any regional neighbours to come and lend a hand. Of course, the US are just a phone call away, but the bridges were burnt there some time ago...

Essentially, then, we would ask that our blog followers become a little band of Elijahs and pray for rain to fall on this parched land, for the good of the people of Bolivia and, if possible, to allow us to get away for a while. We live next to FT and Trinidad is pretty isolated so in order to get a proper break from our work, travel is a must.

This week we were up to our usual tricks and I was charged with leading the meditations, taken from 2 Corinthians 5:6-15 in which Paul defends himself from accusations of selfish motives in the church on the basis that the love of Christ controls him, effectively rendering selfishness an impossibility. Would that I could say the same! A great challenge to us all and the chair in particular.

• For rain (see above).
• For next Tuesday, when we’ll be heading back with a team to the remote town of San Pedro, to build on the work accomplished there during July’s 5-day clubs.

• For the refreshment of our mini-break – already feeling it by Friday lunchtime.
• For the never-ceasing vitality and relevance of the Word of God – something we often take for granted, yet so true this week.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Friday, August 20, 2010

Saturday Post -- 21/08/10

Well, wouldn't you know it? Having spent last week's post waxing lyrical about my recent internet firsts, I find myself writing my first ever blog entry from a sickbed. Last week there was a bit of a virus going round (the standard 24-hour vomiting bug) and tonight I appear to have been smuggled on the last carriage heading south. It only just got to work late this morning but I'm hopeful that, what with the myriad of medical solutions around (including, excitingly, my first-ever injection where the sun don't shine) and a nurse for a wife, I'll be on my feet again soon. But I'm not putting myself under any undue stress -- though the Saturday Post simply cackles in the face of sickness.

Needless to say, I'm not really up to writing much more, but obviously please be praying for that. We had a few car issues that were threatening to derail our week a little, but the Lord was merciful and provided the assistance to help us get through it. And we're both now counting down the days till next weekend, when we'll be enjoying a long weekend of leave. As regular readers will know, Bolivia's not exactly lacking in local/national holidays, but we have 15 days at our disposal which we haven't touched yet, so we reckoned we should start making inroads on that before the year is out -- and boy, is 2010 disappearing!

• For a swift recovery and cautious return to action for Craig.
• For next weekend, that we’d make the most of our time off.

• For being able to address our motoring issues this week.
• For Amanda’s stepping-in at the last minute to take Craig’s class today – what a gal!

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Memories are made of this

If you're a football fan of any disposition and you haven't yet seen this winning marriage of the contemporary and the classical, tarry ye not. TV down here carries all the big Premier League games live (and for a fraction of the price you'd pay in the UK, ironically enough) but without that old familiar music, Saturday nights just aren't the same any more. Da da da DA da-da da da da, da DAH da-da da da...!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Not exactly a model state

If you're looking for a wider appreciation of contemporary goings-on in Bolivia, the Beni region and the at times preposterous political situation here, you could do worse than check out this article posted in The Observer on Sunday.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Saturday Post -- 14/08/10

Starting the blog this year has really given me a personal insight into the power of the internet. Its benefits have been threefold: it's allowed me to have a few moments of reflection at the week's close; it's given me a reason to keep up writing, which I've always enjoyed (even if the readers haven't); and, most importantly, it's kept friends and family with an interest in our work up-to-date with developments. And we've been immensely encouraged to get your feedback and to know that so many are using the blog to stay informed and to know how they can pray for us.

Having experienced this at first-hand, I've been keen to transfer these insights to FT's website, which was established a few years ago but has suffered from a lack of maintenance over the years -- quite simply, no-one has had the time to carry out the overhaul required. But this week, I've begun to make significant strides and I'm hoping to have the new site up and running within the next few months. Given the myriad of areas which FT's work covers and the overlapping nature of many of the ministries, it's a mammoth task, but one I'm excited to take on.

A few weeks ago we asked for guidance as to the direction of our work with some interesting opportunities potentially surfacing. Since arriving here in January, we’ve been keen to assist in the running of the Jovenes (youth) group, with both of us having a fair bit of experience in this area in the past. However, we were keen not to simply dive in to every area of need when we arrived, so as to accommodate the ever-increasing workload. Over the last few weeks, though, we’ve really felt God pointing us in the direction of the youth work and this was really confirmed to us last Saturday evening, when I spoke at the youth meeting for the first time. Given that around 70% of those who come to the church on a Sunday are aged 20 or under, the importance of the youth ministry cannot be overstated – it could be argued, indeed, that Jovenes is the church’s main service. So please pray ardently for us as we go into this. Pray that we will lead the youth in truth in a culture which abounds with damaging temptations, at school and in the home. And pray for discipline for ourselves in protecting our personal time at the weekend, now that Saturday night is youth night!

Earlier on Saturday, we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon in the company of Sarah Bellhassen, a Canadian medical student who has just left FT after two weeks of voluntary work. We drove out to Loma Suarez, just 15 minutes’ drive from town but a stark contrast to the motorised chaos of central Trinidad – indeed, the only motor we could hear was that of the boat we were ferried up the river in. We sampled some mouth-watering fish before venturing up the water and, all said and done, enjoyed the three hours or so of escape. Some photos are included in the post.

A personal landmark in that I posted 28 years on Tuesday (now two years older than my Dad was when my parents had me – terrifying!) and thank you for the well-wishes expressed via Facebook and otherwise. No parties for me, though – I’d best leave that to the locals, who are doing wonders for our caffeine levels this weekend, the 10th anniversary of our neighbourhood. I woke up at 6am with the music from last night’s party still reverberating through the neighbourhood. And that was only Thursday.

PS – You may be aware that one of my main tasks is to put together the monthly update sent out to interested parties in the wider work of Fundación Totaí. If you’d like to be added to the address list for this update, just drop us a line at our email address ( and we’ll be sure to add you to the mailing list.

• Our new work with the Jovenes group (see above).
• Wise stewardship as we aim to furnish our flat in the next couple of weeks.

• Craig’s progress on the website development this week.
• A relaxing time out of town last weekend.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Friday, August 6, 2010

Saturday Post -- 07/08/10

I write to you on the 6th of August, a date of no great significance to most, but here in Bolivia, it's a different story as the Seis de Agosto, marking Bolivia's liberation from the Spaniards' grip in 1825, is the equivalent of July 4th in the States or July 14th in France. The schools are shut, businesses are closed for the day and a weekend of national festivities is in full swing. I would, of course, love to regale you with anecdotes and photos from this morning's big parade. Except we didn't go. Instead, we did something we've not done for about a month now: a lovely lie-in. And it was worth every minute.

The week was curtailed further for Amanda, who appears to have caught a fever last Sunday and didn't make it back to work until Tuesday afternoon. A retrospective chat with a GP at FT raised the possibility that she'd been hit by Dengue Fever, carried by mosquitoes and potentially lethal. We live on the less Dengue-ridden side of town, but in the cooler climates which we're experiencing just now, mosquitoes tend to go for whatever blood they can get their, er, hands on.

Anyway, needless to say, we're very thankful to have avoided the worst-case scenario there. Elsewhere, the sermon bandwagon continues to clatter along and is currently showing no signs of stopping. No sooner had I dusted off my effort at church last week than I was approached by some members of the Jovenes (youth) group, interested to know if I could address the theme of 'true love' this Saturday evening, a subject which I am frighteningly underqualified to address, even if I've received ample tutelage from one of the best teachers out there: marriage. I will be taking my cue from Ephesians 5, if anyone's interested.

• For a restful holiday weekend.
• For Craig as he addresses the Jovenes group.

• For Amanda’s speedy recovery.
• For a productive week of work as we both had various administrative tasks to address.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda