Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Post -- 25/06/11

That's me just back from town, having dropped Amanda off for her trip. If you've read last week's post and are currently double-taking, you read that correctly. The date for the boat trip had been pushed back from the Wednesday till the Saturday some time ago but nobody had gotten in touch with FT to notify us of the switch. It took some Bernstein & Woodward-like digging to get to the bottom of it all and and confirm the switch. Welcome to Bolivia! Anyway, the end date of the trip hasn't changed, meaning she'll only be away for a week now, thus our mutual suffering is somewhat eased.

That said, I have a packed week ahead: preaching tomorrow on the latter verses of John 5; preaching again next Saturday at the youth group; and a busy week at FT, including preparation for the 5-day clubs, which start a week on Monday. She'll be back in no time. And by then, there'll just be a month or so left for us here before our trip to Canada. Where's 2011 going?

As mentioned in the last post, this week was littered with holidays, making for a very stop-start rhythm. We didn't find out about the re-scheduled departure date till Monday, for example. Nonetheless, we had a very relaxed couple of days to ourselves and much reading was caught up on.

Right, apologies for the brevity, but I have a sermon to finish and a band practice to attend, so I'll leave it there for now.

• For Amanda, on her journey there today and for the remainder of her trip on the boat.
• For discipline and openness to the Spirit as I prepare preaching material.

• For a refreshing break this week on our days off.
• For the Lord’s continued growth of our ministry as we reach the halfway stage in 2011.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Post -- 18/06/11

Here are some pictures from Día de la Santísima Trinidad, the big annual parade which was held yesterday. A few of these are of students from the school where I teach English on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was a pleasure to go along and encourage them. More of these on my Facebook page.

Yesterday, everyone in town had tolerancia, i.e., permission to leave work from 10am in order to attend the festivities. Holidays tend to come in all at once here and this week is no exception. Yesterday's festivities kick off a weekend of celebrations, so Monday is a local holiday, nicknamed Día de la Recuperacíon (no Spanish degree required to work that one out). Day off #1. The following day, Tuesday, is not only the winter/summer solstice, depending on where you live, but also Aymara new year (the Aymara being an indigenous race here). Day off #2. And Thursday is the Catholic holiday of Corpus Christi, so, inevitably, that's a holiday too. Day off #3. Must say, accommodating everyone else's belief systems does at times have its upsides.

Adding to the weirdness of the approaching week will be the absence of Amanda from Wednesday morning onwards. Indeed, she won't be back round these here parts for 10 days or so. This week, along with three health colleagues from FT, she'll be joining a team of Canadians and Bolivians on a boat. I've asked her for specifics and, well, she's none the wiser! I've been reliably informed that she'll fly some kind of small plane to the place where the boat will leave and that the boat will go up a river. And that's really all she can tell me right now. I tell you, it's like being married to a CIA operative. Hopefully by next week I'll have more useful information. Anyway, while voyaging on the good ship something-or-other, she'll be putting her audiology skills to good use among the villagers that live in these extremely isolated communities.

I would cook for myself -- I do a mean line in eggs and bacon -- but thankfully our neighbours Kenny & Claudia have stepped in and will be keeping a seat spare at the lunch table. So I'll be nourished, but it'll be a tough old 10 days or so, easily the longest period we'll have spent apart in our marriage, so please pray for us.

On Tuesday past, we both got to go on a trip of a far smaller -- though no less meaningful -- scale, back to San Pedro, where, in our latest afternoon visit in advance of July's 5-day club, we were accompanied by a full team of health workers, including Amanda, who provided a series of check-ups on people in the community. It was the final visit before the club itself and another enthusiastic bunch of kids turned up, a little smaller this time, though the presence of the health team probably contributed to that -- both because of kids attending the check-ups, and the primal fear which exists in such remote communities, and this is no joke, of doctors coming and sticking needles in you. Anyway, the gospel was clearly shared once again and good foundations have been laid for July.

• For Amanda as she sets off on her river trip on Wednesday, that she and the rest of the team would be a blessing to all they encounter and that they would be protected in all they do.
• For us as a couple as we spend an extended period apart.

• For the Lord’s guidance (and personal application) for Craig as he led this weeks meditations in Galatians 6:6-10, on ‘sowing and reaping’.
• For another beneficial visit to San Pedro on Tuesday and the groundwork laid for the 5-day club.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Post -- 11/06/11

Yippee -- a symmetrical date!

Will have to be briefer than usual this morning as we have a car mechanic friend coming round shortly to deal with a few issues Pedro has been having recently. However, it's been a good week all round. On Sunday morning the worship band did its first family service at the church. The important thing, as I stressed to the guys over and over again, was gaining the experience. Mistakes would occur; the test was how each musician reacted. And, I have to say, they came through with flying colours. In many ways I was too caught up in the technicalities to gain a balanced perspective on the situation, but many people have commented on the visible lift it was to people to have a group of their own leading them in worship.

Of course, the longer-term issue is our two-month break in August and September, and the work towards that starts this morning, when we'll start practising a batch of relatively simple songs that they can use while we're away.

Hours later, the excitement over the band had died down somewhat, as Amanda picked up a virus and spent Monday in a poor state. However, she was brilliantly attended to by her fellow health workers and by Monday evening the change was visible, such that she felt able to return to work the next day.

Work this week has been dominated by the monthly meetings of the various areas of FT and some important decisions have been made as part of that -- we praise the Lord for his guidance. At Wednesday's Health meeting, it was confirmed that Amanda would be heading off on an Amazon boat trip with three other health workers and a team of Bolivians and Canadians from the 22nd of June till the 2nd of July. More on that next week!

Please accept my apologies once again for a relatively short update, but we hope that, above all, there's enough here to keep you informed in your prayers. For which, many, many thanks.

• For the second pre-visit to San Pedro, which takes place this Tuesday, ahead of July’s 5-Day Club there.
• For Amanda as she makes preparations for her impending boat trip.

• For the Lord’s guidance in our various meetings at work this week.
• For a tremendous first Sunday morning service with the worship group.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday Post -- 04/06/11

Monday sees the anniversary of the Normandy landings, but for myself and a few young guys in the church, who have been busily rehearsing for the past couple of months, D-Day falls tomorrow as we finally debut what, we hope, will be a staple of the church for some years to come: a worship band. No longer will a lone white missionary with a guitar take sole charge of the church music. Don't get me wrong: as any worship leader will tell you, mine is a privileged task. But one day, we're going to have to leave this place, and it's great to be able to lay a foundation for the future of the church here in Trinidad. Please pray for these young men as they take on these responsibilities, and particularly that they will be suitably equipped to lead the church music in my two-month absence later this year.

One of the guitarists in the band is not only a church regular but also part of the administrative personnel at Fundación Totaí. His name is Wilson and he's a Bolivian male, alright. He laughs like a hyena. Friendly insults positively cascade from him. His favourite form of greeting is a well-aimed punch to the arm. As you can imagine, the banter quotient is high and I've certainly found him entertaining to be around at work.

Yesterday was his birthday and the staff were all invited round for an impromptu bash at his home in the early evening. Much to my surprise, before tucking into the food (a typically Bolivian evening spread of empanadas -- fried pastries which contain meat, chicken or cheese -- and coffee), Wilson, in front of his friends and family, asked me if I'd say grace for the food. It was a moment that really gave me pause. Not because it may have drawn attention to any supposed worthiness on my part to fulfil such an act (I have none) but because I realised that, underneath the several layers of blokiness, Wilson clearly saw me as a positive influence in his Christian walk. And yet, how much deeper our relationship could be if I'd taken the time to engage him in the things that matter now and again.

So I'm resolved this morning to make a greater effort with folk like Wilson -- people who come from difficult, secular backgrounds and who therefore need the few Christian influences in their life to be a friend to them and at the same time, keep the friendship 'stayed upon Jehovah'.

The surgical campaign which ended last Tuesday had yielded something of a mini-break in the afternoons, as the Community classes can't take place during surgery due to the effect of the noise levels on the operating theatres immediately below. This week we were back to the full schedule, with still more new faces turning up in the afternoons. In the last couple of weeks, some children have started coming from the men's prison again, the first time we've had kids from there for a good year or so. While we regret that they have to stay there with their families, we rejoice that they're able to get away for a couple of hours in the week to a safe and positive environment.

Finally, they say that sunrise and sunset are 'the golden hours' for photographers. On Tuesday, I woke up to complete darkness at 5am, in order to drive health volunteer and bird enthusiast Sean into the local countryside. I arrived back at work at 8.30am, simultaneously humming "How Great Thou Art" and wondering why on earth I don't put myself through such blissful sleep-denial more often. Selected highlights on the post below.

• For the newly-formed worship band, as we humbly lead the church in the music tomorrow.
• For Amanda’s time with the young women on the youth leadership team this afternoon. It’s the first time she’s done something like this with them. She’s hoping simply to encourage them and pray with them, and to maintain this as a regular activity.
• For energy levels, as we keep ourselves busy in various activities at the church and at FT.

• For the way God is highlighting to us opportunities we never knew existed in our workplace for evangelism and discipleship, such as Wilson this week and the aforementioned Liria.
• For the exciting opportunity to reach more kids from the men’s prison at the Community classes.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda