Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday Post -- 22/12/12

A big shout-out to our friends at Strathaven Evangelical Church,
who sent out a stack of Christmas cards from the congregation;
they arrived this past week.

'Doing it for the kids' is very much the order of the day at Christmas time when you get to our stage in life. The turkey, the music and the all-round pageantry of the festive season retain some of their magic in adult life in large part thanks to the instilling of such traditions by our parents many Decembers ago. It was hard work – and now it’s our turn.

And while we await the exalted calling to parenthood, we are certainly getting in decent practice, with the best part of 100 little nippers to satisfy this year. Yes, the church’s Christmas celebration is almost upon us.

This afternoon, the various youth/children’s ministry leaders will be overseeing the final rehearsals for tomorrow’s special service. It will be the culmination of a busy week of preparation on our parts. When not seeing to audiology patients, Amanda’s spent large swathes of the week making cardboard donkey/sheep ears for the army of young participants.

Meanwhile, I’ve been overseeing band rehearsals, preparing my five small teaching slots which will be scattered amongst the set pieces, and making precautionary arrangements for the dreaded rain (the numbers are too great to have the service in the church itself). A huge 10x10m tarpaulin sheet has been laid on the grass outside the church. When the sun’s out, it gets cleared to help the grass dry. When the next storm comes (and there have been several this week), I do my best Wimbledon ball-boy impression and cover the area again sharpish. A temporary roof, in the form of a big tent we’ve hired, will be in place by tomorrow morning, but the weather is the overwhelming concern ahead of the service, so please remember this in your prayers. As stated previously, Christmas is always our biggest outreach opportunity of the year, so a rain-free afternoon is really important, particularly as Bolivians tend to run for cover at the merest spit.

No sooner will that be done-and-dusted than preparations for the next big event will kick into gear. I refer, of course, to us missionaries’ Christmas dinner on the 25th. Being far from home at this time of year can be a bitter pill to swallow, but the very British nature of our annual feast in the company of our Bolivian ‘family’ goes a long way to mitigate the pain. However, once again, such jollity comes at a price and Amanda in particular will be putting in a shift in the day or so beforehand. Healthy lashings of Christmas-themed music and films will be on hand to catalyse.

These preparations will, in turn, be interrupted by FT’s own Christmas celebration and lunch, at midday on Monday. The afternoon of Christmas Eve is a holiday here, allowing locals to get ready for their festivities (which take place at midnight on Christmas day – this is one custom we’re happy not to embrace) and so, we’ll mark the looming holiday with lunch and a short message from fellow missionary Kenny.

Alas, Boxing Day is just another work-day, but I’m sure we’ll cope, as by then, we’ll just have three working days to go till our Christmas present to ourselves for this year: next Friday evening we’re dumping Santa Claus for Santa Cruz, heading through there for a week. We hope to catch a few flicks, stock up on clothes, eat decent food, and just enjoy being out of the mission bubble over the seven days.

And when we return from Santa Cruz, another countdown will begin in earnest. Because January 2013’s arrival will mean that only twelve months remain until our first furlough year.

Owing to our Santa Cruz jaunt, the blog itself will be taking a well-earned break for Christmas. God-willing, we’ll be back on the 12th of January. Until then, check our Facebook page for updates on the Christmas festivities.

May we take this opportunity to wish all of our readers and supporters a happy, peaceful Christmas, and the Lord’s richest blessing in 2013. The blog has had a record-breaking 10,000+ visits this year and we are so thankful as we look back over the past twelve months and see the impact your prayers continue to make. Thank you all for your prayerful interest in the Lord’s work in Trinidad in 2012.

  • For the church Christmas extravaganza tomorrow at 4pm (8pm in the UK, 3pm in Toronto). Please pray for Amanda as she oversees logistics and Craig as he shares on the theme ‘God will provide’ (the name of our church ‘El Jireh’ is the Spanish rendering of the Hebrew terminology).
  • For energy and patience over the next few, tiring days.
  • For safety in our travels and a restful time in Santa Cruz.

  • For the Lord’s goodness to us as a couple, and his work through us, and in spite of us, in Trinidad in 2012.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday Post -- 15/12/12

See 'pros'.
Around the world, countries tend to have their own natural starting guns where it's OK to acknowledge that Christmas is nearly upon us and to begin preparations forthwith. The US, for example, have Thanksgiving. In the UK, we have July.

Here in Bolivia, it's Christmas, Jim, but not as we know it. This, one must remember, is a culture where religious festivals are liberally laced throughout the year like so much tinsel on a tree (and are religiously accompanied by sacrilegious quantities of beer). Christmas is just another such holiday and was treated as such for many years. With the benefit of a decade's absence between my two stints here, however, it's clear that Christmas is slowly but surely emerging from the pack as a holiday of rare note. Shops are now decked out in mid-November, stalls for fake trees and decorations are scattered throughout the town centre, an elaborate Nativity scene sits in the middle of the main plaza. Throw in a snow machine and Morecambe & Wise repeats and you'd have yourself a merry little white person's Christmas.

This wouldn't be Bolivia, however, if things weren't a little stop-start, and such is the buildup to Christmas here, the prime obstacle being the small matter of high school graduations. A natural upshot of our involvement in youth ministry is that we are invited to a handful of these every year, and they all take place in early- to mid-December. 

A high-school graduation is a bit like a wedding here. You have your religious ceremony (usually a mass) during which whole classrooms of students receive the relevant paperwork. Friends and family obediently sit quietly through the ceremony with one eye trained squarely on the proceeding merriment in the shape of the graduation meal and attendant festivities, which take place that evening or at some point later in the week.

These ceremonies usually take place in the morning, so with our work commitments, we tend to miss most of these (though Amanda was able to make a brief appearance during the week). But, knowing just how much it means to the youth -- and, boy, do their faces light up when they see us -- we do our best to get to the receptions. 

These have their pros and cons. First of all, an invitation to such bunfights is often accompanied by a crucial elevation in status. We are often approached beforehand to find out if we might be interested in 'sponsoring' an element of the party, say, the table decorations or the customary ring for the graduate. We're all too happy to help in this regard. But the best part is the title which goes along with such a deed: padrinos. This, technically speaking, is a very translation of 'sponsor'. Happily, however, this same work also means 'godparents'. Yes, folks, for one night, and one night only, I am The Godfather. Cue haunting trumpet solo!

Furthermore, such opportunities to doll oneself up are all too rare in this climate, and so we enjoy the chance to don some of our best clobber and take rare photographs of us wearing Nice Clothes, one of which will almost certainly find itself wedged into our next prayer update.

Then there's the dancing. And here, the upsides and downsides reach a point of convergence. Amanda loves nothing more than to strut her stuff on the floor. As for me, I tend to require a little Dutch courage to even consider such a notion, not least here, where a sense of rhythm is seemingly genetic. This option being unavailable (as a rule, we don't consume alcohol outside the home to protect our witness) I sit and pretend to hear what the person next to me is saying. This, too, has its difficulties as, despite usually being gathered in someone's front room, the music is by now reaching volume levels required of rock festivals. 

You may remember such reflections a while back on birthday parties and, alas, the serving of food follows a similar timetable, i.e., a copious meal (which it's considered bad form to refuse) served at some point between midnight and 1am. Given that our main meal of the day is at lunchtime and our bedtime these days is no later than around 10.30pm, this is hardly my definition of fun.

Nonetheless, we attend, and will continue to do so, because of what it means to the many young people we work with to see us there supporting them. And when I'm sat there, half-asleep, half-deaf, wondering what exactly I did to deserve such a fate, I'm reminded that Jesus himself must have frequented a lot of social situations he didn't much fancy either. 

Well, we have a mammoth day of wall-to-wall work/engagements ahead (including, yes, a graduation party, mercifully scheduled for lunchtime) so I'll leave you with some prayer points.

  • We're now very much entering the final furlong in preparations for the Christmas service on the 23rd. Today we have our first run-through of the programme, followed by a full dress rehearsal next week. Pray for energy and patience, particularly for Amanda, who is very much at the forefront of the logistics, and who will on the evening of the 23rd be required to dive headlong into Christmas lunch preparation (we're planning a post-Christmas break, by the way).
  • For progress on the house (where the wall tiling is now completed and the floor tiles are now being laid) and, as last week, the emergence of a buyer for the land we now no longer require. However, we're probably looking to January now for the move.
  • For Amanda's recovery from a recent sinus infection.
  • For the opportunity to support so many of our young people these past couple of weeks.
¡Que dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Completely forgot to mention a pretty big piece of news this week, that Amanda has been chosen to serve on FT's board. Practically, it means she sits in on the daily morning meetings and is at the forefront of the decision-making process. Pray for wisdom for Amanda as she embarks on this exciting new chapter.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday Post -- 08/12/12

I have to admit something a little sad to everyone - I unfortunately have not yet been able to attempt to make bagels (writes Amanda). I know it was something that everyone was looking forward to hearing about and I am very sorry that I have failed you all. Please be assured that it is still on my mental, and very long, to-do list. Sadly, every time I am presented with free time and I look at my mental to-do list (indeed it is - Craig), sleep seems to have jumped to the top. I don't know why that is. 

However, I have done some baking this past week, as I made cupcakes for my Esther Bible Study group. I think they enjoyed them as we had smaller numbers that night and yet there were only three cupcakes out of 18 left. Oh, a quick baking question... my cupcakes always come out a bit denser than I would like. How do I make them more light and fluffy? I already fold in whipped egg whites separately at the end, but they still come out too dense. Can anyone help me?

As for work this week... it was very busy. It was my last week in Audiology on a full-time schedule, which I am quite glad about. It has been a tad difficult to stay on top of my other work when I've been in Audiology mornings and afternoons. Odalys, the full time audiological technician, flew back into Trinidad this morning (or she was supposed to) and should be back at work Monday. I left her two little welcome back pictures on her desk. When she left to go away at the beginning of November she left me a to-do list and no little pictures. I think I am the better gift-giver based on that evidence. I will continue to work in Audiology in the mornings, helping out where I can. But am looking forward to getting back on top of my other work -- this would include house work, and maybe one day my house won't look like it threw up on itself. 

Actually, the biggest job I have this month, along with a lot of other people, is organising the Christmas programme. The script has been written, the parts of have been handed out, and the kids are practising (like later this afternoon), but there are still the questions of the costumes, backdrops, stage, seating, Christmas refreshments, prizes for the kids from the Bible Explorers' Club, etc. I have to make more donkey ears (like the ones we made for the youth group social night) and sheep ears... like 50 of them. But, thankfully, God has placed lots of people in the church who are wanting to lend a hand, and we are really looking forward to the finished product on the 23rd of December. We are praying that all these kids bring their parents, friends and neighbours to hear about how God provides for us every day, but especially through his Son Jesus. 

Big news -- we officially own both plots of land!!!!! The paperwork on the final plot came out of Derechos Reales (the equivalent of land registry????) yesterday... exactly one year and one month after we first started the initial, incorrect paperwork. Praise God. Unfortunately, the people who wanted to buy the land from us a while back are no longer interested, so we are praying that God would bring other interested buyers to our attention. We have to remember to continue to have faith that God is carrying us through this sometimes complicated process. 

Craig had a big week this week... he got to throw a party and eat cake (actually, I snuck upstairs and ate cake as well, even though I wasn't invited to the party... and there were left overs, so I invited all my work friends to eat Craig's cake as well). This past Wednesday afternoon was the end-of-year party for the community classes, both the one in the Foundation and the one off-site in Maná. It was held at the Foundation and there were games, a Bible quiz, balloons, loot bags (party bags) and cake. All the kids had a great time. Craig says party planning is not his gift and that now that the party is over he can get back to stuff he's good at, but I think the kids would disagree. I think they think he's awesome at party planning and maybe he should spend more time doing it. Please see below evidence of his natural ability (he did not bake the cake... this time).

Group Picture!!
No translation required here. Right? 


  • The planning and execution of the Christmas programme.
  • The kids in the community classes who are now on vacation, and some will not have contact with the church/Foundation for two months.
  • Education staff at the Foundation as they spend the summer holidays planning for next year.


  • Receiving the ownership papers on our two plots of land.
  • An enjoyable time for Amanda in Audiology full-time during the month of November.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday Post -- 01/12/12

Here are some pictures of the house taken over the past week:

The view from outside the perimeter wall, now complete with entrances for
cars and humans.
A closer look at the front. The earth has now mostly been raised on this side
to the same level as the house.
Amanda checking out her the laundry room,
which has been integrated into the back wall.
The living/dining room. The ceilings were finally put in place this week
throughout the house.
An upstairs bedroom. Most of the wiring is now in place.
Thanks again to you all for your prayers for our land application. The process has been unusually slow but on Thursday we received documentation confirming us as the owners of one of the two neighbouring plots, and the other plot, we are told, will be fully registered in our name by Monday. We will therefore by next week, after a year of wrangling and paper-trails up blind alleys, be the owners of two plots of land which have doubled in value since we purchased them – a major answer to prayer. What remains now is to find a buyer and channel any sale proceeds into the building fund. Anyway, for now we give thanks for the impending conclusion of this long process.

This was the last week of classes for the year in Trinidad’s schools and there’s definitely been an end-of-term feel to things this week, as we wrap up some ministries and continue in our preparations for Christmas.

My R.E. classes in our local secondary school concluded with an investigation into the resurrection of Christ and the various claims and counter-claims surrounding it. Thanks to some extra funds available to us this year, I was able to give each of the students a couple of booklets which look at what it means to be a Christian and who God is. Many of these young people have accepted Christ over the past couple of months but most do not come from Christian homes – indeed, many will be actively discouraged from attending a Bible-teaching church. So it’s of vital importance that, with the holidays now beginning, they ‘don’t go home empty-handed’, as it were.

Elizabeth and I have also been winding down the Community classes this week, where we gave the kids extra time to memorise verses and key facts from the story of David, both of which they’ve been learning over the past months in the class. They’ll be tested on these during a quiz we’ve organised as part of the end-of-year party. Once again, we’ve received a generous one-off gift to allow the class attendees to mark the year’s end. But rather than stage separate parties for each group, as we’ve done in the past, we’re bringing the two groups together on Wednesday afternoon.

But as the rear-view mirror shows the school year disappearing from view, a cursory onward glance shows the festive season very much looming large. This afternoon the church’s children’s and youth ministries come together for the first of four weekly rehearsals for our Christmas service on the afternoon of the 23rd of December. From early November, the leaders of these two groups have been busy planning the programme; now it’s over to our young people to see what they can make of it.

  • For the end-of-year Community class celebrations on Wednesday.
  • For a smooth start to preparations for the Christmas service, the church’s biggest evangelistic opportunity of the year, this weekend.
  • For the many teenagers who’ve put their trust in Jesus from the local secondary school, that they would have access to the support they need over the holidays. 

  • For a positive conclusion to the lengthy land application process.
  • For progress on our house.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saturday Post -- 24/11/12

Thanksgiving in Bolivia: Mr Potato Head optional
On Thursday past, millions of folks in the good ol’ US of A took a day off, got together with family, stuffed themselves silly with megamart turkey and plonked themselves in front of the telly to watch some ‘football’, all in the name of Thanksgiving. Believe it or not, we too had a similar celebration, organised by token Yank missionary KC and our visitor, Rachel Peebles.

Except in this case the ‘family’ were the missionary team and the bird came, nay, ‘flew’ all the way from Cochabamba, a friend of ours from down there putting a special delivery together (in Bolivia, Air Mail means turning up at the airport and checking in your post). And the ‘football’? Why, Manchester City in the Champions League, of course.

What’s more, it was a national day off work! But for seasoned Bolivia-watchers, there’s no cause for alarm. Our dear leader, no friend of the Americans, has not all of a sudden prostrated himself before Uncle Sam’s copious La-Z-Boy reclining throne (with XL cupholders). In fact, our little celebration came 24 hours earlier, as we took full advantage of national census day, upon which everyone is required to stay at home and await the rat-a-tat-tat of the clipboard-wielding visitor. The rules were flouted somewhat, admittedly, as we all met at Kenny’s place (a mere crossing of the road for all of us anyway), but no-one batted an eyelid.

Best of all, KC, who has by now evidently spent far too much time around stiff-upper-lip British types, declared that going round the table and sharing what you’re thankful for, a Thanksgiving tradition, is one she doesn’t usually follow, and thus spared us men the sheer unmitigated torture of having to admit to the possibility of possessing feelings for one other. Phew!

The census made for a bit of stop-start week at work, where Amanda ploughed ahead in Audioology and I started planning both the end-of-year Community class party with Elizabeth, and a meeting we’re having at the church this Tuesday evening. Over the past couple of months, we’ve begun a sermon series on the purpose of the church and, more specifically, our church, based on the Bible’s teaching. Now that we’ve made decent headway teaching-wise, it is time now to get the congregation involved, and on Tuesday, having looked in-depth at the Great Commission in the last four weeks, we’ll sit down to discuss together where we’re getting it right and where we’re falling short.

Another upshot of the census was that our land application remains in a state of limbo, while progress on the house has been hit an unexpected hurdle in the shape of torrential rain, arriving on the scene way ahead of schedule, rainy season not usually getting into full swing until early January. A fair bit of work is currently required on the perimeter walls and in getting earth laid down in order to raise the overall height of the lot. And so, with the rain this week, delays were inevitable, given that Bolivians prefer not to be outside when the skies open. Unlike us Scots, who for 360 days of the year don’t have a choice.

  • For the meeting this Tuesday, particularly that the church would ‘catch the vision’ for its own future and that this wouldn’t be just a missionary-driven enterprise.
  • For progress on the house-building and our land application.

  • For an enjoyable, relaxing day together with our fellow missionaries on Wednesday.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda