Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Post -- 28/04/12

On Sunday night I arrived back at our flat from a friends house to find a scene of wanton disarray. Tissues littered here and there. Puddles on the floor. A wife in some distress. Yes, Amanda's chick-flick night was a roaring success!

Actually, it doubled as a baby shower for one of the participants of Amanda's young women's Bible study group, who is due next month. There were, in all, ten of them in attendance, including a special guest appearance -- all the way from Scotland! -- by Rachel Peebles, who has been paying Trinidad a visit over the last couple of weeks. Rachel worked with FT and El Jireh for many years before heading home in December 2010; on Tuesday evening we had the chance to spend some personal time with her and enjoyed the chance to catch up on her news.

It's been a busy old week. On Sunday morning I preached on John 21 and used the passage as a platform for the church to think about missions. I tried to challenge the pre-conceived notions in this part of the world that missionaries are white people who come to Bolivia, rather than Bolivians impacting their nation and the world for Christ. I shared with them some of our experiences in Costa Rica, where we learned about, and witnessed, a vibrant missionary community among the natives. Some 20 years ago, there were virtually no missionaries leaving Costa Rica. Today, they are all over the world and in some parts, being a Latin American is actually advantageous for them. You won't find many white missionaries, for example, in the Middle East, where the caucasian appearance translates as 'American'. Latin Americans, however, don't have such an obstacle to overcome. With this information in mind, I challenged the church to believe that our own congregation had an important role to play in world missions. 

On Tuesday morning, our first working day of the new week, Amanda held her first morning prayer meeting at the Foundation. As the week progressed, we were encouraged to see some other workers, and not just missionaries, turning up to pray for the Foundation, and particularly the board, who meet at that time every day. 

The R.E. classes in local schools were somewhat disrupted by education strikes this week. But it was business as usual for my English classes, which are run from FT headquarters. On Thursday, at the 'Biblical Application' lesson, the focus was the Bible itself, its basic structure, its teachings, and its significance for Christians. Having recently been donated a large supply of Bibles by an anonymous Canadian donor, we asked if there was anyone who didn't have a Bible and who would like to read it. Four people responded positively and took a brand new Bible home with them!

We have mentioned over the last few weeks our continued developments and setbacks re. land and we asked you to pray for this last week. We don't wish to go into too much detail, however, let's just say that things didn't work out quite as planned this week (they rarely do in Bolivia) but they may actually have taken a significant turn for the better. 

Your continued prayers would be appreciated for that and for this Wednesday night, when we will be travelling to Santa Cruz. We have a couple of important matters to attend to there which we couldn't really put off any longer. We would appreciate your prayers for safety on the road and for progress on these matters in Santa Cruz, which we would prefer to keep private right now. It may be the case that we have to stay there over the weekend, but we will aim to post next Saturday regardless.


  • For the message Craig preached on Sunday, that the call to take the good news to the nations would take hold in lowly Trinidad.
  • For the English students who took Bibles home, that they would read it and seek to understand its message.
  • For our land situation and for our travels to Santa Cruz, that we would be able to accomplish what we have to do there.
  • For the chance to, quite literally, share the Word with the English students.
  • For the staff involvement in Amanda's morning prayer meetings.
  • For Amanda's burgeoning ministry among the young women of the church.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday Post -- 21/04/2012

Hello again... it's Amanda!!!! Craig has quite the busy weekend in front of him, so I have offered to write the blog this week. This probably means fewer clever references, less humour, and a lot more "..." everywhere. I generally tend to type as I would speak or think... and there are very rarely full stops in my mind... just one long rambling idea, that's connected to another long rambling idea. I actually had a friend once tell me that I had to start using paragraphs in my e-mails because she couldn't follow my train of thought. If there are not a lot of "..." in this post, it means Craig has edited them out.

Moving on to a new paragraph then... I have had lots of comments about our new baby girl Pinky this week. Firstly, I would have chosen to spell it "Pinkie" because I like the "ie" better than the "y", but as Craig and I hadn't discussed this and he went and posted it last week with a "y", there is nothing I can do about it. It is true for my own name as well... if I ever allowed anyone to call me Mandie... I would want it with an "ie", not a "y". But no one is allowed to call me Mandie. Anyways, Pinky has had a rough week... poor girl has been sick. She apparently got bitten by something... possibly a snake or poisonous bug and has been running a fever all week and broke out in a red rash for three days. She's seen the vet three times and has to go back today for a checkup. She is still not eating well... and I am essentially sticking the food in her mouth, though we think she's more active this morning... she still has a fever though. The vet said it's because the venom is still in her system. But on the other hand... the two of us (me and Pinky), walked all the way from the vet's to the bank (7-8 blocks) and she was amazing. I have never had a dog walk next to me, well, ever... keeping up with me, never pulling the lead, perfectly content just to walk with me. She was awesome!!! She loves trips in the car and playing with the other dogs... she's so cute. 

Well, I shall now move on as some people might not think this information is important. I would like all of you to know that we have still managed to keep working effectively in ministry despite the appearance of our new baby girl Pinky... so don't get worried. I do sometimes have to take my work outside and look up frequently wondering, "Has she peed yet?". I know Craig has taught all his English and Religious Studies classes this week... and the classes at the local school have been extended another 20 minutes. Apparently all the classes got let out 45 minutes early this Friday for the funeral of the mother of one of the teachers... all the classes except Craig's, who wouldn't tolerate such laziness. I bet they don't like him too much... hehehe. In the Biblical Application section of the English classes we looked at the Trinity this week... and I learnt a new English work "triune". Okay, I've probably heard it before... but it is definitely not a popular English word. I learnt the Spanish equivalent too... "trino". Probably not going to use that any time soon either... 

Paragraph 4... I know what I did this week a whole lot better though, so let's focus on that, shall we... firstly, the Women's Group met again on Tuesday night and that was really encouraging. We were talking about the goals that the Bible gives to us as Christians... and we were talking about how we are called to not be ashamed of the gospel. One woman, who is a new Christian, talked about how its hard for her to share her new faith with her Catholic family because they harass her constantly and she doesn't have all the answers to give back to them. They were making her feel bad for eating red meat over Easter and she was trying to explain the difference between traditions for tradition's sake and how what God really want for us is to live without sinning, and she used the example of not fighting amongst themselves. The reply she got from her sister was essentially that she has no idea where she gets these ideas from because the Bible clearly says not to eat red meat and doesn't say anything about not fighting with each other! So we as a group had the chance to encourage her in her attempts to witness to her family. We emphasised the importance of reading our Bibles so that we know what it says... and we also emphasised that she's not the only one to have experienced that. We have all let opportunities to share our faith pass us by, or not had an answer to someone's criticism. 

It actually made me think about how much easier to is for me as a "missionary" here... I have this label that I can't get rid of or ignore. I am quite blatantly a Christian, openly stating that my goal here is to share the gospel with whomever I can. But the truth is, when I didn't have this label "missionary" hanging over me, I wasn't nearly so open about my faith. My faith was real and important, but I can't even remember all the times I let opportunities slide by me in the two years I worked at the doctor's office in Scotland... and it had me wondering what I would be like if I went back to that situation now without my missionary label to break the ice for me. Do I really feel more passionate about the gospel now or is it just because it is easier here? I would like to think I have changed... but I want to remember this thought as a challenge to myself when we do go home.

Moving on... I was able to have a really great chat with one of the nurses this week. I learnt a lot more about her and shared my vision for the future ministry here as well. She is not a believer, but she sees the difference in the Foundation as a Christian organisation versus the state run hospitals here and that means a lot to her. Working in Audiology gives me a good metaphor to share with people the importance of the gospel... I sometimes say something along the lines of, "What's the point of giving someone a hearing aid and helping them hear, if we're not then telling them something of value to listen to?" In reality, their hearing aid is not going to much good to them after death. At times, I feel this particular nurse is someone who agrees with you verbally in a conversation without actually stopping and thinking if they really agree with you, however, I was encouraged to have had this conversation.

And on Friday afternoon I made a home visit to a woman whom we've written about before named Mary... she accepted Christ a while ago, but is having a hard time getting to church regularly because her husband is back in town and is concerned she's become a fanatic. I am going to pick her up tomorrow morning with her children as he's just really been denying her money to get to church on a taxi, but please pray that he doesn't put any more barriers in front of her attendance. She wants to go to continue to learn and grow in her faith and is finding life at home right now really stifling. We were going through her answers in the first Emmaus book and while there are some things she accepts so readily on faith, she struggles with the concept of Jesus being the only way to salvation because there are so many other religious faiths out there and how can they all be wrong. We went to John 14:6 and talked about that... and I used the example that if I say and really believe that the yellow flower is red, that doesn't change the fact that the yellow flower is yellow. Please pray for her in her faith right now.

And one more thing... I am starting a morning prayer meeting at the Foundation. I felt that the workers in the Foundation could do a lot more to support the board of directors in a practical way -- and what could be more practical and powerful than prayer. So every morning from 8:15-8:30 we're going to have drop-in prayer meeting. Probably some mornings it'll just be me (I would like to think Craig will come), but I would like to encourage others to understand and tap into the power of prayer. 



  • Mary as she works through her faith and as she chooses to be a witness to her husband.
  • The new morning prayer meeting at the Foundation.
  • Craig as he preaches tomorrow on John 21:1-14.
  • Keep praying for our land dealings. This week we are due to both complete the purchase of the plot we agreed to buy last week, and get our refund for the two plots we 'bought' last year. Please pray that everything goes to plan.


  • The chance to speak with América (the nurse) about my faith a bit more this week.
  • Pinky's apparent recovery (although, this could still be a prayer item as well).

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday Post -- 14/04/12

Say hello to my little friend!
Meet the latest addition to the family. Her name's Pinky and she's...well, we don't really know what she is. She first showed up around our neighbourhood a couple of months ago and a weird pink growth in her eye earned her her monicker. But she's a puppy so, by definition, Amanda took to her.

We came back from Costa Rica to some sad, if not entirely surprising, news: that Gemma, the old rottweiller we'd inherited from Diego & Jo back in December, had passed away. She died at peace and full of years. However, with one less mutt to look after, Amanda was keen to recruit a replacement.

For some time now, we've actually been keen on the idea of a house dog. However, good house dogs here cost a small fortune -- there's no way we could justify shelling out hundreds of dollars on a Yorkie (mmmm, Yorkies!). So, in a rare moment of inspiration, I suggested taking the Pinkster off the street, getting her properly bathed and vaccinated, and giving her a new home. 

Well, one week later, the rest is now history -- just like the mosquito netting on our porch windows, an old ring binder and a sock. Inevitable chewing bad-habits aside, however, she's been largely well-behaved and has carried out her business in appropriate workspaces.

We have a more important development (sorry, Amanda!) to relay to regular readers this week. Two years ago we agreed to buy two plots of land where we intended to build our home. Upon completion of payment, last October, we began what should have been a relatively short process of finalising the paperwork which said it now belongs to us. Alas, due to a smorgasbord of errors on the part of the vendor, combined with a complete unwillingness to do anything about it, we were still waiting, six months on. 

On Monday we decided enough was enough and called the vendor in Santa Cruz to request our money back. Her reaction, alas, was one of relief rather than remorse (most painful of all in this whole process has been the fact that she calls herself a Christian). However, the bottom line is that she was happy to refund us.

We then did what we really should have done a long time ago, and got in touch with our ever-dependable architect, to ask him if he might know of any other land for sale in our part of town. Well, within a day, Edwin turned up, told us to get in the car and follow him. We needn't have driven. The plot was a solid 3-wood from our balcony on a street which, while still largely uninhabited, is fully connected in terms of electricity and water.

So we have made a verbal agreement to buy the plot and the landowner is coming down next week from nearby Santa Ana to process the paperwork with us. And Edwin is going back to the drawing-board to make the requisite tweaks to the plans (for example, our house will have to be rotated 90º due to the street layout, meaning the location of the large porch windows will also have to be adjusted to take advantage of the prevailing north-west wind. You get all that?).

We are, then, grateful that this solution has presented itself so quickly, while trying not to get too excited. We have certainly been burnt in this process by depending on promises which didn't reach their fulfilment. However, we are encouraged that Edwin, who hasn't yet put a foot wrong, can vouch for the landowner. Please keep praying for the housing situation, then, and for the following.


  • For Craig's schools work. This has been one of those typically Bolivian much-interrupted weeks, with only one of the three classes having a lesson. However, once we get going, we'll be knee-deep in the Gospel of John, so please pray for understanding of the key themes for the students.
  • For Amanda and her fellow 'Bible Explorers' (formerly Sunday School) colleagues as they organise a special 'Day of the Child' event at the church this afternoon.
  • For a terrific Easter service at the church last week. The youth group took charge of most of the programme and did a great job. There were a few visitors too, so please pray for the impact of the message on them.
  • For a relatively straightforward first week back behind our respective desks.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday Post -- 07/04/12

Pura vida! So goes the customary greeting/farewell in Costa Rica, where we spent a quite marvellous week or so, living it up on the beach and, of course, attending LAM Canada's 50th anniversary conference.

We had a full two weeks off work and so, with our outward flights not due to depart till the early hours of the Tuesday morning, we opted to take the sleep-depriving overnight bus to Santa Cruz, arriving on the Saturday morning. While there, we touched base with Enoel and Lisa Suárez. Not sure if Enoel's had a mention here before, but he is the key figure in organising the missionary boat river trips in the Beni region, one of which Amanda took part in last June. And Enoel took advantage of our visit to begin the arm-twisting for this year in earnest. Watch this space.

We, on the other hand, took advantage of Santa Cruz, a thoroughly unremarkable city, in our usual manner: making the most of those amenities which Trinidad has none of. We visited one of our favourite restaurants in Bolivia, where 'salad' is not a swearword. We took in a film at the multiplex ('Safe House', Denzel Washington action-thriller-by-numbers, and a grave threat to my ability to hear). And we spent a day hanging out at one of my favourite places in Bolivia, Café 24, just off the main plaza, where we enjoyed high-speed internet, good food and a United victory on the telly, in an establishment with a very European feel to it.

Like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, we flew through the night to Costa Rica, arriving at 9am in the capital, San José. However, our exhaustion was quickly forgotten as we got to know our chauffeurs, Ken & Sue Vissers, who are currently serving in Honduras but who had a camp ministry in Costa Rica. Think Abernethy Trust in the UK or Pioneer Camp in Canada and you have an idea as to the nature of their ministry. Anyway, the Visserses (?) were keen to touch base there again, so we were whisked in their mini-van to a height of 8,500 feet to La Cumbre (The Summit). In a glorious valley high in the mountains,  we saw what happens when you dream big, pray, and train up local leaders to run with a ministry themselves. It was pretty inspiring. We were also met there by Allan & Rhoda Holt, who lead short-term teams to Latin America and who, like ourselves, had arrived a few days ahead of the conference.

Ken Vissers, back where it all began

A river running through the campsite

Much though we enjoyed the quasi-Scottish hillside setting, there was only one place we wished to visit: a beach, any beach. When you live in a land-locked country for two years, you'll understand why. So we were directed by Ken & Sue to the resort of Manuel Antonio. We travelled there on Wednesday, arriving with in sufficient time ahead of sunset to take advantage of the surf that very day. The town itself was a wee bit on the touristy side for my liking (the sort of place where everyone's initial greeting is in English), but the payoff was vistas like these.

It wasn't all sand, sea and surf. We visited Manuel Antonio
National Park, which housed rare Squirrel Monkeys, such
as this chap.

With all conference participants due on the Friday evening, we boarded the bus to San José that morning and arrived at around 7pm at, in the most literal sense, base camp. Like La Cumbre, our conference centre was a Christian campsite in the hills above San José, and by virtue of not being flat, dusty and hot, made for a perfect getaway from Trinidad. Opportunities to explore the surrounding areas were somewhat limited due to the conference's packed schedule, but we took advantage of what little time was available in the early mornings.

Camp Roblealto, our conference site, situated next to Roblealto children's
home, LAM Canada's first ministry.

So busy was the programme that I would be here till Tuesday were I to write about it in any detail. Suffice it to say that a few key goals were achieved. Firstly, we got to meet our fellow missionaries and establish friendships among them. Most of LAM Canada's missionaries work in Central America and several live not too far from one another. We are, then, relatively isolated, so simply being able to put faces to names was important to us. Secondly, we left the conference with a much greater awareness of what God is doing in Latin America. All participants were given a slot to talk about their ministries, which range from church-planting in a remote mountainous region of Guatemala, to Christian schools in Honduras, to missionary support work. Furthermore, we were given the chance to visit certain key ministries in Costa Rica, including a men's prison ministry (where the raw humanity of the singing sent a chill down our spines) and the Rahab Foundation, where women go to flee the grip of prostitution (for those who have the book, the foundation was mentioned in a testimony in Philip Yancey's 'Prayer').

A conference session. Executive Director Carluci dos Santos is on the right,
 in front of the screen.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, us missionaries left with a greater sense of ownership of LAM Canada's work. This was LAM Canada's first ever such conference in its 51 years of existence. For many of us, the practical reality is that LAM Canada has simply existed as a fund-allocating mechanism for our ministries. Two extremely capable full-time workers based in Ontario keep the administrative side running, but beyond that, their time is limited. Therefore, at one of the last sessions of the conference, we sat down in working groups and set out concrete goals for taking the ministry forward as missionaries in the coming months. And the success of the conference was demonstrated by the fact that everyone was very much in favour of establishing such get-togethers at regular intervals over the coming years.

Having saved a bit of spare change, we splashed out and took the plane back to Trinidad on Thursday evening (though not before the customary visit to another of Santa Cruz's much-vaunted amenities: a supermarket!). So if it's possible to feel tired and refreshed at the same time, that pretty much sums up our current state. We return to the day-to-day grind this week and you'll hear all that's fit to print next week.

A very happy Easter to you all.

  • For implementation of the shared goals proposed at the conference. We all know how easy it is to let these things slip once we get back into day-to-day life. Pray against that.
  • For a smooth re-adjustment back into our ministries this week.

  • For a break which was both relaxing and productive.
  • For safe travels to and from Costa Rica.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda