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

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday Post -- 17/11/12

First up, thanks for your prayers this week for The Land Situation. Having popped by the land registry earlier this week, it looks like the time estimate we were initially given was a little optimistic, and so we wait another few days. However, from what they could tell us, the signs appear to be encouraging.

This week, the second and final batch of formal English classes for the year – the Basic group – came to an end, with six more students ‘graduating’ from an FT English course. However, we’re hoping to maintain the contact through the English conversation group, an informal, drop-in style class I have been running for about a month. Initially it was put together for the benefit of those Intermediate students from earlier in the year who wished to keep up their English, but the Basic students are now looking to start coming and keep their English ticking over until the next Intermediate class in 2013.

When the conversation group began, the main stimuli for discussion were simple news articles in English. But I soon realised the students were looking for something a little more specific. During the Intermediate course, they’d worked through a book in easy-to-read English on the Christian faith – I posted here at the time regarding some of the terrific conversations we’d had at these classes. Well, to my surprise, the students (none of whom, to my knowledge, are believers) began asking when they’d be able to study another book just like it!

Fortunately, that book was one of a range of similar titles known as the ‘ESL Bible Study Series’ published in the US, and I was able to order a few more such volumes in the last few weeks. We begin the new book, a Bible study in Mark, on Tuesday. Prayers appreciated.

That I was able to get my hands on the texts so quickly (mailing times here ranging from two weeks to two years) is entirely due to the visit of our old friend Rachel Peebles, who kindly found space for them in her luggage on her latest visit from the old country. As ever, Rachel has been busy dropping in on families she’s previously worked with and encouraging the missionary team – in this particular case, with Cadbury’s Boosts and Raisin & Biscuit Yorkies. Verily, my cup runneth over.

  • Again, for a positive outcome for our land application.
  • For Craig, teaching on Ruth 2 at the youth group tonight.
  • For energy and focus for Amanda, who continues to man the good ship Audiology single-handedly during her partner’s month-long absence, particularly as she simultaneously spins her church plates (such as tomorrow evening’s young women’s Bible study).
  • For the English conversation group, as they begin to get their teeth into Mark this week.

  • For an encouraging answer to prayer this week; we saw God’s hand at work in a particular situation in a very powerful way.
  •  For the encouragement of Rachel’s visit.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday Post -- 10/11/12

Somewhere, in a dusty corner of a Trinidad office, sits a pile of papers upon which reside a good deal of our thoughts and prayers. Thirteen months ago, having bought two plots of land a year earlier, and having intended on building our home there, we submitted our final payment and began a process of paperwork which should have taken a month or two. Owing to a dose of naiveté on our part, but moreso to the vendor's negligence, not to mention her residing a day's journey from here, our last year has been dominated by delays, frustrations and long waits in lawyers' offices (click on the 'housing' label at the foot of this post to get a flavour). 

On Monday, we submitted documentation for both plots to the local land registry, the last stop for any land transfer application here, and the furthest we have been able to take this process to date. They required eight working days to process the documentation, so by the end of this week, we should, barring any issues with our paperwork (and there have been a fair few until now!), be the officially recognised owners of two plots of land. Please pray!

Of course, rather than build on these plots, our hope is to sell them on in order to raise much-needed funds for the house we began building back in July, on a third plot we purchased when our patience was wearing thin. The past month has seen some delays on our building project, largely owing to a scarcity of quality cement. A major technical failure took place some time ago at Bolivia's main cement supplier, down in Santa Cruz, with no indication that it will be fixed any time soon. As a result, people are either settling for low-quality material, or purchasing imported bags at inflated prices. Profiteers are certainly profiting. However, in the past week, our builder was able to secure some decent cement at a reasonable price, so we hope things will pick up again. The outer wall is nearing completion, and a laundry room (essentially a glorified shed in the back garden) is now finished. 

So it's increasingly looking as if we won't be in, as we'd been hoping, by Christmas. However, early 2013 looks likely, and we have increased incentive to have it delivered on time. Because, this week, Mr. & Mrs. A. Cunningham confirmed that they would be paying us a two-week visit in April. And with Amanda's mum also making positive noises re. a 2013 visit, we're pretty excited about playing host to our parents on our own turf.

2013 has also been my main focus this week as I've spent the week preparing next year's budget for FT's Education area. My 'department' relies completely on external support and over the past few months we have been blessed by a big fundraising effort at Strathaven Evangelical Church and the continued support of the congregation at Cartsbridge Evangelical Church (both churches are based in the west of Scotland). This has freed us up to finally be able to purchase much-needed overheads,  educational and administrative (such as a filing cabinet, my desk buckling ever more under the strain) and, God-willing, provide a salary for a part-time teacher to oversee the Community classes (see prayer items for more on that).  

Meanwhile, Amanda's been hard at it in Audiology, where she's by herself this month in the absence of her partner, Odalys, currently undergoing training in La Paz. She's just about managing to keep her head above water, but it would be fair to say that the combination of a busy week and a late night watching the election results come in on Tuesday have rendered us somewhat bleary-eyed this weekend.

  • For success in our land transfer application (see above).
  • For Porfidia, who currently works in an administrative post at FT in the mornings but who is, by trade, a very capable primary school teacher, teaching in a local school in the afternoons. We would like to be able to employ her at FT in the afternoons in the Community classes, but with her administration contract up at the end of this year, this is dependent on her finding work in the mornings (schools either meet in the morning or afternoon here). Thus far, no such post has presented itself. We'd really appreciate your prayers that she can find morning work and be freed up to lead the Community education ministry, along with teacher-in-training, Elizabeth.
  • For the youth group, who begin a new series in the book of Ruth this week, in their last mini-series of studies before Christmas cranks into gear. 
  • For our old friend, Rachel Peebles, a former missionary here, who is on her way to Trinidad for a visit (she'll be doing the Heathrow-Miami leg in the next few hours, I suspect), arriving tomorrow.
  • For a little breakthrough on our building project this week.
  • For the exciting news of Craig's parents' visit in April next year.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Saturday Post -- 03/11/12

Craig has been working very hard this week preparing his sermon on making disciples, as part of the church’s series on discovering the purpose for our congregation. So, I (Amanda) thought I would give him a hand and write the blog entry today. This is despite me making me a pizza from scratch this morning, which I tell you is a lot of work too…. it had a BBQ sauce base, caramelized onions, garlic, broccoli, chicken and two fried eggs on top. You are all now insanely jealous and hungry, aren’t you? In reality it was too sweet.  I won’t do BBQ sauce and caramelised onions together again.

We’ve been catching up on British television this week and have been watching season 3 of The Great British Bake Off. This show started after we had left Scotland, so seasons 1 and 2 were missed. But watching all these amateurs making cakes and breads, has made me feel motivated enough to try something new that you can’t buy for yourself in Bolivia. I want to make bagels. I love bagels. Apparently, you poach the dough first and then bake them. Though I want to try something new, I have not yet found the time to try it yet. I will keep you all posted.

Our youth group social night went really well last Saturday night. Some of the leaders decorated the stairwell and auditorium with coloured lanterns and verses relating to who we are in Christ. As people walked in we measured and handed out crowns and tiaras, and for those who arrived late, donkey ears. All the young people were put into teams based on stickers they found underneath their chairs and they had to come up with a team name. Munchies were distributed and the main event was revealed: competitive Just Dance III on the Nintendo Wii. Everyone got a turn and there were many laughs, especially since everyone was instructed to arrive with their clothes backwards and inside out. And everyone who arrived late and had donkey ears had to get in a group together and hee-haw their way through Happy Birthday. At the end the youth heard a 15-minute message on who we are in Christ, based on the verses lining the stairwell on their way in. As leaders, we were really excited by how it all went and that the young people seemed to enjoy it so much.

This week, however, there is no youth group…because it is the annual youth group camp weekend. It is organised by another evangelical church in Trinidad and while some of our younger youth leaders attend, Craig, myself and the other missionaries do not. I choose not to go because they have to sleep on the floor and there are possibly snakes on the floor. We are very much looking forward to a Saturday night off, as they generally are non-existent, and we’re going to go out for dinner tonight. I also don’t have to teach my Bible Explorers Club class because all the girls in that class have gone to camp. It was quite the effort, especially for fellow missionary KC, to get all the permission slips and money from the youth in just one week. A large donation comes from Scotland every year to help those youth from poorer families go to camp, and this year was no exception. However, we also felt it was important that the youth take some responsibility for their trip, so money was allotted based on attendance, with everyone having to contribute a little.

Now, we’re looking towards Christmas. Craig is charged with overseeing the Christmas service this year and KC and I, as youth group co-ordinators, are helping as well. Please pray for us as we try to organise all the different ministries in the church for one big Christmas service.

I also have a big month in front of me, as Odalys, the nurse I work with in Audiology, has left for La Paz to help Maricarmen, an audiologist who used to work at FT. I am, therefore, in charge of Audiology full time for one month. I like being in charge of things (and don’t I just know it – Craig).

  • For Amanda, as she works in Audiology by herself for the next month.
  • For Craig, as he preaches on the topic of discipleship tomorrow.
  • For the final ‘Kids’ Games’ afternoon of this year, on Tuesday, and that the 120 young people who have heard the gospel regularly over the past months would come to a saving faith.

  • For a really enjoyable and well-organised Youth Group social night.
  • For the almost 40 teenagers from our church who were able to go to camp.
  • For the relaxing ‘holiday weekend’ (i.e., no youth group!) we are currently enjoying!

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda