Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday Post -- 28/09/13

As September 2013 dons its coat, makes its excuses and heads for the exit door, spring, of course, is very much in the air in Bolivia (we’re in the southern hemisphere, remember?). And September is traditionally the month in which the arrival of La Primavera is celebrated in Latin America.

In the unique context of Trinidad, the four seasons are barely discernible, with the area’s only real natural trademark of note – The Big Green Tree – even refusing to adopt different shades as the year goes by. Indeed, if I could break down the Beni region’s calendar into four seasons, they would look something like this:

  • April-June: Hot and humid.
  • July-August: Hot, with occasional dramatic cold spells.
  • September-November: Hot and stultifyingly humid.
  • December-March: Rain. Lots of it. And otherwise, hot and stultifyingly humid.
Weather aside, then, you’d be hard pressed to tell apart May from December. Still, it would take something rather extraordinary to get between your average Bolivian and an excuse for a full scale booze-up celebration, and so, celebrate spring’s arrival we simply must.

However, the party poppers are pulled for the abstract, and not the concrete, with spring’s arrival traditionally being seen as a celebration of new beginnings, youth and all that is sprightly in the world (ruling yours truly out at a stroke). Nary a lamb a-leaping in sight.

So, back in August, when we members of the church worship ministry sat down as part of its ongoing mission to seek out new drumkits and new sound equipment  (boldly going where no El Jireh church band has gone before), and a celebratory concert/worship evening in September was mooted as an option, it looked like we were on to a good thing. As the de facto band leader over the past few years, I gave my full assent, on the condition that I not be in charge, for two reasons: 1) I was due to be out of town for a significant chunk of the rehearsal time; and 2) I was keen, for the sake of the maturity of the local church, that this not be a missionary-driven idea.

Happily, Carlos was more than keen to oversee planning for the special event. And if you remember what I’ve shared about Carlos here before, this was just another massive example of Christ’s transformative power in his life.

What I did chip in with early on, however, was the suggestion that we aim for a central theme to build the evening around. And given the general springtime vibe in September, not to mention our desire to open the doors to non-churchgoing family and friends, it didn’t take us too long to settle on those themes of ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the need to be ‘born again’ (John 3:3). We soon came up, boxing-style, with a suitable billing; and posters advertising ‘Rebirth’ duly went into circulation.

Nightly rehearsals took place in the evenings in the three weeks building up to the event, though I missed the first fortnight due to our time in Santa Cruz. When I turned up on Monday evening, a fair few last-minute organisational hurdles were yet to be overcome. But by week’s end, logistics such as lighting, decorations and food were being taken care of by several church members who gave so willingly of their time.

Everything, then, was in place for a great evening, and sure enough, everyone who attended and participated in ‘Rebirth’ was richly blessed. The evening, chaired by Carlos, kicked off with a medley of fairly up-tempo praise numbers. People then got the chance to park their backsides while the band’s musicians played a few individual numbers (I contributed Yann Tiersen's Comptine D’un Autre Été from the film Amelie, a gorgeous yet – encouragingly for me – deceptively simple piece). I then spoke for ten minutes on how spring reminds us of creation, how sin corrupted creation, and how we can enjoy an ‘eternal spring’ (i.e., a new heavens and a new earth) if we ask God to give us new life in Christ. The band closed with a few more meditative songs which ran with the theme of giving our lives to Christ, before finishing on a triumphant note with Es Tiempo, the Spanish version of Hillsong United’s ‘The Time Has Come’.

We were deeply encouraged to see the church being visibly lifted by the whole experience. A minor disappointment would be the disparity between ticket purchases and attendance from the many who bought a ticket from outside the church. Nonetheless, there were still plenty of new faces, and as a music ministry, we were enriched far beyond the material.

And as Amanda and I commented on the drive home last night, when you take a few steps back, it’s clear to see that something like last night would never have been possible two or three years ago, in the sense that we as missionaries were primarily acting as consultants or assistants in something the locals were driving. This is an example of the spiritual maturity we ask you guys to pray for week-in, week-out, and we are tremendously encouraged.

Moreover, with furlough looming large, in Carlos I have seen precisely the leadership qualities required to take the reins of the music ministry. Even in the past few weeks, he has come up with some excellent suggestions for taking things forward which I, knee-deep in My Way Of Doing Things, had failed to see. My prayer is that Carlos would take charge over the next year and that, upon our return – God-willing, in early 2015 – I would be largely surplus to requirements as a band leader.

  • Please remember Amanda’s health in your prayers. Over the past month or so she’s found herself increasingly exhausted, and despite a relaxing time in Santa Cruz, she had to take a little time off work this week. Looking at some lab results that came in, the GP reckons it’s primarily stress-driven. So pray that we would both understand and respect Amanda’s limits.
  • Pray also for motivation for us both post-Santa Cruz (an issue which probably contributed to the above point). In the context of four years, a dozen weeks or so is not a long wait till furlough, but in some ways our proximity to Christmas makes it harder to gee ourselves up for the next couple of months.
  • For last night. Wow.
  • For Maicol & KC, who, while we were in Santa Cruz, were in La Paz getting a visa for Caleb to travel to the USA for six months with them. Great news. However, they are required to travel sooner than they had expected due to the various machinations of the adoption process, and so they will leave Trinidad, God-willing, on Sunday the 13th of October. Pray for them in their last-minute preparations for going home.
  • For the arrival in Trinidad of Alex Wann, of Wyoming. When Alex was given a two-year contract with Samaritan’s Purse here, he googled all things Trinidad and, sure enough, up popped our blog. So we’ve been in contact for a few months, but met formally a few weeks ago. He’s a bright young guy with bundles of energy and a Christ-centred perspective on things, and in the short time Craig’s had to get to know him, he’s been encouraged to have some deeper male companionship (hard to find in a culture where guys tend to use comedy as a protective forcefield from talking about real life – though that’s not necessarily limited to Bolivia!).
  • For the great time we had with Amanda’s mother and aunts during their two-and-a-half weeks in Bolivia. As you know, visitors are always a great encouragement, particularly when they’re family members. We were as glad to show them the ropes of our ministry as they were to take advantage of the seriously cheap groceries available in Bolivia (I do believe a divine hand was at work in the grand opening of a brand, spanking new hypermarket next door to our hotel – the day we arrived in Santa Cruz)!
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Holiday Snaps II: Return of the Holiday Snaps

Here are some pictures from our last few days in Santa Cruz. Amanda's relatives left town on Tuesday and we're happy to report that they all arrived safely in their respective continents.
Aunts Sally and Cathy with one of this country's legendary (in my estimation,
 anyway) watch repairmen. These guys can pretty much fix anything and
you can reasonably expect change of a fiver in return. (FYI: my watch was
actually getting fixed -- the aunts, unlike me, aren't boring enough to
want pictures of this guy)
With Steve & Dilys Paterson, British ex-pats (he Scottish, she honorary Scottish)
with whom we have struck up a firm friendship over the past year or so,
rarely missing an opportunity to mourn the paucity of Heinz Baked Beans/
Ragu/Sharwoods in the 'white guy aisle' of Santa Cruz's hypermarket.
Their membership of the local country club has also afforded me the odd
 round of golf (holes 19-36 for 2013 were 'played' on Saturday past).
They return to the UK in October and will be much missed.
The Aunts in the centre of Santa Cruz's plaza.
The Sisterhood pose by the hotel pool, bikinis saved for a warmer occasion.
Remarkably, them south winds keep a-blowin', meaning only a fool
would dare to venture into the chlorinated depths. I swam for four
days straight.
The Last Supper at Casa del Camba, home to some of Santa Cruz's finest
steak. Within twelve hours, the Sisterhood would be airborne. Extra credit
to Aunt Sally (left), who set off home for Singapore a mere 36 hours after
their arrival back in Toronto. 
The usual hijinks return next week. Enjoy it while it lasts: by my estimation, there are only a dozen or so Saturdays till furlough!

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Holiday snaps

No regular post this weekend, but here are some pictures from our time with Amanda's relatives so far.
Token picture at the lake. Amanda with her aunt
Sally, her mum Selene, and her aunt Cathy.

With the English class.
We celebrated Amanda's 28th birthday on Wednesday at (unofficially)
the world's greatest steak restaurant: Estancia.
Aunt Sally brought whole suitcases of toys with her all the way from
Singapore, via Canada. Here are the kids from the Friday afternoon
Community class with some of them.
Mother and daughter reunited.