Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday Post -- 26/10/13

Better late than never: a picture from the annual dinner on Thursday the
17th of October, marking the end of this year's English classes.
We're a little short on time today as we have an especially busy Saturday coming up. Tuesday is Fundación Totaí's ninth anniversary (regular readers will know that any annual milestone is celebrated here with no shortage of enthusiasm) and so, two important things are happening. Firstly, and most excitingly for me, everyone is getting the day off on Tuesday, resulting in an extra-long weekend for Amanda and I, who already have Mondays off. And secondly, we're having an event for staff and family members out at the lake today. Barbecued steak is on the menu and let's just say that if you had any idea what the steak is like here, you a) would renounce your vegetarianism and b) would certainly have no desire to spend your morning writing a blog post.

The event kicks off at 9am, so I have just enough time to share some extended prayer points.

  • Craig has his fortnightly church leaders' meeting tomorrow afternoon. Pray for wisdom for Craig and his fellow leaders Elías and Jerry as they seek to make the right decisions. We are often faced with some very murky situations, so this is not always easy.
  • Pray for Amanda, who is more-or-less in charge of organising our church's first-ever youth camp, taking place on the weekend of the 16th of November. We have only just been able to settle on a final budget, so the costs will finally be announced at tonight's youth group (these vary depending on each member's attendance throughout the year).
  • Keep praying for positivity for us both; the closer furlough gets, the longer and more stressful each day seems to become! The enemy seems keen that we leave here with every last modicum of enthusiasm for Trinidad and its people sapped out of us, thus rendering us less likely to ever return. Pray for divine protection as we take our share of the hits in the war of the ages.
  • Give thanks for Craig's largely productive visit to Santa Cruz last weekend. He had initially planned on picking up some air conditioning units for the church, but at the last minute we were informed of a cheaper solution through a contact in Trinidad (highly unusual, as things are almost always more affordable in Santa Cruz). Nevertheless, he was able to pick up some much-needed equipment for the music ministry.
  • For some really beneficial time together this week as a couple. Our evenings can disappear very quickly here, but we made a conscious decision to say "no" to one or two things and we feel refreshed as a result. As the only missionaries now left here, methinks we'll need more of this in the coming weeks.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saturday Post - 19/10/2013

Well, it is Saturday night and I am in the house, alone, because Craig has left me… sigh… to go to Santa Cruz to buy band equipment. And see a movie without me. Which I think is cruel. Granted, he asked me if I wanted to go, but he is doing two nights straight on the bus and that sounded stressful more than anything. Though, I think I am just as tired today here in Trinidad as I would have been in Santa Cruz after not too much sleep on a bus because I became engrossed in a book last night and before I knew it I realised the sun was raising again. Good times. Anyways, we will be reunited tomorrow morning as his bus comes in probably about 7:30 a.m. (This also means that Craig is not present to edit this blog post and there might be more grammatical mistakes than usual and a certain increase in the use of “…”).

I am home at night on a Saturday because the Bible Explorer’s Club and Youth Group were cancelled today. The churches in Trinidad organised their annual Jesus March this afternoon at 4:00 and our church got really involved. We announced it last week at Youth Group and in the church Sunday services and I was relatively sceptical about who would attend, but we had about 35 people from all demographics of our church out today marching in the parade and I was so encouraged to see a really decent number of youth show up as well. Especially encouraging was seeing some of the youth get really enthusiastic about handing out tracts. The parade was about an hour long and ended in the city’s central plaza where a worship event was about to begin. I left not too long after the first couple of songs as I had the blog and two batches of brownies (to sell to raise money for the band tomorrow) to attend too. But there were loads of churches represented and everyone seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere. It was really special to be part of our church community as we all sought to join the larger church community in Trinidad together.  (Fair warning, this blog entry can’t be too long, as those two batches of brownies still haven’t been dealt with).

My week has been long, and busy… but interesting. Tuesday night at our discipleship meeting with Carlos and Carla I decided to spend the entire night playing with their son Kenny, who is now walking, because normally Carla is up and down from the table during the whole study trying to play with and placate Kenny. As it seemed, for the first time, that Kenny actually wanted to play with me I spent the evening with him so Carla could sit at the table and focus on the study. I, of course, continued to throw my two cents in whenever I wanted to.  But, mainly, it was just fun. What good times there are playing with a one year-old. And I pray it was a blessing to Carla.

Wednesday I had my discipleship afternoon with Yoselyn. And that was interesting because, as she and her classmates are now about eleven years old now, they just had their weeklong sex education classes. Yay… even more good times. She had learnt a lot and I have to say that the majority of it was accurate, not all of it, but generally I was impressed with what she was able to teach back to me. She was getting right into explaining everything she learnt, drawing me diagrams and everything. She had some tough questions, but Yoselyn’s faith amazes me sometimes. I find that sometimes when speaking with older teenagers or adults trying to explain why certain things are sinful and others are not, one gets a lot of responses like, “Ya, but…”, or “What about this…”. But Yoselyn is very content and accepts something is sinful just because the Bible, and therefore God, says so. And that is good enough for her. I wish I could be like that. To have such a strong and innocent faith to not mentally, internally question God’s justice, actions and commandments when I don’t like what is going on around me. To be able to say always, “Because you said so, that’s good enough for me…”. I know I should be like that… that surrendering to God’s will should look like that, but I still struggle with it sometimes. And to be able to say to Yoselyn, “This is wrong because God says so”, and to have her respond with, “Okay,” was so refreshing and encouraging.

In terms of discipleship, I ended my week with a two hour chat with a friend who used to work at the Foundation, Liria, who has recently spent some time in Chile and has been back in Trinidad for the last three months. It was a frustrating conversation on many levels and I realised very early on in the conversation that, although she says she values my friendship, there was not ever going to be anything I could say to convince her to see things from a different perspective. I don’t know if you can resonate with the feeling that the only thing you can do for a specific person is pray for them. I can meet up with her and listen and be there, but deep down I know that anything I actually say is going in one ear and out the other and prayer is the only, and very powerful, tool left. And, ya, this girl needs a lot of prayer.

My thoughts on Craig’s week are probably different than his thoughts on his own week, but all I know was that his English Class had their end of the closing dinner so he got to go out for really good steak Thursday night (I got a doggie bag) and he was in Santa Cruz today watching Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney… and I was not (admittedly by choice). Not jealous in the slightest.  I know he has been working hard on sermon preparation. I will say that… that and his steak and his movie.

Okay, brownies are calling to me. 

  • Craig, as he travels back from Santa Cruz tonight and the blessing that these new pieces of band equipment will be to the church.
  • My friend Liria who needs help making good, safe, smart decisions. 
  • Youth Group camp preparation... because we are crazy people who are a month out from the camp date and still don't have a budget properly put together. (We do have a confirmed location booked... praise God!)
  • The attendance and participation at the Jesus March today and the enjoyment and blessing there is in being a part of a church community.
  • Have a productive week talking, encouraging and being friends with a variety of people. 
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Saturday Post -- 05/10/13

The Birthday Boy, with friends and family, church and otherwise.

Forgive me for bleating on about the weather yet again, but I write in the midst of another south wind, the second this week, and easily the latest such occurrence we have experienced here. Searing, unquenched humidity tends to dominate in October, as referred to in last week’s post. Not this year. Indeed, my suspicions that something really is askew with the weather are only confirmed by reports from Scotland of temperatures pushing 20 Celsius.

Who knows? Perhaps this is a little blessing from the Lord to help us endure the Furlough Countdown. The reality of our looming exit, however, is really beginning to kick in now, with Maicol, KC and Caleb entering their final week of ensuring ‘i’s are a-dotted and ‘t’s a-crossed before they leave Trinidad for the States a week tomorrow. In eight days’ time we will be the last missionaries standing.

Going back to the weather, it has not been without its difficulties, as the south wind has been accompanied this week by copious amounts of rain. This has battered our abysmally-installed patio doors upstairs and we have spent far too much time with a mop! As rainy season is now not too far away (or, at least it would be in a normal year!), we’ll probably need someone to come this week and fix the whole thing good and proper. Immensely frustrating, but very typical of this part of the world, where pride in one’s work is considered of little importance.

The week at work has been fairly routine, with a province-wide shutdown declared on Wednesday (in protest at the ‘results’ of last year’s census) breaking things up nicely! Still, I had a sermon to write and, as I’m the kind of person who needs a lot of preparation time on these things, I was able to make take advantage of the day off to make significant headway. Philippians 4:1-7 is the passage, on standing firm in the Lord through joy and prayer. As ever, much to dwell on before I even started typing.

Amanda has been putting in her usual shift in Audiology in the mornings since coming back. However, her afternoons tend to be dominated by church/social work. This week she and Rachel (back from Scotland for another short visit) spent some time planning a 1st birthday celebration which, it is fair to say, probably wouldn’t have taken place without them.

This time last week, as I was waxing lyrical about last Friday night’s praise event, so ably put together and led by Carlos, something really quite tragic was taking place. Carlos’s younger brother, Rafael, had taken a fatal blow to the head at his boxing gym. By the time they’d flown him to a half-decent hospital in Santa Cruz, he was clinically dead, and in the early hours of Sunday morning, he passed away. Carlos being the responsible older brother, he accompanied Rafael both to Santa Cruz, and on his final journey back to Trinidad. ‘Rollercoaster’ barely begins to describe the emotions felt by Carlos within the space of 48 hours.

However, Carlos excelled himself in appalling circumstances, and represented the family with great dignity at Rafael’s wake and burial. And in the midst of great tragedy, Carlos continually looked on the overwhelmingly positive side of things: that Rafael, a believer, is now in heaven.

Carlos & Carla, with Kenny Cristobal.
As we’ve probably mentioned previously here, the mourning process is fairly brief in this culture. Indeed, Rafael was buried less than 36 hours after his death. Still, as you can imagine, Carlos and Carla’s attentions were somewhat distracted from their son Kenny Cristobal’s looming birthday. So, in stepped Amanda and Rachel to give Carla a hand in putting on a big party, for what is always a big occasion in this part of the world. Everyone had a good time and it was a particular blessing to see so many of Carlos’s family there, enjoying a moment of familial joy after a turbulent few days.

  • Two youth group items today. First up, we are wrapping up the Sex & Relationships topic tonight. Incredibly, we embarked on this subject a couple of months ago, anticipating we would have it wrapped up in a couple of weeks. But the youth have posed so many interesting questions – reflecting the deep confusion in this culture regarding these issues – that only now are we able to wrap it up. Anyway, please pray that the youth would really be thinking about, and applying, the lessons learned to their own lives.
  • Secondly, we met this week to begin preparations for our first ever camp. As anyone who’s grown up in a church will know, youth camps are a big deal. Up until now, our youth have gone along to a camp run by another church, but this year we’ve decided to start out on our own. The proposed dates are the 16th and 17th of November (we’ve decided to keep it to one night – but two full days – to ease ourselves into this whole business). Please pray that, as leaders, we’d keep preparation for camp high on our to-do list, busy as we are in many other areas.

  • Further to what I mentioned above, we’ve also been meeting with Carlos & Carla on Tuesday evenings to study the Bible together. This week, naturally, we ended up just reflecting on the events of the past couple of days. Still, we are finding these times to be of real blessing and encouragement for the four of us.
  • We were able this week to book our flights to Canada for next summer. God-willing, Amanda will arrive there on the 30th of May, while I, with studies to complete, will travel three weeks later, arriving on the 22nd of June (we already have some church dates booked, too). We’ll then return to Scotland on the 14th of September. Give thanks for God’s provision in enabling us to book these seats early – when they’re cheap! 

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda