|With our old Spanish teacher (and still friend) Farid, who defended his|
tourism thesis with aplomb this week. The more observant among you
may note that the room was not air-conditioned.
As we continue to wait for movement in the adoption process, we’re often reminded of the need to trust God that the tough stuff we’re going through will all make sense in the end.
And for a good example of that, we need look no further than March of this year, when we were in the midst of another pretty trying time. One morning, a woman came to Amanda looking for help for her sister and brother-in-law, whose marriage was seemingly in crisis. Amanda was keen to help, but aware of her limitations in this area, having had no training whatsoever in marriage counselling, and particularly uncertain as to how to approach this with non-Christians. The woman was unperturbed: “No problem, just pretend you’re qualified,” she responded! In the end the couple decided to go elsewhere, yet the episode served to drive home our inability – as a couple, as a foundation, and as a church – to meet such needs.
Later that same week, Amanda had a conversation with a friend whose niece was looking to get married, and yet had received no help from her pastor at this time, despite actively seeking out opportunities for marriage preparation. It was clear that Christians here were indeed hungry for such input, yet hadn’t the faintest idea where to find it.
All the while, Amanda and I were some weeks into housing a friend of ours whose marriage was in a dire state, having crossed the line one time too many. And so, time and again, we were reminded that week of the great needs in the marriages in our community, yet a lack of resources, training and time to be able to address these.
The following Sunday, in keeping with tradition, we touched base with the folks back home, who were completely unaware of the week's goings-on. As it happened, Dad had just got off the phone with a couple from Hertfordshire, Andrew & Ruth Richards (Ruth is a cousin of my Mum). Dad explained that as their careers were beginning to wind down, Andrew & Ruth were looking to increasingly devote their time to missions and to supporting missionary work worldwide. To that end, they had made some enquiries, and the work at Fundación Totaí had surfaced. Hence the contact with my parents.
But Andrew and Ruth, an engineer and schools inspector respectively, were particularly keen not to simply observe, but to go where they felt they could play an active role, albeit for a limited period. "Well, what do they feel they have to offer?" we asked, and Dad proceeded to share the Richards' own ideas. Many and varied though their talents were, we were struggling to see where we could use them in this particular ministry in such a way that they wouldn't go home feeling they'd simply had a relaxing break in a hot climate.
At which point, Dad mentioned one final possibility, almost as an aside: "They've also run a marriage course in the past."
Why, of all the gin joints!
In due course, we made contact with Andrew & Ruth and began to discuss how such a course might work here. From an early stage, we were impressed by their attention to detail, their desire to serve and, particularly, their awareness of the need for flexibility in a very different relationship culture to the UK. So we were delighted when, a couple of months down the road, having considered a range of other 'offers', they went with Trinidad, Bolivia.
And so to the somewhat less tropical Stonehouse, Scotland, where at a nearby hotel in July, the four of us sat down one afternoon to plan the course in greater detail. The Alpha marriage course is a great tool (we are graduates of their marriage preparation course), though a little Bible-lite. We were encouraged to hear of Andrew & Ruth’s plans to establish greater Scriptural foundations. This naturally led us to discuss the makeup of the group, with several non-Christian couples likely to be in attendance; again, the course would be tweaked where appropriate to ensure the gospel is preached. A particular cultural quirk here is that most co-habiting non-Christian couples are not, in fact, married, and so the importance of the marriage commitment would also be highlighted; there would almost certainly be couples in attendance who had not yet, in fact, made this commitment.
A big chunk, then, of our time since returning in late July has been spent in preparing for the course. Amanda has been particularly busy along with several other women from the church in preparing the décor. This is important as the course (which will take place on weeknights over one week) is set up like a ‘date night’. Though we expect a large group to attend, the interactive part of the course is not done by the group as a whole, but by the couples themselves, each of whom will discuss these important topics at their very own, candle-lit table, complete with a take-home centrepiece. So the aesthetics play a big part.
As I made clear earlier, this is a relatively new venture for this part of the world. And yet, despite that (or, more probably, because of it), the response has been tremendous, with us having to up the numbers slightly to accommodate a few extra couples. We are very excited to have Andrew & Ruth come and lead this, and we’re particularly conscious of the need for this to be a platform to build on, rather than a one-off event; we have a couple in mind in the church to be the people to take this forward, and we’re hoping that Andrew & Ruth will be able to get alongside them at various points during their two-week stay here.
While I was writing this very entry, I’m sad to say that we learned of a morally compromised situation between two Christians we work alongside. These things just do not go away in this culture. We pray that the marriage course will play a small part in establishing God’s declared will for loving relationships here in this small corner of Bolivia.
|"Chau"/"Bye"/"Sniffle"/"So long" (L-R). A quick snap before Maicol & KC|
boarded the first of many, many vehicles.
- For safe travels for Andrew & Ruth, who set off from Heathrow on Tuesday and eventually get to Trinidad on Thursday (the course begins next Monday, the 5th of October).
- People who came to hear our report in churches last year may remember Yoselín, a girl Amanda has worked with extensively over the years. She comes from a very challenging family background and now, in her early teenage years, her behaviour is being affected by such factors. Please pray for patience for Amanda as she continues to mentor Yoselín in the ways of God.
- Last night, our dear friends Maicol, KC and Caleb left Trinidad to begin their journey to the USA, where they will now be settling as a family. We give thanks for the way that God has so clearly paved the way for them to be able to return to Seattle over the past months, and for their great friendship to us and many others here. We will miss them greatly. Pray for the LORD’s continued guidance to them.
- Oh, and that means we are now the last missionaries standing here at Fundación Totaí/El Jireh Church (just to contextualise that, there were five full-time missionary couples when we arrived here in January 2010). That is both encouraging (the work does not depend on foreigners to move forward) and somewhat daunting! Please pray for wisdom as we seek to give a godly example in all that we do, and for others to come alongside us and encourage us, so that we can better serve others.
- There's been a last-minute cancellation for the youth service tomorrow night, and as a result, Craig somehow has to come up with a talk, er, today! Prayer appreciated.
- Craig had a really encouraging visit with Carlos & Carla earlier this week, who are holding up remarkably well despite the loss of their motorcycle, and who, in true Macedonian style, have even found opportunities to bless others this week. We’re delighted to see this.
- For a much-needed rest for adoption-related issues this week (our lawyer has been out of town). We know we need to push on with this again when she gets back, but we have really benefitted, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically, from this break in play.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!
Craig & Amanda