Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday Post -- 27/02/16

You, this time next Saturday. Six whole years, eh?
Our final Sunday morning in Scotland before coming out here way back in 2010 was spent not at our commissioning service (we'd had that the week before at Shettleston) but at the dedication of our friends' baby. There, over a coffee in the service's aftermath, I had a chance conversation with the proud grandpa. He complimented us on our early efforts at communication (we'd begun sending out our email updates as our preparations intensified), while encouraging us to not let that slip once we were out here. In fact, he told me, his own church had recently hosted a missionary couple who, in order to maximise communications and accountability, maintained -- of all things -- a blog. 

The arrival in Bolivia was still a few weeks away as, for some reason (I seem to remember it was family-related), we had decided that Canada in January would be ideal preparation for tropical Bolivia. In between the various appointments with friends and relatives (many of whom simply couldn't bear to see us only once before parting), we had plenty of time to mentally prepare ourselves for what was coming. And I seem to remember it was while sitting bored on the living room couch one morning that the blog conversation came back to me. Rather than waiting till we got to Trinidad, I simply posted away.

Looking back now, there were a whopping twelve posts before we even got here (I must have been really bored), but for what we were to lose in prolificity, we quickly made up in regularity, getting into the rhythm of sharing updates on Saturday mornings -- and that despite an internet connection the likes of which I thought we'd left behind in 1999. And come rain or shine, with the exception of home leave periods and vacations, we've pretty much been at it ever since. Some weekends have been more difficult than others for carving out a couple of hours, but that hasn't stopped us.

Over the last few months, however, a major new component has been incorporated in our lives (I'll give you a clue: it starts with 'S' and rhymes with 'ham'), and free time -- heh! -- is increasingly a thing of the past. Weekends were already fairly busy for us with our church commitments, but things have intensified considerably with the new addition, even causing us to -- the shame! -- overlook the blog completely a few weekends ago. This morning, with the weeks's groceries to be bought, a youth meeting to plan, a baby room to decorate, Amanda facing a veritable avalanche of clothes to be ironed, and, oh yeah, a ten-month-old to keep two pairs of eyes on, my first thought was: "How on earth will we manage to write a blog post today?"

Well, turns out I managed in the end. But, with heavy hearts, we have today decided to approach the blog with a little more flexibility for the foreseeable. We will endeavour to share a full post at weekends where possible. If not, we will, at the very least, share our prayer points for the week gone and the week ahead -- that is, after all, what got us into this game in the first place.

So it's not so much a case of 'goodbye', and not even 'au revoir', but simply 'here's an extra five minutes in your weekend that you hadn't been expecting -- go outside and kick a ball around or something'.

Wouldn't work in Canada in January, mind.


  • Yesterday, Craig visited the family of the teenager who died recently. Naturally, they are still coming to terms with his suicide, the mother being especially upset. However, unprovoked, they have both expressed a desire to come to church, starting tomorrow (their children already attend the children's and youth ministries). Please pray for healing and for a significant revelation of God in their lives.
  • Keep praying for wisdom for Amanda and the other Fundación Totaí board members, who are facing a number of headaches right now.
  • Craig is speaking to the youth tonight where the theme is, er, Pepsi, and its 'Live for Today' advertising campaign. You can probably see where he's going with that one.
  • There have been a number of illnesses of late in our community, but the three of us are have been (so far!) relatively unscathed. Give thanks for the strength to be able to pitch in where others cannot, and pray for these cases too.
  • Plans are progressing well for the re-launch of the youth group next weekend, with a constructive meeting this past week. 
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday Post -- 20/02/16

Coming soon to Trinidad, Bolivia. Population: 120,000.
This weekend, Bolivia goes to the polls for a truly historic referendum. We have to be very careful about expressing political opinions here (especially as foreigners), so in describing the current political climate, I will restrict myself to facts that have been widely reported and are widely accepted.
  • On the back of a third consecutive presidential election success in 2014, president Evo Morales' MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) party has set a referendum as to whether or not the constitution can be re-written to allow a president to seek a third term in office.
  • Morales had the constitution (which allows for two presidential terms) re-written and endorsed by the people in a referendum in 2009, just before his second presidential election victory. Thus, while he is technically already serving his third term, the first one in this case doesn't count as it was under an old constitution. 
  • Morales' current term ends in 2019. He is already the country's longest serving president, and a new term would potentially see him in power until 2025.
  • In the event of a 'Yes' vote, the parochial, remote and largely unpopular Beni region (where we live) is set to benefit from, among other things, an international airport, according to pro-government campaign material.
  • Should the Beni deliver a resounding 'No', questions will be raised as to the validity of last year's gubernatorial vote, in which MAS secured a most unexpected victory. Moreover, in such an event, it is likely the current governor will be removed from office and replaced by a former Miss Bolivia (yes, that one). 
  • To mark his decade in office, in January, Morales and his vice-president began the day, a national public holiday, by offering animal sacrifices to Mother Earth at the ruins of ancient Inca city Tiwanaku. Morales then delivered a six-hour-long speech, broadcast nationally, heralding the achievements of his government. The speech was carried by all of Bolivia's television channels, which were threatened with closure in the event of non-broadcast.
  • In the event of a 'No' vote, according to Bolivia's vice-president, "the sun will cease to shine and the moon will hide." 
  • In the event of a 'Yes' vote, Morales would still have to run as a candidate in 2019.
  • Vast sums of government money have been spent on campaigning for a 'Yes' vote.
  • Bolivia remains the poorest country in South America.
  • On the eve of the vote, polls are neck-and-neck.
Make of that what you will.

  • It's been a tough week for us as a church community. Earlier this week, a teenage boy who was a regular attender up until a few years ago (his siblings are still very much involved at the church) committed suicide. As is standard practice here, the burial took place soon after, but as a church, the comforting process has only begun. The parents have never been involved in the church, but the father has this week expressed to Craig and his fellow elders a desire to 'return to the Lord'. Pray for healing for the family and wisdom for the church.
  • The staff meetings at FT this week were a great success, with visible evidence in the aftermath of greater unity, and a greater understanding from the staff as a whole as to FT's general direction and focus. 
  • Edwin travelled home safely on Monday, after further ministry in Trinidad over the weekend. Give thanks for the great blessing he has been to us here, as a family, as a church, and as a group of Langham students.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday Post -- 13/02/16

Amanda's eyesight's bad enough as it is.
Over the last couple of weeks, we've been busier than Donald Trump's hairdresser, so much so that last Saturday, for the first time in the history of this blog, we completely forgot to post anything (as opposed to home leave periods, or those weekends when we serve notice seven days earlier that we'll be venturing to some exotic destination -- or Santa Cruz). 

As a result, in spite of our efforts to give our blog-posts a more thematic feel in recent months, this weekend's effort will very much be in the tried-and-trusted mold of I-did-this-and-she-did-that-and-no-one-died.

The first of these last two weeks was exhausting, firstly because we were up late every night, and secondly because when we did finally rest our weary heads, we kept getting that nightmare about showing up for a high school exam late/unprepared/sans vêtements. Except for the first time in years there was some experiential basis, as a not-altogether-untricky exam was awaiting us at week's end.

All of which is attributable to the youth training week, which we mentioned last time out, with the church looking to re-calibrate the structure and methodology of the youth work, bringing it more in line with the AWANA (Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed) programme we run for children with its focus on Bible memorisation. It was an interesting course, but as intensive as it was interactive; here, rather than meet, say, once a week for five weeks, people prefer to do such courses quickly and efficiently over five weeknights (remember the Marriage Course)? 

In the end, we just about managed to scrape a pass (fully clothed, too) in the leadership exam, though the majority failed. Mercifully, there was a re-sit a few days later, by the end of which all eleven candidates got the seal of approval.

Ah yes, the old favourite of, er, smacking a ball around with balloon-stuffed
After something of a dry January, rainy season has lived up to its billing a little more in the last couple of weeks; the storms have been heavy if intermittent, but much surface water remains, meaning mosquitoes are an ever-present nuisance (particularly, and most annoyingly, by our front door). Thankfully, but for a lunchtime downpour, the rain kept well away for last Saturday's annual Carnaval social event for the young people at the lake, which featured testimonies, the usual water-based games, and plenty of opportunities to demonstrate John 13:35 in action

That was an all-day affair, capped off with the exam that evening. Sunday, then, presented an ideal opportunity to finally put our feet up...except that we'd organised a Super Bowl party. We went to the lengths of borrowing the church projector for the occasion, rendering the thudding anti-climax all the more massive.

Cam Newton, in happier times (i.e., the pre-game warmup).
We had just about managed to get our house in order again by the time Thursday morning arrived with Edwin Fernández in tow. Avid readers will remember that Edwin works for Langham Preaching here in Bolivia, and Casa Cunningham is base-camp for what is his second follow-up visit since the initial course back in June. There is a lot to be encouraged by here; the fact that he has made the trip so frequently is symptomatic of Langham's optimism about the way things have progressed in Trinidad. Indeed, at the curtain-raising meal on Thursday with all the participants, Edwin presented us with a veritable bookshelf of written material (good books are very hard to come by here), adding that Langham Central was greatly encouraged by the Trinidad group's dedication, and the books were a gesture of gratitude.

Edwin's visits are always greatly encouraging (you might as well call him Barnabas) and he has even been kind enough to make himself available to the staff at Fundación Totaí, most obviously at the morning devotions. We're looking forward to what he has to say the rest of the weekend, be that on Sunday morning, Saturday evening with the youth, or today in our Langham workshop.

I should leave it there before I cause a renewed outbreak of exam nightmares.

  • Sam is growing quickly and his health remains robust, however, mosquito season brings great potential for complications. Pray for protection there.
  • This Wednesday and Thursday, FT is holding two consecutive mornings of staff meetings, with the goal of better equipping our staff for the year ahead and helping newer members of the personnel understand better FT's mission and vision. Pray that these would go well.
  • Pray for wisdom for Amanda and the other members of FT's board as they grapple with some financial restraints right now.

  • That everyone passed the dreaded exam! Most were mature adults (you have to be at least 21 to serve as a leader in the new programme), including several who are getting involved in youth ministry for the first time this year. Exciting stuff.
  • For safety, fellowship and fun last Saturday at the lake.
  • For the great encouragement of Edwin's visit.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda