Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday Post -- 26/03/16

Their first verb. I envy them.
The more I mull it over, the more I warm to Justin Welby's proposal of a fixed date for Easter, not least as the mooted date is in early April, giving us all a little more wiggle room between the two biggest dates on the Christian calendar. It's really snuck up on us this year.

Indeed, even the weather here has strangely resembled March back home, with an unexpected (and unseasonal) sur blowing into town overnight on Thursday. Temperatures have plummeted to a mere 22 celsius. Don't laugh: on a short outing to the plaza yesterday afternoon, there was barely a square-inch of flesh in sight.

Yesterday's day off was a welcome break in a busy week, details of which follow.

  • The English class is progressing well. There is a steady group of around 15 students attending class, and this week was the first in which we were able to have two consecutive lessons (the general strike put paid to that last week; as if Bryan needed any more excuse to despise socialism). For all that the culture here is generally more relaxed, education can be rather po-faced in its delivery, and the students seem to be slowly adjusting to the very relaxed environment I like to foster in the class. Pray for deepening relationships and commitment to the class from the various attendees.
  • Speaking of Bryan & Amanda, they finally arrived home on Monday evening. They did very well considering the great disappointment of the general strike on their scheduled departure day, and while it would have been a great burden for them to not see their children as early as they had hoped (something we increasingly appreciate), they certainly didn't show it; we also appreciated the unexpected opportunity to let them see the church in action at the weekend. 
  • Give thanks for the discipleship opportunities afforded us. We are currently meeting weekly wth four young people: Amanda with Milly, and Craig with Diego, Daniel and Daniel. All of them are relatively young Christians with leadership responsibilities in the ministries for children and teenagers in the church.
  • Give thanks, too, for what appears to be a genuine growth spurt in the church. The last few weeks have seen numbers go up dramatically; we haven't experienced such consistently high attendances on Sunday mornings since arriving here in 2010. That's not only down to the usual increase of children in attendance now that the children's ministry has begun (pretty normal for this time of year), but several adults and couples as well, from a variety of backgrounds. Pray for consolidation and commitment.
  • Craig is teaching tonight at the youth group; the subject is the Bible as a tool for helping us make correct decisions in life.
  • On Monday, we are hoping to submit papers for the adoption proper. The process should last about a month, i.e., we should be done and dusted a couple of weeks after Sam's first birthday.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Saturday Post -- 19/03/16


Hello there!  The blog is being hijacked, shanghai-ed, commandeered, "liberated" and in every way buccaneered this week by Bryan and (la otra) Amanda.

Lucky you, we're brilliant!

We're so great that Craig and Amanda have put up with us for the last nine or so years since we met back in Glasgow.  That's no small feat!

And since it had been the better part of a decade since they left the Auld Country, we figured it was just about time to go see what this whole "Bolivia" thing was about.

The view on the way from La Paz to Trinidad was ok, I guess... 
Well, maybe since this is a missionary blog I should tell the truth: Craig and Amanda are nice, and Bolivia is great and all, but there was a small matter of a wee Sam we had to see to.  Yeah.  Like you wouldn't fly across the world to pinch his cute little cheeks.  You've seen him, right?  Irresistible.

But coming here did afford a number of wonderful opportunities to see our dear friends and the important work that they do here in the Beni.  (I'm not sure if that is even appropriate phraseology, but I heard Craig once refer to the region thusly and I thought it sounded rad.)  It was really strange for us to both experience this radically foreign culture for the first time and at the same time see how well Craig and Amanda have adapted to their environment here.  

This is us "fitting in."  Ohioans are duty bound to do this wherever we go, because there were only two of us we had to enlist the Cunninghams' help—dance puppets, DANCE!

It has been an exciting time to be here.  On Monday, we went to court!  Yay, Bryan (future lawyer) loves court!  The occasion was the expiration of the statutory period of appeal for Sam's biological parents to appeal termination of parental rights.  As no such appeal had been made, the judge was able to enter a final judgment of termination for Sam.  Craig and Amanda hope to start the work for formally requesting adoption this week and after papers are submitted the court will have no more than thirty days to act on them.  We pray to the Almighty that this time passes quickly and uneventfully!

We also have been able to see Craig and Amanda engaged in many of the various ministries they perform here.  On Tuesday we went and saw the Foundation where Amanda is very much in her element.  Working at the very nerve center, she oversees the various cogs, gears and whizz-bits with a maestro's aplomb!  On Tuesday night, we saw Craig in action kicking off another series of English classes.  That was a hoot.  To get the "J" sound as in "jacket"—which doesn't exist in Spanish—the class were literally screaming JACK-et JACK-et!!!!!!

"No, not 'JACKET!!!'" Craig explained calmly, just, "jacket."

"In America they would say 'wadder' whereas we say 'waTer.' See the difference?" [Blank stares].

One of Amanda's highlights was attending Bible study on Thursday night where families gathered together not just to read the Bible, but to learn about how to read the Bible.  One of Bryan's highlights was traveling out to Maná, a small village outside Trinidad which is home to many of the families of the men in a nearby prison.  Needless to say, neither of us had seen anything quite like it.  We went to Maná to catch some of the OANSA program—Bible study/memorisation for children. 

Kids in Maná getting their Jesus on!

There were probably sixty or so children there, most of them traveling the dark streets on their own to get there.  It was held in a school courtyard where the electric lights brought in hordes of of insects that would have impressed even Moses which the children warded off by burning cardboard egg crates and whirling around t-shirts like horsetails.  "Let the little children come to me" I could hear deep in my mind as the children sang and recited verses from memory.  Later we would learn that several of the children gave their lives to Christ that night.  God be praised!  We pray that they will be filled with the Spirit and that the love of Christ sustains them in the difficult years they have ahead.

We've also had a "taste" of life in Bolivia.  Where to start on that...  We could tell you about the family of five we saw all crammed onto one moto scooter, the general disregard for traffic laws, common sense or human dignity on the roads.  We could tell you about the wonderful food that seems to be everywhere (google "salteñas" and then wish you had smell-o-vision).  We could tell you about the western women in La Paz with their great, voluminous skirts and funny little top hats hawking dubious drinks in plastic bags on the roadside.  We could tell you about the heat (ugh) and humidity (UGH!).  Or about the cow's head that was left in the middle of the street being devoured by stray dogs.  But none of that would be it.  None of that can capture Bolivia.  I guess you'll just have to come and see for yourself.  

Speaking of cows in the road, MOOOOOve it, already!

You're lucky, you know.  We're not even supposed to be here writing this.  You could be reading Craig if it wasn't for a general strike that was called on Thursday to protest, um... I don't know, it's Bolivia.  We were supposed to fly out to La Paz on Thursday, you see, but these kindly folks blockaded all the roads early in the morning.  We couldn't make it to the airport and even if we had, we would have been the only ones there.  That's when we took this vacay to the bonus round!

And despite the hefty surcharge for rebooking, we're kind of glad it all happened that way.  Every day here with the Cunninghams is such a blessing and we're very happy to get to worship with the church on Sunday.

  • OANSA program in Maná
  • The completion of Sam's adoption process
  • Bryan & Amanda make it back to the States on Sunday/Monday
  • Decisions for Christ made this week
  • Great time of fellowship and encouragement this week
  • Salteñas!
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig Bryan & Amanda

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday Post -- 12/03/16

Many exciting things have taken place since we last posted. New ministries have launched, we’ve passed an important adoption milestone, and Amanda wore Craig’s trousers to work by accident.

Without further ado, then…


  • On Wednesday, we attended the hearing for the termination of rights for Sam’s biological parents. Their family members had had over a month to respond to an edict in a national newspaper, asking them to come forward. As we had been half-expecting, and as was confirmed in the hearing, no-one showed during that time, thereby ruling them out of the process henceforth. So that hurdle has now been overcome and all that remains is for the adoption proper to be confirmed in the next month or two (excuse the vagueness re. a timeline; our hearing was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was cancelled at the last minute in order to give the judge’s office the afternoon off for International Women’s Day!). 
  • We’ve had a really exciting past couple of weeks in the church. A week past on Monday, at the family’s request, we held a special evening service in the home of the boy who died so tragically a few weeks ago. They live in a village a few miles outside Trinidad, called Maná. The service was packed – it was standing-room only very early on – and many villagers who have no contact with our church turned up, as Elías, our pastor, delivered a gospel message and we sang hymns and prayed together.
  • Meanwhile, the boy’s parents have been coming to church regularly, having previously turned up only for special events their children have been involved in (such as the Christmas service). Last Sunday, during a vibrant Communion service, both of them gave their lives to Christ. We were overjoyed.
  • Finally, the launch of the new youth programme last Saturday went really well, with 30 young people in attendance. The meeting starts a little later than before, and lasts an extra half-hour, giving more time for games and small-group discussion. Though last week’s pizza was a one-off, alas.


  • In a few hours, our first visitors of 2016 will be boarding the first of four flights to Trinidad. We first met Bryan & Amanda Dove, from Ohio, way back in August 2007, and they are a special couple for us, being the first friends we got to know together, rather than one of us introducing them to the other and keeping our fingers crossed that they’d get along (a particular quirk of long-distance relationships). Despite spending most of the past decade on different continents, we’ve remained firm friends, and we can’t wait to see the Doves when they arrive, God-willing, tomorrow afternoon. Pray for their travels to and from Bolivia (they only have five days here), and for an encouraging week all round.
  • Somewhat unexpectedly (not least for me), I’m teaching my English course again. The Foundation is needing a little help making ends meet, and after giving it some prayer, I’ve decided to run the course this year. In the past, students were always commenting on how cheap the course was (we were simply covering expenses for photocopying etc) so we’ve decided to increase the cost by, er, 500%! Yet still, people seem to consider it a bargain, and interest has been high, so I’m hoping it will prove an effective fundraiser. If you’ve been reading our blog for a few years, you’ll know that as we progress through the year, we begin reading the Bible together too. To that end, I’d really appreciate your prayers that God would bring together a group of students who are amiable, committed, and willing to learn.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda