Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturday Post -- 15/10/16

18 months and already 'going to the toilet'. With assorted
The first happy babbles and head-bumps shatter the silence like a Marrakesh tannoy. It's 6am, Sam is up, and for one lucky parent, all that awaits is a barely decipherable, "Isn't it your turn?" from a couple of feet away.

This morning was more challenging than most, having crashed around midnight (the equivalent of my 21-year-old-self's 3am) after a busy day organising and executing the Marriage Course reunion meeting (the word 'meeting' in Spanish is translated, reunión, just to avoid confusion). Nobody's fault but mine, as Robert Plant once screeched, not least as I had a similarly wild night on Thursday, sitting on the sofa and watching NFL till eleven p.m.! I tell you, Keith Moon had nothing on me.

Still, consolation comes in taking a glance at my watch to see that we're already about halfway through this freakishly busy month of October. Oh, so that's how time disappears.

Amanda can at least look back on the last week with a great deal of satisfaction, as, after many hours waiting around in dusty offices over the past month or so, she finally took receipt of Melissa's one-year residency visa (Melissa being our current short-term worker from the USA). She really deserves a pat on the back, of which Sam, no doubt, will be more than happy to deliver several in some shape or form.

Sam, meanwhile, has discovered the joys of furniture removal. It started with moving his cuddly toys from one end of the stairs to the other, making transporting nappies between their boxes a mere inevitability. By the end of the week, he'd decided to up the ante, ensuring that dining room chairs became toilet seats.

So concentrating on the main task in hand for the week proved something of a challenge, but we just about got there in the end. When we finished the course last year, Andrew & Ruth had mooted the notion of a reunion meeting somewhere down the line, something I had mentally put to one side back then, but had begun thinking more about over the last few months. 

You know how these things end, right. Think back, even, to your camp days. After seven days of intensive physical abuse involving dead legs, mackerel, toothpaste and underpants (often at once), it was only natural that you came out of it pledging to never let a week go by without, say, 'writing a letter' (ask your parents, kids). And with the adrenaline still flowing around this time last year, Amanda and I were keen to keep up the contact with the course participants, particularly those who were not part of the church family. Alas, just like those camp pledges, that one got sidelined, not least as a certain small person was looming on the horizon.

So a couple of months ago, realising to my astonishment that the anniversary was looming large, I put it to Amanda, and then my fellow elders, that perhaps a reunion reunión was worth a stab. Happily, they agreed, and last night was the result.

Just like the course itself, the evening was set up like a date night, with couples sat at individual tables. We kicked off with a 'Mr & Mrs' game, a novel concept to most attendees, which probably explained why they enjoyed it so much (Stuff You Can't Get Away With Any More In The West #37: "What is your wife's favourite hobby?" "Cleaning the house."). This was followed by a delicious meal and then, most excitingly of all, an appearance by 'Andrés y Rut' themselves, albeit via a recorded video. Sort of like one of those "Sorry I couldn't be with you tonight" awards acceptance speeches (usually delivered by a Los Angeles swimming pool; happily, the sense of sorrow at not getting to sit through yet another performance by last year's X Factor winner is duly mitigated), except with a Bible in hand rather than a stupid-looking trophy. Anyway, the group was encouraged.

Andrew & Ruth: in spirit, if not in body.
There was then a little follow-up from the course, with three small discussion tasks for each couple. Firstly, how do they see progress in their marriage from the course. Secondly, in assessing their marriages right now, what areas of the course booklet would be worth revisiting. Thirdly -- and probably most importantly -- each couple had to schedule their next date night, inform Amanda and I of the date and time, and expect a visit from one of us to check they were fulfilling their duty. I may have made most of that last part up (can you tell I'm tired?).

To finish, I gave a short reflection on -- apologies to Whitney Houston -- the greatest love of all, talking about how Jesus' sacrifice challenges us to love in all circumstances, no matter how unworthy the recipient may seem. A quick group photo, and then a casa

Anyway, it was a thrill to see most of the group make the effort, and testament to the dedication efforts these people are putting in to their relationships as a result of the course. Our next date night? A week on Wednesday. Fix me another Red Bull please, waiter.

  • Camp, of course, hangs heaviest over this month of October, and the preparations step up a little this weekend, with Craig overseeing the first of three out-of-hours band practices over the next two weeks. We have potentially eight musicians playing, and a few new songs to get through. Pray for patience and focus.
  • Next weekend, we have not one, but two visitors arriving. Edwin from Langham Preaching will be in town from Friday till Monday to touch base with the group here, and then Latin Link's team leader Louis Woodley arrives, God-willing, on Sunday, for an overnight stay, presumably looking to get to know us better. Poor guy.
  • For a great turnout and much fun last night at the Marriage Course reunion.
  • For Melissa's visa being processed.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Saturday Post -- 08/10/16

These days, at times it feels like our ministry life in Trinidad takes place between weekend visits to Santa Cruz. Three weeks ago, I (Craig) was there for a weekend course, and last week we were back for a few days at a hotel resort courtesy of Amanda's mother, before all returning to our respective homes by plane.

While Sam splashed, I surfed (the internet, in a desperate quest for any site that was streaming the Ryder Cup) and Amanda went blonde (sort of). An inaugural visit to the zoo was squeezed in too, a cheeky monkey accompanying us all the way round (bah-doom, and if you will, ching), and one or two favourite eateries were further enriched. Without a doubt, we made the most of our short time in metropolis, ensuring no opportunity for refuelling was wasted.

And with good reason. Because that will almost certainly be our last family break before the year's end. More to the point, October -- always our busiest month -- is looking more jam-packed than ever.

For, in addition to multiple sermons to prepare, 2017 spending-plans to draw up, staff interviews to conduct, a Langham weekend follow-up visit, a Latin Link team leader visit, Fundación Totaí's anniversary celebrations and more...the month ends, as usual, with camp. And this year, camp is bigger than ever, with the whole church invited, as well as interested youth from other churches. Exhaustive and exhausting preparations are required from all concerned and, of course, being camp, the reward is two nights' 'sleep' in the company of hordes of sugar-fuelled teenagers and the best Trinidad has to offer in insectary. 

More immediately, we are preparing for a special, one-off event this coming Friday, a 'Happy Anniversary' reunion evening to mark a year since the Marriage Course. The evening will have a more informal feel than the course itself, with a meal, a little 'Mr & Mrs' action, and even a contribution from Andrew & Ruth, who have kindly recorded a video message. We also reckon the evening is a good opportunity for the couples involved to reflect on progress they've made since, and think about areas in their marriages in the present day where they could benefit from going back to the Marriage Course booklet for counsel. That time will be built in to the evening as well.

God-willing, in about three weeks' time, we too will be afforded a period of reflection on the intensive month gone by -- roughly thirty seconds, before our eyelids finally give up the fight.

  • We are both doing a little Bible teaching this weekend, Amanda with the youth tonight, and Craig is preaching tomorrow morning at church.
  • We've been really challenged recently (Craig in particular) about the need to focus on the task in hand here and not let thoughts about the future distract us. Pray that we would continue to trust God for tomorrow, and have allow ourselves the freedom to serve him as best we can today. And that, especially in this busy spell, that we would take each day as it comes.
  • Pray for an encouraging evening for the Marriage Course participants on Friday.
  • Pray for the English course participants. The core reading text for the year becomes increasingly gospel-focused as it reaches its conclusion. Pray for receptive hearts.
  • While in Santa Cruz, we also spent a day with our friends Graham & Debbie Frith, who have been paired with us for fellowship and mentoring as part of the Latin Link Bolivia team. We were greatly refreshed by our time with the Friths; a timely visit.
  • For safe travels over the last week, both for ourselves and Amanda's mother, who returned to Toronto in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
  • We were a little nervous about readjusting to life post-Grandma, both practically and, for Sam, emotionally. However, Sam's doing OK, and the house hasn't collapsed. Just yet.
  • Craig started a new mentoring relationship this week with a young leader in the church called Diego. Give thanks for this new opportunity.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda