After a full week back in Trinidad, we’re enjoying being home and having a more settled family life again (how many people have to come all the way to Bolivia to do that?!). The house increasingly resembles our home (i.e., the mess is ours and not someone else’s) and we’ve been able to catch up with a good number of friends and colleagues, with some very initial conversations about ministry thrown in. Furthermore, Craig was able to tie up the paperwork on the car’s registration yesterday, after a week spent mostly driving from one office to the next; we sure haven’t missed Bolivian bureaucracy.
More on the present-day in the prayer points, below. For now, time to pick up where I left off last week, with a little more detail as to our prospects this time around.
Craig: Building a Church
As 2016 drew to a close, we were making our preparations to leave Trinidad and begin our journey back to Scotland for home assignment. Meanwhile, our former pastor, Elías, was preparing to step down from his position, according to a timetable agreed some months earlier. So I have known for some time now that this new term in Bolivia is likely to see my church commitments increase and intensify.
Elías was preaching about twice a month and teaching Bible studies every other Thursday. He was also at the forefront of visitation and represented the church at a local level. My workload in all of these areas was somewhat lighter, and is now likely to pick up considerably. This will be particularly pronounced in the first few months, as the other elder, Miguel Ángel, has asked to step back himself from the pulpit until the end of the year.
Though I will be taking on a lot more of the pastoral load, I will not be assuming the title of ‘pastor’ any time soon. Our vision, as ever, is for the Bolivians to gradually assume the work that the missionaries began – not just ourselves, but those other couples who have gone before us. Having a foreigner take on the role of pastor would surely hinder such progress, especially in a culture which is at times has no qualms about putting its feet up while other people get their hands dirty.
Moreover, our church has always been a very collaborative enterprise, and we have been delighted in the past week or so to hear about the great strides that have been made in gospel ministry, driven primarily by the laity. We may come to a point where we wish to appoint a pastor again, but for now (not least in a church with strong Brethren roots), we are happy to see how things progress, and I will be delighted to play my own part in this.
However, along with the additions will have to come subtractions, particularly if we are to live by the principles mentioned here last weekend. I have prayerfully decided to step back from youth ministry for the time being (though I will continue to disciple individuals in the group), and I will be winding down my responsibilities in the music ministry, with the aim of stepping down in January. Against my better instincts, I resurrected the English classes last year as a way of raising funds for Fundación Totaí. Well, by and large, it turned out my instincts were on to something; they, too, will be shelved.
Other jobs will continue for now, including my supporter communications work for FT and overseeing Langham Trinidad, which has also made great strides in my absence – a recurring, and humbling, theme developing there.
Amanda: Becoming more of a people person
As long-time readers will be aware, Amanda’s main role for her first few years here was as an audiologist at FT. She loved the work, but felt the door was closing on it by the time we had our first home assignment in 2014. During that year, God directed her towards the work of human resources in the Foundation, to which she dedicated a great deal of time and energy.
Above all, though, Amanda had planned on using the HR position as a way of getting alongside staff members on a pastoral level, and deepening relationships with them; several of our health staff are not yet believers, and most face challenging circumstances at home. While there were occasional opportunities in this area, Amanda largely found that it was hard to make great headway due to the copious paperwork that her role also entailed; naturally, Sam’s arrival complicated things here too.
Well our last home assignment saw FT’s new Director of Administration, Hernán, take on the HR role as part of his own work, and we prayed that there might be scope upon our return for Amanda to leave that with him permanently with a view to a greater pastoral care focus. Hernán and FT’s board members feel the need for this too, and they have been delighted to let Amanda go ahead with this.
She will essentially be making up her role as she goes along, but her goal is to be a presence in the Foundation as much as possible and to spend meaningful time with staff and patients; a ‘prayer room’ for patients has been a dream of ours for some time, and Amanda will finally be free to get this up and running at the Foundation with those patients who wish to be prayed for.
Like me, Amanda hopes to do some more discipleship work with youngsters in the church, and she will continue to support the work of the youth ministry – though this is, again, an area where she has been able to relinquish the role of leader since we have been away.
Sam: “Ring ring” goes the bell
“Hang about!,” I hear you cry, “I thought you guys had no time these days because of that Energizer Bunny also known as your son.” And in this you would be right: indeed we did not.
However, the decibel levels round here are about to take something of a downturn, as Sam sets off on his latest adventure: Day Care.
If you’ve met Sam, you will know just what a sociable little boy he is, and we’ve long felt his need of companionship, particularly of children his own age. Not least as Mummy & Daddy are running out of ideas fast: there are really only so many times you can play chucking-toys-up-the-stairs-then-back-down-again before even Sam starts looking at his watch.
The day care Sam will be attending feeds into a local school, and takes place on weekday mornings. In other words, by sheer coincidence, Sam will be otherwise occupied at the time of the week when we are generally at our busiest (this also paves the way for the aforementioned Monday morning ‘date nights’).
In all seriousness, while we are a touch nervous about dropping His Lordship back into the Spanish-language deep end, we are delighted to afford him the opportunity to spend more time with other little people, and get to grips with the accompanying social skills. We’re sure he’ll have a great time.
Meanwhile, of course, we hope to see him cement already-existing relationships with our friends and our church community here. Last Sunday morning, in church, he danced incessantly while the band played, and we pray that his joy in the Lord would only grow in the coming years.
- For patience, wisdom and self-discipline as we seek to put these plans into action.
- Next weekend sees the wedding of a young woman who has grown up in the church and is well known and loved by many who are associated with this place. Consequently, a veritable horde is making its way here over the coming week, including several ex-missionaries. Pray for safe travels for all.
- Said horde will also include a seven-strong team from Strathaven Evangelical Church (including Craig’s Mum), who are due to arrive here next Saturday morning for two weeks. Pray for preparations for this visit, for the team and for ourselves.
- For progress this week on little jobs like the car documentation and the house.
- For great encouragement in catching up with old friends and learning of so many positive developments over the last six months, both at institutional and individual levels.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!
Craig & Amanda