|Lunch-avoidance for beginners.|
This coming Monday marks four weeks since the Strathaven team set off for home at the end of their stint here. Their legacy continues to be felt, not least in the shape of the expertly-crafted mural and banner that festoon the church walls, though it pains me to say that the last embers of their Obligatory British Chocolate Package ran out during the week.
This also means, though, that we've now had roughly one month, since returning, of living a 'normal' existence here (teams, while always welcome, present their own unique challenges every day, and even the two weeks we had here before their arrival was largely taken up with team preparation or sorting out the house). In other words, it's as good an opportunity as any to reflect, and give an update, on the targets we set ourselves for life and ministry earlier this year. I'm delighted to say that, by and large, we see progress here, and are feeling the benefits immensely.
Working from a place of rest
Following a year of essentially juggling two full-time jobs and parenthood (and paying a heavy price for this!), we knew as we left Bolivia in early January that something had to give. This year, as happened during our 2014 furlough, we sought the Lord's guidance as to which ministries it would be best to leave in the Bolivians' hands. But unlike 2014, this time we made the Bolivians aware of these changes some time before we even arrived back in the country, meaning they were both well prepared and less likely to cajole us to change our minds (which, by and large, in January 2015, we did!).
For Amanda, this has meant scaling back her HR responsibilities at work a little in order to better attend to the practical needs of her 'boys'. The Lord really provided in this respect, as the administrator who started with FT in December was quite happy to take on much of this work, and has continued to do so with aplomb. For a couple of mornings a week, then, Amanda has not only been able to get through mountains of ironing, but also have uninterrupted time with the Lord in prayer and Bible reading. As an onlooker, I'm encouraged.
One of the tasks I stepped down from myself was youth ministry, which takes place on Saturday evenings. This was certainly a case of mind over matter, as the youth group has grown considerably since we left, and more male leaders would be welcome, making it all the more tempting for me to backtrack and play the knight in shining armour (after all, the Lord's work depends solely on us anyway, right?). But I've kept to the original plan, and this has given me the time and space on Saturday evenings to continue in an online theological training course I began on furlough. I've found this not only to be great nourishment for myself, but also of great benefit, already, in church leadership. All in all: good move.
Putting family first
With a slightly reduced workload, we now have increased flexibility to adapt to situations as they arise. During the week, for example, Amanda might ask me to take Sam out for a couple of hours just to get a break, or I might ask her to give me the chance to go out and get some exercise. We are now much better equipped to help each other in this respect.
However, the three of us do still hang out together (occasionally!) and these times have been all the more special for the lack of exhaustion. Additionally, I have begun leading family devotions every day just before Sam's bedtime, and we're delighted by how much he's already embracing this. For Amanda and I, date nights (or 'mornings', in the case of Mondays), have been re-prioritised, and we feel we are working so much better together during the week as a result, both as parents and as spouses.
Craig's pastoral work
By and large, I'm enjoying my increased role now in the church leadership. I've set aside one evening a week for visits -- an area that had been neglected for many years -- and I've had some great conversations, not only with members, but also with parents of some of the children and young people who attend at weekends. Part of my aim is to make them feel comfortable in the church on those rare occasions when they accompany their children -- and, indeed, encourage them to come more.
My Bible teaching workload has increased significantly. I'm preaching at least three times a month, I take turns with another guy to lead the bi-monthly Bible study, and I'm also making the usual contributions to Communion services and prayer meetings. However, this area is a strength, and so I know my energies are not being wasted in any way.
Staying with preaching, the Langham group are looking forward to the Level 3 workshop at the end of this month, and I'm praying about starting a new group. There is a lot of interest among people from the churches currently involved, including our own. I'll be looking to get a little more guidance on this when the Langham workers arrive here in late August.
Finally, I'm getting back into some one-on-one discipleship and just this week I had a great time with one of our young people in the church, Diego, who supports the children's ministry. I'm hoping to start this soon with a young man who became a Christian just a couple of weeks ago.
Though she's cut back on her hours a little, with the delegation of her HR duties, Amanda has had a lot more time to sit down with staff and find out how they are getting on; this pastoral side to her work was something she was looking to improve on, so this is a great start for her. She's also enjoyed being back on the board of directors at the Foundation and has driven a couple of key initiatives just in the last month. The prayer room is still a work in progress; please pray!
Sam continues to thrive in his new environment in the mornings. The only issue we're having is that he arrives home so exhausted that lunch -- the main meal of the day here -- is, well, challenging! It's essentially a race to see how much food we can get in him before he raises his white flag with 'BED! NOW!' written on it. His Spanish is really starting to come along now too; he even addressed me with an 'Hola' at the school gates yesterday.
- Pray for the preparations for Langham Level 3, taking place from the 31st of August till the 3rd of September.
- We're beginning a new series in Galatians this week in the church to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (it was Mr. Luther's favourite book). Pray for Craig tomorrow and next Sunday as he preaches, and on Thursday as he takes a session of the Revelation Bible study.
- Amanda and the youth committee were finally able to meet this week to start planning for this year's camp.
- Give thanks for the great time of discipleship this week with Diego.
- Give thanks for the many ways we are seeing God bless us in life and ministry when we simply follow his guidance.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!
Craig & Amanda