Friday, June 25, 2010

Recent Photos

Saturday Post -- 26/06/10

Temperatures in the mid-30s. Heat exhaustion taking its toll. Forest fires as far as the eye can see. How’s that for a winter solstice? Monday was the shortest day of the year, yet climate-wise, it couldn’t have been further from the crisp, dark Decembers we’re used to. Though we’re obviously in a much more tropical climate, such temperatures are uncharacteristic of this time of year. Indeed, we haven’t felt the cool, and the moisture, of a south wind since late May. As a result, we’ve moved from a waterlogged summer into a bone-dry winter. Feast or famine.

I may have used a little dramatic licence with the ‘forest fires’ comment. In actual fact, people have been setting fire to large swathes of forestry surrounding FT and our home, though as they have just purchased the land and wish to build on it, this is only their right. But we’ve been given an intriguing insight into the machinations of the 'property market'. About a month ago, some Trinidad residents began taking over large sections of land owned by the university. And the government, no friend of the universities currently (they’ve had the cheek to stand up to the President, you see), were quite happy to let this take place. Keen not to suffer a similar fate, local landowners dusted down the ‘for sale’ signs and opted to cash their chips rather than lose everything.

Therefore, this once-tranquil spot on the edge of town has seen a deluge of settlers move in and prepare their plots of land for building. It’s like the Old West has come to Trinidad! But sacrificing the peace and quiet is more than worth it now that FT, and the church, are now part of a thriving neighbourhood – a legion of opportunities to share the Buenas Nuevas de Jesucristo now sit on our doorstep!

More selfishly, the fiery conditions have fortuitously combined with Kenny & Claudia’s arrival. In his time back in Scotland, Kenny has developed a keen interest in photography and it’s fair to say that his regular appearances on the balcony to take sunset shots have reignited (‘scuse the pun) my own interest. I was hoping to post some here, but the connection's unbearably slow, even for Bolivia. Will hopefully get them up in a separate post soon.

In the past hours, we’ve just bid a fond farewell to the aforementioned visitors from Scotland (see top photo). They very kindly took Amanda and I out for dinner on Monday evening and we thoroughly enjoyed catching up with them and filling Alastair in on our time to date at FT. As well as their business with Rachel, they were able to play an active role here and there, with Alasdair leading the morning meditations, Alasdair & Stuart attending surgery and Alastair poring over the FT accounts (good times!). In all honesty, a week is far too short a time for anyone to visit, but we feel exceedingly blessed by their time here – the closest thing to family we’ve been able to spend time with since we arrived. You can't have too many Alas(t/d)airs in this life!

Amongst all this excitement, work has plodded along as usual, with my work on the website ticking along nicely and Amanda now up to two surgery sessions per week. The attendance at the English classes has flatlined a little, so we’re opening them up to teenagers, as well as adults. Initially, the age limit had been introduced because the overwhelming interest was from those in their late-teens/early-20s. However, one quickly learns here that verbal agreements don’t tend to amount to very much, so we’re glad to open the door to the teenagers and, in doing so, supplementing their (pretty diabolical) school classes with the English-speaker’s perspective.

We’re hoping to compile the quarterly prayer update next week, so please excuse our blogging absence for a fortnight. If you’re a regular blog reader and you’d like to receive our prayer update by email (or if you're just up for a general chinwag) please be sure to email us at

• For Craig, as he preaches this Sunday on 1 John 5:6-12.
• For our language studies.

• For a really refreshing visit from ‘The Cartsbridge Three’.
• For the arrival of a whole new neighbourhood and the great opportunity this presents for FT and the church.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Friday, June 18, 2010

Saturday Post -- 19/06/10

This week, as mentioned in the last entry, I’ve once again had the privilege of leading the morning meditations. And I do mean privilege. There’s nothing like delving deep into the Word of God and discovering new, exciting truths. Intensive Bible study’s a bit like exercise. At times, we’re a little lazy and can’t be bothered making the effort. But when you take the decision to just get on with it, you find yourself wondering why you don’t do this more often!

This week’s passage was 2 Corinthians 1:8-14, allowing me to cover a range of topics. One of them was how we can glorify God in our workplace, something Amanda and I have been thinking a lot about recently. Thinking about Paul’s tribulations in Asia allowed us to explore the theme of suffering and I found this really useful, though, for the locals, suffering doesn’t appear to be the big hurdle that it is for so many back home. In the West, we’re keen to highlight issues such as Third World poverty in the discussion, but, having worked with individuals who face this every day – Christian and otherwise – getting angry at God for their lot never really appears to be top of their list of priorities. Perhaps our uncharacteristic identification with the poor man is a convenient ruse to avoid the real issue (and if you’re not quite sure what that is, I suggest you read Luke chapter 13 and verses one to six).

No word as yet on our carnets, so we’d appreciate your continued prayers on that front. Monday sees the latest national holiday (this time for the winter solstice – I’m not holding my breath for Glastonbury highlights), which tends to rub salt into the wind a little. Bank holidays, to my mind, just aren’t the same without a set of wheels. Nonetheless, we have a car and we will have an unexpected lie-in, and for both we are truly thankful.

And we also give thanks today for the safe arrival of our fellow workers here, Kenny & Claudia Holt, who, along with their children, Emma, Sarah and Joshua, finally made it to Trinidad on Thursday evening after ten days attending to various matters in Santa Cruz. Since last December, the Holts had been in Scotland on furlough. Kenny and Claudia had just got married when I initially came to Trinidad in 2000 and their friendship and wisdom – along with the rambling dissections of Rangers first-XI – have proved invaluable over the years. So we’re delighted to be working alongside them again.

In the next 24 hours, some more familiar faces will be arriving, in the shape of Dr. Alasdair Fyfe, Alastair Fergusson and his son, Dr. Stuart Fergusson (quite frankly, I can’t believe I’m adding the title ‘Dr’ to the name of an old mucker I used to play Scalextric with – talk about feeling old). The Fergussons are old family friends of ours and Alasdair Fyfe is a man whose presence one can never help but feel blessed by, perpetually brimming with wisdom, interest and encouragement. The Alasd/tairs (delete as appropriate) are here in their capacity as elders from Cartsbridge, the sending church of Rachel Peebles, who works in FT’s community ministry, though Alastair Fergusson also sits on the Foundation Totai UK board. Anyway, we will endeavour to link up with them in the next few days, particularly as they come laden with trinkets from afar – or ‘Priority Case #1’ as we labelled it. Just hoping the Dairy Milk bars can take the heat!

• For our carnets. Nuff said.
• For witnessing opportunities with our non-Christian workmates.

• For the Lord’s guiding hand for Craig during this week’s Meditations.
• For Kenny & Claudia’s safe arrival.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Friday, June 11, 2010

Saturday Post -- 12/05/10

Months of eager anticipation. Tactics being finalised. The excitement building as the big moment finally arrives.

Yes, you guessed it – I finally moved into my new office this week. Up until now, I’d mostly been working from home, a minute’s stroll from the FT headquarters. Hardly inconvenient, though not quite at the heart of the action. This week, however, we took delivery of a new set of bookshelves for the library (which is based in the Education office), which enabled me to clear up the legions of books spread across the floor and create working space. And, crucially, it provides a permanent living space for all the Emmaus Bible course materials (for which Education is responsible), which had taken up temporary residence in Kenny’s study – and with Kenny returning next week, ten suitcases in hand, the last thing he needs is a study littered with dusty books.

When Maicol & KC return to the States for a break in the next couple of weeks, KC will be passing control of the Emmaus materials to me. With well over 200 books distributed and corrected in the past three months – not to mention the verbal feedback required for each corrected book – the administrative burden is significant, though one which we’re obviously delighted to take on. With the English classes having started and the website update taking up my mornings currently, I’m certainly not looking for work, that’s for sure.

Elsewhere, FT has teamed up with one of the biggest schools in town in an extension of its School Health Programme and Amanda was part of the initial group of nurses who visited on Wednesday. She will continue to visit weekly, along with the visits she and another nurse carry out every Thursday morning to the local maternity hospital. She’s really enjoying getting out into the community and helping FT establish a greater presence among the town’s residents – and, thus, have more opportunities to share the good news.

Finally, we’ve included some pictures of the wallchart. Here is the finished article, all set for the big one. And in spite of Bolivian TV politics, so are we. One of the public channels (‘cooncil telly’ if you’re Glaswegian) bought up the rights to the entire tournament from FIFA. Except, it turns out that they went and sold all but the opener, the semis and the final to a cable company. The cable company duly promised to share the spoils among the wider population – and proceeded to keep the whole package to themselves. ‘Fair play’ indeed. The President likes his football almost as much as looking like the saviour of the people, so perhaps he can step in at the last minute. Whatever happens, I somehow can’t foresee a repeat of that hot, adolescent summer of France ’98, when Kenny Fisher and I set out with the goal of video-taping every minute of every game. If memory serves me correctly, I don’t think we even made it through the first weekend.

Carnets. We’re still waiting and the immigration people are still giving us the ‘mañana, mañana’ treatment. Pray for patience, yet movement at the same time. A national ID card is a must in many important areas here.
• For Craig as he takes next week’s morning meditations.

• For Amanda’s growing opportunities to work in the wider community.
• For workspace for Craig within the FT building.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saturday Post -- 05/06/10

Recently, Amanda and I had the privilege of sitting down and enjoying the recent comedy ‘Zombieland’, which, as the title cryptically alludes, depicts a nation (namely, the USA) in which a dwindling human population battles to survive in the face of a sustained zombie threat. The film’s main protagonist, a twentysomething whose name escapes me, devises a list of rules for survival in the midst of such chaos. And the most important rule in Zombieland is: enjoy the little things.

Wise words in any context, though particularly apt in Trinidad, which at times resembles Zombieland, albeit without the zombies. The motorists are maniacal. Broadband is a waist size, not an internet speed. The week’s groceries aren’t so much whatever you fancy, as whatever the shops are stocking.

Thus, enjoying the little things is very much the order of the day round these parts. And nothing brings out the simple pleasures in life like a World Cup. No downloading of Lionel Messi clips on to your iPhone (youWhat?) down here. Oh no. Rather, I’m about 200 stickers away from completing the official 2010 Panini album. If this all sounds somewhat juvenile, then you should at least know that the majority of the town’s male population are at it as well. It wusnae me thit startit it, sur. If anyone out there has any spare Dutch squad members, feel free to pass them on.

On the same note, like good missionaries should, Amanda and I are in the process of turning a problem into an opportunity. Quite frankly, the availability of high-quality, durable World Cup wallcharts down here has been most concerning. And as I’m sure you are all no doubt aware, a World Cup without a wallchart is like Christmas without the Great Escape repeats. It’s just not on. So, we’ve opted to take matters into our own hands, with the aid of cardboard, glue and Microsoft Excel (though mind Bill Gates doesn’t find out I’m using Microsoft Excel for personal enjoyment – don’t want to validate my warranty or anything). Come next Friday, we’ll be all set. Brazil to win. You heard it here first.

The business of the week (what business there was – two local holidays in five days) has been dominated, for us, by my English classes, in which Amanda has kindly volunteered her services too. Over the two classes on Wednesday and Friday, 30 students turned up, and we're expecting numbers to increase as word spreads. We’ve been given access to the building’s main auditorium, which allows us loads of room and means I can have a whiteboard and projector screen on the go at the same time, allowing for increased flexibility. This week’s classes have simply been a chance to register the participants and assess, through simple conversation, the English levels of each student. Next Wednesday, we’ll kick off the main beginners curriculum which I’ve spent the preceding months drawing up.

That aside, Amanda has been kept busy this week completing monthly reports for the health ministry and my sermon on Sunday seemed to be well received. Next week, the main issue is likely to be our carnets which, incredibly, we are still waiting on, but have been promised of their readiness within the next seven days. With our carnets, we should be able to obtain our driving licences within days, meaning we can some day soon, at last, take full possession of our RAV4. That’s the theory, at least – something tells me I might be scribbling the name of a certain canary-coloured footballing outfit into the wallchart’s ‘winner’ box before that happens.

• For patience as we await our carnets and the increased freedoms in mobility they should result in.
• For the Lord's continued guidance in everything we do.

• For the chance to re-charge our batteries with the holidays over the last couple of weeks.
• For a great start to the English classes.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda