Isaiah 43:1-3, 7, 10-13

But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior... Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.... “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?”
Isaiah 43:1-3, 7, 10-13

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Furlough Schedule

Well, furlough 2008 is upon us. We are crazy busy trying to get everything ready to leave on Sunday (what to take/ what to leave, house stuff, ministry stuff - neither Josh or I are sleeping very well). Keep us in your prayers as we will be traveling Sunday night with 2 lap babies and a 3 year old - and for the next 2 months will drive over 5000 miles with stops in 9 different states. We are mainly looking forward to seeing so many of you - our family and friends. But also to interstate highways, Walmart shopping, Starbucks coffee, and 4 part harmony singing!

June 1- Depart Cochabamba
June 2-3- Arrive Miami, Miami w/ Holways
June 4- Depart Miami, arrive Livonia
June 5-8- Livonia
June 9- Travel to Memphis
June 10-11- Memphis with the Huffards
June 12- Travel to Brownwood
June 13-19- Brownwood
June 20- Travel to Red River
June 21-24- Red River
June 25- Travel to Brownwood
June 26-July 2- Brownwood
July 3-5- Indiahoma, OK
July 6-7- Wichita with the Harrolds
July 8- Travel to Estes Park, CO
July 8-12- Sikes Family Reunion in Estes Park
July 12- Travel to York/Seward
July 13-14- Seward with the Barnacles
July 15- Travel to Coldwater, MI
July 16- Travel to Livonia, arrive Livonia
July 16-27- Livonia
July 28- Aug 1- Stephens family vacation
Aug. 2-3- Livonia (pack)
Aug 4- Depart Cochabamba


Here's some pictures of some of the latest ministry "happenings".
- Josh finished up his preaching seminar this last weekend. He shared with me that it's been one of the most rewarding classes he's ever given. He broke up the class in three weekend sessions: one in March, one in April and one in May. He had about 15 students: half were leaders from our congregation, and the other half came from churches around the country. It was a great oppourtunity for these Christian brothers to rub shoulders and also recieve some specific training on how to preach and study the Bible.

- The men took advantage of the end of the rainy season to have their annual men's campout. Lots of male bonding time!

-The youth had a movie night where they watched "Guardians of the Sea" - a very good movie by the way - and afterward had a corresponding devotional. The youth group is really blossoming, and the great news is that another one, Bruno, is planning to be baptized on Sunday!

Happy Birthday, Josh!

My husband turned 31 last week. I was thinking that I've only been able to celebrate 10 of his birthdays with him - only a third of his life, and yet how marriage melds you, until it seems like you've been a part of this person forever. How thankful I am to have been an integral part of these last 10 years. I couldn't have asked for a better and more faithful life partner.

Anyway, I guess last week was one of those ministry moments where you see for a brief minute the benefits of all the time and energy you've invested in people and in a work. One of the brothers, Gaston, decided he wanted to throw Josh a party. Well, generally, we are a family that prefer to do more quiet celebrations here at home, but at his insistence, we eventually gave in. And it grew from a simple lunch party to a whole church dinner party! Everyone showed up at Gabriella's house, who had graciously agreed to host the party - Gaston cooked 8 chickens for everyone - everyone pitched in to help with the cost. And Josh felt very blessed by the demonstration of everyone's love. As I looked around the room, I felt a mixture of emotions - naturally we are so excited about our furlough. After all, it's been 2 and a half years since we were back. But at the same time, I'm thankful in a way that it's been that long, because I felt that night what a family we have become here, and how I will look forward to coming home to Bolivia and seeing these familiar faces again.

Happy Mother's Day!

You may be thinking this blog is a little late - but actually the Bolivian mother's day was just yesterday. Josh and I decided we would celebrate Bolivian mother's and father's day - thinking it would be easier to remember with the advertisement that goes on here. (Who are we kidding? We still have to remember to call our parents on the days the US celebrates!)

Anyway, Michaela's day care had a special program last week for the mothers. Michaela had to dress up as a clown. They would have some singing and dancing and saltenas for a snack. Michaela even had a solo - she was supposed to sing her ABCs. We were looking forward to seeing if that bit actually happened. The day rolled around - we had a screaming fit as we tried to put the costume on. (Thanks to my mom for the costume. It is actually a bunny costume she made for me and my sister, but it worked good for a clown too!) But as soon as I painted her face, she thought it was pretty cool.

When we arrived at her daycare thought, it was to discover that apparently parents here rent professional costumes for events like this. All the other kids were wearing real, brightly colored silk clown costumes complete with wigs and everything! Oh, well, I still thought Michaela looked pretty cute.

The program started... All the other kids were singing... Michaela just stood there. Josh and I started to laugh after a bit - remembering that we had told the head teacher upon enrolling that our daughter was very advanced for her age... you sure couldn't tell from her performance!

Her solo rolled around. She sings the ABCs like a pro at home, but after about a mintue of just standing at the microphone - they whisked her away.

And then came the real laughs... instead of just standing there, she began to play with her bow on her costume.

Like this...

And this...

Josh and I were rolling.

The finale rolled around and Michaela finally came out of her daze. They did a clown dance, and I guess she finally decided to get with the program.

All in all, it was a fun morning. I'm sure this is just a taste of all the future programs we have to look forward to.

Friday, May 16, 2008

My pride and His all-sufficiency

Piggybacking off my last post: every child is different - even out of the womb. As much as our 3 girls look alike - they all looked very different to me. There were differences in how they wanted to be carried (Eliana wanted to be carried facing forward), how they went to sleep (Michaela loved to be swaddled), eating habits. And Jana has her own set of preferences. Lately, much to my dismay, she's been refusing to nurse. She wants the bottle!

With Eliana, I shot myself in the foot because I didn't make her take a bottle from an early age - and she never did take one, and the switch over to a sippy cup was a battle. With Jana, I have pushed both the pacifier and the bottle (for my ease, and also because of the fact that we'll be traveling so much this summer). And I think that's part of the reason she has decided she likes the bottle better.

But I also think my body is tired after 3 pregnancies in 3 years and I'm not producing the milk she needs. I noticed a change in sleeping habits - waking up more frequently. And then the other day Jana wouldn't (or couldn't) nurse and cried and cried. I finally mixed some formula for the first time and the poor kid drank it like she was starving. Since then, I've had to give her at least one bottle a day.

I'm one of those moms who really enjoys nursing, which has been the hardest part of all this. I enjoy the physical closeness, the knowledge that my milk is best... and let's get real, the fact that it's only something mommy can do - at this age, I'm everything to my baby. And that's where the pride part comes in. I like being able to tell a Bolivian that my baby nurses (most assume if you're rich that you automatcially will have a c-section and give formula). Pride.

But the reality is - I can't be it all for my children. That's where His all-sufficiency comes in. He is everything to me - and I have to turn over everything to Him, even my children.

I thank God I live in a day and place and am on a salary where I can buy formula for my baby. I know she will be healthy. And so I cried about it some, and then gave it over to God - asking Him to be it all for me - and for my baby.

May His all-sufficiency be obvious in your life as well.

Gifts and Personalities

It's amazing as a parent to watch your children grow and learn and to notice similarities and differences between them. Of course, you always hear how every child is different, and you know it cognitively, but to see it in action... well that's something else. And of course, you always doubt if, as a parent, you're reading too much into it because, well, they're your children, so of course they're talented. But, at risk of looking foolish, I'm going to go out on a limb and say I think my children have certain talents even at this young age. Eliana is our musical child - she loves music, dancing, and rhyming words. She's learned some words and phrases solely from the rhythm. And Michaela is our artist. She loves painting, coloring, and lately - drawing on the magna pad my parents sent for her birthday. The other day she came to show me what she drew, and I have to say - I thought it was pretty good for a 3 year old. (Remembering back to my art class in college and kid's development stages, she is very advanced for her age!) Anyway, I took a picture to preserve it and here it is below. And in case you can't see it - it's a person - complete with eyes, mouth, nose, body, arms, and legs!

Visit from Matt

We were blessed this last month with a visit from one of Josh's good friends from college and grad. school days. Matt Bogard came down for about a week to visit the work here. He's searching for God's direction in his future and wanted to see what work in Bolivia was like. We enjoyed our time with him (especially Josh!) and did a variety of things that would help him see what daily life is like here in Cochabamba. And of course, no visit to Cochabamba is complete for a first time visitor without a trip to the Cristo statue. Here's our newest family picture overlooking the city. Unfortunately, we don't have one picture with Matt! How terrible is that!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Prayers for Bolivia

One of the blessings of being on a team is the fact that each person brings their own giftedness to the team. Jeff Forbess has the gift of linguistics - both in English and in Spanish (and I'm sure whatever other language he put his mind to learn). He just posted a blog that requests your prayers for political peace in Bolivia, and because I know that I will never be able to put it as well as he has, I ask you to read his blog post and join us in prayer for this country. Thank you!