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

Friday, April 24, 2009

Michaela's 4th Birthday!

We celebrated Michaela's birthday a little early this year, since we will be in Sucre with Uncle Erik, Aunt Jenny and cousins Zion and Mia on her actual day. It's hard to believe that the little baby we brought into the world 4 years ago is now writing, reading letters, climbing trees and SO big! Most people mistake her for being at least 6 years old instead of 4! Micheala's little life has brought us so much happiness and challenged us as well... in a good way. I am thankful to be her mommy and daily pray for the wisdom to raise all 3 of these precious children.

We had team time at our house this month complete with an Easter egg hunt and of course - Michaela's party.

The 3 amigos!

Michaela requested a ballet slipper cake.

We also had a small party at her school.

I made flower and caterpillar cupcakes (Michaela calls them 'pupcakes')! I thought they turned out real cute!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

God's Providence

In the past couple weeks, we have been amazed and blessed again by the providence of God. Let me tell you why...

For a few months, we have been prayerfully considered changing vehicles. Joshua has been the proud owner for 2 years now of an old Chevy pickup. Ever since I met him, he has always owned an older model truck. He bought it cheap and dillapidated. Over the last 2 years, he babied it and spruced it up. Until it became obvious that we needed to sell it. It was taking too much money in maintenance and time for the use we got out of it. He put it up for sale - and it sold, for his asking price! He was a little sad to be 'truckless', but it was the best decision. Our thinking being that if we sold both our current cars, we would be able to upgrade to something better for our family. We now had a down payment to make towards a new car.

I have put a lot of prayer into this decision - as has Joshua. We prayed that we would be content with what we have - knowing we are blessed beyond measure. But we also prayed that if there was a way we could find a new car that would serve our needs and the needs our our ministry better, that God would show us clearly His way.

Buying and selling cars here is much more difficult than Stateside. There are not dealerships that are ready to trade in and finance your vehicle of choice. You have to look long and hard for the right vehicle for the right price and then usually have cash in hand ready to buy on the spot. Loans are difficult to come by from banks here, and impossible when your visas are still being processed.

We were looking for something a little bigger - that would serve for transporting family, visitors and baggage when they come to see us and that would help us in bringing people and equipment to and from the house for ministry events. We were looking for something that would travel better around Bolivia - knowing the crazy roads! Now that our children are getting older and it's easier to travel with them, we hope to make more trips - both for sightseeing and for encouraging the different works around the country. Ideally we were looking for a cross between a truck and an SUV - as if there is such a thing!? Or maybe a 4 door, covered cab pickup or a larger more heavy duty SUV.

Joshua looked diligently for a couple months in the paper and in different car shops around town. Nothing suited our needs or our budget. On Monday morning, we prayed again for wisdom, for contentment, for God's leading. We basically reached the decision that we should stop looking and continue with the car already in our possesion. However, on the way from Michaela's school that morning (Get this - usually Michaela doesn't go to school on Mondays because it's our family day. However, that day they had a big party for Dia de Nino, so we let her go), we passed a car for sale on the side of the road. It was exactly what we were looking for. Joshua stopped and checked it out. The owner, a director for Peace Corp, had had the 'for sale' sticker on the car for all of 2 days. Joshua asked the owner to take it by our mechanic. The mechanic gave it a clean bill of health. We took it for a test drive. It did great going up the mountain and in crossing a rock river bed.

However, we did have one small problem. Savings are depleted due to my trip in May. We have not sold our previous car. We were planning on trying to sell it during my trip to the US - so the girls and I would not be without a car for very long. We prayed... Joshua called our bank in the States - and over the phone, folks, they gave us a loan for our exact selling price of our car at 0% interest for 4 months! It should be deposited in our account in a week. If we sell our car by September, we will have upgraded to a new vehicle debt free! God is good!

We offered the owner the combination of the loan and the money from selling the truck. It was $1000 less than his asking price (which was a great price from the start!). We told him it was all we could do - we rested in Him once again. Several hours later, he called us to tell us he accepted our offer. God is good! They went to a lawyer to make the down payment and as they were signing the papers, the owner started to get other calls from other people asking about the price and condition of the car. Amazing!

God has revealed His providence to us in one other huge way this last week - this time concerning our house. Generally speaking, we feel very safe here in Cochabamba and in our home. However, we take the necessary precautions as well. We have 2 boxer dogs, a good electric fence, a car alarm... Some Bolivians are so security conscientious (I think this is something we struggle with as Americans as well) that they will not even leave their houses unattended for an hour! This isn't a big problem for some families because they have a live-in maid. While we do have a girl who comes to help us out with the house and the kids, she only works half a day, and she doesn't live with us! However, we do try to have someone here when we are away overnight. This gets tricky during furlough months when we are gone 2 months at a time. Last year a brother in the congregation volunteered to watch our house for us. Naturally we paid him as well, but it is a big sacrifice to ask of someone. We were already praying for God to provide us with someone to take care of our place summer of 2010 when we will be Stateside.

Last week, we recieved an email from an old friend stating that she and her husband and 2 boys are planning to come to S. America to study Spanish before heading to Chicago to do urban ministry with a Hispanic church. She was asking about the possibilites of coming to Cochabamba. I emailed her back and among a variety of other things, told her we could mutually bless one another - if they were willing to live in our house, they could stay here rent free. To make a long story short, they are coming! Praise God! We have a great family to watch our house.

The girls' memory verse for the week is Philippians 4:19, "And my God will meet all your needs." Textually speaking, I don't believe this verse is saying that God will meet every physical desire of our hears. A little bit before this verse, Paul speaks of finding contentment "in any and every situation." This verse is also within the context of the great sacrifice and service the Philippian church provided to Paul. I believe if we approach our requests with the mind of Christ, praying for His leading and realizing that each gift is an opportunity to serve and give back, that God will meet each need. Whether that means diminishing the 'need' in our mind until it's no longer a need, or whether He provides in amazing ways. Why do I ever doubt Him?

Would you mind giving thanks with us right now, for the wonderful ways He has shown His providence to our family? And would you mind keeping all the details of these 2 situations above in your prayers as well? My prayer specifically is that God would use our home, our car, our things, and more importantly our very beings to minister to His people here in a special way.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Recent Ministry Events

Work Day at Augustina's -
Our church is attempting to provide our sister, Augustina, with better living conditions. Last year, we installed a water spigot outside her home to provide her with running water. This year, we are rennovating her house - providing her with a solid foundation, walls and roof to keep out the rain, wind, and cold. Already, our church members have worked 3 Saturdays with more still to be done. After the first workday, Joshua came home, dirty and tired from digging in hard ground and pouring cement, and said it was kind of neat to be a 'peon' (his words) rather than the leader. Miguel and Gaston, an architect and carpenter respectively, have been in charge of the project.

First Men's Night Out -
Last month the men started their first monthly get-to-gether (I like to think inspired by our women's ministry that has always made it a priority to get the ladies of our congregation together at least once a month!). They grilled out and played games.

Easter Sunday-
Joshua and Gary put together a wonderful worship service on Easter Sunday. They prepared an interactive sermon/ drama using the story of the 2 men on the road to Emmaus as a basis. I think it made everyone reflect a little differently on the death and ressurrection of our Lord! Afterwards we shared a fellowship meal together - I made fish chowder for the church and everyone brought sides and desserts. I think it turned out all right - although Joshua said he would never, ever buy the fish 'sabado' again! He spent 6 hours cleaning and filleting it because it had so many bones!

We put together a very short children's program for Easter Sunday as well, using the triunfal entry to Jersusalem. The kids sure looked cute!

April 12th is Children's Day here in Bolivia. This year it just happened to fall on Easter as well. We had a special prayer of blessing for our children and gave away colorful balls to all the children attending the service. Afterwards Josh took a group to a local park. He dressed up in a lion costume and they gave away helium balloons and Bible study tracts/ brochures for the church. Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures of the balloon give away - the girls and I went home for naps and Josh was inside a lion suit!

Happy Easter!

So we dyed Easter eggs for the first time this year... It was fun, but they didn't turn out as pretty as I'd hoped - I think because you can't find white eggs here - just brown. Oh, well, it's the experience that counts!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Musings on Turning 30

As I was journaling on my birthday this year, I was struck how this is the year of 'multiplies of 3' for me.

-I'm 3 decades old.
-I've lived on 3 continents/ 3 countries.
-I've been exposed to 3 languages
-I have 3 children - and had them in 3 years.
-This year, we celebrate 9 years of marriage.
-We've been in Bolivia 3 years.
-This is our 6th home since being married.

Reflection is good for the soul. There is a line from a song that I like a lot... "Roll back the curtain of memory now and then. Show me where You've brought me from, and where I might have been. Remember, I'm human, and humans forget. So remind me, remind me, dear Lord."

God has done so much in my life - brought me through so many joys and struggles to this point. And as I look forward to the next 30 years of my life... it's a little exciting and more than a little scary to wonder where God will take me from this point. But I remember the verse in Proverbs 31 that talks about the virtous wife being able to 'laugh at the days to come.' What a comfort it is to rest in my relationship with my Father, secure and confident with Him, knowing that He will walk by my side through all that will come my way in the future.