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

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On a lighter note....

I realized the other day that I never posted pictures from our family vacation. We had just gotten back, and a couple days later Josh left on the jovenes trip... and the last month has been so crazy I haven't even thought about it. I was thankful we were able to salvage our memory chip from the camara, since I hadn't had a chance to download pictures from our trip.

We decided to take our vacation this year in a little town called Saimaipata. We wanted to try out our new car on the Bolivian roads. It did great!!! - and we christened it 'Dora' on the way (the girls idea!). We took the old road from Coch. to Santa Cruz (the same road the jovenes were on when they had the accident. After driving it is when Josh decided it might be better to take a bus. It was only paved for the first couple hours.... then it was dirt - albeit good dirt - the remainder of the way until the very end, when it was washed out pavement. I think I agree with my dad... Good dirt is better than bad pavement.) It was a long drive - it took us about 10 hours to get there. After driving there, we decided we had no desire to drive that road back, so drove on to S.Cruz and back on the new road (basically making a huge circuit). But it was some of the most beautiful and amazing country I've seen yet in Boliva! It's only when you get out of the major cities that you realize what a frontier country Bolivia still is.

We stayed at a hotel called 'El Pueblito'. It was like something straight out of an old west movie or something... each 'cabin' was themed after some kind of business from an old town (i.e. Seamstress, Bakery, Tavern, Blacksmith). They had a quaint little chapel, a playground, a pool (although it was way too cold to swim!), a restaurant, farm animals, fireplaces (which we definitely needed!)... It was a great experience and a beautiful view! And they made beautiful hand-painted pottery and woodwork.

The second day we were there, we went to visit 'El Fuerte', some ancient ruins that date to pre-Incan times, although the Incans used them later on as well as some kind of ceremonial/religous site and possibly a military outpost. It was fascinating... Bolivia's Machu Pichu... and very well laid out/maintained for Bolivia. The girls did great on the 2 k hike through the ruins and we saw our first Andean condor (eat your heart out, mom and dad!)

We also enjoyed exploring the town a little bit and visiting a local animal orphanage.

On the way back to Coch., we stopped halfway on the new road to break up the trip a bit. And stayed at a fascinating place. It was a working Bolivian ranch that is also a hotel. Very off the beaten track, but a great experience too. They had 5000 head of cattle that they were working as we drove up (of course the OK farm boy in Josh loved seeing that!). The hotel was spread out ranch style and very nice and clean; they had beautiful grounds, fishing (for pirahnas!), and free horseback riding as part of the deal... a pool and a great raised pavilion with hammocks (perfect for bird-watching, mom and dad!)

We drove the rest of the way back to Coch. the next day, stopping for lunch at our favorite hotel in Villa Tunari, and taking advantage of their pool and water slide!

All in all, it was a great vacation, and greatly needed.


I felt it was about time to give some updates on how everyone is doing.... in no particular order.

-Jonathan seems to be moving around better every time I see him. He has been having a lot of pain in one shoulder and knee... They diagnosed it as tendonitis and he is receiving shots for a week. They are still getting the run-a-round from the insurance, very frustrating, but we're hoping to be able to pay his medical expenses soon so he can get the go-ahead from the dr. to travel, possibly as soon as next week.

-Rachel arrived safely Stateside and is now in Searcy. She's found them an apartment and is getting ready to start teaching next week.

-Rebeca got the cast off of her arm and is still in considerable pain, but is moving around better with her crutches. Her exam seemed to go well, but no news on the results yet. She was pretty consumed with studying there for a few days, but now I think the reality of everything is settling in and she is struggling emotionally to process it all.

-Miguel is out of intensive care and awake, but has some traumatic brain injury. He is struggling to remember faces and names and in a fairly childlike state. We would appreciate your prayers for a miraculous recovery in this regard, as no one can tell if his condition will improve. His family has contracted round the clock nurses to improve the medical care he is receiving at the public hospital. His kids are in the care of his sister, but she has them fairly isolated, so please continue to pray for Abril and Diego.

-Alejandra got the stitches out of her arm and is going through some physical therapy.

-Ariel is home!!! His cochlear device was in La Paz as of Friday, and was being held up due to some paperwork. Pray that it arrives soon.

-Rosa will have surgery soon on her nose.

-Bruno and Kevin continue to be confined to the house - Kevin on bedrest, and Bruno to his wheelchair, although since they live on the 4th floor of some condominiums with no elevator, it is difficult to get him up and down the stairs.

-The conditions of the others (Freddy, Josh, Camila, and Bruno Pol) continue to improve every day.... bones are healing and soreness is gradually dissapating.

-Wendy and Gonzalo found a new apartment and moved last weekend. They are thankful for their new place. Sunday was a difficult day for Wendy as it was Ariana's 17th birthday. We had a special tribute for her at church, ordered her favorite food, cake and a special video of photos of her life.

-We appreciate your prayers surrounding Thursday, which marks the one month anniversary of the accident. We are having a special prayer/memorial service at the church Thursday evening.

-And on a side note, I'm rejoicing and praying over 2 families far from us.... Matthew Bogard, a good friend of Joshua's, has been struggling with 2 types of cancer. His recent bone marrow transplant was successful and tests are looking good, but he needs continued prayers over the graft vs. host process. Also, the Schwambs, a family that are members of the church where Josh's uncle is on staff, just received a heart for their 3 year old little girl and she had a successful transplant!! Read the whole story at God is good... and God can work miracles! The verse I read today in Mark spoke to my heart, "Have faith in God.... I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sin."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Meditations on Life and Death

On Sunday it was my turn to share the devo during our monthly ladies reunion after church. I was daunted by the task. What do you say during times like this? When you have mothers sitting in front of you who have lost a child or suffered along with their child, caring for them physically and weeping with them in their emotional recovery? It was a first for me and I did not feel equal to the task. I have not even felt up to sharing my own personal thoughts and struggles here... and yet, preparing for this devo has allowed me for the first time to process on a personal level my own thoughts and feelings.

So I decided to share from what I have been reading lately - in the moments I've been able to glean from the craziness of what life has been lately - which sadly to say have been few and far between. In times like this, I always turn to the Psalms.

Psalm 13:1-2
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my ennemy triumph over me?

Praise God that we have a God who is big enough to handle our questions. Whose character does not change because we question His person, His purposes, His plan. Who does not turn us away in our doubt.

Why did God see fit to save my husband with only minor injuries - although I am eternally grateful to Him for doing so - and allow 3 young girls to die instead? Why does he number some with only a few short days or years, and others with a lifetime? Why is it that so many people in this world have to suffer so much... and others not?

I have felt like this event has triggered in me a sensitivity or recognition of the suffering all around me -how easily we become calloused- that the weight of the world has been laid in some small way on my heart. From the tears and pain of those in the accident, to the little girl the same age as Jana that Josh saw brought into the forensics office - physically and sexually abused by her parents, to the little old Quechua man I passed on the road - bent over, unshod feet wrapped up against the cold, to the driver of the bus - 22 years old, spending his life in a 3rd world prison, to even the minor sicknesses and injuries of my own children. How does God bear it? How does He see the sin and sorrow of the world every second of every day? Maybe because He can see the big picture - the past, the present and the future. Maybe because He knows the price has already been paid for sin, the battle already fought, that we are just awaiting the response of mankind and the redemption of all things (Romans 8).

Psalm 13:3-4
Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foe will rejoice when I fall.

This has been my prayer, "Give light to my eyes." And in some small way, it has been answered. It has been interesting as well as sad to see the reactions of the community around us. A very Bolivian response to tragedy, I think influenced in part by both Catholic and a fatalistic worldview (although maybe too it is just a normal human response), is to look for the 'sin' that caused the suffering. Just as Jesus' disciples asked him in John 9, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" And Jesus' reponse... "Neither this man for his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.... I am the light of the world." One only has to look at many stories and teachings in the Bible to see that suffering is part of the life of servants of God... Joseph, Job, the prophets, Paul, and ultimately - Jesus himself. I remember Joshua attending an Orthodox Jewish synagogue the Sunday after Mel Gibson's "The Passion" was premiered. The rabbi's lecture focused on the movie, and on Christianity's great misunderstanding of God: God does not bring suffering to those he loves, only blessing. Both Joshua and I were astounded at his blatant misinterpretation of many Biblical passages.

I have turned again to the book of Job as well during this time. The cosmic battle fought between Satan and God over the faithfulness and righteousness of the suffering servant, using the life of Job as the battlefield. One seeking to destroy the faith of the servant, hoping that he would deny the character and supremity of God. The other seeking to prove that mankind could prove his love and trust in God, even when tried by the gravest of circumstances, by remaining faithful. Job, on his part, never understood the larger story. He questioned God, but never denied Him. In the end, the only answer that God gave Job is that "I am God." And Job remained speechless before Him.

During our grief/debrief session on Saturday, something that Joanne said struck me profoundly. In response to a question about whether a parent's sin had caused their child to suffer, she simply said, "I do not believe in a God, who would send his own Son to suffer and die for me, would then turn around and punish my child for my sin." Now this is not to say that certain sins do not have far-reaching consequences on those around us. But we do not serve a capricious God (see Ezekiel 18). We simply live in a fallen world: accidents happen, natural disasters occur, people sin, death is a part of life on earth, evil abounds.

Psalm 13: 5
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

And what else can we do or say at times like this? Trust in His love, rejoice in His salvation. I have found consolation as well in many passages from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians... But considering my prayer, "Give light to my eyes", I found special meaning in 2 Cor. 4:6-10. "For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destoyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." Ultimately our hope is in the salvation that comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus. That is what carries us through suffering. And our confidence in his love - demonstrated to us on the cross. And the hope of eternal life - where there are no tears, no sorrow, no pain.

Psalm 13:6
I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.

As I started to get the first fuzzy phonecalls about the accident, it was hard to know how to respond. When I hung up the phone after talking with Katie, when we found out that it had been a very serious accident and probably that some had died, I remember thinking, "What if this is true? What if I've lost him? How can I do this? How can I live this life without my husband - my best friend, my lover, my parenting parter - by my side? How can I raise these girls that God has given us without him?" I can't begin to express how glad I am that I don't have to live out the reality of those questions at this point in my life. I am so grateful that God saw fit to spare him. And yet none of us know the number of our days. It could be that we only have a day, or a week, or a year, or 5 years.... I will be thankful for every day that we have, and know that if that particular form of suffering ever does come my way, that God is still God, and that He will be by my side.

God has been good to me. And yet, I can't help but think of the passage in Luke 12:48, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." God has given me back my husband... and so we will continue to serve him, continue to follow him, continue to do what He asks of us. And perhaps in some small way we will not only be glorfying our God, but we will also be paying tribute to the lives of 3 young girls. May God help each of us as we continue our search to draw closer to Him through each and every circumstance.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Newest news

-I want to thank you all for your prayers surrounding the counseling session on Saturday. It was a time of sharing and healing for the youth and their families... a lot of tears and questions, but I think all went away feeling a measure of peace. Joanne did an excellent job of facilitating, and she is available for another session in a few weeks - hopefully by that time, all who were not able to be there will be able to come.

-Sunday saw 3 of our youth that haven't yet been able to come to church worshipping with us. It was wonderful to see Bruno, Rebecca, and Jonathan among us.

-Please pray for Ariel, who continues in the hospital. He is confined to his stomach for now due to some bed sores that developed on his back and is struggling with some depression. His parents came to church on Sunday and tearfully asked for prayers and visitation on his behalf. Josh went on Sunday evening and had a good visit with him. Hopefully his cochlear device will arrive this week.

-Rachel Sandoval is flying out tonight - pray for her trip home, her time with her folks, her search for an apartment, and her first year of teaching. Pray for them too as they are separated for a couple weeks. Butch and Jonathan will probably fly out beginning of August.

-As for our family - we are hoping for a return to a degree of normality this week - although it seems we cannot avoid catastrophe more than 2 days in a row. I made another trip to the emergency room on Saturday, this time with Jana. I thought her elbow had been dislocated again (see previous post in Feb.).... Thankfully, it turned out to be fine (I was dreading the thought of a baby in a cast again!). On the way home, our car broke down and we've had problems with our water supply being very dirty. We had to clean out the cistern and get the pumps serviced, so we've been without water for 2 days. Thank you for your continued prayers!

Friday, July 17, 2009


-Jonathan was released on Wed. and it at home... although they sure had some frustrating moments trying to get him out! He is doing good, and glad to be out of the hospital. He even went briefly to a movie night they had on Wed. for the jovenes - something fun and light and normal. Keep praying for them as they try to get all the insurance stuff - Stateside insurance paying for international health care! - worked out.

-Josh went to visit Miguel again yesterday. He had been moved to a regular room, but had to be transfered back to ICU due to an asthma attack. He was very sedated when Josh saw him. Some family members are wanting to move him to a better clinic, and Josh was supportive of this, saying we could help with medical costs. (We have not been very impressed in all this with the public hospital!) While he was there, the family needed a knee brace (Miguel is becoming more active and even opening his eyes!), so Josh went searching for one... at about 10 different medical supply stores and ended up having to order one, being unsuccessful in his search. Interestingly enough, often hospitals/clinics do not have medications or certain supplies on-hand and family members must purchase them from local farmacies or supply stores.

-Please be praying for Rebeca. Her mom came to our Wed. ladies prayer time and she is doing better health wise, but has to take a final exam on Tuesday of next week. She is in her first year of university on a medical track.... So she is spending her recovery time studying. There are about 1000 students in her course of study and only 180 will be passed on to the next year. Also, school resumes next week for all students... be praying for the teens as they head back to school, and as some of them will have to study from home for a couple months as they continue their recovery process.

-Joshua also visited Bruno and Freddy Vargas and had a good talk with Bruno. Continue praying for them and the emotional state of all our teens.

-Josh got the cochlear device ordered for Ariel! Thank you for your prayers in all that process - it ended up that we couldn't order the free replacement, because more than 3 years had gone by since he had it implanted, but thanks to your generous hearts, we have enough to help his parents pay for it... we're thankful that he's going to be recieving it in about a week! Pray that it will arrive safely.

-Please be praying for Wendy, the mother of Ariana. Their landlords told them last week that they have to leave their rental house in a week, so in the depths of dealing with her daughter's death, she's having to think about moving and finding a new house.

-As for our family, the girls are doing better, and although yesterday morning I thought Michaela had pink-eye, it turned out to be an insect bite close to the eye that had caused swelling and puffiness. Maybe things will normalize a little bit in the next week!

-We are daily overwhelmed (in a blessed way!) by the support and prayers and emails and comments that we've recieved. Thank you so much for your financial and spiritual generosity towards us and the brethren here in Cochabamba....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Here's the latest...

-Jonathan is up and walking and has a great appetite... chances are he'll be released in a couple days. He has been visiting Ariel (who is in the same clinic, one floor down) and they have been playing video games together - I think it's put them both in great spirits!

-Ariel is doing good but will probably have to have one more surgery on his hips. Josh is still in the process of filling out paperwork and making phone calls to get his cochlear replaced. Keep that process in your prayers.

-Kevin has been released and is at home! His mom knew some people at the clinic where he was interned and they have loaned him a hospital bed.

-We found a good wheelchair for Bruno and - thanks to you who have given so generously - were able to purchase it with the intent of keeping it for future needs in the church as well.

-Pray for our teens and their families this Saturday. We managed to get in contact with a missionary counselor here. She has been in Bolivia for over 20 years and has her Masters in Counseling. She is doing a group debrief session at 3 on Sat. for the victims and their families. Pray that God will work through this time and that He will begin healing the many emotional wounds....

-We have been greatly encouraged by the support recieved not only abroard, but also within Bolivia. Another preacher from one of the congregations in Santa Cruz arrived on Sunday to show their love and support for our church body. He traveled the same road that the accident occured on, arriving here at 3am. He was bringing a donation from their brothers to ours, but sadly was robbed here in Coch. on the way to his hotel. Satan is at work, but our God is greater! Thankfully, he was not hurt. The brothers and sisters here in Bolivia have sacrificed so much for us, as have many of you in the US.

-Thanks for your prayers for our family. Josh's back is now feeling better... Jana is back to normal... Mom had 2 days not having to clean up any messes... But Eliana is now sick with the same virus Jana had, so we are dealing we more throw up, fever etc... Continued prayers are greatly appreciated.

-To finish things out... Butch Sandoval has posted some of his thoughts on their blog - and included some pictures of the girls who passed away that were taken at an orphanage just the week before... precious reminders of the sweet lives they led. I thought I'd post them here too...

And more pictures....

We got our camara back smashed from the accident... but were able to rescue the chip and save our pictures. Josh was sad though because he thought he had taken a picture of the group before they boarded the bus... apparently not. But Bruno Vargas also had a camara, and although his too was crushed, we were again able to get the pictures off the chip. Here are a few of the pictures taken that terrible day.

Camilla and Freddy

Alejandra, Jonathan, Rebecca, and Rachel

Alejandra and Ariana

Boarding the bus after lunch (the bus before the accident)

Saturday, July 11, 2009


The bus

The cliff

Camilla and Belen - serving at a workday project at Agustina's house

Our youth, taken last year with a group of interns from Harding

A group of our youth at last year's family camp - they won the talent show prize.
Left to right - Bruno Vargas, Bruno Pol, Freddy, Vesna, Rebeca, Alvara and Roberto

Belen, Diana, and Ariana

Friday, July 10, 2009

More news....

Things have been a little crazy around here of late... I've been trying for 2 days to get this update posted.

-I took Jana to the dr. and she has a combination of rotovirus and parasites.... I thought she was getting better, but she still has bad diareahea and just threw up again all over the computer as I was working on this entry (I'm on Josh's computer now!)... At least we know what it is and how to treat it. Keep praying she will get better - and that mommy will have at least 1 day where I'm not having to clean up bodily fluids/excretion!

-To top the whole week off, Eliana fell down on Thursday and busted her chin open and I had to take her to the emergency room for stitches. She would've had to get 3-4 stiches, but she was so great (you would not have believed how still she lay and she didn't even cry!!!!), they did one long stitch on the inside and one little one on the outside.

-Josh's back is really bothering him... He's going to go back to the doc for another check up to make sure everything is okay... It may just be that he's not resting as much as he should be.

-Other than that, our days have been full of millions of other things. Josh spent almost 7 hours total waiting to get his forensics report... and still has to get the hospital to write up a report too. He went to visit Miguel yesterday, and was sad to see his condition, but glad to be able to sit and pray with him. Josh felt sure he could hear him. They have him restrained to keep him from pulling on the cords and hurting himself, and sedated until such time they feel ready to let him come to.

-Yesterday we attended a mass for Belen and Diana (a common Catholic traditon here a week after the funeral. One side of Diana's family are strong Catholics). It was again a very sad time for the family and all involved. But afterward the Sandoval's and Forbesses were able to go out to lunch with the family and I think it was a good time of fellowship, helping to ease the pain and smooth over the relationship with our church.

-We are continuing to work on ordering Ariel's cochlear device... it might be possible to recieve a free replacement!? But of course that means tons of paperwork and phone calls... sometimes a very difficult thing from another continent. Keep this whole process in your prayers.

-Josh talked to Pedro, Rebeca's father, yesterday. They have been out of touch all week and we were a little worried about them. Turns out they had to move Rebeca to a relative's house so she could get some rest... friends from school and church kept coming by. And she was having panic attacks... made worse by a medication they had prescribed. As soon as they took her off that medication, she's been doing much better. But Pedro said they are doing fine and Rebeca is recovering.

-Looks like Monday may be a big day... Kevin might possibly be released and JD might be able to get up! Pray that both of these things may happen!

-I think that's about it... except for the fact that we were able to talk and use the web-cam on Skype last night to see/hear a lot of Josh's family/extended family. What a great blessing to be prayed over and to hear "Precious Lord, Take my Hand" sung over us from thousands of miles away. We feel and know that thousands are continuing to lift us up in prayer... I know it's one of the biggest ways that we are making it through day by day.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The latest....

Just wanted to keep everyone updated on the latest news and prayer requests....

-Josh is doing great, getting back into the saddle as they would say in OK... He started driving yesterday... says he's fine (of course the wife worries a little bit). He spent yesterday morning at the doc and visiting Kevin. Doc says he's healing nicely, but it'll be about a month till the ribs stop hurting. He's still pretty sore but walking around much better. Keep praying for Kevin - and for several of the kids - who will have up to 2 months bedrest.

-Josh also spent the better part of the afternoon at the forensics office. Each victim has to go in for a physical exam which will help the d.a's office (for lack of a better term) to prosecute the case. It was a frustrating Bolivia experience. He spent an hour getting the paper that he needed the dr. to write on and waited another 2 and a half and didn't even get seen! Then he found out he didn't have everything he needed - that he needed the original xrays and a report from the first hospital. So he had to go pick that up and has to be back at the office at 9:30am for his exam. Pray for patience as all of this can be a very frustrating cultural experience!

-I spoke to Butch yesterday who went by to see Miguel. He said Miguel seemed to be wanting to wake up - tossing and turning - which is a good sign, but the dr.'s are concerned about a blood clot and so are inducing further coma until they feel better about that. Pray that the blood clot will dissapate or move so it will no longer be a threat.

-A group from Santa Cruz arrived yesterday to encourage the brethren here... We have felt a great show of support and love from all the churches around the country. They brought a collection of money - such a sacrifice for the people here -and news that one of the brothers is selling his car to be able to contribute funds to the people here. It is so wonderful being part of the family of God at times like this. We are so thankful for all the funds that are pouring in from all over! I am going to order Ariel's cochlear device today on line and have it sent to Josh's sister, Jenny, who will be coming back in a couple weeks. Thank the Lord with us that there is now a specialist here in Coch. that can calibrate it... they used to have to travel to Chile to have it done - and that is out of the question right now with Ariel's medical condition.

-The Bulls arrived safely last night - praise God!

-And finally, if I could request for our family, pray for Jana who started throwing up and having diareahea yesterday - I felt like I was at the end of my rope when I woke up having to clean up everything... She's still not feeling the greatest, but I have a dr.'s appointment today for her.

I am hoping to be able to post some pictures later on of the crash site and some of our jovenes...

Thanks again for all your prayers and support!

Monday, July 06, 2009

And even more updates!

Thank you so much for your continued prayers, especially concerning our worship yesterday....

-Our worship service was packed - I think we had the most people we've ever had, besides our inauguration. We had a special service of scripture readings, songs of encouragment, communion, and prayer over each individual and family involved in the accident. Josh said a few words, and although he said he didn't feel like he did justice to the occasion (being emotionally distraught about it all), I'm confident the Spirit spoke through Him. Unfortunately, I didn't get to listen to him - there were so many people, there weren't even enough chairs - and so many kids, it was hard to hear in the back. So a few of us took the kids upstairs to distract them with coloring and a movie. There were many tears shed, and words of encouragement spoken. At one point in the service, we called each youth group member still in the hospital and sang to them over the cell phones. The most important thing is that God was glorified through it all.

-After the service, the parents of the victims met upstairs with a family lawyer to discuss the legal actions that are going to take place. It wasn't as smooth a meeting as we had hoped - some venting and fault-finding (which is only natural) and emotional reactions... but all in all, we felt the support of most families. There was another meeting today and a decision was made to pursue insurance settlements through the normal channels as a group, and if certain members wish to file further action against the bus company to cover further expenses, that it will be an individual decision. Please continue to pray for the Vargas family who have suffered so much with the loss of Diana and Belen, in the injuries of Ariel and the loss of his hearing aid, and in the continued hospitalization of Miguel. They are suffering a lot (as are many of our families), and we especially pray for their relationship with God at this time. Please pray for our team too as we navigate the unfamiliar and muddy waters of legal action here in Bolivia.

-Wonderful news! Camilla, Rebeca, Bruno and Freddy Vargas were all released from the hospital today! Praise God with us - on a personal level, it brings much rejoicing as I was there in the hospital when 3 of them were brought in, seeing their injuries first hand. Please pray for their continued recovery at home, which will be long especially for Bruno and Rebeca. We're in the process of locating a wheelchair for Bruno - pray that one will be found quickly.

-Kevin, Ariel, JD, and Miguel continue in the hospital. Pray for their continued care and recovery. We are also seaching for a hospital bed for Kevin so that his mother can continue his care more easilly at home... pray that one will be found. And pray for them to be encouraged - extended hospital stays are frustrating on many levels - and for their care givers to have strength and positive attitudes.

-Roland and Carol Bowen leave tomorrow and the Sucre group drove home yesterday. Praise God for the encouragment and help that they brought at such a critical time!

-Our teammates, the Bulls, fly into Coch. tomorrow. Pray for their travels and readjustment into Bolivia, and for them as they face the emotional rollercoaster of ministering to the many needs that are facing us right now.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

More Updates

Here is the latest news and prayer requests....

-Jonathan Sandoval had his back surgery this morning. I talked to Butch a little bit ago and he said the surgery went well, that the doctor was pleased, and that JD was recovering from the anathesia, but was joking and talking on coming to. He should be in the hospital about another week. Then it will be between 20-30 days recovery/rest time here in Coch. before he can travel. He had a pretty uncomfortable afternoon and is frustrated like all our other injured from being laid up for so long.
-Rachel Sandoval had the stiches removed from her face and is looking much better.
-Alejandra was readmitted to a different clinic yesterday because of a fever - it appears they didn't clean the wound on her arm very well at the first hospital and they had to open it up, clean it out and stitch it back up. She was released this afternoon.
-Now that the initial shock is over, several of the youth involved are struggling emotionally. Please pray for emotional healing...
-Rebecca rallied today and was sitting up, talking, and joking with the visitors that came to see her. She said she's ready to play football! Praise God for her continued recovery.
-Miguel is beginning to move his hands and feet - a good sign!
-There may be some new legal developments involving the responsibility of the bus agency. The families are attempting to file some kind of civil action against the bus company and the police. There is the possibility that the bus company might bribe the police in the little town that has a checkpoint on the way to the camp in order to have a report that says all their paperwork was in order and that it was mechanical failure of the bus that caused the accident. A cousin of the Vargas family, who is a lawyer, is driving out tomorrow to file a claim to hopefully prevent this action. Please pray that justice will be done and that if the bus agency is responsible, that they will be held responsible.
-Please pray too for the recovery of Ariel's coqulear device. He is deaf in one ear and it has not been located with the rest of the stuff. We have heard that there was a box of cell phones and other such items recovered at the site, but it was not delivered with the rest of the baggage yesterday. It is very common here in Bolivia when bus wrecks occur that people loot the luggage in the process of rescuing the victims. Thankfully, this has not seemed to be the case in our situation. Pray that honest people have found this box and will return it and that Ariel's hearing aid (which cannot be purchased here in Bolivia) will be located.
-The Sandoval family suffered another tragedy tonight with the loss of his neice who has been suffering with cancer. Please pray for them as they deal with this loss while in the midst of all the other suffering and while far from family.
-Please pray too for our worship service tomorrow; for the men that are leading; for Josh's physical and emotional well-being as he says a few words.

And on top of everything else - our maid just called to say she will be delayed another 4 days (she's already been gone 2 weeks) - and we just pulled 3 abandoned and half-drowned puppies out of the creek bed behind our house.... Never a dull moment!

Thank you for your continued prayers - we feel the love and support from all of you. And happy 4th of July.... It sure doesn't seem like the 4th here - very surreal.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


We got home from the funerals about an hour ago after a long day of hospital visits, memorial services and graveside services. I wanted to update everyone on the new conditions of all our members...

Josh was released about midday. He is moving very slowly and in quite a bit of pain still, but was insistent about being released so he could attend the funeral services. It took a toll on him, emotionally and physically, but he is resting now with his medication and has no plans to go anywhere for a couple days. Riding in the car on bumpy roads is just too painful! He was able to speak at the graveside services and the memorial service, and although it was hard, I know the families greatly appreciated his effort and presence there.

Bruno Vargas had surgery this morning on his broken collar bone and it went well. He might also have to have some minor surgery on some ligaments in his foot.

Alejandra Moscoso was released from the hospital today. Praise God for her recovery!

Freddy Vargas was to have surgery on his arm tonight at 7pm to set the bone.

Jonathan Sandoval is scheduled for surgery on the compressed disk in his back tomorrow at 2pm. Thankfully, due to the location of the disc, this will be a low risk surgery. They will insert a couple plates to expand the disk back to its proper size.

Rebeca Chavez is out of intensive care! The surgery on her femur went very well, and was less invasive than they thought initially. Instead of having a plate and screws put in, she only had to have some pins. It seems that the other surgeries are unnessecary at this time. Praise God for answered prayers.

Miguel Vargas continues in intensive care in a coma, but is still showing positive signs.

There was huge show of support at the memorial and graveside service today. It was a difficult time for the familes and friends of these girls and for those who were on the bus with them (Bruno Pol, Joshua, and Rachel were all in attendance). The Vargas family buried 2 grandaughters/cousins/nieces while Miguel continues in critial condition. Please pray for Miguel's other 2 children, Abril and Diego, who lost their mom a few years ago and now have lost their older sister while their father is in the hospital. Your prayers for all involved would be appreciated.

Heavy Hearts, Thankful Hearts

It is 12:00am... I am trying to sit here to compose my thoughts, knowing that there are so many praying and waiting for information. I just returned from a all night candle vigil for the 3 girls who died and their families. It was heart-breaking. This may be a bit disjointed, bear with me...

12 of our jovenes (youth) and 4 chaperones left yesterday morning for a 3 day trip to a camp about a 7 hour drive from Cochabamba. They are all on winter break and wanted to take advantage of the holiday. They contracted a bus from a local bus company that makes the trip regularly rather than taking the usual night time bus. After driving the road on our vacation last week, Josh felt it was safer to travel in the day. Yesterday about 4pm, we started recieving disjointed calls and information about a serious accident that had occured. Things were pretty sketchy until I recieved a call from Josh. He confirmed that the bus had rolled about 100 meters down a steep mountain. The top came off, it rolled over and over several times, some were thrown from the bus, others rolled down with the bus. Miraculously, one of the jovenes who wasn't badly injured was able to climb up to the road and hailed a taxi that was passing by. The taxi driver had a cell phone and reception (extremely unusual where they were at.) Within minutes people from a nearby village had arrived to help evacuate the injured. Half the group was taken to a nearby local clinic. The rest were loaded into pickups and ambulances and started back to Cochabamba. A Christian couple who was passing by took charge of collecting all the personal items and safe guarding them.

The last 48 hours have been crazy: little sleep, going from one clinic to another to check on the injured, back and forth from the house to check on the kids. The first group of injured arrived here around 8 pm last night; another group arrived around midnight, and the rest came in several hours later. My teammate, Katie, has been here with the kids, which has been a life-saver. I want to give you all status updates on how everyone stands at this moment, at least from what I know.

Joshua- He's got 3 cracked ribs and some heavy brusing and contusions. Should be released tomorrow. He's pretty heavy-hearted about everything.
Jonathan Sandoval (son of our teammates)- Lots of contusions and brusing. A compressed vertebrae in his spinal column. They were talking about doing surgery tomorrow, but are now thinking it might be unnecessary and are going to run more tests. Please pray that surgery will not be necessary and that if it is, he will be in capable hands.
Rachel Sandoval (wife of Jonathan)- cuts on the face and some bruising. She was a trooper through it all! Sat with 3 of the girls after the accident and sang "Jesu Cristo conmigo va" to help calm them down.
Miguel Vargas (father of one of our jovenes who died) - in a coma in intensive care due to head injuries, but stable. Postive outlook on his condition. Does not yet know about his daughter who passed away.
Belen - Passed away. Daughter of Miguel, one of our church members. She was 14. She was caught under the wheel of the bus. Joshua was able to scoot down the mountain and sit with her until help came. She had such a servant heart and will be greatly missed by her family and all the jovenes.
Diana - Passed away. Belen's cousin. She was 17, a beautiful, talented young lady. Her family has been coming to church for the last few months.
Ariel - Diana's brother. He had surgery today on his hips/legs, but is in stable condition and recovering nicely.
Ariana - Passsed away. Daugther of Wendy and Gonzalo, church members. Lovely young lady, wonderful big sister.
Bruno Vargas - Broken collar bone, and other fractures. Recovering nicely.
Freddy Vargas - Broken arm. Was one of the last group to be brought in and is pretty shook up, but is recovering.
Bruno Pol - Minor bruising/contusions. He's the one who climbed up to the road for help. Joshua said he was so mature and brave - helped so much in all the rescue operations.
Kevin - cousin of Bruno and Freddy. Some broken bones, but recovering nicely.
Rebeca Chavez - was critically injured. A broken femur bone in several places. The leg was operated on today successfully. Broken hand as well and a broken rib that punctured her thorax. She'll have a couple more operations in the following days. She is in intensive care, but stable and with hopes of a full recovery.
Camilla - Daugther of a church member who is working in Virginia. Facial injuries and contusions. She was operated on today and pulled through nicely. Her mom is flying in from the US.
Alejandra Moscoso - injured neck/collar bone, gash in her arm. Recovering nicely.
Rosa - daughter of a family that has been coming to church for the last few weeks. Minor injuries/contusiones. Recovering nicely.

We are heavy hearted over our losses - many of our families are discouraged, worried, and grieving. But it was heart-warming to see the overwhelming support from the rest of our church. Many waited last night in the cold night air outside the hospital until past 4 am. Others manned the contact center and answered the many phone calls. Still others made the long drive out to the crash site with blankets to help bring back injured. Today every hospital waiting room was filled with our church members, there to encourage and pray.

And more than anything, we feel the encouragement of the many prayers from a far. Thank you - please continue to lift up our church, our youth, their families before the throne. The memorial service and burial for the girls is tomorrow at 3pm. And after that there will be weeks and years of trauma and grief to deal with. But God is with us. And we are thankful for the lives of those who survived and give thanks to God for the way He is taking care of them. Those who were involved in the rescue attempt were amazed that there were not more serious injuries. And I for one am so grateful to have my husband safe and well.

As far as the crash goes.... They were on a flat stretch of road with no oncoming traffic. Observers from the little village nearby said the bus was going too fast. Some reporters from our local newspaer discovered today that the driver, contracted by the bus company, did not have the necessary license to drive a commercial vehicle, and due to driving the course the day before, may not have had enough sleep. Both the driver and the assistant survived. We don't have any more information on them at this time. Keep them in your prayers as well.

Again, we are thankful for the many prayers and support. Roland and Carol Bowen, memeber of our sponsoring congregation, are flying in tomorrow to be of help and support. Jeff Forbess, who was in the US for his sister's wedding, is cutting his visit short and coming back tomorrow as well. Erik Reyes, our brother-in-law in Sucre, is bringing a group from the church tonight to help out. The Bulls have set up a website if you should wish to help in a finacial way. Many of our familes don't have the means to pay for medical/funeral expenses. Your help would be greatly appreciated in this way as well.

It is time for this tired body running on a little less than 4 hours of sleep since yesterday and a cup of coffee to retire. We love and appreciate all of you!