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, December 10, 2010


I have lived a large portion of my life in 3 countries...

18 years in Kenya...
8 years in the USA...
5 years in Bolivia...

It's a good thing that God makes our hearts with a large capacity to love...
because I feel like I have left a part of my heart planted in each place.

Bolivia will always hold a special place in my heart...
Here is where 2 of my children have been born...
Where I will treasure the babyhood memories.
The only 'home' they have known.
Where we have developed our family.

We have experienced a lifetime with our brothers and sisters here.
As I sat in our farewell dinner last night and looked with love at the faces around the room...
It was a joy to see how far we have walked together.

We have overcome obstacles.... and stumbled.
We have grown in faith.... and learned lessons... sometimes the hard way.
We have loved and fellowshipped... and had to resolve conflict.
We have learned and studied the Word together.... encouraged and rebuked one another.
We have experienced births and baptisms, birthdays, holidays, retreats, graduations, farewells and hellos, sickness...
even deaths.

I have been honored to share these experiences with my beautiful Bolivian family.

When people think of heaven, different images come to mind.
Angels, a golden city, the throne of God...
When I think of heaven, I think of faces.
I see the faces of my beloved brothers and sisters that I have been privileged to know from around the world...
Together at last in one place...
Surrounding the throne of God...
Praising Him with one voice.

Where there will be no more tears...
No more death...
No more pain...
No more goodbyes.

Home at last.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


In Josh's family, they have the tradition of writing a Thanksgiving Day psalm and sharing it with the family. Here is mine...

I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Even though it seems everything is changing,
the very foundations of our lives uprooted...
Yet will I trust Him. I will praise Him for His faithfulness.
He holds the future in His hands.

Even though our family is shaken by the fragility of health,
the touch of cancer too close for comfort...
Yet will I trust Him. I will praise Him for His faithfulness.
He holds our lives and health in His hands.

Even though this baby came at an unexpected time of transition,
making this mother wonder and worry at the details...
Yet will I trust Him. I will praise Him for His faithfulness.
He holds the plan for this little life in His hands.

Even though leaving the future of these people, this place, this work
that we have come to love is so difficult...
Yet will I trust Him. I will praise Him for His faithfulness.
He holds this body of believers in His hands. He will complete it.

As the mountains surround [us]
So the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forevermore.

View from our backyard of the mountains on Thanksgiving morning 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Top Ten (well, 11) Pics/Experiences from the CCC Conference in Brazil

I can't even begin to describe the blessing this week was in my life. It was a time of retreat, of fellowship, of healing. I felt God speaking to me in so many personal ways over the course of the week: through song, through the lessons, through personal Bible study and meditation, through prayer, through my connection group, through personal time with a counselor. If I could write down one thing that I took away from this conference, sounding so simple and trite, but so profound in the depths of my soul, it would be "GRACE and PEACE." This phrase has been the prayer of my life and for the lives of other in the last few weeks.... Thank you to all those who worked so hard to make this conference happen, and to my amazing husband, who with such a gracious and loving attitude, held down the fort while I was gone. I hope the pictures express the rest... I tried to pick pictures mostly featuring myself, to spare any possible embarrassment on other's behalf :)

Pizza Hut pizza in the Sao Paolo airport... which I regreted the entire 4 hour bus ride later... but come to think of it... it was still worth it!

The beach... Need I say more???

Time for meditation and child's worship

Prayer and worship on the beach

Time to visit with and learn from some amazing women of God

Having my feet washed by my group leader, Becky Holton, someone I have looked up to for a very long time... such a humbling experience

Memories and time with precious teammates

The yummy food!

The skits during the luau party... I laughed so hard, I literally thought I was going to be sick!

The luau party the final night

My connection group

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I forget how hard the last few weeks and months are before you leave a place. It seems like everything in your normal everyday routine is in upheaval as you prepare to leave, and that the days are filled with lasts and goodbyes. Today, I had a formal tea party (something I usually do for my birthday every year, although this year it just didn't happen), as sort of a farewell activity for both myself and my teammate, Laura, whose family is flying out of Bolivia to return stateside in a mere 2 weeks. I asked everyone to bring something 'inspiring' that was related to friendship, saying goodbye, transition etc. One of my friends, Angie, wrote the following poem. You can find it on her website.

by @NGIE on OCTOBER 19, 2010

Mamita de cara curtida

El aguayo en tu espalda

Sonríes aun cargada

Contenta con tu jornada


See the mountains that grow high above our heads

Bent down low to the earth the Bolivian woman is small

She lays the woven fabric on the ground

Then in those colored threads she lays her burdens

A fold, a twist, a swing and the thing she flings

Upon her sturdy back nestles on her shoulders


Tucked from view, hidden in the yarn

There in the dark a protected bit of her life

Precious baby, her wares or some goods


How does she face the monotony of the daily haul?

Does she fuss or complain

Trudging through market, street, bus and barrio?


Her cloth, el aguayo

Traditional weave, el tejido

Of coarse hairs of the herd

Of her land


See the looming mount standing in our path calling itself change

Bent down low to the earth I weep small prayers

Laid before me the fabric of my life, the people dear to me

Then in those diverse folds of humanity I lay my burdens

My love, my fears, my pains and joys, the things I fling

Upon my back made sturdy by living, I let it all settle in


Tucked from view, hidden in the threads

There in the dark a protected bit of life

Precious family, work or dear friends


How do I face the relentless change of the daily haul?

Do I fuss or complain

Labored steps crossing the street; crossing the world?


My cloth, el aguayo

Traditions woven, las tejidas

Coarse prayers are heard

Of clasped hands


You the red with the firey passion

You the blue with the calm reflection

You the green with the new ambition

You the yellow with the warm welcome

You the pink with the staying smile

You the black with the tenacious style

You the purple, happy through the trial


You are wrapped around me

Woven through me


The dust ground in the tiny overlaps of existence

Wetted by the rains and stayed by the wind

The strings stained permanent

A reminder that the only thing that doesn’t change

Is that things always change


I grasp for what I know, fingering the familiar knots

Holding on tight as my neck is choked by the haul

That familiar pain of strain in the bones pulls at the soul


The woman, the bearer

Bears in her womb posterity

Bears on her shoulders life

Borne in her heart the elation and devastation of love


The woman gratefully wraps the aguayo around her body

She knows it weighs her down

But its contents are the sustenance of life


So I embrace the changes before me

Or rather let them embrace my heaving frame

For these are the tejidas of life

Thanks for sharing, Angie.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dia de Cochabamba

The girls had a typical Bolivian fair/market at their school today in honor of Dia de Cochabamba. They all dressed up in traditional Bolivian dress, like cholitas, and when we arrived, they were busy selling their wares. Eliana was selling potatos, Jana helped to sell bread, and Michaela was in charge of selling jello. It sure was fun and yummy food too: buñuelos, api, sopa de maní, salteñas, sandwiches de chorizo, pasteles, fresh fruit. This is the fun part of being missionaries and raising missionary kids!

Monday, August 30, 2010


This blog has been brewing in the back of my mind for the last couple months now... although I've been thankful for the time to think and pray about it before I actually had to sit down and write it. I have decided that I dislike change. I am a creature of routine and of habit. And so I have resisted writing this blog, although I knew the day was coming when I would have to, because it made it seem so real and permanent.

A couple months ago Josh and I made one of the hardest decisions we have ever had to make. We made the decision to leave Cochabamba and the work here at the end of our five year commitment in December and move to a different calling and mission in Quito, Ecuador. A variety of factors influenced our decision, but the bottom line is that, after a lot of prayer and deliberation and consultation and even tears, we feel God's strong leading away from this place and into a new ministry.

Josh will be moving into a role of working with national teams that form at the EQUEB School of Biblical Studies and their US sponsoring churches as they go out to establish new church plants across the country of Ecuador and into other parts of Latin America. We will also be working directly with a fairly new church plant right outside of Quito on a regular basis. Josh is excited about the possibilities of this new work and looking forward to streamlining his doctoral studies to fit this work as well. We are thankful as well that this will be moving us closer to Josh's family as both his parents and his sister's family is working in Ecuador. And it will give us the opportunity to maintain contact here, as we will be making a yearly visit to Bolivia to visit some of the church plants here.

It is amazing how invested you can become in a place, in a people, in a ministry in 5 short and long years. I remember saying in one of my previous blogs that it feels we have lived a lifetime here. So true... a lifetime of joys and struggles, birth and death, work and play. We are so thankful that God saw fit to call us here, to teach us and mold us and use us in spite of ourselves. We have had the privilege of working with some great teammates, true servants of God, and although we have had our differences, we are thankful that we are leaving behind such quality people to continue working in his kingdom here. We have been blessed to see God transform the lives of many brothers and sisters... to see a church start from square one and grow to a vibrant body of believers seeking his will. It has been the hardest decision in our life to leave because we feel so connected to the work and the people. But God works in mysterious ways, and in causing us to make this decision, He has taught us again that this work is not about us... it is about Him... we are merely tools in His hand to be used as He sees fit. And although part of us wishes we could stay here and see the milestones the church has yet to accomplish, the other part knows we would rather be in the center of God's will for our lives. He is the One who will continue this work... who will raise up this people to be His own... He is the One who has done it from the beginning. He has taught us again about trust in his Lordship, about my fallacy to depend on earthly things, and about turning everything over into His control.

This last week has been an emotional one, as we have shared with the church our plans to move. And yet we are thankful for their spiritual vision. They say they will be sad to see us go, but confident that God will continue to work here as well as in our lives. We have the same confidence as well. We have felt affirmed on many levels in our decision, but the reality of making it happen the last week has been hard. The reality of informing people we love of our plans to leave, the reality of thinking about packing and moving... of leaving our home, the only home and life the girls have ever really known. I have shed a lot of tears in the last couple months, and I'm sure I have bucket loads more to cry.

As we think about our last few months in this place, I find myself clinging to a straw of wisdom that has stayed with me since my highschool days... a senior seminar on reentry with TCK guru Dave Polluck. He talked about building your RAFT as you get ready to leave. RAFT consisting of.... Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewells, and Thinking ahead. These next few months we would appreciate your prayers as we attempt to make this transition in as healthy and gracious a way as possible. We would appreciate your prayers for the church and the team as they face many transitions as well, that they would stay focused and grounded in Christ and continue the good work. We would appreciate your prayers for our family as we uproot ourselves and make this daunting international move and as we seek financial support for this new calling in Ecuador. And we thank you for your consistent prayers and support of our family over the last 5 years. We couldn't have been here doing what we are doing without your love and prayers. And we pray that you would continue both as we transition into this new calling.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Update on the Work in Coch.

Our teammate, Jeff Forbess, just posted a fabulous newsy blog ( updating everyone on the work in Cochabamba this summer. Thanks, Jeff, for keeping us in the loop!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Brownwood in Word Pictures

We have been in Brownwood now for 2 weeks and leave tomorrow for our long trek back to Michigan, via Memphis. I realized tonight that I have been a terrible picture taker the last 2 weeks, with no grandparents' cameras to back me up, so I decided to give you a taste of Brownwood in 'word pictures.' Here's some of the things we've enjoyed the last 2 weeks.

-Hot sun, chlorine and sunscreen, and cool water with Ruthie and the Chessers
-Watching the girls feed and chase the goats at the Washburns
-Steak 4 times!!!
-yummy church potlucks and fellowship
-taking the kids to the eye doctor for the first time
-playing with Mr. Potato Head's at the Ruizes
-watching the girls laugh and jump on the trampoline all together (first time they've ever enjoyed jumping together) at the Benton's
-watching Michaela and Mark play in the pool together
-petting the goats and donkeys at the Rogers
-poor Jana's feet getting blistered up by fire ants
-watching Jana put away 4 helpings of mac and cheese every other meal
-chocolate milkshakes at Doc's drugstore
-Eliana feeding a cow 'cake' on Bill and Charlotte's ranch
-homemade peach icecream at the Pursch's
-watching Jana get loved on by Shnitzel the dog
-watching Michaela make friends wherever she goes... on any playground... within 30 seconds
-the kids playing cops on the playground outside of church with the Lykes kids
-watching the kids enjoy Bible class so much
-walking up to our old apartment here in Brownwood and remembering Michaela as a little bitty baby
-movie in bed with my husband
-donuts and coffee with Billie
-a play date and chitchat with Melanie and James
-hearing a couple of great marriage classes
-a comfortable and spacious place to stay!
-a trip to Abilene to see my brother and Janille's sweet, newly-wed apartment and taking them out to Abuelo's
-a trip to Mardel's

It's been a wonderful stay, Brownwood! We love you all! Thanks and see you soon!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Farm

After Hot Springs, we drove over to Oklahoma. Josh's grandad has a ranch near Lawton, and Josh's folks just bought a doublewide trailer home to be installed on the land too. They were hoping to have it all set up by the time we got there, but had some last minute problems with the water pipes... so we had to 'rough' it without water for a couple days. At least we had air-conditioning, because it was hot! We enjoyed doing all the fun things you do on a farm...swimming in the creek (which was full because of all the rain they've had!), jumping on hay bales, picnics. And we were able to celebrate Josh's parents 34th anniversary with them! We went to see Toy Story 3 and out to eat... and ended the day with an unexpected show of fireworks (which I was super excited about seeing as we missed out on seeing them on the 4th.) We had a great time and pray Nana and Papa's new US home (which they'll live in 6 months out of the year... the other 6 will be in Ecuador) will be filled with lots of happy memories.

Hot Springs- Stephens family reunion

We were able to meet up with my whole family in Hot Springs, which is quite a feat seeing as my sister and her family live in Portugal, Matt and Janille just got married, and we are all over the country on our furlough... so we were very blessed to find a time and place to be able to meet up with everyone. We spent a few days just playing games, going on family outings and enjoying each other's company. Every time we meet up, I think to myself, "I wonder how long it will be until we're able to do this again." But God is good... it seems like every time I think it will be the last time to see my sister for several years, God provides another opportunity for us to be together. We are very blessed.

At the park....

Frisbee golfing at the park....

And the girls first time to mini-golf!

One of the highlights was presenting Matt and Janille with our wedding present to them... a year's worth of date night's in a box for their first year of marriage.... complete with....

Bitter Lemons!!! The real soft drink in glass bottles that we had in Kenya. Rusty found them at an import store in Nashville.

And of course... lots of family time... including pillow fights with Babu!

Sikes Reunion 2010

After Matt's wedding, we drove from San Antonio to Mahoney State Park for the Josh's Sikes family reunion. It was a little different this year since this is the first time in about 20 years that they/we have not gone to Estes Park. But we were able to enjoy lots of activities just the same. Josh was able to go golfing; we went swimming; the ladies went to a fun luncheon/ dress up place called Art Chicks. Mostly we just enjoyed reconnecting with family... all 150 of them.... listening to the first generation share their favorite passages of Scripture.... singing old hymns... watching the next generation of cousins/great-grandchildren developing friendships.... playing cards. It was a beautiful time (a little crazy at times trying to keep up with all 3 kids: Jana got away from us during one meal and climbed the 50 ft. observation tower outside the lodge... by herself!!! This mommy almost had a heart-attack over that one!) But God is good. We are so thankful to be part of such a heritage of servants loving and following the Lord.
Sikes reunions aren't complete without lots of food! Our family cooked potato stack up for everyone.

Art Chicks Fun!

The Jack Sikes family

Nightly devotionals

Fun with family

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Matt and Janille's wedding

It's a beautiful and nostalgic experience watching your little brother (7 years younger) marry the wonderful woman he loves. God has designed us for relationships... primarily with Him, but also with other people. I loved seeing my brother, all grown up, serving and loving his bride. I loved seeing Janille radiant with happiness. I loved seeing the look of pride on my brother's face. Mostly, I enjoy seeing 2 people who love God and each other committing themselves to a life of love, and friendship and service to each other. Congratulations, Matt and Janille! We love you both and pray God's blessings on you as you walk through the joys and struggles of life hand in hand.
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