Friday, March 16, 2018

Time Flies When You're Having Fun!

Wow, I feel like its been ages since we sent out a newsletter for our ministry here in Bolivia. There is so much going on, finding the time has been pretty hard. We've had lots of transitions, errands, government procedures, family matters, even a natural disaster.

You may have seen that on our facebook that with hard consistent rains here, the river on the mountain recently overflowed and flooded the town of Tiquipaya (about 5 minutes from us). Please be praying still for this town and all those who have been affected. There are houses that were covered in around 18 feet of flowing mud. Lot's of people are without homes and belongings, in a place where no one has insurance or emergency funds and no other options. Many churches are trying to help with relief efforts, but cleanup must wait until everything settles in the next few months, then they will excavate and dig out the town. This is due to simple structure homes without foundations, dirt and rock roads, and walls that narrowed the flow of the flooding making it much more destructive. Your prayers for those families is very appreciated.



All that said, what is life like for the Powells now, what's going on? Here are the highlights:

En Su Palabra - Misión Tarija
In connection with our partnering church here in Cochabamba (En Su Palabra), we are leading a mission trip to the city of Tarija in July. We are excited about the trip and hope it will be a first step to a missions minded body of believers. On the agenda is a wide array of evangelist activities from VBS to Workshops for leaders, parents, and families. Please be praying for this trip and for all those involved.
The missionaries we will be working with in Tarija


Rimber
Most of you know who Edson is. He was the first person we led to the Lord here in Bolivia and also like a member of our family. I love him like a son and am the only father he has in his life. His family a little over a year ago took in a little boy who is 7 years old and has severe delays. He cannot communicate, and if very behind in regards to his studies and even simple motor skills. However, he isn't without hope. We recently had him go through some diagnostic testing here and the specialist is confident he can learn to communicate and complete normal tasks with the right kind of therapy. The only problem is that Edson's family does not have consistent income and they have little to no resources. They can't afford the therapy. Our budget with our ministry is at it's limits and we cannot take on the extra costs. The recommended therapy is two sessions per week at a monthly cost of 550 bolivianos (about $80 a month). Please let us know if you'd like to sponsor a portion of this cost to help Rimber and his family.

This is Rimber with Lola when we took him out to lunch  one day with our family. 

Misión Ágape - School help and English Class 
In our efforts to grow the Church in the neighborhood of Condebamba, we are looking for ways to connect with more families and see that connection comes through meeting needs. So, while looking for ways to meet real needs and help families and individual succeed, we are about to open the church up during the week to provide tutoring and English classes. Hopefully, this will give us a bridge to meet families in our area while meetings some needs.

Marriage Supper Club
We recently started a marriage supper club with 3 other couples here. We are excited about this opportunity to invest in couples younger than ourselves and in their relationships. We will meet once a month for dinner and discussion and another time once a month for an activity like bowling, a movie, etc. The idea is for this to be as relational as it is ministry, to grow together as living testimonies of Christ and the Church.

Guitar Classes
As we are always looking for ways to invest in the community and meet new people, we have started providing free guitar lessons on Tuesday nights that are followed by a short devotion. Our friend Daniel Miranda is leading it. So far we have a group of about 5-6 youth.



Not New But Worth Your Prayers Too
Misión Ágape is still ongoing with our weekly Bible study on Thursday nights, plus we will begin a monthly night of worship/prayer. We still frequently do counseling and discipleship throughout the week. Things are well at En Su Palabra, where Seth is serving as the associate pastor and directing ministry for young adults (ages 17-25), and coordinating ministries for ages 12-35. Ashley is teaching second grade at Carachipampa Christian School, where our kids are attending as well. Our kids are loving the American style schooling, and Ashley is being challenged in new ways as an educator.  Its been a big change, but overall a great blessing.

We've had nearly 10 baptisms at En Su Palabra in 2018.  We praise God for these professions of faith in Christ. 


Housekeeping
As most all of you know we recently transitioned from Ripe for Harvest (RFH) to our home church of Immanuel Baptist Church (IBC) of Hattiesburg. Most of our supporters have helped us with quick transitions and no lapse in support. However, there are a few gifts still going to RFH. We will attempt contacting you again to help you with this, in the meantime if you have any questions or concerns, please let us know. Also, a few stopped donating with RFH but have not set up their giving yet with IBC. Please let us know if you need help, as we depend monthly on your support for ministry and for living.

Furlough 2019 (January - June)
Sometime towards the end of January 2019, we will begin our second furlough as a family. We will be visiting the states for about 6 months. (Seth will be making at least one trip back to Bolivia so as to not lapse in duties in ministry.) We are looking for help with the following: 1. Affording housing for 6 months, ideally cheap or free missionary housing in either Hattiesburg, MS, Mobile, AL, or Birmingham, AL. 2. Transportation to borrow, rent, or purchase; something dependable and something we could travel in (as we will be making visits to Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Virginia.)

And if you've read all this, thank you! We can't wait to reconnect face to face with everyone in just 10 more months.  We're blessed by your investment in the gospel in Bolivia and are praying for our amazing supporters in the states.


God Bless!!!
The Powells

PS: Want to partner with our ministry financially? Click HERE! 

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Divine Appointment

In our profession, we aren't around mature believers on an every day basis.  Mostly new and young believers, if believers at all.  But there's a spurring that we all need when around humble, maturing, wise believers.  Today we were blessed by such a meeting. 

Two of our teens, brothers, are so much like family to us.  They were raised by a single mom who has had a hard life but does the best she can.  Anyways, a month ago their grandmother passed away, and it is tradition here to have a big meal with family and friends a month after someone's passing in memory of them.  Today was that day, and we were invited to lunch at their home for the first time. 


She recently moved from a 2 room shack, to a lot with three rooms on it, one kitchen, two bedrooms.  (There is no bathroom...there's a hole in the ground one can use.)  There is no grass, but a lot of piled up rubble and dirt.  And, as luck would have it, it began to rain when we went over there.  (Our kids were covered in mud by the time we got home.)  We were told to sit in one of the bedrooms and were introduced to relatives of the grandmother.  We were left to visit with them for over an hour, just the four of us for most of it. This older couple was very friendly and talkative and we enjoyed having their company while our kids played with some other kids and their pets.  




We were given a huge plate of picante de pollo (much like the one pictured above), and not too long into our conversation, the older man quoted Joshua 1:9.  It quickly caught our attention and we asked if they were christians.  He said they were, and we were immediately filled with joy to meet other believers.  From then on, we talked of nothing but Christ and his word.  He told us how he went from being an alcoholic 8 years ago, to meeting Christ and having his life turned around.  He shared how he teaches the kids at his church, and how as a taxi driver he shares the gospel with every single person that gets in his car.  He told us how he learned to study the Bible, and how he memorizes a verse every day while going around town driving his taxi.  





He gave us a ride home in his taxi, since the rain had started up again.  When we got to our home, we searched our shelves for some books to send with him, as it was very apparent he loves to study and know as much as possible about God and His word.  We sent him with several, as well as a book he can use for children's ministry.  He was so thrilled!  


Leonard Ravenhill once said, "Entertainment is the devil's substitute for joy.  The more joy you have in the Lord the less entertainment you need."  This man was a walking testimony of that quote.  He doesn't need Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc....the things that so often are temporary enjoyment for believers and non-believers alike.  (I'm guilty myself of getting too hooked on social media.)   He finds so much greater joy in the study of God's word.  Let's be known more for our humble, joyful love for Christ than anything thing else. 2 Timothy 2:15, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."  If that doesn't describe us as believers, we need to check where our joy is coming from. 


1 Peter 1:8-9 says, "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." What a wonderful outcome, praying we're filled with that inexpressible joy much like the brother we met today.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Proclaim and Serve

Andrés, Me, Edson, and Carlos
The day they were baptized as a public profession of their faith in Christ Jesus. 

We have been laboring for while now and the first group of teens the Lord gave us to teach and disciple have grown so much. We are now beginning to see the fruit of the gospel as it permeates their lives and is changing those around them. I would like to take a moment to tell two small testimonies about two believers who are part of our church. Please continue to pray for God to keep working in our midst and that he would provide every tool, skill, and resource for labor to his glory. God bless! 

Andrés

Psalm 105:1 
"Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his Name; make known among the nations what he has done." 

I've been working with Andrés for 2 years now. On Easter of last year he gave his heart to Christ and has been seeking the Lord since. A young man from a poor family, he's never had a father in his life and dealt with depression, anger, and rejection. Now, I see a young man of 20 who has become like a son to me, and who has developed the heart of an evangelist. Sharing one's faith is not common here, and to challenge the culture, particularly Bolivian catholicism, is risky and costly. Yet, in the face of this, Andrés shows such an openness with his faith and is quick to share his hope in Christ with the hopeless.

About two months ago, he told me of a schoolmate who he'd been sharing the gospel with. This teen, Miki, asked to come by the house to speak with me. A few days later, he came by and I was expecting him to have many questions, to ask about the gospel, to pose his doubts, etc. But he didn't. The first thing he said was, "I want to be baptized. I want to change and be a new creation with a new heart that honors God. I want my life to bring him glory." I was shocked. Where did he get these concept? Who had been answering his questions. The more we talked, the more I realized that Andrés had been investing in his classmate for months, sharing the gospel with him and answering his questions. Andres never talked about this, but the more time I spend with Miki and the more I get to know a few others at his school, the more I realize that Miki wasn't an anomaly but the norm, that Andrés is sharing his faith with those who will listen. He told me the other day that there were a few others who are interested in coming. Please pray for Andrés, that God would give him wisdom and understanding as he walks in obedience to the commission. Pray for his joy and his influence and for more believers like him. He isn't bothersome or self-righteous, but loves God and lets the Spirit work naturally in him, giving him wisdom in each opportunity to share Christ with the lost. May we be encouraged by what God is doing in him and in his life.


Edson

Matthew 25:35 
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat..." 

In our family, we have a few "adopted" kids. Of all our "Bolivian children" (as they all like to say),
Edson is probably most like part of our family. He is the youngest, 15, and after the death of his father last year, he has become a fixture in our home and sees me as his dad. His mother has had a hard life, is somewhat emotionally vacant and has little financial security, especially since the death of her husband. She is grateful for the role of family we are to Edson in helping meet his needs and help him prepare for his future. He was the first person I prayed with in Bolivia to make Christ the Lord of his life and since then I have seen so much growth in him. He is young, has his faults, and makes mistakes, but he takes every opportunity to grow in Christ and honor God. He regularly offers counsel to classmates on how to seek the Lord, how to deal with sin habits, and what it means to be a light in the darkness. He truly has a servants heart and needs no praise or recompense.

A few weeks ago, I was taking him to a classmate's house to work on a project. As we were driving down the road, he suddenly asked me to stop for a moment. I pulled over, and Edson hopped out and ran to a man in a wheelchair who was trying to cross the street but was having trouble getting up the hill. Edson pushed him 2 blocks uphill to his house. Sunday night, while we were parked at the corner to get a hamburger at a stand, a boy approached to sell us gum. I gave the boy a few coins and told him to keep the gum. As the boy began to walk away, Edson called him back. He asked him if he was hungry and if he'd eaten. The boy said he was hungry, and Edson promptly gave him his hamburger and fries. Afterward, I offered to get him another hamburger but he declined. Later, he explained that while hungry, he wanted the boy to eat and not him. His heart was to identify with the hungry on the streets of his city. Pray that Edson would continue to grow in the Lord and that his heart for others would be met with resources and favor to meet needs around him and create opportunity for the gospel.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Where is the time?

Seth and Ashley (except Ashley is a pretty woman, not a bald dude..)

When Ashley and I were engaged, we went to premarital counseling with our pastor. We wanted to make sure were were prepared, emotionally and spiritually for such an important thing. During our sessions, we took a few personality tests to discuss the results. What we found was that Ashley is a pragmatist, while I (Seth) am an idealist. You can see the evidence of these traits with any amount of time around us. From picking a place to eat (Ashley: they take too long, Me: maybe not this time), to ministry with a 'hard to love' person (Ashley: you've invested a lot and to no avail, may be time to focus on a few others with your time, Me: just a little while longer, I think he may be on the verge of getting it.) Our personality types have always been complimentary in our marriage, a way of balancing ideals and grounding each other in Christ. Ashley, in her pragmatism, can sometimes look past the hope of Christ in situations. Not to say that she denies it - her trust in definitely in the Lord. I'm speaking to our outlooks and how they affect our steps. I, in my idealism, can look past the reality of some situations and tarry too long, unwisely stewarding resources and time in hope of change. God has called us to live a life of balance, hoping in Christ while walking soberly and in wisdom.

One of my biggest stressors is time. Time escapes so easily here and there are so many things that come up at the last minute or things weighing over my head. I'm an idealist, but after years of working to live, I get discouraged when I miss opportunities to invest. When I say "working to live," I don't mean our ministry, I'm talking about the work it requires to simply live here. Everything is
complicated, everything takes way more time than expected, everything requires far more steps than thought; and, over time, all these things are like battle wounds to the idealist. I have a tendency to live in hope, while being let down in circumstance after circumstance. I make schedules for discipleship, for investment, etc, only to have to change the plans because the van in broken again, the shower stopped working, the dog chewed up our only good shoes (you can't get good shoes here, unless you spend exorbitant amounts of money), bills takes all day to pay, cable or phone or something isn't working correctly so we have to go get a number and wait in line and spend hours getting it repaired because you can't do anything over the phone or by internet. I spend countless hours solving problems, or jumping through hoops in government offices, or running to the rescue (Sunday night one of my guys was mugged at gun point, on my street, a block from the house, while walking home). From waiting hours at children's services, to spending an average of 2 hours to prepare any given meal; from going all over the place for paperwork for any one of many governmental procedures (visas to license to permits) to finding time to invest in my own family as husband and father - Where is the time? 

As an idealist, I have a great deal of hope in situations, but I'm not just an idealist. I am also an empath with the incessant need to help, protect, and care for those around me. That said, idealism paired with empathy tend to bring a lot of self-placed responsibility on my shouldered. I tend to HOPE more in MY ability to help others, that I do not TRUST in CHRIST'S ability. Jesus, talking about his disciples, said, "while I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost..." These words echo the sentiment of the Father. For those who come to Him, and those who are IN CHRIST, new creations, there is the promise of faithfulness. Paul, to the Thessalonians (5:23-24), said, "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it." When we come to Christ, we are "kept" by Christ, holding to the promise that HE "is FAITHFUL, HE will SURELY DO IT." My hope should not be in my ability, but in HIS FAITHFULNESS. 

So, when time is weighing down on me and I am overwhelmed by all the to-do's on my plate, I will trust in my Faithful God. I will trust him with these boys. I will trust him with these families. I will trust him in every area of my lack. I will trust his grace to cover my failings. I will still do my best in every role I'm handed. But my trust will rest in the One who is able (Jude 1:24). I will also patiently wait for more laborers. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." I never understood this as well as I do now, living and laboring in Bolivia. The fields are white with harvest. Pray with me for more laborers to join us in this field, so that more souls may be harvested for the kingdom. God is faithful, he will have his church. But what glorious opportunity to be used by Him for such a glorious and eternal purpose. Go harvest some today with the good news of the gospel while trusting in his faithfulness, his strength, and his power. Make the best use of your time, no matter how little it seems you have. God bless!



Monday, August 15, 2016

De Todo Un Poco (A little bit of everything)

Wow! It's been too long since our last email! Basically since our last newsletter (in May), we've had NOT so jolly June (which included a phone stolen, difficult medical issues, car was in the shop, two pets died, an abandoned teen on our doorstep to try and help, and more). But the highlight of June was the fours teens who committed their lives to Christ - Yay! Then, came jubilant July (winter break, financial recovery, VBS, Taekwondo cook-out, and other fun things). Now we are midway through August, and so far, we've celebrated a birthday (the big important 15 years), substitute hosted a missions team from the states when their hosting missionary had issues with his flights and couldn't be here, I finally got a license to drive, and there is surely more to come in the second half. So, what does the future (immediate and distant) hold for us? Keep reading!

While our goal is church planting, evangelism, and discipleship, we have come to realize that the area of ministry God has directed us in is family. This is the most necessary ministry of our community and I believe it is a ministry greatly lacking in many areas where the Church exists.

James 1:27 instructs us to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to present ourselves blameless. Friends, we don't see this simply as a literal, natural instruction. We understand that we are not to focus on the seen but the unseen, to set the eternal as our priority. So, while we seek to meet as many earthly needs as we can, we also have a goal to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of those we minister to. And a great need we see here is family. People to model godly relationships, demonstrate the love of a father and mother, provide a safe place where someone can feel loved. We've learned that the best soil for planting is the soil that's been prepared for seed. And we labor to prepare the soil of hearts by loving and meeting natural needs as a bridge to bring us to the opportunity to plant the gospel. We labor, we plant, and we water with the word through discipleship. But, we trust God for the growth. We are but laborers, he will build his church by growing us and bearing fruit through us to his glory.



So, what does that work look like? I'll try to give you a glimpse by detailing some of what our week looks like (even though everything tends to change at a moment's notice). Sunday mornings we attend church at En Su Palabra, where my good friend Erick is the pastor. This Bolivian pastor is a mentor and confidant for me and I thank God for the blessing of counting him among my friends and also as wise counsel. Sunday evenings, we have our family service for the church we are planting. The idea of "family service" is more of a way of speaking in faith about the work God is doing, since there aren't many families, but primarily young people. At first we were a little discouraged that their parents weren't coming, but as we survey the group of faithful individuals who come each Sunday with sincere interest to know and follow Christ, we are joyful. Remember, we are laborers, Christ will build his church. We are encouraged at their commitment and excited about their growth. As they grow and begin to have families, we cannot wait to see how God grows his church from the ground up, centered on his word and his mission. Each week we have been studying a chapter of the book of John. I love seeing them embrace the truths of scripture and look for sincere ways to apply it. They are growing as doers and not just hearers, and God receives all the glory.

Mondays, I teach a Bible class at Colegio Cristo Nacion in the mornings while Ashley homeschools the kids. The afternoon is typically for errands, such as paying bills, visiting government offices (depending on any pending legal procedures), picking up odds and ends from the store, etc. Then in the evening is our young adult Bible study. A typical night, lasts from about 8 (even though we start at 7) until about 10 or 10:30. We discuss difficult topics, scriptural application, exegesis, and more. We have such spurring conversations.

Cruz has TaeKwonDo on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and two of our teens have starting training as well. I go when I can to talk to parents, those training, and the coaches. I've become a "Tio" for the club (tio = uncle). We have chosen Cruz's club as an area to invest in people and grow our influence for the sake of the gospel.


Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Ashley teaches History and Geography at Colegio Cristo Nacion (I teach another Bible class on Fridays). We usually walk and pray in our neighborhood on Wednesday nights. Throughout the week, I do one on one discipleship, counseling, and I study/prepare for the next week of ministry. Friday nights are our youth gatherings and God is steadily growing this group of teens. From talking with parents and giving biblical counsel to investing in fatherless teens, we try to take advantage of every opportunity to speak the gospel into the lives of those around us. From sharing hope to being a vessel of hope, our goal is to daily live to His glory and affect change in our community with the power of God's word. Please see our upcoming events and prayer requests below for a bit more detail and important points to pray about as you pray for our ministry.

Since arriving in Bolivia and setting as a primary goal the gospel, we have been very careful to steward the message of the cross in a way that promotes sincerity of commitment and passion for Christ. With that said, we do not push for a sinner's prayer or do many altar calls. We teach and preach the Word of God with attention to it's depth and it's power, while encouraging those who would like to know more and who want to serve our savior, to participate in discipleship, join the church, and grow along side us as brothers and sisters in the faith. So, while our road to growth is slow, it is healthy and strong - God is building his church in Cochabamba. We aren't perfect, but God is good and his grace is always sufficient. So, as God brings us more souls to steward, we are ready for the long haul, the difficult obstacles, and the present teenage tempers. Thank you for your support and prayer. Please continue as our colaborers in the work of the gospel and know that we thank you for the opportunity to be an extension of your obedience in Bolivia.

Up-Coming 2016 Events to Pray Over and Support: 

September - Lock-In Retreat (The Standards of a Surrendered Life)
We will host a lock-in for our youth during the month of September where we will lay out and teach the basic standards and evidence of a life surrendered to Christ. What does it mean to be a 'Christian' in this world and what makes us a people set apart.

October - Baptism for new believers
Last year we had the privilege to baptize 3 new believers. As of now we have 6 teens waiting to be baptized, and who knows what the Lord may have in store for the next two months.

November - Thanksgiving Dinner Family Outreach
Using our status as the local 'gringos' we plan to host a big Thanksgiving Dinner for all those we work with and their families. The plan is to invite as many as we can for a plate of "Turkey and Trimmings" (or chicken and pasta - whatever we can get..haha) and while we share a meal, present the gospel.

December - Youth Camp! (Sponsors needed!)
The second or third week of December (depending on graduation), we'll take the boys on a 4 day adventure retreat with Fundación Aventura to the Toro Toro National Park. We will hike, camp-out, climb mountains, explore caves, and relate everything to God, his creation, and our salvation. The cost is about $60 per youth (400 Bolivian Pesos) and we are expecting 10-15. We will be doing fundraisers to help offset the cost, but many of these teens come from poor backgrounds and with our community demographics, raising half the price of each tuition will be a feat. So, for anyone wanting to sponsor a teen, please let us know!

Christmas!!!!
Two years ago we were able to do an 'American styled Christmas' for many of our teens and it was a tremendous blessing. Well, this time around we have a few more than just 5 teens. Our numbers for teens (children, youth, etc) that we work with regularly (considering only those who come from families that are in need and under 18 years old) are at about 22. In our next newsletter we will have a picture of each of these teens and a sign up for those who would like to sponsor someone at $25. After Christmas, you will receive in the mail a picture of the kid you sponsored with his or her gift and a thank you note written by the recipient.

Prayer Requests: 

1. For Sebas, our teen who is in a troubling situation. He is temporarily living with an aunt, yet we are looking in to getting custody of him. He has never had a family, abandoned with an aunt who doesn't have the resources to care for him. God has given us a special love for him, and we are willing to take him in. He is a new believer and facing many hardships now. Please pray for his situation, his heart, and for our wisdom.

2. The Church we are planting. We have a current project for some of our youth, in which we want to purchase instruments, lessons, and begin forming a band for praise and worship at the church. Please pray for resources and those who want to learn. We have a list of 6 teens waiting to start lessons who want to be a part of this ministry. We also need teachers for Guitar, Drums, and Piano. Also, pray for our community, the new believers, and our family.

3. Our Future in ministry. We have a goal to purchase land to build a ministry center to house the church, temporary boarding for displaced families, and a possible restaurant for a project to help teens with employment and generate income to fund other ministry projects. The lots we've seen cost around 150-175 thousand dollars. Land is expensive here, but materials and labor is not as much. Please pray for partners to join us for this cause and for God to supply funding and wisdom as we pursue this incredible endeavor.

4. Pastor Erick and his family. His brother in law has terminal cancer and has been given weeks to live. Please pray all involved.

5. Our van. Yet again, it is in need of repair. Please pray for speedy repairs, that the cost not be too much, and that we have the means to pay for it. AND, that it doesn't need repairs for a LONG time.

6. Visitors! We want you to come! Bring a team! We have plenty to do, much we could plan, and just plain need some company! :)




Mathew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." No matter our needs or hard to achieve dreams, let us continue to press on and draw near to our Savior and praise Him both in the midst of storms and on the mountain tops.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Our Prodigal Son

The prodigal son is a story very familiar to anyone who grew up in church.  Its the story of a man with two sons, and the younger asks for his inheritance and goes and squanders it in reckless living. A famine occurs and he finds himself hired out to feed pigs.  He's humbled, humiliated, and thinks about how much better things are for his fathers hired hands. He decides to return to his father, very repentant.  When he does so, his father ran from a long way off and met him with compassion and a warm embrace.  His brother deals with jealousy, after working faithfully for his father for all those years, but the father tells him, "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (Luke 15:31-32)



This is the tale of two brothers.  We met them about two years ago.  They were some of the first teens here that we shared the gospel (and our Bolivian life) with.  They came to our home for Bible studies, meals, and to be loved and cared about. One read the Bible we gave him with much eagerness, wanting to know what it was about from cover to cover.  We bought him new glasses to make it less of a strain on his eyes to read.  His brother had some dental issues, so we got him the help he needed.  We loved them both with the affection of Christ.  At Christmas, we did a special "American Christmas" spoiling them with some fun things they wouldn't normally get. And our kids started referring to them as their "Bolivian brothers."  

But the brothers began to become more and more different than the other.  While one, C. changed schools and made new friends, they proved to be bad influences in his life, choking out the word planted in his heart.  He started going to more and more parties, and at every one drinking and having fun according to the world's standards.  He'd come to Seth later and say how he wished he hadn't but, he really enjoyed the parties and couldn't resist the temptation to drink.  Seth was getting to the point of distancing him from our family, as he wasn't receiving wisdom and following after Christ and his commandments.   One night took care of that, when C. was taken from a party by the police for underage drinking.  At 2 in the morning, his brother called and asked Seth to take their mother to get him.  He did so, and when he arrived, Seth let him know how disappointed he was in the boy.  The boy's pride took over, and he said Seth had no right to speak to him that way, and that he was done with Seth and our family.  

In the mean time, his brother A. became very close to our family.  He would accept challenges to grow in his faith, memorizing books of the Bible and verses, cleaning out the videos and apps on his phone, and it was almost like he was trying to make up for some of the deep hurt and disappointment his brother left us.  He really became like a member of our family, and has been a great blessing to us.  He will graduate high school in November and we're so proud of him!  

"The ministry of reconciliation" keeps coming to my mind here lately.  Because for the past 2 weeks, C. has been back in our lives.  He has asked for forgiveness and promises he no longer goes to parties or drinks.  He told Seth he sincerely wants to know God more, and is sorry for how his pride kept him from growing in his faith through discipleship with our family.  I won't say Seth was exactly like the father in the story running to him and celebrating.  Our hearts are definitely more guarded after the hurt he inflicted on us a year ago.  But I can't help but get a little excited at seeing him here for Bible studies and listening to instruction.  I pray that this return is genuine, and that he will become more like his brother(s) in Christ and his spiritual father, Seth. While on furlough we spoke about him, how he was the seed in the parable of the seeds, that was sown among the thorns and was choked by the cares of the world.  We asked our brothers and sisters in churches where we spoke to pray for his heart, and we're seeing the answer to those prayers. Thank you, Jesus, for the ministry of reconciliation.  

2 Corinthians 5:18-21, "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[b] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

House Hunters Cochabamba!

So, as much as I'd love to share all the interesting details about how that 30 minute episode comes together, we signed a release that restricts me from a lot of those behind the scenes details.    We can basically say, "Yup, we were on House Hunters International."   So, I'll tell you what I can.

A crew came to our town last September and we spent quite a bit of time together between house tours, interviews, and going around town shooting at different locations.  They were some of the nicest people you'd ever meet.   We (the kids and myself) cried in the middle of the cancha (the large outdoor market) where we had to say our final goodbyes.   We get attached to Americans who visit us very quickly!  They loved our kids, spoiled us, and showed great patience with all of us as this was a completely new experience for us.   There was the director, a camera man, a sound guy, a fixer, a driver, and a producer from House Hunters.

Our wardrobes were limited to certain things (ex. no words, logos, or small stripes), and at the time, I didn't have a lot of pants that fit and were flattering on me.  So, I wore the same jeans with every wardrobe change.  I should have put more thought into that, because due to the fact that we hang dry our clothes, I couldn't wash them all week!  (No time for drying) So, by the end of filming I was SO glad to get to wear something else!  Also, I didn't have enough shirts that fit their requirements, so at the last minutes a friend let me have two of her shirts to wear.  Thanks for the save, Erin!  (Buying clothes here is a lot of work, and its frustrating to pay Walmart prices for yard sale clothes.)

When we went around in their rental van, they had a food box.  It is exactly what it sounds like.   A box of snacks for everyone.  But to us, it was like a box of gold.  They bought American snacks here that we don't normally buy (imported foods are expensive, and fruit is cheap, so we snack on fruit mostly).  We ate Pringles and I don't remember what else, but it was a treat!

If you saw the episode, you saw Cristian's pension (like a hole-in-the-wall inexpensive restaurant, very common here).   We didn't just eat there for filming, but there were also a few occasions where Cristian catered for the crew.  (Our whole family can eat there for less than $5, so I think they knew a good deal when they found one, ha!)

Why did we want to be filmed for House Hunters?  We thought it would be a great opportunity to show friends and family in the states what Bolivia, and specificallly Cochabamaba, was like. I always tell people, "Bolivia is a completely different world than the US," and its true.  But how can I adequately explain that?  I feel like the show was able to capture a little bit of that...shopping, dining out, life at home, teaching in a Bolivian school.  And too I feel like it was a great opportunity to be a Christian example on the show, both for the filming crew and for viewers.
The film crew on their last day of filming.