Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reflections on Bolivia that I shared in church this Sunday

Some of you know that joining this missions team to Bolivia was not my idea. In fact, the truth is, I was so full of anxiety about the potential dangers of this trip that I really didn’t want to go. People kept asking if I was excited, and honestly, I really wasn’t. I was just terrified. But, then one day, God spoke to me through my 11-year-old daughter, Alayna, as I was watching a YouTube video of the “Road of Death.” This was the road I knew we would be traveling to an orphanage…a single-lane dirt road chiseled out of the side of the mountain with no guard rail to keep the bus from plummeting thousands of feet to the valley below. As I began to panic, Alayna calmly said, “Mommy, I think you NEED to take this trip. I think it’s going to be faith-building for you.” And, you know, she was right. Fear has been one of my greatest obstacles in life, and I believe that God used this trip to bolster my faith in His sustaining power.

Obviously, I did survive the Road of Death (or at least 3 hours of it, since the worst of it has been replaced with a bypass now…but believe me, the rest of the road is

still plenty dangerous). And I also survived the bug bites and whatever diseases were lurking and the pollutants I breathed in and crossing streets full of crazy taxi cab drivers. And it was all worth it. I could tell you of the skits, the testimonies, the 3-night youth conference, the Children’s Church lessons, the care group meetings, the powerful times of Praise & Worship, the fellowship with Bolivian brothers & sisters in Christ, the street evangelism and the people who prayed to receive Christ. But more than anything, I want to tell you about 3 moments that stood out to me.

On our very first day in La Paz, I taught a large Children´s Ministry class outside and the kids were amazing. Despite the altitude of 13,000 ft., by the grace of God, I was able to think clearly and lead the kids in Spanish through a craft called the "Colors of Christ." They all managed to make the bead crosses, but the amazing part was that they knew before I ever told them what most of the colors stood for. In Spanish, they were yelling out answers like, "The red bead stands for the blood of Chist" and "The white bead stands for how His blood purifies our hearts from sin" (and, yes, they said "purifies"!) and "The gold bead stands for the streets of gold in heaven"!!! And, they had never done that craft before! I was blown away. They were also SO respectful and attentive, just precious.

Then, the following week, while we were at the orphanage in Caranavi, loving on the 85 children there, a few of the preteen girls brought me a little 16-month old girl who was the size of an 8-month-old . She had arrived there last year in a bad state of malnutrition and was still catching up. But, as they handed her to me, not knowing that she wasn’t available for adoption, the girls started saying, “Adoptar. Adoptar. Adios, Bella. Vas a los Estados Unidos. Vas a aprender ingles,” which meant, “To adopt. To adopt. Goodbye, Bella. You’re going to the United States. You’re going to learn English.” It was heartbreaking, but it also showed me the power of the Gospel in those girls’ lives. The children of that orphanage have memorized many large passages of Scripture, and in that moment, I saw them living out their faith. They weren’t thinking of their own needs. They asked for nothing for themselves. Their only concern was for this little baby…hoping to send her off to a better life. They truly lived out the words of John 15:13, that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

But the most profound moment for me came one day as I was serving in a ministry center in the Red Light District just outside of La Paz (where we heard the heartwrenching testimony of a woman who, by the grace of God, had gotten out of the trade.) On my hands and knees, cleaning filthy nursery items for the children of prostitutes who come there with their kids for lunch, it occurred to me that some folks might say, "Well, scrubbing all those foam mats and alphabet letters isn´t exactly the best use of missionary time...esp. considering the fact that they´re just going to get filthy again." And yet, I had just had a devotional time in the morning, purposefully reading the passage in Luke where the prostitute washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and

anointed them with perfume. Of course, the Pharisees maligned her for that. But, even if she hadn´t been who she was, it is still true that his feet were going to get dirty again. And yet, that act of service was so precious to Christ that he had it recorded for all time in the Gospel. So, it hit me that, as I was scrubbing little letters, I was scrubbing little letters for Jesus. I was truly washing his feet because I was doing it to the VERY least of these, and he counts that as precious. At the same time, though, I was also slammed with the thought that Jesus is just as

pleased when I scrub my girls´ bathroom, or when I coach one of my children as they struggle to read, or when I cook my family a meal instead of sitting at the computer.

So, I went all the way to Bolivia to witness the fact that God WILL take care of me, and that the Word of God has the power to make us Christ-like and other-centered, and that Jesus counts my daily grind in Canton, GA as precious in His sight. I’ve returned with a fresh new zeal to raise my own 5 children in the admonition of the Lord, to teach them chunks of Scripture and to instill in them a passion for the Gospel that will make the things of this world fade away to insignificance.

The flu FLEW away...YAY!

Thanks so much for all your prayers. Between you all and Roy praying with his coworkers at their weekly crack-of-dawn prayer meeting today, I woke up feeling back to normal. Of course, normal for me is still kind of wimpy, but at least I can cope with a low-key day. We'll see how it goes if they start begging to go to the neighborhood pool later. Maybe I should ask for more prayers! LOL! Anyway, have a great day everyone.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The plane didn't crash & the bus didn't crash, but my body did!

Bummer. I have the flu. Not sure if it's the swine flu, but I can't remember the last time I felt so lousy. My temp. this evening was 101, I've had the chills all day, and my whole body hurts. I slept for the better part of the day, and I'm still lethargic and can barely keep my eyes open or move around. It started first thing this morning, when I got hit with a hot flash and extreme nausea...VERY close to vomiting, but I didn't. I just went back to sleep instead. Thankfully, I haven't felt any more nausea, but these other symptoms are bad enough. The kids have been pretty good, helping out as much as possible. I just hope I feel a whole lot better in the morning and that no one else comes down with this. Connor has developed a nasty cough that has me a little worried, but so far, no sign of fever. Just please lift us up in prayer. Thanks, and good night.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bolivian Blessings

Well, I survived the flights, the Road of Death, the bacteria, and the pollutants; and in return, I now have a whole new set of brothers and sisters in the Lord. The past 13 days seem so surreal, though, that if it weren't for the 400+ photos I took, I might be wondering if that was really me in Bolivia. In any case, I'm back with my five little muffins on Drury Lane, and I think I've jumped back into motherhood with a renewed sense of purpose, to truly raise these "treasures from heaven" in the admonition of the Lord. That's the strongest impact that my time in Bolivia had on me.

As for our team's impact on the Bolivians of the Sovereign Grace churches there, I think it's safe to say that many, many of them were greatly encouraged by the sermons, the testimonies, the fellowship, and the mission work we all did together. I was amazed by the dedication of the church members, esp. the youth and the young adults, who set aside their normal routines in order to share those 11 days with us. Whether we were painting or cleaning or doing street evangelism or playing with the kids at the orphanage in Caranavi, there was always a group of young adults from the Bolivian church right by our side. It's exciting, too, because they are the next generation of the church there, and our visit inspired them to persevere in their Christian walk, even in the face of govt. persecution.

It really touched my heart as a number of different young ladies came to me and thanked me for praying with them during one of the 3 youth conferences that we held. Since it can be rather intimidating for me to pray in Spanish, I was depending on the Lord for the words to say, and He was faithful.

I also had the privilege of serving as an interpreter during a care group meeting that we were part of, as well as during our time at the orphanage, and at a center for prostitutes, where we heard the heartwrenching

testimony of a woman who was able to leave that lifestyle, by the grace of God.

Plus, I taught two different Children's Church lessons, with about 20 kids each time, and I was thrilled to discover how much scripture those kids had committed to memory. We made bead crosses that consisted of the "Colors of Christ," and they also amazed me with their understanding of the symbolism involved (e.g. Black = sin; Red = the blood of Christ; etc.)

I did a whole lot of scrubbing while the rest of the team painted, since I quickly came down with a respiratory infection from the 1st batch of paint that I was exposed to. It only kept me in bed for a day, though, causing me to miss the visit to the homeless shelter and one of the afternoons of street evangelism. Otherwise, I was able to participate in all the activities. And, since I had drastically restricted my diet before the trip to get my IBS under control, my digestive system was able to handle everything I ate. Even while other team members came down with some serious stomach problems, I stayed healthy, praise God.

My favorite events in Bolivia were probably the evenings of the youth conference. Our team did a skit to illustrate the power of prayer over the bondage of sin, and our team leader gave a series of inspiring messages that spoke to my heart, too. Best of all, though, were the times of of praise & worship in Spanish, with thrilled me to no end, both in La Paz and in Caranavi. I have returned with a fresh determination to teach this beautiful language to my children. I also had some great conversations with the children and the house mothers at the orphanage, offering them encouragement in various ways.

All in all, I'm exhausted, but I feel the fulfillment of having stepped out in faith, serving the Lord in a way that I wouldn't have chosen on my own. And, I'm already seeing the fruit of that obedience, even in the realm of my own household. In my absence, my mom made some real progress with the kids in areas that I had been neglecting, and she's leaving me with a list of things to continue working on, lest they return to their old habits. This was a huge blessing for me, as the job of motherhood can be quite overwhelming.

So, for all those who walked with me through my doubts and fears about the trip and who supported me with either prayers or finances or both, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. After what I've just experienced, I don't think "life as usual" will be looking the same, and that's a good thing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Celebrating 6 years of Trevor with a bang!

Six years ago on the 6th, we welcomed our first son into the world, and within a year, we knew one thing for sure about him: Trevor was destined to become a drummer. Even before he could walk, he would drag his Little Tikes snare drum across the room to set it up on the floor in front of a set of bongos and proceed to beat out complex, steady rhythms on all 3 drums in perfect time to whatever music we played.

As the years went by, Trevor's passion for drumming only grew. A constant sound in our house has been the pounding of pencils, wooden spoons, or any other straight, hard object on the table, the couch, the floor, the counter, etc. Usually, I haven't been too annoyed by it either, because the rhythms are so fascinating.

So, when the opportunity arose last month for some super-cheap drum lessons for him, we went for it.
The first week, his teacher's mouth dropped open as she watched him unleash his inner music on her full-sized drum set. And, by the 2nd week, she said, "I never tell parents to do this so soon with a brand new student, but you need to get this boy a drum set in his size!"

This recommendation was good timing, too, just a couple of weeks before his B-day. So, with a lot of help from all the relatives, we commemorated Trevor's 6th birthday this weekend with one big gift: a jr.-sized wine red drum set. (He wanted wine red because he said it's color of Jesus' blood and he's so glad that Jesus died on the cross to forgive his sins.)

You might think I'm crazy, but I decided to put it in the living room. Why? Because I love to hear him play! He played for the longest time while I read yesterday, and it didn't even distract me. And, the greatest blessing has been to hear him singing a new song to the Lord while drumming. He sang of the Creation and of God's supremacy over Satan and of our forgiveness through Christ. Now, that's what I call glorifying God with your talent!

Bolivia...Bolivia, here I come!

Wow. I can hardly believe that my trip to Bolivia is just 4 days away. I leave on Sat. afternoon, July 11th. So, get this: I'm packing for La Paz, with highs in the 50s and lows in the 20s! (Yes, it's even snowing there!) And I'm packing for a weekend in Caranavi, on the 18th & 19th, with highs in the 90s! What a crazy combo! This is a picture of Caranavi, which is quite beautiful. Plus, here's a YouTube video of the orphanage we'll be visiting & the church we'll be worshiping at on the 19th. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsLZj1-B7ys

Well, my priorities over the last few weeks have been to prepare myself physically and spiritually for this trip. I'm happy to report that I'm doing better physically than I have in a long time. All my lifelong digestive problems (with constant energy-sapping pain and running trips to the bathroom) immediately disappeared 2 weeks ago, when I finally took the plunge and dropped ALL the "triggers" from my diet: sugar (except fresh fruit), dairy in any form, beef and processed meats, and most whole grains (for now, while my digestive tract is healing).

I am still in awe of the radical change in my body from the very first day and I'm praising God for giving me the strength to finally do this!It also amazes me that I was able to go "cold turkey" without any emotional distress. That's truly a miracle, believe me, because I've tried to do this in the past and I was simply miserable. Yet, not this time! :-)

My greater battle, not surprisingly, has been in the spiritual realm. I have been inundated with plaguing temptations and fears and anxieties. I do feel like I've turned a corner, esp. after appealing to my husband to pray with me a couple of nights ago. But, I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY would like ya'll to be praying for me from now until I return on the 23rd. Here are the cries of my heart...


* strong in the Lord, putting my trust in Him

* a light to a dark world that needs to know about the gift of salvation in Christ Jesus

* able, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to overcome my sin nature in all ways

* safe from all harm & disease (and lice!), unless God has a greater plan for allowing it

* able to sleep on the plane & blessed to find my suitcase waiting for me in baggage claims

* clear-headed when I teach a Sunday School class in Spanish on Sunday the 12th, an hour after we arrive from an all-night flight (You can pray for this during your own church services.)

* given the words (in Spanish) to minister to the prostitutes who come to the Hope House on Fri.

* spared the effects of high altitude sickness (at 13,000 ft.) at the beginning of the 1st week AND the 2nd week (when we return from our weekend down in the jungle orphanage)

* able to stay calm (and alive!) on the "Road of Death" to the orphanage in Caranavi

* a blessing (and not a hindrance) to my team

* able to help my team raise the remaining $1,200 left to pay off the grand total of $25,000!

* able to memorize the words of the songs we'll sing in Spanish so I can be of service in that way

* as passionate about spreading the Gospel when I come home as I will be in La Paz

Thank you so much for all your support, in so many ways, but most of all for the prayers. If I can update my blog from Bolivia, I will. Otherwise, I'll tell you all about it when I get back. Hasta luego! :-)