Greetings from one of the most interesting places to live on earth… Sucre, Bolivia! I’m not sure if that’s an overstatement or not, but life is definitely never boring here.
True Growth in the Church:
This has been a wonderful year for our church and for our ministry as a whole. One of our main concerns this year was that we had many people in the cell groups, but the majority of those people were not growing spiritually as we would have liked. Our leaders, in their desire to open more small groups, worried more about reaching new people than helping the ones they had already reached to grow in the Lord. We decided to put more emphasis on the quality of the cell groups, and in the personal growth of each member than on the number of cell groups. The result has been very good. We are seeing much more growth and maturity in our people.
We currently have nearly 900 people in our cell groups. We have two separate Schools of Leaders, with around 70 enrolled in each one. A few months ago we started our second weekend service. Half of our leaders have their weekend service on Saturday evening at 7:00 PM, and the other half have their services on Sunday at 6:30 PM. Both services are filling up well. We can still add more chairs, so we’re not full; but hopefully we will be soon!
We are also concentrating on becoming more complete as a church, emphasizing several areas; the children’s ministry, our worship arts ministry (drama, poetry), and the Dance (choreography) ministry. We’ll be holding our first Children’s Encounter Retreat at the end of this month.
Loving the Unloved:
We are working more in the social area. Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in all of Latin America. With the financial policies of the government, high inflation, and the worldwide financial slowdown, people are truly suffering. Many of our members, people who are apparently middle class, have shared with me that they are literally suffering to feed their family each day. It’s amazing, but some university students in our church are actually living alone on $20 a month.
We’d like to begin a ministry where people can give gifts, clothes, money, and talents to those in need. Over the past few months we have been very successful in collecting used clothing and other things for the needy. We have quite a few doctors, lawyers and others who are interested in donating their time and talents to help those who need it. We have all the equipment necessary to open a small medical center, if we can find a good place, and complete the necessary paperwork.
We have talked about this for several years now, but we feel the time is right. If all goes well, and we are able to raise the monthly support necessary, we want to expand our church to another city of Bolivia (In other words, plant a new church). We are currently looking at Santa Cruz. The plan is to take a team of leaders from our Sucre church, and begin cell groups and celebrations possibly as early as next April. This has been on our hearts for years, and several months ago, we felt a direct word from God about this. Since then we have been praying about it incessantly. We continue to feel God’s confirmation, and have asked that He will open the doors financially. Please help us pray about this.
We are doing very well. Norah’s been terribly busy over the past three months. She is directing the prayer group, and working very closely with the administration work in the office. She is also teaching in both Schools’ of Leaders. Yesterday, (November 10th) was Derrick’s first birthday. He’s fun! You can tell that he is going to be ornery. I think he will walk any day now. He can walk holding on to something, but he’s scared to let go. Jordan’s language skills have developed much over this past year. He speaks long sentences (mostly in Spanish), and he REALLY tries to make himself understood. He does not pronounce sounds well yet, but he is improving He goes to a pre-kindergarten type school, and gets along very well with the other kids. There doesn’t seem to be a language barrier with him and other kids, for which we are very relieved. Erynn is in third grade. This week her teacher began sending extra work home with her, and will continue to do so up until we travel home. She will miss several weeks of school, and has to have all of her schoolwork done before we travel.
The political situation in Bolivia is a mess. Right now, things are calm, but things can get nasty in seconds. President Evo does pretty well whatever he pleases, then there’s a big fight about it… people die, they go into negotiations with the opposition for two or three weeks… nothing comes of the negotiations, but the people have calmed down by then. Then it all happens again a few weeks later. So far, he hasn’t kicked all of us Americans out of the country, and I hope that it never comes down to that. One thing we have learned, though, is that we can expect anything from this government. Thank God, we have never felt or been in danger, but it’s important that we always stay away from all demonstrations… and those occur quite often. Today, most of the city of Sucre is blocked off because some merchants are not happy with the mayor. That’s what we live with daily in this country that God loves so much.
We’ll be home for Christmas! We won’t be home for long, but we will travel home on December 15th for a five week visit. It’s the perfect time to leave Sucre, because most university students travel during summer vacations. We will put the church on autopilot for almost the entire time that we are home. My kids are dying to see snow! I’m not… but oh well .
Our Plans of Returning to the USA?
I haven’t mentioned anything about returning home for good, as we planned to do over a year and a half ago. I really want to… but God won’t let us yet. When will it happen? I don’t know, although I’m pretty sure that it will happen. I promise to explain this in more detail when we are back in the states with you.
We won’t be home long enough to visit every church. We’ll do our best on that. We would LOVE to visit you while we are home. I don’t want to be too forward on this, but if anyone would like to have us over to their houses to eat or play games or whatever, we’d LOVE THAT.
WE NOW HAVE A GARRETT COUNTY BASED PHONE NUMBER, SO WE CAN MAKE AND RECEIVE LOCAL PHONE CALLS HERE IN SUCRE. Believe me! We have an Oakland number… 301-859-4401, which rings here. There are no international phone costs for you. I promise. It works through the Internet using VONAGE. Call us, and we can set something up for our time in the states. May God Bless you in all you do! We hope to see you soon… Love,