Monday, December 16, 2013

40 Days in the Wilderness

Okay, I admit that the title of this post is largely symbolic.  Perhaps entirely.  But it is what sprang to mind as I was contemplating the past six weeks and the massive changes that are happening in our lives.

In case you haven't noticed, we have been preparing to move to a little jungle village called Urubichá, populated by Guarayo people, to learn their language, plant a church, and do some Bible translation.  As you can see from my previous posts, I spent a couple weeks working out there, prepping a house for us.

And then everything changed.

How do you know what the will of God is for your life?  How do you decide where to live?  What job to take?  What church to go to; which ministry to get involved in?  What are the factors that you consider as you make decisions throughout your life?

I am going to guess that most of you will answer with a combination of several factors that take your God-given abilities and desires into consideration, tempered by family needs.  Bathe it in prayer and move forward, to see what God will do.

We are no different.

It has been about 7 years that we have been formally on this road.  Along the way, we have seen God lead, provide, and modify our plans.  Although the magnitude seems much greater this time, He continues to show His faithfulness.

We are not going to Urubichá.

Frankly, I think the details are rather unimportant.  Suffice it to say that, thanks to a lot of very difficult conversations with various coworkers, we now see that we should change direction, at least for now.  I do find it very interesting that the latest post on my personal blog ties in so neatly.  Little did I know at the time. . .

This has not been an easy conclusion to come to.  In fact, it is by far the hardest plan modification we have experienced yet, and is quite possibly the most difficult trial we have faced as a couple.  The past few weeks have been full of a wide variety of emotions, tears, meetings, prayer, and Bible reading as we seek God's will.

The big question is, "Now what?"

We are still committed to making disciples.  We still believe that reaching the unreached people groups of the world ought to be the Church's highest priority.  We believe that God has brought us to Bolivia for a purpose.

During this time of transition, we have been living in Santa Cruz, at a missionary training center called ETNOS.  It exists to provide Bolivians and other South Americans the same type of cross-cultural ministry training that we received, equipping them to make disciples and plant churches in unreached ethnic groups.


We already knew that they are short-handed and most of the staff wear at least two hats, so we asked the leadership team in which areas they were lacking.  We want to use the gifts that God has given us, not seek just any slot to fill.  A main part of the reason we were moving toward tribal ministry is that I have a love of language, teaching, and tinkering/fixing/building.  The big question was if there was a place for me to fit into at ETNOS, with those skills?

It "just so happens" that they have been trying to recruit someone to help teach the technical language-learning classes.  They also need more help with the practical skills classes (how to "make do") and campus maintenance, particularly in the "fixit" department.  Those areas are being filled by people that, if I stepped in, would have more time to focus on their other priorities.

We see too that Kaylee's gifts will be more useful here, particularly hospitality.  She would also be involved in discipling the female students, without needing to learn another language.  This would give her more freedom to fulfill her responsibilities as a homeschooling mother and still have an involvement in ministry.

After many conversations with the ETNOS staff and directors, as well as with our sending church, we have decided to jump back into academic life, on the other side of the coin.  It is going to be a difficult transition in some ways, but we have peace in the decision and are confident that God will continue to direct us as we move forward.

We would appreciate prayer as we make this transition.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


After two weeks of work, the little house in the boonies has changed a bit!  In spite of a couple of setbacks, we continue to make progress.

Although I say "two weeks," with travel it really comes down to 8 days of actual time in Urubichá and part of those days has been spent making supply runs, seeing things around town, and drinking tea with Emilio and Marlen while chatting about the language and culture.

We spent the bulk of the first week painting.  Rather, I mostly patched holes in the walls while Emilio painted.  A couple coats of white definitely make it look nicer:

Unfortunately, on Friday, the 25th, just as we were starting the last room, we ran into a problem.  The walls are adobe brick, plastered with mud and cow manure, then painted.  In the kitchen/living room, the walls had been refinished with just whitewash and as we started to paint, the lime peeled up and made a mess of the roller.  We had to scrape it off, and as we did, we realized just how bad the plastering was coming off and we ended up taking out a lot  This was the worst wall:

The next day, Saturday, I came out to Santa Cruz for Anne's 7th birthday on Sunday!

Unfortunately, I was in town just one full day and I was tired and preoccupied and on Monday, I went back out to work.

This time, I took the teenage son of another missionary family with me.  He is only here for a short time and wants to see as much of the country as possible.  I set him to work on the septic pit we need for the bathroom I'm building.  He made good progress, in spite of the nasty hard clay:

He also made an impressive bug collection, mostly beetles, but got a noticeable spider as well:
I can't express to you how Kaylee felt when she saw that, but I'm sure you can imagine. ;)

After finishing the plaster and paint, I also finished the subfloor for the bathroom:

I came back to Santa Cruz on Saturday and am planning to stay out the week, spending time with Kaylee and the kids, making some purchases, and taking care of other business.  When I go back, I have just the bathroom to finish before we move in!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Update from Urubichá

 I left Santa Cruz on Monday, with Emilio.  He had come out to share at a church and have a meeting with his pastor.  We made it in one piece with no problems, and all the stuff arrived safely!

What's more, I have internet here.  I'm currently sitting on my borrowed bed with the laptop on a toilet box, because I didn't bring any furniture.

This is what the house looks like on the outside:
 This is the kitchen:
 Looking the other way.  This is the living/dining room:
Me, with all my stuff in the living room!  We were thankful to find out that there is a 4th room that they are willing to rent us for an extra $35/month, that we will mostly use for storage and maybe office space.  That brings our little house up to almost 850 square feet!

The big plan is to get this place painted and put in a bathroom.  Emilio has been helping me.  Here he is scraping the ceiling, knocking down the dirt and nastiness that has collected there, as well as the old plaster that someone put there to try to control it.  We are just going to staple up plastic sheeting to cover it.
Yesterday, a funeral procession went by.  My internal language/culture learner wanted to rush after it with a camera and notebook, but I was hot, sweaty, tired, and very dirty.

This morning, Emilio and I drove out to Ascencion, our "big town."  It's about 25 miles away, but it takes almost an hour to get there on a dry road.  He took me to his regular hardware store and I was amazed at how much stuff they have.  I really should be able to get whatever I need there.  I bought plaster, drain pipe, portland cement, and chicken wire.  Then we went to a sawmill and bought wood for building the bathroom.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Expecting the Unexpected

Our big task for this week is to move our little family to Santa Cruz.  Then, after spending a couple days buying supplies, I plan to go out to Urubichá to do some improvements to the rooms that we are going to rent.

I have a plan (you can see it in this post on The Tinker Thinker).  I am confident in my ability to turn 615 square feet of empty rooms into a useable space for us.  I know what materials I need and have a rough idea of how long it will take to finish.

That's all well and good.  It's easy to plan things and have expectations for physical things that we can understand, prepare for, and control.  But what about the unexpected?

What about the people?

We have met a small handful of people in Urubichá.  We know next to nothing about them.  Even Emilio and Marlen, our coworkers, are relatively unknown to us; we have spent less than 2 weeks total with them, a couple days at a time, spread out over more than a year.

What will they think about a family of gringos moving into their town?

What will they think about the way we live, the things we eat, the things we do?


We were told recently that when Emilio and Marlen planted their garden and someone noticed their spinach growing, they were told, "We only use that for witchcraft!"

I bet they didn't see that coming!!

What are we going to experience?  We don't know, but we do know that it will be unexpected!

Monday, September 23, 2013


We are still in a time of transition and although we have a newsletter written up with our coming plans we are still not quite ready to send it out. In the mean time this is what's keeping us busy:

 The beginning of the school year: First grade and preschool.

Attending church with our local church family.

Drawing up potential floor plans for our temporary home (3 rooms, about 615 square feet) in the village. 

We're not sure exactly what the inside looks like and the bathroom doesn't exist currently.

The building we'll be living in.

Getting reacquainted with Biscuit!

Spending time with Nathan's brother and family (food is always a good reason to hang out).

Sickness, yup, a few weeks of rest. . .and sickness hits. . .we're thankful for the time we had without it!

Meetings, phone calls and emailing with our leadership and local church ministry team.

Sharing with some local college-age men and women about missions. 

Getting used to shopping in the local market and stores again.

And running miscellaneous errands.

We've hit a few hiccups in our planning but continue to move forward. Please pray for unity amongst those involved in decision making and supporting these transitions and wisdom as we make decisions.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Back to it!

Well, here we are.

 After a fun-filled and altogether too-crazy summer in Montana, it's time to put our collective nose back to the grindstone. This afternoon we leave Bozeman and will arrive in Bolivia on Tuesday, Lord willing.

 I put up some more photos of our summer fun in our online photo album. Here are some of the highlights:

 Swimming with cousins:
 Denver zoo:
 Massive sandwiches from Pickle Barrel:
 Awesome scenery:
 More fun with cousins:
 Fun with gubs:
 New books:
 Fourth of July with cousins:
 Fishing (and more awesome MT scenery):
 Father-daughter camping with friends:
 Feeding ducks:

While we have enjoyed being back in the States, it has been far from restful.  We've been running like crazy to see people and visit churches.  That said, it has been refreshing  to be in our home culture again.  Our last Sunday here in our home church was particularly enjoyable.

Now we are packed up and ready as we'll ever be!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Four Weeks, Four Places

During our four weeks back in the US, we've spent time in Denver, Billings, Bozeman, and Cody.  Now we're heading over to Dillon to see Kaylee's mom.  We're having fun, but it's CRAZY! :)

As promised in my last post, I have uploaded some photos of our time.  Click here or on the slideshow to see them:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Two weeks down. . .

As of tonight, we've been in the US for two weeks!  At times it seems so long and at others so short, but 1/6 of our time has passed and it has been a whirlwind.  We've spent time with lots of family in 3 different cities and seen lots of friends at church. This week, we're in Bozeman doing VBS at our home church.

Please continue to pray for our girls as the strain of continuous activity and (especially) meeting new people is taking its toll.  Addi, the most introverted of the 3, stayed home from VBS this morning with Kaylee, which was good for both of them.  Lydia went again today and says she enjoys it, but is unusually clingy and gets pretty nervous if I'm not right next to her.  Anne is handling it the best and is genuinely enjoying VBS, but the strain is coming out in other areas, especially in her pride and unwillingness to take correction (she gets that from me).

Kaylee and I are soaking it up.  Although it is difficult for us at times too, it is SO wonderful to be spending time in a place we know so well, with good friends, speaking English!  Kaylee had a very productive day yesterday buying homeschool material, getting a routine medical checkup, making phone calls, and shopping.  I've been enjoying the food and had a great time shooting through a case of clay pigeons (click for video)with my dad, brother-in-law, and nephews while camping on Friday.

I'll try to get some photos up here soon, but for now you can see a couple on Kaylee's personal Missionary Wife blog.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Change, Disruption, and General Craziness

Our life is never dull, that's a fact.  Here's what's going on around our house:

No more classes! Kaylee finished her formal Spanish study at the end of April, officially closing the latest chapter in our long road to tribal ministry!  Anne finished her year of Kindergarten the following day.  Kaylee has a few words and photos at her personal blog: Life of a Missionary Wife.

Packing!  For the last two weeks, we have been slowly sorting and packing our things to get ready to store them for our trip to the US in June.  We're still sorting out the details of how that's all going to work out, but it is coming together.  In the meantime, our house is a shambles:

Planning!  We have a full itinerary for our summer in Bozeman and are trying to work out the details of our move to Urubichá when we return.  It is coming along slowly, mostly due to the wide variety of options and opinions that we have to work with!  Please pray that God would give us wisdom as we inch forward.

I had the opportunity to give a presentation at our church here about our plans a couple weeks ago:

Civil Unrest!  Please pray for Bolivia right now as the government and workers' unions are having difficulty resolving an issue regarding salary and retirement pensions.  There have been blockades on and off over the last few weeks (including one where miners blew up a bridge west of here), but this week they have started blocking non-stop and things continue to escalate.  Please pray for safety for those involved and that the situation would be resolved peacefully.  If it does not resolve soon, it may affect our travel plans.

This is a local news photo of one of the blockades between us and the city.  Blockading at night is very uncommon, a sure sign of escalation.

Click here for English news article with photo

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Praying for Missionaries

During the past couple of days I have taken the time to read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. I am so impressed by their reputation. They were obviously a group of believers growing in their faith and with a great love for their brothers and sisters in Christ. What a testimony!

As I was reading I came across two verses that really struck me as great verses for missionaries. In 1st Thessalonians 2:8 Paul says,
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. (NIV, 1984)
Whoa! All I can say is that I pray that we have this same love for the people with whom we share the gospel. To not only desire to share the gospel but to have such a desire to share their lives with them; what an amazing impact Paul must have had in the lives of these people. 

The second verse that really stood out to me was 2nd Thessalonians 3:1,

. . .pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored. . . (NIV, 1984)
I know that this is the desire of all involved in ministry, that the word of God and the truth would spread rapidly. So often it takes so many years to get just a young, struggling church going but our desire is to see so much more. Thankfully we can rest in God's will and trust that He knows best. May the prayer of our hearts be that we honor Him and His word as we live among these people. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

There and Back Again (Adventures on the Road)

Kaylee already posted about her thoughts and feeling regarding our trip to Urubichá, but we decided that we should also write about the trip itself, as it was very stressful (especially returning!).

We set out from Cochabamba on the 15th of February, headed for Santa Cruz.  It was an uneventful trip and we felt quite comfortable on the road, since we had been over the same 300 miles just five weeks earlier.

On the morning of the 17th, Kaylee and I said goodbye to our girls and my parents and got on the road to Urubichá.  The first 185 miles to Ascención de Guarayos is on one of Bolivia's major highways and is paved pretty well all the way.  Then you turn off the main road and go another 25 miles on dirt.

I recently purchased a GoPro camera and have had a lot of fun filming our latest driving adventures (more about that in this post, including the video of me getting the Patrol very stuck in a big mud hole).   Take a drive-through look at the town that is going to be our shopping headquarters and the first part of the drive to our future home:

There is a gas station in Ascención, but it didn't have any gasoline!  We had filled up in San Ramón, 150km back, but thanks to a wonky gas gauge, I thought we had less than a quarter tank left.  By the time we actually got out to Urubichá, it was reading empty.  According to our coworkers and the people in the village, the fuel truck would come on Tuesday (the day we planned to leave), but there would be a huge line of cars waiting and not all would get gas.  So we purchased 50 liters from a friend, enough to get us back to San Ramón.

Here's a video of Urubichá, taken as we left town:

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, other than never being sure about how much fuel we had and a couple of problems due to my international driver's license.

Uneventful, that is, until we reached Villa Tunari and were on the last leg of our trip home to Cochabamba.  We got about halfway up the very steep climb out of the lowlands and ran into a huge line of trucks, buses, and cars.  We weren't sure what was going on, so we decided to stay wait and see what happened.

During rainy season, that particular road is fraught with landslides and unstable areas.  When there is a problem, the truck traffic starts to get backed up and the little cars and even the coaches start to pass them, often packing up 3 lanes wide!  Even after the roadway is passable again, it takes forever to get the traffic mess untangled!

We waited for 2 hours and, since it was already 4pm, decided to turn around and find a place to spend the night in Villa Tunari.  The idea of spending the night on a mountain, in the car, with 3 little girls and limited food and water did not appeal to us.  This is what happened when we turned around:

Thankfully, I was able to get through to my brother on the cell and find out where they have stayed in the past.  We ended up in a very nice bungalow-style hotel with a great pool, a good restaurant, and nice rooms with AC.

The next day we tried again in the morning.  This time, we took a chance and followed some other cars up the wrong lane as far as we could.  We didn't even get to the same spot as the day before!  Kaylee asked a trucker how long he'd been there and he replied, "Since 3am!"  A police officer was coming through the traffic on his motorcycle, informing everyone what was going on and it didn't look promising, so we turned back, checked back into the hotel, and enjoyed another afternoon in the pool!

On Sunday morning, I went down to the roadside restaurants near the hotel and talked to several truckers about how the road was.  They all said that the problem was fixed for the time being and traffic was slowly making its way through.  Sure enough, we made it home, with no trouble!

We didn't know until later, but when we turned around on the second day, we were 14km (8.7 miles) from the actual problem!!  That's a lot of trucks!  This is what the situation looked like (click photo to enlarge):

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Village

This week Nathan and I took a trip out to the village where we hope to work in the future. We are so thankful that Nathan's parents were willing to watch the girls for us in the city while we traveled, especially so I could see everything without the additional stress of taking care of the girls in a situation that was really out of my control.

We left on Sunday morning and were able to stay two nights. My first reaction was very discouraging. I was overwhelmed and couldn't imagine myself making that move with our little family. When you arrive it is just so real. The pictures, the training, nothing could have prepared me for what really hit me that first night. The heat was almost unbearable, the bugs (mosquitos, chiggers, beetles, among others) were everywhere and everything is so different from anything I've ever known. Our training really did prepare us, don't get me wrong, but it's just so different in real life.

The "Laundry Room"
Me in the "Laundry Room" :)
This trip was really for me, to see and experience the village for the first time. (I didn't take very many new photos with how overwhelmed I was. . .and trying to take it in as it was, not through a lens.) We spent a lot of time talking with our future coworkers, a Bolivian couple with three children (one is now in the city at the university). They are pleasant people with a heart for their countrymen. It was good (and hard) to hear their stories from the past three years of living in the village. It has been quite difficult for them. The village is mostly Catholic (in an "old world" way) and most are not excited to see evangelical missionaries in the area, especially the nuns and priest.

The Catholic Church and grounds
We asked questions about housing and found that there really is nothing available, mostly land for building. We asked about groceries and found that we will be able to purchase dry goods in town but will have to travel an hour (on bad roads, see below) to get dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) unless we want to purchase from the lady in town who sells fresh milk from her cow. :)  We would also need to make our own bread or purchase in the same town as the dairy products. All fresh fruits and vegetables are purchased in a town about 3 hours away (on our way in and out from Santa Cruz). We learned that the soil is good but because the fruits and vegetables are not natural to the area the people do not grow them. They do have grapefruit trees, mango trees, some lemon trees and a couple of different fruits (native to Bolivia that I don't know the name of!). They also grow corn and rice and fish in the local rivers (but the fish population is dwindling).

One of the fruit trees. The fruit grows on the bark.

The road to the village. It was full of washboards and potholes.
You can see a bit more depth to the potholes in this photo.
We walked around town, visited the music school, and stopped in at the nun's shop where she sells the work that the locals create (with materials provided by the Catholic church). The nun pays the locals for the work they did and then she sells the items with the profits going to the church. Their handwork is very well done. The men have wood working specialties that include making violins. The women specialize in weaving hammocks but also crochet, knit and embroider. There are classes available to learn the wood working and hand crafts for a very affordable price, about $3.00 a year. (You can read more and see examples of the handwork here.)

Lord willing, we would like to join our coworkers in this village. After a lot of time talking, praying constantly through out the day and getting past the initial shock I was able to get past my initial discouragement. I know that we can do it. It's going to be the hardest thing I have ever done but I know it's possible if I trust in our great God!