Thursday, October 29, 2015

Wanderings

The furlough craziness continues!  At each turn we anticipate slowing down and finding rest, but it just doesn't seem to come.  We have talked about why we feel that way, because we aren't actually that busy and we've come to the conclusion that it has more to do with lack of routine.


We recently returned from a 3-week, 3410-mile journey through 7 states.  It was part business trip, part homeschool education trip, and all adventure.  God blessed us with good weather and no car trouble!


Our first big commitment was a debriefing that our home church sent us to in Colorado.  We drove to Denver a couple days early, where we spent a day with Kaylee's brothers, then visited Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

The debriefing was 5 days at a mountain retreat center and run by an organization called Mission Training International.  It was a great location, very peaceful.  Just the sort of place that a bunch of frazzled missionaries need! ;)


We spent our time with missionaries from all different organizations, different countries, different ministries, different denominations.  The one thing that tied us all together was the fellowship of being cross-cultural ministers. 

The program is a carefully designed combination of structured sessions and free time.  Subjects that we covered included: transition, stress, sacrifice, and the need for rest, rest, rest.  We shared our experiences and hurts and joys and struggles.  The kids were in their own classes, talking about the same issues, in an age-appropriate way.  

Kaylee and I instigated a couple of bonfire nights that were a great opportunity
to tell stories and get to know each other better
We came away from the week with a new desire to not only survive our ministry, but be a blessing to others so that they will survive theirs.

Following the debriefing, we took a couple days to travel across Kansas to Missouri, stopping at two of Laura Ingalls Wilder's houses along the way.  Kaylee and the girls have been using her books as literature/history/home-ec class as they homeschool and it was a fun way to bring her story to life.

Cabin reproduction on the Little House on the Prairie homestead
in Independence, Kansas
The house where Laura and Almanzo lived out their years
in Mansfield, Missouri
Our main purpose in going to Missouri was to return to the training center where we spent 2.5 years preparing to be cross-cultural missionaries and talk to the new students about the work in Bolivia.  

It was fun to show the girls around the area that was such a big part of our lives and where Anne and Addi were born.  Of course, we enjoyed the beautiful weather and the lake, too.


As we headed home, we took a slight detour to see Mt Rushmore!


Since returning, we have spent time with lots of people and I have had 2 more opportunities to talk about our ministry in Bolivia: at our Bible college and our home church.  We have also made the most of fall in Montana, our favorite season!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Old West Adventures

One of our major goals during our time in Montana is to help Anne, Addison, and Lydia "catch up" in their understanding of what life here is all about.  Part of that understanding is a familiarity with the history that makes this area special.

It helps that Kaylee and I share an interest in 19th century Americana, so it is natural and fun for us, too.  Of course, it also meshes perfectly with Kaylee's "Little House" homeschool plan, so they count as field trips!  Here's a quick look at some of the activities we have done as a family during the last few weeks:

We went to a county fair in Powell, WY, where their cousins were showing their 4-H pigs:


We spent a day wandering through Yellowstone National Park:




They enjoyed riding horseback at Grandma's house:




We explored Bannack, a ghost town that was the site of Montana's first gold rush and first territorial capital:




We toured Alder Gulch, home of the country's richest gold strike, which today has been preserved and recreated as an excellent outdoor living history museum:





Saturday, July 18, 2015

Back in the States!

We are excited to be writing from Bozeman, Montana!

We arrived about 2 weeks ago and plan to be here for 8 months.  We hope that it will be a time of rest, adventure, and renewing relationships.

Rest
Although we still have ministry responsibilities while we are here, for Kaylee and I it is restful just to be back in our home language and culture.  We need spiritual refreshment that we don't (yet) get in Spanish.

Adventure
The girls were born in the US, but they have lived very little of their lives here.  Anne is really the only one that has solid memories of Montana.  For them, everything is new and crazy.  During our 8 months, we hope to explore and enjoy some of the activities that we can't do in Bolivia (particularly in the winter!).

Renewed Relationships
Of course, the hardest part of living overseas is being so far away from family and friends.  We are excited to see many of you in person, rather than just on the phone or computer.  We have already been overwhelmingly blessed by friends here in Bozeman and look forward to spending much more time with them and many others.

We're off to a good start!  Our first big event was Independence Day, complete with a parade, picnic, and fireworks!  The girls have spent LOTS of time with their cousins in my family.  We've been fishing several times.  Kaylee spent the last 4 days at a retreat for missionary women in Colorado with my sister and sister-in-law.  I have been busy getting us settled in.

Friends met us at the airport!

Learning about Independence Day of their birth country


Fishing adventure in the mountains, while mommy was gone

Addi's first fish of the year (in the rain!)

After 4 days, we were all VERY excited to see Kaylee again!
Our wheels, a '94 Toyota Land Cruiser

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Chikungunya

In our house, it has mostly been referred to as the Chicken Goonies.

Funny name, unfunny disease.

Since February we have been hearing about chikungunya, a mosquito-borne arthritic virus that causes fever, rash, and joint pain. (Learn about it here)  It had been spreading in Santa Cruz and we knew several people that had had it.  We were doing what we could to control the mosquitoes in and around our house, but God saw fit that we should experience the darker side of the tropics.

It started Friday, May 15th, late at night.  Kaylee thought she might have food poisoning.  She made it through the night pretty well, but the next morning, she couldn't get out of bed, because it hurt to stand up.  Not exaggerating.

For 5 days, the girls and I took over the household responsibilities and tried to make Kaylee as comfortable as possible.

Then on Wednesday, as I was preparing my lecture for the next day's Church History class, my chest and back started getting stiff and sore.  By nightfall, I had gone from running the household, to being completely useless.  Kaylee made supper and washed the dishes while sitting on a stool, because she still couldn't stand up.

In the morning, I felt as though I had spent the previous day playing pickup football.  My back, chest, and shoulders ached, my feet hurt, and my legs were incredibly stiff.  My head was okay, so (foolishly) I taught my class.  I was fine for the first hour, but the second was less than heavenly.  I returned to the house feeling totally wiped out.  That night, the fever hit.

I spent 3 days in bed with fever.  Saturday, I woke up with the granddaddy of all rashes.  It was so bad that the girls didn't want to hug me when they got up.  Our resident nurse said she has never seen anything like it in her life, most of which has been lived here, dealing with tropical oddities.
I know most of you don't want to, but you can click to enlarge
That night, we couldn't get the fever under control.  I had already maxed-out on Tylenol and Ibuprofen is off limits.  I was shaking uncontrollably (again) and poor Kaylee was already so wiped out that she didn't have the energy to nurse me through the night.

A coworker took me to the ER around 9pm.  I was given an IV with Dioxadol, another fever killer, and waited an hour.  No change.  They gave me another Tylenol (oops) and sent me to a cold shower.  That didn't stop it either.  The nurse couldn't believe it when she took my temperature!  After waiting around for another hour or so, it finally dropped to about 101F and they released me.

Now, 3 weeks later, I can almost walk like a person.  I can hold a cup of coffee, too.  It affects each person differently; for me, the worst has been concentrated in my feet, shoulders, and hands.  The stairs have been the biggest challenge; even yesterday I couldn't walk down them normally, rather one at a time, holding onto the railing for balance.  This afternoon, it still hurts a little, but I can actually walk in a full stride.  Yesterday, I played my bass again in our morning devotional.  Still, you couldn't pay me to play volleyball or soccer today.

Thankfully, through it all, we have managed to keep our spirits up.  We knew what to expect and Kaylee and I shared some good-natured laughs at the way we both hobbled around.  We appreciate the help of coworkers that ran errands for us.

The biggest blessing of all was our girls.  They were incredibly helpful, running little errands for us and doing extra work in the kitchen.  They got along and played quietly so we could rest.  I think they were a little shell-shocked, honestly, to see us so weak.

They did find out that sometimes it is a good thing that Daddy and Mommy can't move much:


They say the symptoms could linger for weeks and months.  Thankfully, Kaylee is mostly pain-free, but my improvement has been very slow.  Please pray that we will be able to get everything done that we need to for our return to the US in two weeks and that we have no trouble traveling!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Church History

What do you know about your spiritual heritage?  Why do you believe what you do?

These two questions are the foundation for the subject I am teaching the first-year students this semester, the history of the Church from Pentecost to the Reformation (Part 1 of 2).  While it may not seem like a relevant subject for a missionary training program, it is fundamental to a good understanding of our theology and "how we got here."

Discussing the life of Justin Martyr

The fact is that we did not receive the Word of God in a vacuum.  Christ did not preach the Gospel to me personally.  So if I am going to trust it, I should know how it got from Him to me over the course of 2 millennia, through 3 continents, by way of several languages.

What is your concept of the Godhead, for example?  How do Jesus and the Holy Spirit fit into the clearly monotheistic Old Testament Scriptures?  Is Jesus God?  If so, is He the same person as the Father?  Is He different?  How different?  Did Jesus have a beginning, or has He always been?

Can you support your view from Scripture?  Or are you just repeating what you've been told?

This issue is at the core of the subject I am preparing for this week's class: the first council at Nicea in AD 325.

Sabellius and the other modalists had taught that one God has played different parts in the drama of history, expressing Himself in three distinct roles or modes.  Rejecting that view, Arius taught that Jesus had a beginning and was a distinct being, subordinate to the Father.  The majority of the Church was balanced somewhere between the two extremes, holding to some (perhaps) unexamined and (often) unexpressed form of our trinitarian view.

The upsurge of unbiblical heresy provided the catalyst the Church needed to refine and define its beliefs and understanding of Scripture.  It was nothing new in 325:  significant portions of the New Testament were written to combat the heresies of legalistic Judaism, mystical Gnosticism, and other deviations from the Truth.  And the Council of Nicaea was far from the last.  In reality, it was just the first of several councils that continued to debate different aspects of who Jesus was and is.

Constantine and bishops with the Nicene Creed

Reading about the lives of the Church fathers and the things they wrote are an important step in understanding our own theology.  However, we can't simply take their word for it.  We must follow the example of the Bereans in Acts 17 and examine the Scriptures for ourselves.  My desire in this class is to provide the balance and perspective of both, not just imparting knowledge of past events, but challenging each student to reflect on why they believe what they believe and change the way they pass that belief onto others.

Although I love and have always tried to be a student of history, I am definitely not well-read enough on the early Church to teach spontaneously.  This class is more an overview than anything, with only 32 class-hours to cover 1500 years.  Even so, I spend an average of 15 hours studying each week to teach 2 hours of material in class.  The students would be fortunate to absorb one-fifth of what I learn each week!

I'm thankful for good sources:
  • Kenneth Scott Latourette's A History of Christianity
  • Bruce L Shelley's Church History in Plain Language 
  • Wikipedia and Wikipedia (Spanish)
    • I spend a LOT of time here and it's great to be able to jump from one language to the other on the same page.  It saves lots of time translating concepts to Spanish.  The downside is that it is so easy to get distracted going down very interesting bunny trails. ;)
  • Iglesia Pueblo Nuevo
    • I don't know anything about this church in Madrid other than what I have read on their site, but they have a phenomenal section on Church history, including an amazing collection of biographies, all in Spanish.  It is my first resource for homework reading assignments.
  • The Christian Classics Ethereal Library
  • Dave Barnhart
    • My friend and Church History prof at Montana Bible College not only gave me a good foundation for CH in his classes, he graciously shared his notes with me.

I am also thankful for Kaylee's faithfulness and patience with me, as this has definitely been our most stressful semester so far.  Especially during our 6-week-long kitchen remodel (Details and photos here), I was under a lot of pressure to complete all of my responsibilities each week.  In preparation for Thursday morning's class, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are pretty solid study and Powerpoint design from dawn to dusk, other than breaks for meals and campus responsibilities.  I can't say that I've handled the strain very well, either, so you might want to pray for Kaylee's continued sanity.  At least her kitchen is in one piece now. ;)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter 2015

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: 
          that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 
          that he was buried, 
          that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and 
          that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 
I Corinthians 15:3-5 ESV

We had a great time celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord yesterday!  God saw fit to give us a tremendous rain storm most of the day, which definitely gave it an interesting flavor. :)

We helped organize a campus sunrise service and were very thankful for our covered basketball/fulbito court that allowed us to be outside, but dry.


Our family had guard duty this week (one family stays on campus every Sunday, for security reasons), so we put some hymns on the stereo and had an indoor egg hunt with the girls, followed by a family Bible lesson and reading of the events of Easter Sunday from the Gospel of John.



We were glad for the opportunity to host our friends Dan and Judy for lunch.  They have been in the States the last 4 months and it was good to catch up.  During lunch, the storm knocked the power out for awhile, which made for a special ambiance.
After our guests left, Kaylee and I spent most of the remainder of the afternoon playing games and doing puzzles with the girls.  My parents came back around 6:00 and we ended the day by watching the children's version of the Jesus movie and The Road to Emmaus.  


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sucre!

What do a capital city, a crypt beneath a historic church, and paleontology have in common with a romantic adventure?  No, it's not National Treasure, it's our anniversary trip to Sucre!

Freedom! :)

In December, Kaylee and I celebrated 10 years of marriage, so when my parents came to visit, we took the opportunity to celebrate by spending 3 days in Sucre, the capital city of Bolivia.  It was a very fun trip, not only because of the time alone together, but because Sucre is a pretty amazing place.

Sucre is the home of Bolivia's independence from Spain and is one of the oldest Spanish cities in South America.  The center of town is full of great colonial architecture that attracts tourists from all over the world. It would be impossible to tell about it all, so we selected the best of our photos and put them in our Picasa Web Albums, separated by place:

La Casa de La Libertad: "The House of Freedom" is where Bolivia's resistance government met and where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1825, announcing their formal separation from Spain.  Today it is a museum dedicated to Bolivia's political history.
La Casa de la Libertad

Plaza Principal:  The Plaza 25 de Mayo is the physical and social center of the city.  It is where you find the heads of both government and church.  As in all Bolivia, the main plaza is also a place to meet people and spend time just being together.  We made the most of that tradition!

Hostal de Su Merced:  Our hotel was conveniently situated just 3 blocks from the plaza in a colonial-era house that has been converted for guests.  It came highly recommended on TripAdvisor.com and we were not disappointed.  Perhaps the best feature was the terrace, which has an amazing view!

La Recoleta:  One morning, we took a walk up the hill east of the city center to the Iglesia de La Recoleta.  It has a great overlook of the city and some fun architecture of its own.
Overlooking the city from La Recoleta

Dinosaur Tracks at Cal Ork'o:  Supposedly one of the biggest paleontological sites in the world, Cal Ork'o is a set of fossilized dinosaur tracks found in a limestone mine.  Because of tectonic movement, the tracks are now on a vertical rock face. 

Iglesia de La Merced:  This church across the street from our hotel is one of the oldest building in the city.  It has long been neglected, but they are now letting tourists in (at $1.50/person) to help cover the cost of renovation.  We liked the old altarpieces and the organ!

Iglesia de San Felipe Neri:  This was my favorite building of all, I think.  It is kitty-corner to our hotel and is just a massive, imposing structure.  We got to see it from the crypt to the belfry!
Cupola above the alter of San Felipe Neri
Supreme Court and Parque Bolivar:  Although the administrative branch of the government resides in La Paz, the Supreme Court still convenes in Sucre.  We didn't go in, but we wandered past and down through Parque Bolivar.

Military Museum:  The army headquarters maintains a museum that explains their not-so-glorious military history which features a sizable collection of historical weapons which I enjoyed. 

We also made an album of interesting doors and windows, of which there were many, and one of unusual vehicles.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Buena Vista Coffee Adventure!

For the last couple of months, we have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of my (Nathan's) parents and our friend Beth.  My folks have come to spend 3 months working around Etnos and Beth came to spend a week with us.  As a coffee barista, she really wanted to have an opportunity to see a coffee plantation.

Unfortunately, Bolivia's best coffees are produced in the Yungas region on the other side of the country.  I put some feelers out anyway and found out that a coffee I occasionally purchase is produced only 2 hours' drive away from Santa Cruz on a plantation that includes a cabaƱa-style hotel with a swimming pool and a tour!

We thought we could only spare one night of Beth's week-long trip, but we wanted to make the most of it.  So we rolled out first thing in the morning and headed north!

Packed into the Patrol.  Kaylee rode in the jump seat with Addi and Lydia.

About two hours and 65 miles later, we arrived at the little town of Buena Vista, which means "good view" in Spanish.  Our hotel, Hacienda El Cafetal, was just a couple miles off the highway, and boy did it have a view.  It overlooks a national park that is reportedly full of jaguars, monkeys, and incredible birds.  Throughout the 24 hours we were there, the weather changed quite a lot, making for some great scenery.

The main buildings of the hotel, as seen from the lookout tower
(Click here or here to see a 360-degree view from the lookout tower!)

It was a great way to get out of town and relax a bit.  Of course, the girls were mostly excited about the swimming pool and we stayed in it a good portion of the afternoon, in spite of a rain storm.
We were delighted to find out that, because it's the off-season, we were the only overnight guests and had the place pretty much to ourselves!

Once the weather cleared up, we inquired about the coffee tour.  We were guided by Mario, who has been working at Buena Vista for 25 years in all aspects of production.  He was very personable with a dry sense of humor that Kaylee and I enjoyed.  Unfortunately, we had to translate to English for our guests, so some of it was lost, but we all had a good time.

We started with the coffee plants themselves and learned about the process of growing plants, caring for them organically, and harvesting:
Mario explaining details about the coffee fruit
The girls, with some 7-year old coffee plants
After we asked a lot of questions, we moved to the industrial side, where they service 1500 hectares of family coffee production.  The plant processes 180-200 metric tons per year (harvested April-June), about 90% of which is shipped to the Netherlands as raw beans.  The other 10% is roasted and ground for the national market.
The dryer brings the moisture level of the beans from 40% down to 12%
Looking into the roasting, grinding, and bagging room
The tour ends with an espresso served by our host, Abel.
Mario (r) chats with Abel (l) as he serves up espresso

Beth said, "It's not bad, just not very interesting."
We ended the day with Pique Macho in the hotel restaurant.  The next morning, we had another swim, checked out, and went into town to see what Buena Vista had to offer.  It was pretty quiet, but we found a cool place to take a photo on the plaza.

As usual, we took lots of photos, the best of which are in our Picasa Web Album.