Thursday, January 3, 2019

Etnos Student Testimony

The following video was created by Luis, one of our students at the Etnos missionary training center in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  He speaks Spanish, of course, but we have subtitled it in English for your benefit.  We hope that it will give you good insight into life on our campus and what we do!  Most of the photos were taken by Nathan and you'll catch a glimpse or two of us as well. :)


So. . .what are you up to?

Furlough may well be the most misunderstood part of missionary life.  What are we doing?  How long are we here?  What is going on? Over the past two months that we have been "back home," we have noticed that a lot of people have similar questions about what this furlough thing is all about.  Although we have previously posted about the craziness of furlough, I thought we might be able to provide some clarity about what we're doing by responding to the following questions.

1. Are you glad to be home?

Yes, thanks for asking!

Well, I should say that's true for Kaylee and I.  If you ask one of our daughters that, they're liable to give you a funny look and hesitate.  They love Montana, but it's not home.  You'll get the same response if you ask, "How do you like it in Bolivia?" A better question would be, "Are you enjoying your time in Montana?"

We love the snow and cold!

2. How long are you here for?

Nine months!  And before you have to ask "Is that a full furlough?" or "Why not a whole year?" this amount of time allows us to come back a bit more often (every ~3 years) and miss less time at Etnos, too.  We're planning to be back in time for the second 2019 semester at the training center, which starts in August.

3.  Isn't furlough just a code word for missionary vacation?

Not exactly.  Although it is supposed to be a time of rest, we are not completely free from work.  It is partly for this reason that our organization has taken to calling this time "home assignment" instead of furlough and asks us to spend 75% of our time in ministry while home. We're still doing missionary stuff, but in a different place and a different way.

4. So what kind of missionary work can you do from here?

The most important responsibility we have is to inform our supporters and churches about how the past couple of years have gone on the field.  The families that give sacrificially to support our ministry in Bolivia deserve to get some feedback on how we are capitalizing on their investment.  While our newsletters help with this, they can't replace the importance of speaking face-to-face and answering specific questions.  This means spending a lot of time in homes, in Sunday School classes, and in churches talking about what God has done in the three years since we were here last.  To help maintain our sanity, we are going to limit our travel, but welcome anyone that wants to come visit us!

Talking about our ministry in a SS class at our home church on Sunday

5. Surely that can't take up ALL your time!  What else do you do?

Some of my ministry responsibilities from the field continue.  As one of the leaders of the Etnos training center, I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the staff and students through WhatsApp messages and emails and give input whenever needed.

I also manage the MisiĆ³n Etnos Facebook page, which has become an important tool for connecting with prospective students and getting churches involved in the ministry.  I am responsible for posting all of the content and responding to messages.  This past year I took over the Etnos website as well.    Unfortunately, it is outdated and a bit clunky and one of the main projects I want to do this month is give it a major overhaul.
Working on web design in my Bolivian office, which I am continuing remotely
This furlough, I hope to spend some time translating Milton Vincent's A Gospel Primer into Spanish, to use as a discipleship tool with our students.  It's a fantastic little book that made a big impact on Kaylee and me and its format fits well into our weekly 1-on-1 counseling time.  I started working on it a couple years ago, but haven't gotten very far due to other responsibilities.

All of that aside, most of my time in December was taken up with a different project.  Early in 2018, Kaylee suggested that we make an Etnos calendar with some of my photographs and sell it as a benefit for the students.  So I did some investigation, we picked out 13 of our favorite photos from Bolivia, and we made a calendar!  We have done fairly well with it and will be donating all of the profits to the students in the Etnos training to help them with their daily needs.

6. Enough about you. What is Kaylee doing?

Kaylee's ministry as wife and mom doesn't change at all, of course, so she's usually busier than I am.  She still handles the cooking, cleaning, laundry, family bookkeeping, newsletter writing, and general household management. :D She also continues to homeschool the girls, which tends to be more difficult in a time of transition like this.  Maintaining the routine of study takes more discipline and energy when there are so many other exciting things to do and see!

Kaylee is also volunteering in our church library one night a week, so it can be open while the kids are at AWANA and youth group.  If you get a chance, stop in for a chat (or a good book!).

Who doesn't love a beautiful librarian? :D
Kaylee has struggled to form deep friendships on the mission field, for various reasons, and is jumping at every opportunity she has to spend time with her friends here.

7. Wait, but what about rest?

It's true, we really do need rest.  Ministry is a stressful business anywhere, but even more so in a foreign environment.  Think about all of the usual issues that come up with your coworkers, your neighbors, and your church, then add the complication of communicating with them in a different language and culture.  We also live in the middle of our campus, which means that those ministry relationships are inescapable, without even the privacy of going home at the end of the day.

Because of that, most of our rest comes just from being here in Montana.  It's great to spend time with family, catch up with old friends, and relax back into our first language.  Being away from the rigid structure of the Etnos training program also gives us freedom to get away and do fun things in a way that we don't in Bolivia.  

We have thoroughly enjoyed our first two months of home assignment and are looking forward to the next seven.  We hope to see many of you!  If you have any other questions about furlough, put them in the comments below!