Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Moulding Chronicles November 2011

Dear Friends,
What is your life purpose? What are your passions, dreams, goals in life? How has God uniquely designed you? These are some of the big questions we have been thinking about and mulling over in these last few months as we have been working through a book called ‘A leaders life purpose’.
In working through this book with Heather our Global Staff Care Manager, we are being given a gentle introduction to life coaching.
For us both it has been an enlightening and encouraging experience as we begin to look at how God has uniquely designed us, through the passions and gifts he has given us as well as the life experiences that have shaped us up to this point. 
The main purpose of doing these exercises has been to clarify for ourselves what our God given dreams and passions are  with a view of then using what we learn to see where God might be drawing us  to in the future.
A secondary purpose has been for us to personally go through the process of life coaching to grasp a better understanding of how it works and the benefits of such a different approach to that of counseling, mentoring or discipleship.  
The concept behind coaching is to ‘help leaders take responsibility for their lives and act to maximize their own potential,’* the theory behind it is ‘helping people learn instead of teaching them’* believing that people are able to solve their own problems*.  It is based around asking questions as to how the person could solve their own problem, rather than telling them how to solve it, by doing so it makes it far more likely that changes are made and problems solved. 
In the kind of work that FH does as an organization we can already see the potential benefits on all levels where such an approach would be of a great advantage to both individuals and entire communities, from the level of Country Director right down to the very people living and working in the communities where FH is present.
We have a lot to learn, but it will be well worth the learning process and time and effort involved.

In the meantime we are busy making plans for furlough next year from the end of February until the end of August, along with the necessary preparations for another new arrival within our family due in April.

God is and continues to be so good, we are so blessed.  Each of you are a part of God’s blessing to us, Thank you.

Thank God for:
  • Provision of a home during furlough
  • Gods perfect timing
  • Opportunities to grow and develop ourselves
Ask God for:
  • A car to use during furlough
  • Safe growth and development of our new baby
  • A good time with Ed's parents over the christmas period, safe travels and good health for them and us during their visit

Ed, Sarah, Alana, Isaiah & Bump :o)

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A visit to Oruro

We are gradually building up Isaiah’s experiences in travel.  We began with a 30 minute flight to Cochabamba, followed a few weeks later by a 45 minute flight to Sucre, this last month we thought that we would stretch it further with a 4 hour bus ride to the city of Oruro to visit some Bolivian friends of ours who moved there 2 months ago in order to pastor a new church plant.

We arrived early teatime with just enough time for a toilet break and dumping our bags before being whisked off to a spring celebration in which their daughter was participating, an event which our friends regretted partaking in as it was very long winded, very loud and very repetitive. By the end we were glad to finally make our escape with 3 over tired and hungry children, only then to head across to the church to catch the final part of the first discipleship evening.  That night we were all quite glad to get back home and find a bed to sleep in.

The next day began with a children’s club and an exploration of the regular weekly market which takes over a number of the streets of the city.  Amazingly people travel from as far as Santa Cruz (About 18 hours on a bus) to come and shop at this market because prices are so much lower than those found in other places such as La Paz as the products arrive direct from Chile.
Oruro is an interesting city though not one where we would like to live.  It is situated at a higher altitude than La Paz at approximately 3710m and exposed to the open planes thus making it extremely cold throughout the year, particularly in the winter months, to the point that a jug of water left standing in the kitchen would freeze over.
Unlike many other places here in Bolivia, Oruro appears to be more of a matriarchal system where the mother wields the greatest power and control. Unmarried children, and sometimes even when married children will remain living with their parents well into their 40s. On the surface people are very friendly and affectionate greeting with two kisses and big hugs as opposed to just one as is common in other parts of the country, yet underneath lie so many complications to life, as our friends are quickly discovering, that all stem from the deep corrupted beliefs of the people.  
Problems of adultery, abuse and rape are common place, amongst the church as much as within general society.  The animistic spiritual beliefs run deep with many of those turning to Christianity finding it very hard to let go of the old practices, traditions and beliefs.  One of the big things that reinforces this each year are the celebrations of carnival, a celebration to the devil, where people come from all over Bolivia as well as from other countries to participate and watch.  One of the beliefs in this celebration is the need to get as drunk as possible so that all the evil spirits and bad things are able to leave one’s body.  If a person remains sober, then they are not able to relax enough to be able to release the bad spirits.  Obviously a city full of drunk people does not result in many good things happening at that time of year.
Despite all of the rubbish and evil going on, there are small beacons of light pushing through.  The church our friends are pastoring is a plant of the one we are a part of here in La Paz.  It started with just a small handful of people but is steadily growing in number of new Christians.  Their premises is very small with just a single room so the children's meeting is held on a Saturday morning to which there are now about a dozen children regularly attending.
The weekend we visited they had just begun a discipleship group with the hope of going back to basics and laying some of the key important foundations of a Christian life. A number of people were interested in this to know more, so it will be interesting to see how that progresses in the future.
Our friends by no means have an easy task ahead of them, but our God is a great God and able to do immeasurably more than we can ever think or imagine. We hope that over the course of the coming months and years that we will be able to visit regularly in order to be a support and encouragement to them.

Note that the photo above was taken at the beginning of the Sunday service.  Bolivian people are not generally known for their punctuality, arriving anything from half an hour to an hour or more late to church services, by the time the preach started all these seats were full!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Moulding Chronicles September 2011

Dear Friends,

What holds people in poverty? – At the beginning of August Ed took part in the annual evaluation of the work zones in Cochabamba. During this time  he discovered two factors that hold people in poverty. The first of these was geographical.  A large number of the communities that FH works with exist between an altitude of 2,500m – 4,000m+ above sea level (Ben Nevis the highest mountain in the UK is 1,344m). Families in these regions generally live off of the land of which they may have 1.5 - 2 ha.  Living at this altitude is harsh with limits on what can be grown because the geographical conditions are tough. Just by dropping down a few hundred metres the conditions become more favourable for growing a greater variety of crops.  However, in these lower regions, people are still living in poverty, therefore it is due to more than just  simple location.
The second and greatest factor that holds people in poverty is their Worldview (the way a person or culture interprets the world around them and how they react and interact within it). There are 3 main world views (animism, secularism and biblical theism) as well as a variable mix of all 3. In Bolivia the animistic worldview is the greatest where by the spirits control the physical world. A person can do nothing to change their situation therefore the result is a fatalistic people.  So whether a person lives at 4000m above sea level or 100m it makes no difference if a person was born poor they will always be poor and so will their children. This belief system is particularly strong in the rural areas (including the Churches) and further compounded by being told by outsiders that they cannot do anything by themselves without outside help. 
FH has worked hard in these areas for the last 10 years seeking to chang peoples worldview little by little.  After all this time some have still not grasped the idea and continually look for handouts.  However, with others there is encouragement seeing where slowly people are beginning to change the way they think and do things realising that they are able to change their current situation, that creation is not something to be worshiped but something they can have dominion over.  
Don Nacho was one such person who back in 2003 had nothing.  With the help of FH and other organisations he has experimented with new ideas and farming methods such as a trout farm. 

With such a radical mind shift and way of life required, FH has identified the need to work with and strengthen the local churches. Many people here are first generation Christians and so their faith is often mixed with animistic beliefs and Catholic traditions from their colonial past. Therefore the churches need to be equipped to teach the truth of the bible so that this generation and the ones to come can learn the truth about the creator of the world and what that means to their outlook and way of life.

Thank God for: 

  • A healthy family
  • Being a part of Gods work changing lives here in Bolivia
  • Godly leaders from whom we are learning so much

Ask God for:

  • Wisdom and patience in raising our children
  • Greater cultural understanding for walking with our work colleagues
  • Greater centralization and strengthening of the work FH is doing with local churches

Monday, 12 September 2011

Happy Birthday our little princess

Birthdays seem to come around very quickly each year so I am very grateful that I began the planning process for this one some time ago having finally gotten an answer from Alana as to what theme she wanted this year. Princesses seem to be a very popular theme for this age so I was able to gather plenty of ideas.

Bolivian birthday parties don't always constitute to much fun with both child and parents sitting around not sure quite what to do with themselves (or at least that has been our experience of some) so I like to plan things that will be fun (hopefully) for both the parents and children.  This of course has to be tempered with the fact that people never arrive to birthday parties for the time that you state on the invitation so activities need to be flexible.

We were not expecting anybody to arrive for the 3pm start time on the invitation however by 4:15 when still nobody had arrived we were beginning to get a little concerned that in fact nobody was going to come. But thankfully by 4:30 the princesses did began to arrive in a steady flow until the last one arrived at about 6pm!

The festivities began with a painting of the nails and putting on eye shadow and lipstick, which the girls loved, then we moved onto making crowns.  During the corse of this time more had arrived so once everyone had finished their crowns we could play some games beginning with parcel parcel and the usual few reluctant to pass the parcel on in the home it may stop on them. Then we played 'kiss the frog' where by each in turn were blind folded, put on lipstick and had to kiss a picture of a frog.  We then finished of the games with 'musical thrones' (Basically just musical chairs).

It was then time to eat and for Alana to blow the candles out on the cake and then to take a bite of it (A bolivian tradition here).  Once everybody was satisfied with full tummies (Apart from Alana who was still sat eating way after everybody else was done) the princesses then got to decorate their own party bags ready to take home with them some party goodies.

Whilst all this was going on the parents were happy sat playing games together such as Uno and Jenga.

Alana had a great time and I like to think that the other children and their parents did too.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Day of the pedestrian

This year La Paz decided to institute a new national day, that of the pedestrian.  This means that for one day a year no vehicles are permitted to drive about the streets, as a way to try and combat the pollution and congestion that normally clogs up the city. So from 8am in the morning until 4pm in the afternoon the streets are completely clear of any traffic.  This makes for a really nice tranquil sunday with lots of people milling about along the streets, on skateboards and bicycles.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

New and old friends

One of the advantages of our job is that we are able to travel as a family in order to visit our expat staff living in different parts of the country. This gives a great opportunity for our children to form and grow relationships with other children of similar ages who experience many of the same struggles and joys of living within a different culture.

Isaiah was very happy to share his hat with his new friend Virginia in Cochabamba.

Isaiah enjoyed his crash course in lessons of how to roll around the floor from his new friend lydia, who believe it or not is a month and a half older than Isaiah!

Alana enjoyed getting to play again with her friend Ella as well as her old friend the lion in the main plaza of Sucre.

6 months old already

Time is flying by and it doesn’t seem possible that our little baby is already 6 months old. We praise God for a very healthy and happy baby who is developing in all the right ways. He now weighs a good 7kg and is just about at the point of being able to sit up on his own.

Being a true moulding he has a very healthy appetite and is tucking into 3 solid meals a day as well as his regular milk feeds. So far he has been enjoying most of what he has been offered though has made some amusing faces along the way.

He is often fascinated by his own hands and its fun to watch as he suddenly notices one, studies it closely before then putting it into his mouth. He also loves to watch his big sister and smile and giggle at some of her antics. He has also taught himself how to keep entertained when nobody else is about to do so, by rocking himself in his chair, a skill he mastered quite early on. As he gets more excited his arm moves faster and the harder he rocks himself.

At the age of just 6 months he is already becoming well travelled with having just completed a trip to Cochabamba and this last weekend to Sucre. He got a little hungry whilst our first trip was delayed, thankfully we had a banana to hand he could tuck into. The remainder of the journeying he pretty much spent sleeping. All good practice for the long haul visit to the UK next year!

Getting all the relevant paperwork completed for a child born outside of the UK can be a little arduous at times, but we are thankful now to be almost at the end of it all as we just wait to receive his British passport. Having heard some of the nightmare tales from other expats having children here we realize how blessed we have been with the relative ease in actually being able to get all the appropriate documents completed and in order.

We now look forward to see what the next 6 months bring!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Traffic Congestion!

Being stuck in traffic jams here in La Paz is a common occurrence, mostly due to the sheer volume of traffic so we were a little surprised to discover the real cause of the problems on one particular taxi ride. Upon seeing a bus blocking the road up ahead our first thoughts were that it had broken down or had a puncture. As we inched our way closer we were quite shocked to discover that it had in fact lost its entire wheel!

Moulding Chronicles July 2011

Dear Friends,

Attitude is everything! After all of the busyness of LARC I (Ed) have been trying to find my place and purpose again in FH. Once LARC was over I found myself asking what was next, what are we doing here and why? It has taken some time for me to find my feet again and I have had to go back to God once again asking him what is his plan for us.

After some time of rest, reflection and a good family holiday on Lake Titicaca God showed me 3 important points that I am re-learning and trusting God to shape into our hearts. The first was ‘contentment’ I read in a daily devotional that if you are not content with what you are doing now then you will never be content when you have your wants. Lately I have found my thoughts occupied wondering about what the next thing is, and not focussing on the here and now and being content with what I have been given to do at present. This led me onto the Gods second point where I was challenged ‘to have the right attitude of heart.’

At some point after LARC I lost this attitude and had forgotten that we are here in Bolivia to serve others. At times our work can seem frustratingly bitty and behind the scenes with no direct contact or interaction with people in the communities where FH is working. However, God has reaffirmed that our role as a family is to come alongside others both national and international staff within and others outside of FH to be a support and encouragement. Looking back we can see how God has used us in a variety of different ways, be that through listening and encouraging, practical administrative tasks or just taking a job off of someone to free them up for other things. In doing these things we have been enabling FH to achieve its vision and mission of walking with Churches, Leaders and Families.

The last point God showed me was that ‘all should be for the Glory of God’. When we were last in the UK we heard a sermon on the shorter catechism and have since read about it in a parenting book we are studying with some friends. It asks the question ‘what is the chief end of Man?’ And answers ‘the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever’. God challenged me in this. Is what I am doing glorifying Him?

From these 3 points God has been helping me to redirect my focus back onto him to start out each day seeking to glorify him, being contented in what I am doing and with the right attitude of heart to serve him.

Having been challenged personally on these things, can I ask you too, does your life and what you do glorify Him?

Thank God for:

  • A good relaxing family holiday
  • The opportunity for Sarah’s parents to visit and meet Isaiah
  • Grace and mercy as he patiently seeks to mould, shape and grow us into the people he wants us to be

Ask God for:
  • Contentment and right attitudes in our work, family and friendships
  • Renewed wisdom and passion for how to encourage and walk with our colleagues and friends so that God will be glorified

Ed, Sarah, Alana & Isaiah

Monday, 6 June 2011

Moving home

Moving house is never an easy simple process, particularly when children are involved, however, amazingly it seems one of the very few processes here in Bolivia that can happen extremely quickly, our latest move being a case in point. Due to ever increasing rent we were no longer able to keep renting our current apartment so it was time to start looking again. Originally we were going to have to move right at the time when Isaiah was due to be born, however our landlady graciously allowed us to extend our current contract at the same price for just 3 months more to enable us to have Isaiah and get over the birth etc. The extension also served to enable us to host friends during a recent workshop.

With all such things in the past we knew it was time to start looking through the papers again and start asking around if anybody knew of any decent places up for rent. The down side to delaying was going to put us on a house hunt at a time of year when there was little movement due to it being the middle of school terms etc. However, in one weekend we had a number of places lined up to go and see.

Our first viewing was a definite possibility and we accepted the place in part because we were not sure what else was going to be available. The lady showing us the place was very non-committal saying that she had also had other acceptances and so would discuss it with her mother (the co-owner) and then get back to us the following day. Being unsure as to wether we would get it or not we decided to continue looking at other places, of which we were very glad that we did. We saw two other places that were pretty awful but the next we saw on the Monday morning we both really liked and so accepted that one too. The agent took our offer straight away and closed the door to any other viewers.

From there it was all a whirl wind. The Tuesday we signed a contract, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were spent busy packing, Saturday we were moved by a removal company and saw all our worldly belongings piled on the back of an open truck, then Saturday afternoon and Sunday were spent unpacking it all again. Thanks to some good friends Alana was able to go and play with her good friend over the weekend which left us free to get on with the job. By the end of Monday it already felt that we had been living there for weeks.

In many ways it has been a good move, the apartment is still spacious like the previous one and receives lots of sun through out the day which is essential for keeping warm, its located in a relatively safe community and requires us all to do more exercise which is no bad thing as its located at the top of a hill on the third floor with no lift!

It has meant a change of kinder for Alana to one which is a little closer, but she seems to be very happy with the change and has been able to be reunited with some old friends who changed earlier on in the year.