Monday, 30 January 2012

Moulding Chronicles January 2012

Dear Friends,
Before returning to the UK on our Furlough in February we wanted to take this opportunity to write a longer newsletter in order to explain in a bit more depth about the work of FH here in Bolivia and the small part that we play in it.
FH has now been working in Bolivia for over 30 years.  Today it is working in 236 communities in 4 of the 9 departments (similar to states within the US). The focus of FH is upon the most vulnerable people within the most vulnerable communities which ultimately relates to mothers and children. This focus has lead to the creation of a single program that forms the basis of all the work that FH does; Child Focused Community Transformation (CFCT). In a nutshell is it about seeking transformation through changing the way people think and perceive the world around them i.e. their worldview. 
By changing a persons worldview FH is enabling poverty stricken people  from a fatalistic society to seek their own solutions to problems and to  break themselves and their  own communities out of the poverty cycle.   This is done through working with three key groups in any community; the Churches, Leaders and Families. 
In every country where FH is present its outworking of the CFCT looks a little different according to the specific needs of the country.  Within Bolivia the major need is food security. A lack of food security creates a vast range of  problems and so specific projects themselves are varied ranging from direct agricultural interventions such as in the creation of vegetable gardens (see our Blog for examples of such projects with Jose and Don Nacho) to projects involving health, water and sanitation and education.
Chronic malnutrition is one such problem (Approx. 20.8% nationwide) compounded by basic health issues such as Diarrhea which in itself causes a very large number of infant deaths, a problem that in the majority of cases could be avoided by such simple acts such as hand washing. 
Projects incorporating education function on a number of different levels from direct input within schools, after school clubs, youth groups and  family groups teaching biblical principles and values which specifically target some of the more visible problems.  As a result of such teaching there has been a significant increase in the number of children (particularly the girls, who within the culture have less value than boys) involved within the projects of FH who have completed their formal education and who have gone onto university and started their own businesses and who have learnt not only to dream dreams but also how to achieve them.  
Specific teaching to family groups has resulted in families spending time together as well as a renewed respect between family members, adult to child, husband to wife and vice versa, a rare sight in a strong machismo society. 
The other two groups with whom FH works are community leaders and churches.  This again is done through the teaching of biblical principles and values and effective leadership and role within a given community.  For community leaders this has resulted in them taking an active role in leading, planning for the future and guiding their own community, identifying problems as well as the solutions to those problems from internal resources. 
In recent years work with the churches has been limited to one region (El Alto) however after seeing the positive results and changes of the churches becoming actively involved within their communities FH Bolivia is now going to be making its church strengthening project a priority.
Transformation of the mind brought about through the presence of the Holy Spirit (Rom 12:2) is key because we believe that if we can teach people and help them adapt a biblical worldview then they will be able to find freedom and new life.  This is because we believe that being free from poverty is not just about physical issues such as in food and money but also spiritual, emotional and social issues. Ultimately being free from poverty is  about living in healthy relationship with God and his creation (which includes other people).   
This process of transformation needs to be effective not only for those we serve in the communities, but also for our staff and donors, a process we refer to as Mutual Transformation, where all parties involved are transformed in some way or other through the process of both giving and receiving. 

So where and how do we fit into this big picture of transformation? 
On a personal level there is our own process of  transformation as we learn new things, review our own British culture and measure that against a Biblical/God honoring culture.  In the last four years we have had much cause to think about what values and principles we want to live out and promote firstly in our own lives, the lives of our children and then in others. 

On the work level much of what we do is in the background; forming relationships, encouraging others, supporting the Country Director and other staff with translations, organizing, planning, taking on aspects of some of their jobs to enable them to concentrate on more important tasks. We are also here to support and encourage other international staff  with FH helping them to serve and reach the potential that God has put in them. 
So to conclude, we are here working in a supportive capacity in the background to be transformed to be able to complete the plan and purpose God has for us, which involves walking with and serving both national and international staff so that they can walk with and serve the most vulnerable people in Bolivia so that their lives can be transformed and God glorified.
Thank you for being a part of our own personal transformation, we look forward to talking with many of you in person over the course of our 6 months in the UK.

Thank God for: 
  • A good relaxing Christmas holiday with family and friends
  • Continuing safe development of baby No. 3
Ask God for:
  • Stress free preparations for furlough and safe travels with no delays and easy transfers
  • Favor within the NHS system upon our return to the UK
  • Protection over our home here in Bolivia whilst we are away
Much Love 
Ed, Sarah, Alana, Isaiah & Bump

Monday, 2 January 2012

Unique sounds of a new year in Bolivia

I’ve never really considered before how different a New Year can sound depending on where you are when you celebrate it yet last night as I lay awake listening to the fireworks I realized how different the sounds were compared with New Year celebrations I remember in the UK.
From 11:30 begin a trickle of soft bangs as fireworks begin to be set off across the city, building up to a crescendo like the sound of a constant hailstorm, which isn’t so much caused by the intermittent big booms that cause the whole apartment to shudder, but rather more the sheer quantity of fireworks and fire crackers being set off from what appears to be every other home across the city, including being fired out from apartment windows! Intermittent with these sounds are the dogs barking and the car alarms set off by some of the bigger bangs.
By 12:15 the fireworks fizzle back down to the steady trickle of noise only then to be replaced by music blaring from loud speakers from a house party across from our apartment which continues unceasing until 9am the following morning.  On occasions such as this I glad for New Year only being just once a year!

A Christmas of many firsts

This christmas time we were able to add to the positive lessons learnt from last year and enjoy the celebrations of the birth of Christ, with the added bonus of a number of firsts.  The most exciting of which was being able to celebrate Isaiah’s first christmas. Being 10 months old he was very alert to all that was going on around him and enjoyed ripping off shiny wrapping paper, investigating it from all angles and then typically enjoyed the boxes that gifts came in more than the actual presents themselves! This form of present opening was painfully slow for Alana who desperately wanted to help him rip it all off quickly, but she did good at being patient and then eventually enjoyed his presents with him.

One of the things we felt lacked in our celebrations last year was how to bring Jesus back into the centre of all of our celebrations.  Through a random search on the internet we stumbled across the Jesse Tree, which fitted exactly with what we were looking for and so became the first of a new tradition we hope to carry out each year. In a nut shell the Jesse tree takes an overview of the bible and connects it all with the arrival of Jesus and his birth, a different key bible story is read for each day of advent with a special ornament/picture added to the tree each day that represents the story of the day.

Another first was to have family here celebrating Christmas with us. Over the three weeks of their visit we enjoyed a good time with Ed’s parents, showing them around a few more new places and taking them along to see Alana in her end of year kinder performance. 

With having visitors we indulged in another first and took a weeks holiday right before Christmas down in the wine producing region of Tarija in the south of the country on the Argentinian border. Despite arriving in a torrential rain storm, circumnavigating a strike and having a puncture on the back road in the middle of nowhere in the heat of the day with no shade, we had a pleasant restful time enjoying the warmer, cleaner air with more O2 available to breath, and the pleasant green surroundings and wildlife. We even took a morning doing one of the famous wine tours visiting three very distinct wine producers which of course meant sampling the products too :o)

Christmas day provided another first by going to church and actually hearing about Christmas.  The focus of the message was upon 4 key people within the christmas story, Mary, Elizabeth (Luke 1:44), Simeon (Luke 2:28) and Anna (Luke 2:38) whose response to Christ was that of pure adoration, a response that we too should have putting Jesus at the centre and the focus of our celebrations, praising him for coming in order to restore our relationship with God.
Now this may sound a little odd to most of you who are accustomed to a big christmas build up, however here in Bolivia the Evangelical Church has gone to the extreme of trying to distance themselves from the Catholic Church and rarely mention let alone celebrate the key events of the Christian faith such as Easter and Christmas.
As this christmas now passes we look forward to what 2012 holds for us as a family in the challenges, the blessings and the times of growing and learning together.