Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas and other randomness

Well, we’re back in La Paz again. This is our third time here since arriving, this time to participate in a concert for the Casa de Esperanza, the orphanage next door to our home, and also to buy some Christmas presents and food. Nick and I are doing six songs with some other adults for the concert. Then there is a cute group called the MK 7s, I think. There are 8 of them this year. They are some of the missionary kids from Caranavi. The three older Kraft kids are involved with that group. Then there is also a group of about five kids from the Casa de Esperanza. The point is to spread awareness about the Casa de Esperanza and also raise some money for them. All 60 of the kids at the one next to us (there is also a home for teenagers much closer to the town with 26 teens) could use some new clothes and some more meat in their diet. Comparing my life to theirs, I feel so blessed. I don’t have a lot of clothes here compared to what I am used to having, but I really have more than I need. I don’t have all the food I am used to, but we have more than we need and I think I am even gaining weight being here! I have a job that I enjoy and that more than covers my living expenses. The list goes on and on.

I am staying in La Paz with my usual family, Mauricio’s mom and sister. His other sister comes around a lot as well. I am also staying with my friend Keilan from the CEC (where we live). She is turning 22 today and is from a town between Caranavi and La Paz. She lives at the CEC and helps out with all of the goings on there. She is also singing with us in the concert. It is a blessing to be with them, as I don’t have my English crutch, the Krafts, and I have to try to speak independently or sometimes use charades and pointing.

Teaching is going well. I am enjoying it, and the kids are doing well. They have improved a lot, as I think usually happens as students figure out what the teacher wants. The one on one thing is good since I can let them go faster if they can or we can review things if they need to.

Our Christmas weather looks to be hot, humid, and rainy, at least if it follows the pattern of most days here. It rains mostly at night, though sometimes in the day as well. The rain in Caranavi is cool. The clouds come and surround us, sometimes we can hear the rain hitting the hill across from our house before it comes here, and it doesn’t usually rain for too long except sometimes it seems to rain all night long. The rain always brings cool clouds. It is rainy season from about mid December to mid February, I hear. That is also the summertime. I don’t know how much it cools down when it isn’t summer. I don’t really think it will be too much cooler.

Here in La Paz the weather is much more Christmas-like (of course, by my northern United States standards, which is probably nothing like in Bethlehem). It hailed yesterday and covered the ground with little ice balls that looked like snow. Even though it is summer here, it is still pretty crisp-my ideal winter weather (no, I am not sure I want to visit when it is actually winter here! I bet it’s freezing!)

We have a lot of banana trees on our property, and I am excited for them to start producing. When we were here the first time, our host always told us there were 8 kinds of bananas here in Caranavi. I regularly notice the red ones and the baby yellow ones in town, and I hope to eat more of those. I think I will be sick of bananas, though, since we will probably get a lot all at once. It will be nice to have them around at first, anyway! Mangos and mangas are in season now, and yes, they are different. Apparently mangas don’t have all the hair that mangos have, which make them impossible for me to enjoy. I do like mango juice, though. It is fairly easy to come across pineapples (we have four growing right outside our door!) and oranges as well, and though apples and grapes are around, they are much more expensive since they’re not native.

Speaking of food, I am doing really well with the foods here, though most of what I eat is made here at home and is a mix of American and Bolivian foods. We made 6 homemade pizzas the other night. That was a lot of fun and a very enjoyable dinner with our company. I have gotten sick, but only twice, and only one of those was definitely from food. I treated myself like a Bolivian and ate some stuff I guess I shouldn’t have. I can’t avoid everything!

We usually have all of our windows open (I have NEVER closed mine, but the Krafts have). That leads to a very loud house. In the morning there are bird parties outside my window and at night there are the sounds of summer bugs and crickets mixed with tropical bird sounds. One bird has a sound like a drop of water falling into a pool of water in a cave. I like that one the best.

We have a dog. Her name is Chachi, but we are halfheartedly trying to change it to Chacha because there is someone we know named Chachi and I guess it is a bad thing to have a dog with the same name. We also found a baby bird smaller than a chicken egg. It didn’t have feathers yet, just a tiny bit of hair-like stuff. We tried to take care of it, but it didn’t make it. We also have more bugs than I have ever seen in my life. Once I had a worm in my bed. I check every night now.

I do miss home. I miss my family right now. It is my first Christmas away from home. I’m sad that my parents got to go to Florida to visit my brother and sister-in-law without me, and I miss seeing my other brother and sister-in-law as well. I miss hearing from people regularly, being a part of my friends’ lives. It is fun to be a part of something new, as always, and I am enjoying my new friends. I can’t wait to be back in touch with people more regularly though! If you feel like sending a letter, I can give you my address on request!

I hope you have a great Christmas. Eat some chocolate chip cookies for me! But not too many, I don’t want to get sick ;-)

La Casa de Dios

There is a group up front playing music. Some are there every Sunday, and some change week by week. There is the lady who changes the transparencies so that we all know the words, even if we don’t all know Spanish yet. There is a large group of children on my left. They are from the Casa de Esperanza, and they fill an entire third of the church. I can hear their voices over all the others. Every Sunday I listen to the praises of orphans that God has placed in the hands of a Christian community. There is a small group of people who have the more traditional Bolivian look. They have been in church for hours, attending the Aymara service and staying through the Spanish service. There are young families. They fill in the front and back around those from the Aymara service. There is a short lady full of praises. She sometimes has a special message to share with the congregation, or sometimes takes out her special handkerchief and waves it while dancing or jumping along with the music. Four feet tall, long braids, red skirt, handkerchief flying, full of praises: beautiful. There are the green hills in the distance and the palm trees next door, both peeking in at us through the openings in the walls. God’s creation joins us in praising. This is God’s house. It is good to be at home with the Lord in his house.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Somewhere in the Middle

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, you’ll find me
Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who you’re making me
Somewhere in the middle, you’ll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?
Fearless warriors in the picket fence
Reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences: the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for his, or are we caught in the middle?

Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves
Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle you’ll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?
Fearless warriors in the picket fence
Reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences: the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for his, or are we caught in the middle?

Lord I feel you in this place and I know you’re by my side loving me even on these nights when I’m caught in the middle.

Somewhere in the Middle
Casting Crowns
The Altar and the Door

Thank you Casting Crowns. My sentiments exactly.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I'm in the plaza surrounded by people. I have been here before, surrounded by my Kindred teammates. Though the location is the same, so much has changed. I look around and after only one month here I know so many people, and I have so much more to learn. There are the singers from the church, who are going to sing here tonight. I recognize the pastors, and over there are some of our neighbors. There are the two visiting from Cochabomba and there is my dear friend from Coroico. There is the group that has been here all week from La Paz, and there is their teacher from Brazil. There's my favorite plaza baby (meaning I see her in the plaza all the time). She and her parents are from Argentina. And there are my friends that have been helping us out all week. They live in town, but have been staying with us. I feel so blessed. I am surrounded by friends and praise music. Awesome. And yes, I do know a lot of their names; I didn't include them on purpose.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Finding Neverland

Sometimes I forget where I am and what I am doing. It is starting to feel normal here, and I sometimes go through my days looking at the beautiful scenery without really appreciating it. It’s beautiful here. Breath-taking. How do I look without seeing? Sometimes I get so involved in the teaching or washing the dishes or watching a movie that I forget the blessing of being in Bolivia. I’m here. Finally. It has already been five weeks. It has only been five weeks. Today we went to the river for some baptisms and I got to see some parts of Caranavi that I have never seen. As I walked back toward the plaza, I found some orange juice made right there, fresh-squeezed. I bought some and kept walking, sipping my orange juice in a little bag. Then I found a big office/school supply store. As I looked around (that is my favourite kind of store), the owner asked me if I could help him read his error messages (in English) on his copier. Sure. I’ll read them, but I can’t even figure out copiers in the United States, so good luck sir.

We had an hour of praise songs and almost another hour of announcements and special presentations at church. I enjoy going to our church, and I love seeing the Casa de Esperanza kids (our neighbors) waving me over to sit with them. Sometimes it is hard not to be a distraction to them, though, as they want to look at the English in my Bible, my watch, my water bottle…hopefully someday we will treasure what we have in common more than those things that set me apart. I am preparing to sing in a concert in La Paz with a few of the Casa de Esperanza kids. I think there are five of them that are going. They sing for us in church quite often, and their voices are so beautiful. The two boys I have heard don’t have the high little boy sound I expect, they have low and seemingly hoarse voices. So beautiful. I will be singing a couple songs with a group of Casa supporters, people from the church. The kids have been working with Freddy, our friend from La Paz who has lived here for two years and has a wonderful gift for teaching music, as well as a unique talent for playing instruments. He is a great guitar player, he teaches voice, guitar, and bass, at least, and on Friday night I saw him with an accordion.

It is summer time here, and the school that the Kraft kids used to go to had its graduation on Friday night. It was cool to see the comparison. In many ways, the graduations are the same in the United States as here. It was great to see the friends I have made here and to meet some people who were so excited to support the graduates.

I live at a camp of sorts. It serves as a retreat center, a camp, a base for service projects, a discipleship training center, and a house of prayer. It is a great place to live. We have some kids here from La Paz this week. They attend the La Paz version of the school that had its graduation; they are sister schools. They are here for a week of service, togetherness, and time with God. They are wonderful students and are graduating in just a few days, but not before they have a retreat together at a hotel after this week of service. They have been great with the Casa de Esperanza kids, and offer a nice change of pace from the quiet CEC we usually live in. The students of the actual CEC will arrive in less than a month! (The CEC has a 10 week program during the summer months and another shorter course in the winter break of June and July) will I am excited to get to know the next students as well. Things are a bit different when other people live with us, and I must admit I think it brings a lot of fun adventure and great opportunity to get to know people and speak in Spanish with them.

We have many blessings, don’t we? Whether they be as simple as a piece of yummy, juicy fruit, or as complex as a family member, let’s appreciate. And remember: a washing machine is a beautiful gift. Wash your clothes once by hand, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. And don’t get me started on the joys of dryers. Especially during the rainy season! Another beautiful thing here: the fruit is really cheap, so it is often cheaper to make natural fruit juices than to buy a processed and bottled Tampico sorts of drinks, though I also appreciate Tampico. I also noticed in our kitchen last night Cola flavoured kool-aid. Hmmm, I can’t wait to try that one!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sleeping in a Landslide

Lesson Learned: sometimes when you wish for guard rails, they appear in ways you don't expect.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving, celebrated with almost all of the missionaries in Caranavi. Some are from the United States, some are from other parts of Bolivia, and many are children that know both cultures. We had some Bolivian dishes and a lot of my favorite dishes from the States. It was a great time of fellowship.

On Friday morning, we woke up early, but not to join the masses that were shopping (that doesn't happen here except on market day once or twice a week). We woke up at 3:30 am to go to La Paz. The Krafts are leading a retreat here in La Paz and I needed to add pages to my passport so my visa would fit. There was a huge storm in the night, that ended just as we were waking up. The huge storm wasn't so kind to the landscape, though, and before we drove even a quarter of the way to La Paz, we encountered a landslide. Well, we encountered a line of cars, actually, not the landslide itself. We were waiting for the tractor to come and clear the road, and what else do you do at 5 in the morning but fall asleep while you wait? We were all sleeping, and all of a sudden a group of men came running at our car. My first thought (I was sleeping, remember) was that they were a soccer team exercising. My next thought was, "what is that noise in the grass?" That noise in the grass is a huge rock falling at us! When I say huge, I only mean the size of my head, don't worry mom. Our driver was sleeping with his head on the window near the seat belt, and the rock hit the car just under the side mirror. God was really watching us, as the rock didn't break anything, it just dented the door. If it had broken the window, the driver's head would have been pretty hurt. After we got over the shock of waking up to a rock, we moved the car and started watching the situation. What bothered me was that we weren't doing anything about the situation. Daylight had broken, and all we are doing is watching a pile of rocks! As I had never been in this situation, I was waiting to see what would happen. Finally, some men started throwing rocks over the side of the hill toward the river and a man went to work on the mud with his shovel (we should always have a shovel in our car, I guess!). The tractor around the corner was broken, so we were waiting for a different one. The man with the shovel wanted to hurry on with his day, though, so he took his four wheel drive car and went through the mud and over the rocks. Two things dawned on me as I watched a few more rocks fall: 1) that wasn't a soccer team, they were running from more falling rocks, and 2) we, too, were going to have to drive over this spot eventually. So as car number 5 or 6 charges through and over the landslide, I see the tractor charging through! Here they come to save the day! The tractor had things cleared up in about a half hour, and as he pushed the rocks around, he ended up creating that coveted guardrail! Yes!

We made it safely to La Paz, we added pages into my passport with no problems (thanks nice embassy people!) and I have can stay in Bolivia!

It has already been a month that we have been here, two weeks in La Paz and more than two weeks in Caranavi. I am getting used to the life here. It is a bit different than the States, but life goes on and new normals are found. La Paz, I'll be back in two weeks to sing in a concert for the Casa de Esperanza. I can't wait to see you again!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pictures from Caranavi

This is Caranavi, a zoomed in view from our house. The green patch you can kind of see in the middle of the town is the big soccer field. The blur of white is a cloud that our house sits way above. It is cool to see clouds and birds so far below us.
Sunsets here are almost always great.

The view from the other side of our property.

Caranavi closer.

This is one of my favorite pics.

Home in Caranavi

Here are some pictures from our house in Caranavi. This is my room. The sink doesn't work, but I do have a working bathroom that you can kind of see!
Notice the electrical plugs up high on the wall.

Yes, this is my view. A wall of red dirt and grassy plants. I am glad to be able to see the light of day. Behind my room is a walkway to the laundry sink.

These are stairs up to some other buildings on the property. I think they are cool.

This is the back side of our house. Or rather, our house is on the backside of this building. The room you can see is the schoolroom, and in between are at least three other rooms.

Pictures from Death Road

If this is what death looks like, bring it on! Actually, I was taking these pictures on the safe part of Death Road, and the less safe part really didn't seem so bad in the car we were in. Don't worry mom! There is a part of the drive that Moises calls "the white part" where the clouds surround you, even more than in the picture you see. They come up from the canyon and it is so cool because on the times I have been there, the road is completely clear, so you don't feel like you are in danger, but you can only see cloud! There are also a number of waterfalls that come down the crevices of the mountains. It is really gorgeous.

Pictures from La Paz


This is La Paz, home sweet home for the first two weeks. The house you see is the house where we lived for two weeks. We are living with Mauricio and Andrea here in Caranavi. This is Mauricio's mother's house in La Paz. My room is the window on the left, kind of behind the pole. There is a cool garden right behind the wall.

The other pictures are La Paz. I took the two city scapes pictures from a great park near downtown. I love the town, and the way that it is set up, you often have this view or a similar one as you wind around the streets that lead you into downtown. Notice, however, in the vertical picture, how different the landscape is in the bottom of the picture. It seems there is a mixture, the wealthy living among the poor, the poor living among the wealthy. That happens in many cities, I know.
The mountain picture shows Illimani, the mountain that sits above La Paz. You can't often see it due to clouds.
The people you see are Mauricio's mother, whom we stayed with, and Marielle's family. Marielle is Mauricio's sister. They came over to the house almost every day. They were wonderful friends.
Here ends my pictures from La Paz. Stay tuned for Caranavi!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Declaration of Appreciation

Guard rails: I appreciate you. In fact, I appreciate you so much that I think EVERY road should have you. You are good and I want you close to me on any mountainside. But not TOO close. I prefer to see you from a safe distance.

Taxi drivers: I appreciate you. I am so glad I don't have to navigate these roads. Please keep up the good work.

Sinks with washboards built in: I appreciate you. You make doing laundry by hand a little bit easier.

Katie's Ipod": I appreciate you. You sing to me in English. You have almost all of my favorite songs. You block out unwanted sound and fill my ears with happy music. I think you might be my favorite possession.

Skype: I love you almost as though you were a real person. Thank you for existing.
Two lane roads: I think there should be more of you. You are a good thing in a world of one lane roads on the sides of hills.

Banana trees: I think it is cool that your leaves are bigger than my entire body. I can't wait until you are in season.

Facebook: I appreciate you. You let me see my friends from all over the world. Maybe you should even be available offline!

Rainforest birds: I appreciate you. I spent my whole life listening to you only through sound machines and nature CDs. Now you live right outside my house. Don't be scared of stupid dogs barking. Chachi the dog can't hurt you when you are in the trees.

Runners: I appreciate you. It has been a long time since I have seen one of you, but I know you are out there. Keep up the good work.

El, La, Lo, Los, Las, Les: I appreciate you even though I never use you correctly. You serve a good purpose, and one day I hope we can be friends.

Friday, November 14, 2008


All it took was three cars, five hours, and a lot of dust to move from the desert of La Paz to the jungle of Caranavi. We ended up coming down on Wednesday. The view from the “death road” is amazing. It used to be the most dangerous road in the world, but they have fixed the worst parts. It is amazing to see the clouds rising up from underneath you as they (the clouds) move rapidly through the mountain canyons. We ended up having two taxi drivers that we knew (Well, I didn’t know either one, but I knew our driver’s daughter, Cindy).
Since we got back to Caranavi we have been settling in and meeting with people. Yesterday we saw our friends Paul and Jay, who were so amazing to Kindred in 2007. They have a bird I really like, who says things like “hola,” and “wowowow,” and also has a funny laugh. I got him talking and he almost seemed to remember me. Do birds have a good memory? I think I just wanted him to remember me.
Today we had school in our new classroom and then I went to the neighbor’s property. The neighbors are called Casa De Esperanza, one part of a large orphanage in Caranavi. The kids came up to me as soon as we got out of the car. What’s my name, where am I from, have I been there before, etc. Some of them remembered Kindred and even one of our songs. Yes, trompetas-may it live on forever. I hope to spend some time each week there at the orphanage, but we shall see. I need to talk to the directors before I know anything for certain. We went there to deliver some stuff and then take them down the hill to school. I rode in the back of the big truck surrounded by about twenty girls (we were in the girls’ truck). The girls were singing and laughing and chatting. They told me everything they knew in English, which is always really cute. I was completely surrounded by kids as we were jostled down our “driveway” which is a 15 minute ride on a dirt and rock road down switchbacks on a steep hill. We have a great view of the mountains and jungle, but it’s a long and hot drive or walk down to the town.
As we had school today I kept looking out the windows of the classroom. It seems surreal to be here amidst the green vegetation, the beautiful hills, the hot climate while I should be in the midst of another cold winter…I love it.
As we are getting settled into our house, which will be ours for awhile, it is good to be living more simply. It took me about an hour to unpack, which included a lot more cleaning than unpacking. It is a blessing not to be burdened with stuff. It is more of a blessing to be surrounded by Bolivian children from the Casa de Esperanza. It is also a blessing to be teaching again. Moses has improved drastically in his reading in just the last week. It is beautiful to watch a child learn. It is also pretty fun to learn from the kids.
Though it is a challenge to be here, I am glad for it, and am so thankful for the opportunity to meet new people and experience new things.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


There is a different face on the problem of hunger here. It isn't the Omar of Feed My Starving Children nor the dirty African child that we might see on TV. Hunger isn't just distended bellies and eating dirt, though it definitely and sadly includes such things. Hunger isn't something deserved, nor is it reserved for the dumb, lazy, colored, or pagan. A child who has only eaten dirt today may not be hungry, but she is malnourished. The same concept occurs here. In La Paz, potatoes, rice, and bread are fairly easy to come by and fairly inexpensive. So why are most of the women who are begging on the streets rather large? They don't look like they are wasting away. Hunger is deceiving. These women may only be eating carbohydrates, which bloat their bodies but offer no protein. Lack of protein causes all kinds of problems, including water retention, which may be part of the reason the women here don't look hungry. Hunger here affects men differently. It is an interesting pattern. The men on the streets look thin, the women look heavier. However, both genders are affected in height. I have seen some women who don't even come up to my chin! And we all walk together on the same streets, the rich, the poor, the hungry, the fed, the gringos, the Bolivians. Not all Bolivians are hungry. But it isn't hard to spot one who could be blessed by a meal. Perhaps when we see a hungry person we should not see them as hungry, but as a person. Such a stigma. How can we be so petty? They are people. Let's treat them as such. Perhaps we should follow Christ's lead and prepare a banquet feast for them and love them as Jesus does. Not to validate our wealth by offering a handout. Not to look compassionate, but to be compassionate. Not to appear pious, but to honor Christ. A face may be hungry, but hunger isn't a face. Hunger doesn't have a face. A person has a face.

Friday, November 7, 2008

La Paz. The name of the city we have been in for ten days means "Peace," or "The Peace." I love it here. Though I wouldn't say "Peace" is necessarily the best all-encompassing word to describe this city, I am at peace here in ways that are very different than in the States. I love waking up here to peaceful mountain mornings. There is peace in knowing that there is a reality outside of the quest for wealth, power, popularity, or at least the ability to pay bills. I feel so bogged down in the United States. How can I afford this or that and am I in the right vocation? Should I live here or there and what should I look like and who should I know or at least know about? None of that seems to matter to me here. I walk around in the city and there are not only new places to discover, there are dreams forming. The things that God could do here seem limitless. I sometimes want to stay here forever. Who knows? Maybe I will!
We started school on Wednesday. We had been waiting to see if we would be going to Caranavi anytime soon, but things are still up in the air with that. I don't mind. I love it here. So we pulled out all of the books and jumped right in. The kids were already familiar with the homeschool curriculum. They spent a couple weeks with it in the States. I hope we can have fun with it.
Meanwhile, the afternoons and evenings have been full of dinners here and there, exploring the town, or just relaxing to movies. I love the family we are lving with here in La Paz. Today the two year old finally started talking to me. Before that he just looked at me silently or walked away or would ruun away screaming and crying. His mother Marielle has been so kind. She will talk to me about all kinds of stuff even though I barely know Spanish. She doesn't treat me like I am dumb just because I can't say very much. Sometimes it feels like a stab at my intelligence not to be able to say basic sentences, but I am learning a lot and getting verb tenses and all that jazz. When we come back to La Paz I hope to be able to actually talk with Marielle.
Last weekend we ran into a bunch of my friends from when I was here the first time. I have seen the band Suma Qhana, my friends from El Redentor, and even a friend from northern Peru who is here with YWAM. I have also made new friends and gotten to know a family from Maryland.
We have great thunder storms here. I love hearing the rain hit the roof. It usually doesn't rain for long, and then life resumes. I can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pidgeons landing on my head...and more

We are still in La Paz, and there is definitely a lot to see, do, and think about. We ventured out today and yesterday. Yesterday I took the kids on a little walk downtown and we came across a plaza surrounded by governmental buildings, I think. The plaza held all the entertainment though, as there were thousands of pidgeons waiting to be fed. So, of course, we bought corn and fed them! Before I even opened the package, one landed right on my head! We were covered in pidgeons, the plaza had thousands of them! T.J. had at least four on each arm at one point! And to think in Sucre two years ago I spent so much time trying to catch one!
I am really enjoying all of the kids. I love the Bolivians, too, but it is frustrating not to be able to understand very much of what they are saying. They have been SO kind and welcoming. We are relearning the customs here. Bolivians are much more polite in their greetings than I ever have been. Today we had lunch at a lovely family's house. We went swimming and played in their amazing gardens. Before that we played at a skate park! I never would have guessed. It was a lot of fun to be with the four Kraft kids and the four Bolivian children that we have been with. Two of those kids will live at the school with us in Caranavi. I am so glad. I love that family already.
I have seen so much beauty here. There is of course the beauty of La Paz. I can't describe it better than to say that it is like living inside the Grand Canyon. The colors are beautiful, red and white cliffs dotted with homes. If you look up, you see homes where in the Midwest you would simply see sky. Then there is the beauty of the people. Life is so busy here. But it isn't exactly life that's busy, it is more that people are out experiencing it together. The familiarity of this place comes not just from having been in La Paz before, but from the familiar touch of cheeks as we greet each other, familiar smells (though I can't prove this, I will argue that La Paz has a smell and I haven't smelled it for a year and a half. I KNOW this smell!), familiar sounds of Spanish greetings, and familiar sights of colorful buildings, typical dress of the Bolivian women. I am glad to be here. I have so much to learn.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We made it! I have officially been in Bolivia for 15 hours. I have had many thoughts and many blessings. It has been wonderful to be with the Krafts again, to get to know each of them a little better. I can't wait to see how the relationships evolve. We are staying with a family in La Paz for a few days. The family has been amazing. I have enjoyed just being with them. We are well fed and well cared for. We are currently in the same time zone as the US' eastern time zone. After the US' time change, we will be two hours ahead of central time instead of just one.
I am so glad to finally be here. I was so blessed by small interactions throughout the whole trip. Everything went smoothly except that I don't have my luggage yet. I am hoping to get it tomorrow or within the week.
In some ways it feels like I am setting out on a grand adventure, but in some ways it feels like I am returning home. I simply got out of my parents' car and left my cell phone behind. I got on a plane and left my parents behind. I got on another plane and left my country behind. I fell asleep and woke up in Bolivia. Crazy. And yet, just one foot after another. My Spanish skills still need a lot of work, but it has been easier than I expected. No one at the house seems to mind that I only understand part of what they are saying and don't have much to say in response! However, the family we are staying with is one I would love to get to know better. Each one has a beautiful story. We will be in La Paz for a few days and then we are headed to Caranavi. We will be there indefinitely. I can't wait to get started with the schoolwork, to be in Caranavi and start getting familiar with the area, the people, the life.
As I was leaving, I was super nervous. I couldn't explain why, and I couldn't reason it away. On the plane, I opened my Bible to Psalm 23, but my eyes jumped right over to Psalm 27. The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid? (v1) It continues, and I was so blessed by that chapter. My stomach stopped churning and there was peace. What do I have to fear? Nothing and no one! God is in control, and that is beyond my understanding. I know that I have much to learn this year, and it promises to be challenging, sure, but oh, what a blessing.
God's peace. Whom shall we fear?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Square One

So here it is. Finally. The much anticipated and much procrastinated blog. I have created this for a number of reasons. First, as a way for people to keep up with me. Many people have expressed interest, and for that, I thank you. I also hope that it will be a chance for me to get into the routine of writing again. Most importantly, I hope that as you read it, you will be praying for God’s will to be done, his love to be shared, for each individual person that we come into contact with, for the Kraft family, and for me.

I am realizing that not everyone knows what I am doing, so I want to explain what I can. When I was in Bolivia with Kindred in March and April of 2007, we worked with the Kraft family for three weeks in their mission in Caranavi, Bolivia. I really enjoyed my time in Bolivia, and felt called to be there working among the wonderful Bolivian people. As we were leaving Bolivia, I knew that I wanted to come back as soon as I could. I emailed the Kraft family, and they were looking to go a new route in their ministry. This new route would be much more mobile, and they would need a teacher to work with their four children. So we prayed about this partnership, and we continued to pray, and some months passed and we were still praying. God gave me great peace about doing this ministry, working with the kids as their teacher and also working alongside the parents with their ministry. So I said yes!

So who is this Kraft family and what is their ministry?

Nick and Shannon are the parents, and they have done ministry with World Mission Prayer League (WMPL) for a long time, serving first in Chiclayo, Peru, and then in Caranavi, Bolivia. Madison is their oldest, at 12. Then comes T.J. at 11. Moises is 8, and Tucker is 5. (The kids are the same ages as four of the five kids I lived with this last year…crazy…) I will be guiding them through a home school curriculum that addresses all of the subjects they need to be learning at their various school levels. Everyone in the family is bilingual, and we will be doing much of the schooling in English at first, since I don’t really know Spanish, but hopefully I will soon be able to use both Spanish and English.

As far as the ministry goes, there is so much potential. I am eager to see what God does through the availability and eagerness of the Krafts. They are going to be teaching at a school for part of the year. This school is somewhat like a seminary, geared at helping Christians become more trained in their faith and in sharing their faith, but when the students leave they aren’t pastors. We will be at this school in Caranavi for 2.5 months, twice a year. For the other parts of the year, we will be traveling and working with churches and communities that invite the Krafts to come and partner with them or help them in specific areas. In some places, that might mean working with the church to reach out to the family unit, it could be leading retreats, it might be training missionaries, it could be a lot of things. We have been invited to a number of places, and are open to whatever it is that God may want to be doing.

Answers to other questions that have been asked:
I don't know if I will have an address. Probably. I will let you know it if you need it. Facebook and email are the best ways to get ahold of me. I also hope to have a Skype account soon.

I don't know exactly what my living arrangements will be, but I do know that they will change as we move around. I am not worried about it. I will have a pack and a guitar. Maybe sometimes I will have my own room, and maybe sometimes I will sleep out under the stars.

My needs will be taken care of by the Kraft family. They are under World Mission Prayer League, and that is our safety net of sorts. I am not worried about it!

Yes, Bolivia has had some rough political issues with the United States in the past few months. I don't know all the details, but I do know that WMPL has staff there right now keeping us updated, and the Krafts also have many friends there that are keeping them updated. God is in control, and we are trusting him.

Our flights to Bolivia are scheduled for October 28. I will be meeting the Krafts in Miami and we are flying together. They have been in the United States since March doing various home assignments.

In addition to teaching, I hope to work with the community children in whatever capacity God provides. Please pray for opportunities to arise!

Other prayer requests:
Spanish! I don’t know much, and I anticipate that I might be pretty overwhelmed at first! Please pray that I learn quickly and have a great attitude about it!

Teaching! I have been in the classroom with kids, and I have worked one on one with kids, but I have never worked with home school curriculums and I am not yet familiar with the specific strengths and weaknesses of the Kraft kids. Please pray for wisdom, insight, and sensitivity as I jump into the picture and we work without a net (while that is a common cliché, I also won’t have the internet readily available for learning more about subjects, teaching tricks, etc.).

A strong team! I have worked with teams before, but not in the family sense. I have worked with families before, but not in the team sense. Please pray that God allows a smooth transition, open and good communication, and that his will is our main priority.