Dear family and friends,
Scott and I have been back in Bolivia since the 26th of December. As I (Min) write, it is raining "cats and dogs". I am under our mosquito net with a twitching 9 day old puppy on my belly that keeps sliding off…. and the laptop on my lap :) I write a little and then pet the puppy. Write a little. Pet the puppy. I'm rather content right now and happy :) Other than the puppy sliding off every now and then, she makes cute growling puppy noises!
We don't know how this school year will start out since most of the staff from last year are not coming back. We know that God will bring whoever needs to be here. However, if you are reading this, and you or anyone you know is interested in coming down for 9 months and helping teach classes at our school, PLEASE email Scott or the director as soon as possible. We ARE IN GREAT NEED OF VOLUNTEERS, to teach, and help out with the girls/boys dorm, cafeteria, and other work projects.
The rain is so strong as it beats down on our corrugated tin roof! I love the noise it makes, as the rain is so powerful. It's so loud and sounds like a million shower heads are on at the same time!!! As I look outside the trees are waving like crazy, and the rainwater is forming "little rivers" as it flows off the road and grass, down past our front step. I see lightning in the distance and hear occasional sounds of thunder resonating all the way down to my toes.
Yes, we are in the rainy season. It has been raining just about every day; sometimes, it rains twice a day, and I mean, pours non-stop for a long time. Whenever Scott and I are on the motorcycle and it starts raining, we feel like someone just took us and dunked us in the river, since it takes just a few seconds to be completely soaking wet :) This has been our welcome back to Bolivia. And with the rainy season comes the lushness of greenery all around us, thus the constant need of cutting the grass and beating the jungle back. It's a struggle and a big job to maintain the lawns! Last year, the jungle had crept all the way up to one side of our house and was threatening to swallow it. It took Scott three hours using a machete to cut the overgrown bushes and vines. I am so amazed each year at how fast stuff grows here. I feel like the grass grows an inch a day…
Yes, we made it safely back to our rainforest/jungle school, 30km from Guayaramerin. Thank God! We had about 3 days of cleaning before our house looked decent again. Now, we are trying to get our laundry washed and dried. It's a challenge as it rains a lot now and is humid.
We've had a huge froggy visit us every night at our house. I guess he comes in through the doggy door. We get frogs in our bathroom, so as you can see... nature is all around us, even when we shower. One time in the shower, Scott touched a frog which quickly inflated with air... and would you believe this froggy sounded like a drum as water from the shower bounced off his back. He looked like a frog balloon! I just don't like it when they start jumping on us. Anyways, Scott has been picking Mr. Froggy up and throwing him out the door. Now when we see him, we say "Oh, its you again…here you go! and swish…..through the air and the froggy flies out into the obscure night. Last time we threw froggy out, he got so scared that he peed on himself before Scott launched him out the door. I thought that maybe Scott had just squeezed him to tight... but no, froggies do that when they get scared. It's funny how I don't like frogs, but Scott on the other hand, lights up like a little kid each time he picks up Mr. Froggy. I think it's because he enjoys launching him out the door. Who knew frogs could fly? Each time he throws the frog into the air, he quickly closes the door and chuckles to himself. I truly married a fun man! Each day is an adventure...
Switching gears now.
We are learning more and more that God is in control of EVERYTHING. Providing for our needs as we travelled and putting the right people in our path to help us. God knows what we need before we even know what to ask him for. And as we are blessed in whatever way, be it financially or in other ways, we want to share His blessings with others. This gives us tremendous joy!!! As we walk through this life, we are to keep our hands open to receive God's blessings and keep them open so that we can freely give to others. We know that whatever we have is the Lord's and we want to use it to glorify Him. We received a donation last month and we were able to buy another keyboard in which will be used to teach more students piano. I (Min) had a full sized electronic piano with weighted keys which I brought down with me a couple years ago, but it didn't allow much students time to practice on.
I had put my keyboard in the dorm so the students could practice, but we needed another one. So we are very happy to say that we bought one a couple weeks ago in Santa Cruz and it made it safely to the school with us!!
We were able to bring down a couple suitcases from the States for other missionaries who didn't get to be with family over the holidays, and they were happy to receive them.
Also, we were surprised when Herman, the head pilot for Bolivia, who was dog sitting, told us that Raisin (our dachshund) had a surprise for us. Well well, she surely did. It totally wasn't planned, but just a week after getting back to our school, Raisin gave birth to 7 beautiful puppies.
They are 9 days old today, but are growing really fast. This time the puppies are half dachshunds and we are curious to see what they will look like. The puppies' father belonged to the TV station's director's kids. I'm not sure what kind of dog he was, but he was 3x bigger than our Raisin. So I'm just thankful that our dog didn't have any complications and that the puppies are healthy and well. For now, they look like dachshund puppies with a little more fluff. Whenever Scott comes back home and is a little stressed out, I just plop down a puppy on his chest and say "Here! hold a puppy! You'll feel better!!" It works :)
The other day I didn't see the puppy on Scott's chest and found out that it burrowed in his shirt. The only thing I hate about having puppies is giving them away after holding each one of them close to your heart. It's so hard. So I told Scott that this time, "I'm keeping all 7 puppies!" He said…no. Maybe I can convince him to let me keep one. Still working on it.
So yes, we arrived at the school rather early because the director had to travel doing interviews with potential students all over Bolivia. This is a demanding job, as travel during the rainy season is tough. Just before the director got back a couple days ago, his bus broke down 3 times, so he left the bus and hitched a ride on a truck to the next town. When he got near there, one of the bridges was washed out..bummer. While the director was away for about two weeks, Scott and I got to do interviews with potential students and their parents. It's been a really busy process, but we are happy that the director is back and has the paperwork and recommendations to decide which students he will accept for the 2014 school year. For those of you who are confused, our school year is from March-November. We are praying for the new students who will be accepted this year, as well as the students from last year who decided not to come back. There are complicated situations with some students and we just keep praying for them.
A couple months ago, we were blessed to have the chance to visit family and friends in TN, FL, and WA state. During this time we were able to share how God is using us for His work in Bolivia. Even while we were in the States, we had many trials, including just having enough gas money to travel to our next speaking appointment. But we decided that God wanted us to share what He was doing in Bolivia, and as we shared our experiences our faith continued to grow. It gave us great joy to be able to share what The Lord is doing to save lives for His kingdom.
As many of you know, we had many trials last year including sickness, our computer frying and also losing our son. Although the trials of last year were very difficult, God has given us enough strength to go on. And we praise Him for this. Our time in the US also brought many blessings. Here are some stories that have let us know that God cares about us. We would like to share them with you. We'll write stories on the next update.
In 2012, Scott wanted a guitar and so we would pray for one on a daily basis. We saw the cheapest one in town cost $50 and so we tried to save for it. But each time we would get close to having enough money, a more pressing need would show up and we couldn't justify buying the guitar. One day, towards the end of the school year, a student knocked on our door and tried to give us her guitar. We refused it, of course, feeling bad to be "taking" a student's guitar. However, she kept on insisting, saying "No, please take it! God has been telling me to give you my guitar for the past month!". Wow! we were flabbergasted. And humbled. You see, as teachers, we think that we have to always be on the giving end. Not just giving of our time and attention, but also sacrificing whatever it takes to help students when they are in need. And this time we had to "learn" how to receive. It was hard to take her guitar, but we did. She was happy and so were we! We've never experienced being poor before, and although it is hard sometimes, we see it as a blessing in disguise that teaches us how to be truly happy for what we do have. Thankfulness is not necessarily based on circumstances; it the state of our souls. Choosing to be thankful for the little things we have is changing us to appreciate what really is important in life.
So back to the story... Scott would practice every day and by the time the 2013 school year started, he was getting the hang of playing along for church services. I was so proud of him! He really enjoyed it and two more students wanted to play the guitar too. Well, just this past October 2013, Scott gave away the guitar to a student. Now we didn't have any guitar, but we were sure that God could give us another one if He wanted to. We just didn't know when. We could not afford one for sure, so we put it on our prayer list. Just last month (December 2013), we went to visit Blue Angel SDA church in Pensacola, FL, where Scott was baptized. We went to visit Neville and Dorothy Parkinson, the godly couple that had given Scott bible studies, many years ago. While conversing with them and showing a slideshow of Bolivia, a picture came across of Scott holding a guitar in one hand while standing next to a student.
Neville asked "Scott, do you play the guitar?"
Scott responded "Yes, I do!"
Neville then went to to say "Well, you know, I still have that guitar I bought from you many years ago…you can have it back if you want. I meant to learn, but haven't played it much. If you want it--it's yours!"
Scott was so overjoyed as Neville brought the guitar and gave it to Scott. You see, while Scott was in the military, he had accumulated many things and when he decided to follow God's leading, he sold many of his belongings, including his guitar. He had sold it to Neville. And now God was giving Scott back his guitar, seven years later!!! We were amazed at what had just happened. You see, God does care about the little things too. They matter to Him.
Something I'd like to mention is that God expects trust and obedience from us. While we were visiting in the States, we wanted to share what The Lord was doing in Bolivia, but many times we just had enough gas money to drive to our next speaking appointment but not enough to get back home. We decided that if God gave us enough money to drive there, then He could give us enough money to get back home. So that's what we did! And each time we trusted God and just went on faith to share what He was doing; He blessed us with enough money to travel, along with kind family and friends that let us stay with them.
They fed us and took care of us and when it was time to drive back to Tennessee, God provided enough money not only to make it back, but also to get a few things we needed. Scott needed a computer, and had just enough to buy a used one that runs really well. Unfortunately just a couple days before flying out to Bolivia, we discovered that the computer didn't recognize the new battery that we had bought for it. So for now, we have to keep our computer plugged in if we are using it. But we are just so happy and thankful that we have a computer!
Many of you know we had lost our firstborn son, Michael. As hard as this blow was and is still to this day, God is healing our hearts in a mighty way. I know now, that you never get over it, as in our hearts never stop hurting. It's just that time helps us cope better. It's like living with an amputation. A part of you is gone and you are never the same. We'll miss him until we see him again. We long for heaven all the more. Many try to put themselves in our shoes and sympathize with us. We can only say that we are thankful for their love and support. However, unless, they themselves have been in the same situation, they cannot know or understand what it feels like to lose a child. It is heartbreaking, to tell you the truth. The only hope that gives us encouragement to hang on is the hope that we have in Jesus' soon return. And so we continue to pour out our lives and our love on the children at this school. Scott and I praise The Lord for the privilege He has given us to be used to show His love and character to them. Without this knowledge, how can they learn to love a God they don't know?
Being volunteers has not been easy. There are many setbacks and challenges we face, including opposition from people who feel that we are wasting our lives, for a cause that is not worthy. I've had one person say to me, "Why don't you just come back to the States where you can make good money and have a comfortable life? You will not have to worry about getting sick! Scott and you can do very well over here (States), if you decide to come back permanently." Although Scott and I have had the hardest year last year, we know without a doubt that we are where God wants us to be. Just because one has difficulties and trials doesn't mean they should quit and give up what they're doing. On the contrary, the trials and difficulties of this life, are only confirmation from God that He is with us and that He is allowing us to "pass through the fires" that will purify our characters. It is because God is with us, that we have trials. But even so, it is encouraging to know that God will not give us trials above which we can bear, but will always give us a way out, so that we may be able to bear them. Isn't God good? He promises strength for the day, rest and comfort when we put our trust in Him. He has never failed us.
Just as it is for sure there is a God, there is also a devil who seeks to destroy us. Let us not forget that each day we are facing the battle for our souls. Whose side will we be on?
Just a thought: I am listening to "The Desire of Ages" on audio which helps me understand better what Jesus faced on this earth. Thinking of Jesus as our only example, what kind of life did He have? What kind of things did he have to call his own? Did he have a home? What was his mission during his time on earth? And last but not least, What did Jesus give up so that we could be saved? Jesus gave up EVERYTHING. The prince of heaven, left His Father's side. He left the glory and splendor of heaven, to come down to this sin sick world to become one of us, so that we could be saved.
When I think about Jesus' life, I can't even begin to imagine how much he had to give up to come to this earth and ultimately die at the hands of people that rejected him then and reject him now. If Jesus did all that for you and me, nothing is too great to sacrifice for Him. Even if we give all to Jesus and sacrifice our lives, it will never never never match up to what He did for us.
It's not been easy. However, Scott and I believe with all our hearts that Jesus is coming very soon. It is our life goal to do our part in saving lives for all of eternity. Might Jesus be calling you to make a similar sacrifice? Do not hesitate! God will make it well worth it in the end.
It's still raining. The puppy has now stuck her head under my chin…sighing occasionally.
Before school starts, I'm giving piano lessons to 3 kids and teaching 2 other kids the recorder. I'm also composing some music and teaching myself how to draw. It's been fun! I'm taking advantage of the down time I have before the school year starts and the knocks on our door never cease… :) Also, I'm re-learning how to play the trumpet. I used to play trumpet in band while I was in high school. Scott got a used trumpet for me while we were in the States and had it fixed up…so now I am happily playing my horn whenever I get a chance. Scott is learning how to play the recorder and he likes it.
Well, that´s all for now. We have many stories but will write some of them in the next update. We don't have fast enough internet signal at the school but we try to go to town to send updates, whenever we can. We pray for all our friends and family at home that God will keep you and that we will see each other in heaven, if not sooner. We love you!
Min and Scott