Thursday, March 03, 2011

A Sunday of Thanksgiving!!!

Last Sunday was so full of Thanksgiving!

We are thankful that Emilio is doing so much better and that was removed is not cancer. He will be returning with his family to Santa Cruz today, Lord willing.

We are thankful for Marco and Stephany are engaged and were in Cochabamba for premartial counseling. We are also thankful for his desire to go to preaching school and serve the Lord in that way.

We are thankful that Ana's husband is back from having chemo out of the country and is doing very well!

We are thankful that we had a time of fellowship during the potluck!

We are thankful for the e-mail from Jenny Reyes that she will be back in Sucre serving the Lord again with her team there in April.

So many things to be thankful for!!

Most of all for our Lord Jesus Christ who binds us together in his blood and teaches us true love through our relationships.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Family Newsletter February 2011


In his 1937 movie titled, Waikiki Wedding, Bing Crosby sings a lullaby to a lovely young girl swaying in a hammock who just happens to be named Leilani. The title of the song is “Sweet Leilani”. The name Leilani is a Hawaiian name which means “heavenly flower”. As most of you know by now our own sweet heavenly flower came into this world on January 20th weighing 2.96 kilos.

Leilani Berea Forbess joins her sister Jubilee and brother Malakai who both have shown to be very supportive of mommy and daddy with baby # 3. In fact they often yell at the top of their lungs, “the baby is crying!” just in case we don´t hear her. In general, Leilani is indeed a sweetie and she has even let her mommy and daddy get an occasional two or three hours of sleep in a row .

In all seriousness, we do want to praise our Heavenly Father for this heavenly flower and also because the pregnancy and delivery went so smoothly. At the beginning of the pregnancy we were a little concerned about doctors and we in fact changed doctors when Katie was about 7 months pregnant. It turned out to be a great choice and the Lord led us to a very competent and God-fearing doctor. When we handed her our 2 page birth plan she didn´t blink an eye and she diligently followed all of Katie´s wishes. We invite you to join with us in thanksgiving for the amazing blessing that God has sent our way.


The year of 2010 was quite a significant one in regards to the Lord´s body here in Cochabamba. During 2010 we said goodbye to two of the missionary families who came as part of our original 5 family team. We are thankful for the time and sacrifice given by both the Bulls and the Marcums. We ask you to continue praying for both families during this time of transition. The Bulls have relocated to the Dallas area where they will be working, raising kids and Gary will be pursuing his MBA. Josh and Julie took a job offer to go to work in Ecuador with Josh´s father. Currently Julie is with the girls at her parent´s house in Michigan and Josh is traveling as he works on fundraising and coursework at ACU. Please also continue to remember Julie in prayer as she awaits the birth of their fourth child in April. In other team news, Butch and Trish are doing well. They were blessed with a special visit by their daughter Elina (Denise), son-in-law Daniel and his two parents during the month of January. This was a very encouraging time for the Sandoval´s and we are so thankful they got to have time with their family. We too were blessed by the visit of Linda, Katie´s mother. Linda has been able to witness the birth of all three of our children and be there to help with everything from organizing, to cooking, to spoiling babies and we are so grateful for her.


The year of 2010 also saw some amazing generosity on the part of so many of you our supporters. One such supporter is a dear sister in Christ who donated money to help with our permanent building, student loan payments and two different ministry ideas.

One of those ministries is the purchase of solar cookers for families in need from the congregation and the community. Since October the recipients of these cookers have met once a month for prayer, Bible study and fellowship. We have also had one demonstration of how to use the cookers and will have one more demonstration in March.

The benefits of the solar cookers are two fold. On an individual basis they are easy on the pocketbook because they do not consume any electricity or gas. They only require sunlight for operation. This means the families will save on monthly expenses by not having to buy gas tanks as often for the operation of their stoves.

In a more global sense, the cookers also conserve electricity and gas usage. Each family has until April to save up their half of the cost. As a result of our sister´s contribution, the church is going to supply the other half of the cost of the cookers. If this turns out well, we are very interested in repeating the same idea perhaps in a different neighborhood or in a more rural setting where the impact could be even greater.

The idea of this project was to serve families in need in a physical way that goes beyond a one time bailout and offers a small step towards breaking the cycle of poverty. We also wanted to combine the serving of physical needs with that of serving the spiritual needs of recipients as well. Throughout the project we have kept a strong focus on prayer and study of God´s word.

We solicit your prayers that hearts would be touched through this project and that God would use this ministry in a powerful way.


Well, we couldn´t get Ty and his team to come down to Bolivia for a makeover of the contact center but we are doing our very best to give the contact center a new look. Thanks go to the same generous sister for her contribution, to Katie for her vision of revamping the CC, and also to Butch who has spent countless hours designing and constructing custom made furniture. There are also many others who have helped out with this project. The church members came together the day before Leilani was born to do the bulk of the painting led by Javier, an experienced painter. Gabi, Ronaldo, Wendy and Gonzalo have also pitched in at other times to help.

The idea of the makeover was actually borrowed from fellow missionaries serving in Sucre. In Sucre they have established a wonderful coffee shop type ministry which mainly focuses on college age students. We wanted to take this idea and adopt it to our circumstances making the contact center more open and inviting to both the brethren and people who may stop in off the street.

So far we have gotten a lot done. We have painted the entire downstairs area. The worn out furniture in the front area has been removed and new furniture will soon be purchased. Butch´s corner office has been removed to open up a sitting area in front of the existing coffee bar. Josh´s old office is being converted to a cozy place to read and study. In addition, the old library will be converted to a room which will house a small kitchenette area, sitting area and two small tables for sipping coffee.

On a personal note, I would just like to say thanks to Butch and all the others of the church family who have done so much work. I was not able to be there as much as I should have been due to the arrival of Leilani, but everyone truly came together as a body and the end product is going to be fantastic! Please join with us in prayer that this renovation would play an important part in bringing even more people to know the love of Christ.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Leilani Berea Forbess

Born 1/20/2011, 2.960 kilos (about 6.5 pounds)
Cochabamba, Bolivia
Proud sister and brother

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer 2010 Updates


Family News

First of all as always we wish to send you are greetings and love. We are thankful that you are taking the time to read about our family and the work of the Kingdom here in Bolivia. We have heard that this summer has been a real scorcher and we hope that despite the heat you have been able to take advantage of children´s vacation time and get in some quality time with the whole family. I know that both sides of our family have certainly taken advantage of the summer to get together and travel. Katie´s side of the family annually celebrates a family reunion in Hot Springs Village over the 4th of July holiday gathering relatives from all over Arkansas and Texas. The “Rogers cousins” on my side also spend their time in Chillicothe visiting Grammi and Pops and also attending Green Valley Bible camp. One truly great highlight of the summer is that our nephew Ashton was moved to dedicate his life to Christ and be baptized while at Bible camp. We invite you to rejoice with our whole family and with the angels in Heaven for the future of Ashton in the Lord´s Kingdom!!

Here in Cochabamba we have also been blessed. First Linda, Katie´s mother was able to come and visit us in the first week of June. We had a great time and in particular the grandbabies!! We always have appreciated that both sets of parents have made an effort to come and visit us despite the long trip. We also received another special visitor, Lora Beth Escalante who along with her husband Javier have been our close friends since our college days at Harding. Lora Beth took advantage of her summer break to make her first visit to Cochabamba and we are thankful to both her and Javier for making her visit possible. Join us in thanking God for Linda and Lora Beth´s visit.

Both visits were especially timely because right before I traveled to Dallas at the end of May to attend the Cochabamba Connection Conference Katie and I found out that we are to be parents for a third time. Yes, you read correctly, we are expecting our third child towards the end of January! So Linda´s visit occurred right about when morning sickness and all the delightful sensations of the first trimester begin to kick in. It was a blessing to have Linda with us to help with the kids and to be there for Katie when she was not feeling up to par. Lora Beth´s visit came later but Katie was still not feeling too hot and we were encouraged by her visit as well, reminiscing about old times and enjoying introducing a dear friend to our Bolivian life that she has heard so much about. Katie by the way, is now feeling much better and just has to pace herself and not try to pack too much into one day. If she does that she is usually in pretty good shape. We do ask your prayers though for her and the baby´s health, that they would both come through the pregnancy and delivery safe and sound.

In other news, Jubilee and Malakai are also doing well. Jubilee has moved from her previous Kindergarten to a full fledged “colegio”. At first she was worried about being one of the youngest children after having enjoyed her time as the oldest at Rise n´ Shine but now she and her friend Aiden from church are truly looking forward to each day of school. The school that we finally choose for her is a Montessori school within walking distance of our house that offers mainly instruction in Spanish. Katie and I are literally thrilled with the education Jubilee is receiving and all those worries of finding a good school on the mission field have evaporated. In truth, it would be much more difficult for us to afford such an option for Jubilee in the US given that Montessori is quite often very expensive so we are very excited about this school option for Jubilee and Malakai in the future.

One of the latest things that our creative Jubilee has come up with is her idea for a feast club. It was her idea to begin a club for herself and friends to get together and learn more about God. It is turning out to be a ministry opportunity that Katie and I are exploring for the intermediate aged children of the church and we give thanks for Jubilee´s ideas and solicit your prayers that this could truly turn out to be a ministry that helps our young ones to grow closer to each other as well as to God. We also of course ask for your continued prayers for Jubilee, she is showing us each day just how much God has gifted her with a sensitive and probing spirit, we just want to make sure that we are good stewards of her precious heart and mind.

Malakai continues to go to Rise N´ Shine and wakes up each morning asking to go to Miss ´Nita´s house (the school is run by Miss Anita). In fact almost every place we go to is described by Mali as the house of someone or something. For example, he calls the movie theater Pipoca´s House (pipoca means popcorn). Each day he shows more and more that he is 100% boy he loves to kick, throw, run and hit. We just have to remind him often that these things are to be done with inanimate objects as opposed to his sister for example. The majority of the time though, he and Jubilee get along famously and we are so thankful for the love and friendship they share. Malakai has had a few bouts of his annual respiratory problems that accompany the cooler drier weather and he battled bronchitis at least three times in a row. However, he is on preventative medicine recently and it seems to be doing the trick. Please also keep Malakai in your prayers, in particular that his health would continue to improve and that the reoccurring bronchitis would stay far away.

As far as myself, I am very grateful to announce that I have finally finished my master´s program in applied linguistics through the University of Massachusetts in Boston. I am so grateful to Katie, my children and my teammates for being such patient supporters of this process. Although it was a program from a secular university I do feel God spoke to me and allowed me to grow through all I learned and it is my prayer that the new skills and knowledge that I have been given can be used to glorify God. As I look forward I now feel so excited about the additional time I will now have to dedicate to my family and to the brethren here in Cochabamba. Please keep me in your prayers so that I would know how to best use my newfound time so that I may be a good steward of the resources that the Lord has blessed me with. For those of you who know me well, you know that since I was very young I have struggled to be organized. Upon finishing my studies I felt inspired to go online and order several new books about home and office organization as well as time management for the “creative” person. It turns out that I forgot to tell Lora Beth the titles of the books I had sent to her house for her to bring down and she a very creative person herself begin to think someone was trying to send her a subtle message to get organized. We had a good laugh about that one!


As usual it is overwhelming for me to think of where to start in order to update you adequately on the church work. Many activities and changes are happening within the church and team. One change that will affect all of us is that Gary and Laura will be leaving us at the end of October. We thank God for their time with us on the field and for the lasting legacy they will leave behind. We observed with the Custers how even during their short time that they had a lasting effect on the work and we know the same will be true to an even greater extent with Gary and Laura. We ask you to keep the Bull family in your prayers as they will soon be embarking on a new stage of transition in their life. We know that wherever they end up they will be a blessing to the local congregation and wish them all the best in the future.

In other news, along with our personal visitors, the team has also been blessed by several visitors taking advantage of the US summer vacation schedule. We have been so grateful to have Lisette Prato with us from Harding as our summer intern. Katie and I first knew Lisette when she was a little older than Jubilee is now, when we met her in San Cristobal, Venezuela where her parents Gustavo and Cheryl worked as missionaries during the time Katie, Lora Beth and I were there for a summer campaign. It was exciting to see how the Lord has worked in Lisette´s life and we were so encouraged to see her love for Bolivia grow greater and greater during her time in Cochabamba. Please pray for Lisette and her future as a servant of the Lord´s church that she would continue down this present road of service.

Another set of visitors that we have received are Dave and Liz Chalenburg from Searcy, Arkansas with their two children Aiden and Holden. Aiden is just about the age of Jubilee and Holden is about the same age as Holdren. The Chalenburg´s have come with the primary goal of learning/perfecting Spanish and they are open to the possibility of going through the formal process to be considered as candidates to form part of the Cochabamba team. We are grateful for their timely arrival especially in light of the fact that just about when Micaela had left for furlough, Jubilee had another friend, (Aiden) come into her life. We have enjoyed getting to know the Chalenburgs and we ask your prayers that they would be successful in their goal to learn and improve their language abilities as well as wisdom for them in their decision making process concerning staying in Cochabamba for a more long term basis.

Along with Dave and Liz, Dave´s cousin Brittany also came originally to help with Aiden and Holden while Dave and Liz attend language school. Fortunately, Brittany came with a disposition to serve the body and was able to work closely with Lisette in ministering to our young people. Brittany and Lisette helped to organize many activities for our young people to help them grow closer as a group and grow closer to the Lord as well. Brittany also took advantage of her time to volunteer at a local children´s home. Both Brittany and Lisette are already planning their return next summer. We invite you to join with us in thanksgiving for these two young ladies dedicated to witnessing for the Lord through their acts of service and ask for the Lord to bless them with a continued passion for being a part of the plan to seek and save the lost.

We are also blessed by the visit of the youth group of the Westside church of Christ in Round Rock, Texas accompanied by four adult chaperones of the same congregation. It is truly amazing how God´s timing is infinitely better than ours. This great group of young Christians arrived one week after the church remembered with heavy hearts the one year anniversary of the teen bus accident in which we lost three young ladies. While it was an important time of remembrance it left some of our teens feeling deep sadness once again. We were all moved by the special way that their peers from the US were able to bridge language and cultural barriers to show them love and support during daily service projects and devotionals. We heard repeatedly from both groups of teenagers how important the week of fellowship was for their spiritual growth. Gary Bull and their youth minister Geoff along with Bruno Guardia were integral to the success of this visit and we are thankful for their service. We ask you to praise God alongside with us for the teenagers from Westside and their service and ask you to pray for the continued healing process of the Cochabamba youth group and their families.

When scripture states that the Lord will fill our cup to overflowing, it was definitely speaking the truth. As if all of the aforementioned visitors were not enough, we were also blessed by the visit of Bill and Holly Richardson and their daughter Lindsay. Bill was one of our missions professors from Harding and in fact was the one who first put us in contact with Austin Avenue when they began tossing around the idea of forming and sending a team somewhere on the mission field. The Richardson´s also worshiped with us at the Casita Blanca congregation during our years at Harding. Bill gave a conference on the nature and purpose of the church and Holly and Lindsay helped out during their short time with various ministry activities designed for the ladies and young ladies. It was great to have someone who had a part in the initial team formation to see what the Lord has done in the last five years. We ask you to thank God with us for the encouragement and spiritual growth facilitated by the Richardsons and their visit to Cochabamba.

Bolivian Brethren

As always we want you to keep our Bolivian brethren in your prayers. Although it may be hard not to just think of these people as unfamiliar names and faces we invite you to get to know these people as your brothers and sisters. We appreciate you greatly all those who fervently have prayed for the Bolivian Christians.

Commemoration of the Accident:

In general news, the largest events have been commemorating the accident on July 30th and the continued campaign to raise funds for a permanent meeting place. Concerning the anniversary of the accident we held a special graveside memorial as is the Bolivian custom for each of the three girls, Ariana, Diana, and Belen. Ariana´s extended family met with us at the cemetery and we participated with the family as people shared special memories of Ariana and then released white balloons to the wind in her memory. We then moved on to where Diana and Belen were buried and the brothers of the church shared in scripture reading, prayer and song with the aim of focusing the church´s attention on the hope we have in Christ, on our unity as a church body, and on our gratefulness for the survivors of the accident. It was understandably and emotional time and something we as N. Americans were not very accustomed to doing with so much time having passed, but we wanted to honor Bolivian tradition and it did result in a time of encouragement and healing for the brethren. We plead with you that you would continue praying for the long term healing of our teenagers, their families, and others affected by this event. We give thanks however at the same time for the growth, maturity and unification brought about in part by the accident.

At the same time we sadly inform you that Diana and Belen´s family has distanced themselves considerably from the church. We understand their hurt and longingly wish to comfort them. Please pray that the Lord would continue to minister to the Vargas family as they endeavor to navigate their grief on their own. We do rejoice however for Ariana who surely is smiling down upon her family. One of her wishes expressed to her mother was that her family would become more united. Since the accident, Ariana´s family has struggled with their loss but they have also begun turning towards the Lord. Wendy (Ariana´s mother) married Gonzalo in March and Gonzalo is seriously considering putting Christ on in baptism. Wendy´s parents, Walter and Betty made the decision to become followers of Christ and Ariana´s aunt and uncle, Silvia and Pablo are also studying the Bible weekly with the missionaries as a result of their desire to become Christians and marry each other after many years of living together. We ask that you would thank God for what has happened in Ariana´s family and that the Lord would continue to work in their life to bring them closer and closer to Him.

Building Fundraising Campaign

One very demanding project that was put on hold due to the accident was the fundraising campaign for a permanent meeting place for the congregation. Since the time of the accident we have began again in earnest to encourage both the local brethren and the brethren abroad about the need to secure a permanent meeting location. As you may have read earlier, the Bolivian brethren have worked tirelessly holding garage sells, selling handmade crafts, selling snacks and contributing their own funds to raise money. Originally, their goal was to raise $10.000 USD to go towards the cost of a building. So far as a result of their efforts they have raised close to $6,000 USD and have plans to continue even past the original date set for reaching this goal. We praise God for the efforts of the Bolivian brethren and ask you to rejoice with us for their continued interest in this important endeavor.

We have also been blessed by the interest of brethren abroad in the US. In May, their eight members of the team who met with supporters in Dallas, Texas to discuss the need for a permanent building and to encourage supporters to return to their home congregations and spread the word about efforts to purchase a meeting place. Austin Avenue made the travel and conference possible and we are very thankful for their help. It was great to meet the “other” supporters of the three other families on the field and for them to meet each other. I was able to meet brethren from Michigan, Arkansas, Texas, and Ohio and these people were able to meet some of our supporters as well (Katie´s parents and my parents attended the conference).

Following the conference we were blessed by the gift of a dear sister in Christ from Chillicothe who donated 15,000 USD and the brethren from Hamilton, Mo also gave 1,000 USD. In addition, Austin Avenue had a special contribution in July and raised 35,000 in addition to around over 100,000 they had already set aside for a future building. We ask you to consider if you or your congregation can help us with a special contribution if you have not already done so. Please contact us if you would like more information about the building fundraising campaign. We also plead with you to lift this need up to our Father in prayer, that He bless us as leaders with wisdom and that He would continue to work through generous hearts of the body worldwide. We also praise God for what He has already done through you our brothers and sisters.

Community Outreach:

Along with the funds given from our sister in Christ for the building we were also blessed in three other ways I would like to share. One of those ways is not directly related to community outreach but was certainly an answer to prayers. After finishing graduate school and upon deciding to stay on the field for two additional years, I was not sure how we would swing my student loan payments from Harding and additional ones from UMass. I shared this need with our supporter and she agreed to give a certain portion of funds that would allow us to stay current on my student loans throughout our remaining time in Bolivia. As if this were not wonderful in and of itself, two of our family members stepped up and expressed their desire to help us further with this need. We decided to pay a large amount on the loan with the highest interest rate and our family members volunteered to continue paying on the loan above and beyond the lump sum we gave so that we could pay off that higher interest loan in a much shorter amount of time which turns out saving us a great deal of money. Praise God for how He has worked through the generosity of three loving and generous people to allow us one less worry while we remain on the mission field!

Two other projects which the gift of our sister in Christ will be applied to are to a Coffee shop ministry and to a community outreach targeting the poor which assists them in the purchase of solar ovens. The idea of the Coffee shop ministry is to borrow the idea of the team in Sucre, Bolivia who set up a Coffee shop called “El Camino” to target university students and young people in general. While our ministry will differ in some ways, the main idea will remain the same. The focus of such a ministry is to give people, young people in particular a place to gather that is a safe and healthy environment while at the same time offering them resources and studies to assist them in their spiritual growth. It is seen as a simultaneous to both community members and church members. This was originally my fabulous wife´s idea and we are so excited about the possibilities this ministry offers. Please pray the Lord´s hand will guide us in our plans for this ministry and that it may turn into a great way to minister to those seeking the Lord.

Another exciting ministry opportunity that is formalizing more and more each day is the idea to use solar ovens to reach out to the poor in an effort to address both physical and spiritual needs. Our previous neighbors, David and Ruth head up a non profit organization that specializes in the construction and delivery of solar powered cookers and fuel efficient wood burning stoves. The benefits of both are varied. Both cooking systems are good for the environment, the family´s health, and for the pocketbook. By using solar powered cookers the recipients no longer have to constantly be using their meager savings to purchase “garafas”, gas tanks for their stoves and the pollution of the community and home is reduce 100%. After visiting Dave and Ruth´s workshop with Katie and her mother we learned that so many of the respiratory problems experience by the poor in Bolivia´s countryside and marginal city neighborhoods are caused when the lady of the house spends the majority of her day over a old fashioned wood stove with her baby on her back. Both mother and baby frequently develop serious breathing conditions such as bronchitis, chronic cough or even pneumonia as a result of the smoke inhalation not to mention the damage such smoke does to the already fragile Bolivian ecosystem.

After visiting with Dave and Ruth I was excited to receive some funds to help families purchase these stoves. The idea is to select a community or neighborhood within we will work and publicize our desire with the help of community leaders. We will inform families of our timeline and give them a certain time frame within which they will be asked to save up for 50% of the cost of solar cooker which is equivalent to $36.00 USD. Then the church will return to the community with Dave and Ruth. David and Ruth have volunteered to cook a meal for the community to demonstrate to them how to use the cookers. While the food is cooking during approximately 3 hours the church has a captive audience during which time we can organize an evangelistic activity to share with community members the good news. We are extremely excited about this opportunity as well. Please join with us in prayer that we would have wisdom concerning this outreach and that it would truly serve to assist us in our efforts to reach the lost.


Prayers of Thanksgiving:
 Our nephew, Ashton Leehans, recently baptized.
 Our personal visitors, Linda Labowski and Lora Beth Escalante.
 Visitors to the work, Lisette Prato, Brittany Smith, Dave & Liz Chalenburg, Bill, Holly and Lindsay Richardson; and the Westside youth group of Round Rock, Texas.
 A new addition to the Forbess family.
 Jubilee´s new school and new friends.
 Malakai´s good health.
 Completion of graduate studies.
 Continued healing after the bus accident.
 For the family of Ariana who continues to grow closer to the Lord.
 Generosity of Bolivian and US brethren for the building fund, Coffee shop ministry, solar cooker ministry, and assistance with student loans.
 God´s goodness, mercy, grace, and love!!!  Praise His name.


 Good health for Katie, new baby and Malakai regarding his breathing problems.
 For our wisdom as parents of two (soon to be three) wonderful children.
 For Jubilee in her new school.
 For our team and church family during times of transition and for the Bull family as well in their new stage of life returning to the US.
 For me that I would be able to be a good steward of God´s time and resources.
 For all the people that have visited and served during their summertime, that they would continue serving always.
 For the Chalenburgs in language study and for wisdom regarding future plans.
 For continued healing and restoration of the accident victims.
 For those close to coming to Christ: Gonzalo, Pablo, Silvia, Ana Maria, Jacky, Ana
 For the Vargas family (family of Diana and Belen) that the Lord would heal their hurts and bring them closer to Him
 For the building campaign, that He would lead us to just the right place and that we would glorify God always through our use of the funds and the future building.
 For future ministries:
o The Feast Club – a ministry for intermediate aged children (5 -10 years old)
o The Coffee Shop – a ministry for young people
o Solar Cookers – A part of the benevolence ministry focused on reaching the poor with the gospel.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Just wanted to do a little update.

Jeff is in the states for the Connection Conference (thank you to everyone for supporting us over the last 5 years!) He also finished his classes and took his comps examen on the 22 of May, meaning that he is done!!! He did a fabulous job and I am very proud of him.

Jubilee and Malakai are doing well. Malakai has been sick with asthma but it is under control and we are thankful! Jubilee is growing and has become quite a wonderful sister and daughter :)

The Chalenburg's are here in Cochabamba for a year and we are enjoying their company. The Marcum's are on furlough until August. My mom is returning, Lord willing, with Jeff to visit us! The Sandoval's will be back on the 20th of June. Lora Beth is coming to visit on the 28th of June. There are others traveling to and fro but those are the main ones that come to mind.

The church here is doing great! There are lives changing and the Spirit is moving. Please continue to pray for the baby Christians and the ones that are on the verge of giving their lives to Christ.

God is good, all the time! All the time, God is good! God bless!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Laying Foundations

Buenos dias to all of you. A little birdie reminded me that it had been a while since our last blog update, so I am sending out a recent newsletter article that I wrote about the church and raising funds for a building.

As we enter the month of May the church body here in Cochabamba finds itself busy with many important activities and events. Many of those activities lately have been centered on raising funds for the permanent building the congregation one day would like to purchase.

To begin with however, it is important to have an understanding of why a permanent location is so important to the work here in Cochabamba. In a predominantly Catholic society such as Bolivia a great importance is placed upon the physical meeting place of a church. It is not that we wish to emulate all the practices and beliefs of the Catholic Church, although for many Cochabambinos a permanent meeting facility goes a long way to convey a message of presence and long-term commitment. More importantly than the message implied throughout the community though, is the significance a permanent meeting facility has in the lives of the individuals who make up the local church body here in Cochabamba. A building for the Cochabambino Christians will mean that they will have a place to continue to grow both numerically and spiritually, a place where they can reach out to the community and a place where they can meet together often to encourage and teach other in the Word. In fact, a small group of Christians including the Vargas family and Wendy who are both present members of the current congregation used to meet in Cochabamba before the mission team arrived. Unfortunately, many of the members of this small group moved away and with them was taken the ability to continue paying for a rental facility. The small group that remained continued to meet in homes but found it in increasingly difficult to grow and reach out to the community in such circumstances.
We have seen an encouraging example of how a permanent meeting facility can affect the growth of the church in the city of Santa Cruz. This is a city that continues to enjoy growth and multiplication of local congregations. One of the important factors in this growth is the fact that several of the congregations have been able to purchase meeting facilities either on their own or with the help of brethren in the United States. The Tres Pasos congregation for example, has a permanent facility and they have been able to grow and mature to the point where they now have deacons and elders and do indeed have a presence in the city of Santa Cruz. Other congregations such as El Pari, which also owns its’ own facility in Santa Cruz, also shows the same potential to grow and enjoy an image of permanence in the community. In a country where non-Catholic churches are often regarded as temporary imported store fronts, the concept of establishing permanence is of vital importance. The people of Cochabamba have seen many churches started by foreign missionaries but those churches that have had a truly lasting impact in the city have distinguished themselves by offering the same permanence that the people find in the Catholic Church.

The church members of the Iglesia de Cristo are well aware of the importance of a meeting facility and they have shown great effort and enthusiasm in regards to doing all they can to contribute to the goal of purchasing a permanent facility. It is important first of all to take into account the fact that average salaries in Bolivia hover between one to three hundred dollars a month. Many people in fact, make due on much less including some of our members. We have been humbled by the generosity of the giving that we have seen as part of our fund raising campaign which asks members to give above what they are already contributing weekly. We also continue to teach on concepts of sacrificial giving as opposed to the idea of giving “limosnas” which is akin to reaching in the pocket and pulling out some loose change. The members are becoming increasingly aware then of just what it means to give faithfully.

Many members have also chosen to participate in fundraising activities. These activities are especially important opportunities for those who are barely scraping by to be able give of their time and energy even in cases when they cannot give much in the way of money. One of the small groups for example collected donated items to organize a garage sell at the contact center. The sell was a great success in that almost all members contributed items to be sold, the small group worked tirelessly all day to sell the items, and at the end of the day over 1, 700 bolivianos were raised to go towards the building fund. Another activity that was organized by members of another small group was to take advantage of the Easter crowds around Plaza Colon near the Contact Center. This small group made api, pastelitos, queque, gelatin and other snacks to sell. Api is a hot drink made from corn meal and other spices, (it tastes much better than it may sound), pastelitos are something like a sopapilla with cheese inside and powdered sugar outside, and queque is cake. My job was to yell out at those who passed by, “Api! Pastelitos! Buñuelos!” since I guess I wasn’t cutting it very well as a waiter. The sell of api generated a little over 600 Bs. In addition to these two events, the ladies of the church often times make cake to sell after church service and their proceeds also go to the building. Another activity the church has taken up to raise money is what is called a “caneston”, (big huge basket). Each month we fill a basket with groceries contributed by members and then raffles are sold. The winning raffle takes home a nice supply of groceries and the church is able to raise some money in the process. Just this morning a woman who has been visiting the church for some time donated pearl two pearl necklaces to be auctioned off during the monthly potluck. Altogether, the church has so far raised approximately $2,000.00 USD which is something to be very proud of in a country where this amount may very well represent the annual income of many people including some of the church members.

We as missionaries are continually humbled by the dedication of the local church members here. We continue to stress sacrificial giving and yet they in truth challenge us to “practice what we preach” by their examples of giving. We are so thankful to the Bolivian brethren and for their tireless efforts and service. On their behalf we as missionaries wish to thank God first and foremost because we know that He is working in the hearts of many to convict many of you to give joyously and generously when the time comes. We would also like to thank all of you our brothers and sisters in Christ who have shared in this work for the past five years and who will continue to do so in the coming years and upcoming milestones of the Lord’s body here in Cochabamba. We love you guys.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Back in Bolivia

After two months of cold wintery weather trailing us all the way almost to Miami, Florida we were greeted by beautiful Bolivian weather. The sun was shining, the air was warm but not humid, the breeze was blowing and the trees and plants looked as though it had rained each day that we had been gone. We so much loved our time in the United States with all of our loved ones, friends, family and supporters, but we as a family were surely ready to get back home. We arrived last Wednesday so we have been here for about a week and a half now. The kids are doing wonderful and even getting themselves back on a normal sleeping and eating schedule thanks mainly to Katie's hard work and we too are stepping back into life here in Bolivia. We even took the plunge and are having business cards made after having lived here for four years! Upon returning that was something we had always seemed to put off that we just decided needed to get done immediately upon getting back to Bolivia.

As a matter of fact at this very moment Katie, Jubilee, and Malakai just walked in the door with their new carnets which are Bolivian ID cards. They had tried to pick them up before leaving for the states in December but they were not ready. We are thankful to God that He is constantly at work in our lives even in regards to our paper work! Also, right now Katie and the kids just went up to see Roland Bowen of Brownwood who arrived today and will be here for about a week. We are also very thankful for Roland's time with us here in Bolivia.

I have been busy since we arrived getting things set up for my last semester of my MA program which entails a student teaching experience, a comprehensive test and two major projects due by May. Please pray for my sanity and that of Katie :) On a more serious note, I do ask for your prayers that I would be able to balance ministry, family and school in a way that glorifies God.

I also ask special prayers for my Grandmother Leyda who has lost three siblings during the past year and I know that it has been extremely hard for her. The third sister to pass away passed just this week and I know that Grandmother is sad and rejoicing at the same time. I wish I could be there but I am so thankful for my wonderful sisters Darla and Mandi who are there with their great husbands and beautiful children. Along those lines I have a major prayer of thanksgiving regarding my little sister Mel who just got notice that she will be offered a transfer to Rogers, AR and she and her husband Chris will now be in the same town as my other sisters and their families very soon. This is great news and we are happy for Mel in both her professional achievements and for her personal growth as well.

Concerning the work here in Bolivia, as usual there is much to tell and not enough time or space. Let me begin with painting you a picture of our first Sunday back in Cochabamba. As people trickled in during the service the meeting room became fuller and fuller. At the beginning of service we had already greeted several people we had not seen but by the end of service there were many many more people who had arrived. I was asked to lead singing on Sunday so I was able to express how happy we were to be back and share communion with our brothers and sisters in Bolivia. As my eyes scanned to crowd, I noticed the faces of three individuals who have been attending worship service and other activities for quite some time now. Betty and Walter who are parents of Wendy and grandparents of Arianna who was one of the young ladies we lost in the accident were in the audience that day. The difference was that on this day Betty and Walter had now been baptized into a new life with Jesus and words cannot express how happy my heart was at that moment to see how God is transforming lives in this city. I know that Arianna would have been so happy for her grandparents!

Additionally, my eyes fell upon another new sister whose name is Giovanna. Jovi as we call her for short has also been worshiping with us for quite a while now but had also made the decision to begin a new life in Christ while Katie and I were gone. Jovi is a young woman whose office is now in our apartment building and therefore we have the blessing of getting to see her often. One of our favorite memories of Jovi is from one day when Katie was getting a little worried about the flower and mama bear costumes she was to come up with for the next day for Jubilee and Malakai's play at school, Jovi popped in and helped Katie create two wonderful costumes. Jovi is indeed a creative self starter and we know that the Lord has great plans for her new life of service and ministry. Please pray for Betty, Walter and Jovi in their new walk with Christ, that they may continue strong and come to know one day in fullness the spiritual riches they have been given.

That is all for right now. Not because that is all there is to say but because that is probably more than what you wanted to know :) In closing, we send our love and askk that God continue to bless you as well.

Jeff & Kt