Monday, August 11, 2008

New Sister and Political Situation Update

Good News First

As of Saturday evening the Lord's body in Cochabamba now has a new sister in Christ. Mary Jane after having regularly come to worship services and other activities for several months now, made the decision on Saturday night to become a new creature in Christ. We certainly are rejoicing with the angels in Heaven over her decision to repent and be clothed anew with Christ. For any of you planning a visit you will surely enjoy meeting Mary Jane and hearing her story. Please be in prayer for Mary Jane and her new life in Christ, that God may protect and strengthen her as Satan will undoubtedly attack her in new and creative ways to pull her away from God. I phrase the prayer request this way because I have observed the time following the decision to become a Christian is often if not always followed by strange and difficult trials in the life of the new Christian.

Other Good News

Josh, Julie, Michaela, Eliana, and Jana Marcum all made it safely to Cochabamba on Thursday after being on furlough from June to August. We are very grateful along with the Sandovals, Bulls, and other church members for their return. They are a very big part of the work here and their absence was definitely felt! We praise God that the Marcums were able to return safely and that their request for visas came through in a timely manner.

Chad and Lisa Benton along with their two boys Mark and Grady who are representing the Austin Avenue Church of Christ arrived today on the same flight with Gary , Laura, Nathan and Grant. We are thankful for the safe travel, the return of the Bulls, and for this special time we have to share with the Bentons. We thank God that He heard our prayers requesting safe and uneventful travel.

As a lead-in to the next topic, we are also thankful that the Bulls' and Bentons' arrival on Monday was not overshadowed by any political unrest. As some of you may know, Sunday was an historic day in Bolivia. August 10th was the day when all Bolivians of voting age would vote to approve or dissapprove of Evo Morales (president) and the nine prefectos (governors) who represent the nine departments of Bolivia. To sum up the day, below I have cut and paste an email I sent to both sets of parentals to let them know of how we are doing.

Sunday was an interesting day indeed. Before leaving the house to walk over to the church building I reminded Katie that it would be very possible that we and the Sandovals would be the only ones at church. As in most Latin American countries, votes are held on Sundays. Additionally, as in most Latin American countries voting is more than just a right, it is an obligation with stiff fines and possible jail fines facing those who choose not to vote. On the day before and the day of voting the sell of any alchohol is prohibited. On the day of voting from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM all unauthorized vehicles are prohibited from operating, which includes all forms of public transportation. For this reason, we were fully prepared to see our meeting place virtually empty. Some members and regular friends of the church did make the trip however. All in all we had around 30 people in attendance. Some people who came live in the neighborhood and some others donned tennis shoes and made quite a trip to meet with the saints on that day.

While it was certainly a different kind of worship service, it was actually very special. We half joked that at least we knew everyone there was there because they wanted to be, because the ban on transportation did not make it easy to come simply out of a sense of routine or obligation. There were many people out on the street walking past our meeting place, some on their way to vote and many others just out enjoying a day in downtown Cochabamba with no automobiles dominating both space and sound. Although on the surface it was seemingly quiet and tranquil, doubts and fears hovered in the thoughts of most people. Many people stopped and peeked in curious about the church that met even on voting day. Although we certainly hadn't planned it, it was perhaps a quiet testimony about who we are and how important it is for us to meet as a church body to worship our Creator, learn from His Word and edify each other through song and praise. On a day when none of us knew the outcomes of the election nor the ensuing aftermath, it was a particularly meaningful context in which to reflect upon our need to completely rely on God and each other in the midst of an underlying current of worry and fear bubbling in the world outside from which we had entered. Praise God for our safety, for His protection, and for days such as this that bring our purpose for meeting each Sunday sharply into focus.

Below is the portion I have cut and paste which details the outcome of the vote.

Hey guys. Everyone except for me is quietly sleeping in their beds. Well, Malakai is actually in our bed but you know what I mean. Anyway, I just thought I'd give a brief update on the political situation here. Sunday went well, it was very peaceful. We were done with services and home by 1:30 which is unheard of so we took the opportunity to have a little picnic in our bedroom and then rested during the afternoon. Later we went outside and Malakai and I went for a walk as there were no cars allowed on the streets. Katie and Jubilee blew bubbles with Gabriella and her son Gabriel on the front steps of our building as watched other neighbors pass back and forth on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Later on when Mally and I returned we played lobo lobito outside with Juju, Gabriel and Gabriella which is kind of like duck duck goose.

By Sunday evening the results were already pretty conclusive. Evo "won" with a 60% approval rating overall, although he lost the departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Chuquisaca (Sucre), and Tarija while maintaining strong approval in the departments of La Paz, Potosi, Oruro, Cochabamba and a much less stronger lead in Pando. Potosi led the nation with Evo's highest approval ratings at about 83%. As far as the prefectos (governors), all but three garnered enough votes to continue in office. Of the three prefectos to be ousted are the prefectos of La Paz, Oruro, and Cochabamba. The prefectos of La Paz and Cochabamba are pretty much anti-Evo and Oruro's prefecto was a member of the Evo-affliated MAS party so it was kind of an upset for the MAS prefecto to be voted out while Evo maintained strong approval. The MAS party cited this as an example that the vote was legitimate and not staged. La Paz's prefecto Paredes is accepting defeat somewhat gracefully while Cochabamba's Manfred Reyes Villa has vowed to fight the decision albeit through a proposal of legal appeal. Manfred did show up for work at government offices this morning at about 7:30 AM as showcased by local news. This will be the power play to watch which will be essentially between Evo and his backers and those of Manfred and his. So far though, there has been no sign of street violence. We continue to watch the situation and will keep you all posted. Love you guys! Please continue to pray for Evo Morales, Alvaro Garcia Linares (VP), Manfred Reyes Villa, the armed forces and their leaders, members and officials of the MAS party, members and officials of the various opposition groups and all citizens in general, that God our Father would grant each one of them clarity of thought and an ability to discern and put into practice what is best for Bolivia and not individual interests. It is a long prayer request but surely you understand. We thank you as always for standing by our family, our team, the church body and our adopted home in prayer. We are fully confident that God hears and answers the prayers you lift before Him on our behalf.

In Him,

La Familia Forbess

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Indepedence Day

Notice: The length of this blog will be determined by the sleeping habits of one Frankie Malakai and one Jubilee Song. Both are asleep at the same time. Hallelujah amen, hallelujah amen!

Today is the Bolivian Independence Day. At her school Jubilee will march in honor of the "patria" with all of her other classmates and as they march they will be singing loudly and boisterously the Bolivian national anthem as she has already demonstrated all day yesterday at home. At the lunch table she told me that she was Bolivianita, Malakai was Boliviano and so were mommy and daddy. To be honest I didn't know how to answer her or respond. You see, the invetable is happening with Jubilee and as a father I am finding myself a little unprepared and reluctant. She is forming her own identity and I recognize already that it will be an identity that is far different from my own. She is not growing up in Santa Fe or Denver as I did nor is she growing up in Dallas or Houston as her mommy. She and her brother are growing up in a place that on one level is home for me but at the same time will probably always maintain a certain level of the unknown for Katie and I.

Yesterday, I was watching a movie we have seen before called "Bend It Like Beckham" which is a story about a teenage girl who growing up in England but whose parents have immigrated there from India. The girl Jess (Jasmindey) is constantly torn between her parents' close-knit community of immigrants from India and the mainstream English society she is struggling to understand and become a part of. I had seen the movie before but this was the first time I watched the movie and identified with Jess's parents. Sitting in the middle class English living room, the father with a traditional headress and mother in traditional silk clothing trying desperately to understand their daughter's world I somehow saw Katie and I here in the kitchen of our apartment listening to Jubilee belt out a song we were never taught. Were we to ever learn the song it would mean something different for us anyway. For Jubilee and eventually for Malakai they will sing the song as Bolivians just as Katie and I would sing and hear the Star Spangled Bannerwith our hands proudly across our chests.

On one hand I am a little sad to realize that Jubilee and Malakai will undoubtedly form an identity vastly different from their parents. On the other hand isn't that part of the challenge of parenthood for any parents? Even for parents and children who grow up in the same town or same house, isn't the difference between a generation immense enough to stir up the same emotions as I feel raising my children in a foreign country?

In light of this particular instance my mind is drawn to a comforting and strenthening verse Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9 and verses 22 and 23, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. " I do not quote the verse in a martry-like self describing way yet I quote it to guide myself towards a more Christ-like approach that I recognize I do not always acheive. What I know in my head but what is hard sometimes for my heart is to remember that for me to become all things to all men my entire family must also do so.

In closing I am reminded of Paul's words to the Phillippians in chapter 3 and verse 20, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ". This is a verse I often cling to as I face this world with my family walking the fence between two very backyards hestitantly watching my children lean towards one side that I do not know. It is a truth I believe we can all cling to, to know that our true citizenship is not determined by stern looking consulate officers but rather by a loving Father who sacrificed the ultimate to scoop us up in His arms and shower abundant blessing upon us. Praise God that He allows us to enter into to His presence and glimpse together a glorious future when our common love for Christ will truly unite us all!