Monday, July 06, 2009

God is Good

Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ:

This is a short note to let you know God is listening, and to ask you to continue praying. As our church family continues to move through the very beginning stages of grieving the loss of Belen, Arianna and Dianna we also are witness to little and great miracles each passing day. Today we saw four of the teenagers be released from the hospital. Camila, Rebecca, Bruno and Freddy V. were all released. There were some tense moments concerning their release since this is a traffic case not yet resolved, but praise God that those who were able to make their release happen were mindful of how truly traumatic things have been for these kids. All they wanted to do was go home, and the fact that they were able to we know is due to so many of you interceding for them in prayer. Rejoice and praise God that four teenagers are now home, in their own beds, eating home cooked meals, and slowly leaving the nightmarish events of last week behind. Of course all four kids still have a long road to full recovery but we must rejoice in each and every small victory and we surely did that today.

Jonathan, Miguel, Ariel and Kevin continue to remain in four different hospitals around town. We ask that you pray for Jonathan, Miguel, Ariel and Kevin that the Lord would strengthen them with each passing day so that may one day soon be allowed to return to their homes as well. Miguel continues to be the most critical. As of today he still appeared to be in a coma when I visited but the medical staff would not release any information to me since I am not a family member. He did appear at least to look better than on Friday when I saw him last. Jonathan was joking quite a bit when I visited and he particularly enojoyed my rendition of the ring tone of the cop from the movie Mall Cop. It was a silly moment but it is encouraging to see the fun loving Jonathan we all know returning. His surgery went well but it seems his full recovery is going to take a while. Please pray for Jonathan and Rachel to have the necessary patience to get through a difficult time. At the same time we are thankful for Jonathan and Rachel's Christ-like spirit. Tomorrow I plan to see Ariel and Kevin to get a better idea of how things are going for them. I did see both of their parents today at a meeting for the parents of all the kids who were involved in the accident. Please pray for the unity of the parents as their stress and hurt could cause them to be hurtful to each other. We praise God though, that as of now all the parents have been wonderful examples of patience, faith and forgiveness! We pray that this same Christ-like spirit could continue on and on.

We again are so thankful for the 5 people who came from Sucre to help us. The church there with their own funds sent these 5 people including Josh and Julie's brother in law Eric, along with fellow missionary Juan, and 3 of Sucre's own youth group; Luis, Romina and Flor to help us including driving back to the site of the accident to recover the lost baggage. What a great blessing!!! We have also received word of a dear brother in Christ from Santa Cruz who is sending a car to Cochabamba to be sold so that the money can be used for the families and another brother from Santa Cruz is coming tonight. What is most amazing and humbling about these brothers and sisters who have come and are coming, is that after this terrible accident, they themselves all boarded similar buses on similar roads to come and be with us. This is a great lesson in faith and love for all of us!! I honestly don't think I would have it in me at this time, but these brothers and sisters have such a deep love that they are willing to do such a thing for us. Let us all praise God for the loving example of the Bolivian family in Christ!!

There is always more to tell you but I really do need to get some sleep. One more thing to mention before I go to bed, yesterday during church service there were many emotional moments but perhaps one of the most moving was when designated church members called each of the kids still in the hospital on their cell phones as we sang "Jesucristo Conmigo Va" (I Want Jesus to Walk with Me) and "Da una Sonrisa Mas" (Smile One More Time). It was probably the first and only time we have ever actually been glad for the proliferation of cell phones in our worship assembly!! We praise God that so many showed up for service yesterday despite knowing how difficult it would be and we praise God that Satan is not winning the battle. We are uniting not dividing and we ask you to pray that this unification would only continue and increase in strength.

We deeply love you all. Praise God for who He is and how He loves us.

La Familia Forbess

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Tragedy in Cochabamba

My teamate Julie has done an incredible job of keeping every one up to date on the bus accident our congregation's youth group was involved in on Tuesday of this past week. Please refer to the link under either Marcum or Bull family to read from the beginning what has happened. I know each family on the team has different readers and so I wanted to write a little about what has happened.

On Tuesday, my dad and I were headed back from visiting a dear sister in Christ in Liberty, Missouri. I was to be in the US for two weeks to celebrate with my family the marriage of my little sister and her husband Chris. I was also to speak at the Chillicothe and Hamilton congregations which have been great supporting churches for Katie since we began to serve here in Cochabamba.

As we were driving we received a distraught call from Katie who informed me that there had been some kind of accident with the teenagers who were traveling to a small town between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. As the afternoon progressed, reports were pouring from many different sources to parents and church members about a terrible accident that had ocurred. Many parents, including Butch and Trish Sandoval whose son Jonathan and daughter-in-law were on the bus drove themselves to the site of the accident. What they found on the road as kids were being driven into Cochabamba on ambulences and pick-up trucks and at the site itself was a horrific scene. As less than a week has passed since the day of the accident the entire church and in particular the families of the teenagers continue operating in crisis state.

Unfortunately, I was unable to return in time for the service of three wonderful young ladies that we lost. Belen, Dianna and Arianna were lost in this accident and the grief that is felt by all in the church is incredible and overwhelming. We plead for you to lift the families of these three girls up in prayer, their loss is unimaginable. Many, including myself do not comprehend the why pertaining to this tragedy but we feebly and humbly look to God through tear stained eyes as we strain to see and hear God reaching out to us during this time. We are desperate to make sense of what has happened and we also plead for your prayers for our faith, especially for that of families who have lost their loved ones.

The other passengers on the bus did not come out unscathed but almost all appear to show signs that they will eventually be able to recover, perhaps not to full health as they knew it before the accident but to a health that will allow them to enjoy life once again. Miguel is perhaps in the most serious medical condition. He continues in a coma and has yet to find out about the loss of his precious daughter Belen. Please pray that Miguel can awake so that he can comfort his two surviving children, and pray for his heart for it will surely be crushed upon hearing the news. Also please pray for Abril and Diego who are Belen's two surviving siblings.

One of the young men, Ariel is also of special concern. He not only suffered many physical injuries in the accident, but also lost his sister Dianna who was on board as well. He seems to understand on a surface level what has happened, but it will surely come to him in successive waves what has occurred as he himself heals physically. We ask that you would pray for a blessing of peace and love for Ariel and his two parents Jorge and Sandra. They need to know that the Lord and the saints are with them at this time. Dianna was the cousin of Belen, so this family is suffering enormously.

Wendy is a woman who returned to Cochabamba at the beginning of the year from Spain. Wendy was a part of the original congregation that met along with Renan and Leticial before the mission team ever arrived in Cochabamba in 2006. Wendy returned to Bolivia to reunite with her daughter Arianna after years of being apart. Wendy and Arianna faced innmurable challenges in this life, more than two people should have to and to lose Arianna was a very sad final note to a life marked by tragic events. We hope and pray that Arianna is now resting at peace with Her heavenly Father and that she is at this very moment enjoying the loving and warm embrace of the Father. Please also pray for Wendy, Gonzalo and Charles who have survived sweet Arianna. Their pain is great and they need their family in Christ to intercede for them.

The other young people on board that day were Alejandra, Kevin, Rosa, Camila, Freddy, Bruno, Bruno P., Ariel, and Rebecca. The adults on board were Jonathan and wife Rachel visiting on their summer break from the US who are the son and daughter in law of our teammates Butch and Trish Sandoval. Other adults on board were Josh Marcum and Miguel Vargas. To protect the privacy of each individual I have chosen not to go into great detail about my conversations with these people who have suffered so much. I will say though that overall, God is needed in this place, His presence, His peace and joy must somehow be restored to the hearts of each one who has come out of this accident alive. That is not to say that the process will be easy. For many if not most of the kids their physical wounds severe enough themselves, will heal much sooner than the wounds that have been created in the hearts and memories of each person who was involved in the accident. We implore our Heavenly Father to begin the healing process, we ask that He use those of us not in the accident to minister as Christ would, and we ask you to join in this prayer. We ask that these kids would even be able to close their eyes and enjoy sleep and that God would return His peace to their hearts and minds.

As we mention the mental state of our youth and the adults who were on the trip, I would ask another special prayer. Let us all be in prayer for the individuals who are beginning to feel guilt for what has happened, who were aware enough to remember the terrible aftermath of the accident and are now questioning their every move. May God work swiftly in the hearts of these individuals to be able to rest assuredly in the fact that they did indeed act with bravery, courage and love. May God also protect these individuals from the attempts of others to pin blame on someone in the midst of their own hurt.

Finally we do want to praise God in our circumstance much as David worshipped after losing his newborn son. Something has happened that will forever change the life of each person who knew and loved Belen, Arianna and Dianna. We will not forget them and the loss of their life may cause us to question the very foundations of our faith. Ultimately, God does not ask for our complete and constant understanding of his workings and what He allows to happen and not happen. Surely, this is one of those moments when we do not comprehend. Why has He let this happen? Our questions may continue to ring in our heads for many weeks, months, and years but the one thing we know to do is to praise God in the midst of our sorrow. In reality, as bits and pieces come together as to what happened on that day, there were a great many miracles that occurred. The accident happened during the day time, there were survivors strong enough to climb over a 100 meters to ask for help, the townspeople and emergency crews were brave and helpful, etc... Of course theses things are hard to remember, especially for our families who have lost their daughters but we do rejoice in the midst of our pain. As painful and sorrowful as we are for the loss of three lives, we are quietly thankful as well that this accident did not claim more lives.

We are also aware that so many people are praying, perhaps even thousands of people. We know that you are praying because daily we are witness to those prayers being heard and answered. We have congregations ready to help with medical and funeral costs and that is an enormous gesture of love that we deeply appreciate. We have teammates, fellow church members from Cochabamba, and a group of 5 brothers and sisters who have from Sucre to be with us and help us minister. We have also received the visit of Roland and Carol Bowen from Brownwood to help us through this time. Thank you so much to everyone who is lifting us up in prayer and who is thinking outside the box concerning the special needs of brethren during this time. Praise God for our Christian family!!

I close not on a happy note, but I do close on a rejoiceful and grateful note. God is good and His mercy and grace are evident even in the darkest of moments. Everyday we cry by ourselves and together and I am sure that pattern will continue to repeat itself for a long time, but we cling to our faith in a loving Father who knows our every need. This is all I can write for tonight, please pray for us tomorrow, it will be one of the hardest days of my and Katie's life as it will be for so many others in the church.

We do love you all and appreciate you more than you will ever know.

La Familia Forbess