Saturday, August 29, 2009

Arbol de Mi Destino

This photo is of a tree called the "Arbol de Mi Destino" or in English the, "Tree of My Destiny". We saw this tree at the estate of a famous Bolivian musical group known as Los Kjarka. My English students were kind enough to take Katie and I, and the children to this estate for a belated birthday luncheon this past Thursday. We had a wonderful day in the country and I loved seeing this huge tree which was the inspiration for a song of the same name written by Los Kjarka. Truthfully I do not know the lyrics of the song well enough to say that I like them or not but the imagery of a tree representing our life is intriguing.

We have certainly seen over the past two months that our lives are truly ever-changing and unpredictable much as the varied and intricate growth of this beautiful tree pictured above. Tomorrow the 30th of August, marks two months since the accident that has forever changed an entire congregation of believers. On June 30th a bus carrying youth and chaperones of our congregation flipped down a steep cliff causing the death of three teenage girls and the severe injury of several others. On August 30th we as a church continue to witness the aftermath of this accident.

Miguel continues to be the most severely injured of the surviving passengers. Just this week he was moved to a better clinic to undergo a brain operation and then later in the week was released to go home. Miguel continues to show signs of severe brain damage but since the operation he has shown less agression towards caretakers which is an answer to prayers. We continue to ask for prayers for Miguel's continued recovery. We also ask for prayers for his two surviving children Abril and Diego as well as for his mother Gregoria who is one of Miguel's main caretakers. Miguel is also the father of Belen who was one of the three young ladies lost in the accident.

Miguel's nephew Ariel
was also severly injured in the accident. Ariel just recently also underwent surgery to correct the results of the first surgery which did not have the desired effects. Ariel is now able to sit up in bed for about an hour a day which is a marked improvement, however due to the lack of movement for close to two months, he has lost a considerable amount of muscle. Please pray for Ariel's continued improvement. Ariel is also the brother of Diana whose life was lost in the accident.

Kevin and Bruno are two other young men who were also severly injured in the accident. Both are confined to their beds and wheelchairs. Both Kevin and Bruno are not able to attend school which also affects their school careers. Please pray for the continued recovery of Kevin and Bruno and that they would soon be able to get up and begin walking. Please also pray for their studies which are suffering because of their injuries.

Jonathan and Rachel Sandoval who were here in Cochabamba during their summer months as interns were also injured in the accident. Thankfully, Rachel had not sustained severe physical injuries and was able to return to Arkansas in time to start her new career working with the Searcy Public Schools. Jonathan returned a few weeks after Rachel accompanied by his dad Butch and is now doing much better. Jonathan had sustained some severe injuries to his back and therefore his recovery is truly remarkable. We praise the Lord for the way He has worked in the life of Jonathan and Rachel and are so impressed with these two young people and their level of maturity.

Rebecca who is one of the young ladies who was in very critical condition following the accident has seen a very remarkable turnaround. After many operations and treatments during the first two weeks or so, Rebecca has gone from being confined to a hospital bed, to walking on crutches to walking without any help. In the midst of all the turmoil, Rebecca showed an incredible fortitude and remained committed to her plans of entering medical school. She continues to go take series of entrance exams but has now advanced to the final round of tests before being admtted to medical school. Let us thank God for Rebecca's recovery and also continue to ask a special blessing for her as she pursues her education and future career.

Bruno P., Alejandra, Camila, Freddy and Rosa are some of our young people who were thankfully not injured as severely as the others. They have all been able to return to school but they quite understandibly continue to mourn the loss of their 3 friends and try to work through the emotional stress of having undergone such an event. We continue to ask for prayers for these 5 young people that would find strength in the Lord and in each other. We are so grateful that God saw fit to spare these individuals from severe injury but continue to be concerned for their emotional recovery.

Wendy is the mother of Ariana who was the other of the three girls to be killed in the accident. Wendy continues to battle each the sadness of life without her beautiful daughter. Wendy also faces the regular hardships of life in Bolivia only intensified by this tragedy such as finding good stable employment and finding a safe affordable place for herself and her young 2 year old son to live. The church is helping to the best of our ability to care for Wendy and her needs. Wendy's faith has grown tremendously over the past two months and for that we are truly thankful. We continue to solicit your prayers for Wendy though as she still has many difficult days and months ahead. We also pray for our church body to have wisdom as to how we can best minister to Wendy and her son Charles.

In light of the accident it is easy to become discouraged and see only sadness and darkness however, as we have been witness, God has been able to use the tragedy of the bus accident to do great things. It seems as though this accident has served as a loud wake up call to many of our church members including the missionaries. One thing that has happened since the accident is that several people have made the decision to become part of our congregation. Two ladies were baptized into Christ and born again. We rejoice in Heaven for the births of our sister Elsa and Carmen. We also rejoice with the decision of Jhonny, Ligia, Gladys and Aida to renew their committment to the Lord and make public their desire to commit themselves to the service of the Lord's body in Cochabamba, Bolivia. We pray and ask you to pray as well that God would continue to gently tug the heart strings of many individuals who have now been privy to very fragile and fleeting nature of our time here on Earth.

On a related note, we as a missionary team were also blessed to welcome bro. Dale Hawley of Hudson, WI who came to Cochabamba this past week to lead our team in reflecting upon our time in Bolivia as well the recent events surrounding the accident. Brother Hawley was worked with our team since our early days of training in Brownwood and has won both our affection and respect. We are so thankful for Dale and for his unique gift of ministering to the distinct emotional demands placed on missionaries serving abroad. We are also thankful to our supporting congregation Austin Avenue who made Dale's visit a reality.

To conclude, Katie and I would like to put the word out that we have finally chosen furlough dates!! Yeah!! After much deliberation, we have determined that we will be traveling in the US from December 14th to February 24th. We are excited and thankful that our furlough has been extended by two weeks this time so that we can spend more time with some supporting congregations who may have been a little shortchanged last time. So you may have to put up with us a few more days than last time! We do not know yet exactly where we will be on which dates but we are planning to spend the first weeks of furlough with our families in TX, AR and MO for the holidays and then in January and February dedicate our time to visiting supporters.

Katie and I are always so thankful for all the support that we receive that we are very hesitant to put out special requests but ocassionally things come up and we do feel the need to communicate them.

1. We request your prayers that our application for a permanent visa is approved. This is extremely important so that we can travel out of the country in December and also of course so that we can continue living and working legally here in Bolivia. We also are in the midst of raising funds for these visas. As we have already submitted our application we have already paid for the application and we are hoping that some may wish to contribute to helping defray this cost. The total cost of our visas for Katie, myself and Jubilee was $1,400.00. Malakai does not need this since he is a Bolivian citizen.

2. We request your thoughtful consideration of a unique ministry opportunity. While on furlough we will be needing ground transportation, (i.e. a vehicle). We are hoping to find a car that is good on ice and snow since we will be traveling between Colorado and northern Missouri in the dead of winter. Other than that I think we will be pretty flexible. We would also love a good heater :). I put out an ad in the Christian Chronicle and am trusting that the Lord will work this need out as He always does.

3. Another request that we have is a special opportunity the men of our team have to travel to Brazil for a conference put on by Continent of Great Cities. This conference is really a time for missionary men of South America to be ministered to by specially trained brethren who are gifted at encouraging missionaries. Our job as misisonaries encompasses so many unique and special blessings. Along with those blessings there are also hardships and distinct stressors. This year has truly been a difficult one in some ways. Continent of Great Cities is gracious enough to provide for lodging and food once the men arrive in Brazil, but travel costs are not included. For this reason, I am looking to raise appx. $600.00 - $700.00 to attend this conference. When Katie went to the equivalent of this conference for women missionaries she came back refreshed and encouraged. I am hopeful that I will get my visa and funding in time to attend. Joshua Marcum and Butch Sandoval are also planning to attend this event.

4. I also want to put out one more special prayer request for my family back in Rogers, Arkansas. I know they have a very loving home congregation at Southside, but I am sad to not be there at a difficult time. My grandmother Leyda Telford, recently lost her twin sister and neighbor of 30 years on this Thursday. Aunt Diddy was a wonderful woman and will be missed by so many people. As a child I had a very special friendship with my grandmother and I know how much she is hurting without her very best friend. Please pray for my grandmother Leyda that she would be able to find strength in the Lord at this time.

Also please excuse any typos. I need to go ahead and send this out before it gets any later.
We love you all and thank God for you!!!