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.