Monday, September 24, 2007

Argentina Adventures

On August 31 Colleen and I (Larry) traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Colleen had been having some medical problems in which we were not finding solutions in Bolivia and so decided to take advantage of trip to Argentina for a youth leadership conference to see some doctors first. While there we stayed with some dear friends from Tarija, a young couple from our church who were studying in Buenos Aires.

Marcelo and Daniela were very hospitable to us and allowed us to stay with them for the time while Colleen attended her doctor appointments.
Colleen and I traveled down to Argentina by bus. From Tarija it is almost 30 hours of traveling. Yes I know the first thought running through your minds is how on earth can anyone, especially Colleen with her back problems handle such a bus ride.

Once we got into Argentina the buses there are beautiful. The seats recline like a bed and they include full food and drink service. They also show movies and so if they are worth watching the time passes fairly quickly.

Once arriving in Buenos Aires we were waiting in the bus terminal for our friends. While we were waiting someone obviously had their eyes on one of our pieces of luggage. In a moment of which we are unaware exactly they stole my laptop which also included our passports and some study material I was working on for an adult bible study I wanted to start after returning to Tarija. We filed a claim with the police and on Tuesday, as Monday was Labour Day in Canada, we went to the Canadian Consulate to get new passports made up. Along with Colleen's doctor's appointments we did a lot of running around.

The conference started on the 7th of September and ran till the 9th. During that time we attended a lot of teaching sessions as well as attending main sessions with some of the top singers and speakers in the Latin World.

Christian Contemporary Group "Exit"

Comedian "Ulises OyarzĂșn"

A special dedication of Youth Specialties president for Argentina Lucas Leys by American family counselor and psychologist, Jim Burns.

These are just a few of the many singing groups, entertainers, speakers that were present. Youth Specialties (Argentina) is the group that puts on this event every year. About 3000 youth and youth leaders attend this event.

We left feeling tired but also enriched by the teaching and by being in God's presence with so many other like minded people.

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's My Birthday!

Two days ago I, Larry, celebrated my ??st birthday. I can't say how old I am cause Colleen thinks that people will then guess how old she is. Oh well. I'm older than I look. And that's ok with me. It was a very interesting day. Colleen had made all the arrangements of what was happening during the day. I felt lazy in the morning and so didn't do much. Than in the afternoon some of our friends showed up for birthday cake. Then we found out that a member from our church lost his father to a sudden death and so as soon as everyone left we hurried to teh funeral. Enrique's father wasn't a believer and so Enrique found it very hard. Last minute he asked me to share something just before he was buried into a cement wall. It reminded me of the days when I first started preaching and my knees would shake when I got up to speak. Well I prayed hard asking the Lord to give me the words to share and he did. I just pray that he will now use those words to speak to the hearts of those attending the burial. Colleen didn't stay because she had another surprise for me. When I got back to the house the youth were over cooking supper. We had a barbeque and it was all delicious. Colleen made delicious desert for my birthday cake as that is my most favorite desert. Thanks to all who called or sent a message. It was appreciated. The following are a few of the pictures from the party.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Need more space!!!

As you saw in my last blog where I showed pictures of when we first started this church plant and recently you can see that we have grown in size a lot. Our biggest problem isn't so much in space for our church service but in space for classes. The following two pictures are the only two classrooms we have. I know they don't appear to be full in these pictures but there are times when between the two rooms there are over 30 kids. To top off the numbers of kids coming we have ages 2 to 6 in the one group where Joelle, our daughter is teaching, and from 7 to 13 in the other class.

This picture doesn't show the younger ones on the side of the room from where I took the picture.

This class at times has had up to 20 students

For quite some time now we as a church have been praying that the Lord would provide more space. The mission has encouraged us to purchase a building. We would like to but prices are very high. Colleen and I went to look at a place a few weeks ago and the asking price for the place was $420,000 US. It is an adequate place but very highly priced. Merle, one of the other missionaries we work with in the church plant has also been looking. She has found some empty lots starting at $120,000. We have asked the owner of the place where we are right now if she would be willing to sell and she says, no. If we could own it we could at least build on a second floor. Needless to say we are still meeting in the same building with the same two rooms for classes.

Please pray with us that God will provide us the finances we need to purchase our very own building or a more adequate building to rent so we have more space.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Winds of Change

July - A Difficult Month For Us

So many things happened over this last month for Colleen and myself. One of the workers in El Candelero didn't work for part of July and so Colleen helped out in the coffee house. Being that July is winter here in Bolivia we had some very cold evenings. This winter is the first time since we have been here that all my plants froze solid. Still not sure if they will come back but that is another story. Anyway when it is so cold the youth and college students here in Tarija prefer being inside instead of out and seeing as there is so few options here in Tarija they come to the coffee house (El Candelero). During the week that Colleen was helping it was one of the busiest weeks the coffee house has ever seen. Estimating over 500 people every day. So many it is hard to count. We are thankful for this ministry and the opportunity to reach out to them. As well David Fuertes took the month off from his work in Comunidad Cristiana Candelero (the church plant) and so Colleen was left alone with the worship. David does most of the preaching and because he took the month off we had a variety of guest speakers come to share in our church. The first two Sundays we had an ex-priest, studied 10 years in the vatican in Rome. The third Sunday an ex alcoholic shared his testimony of how God brought him out of his sickness using the prayers of his wife.The forth SundayDavid did share about because it was a special Sunday here, Friendship Day. The last Sunday I shared. I hadn't preached in a long time and I must say that I actually enjoyed it. I find preaching in Spanish hard but it is getting better.

August and September - Months Of Change

August and September are months were change always takes place. Winter is ending here and Spring is coming. This change in seasons is always brought in with lots of wind. This is how we know when spring is actually coming. Once the winds come bringing with them lots of dust and hot air Spring is not far behind. Although this period of change is not always enjoyed we know that better weather is not far behind and so we are thankful and rejoice in what God has in store for us.

In the same way we are going through changes in our ministry during the months of August and September. The biggest of these changes is in our youth ministry. Up until now our group is from the ages of 13 until over 30. It has been challenging to meet the needs of all the different ages as well trying to keep unity and a sense of oneness in the group. Over the last years we have seen the group grow both in numbers as well as spiritually. However it is definitely time for change. We are dividing the group to be more like a youth group, ages 13 - 17, and a college and career group, ages 18 and up. With the separation of the ages we will also change the topics of the studies to be more geared to the specific age groups.We are excited that Carlos, one of the college aged individuals will be leading the youth group. I have had the privilege of watching Carlos grow a lot in his faith. He used to be a rough and tough youth, painting tattoos on people for income, living a promiscuous life. Now he has developed into an incredible leader. He visits people in the jail twice a week, volunteers every day with the street kids ministry as well as studies in a Bible seminary several times a week. I am excited for his enthusiasm to serve and to impact others for Jesus Christ.

The other major change is that we are no longer involved in the Wednesday business group Bible study. Over the last three years we have seen one conversion. Not saying that this is not good. We are excited about what God has done but feel that our time will be better used in another area of need. When we first started our church the majority of those attending where youth. However, now after 2 1/2 years we have more adults and young couples than we do youth. Because of this we have decided that we are going to offer a mid-week bible study for the adults and young couples of our church to help with their spiritual growth. Please pray with us as we look for the perfect material to give them.

Our church service recently

Our church service shortly after we started in October 2004

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Gift of Life!

Enjoy a short video of Jackson's first 2 years in our family.

So many times in life when I look back over the years I have lived, I wish I could start over and erase some parts of my life. I watch as new life is given to our family through Jackson and all the wonderful firsts he is experiencing. Some times I want those firsts to come again. Especially when I think about my adolescent and youth years. But being completely honest with myself I realize how much I have to be thankful for. All those firsts in my life, including the many firsts which I wish were different, I realize that God allowed for a purpose. To help shape and mold me into being me. In spite of all the wrong decisions I have made (the firsts I regret) there is one good first that makes all the bad firsts go away and it makes life into "Something Beautiful." That first is when I asked Jesus into my heart as my Lord and Saviour. Nothing can ever change that wonderful moment in my life. I hope and pray that I can help provide that same first for so many people here in Tarija, Bolivia.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Lessons from Elijah

Every morning in our house we have a tradition in which all the kids crawl into our bed for devotions. It is actually a little comical. Jackson is usually the one waking up Jordan and Joelle, telling them it is time for "debotions". The last few days we have been learning about Elijah. I have been incredibly encouraged by the lessons we can glean from his life that I wanted to share a little of it with you.

1 Kings 18:41-45 (the story):
Elijah had just had one of the most amazing days of his entire ministry. Fire had fallen from heaven and 450 prophets of Baal were killed by God. All of a sudden Elijah feels his spirit moving within him and he knows that it is time for the drought to end. He climbs mount Carmel along with his servant and begins to praying for rain. His servant is sent to look for rain clouds and finding none Elijah prays some more. Six times the servant goes to look without finding a single rain cloud in the sky. Six times Elijah prays fervently for rain. After praying the seventh time he sends his servant again and there is a very small cloud in the sky. The rain is coming. It wasn't enough for Elijah to know in his heart that God wanted him to pray for rain. Elijah continually prayed until he know the rain was on its way. And if that isn't enough after sending his servant to tell Ahab the rain is coming, he returns to prayer until the rain finally arrived.

The lesson:
How many times when we feel a moving in our spirit that something great is about to happen do we turn to the Lord praying that it will happen? If you are anything like me...I begin to celebrate. Elijah turned to the Lord in prayer. If we do find it in our hearts to pray do we pray with such persistence? Do we pray until the the prayer is finally answered or are we like Ahab, already partying because we know God will answer when he is good and ready? May we learn from Elijah and pray with fervent hearts until our prayers are answered.

As missionaries we covet your prayers. Thank you for praying for us and our ministry here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Welcome to our Blog

As technology changes we change with it. We are ever looking for new and exciting ways to keep you our supporters informed as to what is going on in our world. From the years of snail mail news letters things have changed a lot: black text with no pictures to BLOGS, paper which often got misplaced to online storage of information ever ready at our fingertips. We hope to be able to keep you better informed more often and we don't want to hear, "we misplaced that one."

Comunidad Cristiana Candelero (El Candelero Christian Community)
The CCC is a church plant which came out of ministry in El Candelero. For those of you who are new to our letters, El Candelero is a coffee house ministry in which an average of about 350+ students and families visit every day. About 2 1/2 years ago we started a church with only a handful of national people. We now have over 20 members and about 100 weekly attenders to our Sunday service. One of our purposes as a church is to draw people in who are not attending church anywhere else. It is exciting to see whom the Lord draws to our church and more exciting to see whom he draws to himself. We are so thankful for David Fuertes, a national businessman, who does the majority of the preaching. Colleen, my wife, helps out a lot worship leading. God has given her a special gift with music and we have grown to appreciate her voice and for me...her good looks too. Really though she has been finding it hard. As much as she loves music and loves to sing she feels she isn't a leader and finds it hard to be firm with the worship team in the times when they need it the most. Joelle our daughter, although she isn't in this picture, is helping out as well in the worship and seems to be going after her mom with the singing thing.

Joelle is also helping out by teaching one of the preschool Sunday school class. She is really enjoying that. Joelle is also involved with Kings Kids, a division of Youth With a Mission. This ministry has really helped Joelle build her self confidence and more importantly her spiritual gifts.

The focus of my time in the CCC has been with the youth. Up until now we have one youth group from the ages of 13 to 30 something. Over the last couple of years the group has really grown and it is time for a split. We are going to be seperating the group into youth and college and career groups. I will be leading the college and career group while one of the young adults from the college group will lead the youth group.

The youth group isn't the only group that has been growing. The entire church body has grown so much in the last little while that we are in great need for more space. We have discussed renting appartment which is at the back of the location we now are renting but were encouraged by our mission that instead of paying almost $800US per month we should consider the posability of buying something. The owner of the place where we are now is not interested in selling and so we are not sure in what direction we will go. We are in desperate need for space. In our Sunday school we have only two classrooms with at times over 30 kids. We are also very limited with discipleship classes as we don't have enough space.

I have also been teaching a midweek bible study to an upper class couples group. This study has been going on for over almost 4 years. We are at the point of dropping this study to start up another study for couples and older singles in our church. This group has really grown in numbers in the last year and as a church we are not offering any special study for them. We feel it is time to offer them something. Because we just don't have enough days in a week we found we needed to drop something else to make this study possible.

A Satanist is in Our Midst!
Not too long ago one of our youth came to talk to me about a deep concern she had. She was very worried for her older brother. Over the last year he has been showing less and less interest in the church and his parents who also aren't very faithful in the church have been trying to force him to go to church hoping he will shape up. He has also become more and more critical of the church and God wanting to do everything that is totally the opposite. As she was telling me all these things I still wasn't prepared for what she told me next. She went on to say that he has made a pact with Satan and calls himself Satan's son. He feels he is a special child and Satan has a special plan for him. He feels that as a Satanist he can do what he wants and as a follow of Jesus they are restricted to only serving Him. He has openly cursed his sister hoping that she will see that God is not real. In the last year she has been hospitalized several times.