Friday, August 29, 2008

Faith's Face

Remember that Faith wanted me to show you a photo of her stitches, well here is one now that she healed. She wanted you to see it too. I wanted to just show off my cute daughter.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Worker Shows Up

In my previous blog, I talked about waiting on a repairman. I thought I would expand for a moment on what it is like here compared to what I am used to…another cultural experience calling for abiding in Christ.

I used to call a plumber, and in a few hours a truck would pull up and the plumber would come in. He would carry his toolbox or wear his toolbelt. He would look at the problem, tell me how much it was going to cost, and then repair it with the parts on his truck.

Here, I call a plumber and he rides up on his bike or takes a taxi. He looks at the problem, and then asks me if I have a pair of channel locks. He borrows my wrench, my pliers, and my screwdriver. After an hour or so…he tells me what the problem is, hands me back my tools and says he has to go buy the parts…but will not be able to come back until after 3:00 because all of the stores are closed for siesta, but he will be here at 3. Around 6:00, he gets out of the taxi, borrows my tools, and installs the parts…about 8 hours after I called him.

But the upside is this…it only cost me $3 plus

Leia Mais…

I Got Slapped In The Face!

I really did. Only, the dumb part of it is that I slapped myself. Here in Bolivia, bugs are a normal part of life. At any given time, our kids will have about 20 scabs on their bodies from insect bites. Mosquitos, fleas, and native blood sucking body biting insects are so numerous that I want to claim them as dependents and write them off of my income tax.

Well, I was driving down the road, and a huge fly…the Goliath of Flies…was taunting me and challenging me to a battle. It kept buzzing my face and then landing in striking distance, only to prove that it was much faster than I as it took off milliseconds before I hit it. I could hear it making fun of me in buzzanol (the official language of bugs). It buzzed around my face, and then landed on my nose at a redlight. Without thinking I slapped that bug. I mean SLAPPED that bug. I hit it full force with the palm of my hand, or tried to hit it. It flew away and I literally punched my self in the nose! My eyes were watering and my entire forehead and nose were red. My nose wasn’t bleeding, but it was sure hurting.

I stared laughing with the bug (I could understand it’s buzzanol and knew it was laughing). How silly. Yet here is what happened. The irritant was greater than my thinking processes. I allowed something as trivial as a bug flying in my truck to refocus my priorities and make me do something that I ended up regretting. As I looked objectively at the situation…I only had to wait seven days at the max and the little bugger would be dead (lifespan of a fly). However, I let this little buzzing noise totally grab my attention and cause me to do something that wasn’t wise and that I regretted…and it did not solve the problem.

How often do we do that in life? God allows irritants in our lives to show us areas where we need to submit to Christ. He uses these so that by our reactions, by our thoughts, by our desires towards them we can see the fruit of our own hearts. The irritant (many times it has the name of one of our children—just being honest here) is a teaching tool that God can use to make me more like Christ. Then in wisdom and with the heart of God, I can respond to the irritant in a way that solves the problem and brings honor to Jesus Christ.

But what do we do? We look at the irritant and it irritates us (go figure). One of the things that I have discovered is that sinners respond sinfully to sin. We also many times respond sinfully—or at best unwisely, to problems that frustrate our desires. So we slap at them. We strike them. We focus on them. We want nothing more than to be rid of them. And we end up….slapping ourselves. We slap ourselves by the way we speak to our loved ones. We slap ourselves by the way we treat those around us. We slap ourselves by the thoughts we think. And we punch ourselves by the way that we ignore the working of God in our lives.

My kids have a game that they play with the little ones. They take their hand and make them slap themselves (very gently) and say, “Stop slapping yourself, stop slapping yourself”.

My lesson from the fly? “Stop slapping yourself”.

With A Hurting Nose,
Joe

Leia Mais…

Adjusting My Clock---AGAIN!

I am writing this article at 8:27 p.m. I just got off the phone and the man I am waiting for told me (I called him), that he will ‘hopefully’ be here within the next 30 minutes. The problem? We had a 7:00 appointment. He is a worker doing some repair. I would just tell him to forget about it, but then I would have to do the same thing with someone else tomorrow…if I could find someone else. I just have to adjust my clock…again.

One of the biggest adjustments of living here is the ambiguous nature of time. In the States I kept a daytimer in 15 minute increments. On Monday, I would schedule the entire week…nine hours a day, four segments per hour. Then, although I would always have to flex probably 20%...I stuck as close to the daytimer as I could. And I would NEVER wait two hours for a worker.  Yet here…people just don’t care about time. You can call it anything you want…but the fact is that time is very relative. Take for example a wedding a couple of weeks ago. The invitation said “4:00 Saturday Afternoon”. You want to know something painfully funny? This is the truth. At 4:00 on Saturday afternoon….the exact time of the invitation….the people who were decorating the church came. The rest of the people did not get there till after 5, the wedding party till after 5:30, and the bride came in sometime right before 6:20….and NOBODY CARED. The extended wait just gave people a chance to talk and laugh. Caleb helped out with a HUGE Christian concert the other night held in the soccer stadium. The concert tickets and advertising said that the concert started at 7:30. About 9:00, Caleb called and said he was going to be very late getting home because they had not even finished sound check yet. The stadium was full of people just….waiting. Can you even imagine this in the States?

I have to adjust my clock. I keep telling myself that I am traveling through life, and I have to adjust my watch to the different time zones I am in….like driving across America. Only…the time zones are not established…they are flexbile. Sometimes 7:00 means 7:00….or 8:00…or 9:30…or tomorrow. I just have to adjust my heart. The person that I am meeting with is more important than when I meet with them…so…please pray for us to keep our attitudes connected to Jesus!

Gotta go…it is 9:08 and he is here!

Leia Mais…

Fill My Cup

We do something here in Bolivia that we almost never did in the States. We drink soft drinks at dinner. Not every night, but at least twice a week we treat the family to good old, teeth rotting, stomach eating, weight gaining Cokes. We figured that the guys gave up so much that a little treat like this (bottled in Bolivia and cheaper than in the States) is doable.

Guess what they do? They sip on their drinks as they eat until someone asks for a refill. When they see us pouring a little more Coke in a siblings cup…they don’t hand us theirs for a little more…nope…they gulp down all they can as fast as they can so they can give us an empty cup. They have discovered that you can’t refill a full cup. The emptier it is, the more coke you get.

At church this past week I thought of this (I don’t know why). But many times people will go to church week after week and, to say it like I have heard it, not “Get much out of the service”. Yet right beside them, there is someone who is ecstatic about what occurred that morning. Then I thought…”Maybe the latter one had an empty cup”. You see, church is where we are to get refilled…but if we went all week without pouring our lives into someone…there simply isn’t any room for more. Maybe we leave, not getting much out of the service, because we came with a full life to begin with. A full cup doesn’t get fuller. So…a little spiritual lesson from greedy coke guzzlers. If you aren’t getting a lot out of Sunday…maybe you can try giving more Monday through Saturday.

Just another thought from Bolivia.

Joe

Leia Mais…

Surprising A Burglar

Jacob ran by the house to grab something the other night and almost grabbed something he didn’t want….a thief. When he walked in the downstairs door, he heard a slam of a door upstairs. He went up to check on it (mistake number one), and as he went there was another slam…the balcony door. (we have a small balcony off of the bedroom…about 3’ * 5’). He went to the door, and there was the thief climbing over the wall outside to get away. The balcony is right beside a lower part of the roof which connects to the wall….a second story sidewalk in a manner of speaking. The thief dropped down and ran away. Jake started to chase him (mistake number two) but couldn't get outside in time and the guy got away.

Jacob was a little rattled. But, as I told him, he was just as safe in the arms of God when the burglar was in the streets as when he was in the house. It just didn’t feel that safe. However, the reality is our God is in control…even when we don’t feel like it.

You know something else? That thief was just like satan (spelled with a small letter out of disrespect). He tries to steal, kill and destroy…but when our lives are open to the truth of God (here represented by Jacob)….the old coward has to run away. Hallelujah!

But…as a side note….tonight why not pray for our safety to be so obvious to us that we even feel safe? 

Leia Mais…

Monday, August 4, 2008

Great Opportunity


Pastors Praying At The Conference

Following the pastor's conference this weekend, I was approached by the leadership. They asked if I would be interested in starting a one or two year training program for Bolivian Pastors! They are just checking into the idea, but if it happens they want me to help design the curriculum and teach the course. I would teach in Cochabamba once a month, then fly to Santa Cruz and teach it there once a month also.

Please pray for God to reveal His hand in this...it sure looks good to me!

Leia Mais…

Pastors Conference


This is really cool. The Cochabamba International Church has put together a pastor training course for pastors throughout the area. The course is two years long. Five times a year, for a three day weekend, the pastors gather together to be taught theology and how to be a better pastor. The final seminar of the two year program was this weekend.

Here is the cool thing. The pastors that lead the conference asked me if I would teach the last weekend. Only me. I had these 60 pastors for 17 hours of teaching! I was also given a blank check on what to teach them. Anything about leadership, pastoring, or church life is what I was told to do.

I focused on the character of the pastor, and also taught on the importance of spiritual fruit, love, and humility in the life of the pastor. I also taught on strategic planning and leadership. After I am finished the pastors will receive their certificate of training.

I know that for many of my readers—who have High School, College, Masters, and Ph.d’s…this ‘certificate’ doesn’t sound like much. But trust me, it is a REALLY BIG DEAL. These guys have put in a lot of work, time and money to make this happen. And it is such an honor to be able to finish the course with them.

Please pray that God will use me in their lives, and that the things they learned will radically improve their relationship with Jesus, their walking and living in the Holy Spirit, and their ability to lead their churches!

Leia Mais…

That Is Why We Are Here!

I was trying to explain to another missionary how good our parenting conference went, and in a pause of my sentence they said, “In other words, that is why you are here”. I could not have put it better!

We have had a busy six weeks, but I think that God is radically blessing what is going on. For those of you that prayed for our parenting conference…THANK YOU. It was tremendous. Denise and I taught a one day, 7 hour conference to fifty parents. I could not have been happier with the event. We have been invited to start a parenting small group with the attendees, but due to the baby coming next month—we may have to postpone it. I did go to a Wednesday night follow up small group, and God received so much praise in the one week after the conference…it was just way too cool! We had a missionary that went to one of our parenting conferences ask us if maybe God was leading us to include a parenting ministry along with our ministry to pastors and church leaders. I think the answer is yes! So…please continue to pray.

I also spoke at a Church conference. I was going to speak three times, but then the leader of the conference asked if I could speak another time. The week of the conference, the speaker that was flying in from the States missed their flight and could not make it. I ended up speaking seven times! I think it was the best conference that I have done, so once more, thank you for praying!

Following the conference, the next week, I held my regular mentoring meeting with a group of 8 people that I am taking through John Maxwell’s million leader meeting.

This is why we are here! Mentoring and training pastors, leaders, and now parents.

Leia Mais…

Another Trip To The Hospital (actually two)




We are getting to be regulars at the hospital. I had to go again last month due to a severe amoeba attack resulting in dehydration. I was in the hospital on Monday, then had to preach for three nights in a row Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at a camp. Needless to say, I wasn’t at my peak in ability. 

Then, Faith had a massive wreck on her bike. Our new house is up the mountain, and Faith decided to ride down it…went too fast and wiped out. She has hamburger meat for arms, legs and her belly, plus six stitches in her chin. When I took her to the hospital, the Doctor in the emergency room knew my name….isn’t that a sign of going there too often? Here is a photo of Faith’s new pride and joy…her chin. She wanted me to put it on here.

Leia Mais…

Home Sweet Home

Well, we are now in our new house. We moved three kilometers across the city and up the mountain. I guess our landlord thought that North American renters had a lot of money, because when our lease expired he decided to increase our rent by about 40%, and after negotiating still went up almost 25%. It was way too much to pay for the concrete bomb shelter we were calling home.

So, we have moved to a beautiful new house (although right now none of the lights on the second floor work --just part of the whole living in the mission field thing). It is amazing how much better we feel when surrounded by warm colors and pretty plants. I am including a slide show below so you can see some of the shots.

The house is a three bedroom…so we have a boy’s room, girl’s room, and parent’s room..still cozy, but it has a great feel to it. We are at the right hand of the Christo—the statue of Christ that is bigger than the one in Rio, and on the upper incline of the mountain. We are probably at about 9,000 feet.

The house is only missing one thing…YOU! Visitors are welcome!

Leia Mais…