Saturday, November 10, 2007

A New Perspective on Toys, Tools, and Treasures

For a while now we've taught our kids that most things can be grouped into three categories: toys, tools and treasures. You only play with toys, not tools (the computer, the car, dad's hammer, the blender, etc.) or treasures (our china, the quilt made by Great Grandma Scribner, our marriage license, the necklace my Granddad gave me when I was a little girl, our photographs, etc.). You don't use toys as tools. You don't even touch some one's treasures without permission, because those things have special value to the owner. Etc. We are to be good stewards of all of our things; toys, tools and treasures and use them for the purposes they were intended. It's been an effective way of having the kids think about the things we have and how we use them.

In Bolivia it is interesting to see things that I'm sure used to be some one's treasure (or at least status symbol) used as tools. Things here are more often used for the purposes they were intended. Things don't tend to be status symbols like in the States...especially 'name brands' although unfortunately there is some influence sneaking in from western cultures in the more professional class. Let me give you some examples. Cars are used as tools to drive. They are to get from one place to another. As I said there are beginning to be exceptions, but for the most part cars are tools not status symbols. Not something to be used to make someone feel better about themselves. Take mahogany wood. It's used for tables and chairs because it is a hard wood and makes good furniture in even the most humble of houses, not because others will see it and comment on how nice is. Another example is clothes. Clothes are used to clothe your body, not to give you a sense of self worth because they have the 'right' tiger or horse on them. For instance the little girl I saw who lived on the street the other day didn't know that she had on a $200 Laura Ashley dress. All she knew is that she had something to cover her body. Some one's 'treasure' had become the 'tool' it was intended to be for a little girl in South America. I find it interesting and even amusing that things that were purchased as status symbols in the US are then discarded at a yard sale or to a thrift store because something newer or better has come out or because the person has too many things stuffed in their storehouse/closet already. Then those items end up getting shipped here and used for the purpose that they should be used for.

It's liberating to use things for the purposes they were intended. Think about it. Do you ever buy something because of the image you believe it projects? Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that we should only buy things we need. I am saying that we often blur the line between 'tools', 'toys' and 'treasures'. Our 'tools' and 'toys' have become 'treasures' because we have so much money invested in them. Our phones, computers, dishes, cars, and clothes become 'treasures' instead of 'tools'. I once knew someone who wouldn't let their own children sit on the sofa in their house because it was white and it's purpose had become for decoration, beauty, and status not for use. Again, I'm not saying we shouldn't have beautiful things, but I believe the things we have should serve us not be our master. How much time and energy to I spend maintaining, storing and caring for all the things that I bought to serve me? Are they now my master? Have my things become more important than people? Do I spend more time, energy and money on things that will eventually burn than on people or the kingdom of God? The things I struggle to accumulate and strive to have will they be thrown in a dumpster or sold to a bargain shopper at a yard sale for a dime by my children when I die?

I know how the line between tools, toys and treasures can be blurred. It's happened to me. Sometimes I still find myself grieving the loss of some of my things that I rid myself of in order to come to the mission field. For instance, last night I was crying....yes, crying....over the loss of my Christmas tree. Yes, it did have special sentimental value because it was a fixture of our holiday celebrations and tradition. Yet, it was just a THING. Sometimes I blur the line between stuff and the memories I have with the stuff. It's the people and the memories that are important not the THING. Certain clothes or other items were much harder to let go of than others because they had found a 'treasured' status in my heart. When I had to get rid of the things that wouldn't fit into our 2 bags each that we were able to bring with us it was a good lesson to me in what is important and why. I want to continue to guard my heart against having tools creep into treasured status.

'Treasures' are important. Some things have sentimental value to us because of who gave them to us or who made them for us. Some things we buy because they are beautiful and we enjoy looking at them. We buy other things that can help us do things better, or faster, or more comfortably. That's not wrong. It's a matter of the heart. Are we buying the new computer, oven, furniture, car or shirt because it can be a tool for us to use or in order for others to think better of us? I've found more and more that I want to use even the treasures I have. I want my kids to grow up remembering sleeping under Grandma's quilt and eating on our good dishes. It's not the stuff that's important. It's the people. I remember when I was a little girl on vacation with my family we came across a car accident in the mountains that had just occurred. A man was lying in the road likely dying. My dad and mom did what they could to help him and ended up leaving him wrapped in a quilt that was given to them as wedding present years before. Now that was a good purpose for that comfort a dying man. I'm sure the ladies that put their time and effort into quilting it would have been pleased. It wasn't meant just to be kept in a box in the attic. It was to be used and to be enjoyed.

The Bible teaches that where your heart is there your treasure will be. Are my treasures here being stored up in bigger houses and barns or are they in heaven? Am I investing my resources in the lives of others, in the people He gave His only Son for, and in the kingdom of God? Or am I simply treasuring the tools He's given me to reach this world for His glory?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Game...(another guest blog from Joe)

I took my teenagers and went to a professional soccer game last Sunday afternoon. It was a fun event. We were told to not go to a night game, because night games are quiet a bit more ‘eventful’ due to the fact that fans have all day to consume alcohol, so they are drunk before the game even starts.

We went with some friends, one of whom is a great soccer fan, so he was able to fill us in on details. Here is a copy of our dialogue:

Joe: Are these games really safe? I feel a little uneasy.
Monte: If you don’t come to night games…cuz the fans are already drunk…and if you don’t sit anywhere else but here. These seats cost a lot more (they are $3/seat), but they are pretty safe.
Joe: Why?
Monte: Look behind you. This is the low section so we can have good seats, but only a few rows of people behind you. But more importantly, the opposing team fans sit on both ends of the field. You don’t want to be anywhere near that section.
Joe: Why?
Monte: Watch and you will see. Anytime action happens on the field, a foul, goal, or perceived bad call, the fans that feel wronged take it out on the others. They will throw bottles full of soda, rocks, or other stuff. One of things that happens a lot is they ignite fireworks and shoot each other. If there is a goal, you may have someone stand up with a Roman Candle and shoot balls of fire into the other fans section. Sometimes, they shoot these balls of fire at the umpires and players.
Joe: Don’t they get caught?
Monte: If it is a firework that repeats itself so that the police can backtrack it they will, but if it is a one shot, or a bottle, no one even tries.
Joe: Another question. Why are their so many police in full riot gear, complete with Kevlar, helmets and riot shields?
Monte: They protect the players and umpires from the fans.

This dialogue continued as I sought to fully experience this cultural event. Here is how it unfolded.

There were fireworks off and on, set off by the fans, until the players came on the field. You knew it was time for the players to come, because the riot police went to the locker room doors and formed a ‘turtle shell’ with their shields—think Roman Soldiers defending themselves from the enemies archers. This turtle let the bottles bounce off of the plexiglass shields rather than the players skulls.

Then, the bands began to play. Suddenly, HUGE fireworks went off IN stands. Fireworks like you see in the park at the fourth of July. Sparks showered down on all the fans in the same section, and smoke bombs went off. The huge marching drums began to beat. Then the same thing happened on the other side for the other team. The drums competed against each other for volume and overall African Tribe Beat. Let me put a note here. The drums started as the players went off the field…and NEVER stopped. The entire game, an hour and a half, there were thirty drums going BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG. Did I mention they did this the whole game? Like, never stopped?

Then the play began. It was a good game, with a lot of fan interaction, some occasional fireworks, and some bottles. At the end of the game, after the players left the field, the riot police went to the middle of the playing area. They met the umpires there, formed the ‘turtle shield’ and protected the referees as bottles bounced off harmlessly.

We waited until the most aggressive appearing people had left, and then went home. It was a lot of fun watching…and every once in a while we looked at the soccer game too. In the words of MacArthur…we will return.


Saturday, November 3, 2007

Hope's Birthday Pics

Hope turned 6 on October 4. Here are some pics of her special day.
She had a piñata where you pull ribbons and one of the ribbons releases the candy and prizes. Much more femine than whacking it with a stick. :>)

The piñata released its treasures!!!

Hope checking out the goods.

She wanted a pinapple upside down cake.

The bear Paul and Grandma bought for her. She loves to sleep with it.

An exercise trampoline is just the right size for her and for our house, too. It's a popular attraction for all the kids. The older ones like to use it as a launching pad to see how far up the stairs they can jump.

Hope wanted to go to Burger King for her birthday meal. BK is the only "North American" kind of fast food in the whole city. We don't go there too often since it costs as much or more than most of the fancier restaurants around town. Also, the food's isn't so great. Once Joe got some kind of bug from undercooked chicken there. However, we had a good time on Hope's birthday.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Finally Pics from David's Birthday

It's taken a while for me to get these up. But I'm sure you'll enjoy them just the same. David turned 11 on September 30. He's growing up quick! He's becoming one of 'the older guys' to stay up a bit later and have a few more privileges. He thinks that's very cool.

Here we are at Papa Gallos...David's favorite place to eat in Cochabamba.

Yummy, yummy hamburgers!

Some old classics that we found here...Twister, some dominoes to build and knock down and Fruit Stripe favorite when I was a kid.

Legos from my dad and mom

David wanted chocolate chip cookies instead of a cake.

A birthday kiss

Encouragement from Music

Christian music is more important than ever to me. I especially like praise and worship music, however, I have a very broad definition of P & W. It encourages me. It lifts me above my circumstances by causing me to focus on God and His work. Unlike a lot of people who enjoy music as 'background noise', I don't.... generally speaking. This tiny flaw in my personality is a constant irritant to my best buddy and long-suffering honey, Joe. Often he will have music playing in the background and I usually turn it down. It makes it hard for me to focus on the task that I am doing even if that task is talking with my friends or family. If the music is low enough for me to concentrate it's usually too low for Joe's liking. He puts up with me though since he pledged for better or for worse. When I listen to music especially Christian music I like to focus on listen to the words, to worship along. Because of this I most enjoy music with really good lyrics. Although I enjoy all kinds of music, I tend to listen to my Christian favorites over and over in order to be built up in the Spirit. Being on the mission field, one of the things I miss is keeping up with the new Christian music that flows in a steady stream in the States. There is always something new on the Christian music stations there. Joe and I have talked recently about listening to satellite broadcasts in order to stay current. (I'd like to interrupt this blog to put out a plea to all my friends: It is my desire to keep with current trends in all areas. I don't want to be stuck in 2007. So, when I come back to the States for visits and for home assignment, please tell me how out of style my choice of dressing and hairstyle is... if indeed it is. Go shopping with me. Help me! I'm begging you. I don't wanna be a missionary that still wears the clothes, has the hair, uses the technology, uses the illustrations, and sings the songs of days gone by. So there you have it. I have given you permission to speak into my life and help me out. God is unchanging. He's the same yesterday, today and forever. But methods of sharing Who He is change constantly. I want a platform to speak from. I desire to keep as current as I can in order to appeal to those who need to hear of Him. I want to be all things to all people so that by all possible means some might be saved. I need to know and understand those means for the sake of the gospel that I might share its blessings...and of course I'd rather not look like a dork, either. :>) ) Okay now on to the point of this blog....and you thought I didn't have a point. You thought I was just rambling in English because I can. You thought I was using my word dump of my native tongue since I can't do it here. Anyway, music encourages me more than ever and I thought I'd share some of my favs and maybe some of them will encourage you too.

I love anything by the Newsboys but especially the albums Adoration, Devotion and Go. It seems that the Newsboys must be tracking my life (yeah, like they don't have anything better to do...just a bit of an egocentric statement, huh?) because it seems like they write and sing just what I need at the time. When Adoration and Devotion both came out I was longing to find music that just praised God. When Go came out we were headed to the mission field. I also like them because the lead singer and starter of the band is a pastor's son. I have a tender place in my heart for pastor's sons and I love to see those who are living for our Lord.

Next, I like Caedmon's Call. I especially like their album Share the Well that came out of their missions trip to India. (Do yourself a favor and at least listen to the songs "Jesus is All I Need", "Share the Well" and see if you're not convicted.) This band again was started by pastor's kids...brothers and sister. How cool is that? And they're from Texas to boot. No wonder I like them. I also like their albums In the Company of Angels: A Call to Worship and In the Company of Angels II: The World will Sing. You can't go wrong with Caedmon's Call.

The 'old school' part of me loves Michael Card. His lyrics are hard to beat. My favorite Christmas album ever is The Promise. Poiema is excellent as well.

Now on to Jars of Clay's Redemption Songs. Remixes of some oldies but goodies that makes them new and fresh and helps me focus on the words.

I also like the album Rescue: Live Worship by Newsong. You gotta love guys who've been around for a while and still churn out great stuff. This stuff really ministers to me. A couple of weeks ago I had to miss church, this album was my praise and worship for the day. I dare you to listen to "Arise My Love" without lifting your hands in praise (even if you don't generally do that).

Casting Crowns album Casting Crowns is awesome as well as is their album Lifesong.

Third Day's Offering has been on my list ever since I first heard it and I think it will be there for some time to come.

A Collision and B Collision by the David Crowder Band have some good songs on them.

Phillips, Craig and Dean is another of my favorite groups. Check out their Ultimate Collection. They are all three pastors as well. Joe doesn't think that's be able to preach and sing too.

Of course I can't forget Chris Tomlin. Check out his albums Arriving and See the Morning. Where does this guy keep getting this good stuff? It must be from our Lord. :>)

Of course my favorite song writer of all time is Jake Holman (my son). Honestly he's written some pretty cool stuff since we've been here. He has really deep lyrics. Look for his work in the future.

Let me give you a small piece of advice: find some person or group whose music ministers to you and GO TO THEIR CONCERTS. Right now I can't go to any concerts, but you can bet that I'm saving money now so that when we are back in the States I can see some of the guys/gals in person. Not because I worship the ones that sing the songs but because I worship the God that they sing about and their songs cause me to think on Him.

You might notice that one thing that many of these songs/albums have in common is a burden for the lost in the world. It is a prayer of mine and Joe's that because of our ministry at least 100 people will go into the harvest to be a part of the work God is doing by drawing every tribe, tongue and nation to Himself. It's an awesome work and I'm so thrilled to have a part in it. We've been praying to the Lord of the Harvest to send forth workers into His harvest. It's ready. Are you? Why don't you spend some time thinking about the possibility of serving our Lord cross-culturally to the uttermost parts of the earth. More on this at another time.

In the meantime, check out some of this music that has inspired me in my walk with the Lord and see if it encourages you too. There are lots more great groups and albums that I didn't list. If you have one you'd like to tell me about, I'd be happy to give it a listen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Small Victory

This morning Faith was bringing a banana, a big glass of ice, and a treasured Starbucks frap up to my room. Isn’t she the greatest? What a sweetie! Well, when she got to my door she put the tray down and knocked. I opened the door and she tried to pick up the tray again. She spilled it all. It all went airborne. Ice everywhere. The frap flying across the floor. Could this be the unpardonable sin? No ice. No frap (in a place where fraps, when they are available, cost more than in the States...if you can believe that). No breakfast? Then I did the unthinkable. I said “It’s okay honey, let me help you clean it up. No problem. Don't worry about it. Thank you so much for bringing to me.” No anger, no sinful reaction, no over reaction. And not only did I not respond incorrectly. I didn’t feel incorrectly. I wasn’t hiding my anger. I wasn’t hiding my frustration. I didn’t have any. I only had compassion for her and her predicament. She was trying to do something sweet and to do it well and it flopped. Now my appropriate reaction might not sound like a big deal to those of you who are more spiritual than me or who haven’t had to deal with the sins of anger and frustration in your lives. But it was a spiritual victory for me. God showed me in that moment how far He has brought me. I was so grateful to Him for the fruit of the Spirit that He is filling me with as I depend on Him. Now let me tell you I have a long way to go on my spiritual journey. I have not arrived. I have plenty of failures (read: sin) in areas where I know when I blow it. Then let’s not even talk about all the sin that I have that hasn’t been revealed to me yet. The closer I grow to my Lord the more I realize how far from Him (in character) I am. Yet He is faithful. He is completing the work that He started in me. I am grateful for that. I am grateful for the fruit He brings forth in my life when I know that my own reaction if He left me to myself would be so different. I thank Him for the small victories.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Prayer Day

Yesterday was a great day all around. We had a wonderful time worshipping our Savior at church, and participating in the baby dedication I wrote about below. Then we came home and I made a taco salad. Joe and I and the two youngest took an hour nap then it was off to our monthly Prayer Day with our fellow SIM missionaries. I always enjoy Prayer Day. It's great to get together and spend time praying for one another, for our ministries and for Bolivia. Two of the requests that my group prayed for were two women. One has gone back to a life of prostitution after having been mentored by a missionary and out of the lifestyle for a while. She has three children. The missionary sharing this story said she talked with a fellow missionary who works with prostitutes and on average it takes 6 times of 'quitting' prostitution before the woman really stays out of it for good. The other woman has gone back to an abusive relationship. Physical abuse is very common here in Bolivia. I often see women with black eyes, broken noses, various bruises and broken bones. These are some of the kinds of requests that we pray for at Prayer Day. I love that the motto of SIM is "By Prayer" and I especially love that they mean it. On Prayer Day we get to spend two hours just worshipping and praying together. What a blessing! I was going to take my camera and take pictures to post here, but it had a dead battery after our big Saturday. Maybe next time! I'm thankful to be a part of a missions family that prays together.

The Best Baby Decication Ever

Yesterday there was a baby dedication service at church. It was special. No, I didn't have any babies to dedicate, unfortunately. I've been to plenty of baby dedications in my time. I especially enjoy when Joe and I are dedicating one of our children to the Lord and committing to do our best to raise them to love Him. I also enjoy the ones that my hubby officiates. I love it when he lays his hands on the little ones and prays for them. However this baby dedication was special for none of the above reasons. This one touched me deeply because the two little ones being dedicated were orphans. They live in the orphanage that was started by and is supported by our church. In fact the orphanage is on the second story above where we have our Sunday service. One of these little 'honeys' was only 2 weeks old. A little tiny thing. I prayed fervently for these two and will continue to pray for them. I pray that they will come to know the Lord at an early age and will grow to love Him above all else. I pray that they will know the love found in a family that serves our Lord. I pray that they will be able to deal with the rejection that comes from being abandoned by the ones that are supposed to love you more than any other. Since they have no parents I will take on the responsibility to pray for them. I will take that responsibility seriously. Will you join me in praying in faith for these little ones and the other 23 or so that live with them in the orphanage? Pray too for those who care for them that they would show Christ's love to some who desperately need to feel it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Our Saturday

Today as we went to the market we took the camera to share with you where we shop each Saturday.

One of the two main streets of the market. Each Saturday morning the street is transformed into a market and by sundown it is turned back into a street.

One of the 'wheel barrow boys' that helps us carry our groceries.

The Produce Section

More Fruit

The "Payless Shoes" part of the market

The "Zales Jewerly Store"

The "Petsmart" of the market

Of course Joe is in the "Barnes and Noble" section of the market...probably looking for some good coffee.

My favorite part of the market....the "Flower Shop"

The "Blockbuster" of the market

Another "Pet Shop" with a restaurant beside it<

Another restaurant

The Meat Section

Check out the cow tongues

The "Safeway" of our market

The "Beds, Baths, and Beyond"

After the market we decided to check out on of the parks here in the city where you must pay to enter. Since you have to pay to enter they are much safer than neighborhood parks...much fewer sharp metal edges and less broken glass. :>)

Look at how tall this slide is!! That's a long way down for Patience. I even tried it.

Fun on the Merry Go Round

Me and David

Faith and Hope surveying their kingdom

The older boys on pedal go-karts... you can ride go-karts and exercise at the same time.

David showing his tricks on the skateboard he got for his birthday.

Caleb getting risky with the skateboard. (Big surprise...not!)

So guess who had to get in on it all!

Joy and Patience on the swings

Ben riding a dinosaur

Josh in good ole red, white and blue

The ice cream lady made a big sale with us

It was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Everyone was thirsty (see all the empty cups being thrust toward me?) but I took over the bottle. :>)

On a final note, we just got a new bed. When we moved here we decided to get a queen sized bed since we didn't know how much room we would have and also since Joe says that it doesn't matter how big or small the bed is I sleep right up against him and he has no room. :>) Anyway, we gave Jake our queen sized bed and bought a king sized one. We didn't buy a frame or the box spring (which really wasn't a box spring, but only a platform) since it cost $500 more. So right now we're sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Our room is pretty small so the mattress virtually takes up the entire room. Eventually we will get a bed frame or headboard/footboard, but right now I don't mind sleeping on the floor at all. That is I didn't mind until I was typing this blog entry and Jake came and told us about the huge scorpion that was in his shower. I'm attaching pics of it too. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but it was a good 3 inches long (at least according to Joe, I didn't want personal history with it). Now it's dead, but I'm sure I'll think about it tonight when I crawl in my bed on the floor.

P.S. One more day passed before I finished this entry. Saturday night I did wake up a few times thinking about the above scorpion. Then, Sunday night when I was going to bed there was a huge spider on the wall of my room. More and more I'm not liking the idea of sleeping on the floor. :>( I love what Mrs. Gregory (Steve and Susie's mom) told me after her many years on the mission field. She said people used to say to her "I could never be a missionary because I don't like spiders, bugs, scorpions and snakes." She would just smile, but she said she was thinking "Like I do?! I don't like them either! I'm not here because I love spiders and snakes, but because this is where God called me!". Well, I don't like them either, but it's just one of the small sacrifices we are called to make in order to do what God has called us to. Last night Joe prayed for me to be able to sleep well and not think too much about the creepy crawlies. God answered and I slept fine. This week, however, I'll be looking for a good fumigator though. :>) Any names, Angie?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Beautiful Days in Coch

The last two days have been the most beautiful days I've seen in Cochabamba so far. The weather was gorgeous!! This is the city of 'eternal spring' and so the weather is usually great year round, however the weather on these past two days has been exceptional. I hope the rest of the spring is this great! It is spring for us now since we live in the southern hemisphere. This year will be our first Christmas in summer. Maybe we could actually use bikes that kids get for Christmas. :>)

On another note, I wanted to take a moment and thank those of you who have been praying for my language acquisition. Though I have a ways to go, I believe I am turning the corner or scaling the wall as my mom said . I feel God answering your prayers on my behalf. Yesterday was a good day at school even after I stayed out too late the night before with a fellow missionary and didn't really wanna make my 8:00 a.m. class. Lorna and I went out for dinner and stayed at the restaurant from about 7:00 until 11:00 . Late dinners that take the entire evening are common here in Bolivia as they are in many other places in the world. Most restaurants don't open for dinner until 7:00 and they don't mind if you stay at the same table all night. Dinners, friends, and family were made to be enjoyed. You must find the waiter to ask for the check even after 3-4 hours. No rush get you out so that the next people can use your table. I love that about living here. Anyway, Thursday was a good day at school and with my language helper too (think: personal tutor who let's me practice my Spanish with her) even after the late night before. My desire to speak is gaining momentum I think. Even yesterday at lunch a Bolivian friend said that she thought we were learning to speak well. She said that she knows another ex-pat family that's been here a year and aren't speaking as much as we are. That was encouraging. More than anything I just feel the Lord's presence with me carrying me through it all. I know that He is giving me the desire and the ability to carry out this task to which He has called me. I believe that He will continue to enable me. He is answering your prayers for me, so once again THANK YOU for praying. Keep it up!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Guest Blog From My Hubby

Here's an article that Joe wrote for a homeschool newsletter and I thought it was great (of course) and wanted to post it here. Soon I'll have another guest blog about the futbol game he went to with Jake, Caleb and Ben.

Empty Ice Trays

When I was growing up, my dad rarely lost his temper. However, I recently remembered one occasion when it happened. We lived in Texas, and dad came in after working outside in the hot Texas summer sun. He went to the cabinet, got out a glass, picked up the pitcher of tea, and opened the freezer. In a sudden fit of rage, he yelled (something that I have probably blocked from my memory J) and threw six empty ice trays across the room. He could not believe that people would put empty ice trays in the freezer! Why would you do that? I distinctly remember shrinking down into my chair, but in my 10 or 11 year old mind I thought, “Dad, you are overreacting just a little. It’s only an ice tray. Give it a rest.” (yes, it was disrespectful, but I remember thinking it).

Now, as a 44 year old man I understand. You see, history does repeat itself. In the States, you live in the age of ice makers. Here, we live in the age of ‘probably don’t have a freezer but if you do, you have ice trays’. We have ice trays. We have a lot of ice trays. The freezer on our fridge serves NO other purpose but to hold our ice trays. That is it. This is necessary because Denise, much to dental chagrin, eats ice like it is cotton candy. It just disappears into your mouth. She is an addict. Not only do our ice trays have to keep up with Denise’s vice of ice eating…they also have to furnish our family of 11 with ice for our tea, water and occasional coke.

So, you would think that our kids…who also like ice…would by now have discovered a rule of physics. It is this: Water has to be at 32 degrees or less in order to become a solid. If you want ice, then you have to put water in the ice tray and put the tray in the freezer. Now, this isn’t a difficult task. It is one that even our five year old can accomplish with minimum effort. We keep a gallon of filtered water (we can’t drink tap water) on the counter in a thermos with a spigot. You put the ice tray under the spigot, open it and in 10 seconds you have a tray full of potential ice. Now, all you need to do is put it in the freezer. Simple. It isn’t rocket science or homeschool math.

But day after day….literally ALMOST EVERY DAY, I go to the freezer to get ice and all I find are empty ice trays…in the stinking freezer! I have, in the role of my own father (without the rage and baseball pitch) queried my kids. “Why in the world can you not simply take ten seconds and refill the ice tray when you use it? Why do you insist on just taking one cube, rather than empty the tray into the bucket and refilling it? Why, when you know that you have taken the last tray, do you put…or leave…it in the freezer?

Today….I had already planned on writing this article…and as a real-life illustration, I opened the freezer to get some ice for a drink. There was not a single cube of ice! There was no ice in the bucket, and no ice in the trays. Now, remember, all of the ice trays and the bucket were in the freezer. We had plenty of ‘cold air cubes’, but no ice, and the thing about it is that you don’t know it until you need it. Ice trays look good until you pick them up and find that they have no ice.

Here is my question? What good is an empty ice tray? What does it do when it isn’t fulfilling its purpose of making ice? Why would anyone put an empty ice tray in the freezer….a molded plastic container full of potential pleasure now only taking up space and producing frustration? Well, my kids have one of two answers. Either they, like the famous Sergeant Schultz of ‘Hogan’s Heroes’….”Know nothing, see nothing!” They didn’t even know we had ice trays…or a freezer…or glasses. J Or, the other answer is, “I didn’t know it was empty. I just took one cube.”

Empty Ice Trays.
Empty Ice Trays..
Empty Ice Trays…you know what? Empty Ice Trays are unfortunately a great word picture for many Christians.

I believe that sometimes God looks at us and thinks…why are you doing that? Why are you satisfied with empty potential when you could have spirit-filled purpose? Why are you allowing yourself to simply take up space, instead of bringing pleasure to the One Who made you? Why are you frustrated with life, when God created you to have passion in life?

Well, we don’t know how it happened. We just took one cube at a time. This cube was taken by the effort that homeschooling our kids requires. Then another cube was removed by the pain a friend caused. The third cube, and then the fourth and fifth one, were jerked out of our heart by financial pressures. Then there are the cubes that just fell out during the course of life and melted unused on the floor. Bitterness melted the ninth…and so on.

We never even knew that our tray…our hearts…were empty. They still looked shiny to people from a distance. Our lives look good to those across the auditorium, or on the phone, or in the other office. We appear to be doing exactly what we should.

But…when we examine our insides…or God lovingly picks us up when it is time for our purpose to be realized…we discover that we are shiny, plastic Christians. There is no substance in our lives.

And the sad part is this. Refilling is so easy that even your five year old believer can do it. It is even easier than filling an ice tray. We simply look to Jesus. We confess the sin that melted our cube…or we ask for help to replace the hole that life drained out of us. Jesus hears and sees us, and then the Holy Spirit of the Living God will come into us and fill us. He will abide in us, and we will abide in Him…and when that happens (to leave the ice metaphor), we will bear much fruit and glorify the Father.

My fellow homeschooler…your children are like me in my home. They can see the reality in the tray. They know whether you are empty or filled. Are you, right now, full of the Holy Spirit and bringing glory to Christ in the way that you educate, train, and respond to the life situations of homeschooling? Or is there another ice tray flying across the room in frustration?

Living on the mission field has given me plenty of opportunities to have my heart emptied…so I know what I am talking about. Jesus is enough, and He wants to us to be full…not just when we are empty…but anytime something removes a single cube. And life is too short….and people are too important…to live it on empty.

Until Next Month,
Joe…A Proud Member Of The Frozen Chosen
At least for this article

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Home from a Much Needed Mini Vacation

We just returned home from a short trip to Santa Cruz. We spent four nights in a hotel there. It was a nice break from our routine and all of our schooling (homeschooling and language schooling). I am enjoying language school and of course I enjoy homeschooling the kids, but you know how it was time to take a rest. Unlike most of my homeschooling friends in the States we started back to school in June so we could finish up last year's school year, then we started right in to this school year in July. So, we've been at it a while. Our mini-vacation was a great time for all of us. I know that the kids enjoyed it because Faith said she wished the hotel was only ten minutes away so we could go back (in reality it's a bit more than a 10 hour drive for us, but more on that later). Then this morning Patience asked if we were going back to our 'other house' (the hotel) because she really liked it. The other kids had glowing reports as well. We spent time together playing games, watching movies, walking around the town, swimming, biking and just relaxing. It was grand. Santa Cruz is only 280 miles away but it takes a good 10 hours to get there by car since it's over the Andes Mountains. The first 80 miles took us half of the time (a bit more than 5 hours) since the road is winding with dangerous curves and up steep inclines. Of course there are very few guard rails but there are literally hundreds of shrines and crosses along the road where people died. These served us as a reminder to take it easy. There are several places where busloads of people either went off the side of the mountain or had a head on collision. I pray that I don't ever need to take the bus even if it does cost only $10.

We were a day late getting away since we were waiting for Joe's international driver's license from the States. There are stops along the way where they check to make sure your vehicle really does belong to you and isn't stolen and also they check for drugs. So, we had to make sure Joe had a driver's license and also that we had the title to our truck. The license arrived in the mail on Thursday and we left on Friday with a prayer that we had all our necessary paperwork in order. Sure enough at the 4 or 5 stops to check it we passed with flying colors. There were also many (6 or so) toll booths along the way. At most of these we weren't charged more toll, the attendants only checked our ticket to see if we had paid the toll at a previous stop. Here is how many of these stops worked: We were stopped by a chain across the road held up by a guard. We would stop either in the road (actually a high way if you can call it that....It's the main road between two major cities) or beside it. We would then walk up to a booth (read: some sort of shack where there were police and posters of scantily clad women) and the police would check to see where we were from, where we were going and check our paperwork. Then we would get back in the car, the guard would lower the chain and we would drive a few more yards to a toll booth and stop again to have our toll ticket checked. I don't know why they couldn't do this at the same stop, but no it had to be a few yards further down the road. Now, many of these toll booths are like you see in the states where you pull up to the booth and you reach out your window and pay the attendant. No, these are booths BESIDE the road where you must pull over and park and walk to the window and have the attendant (in a shack with photos of scantily clad women check) the toll ticket and tell you it's okay to keep on driving. Sometimes these shacks were hard to see. Many times we only knew we were supposed to stop because we saw people in the middle of the road selling fried fish, oranges, juice, toilet paper, etc. (no kidding...amenities for your journey). I'll attach a pic so you can see the bathroom stops along the way. Because they looked like they do, we were prepared in advance. We took a potty chair for the girls and the boys just used the wide open spaces. Johnson Assare (our Ghanaian friend) told us that Africa has the largest bathroom in the world (the great outdoors), but now I see that ours in South America are just as big.
It was a beautiful drive. We could see the landscape change along our journey. We started here in Coch and went up even higher into the Andes where farmers farm with oxen and hand plows almost to the very tip tops of the mountain on steep inclines. We drove through the fact we could see the clouds below us. Then as we drove down the other side we went through the rich green jungle filled banana crops and houses (shacks really) on stilts. At one point Joe said we should let the kids out and let them hack their way through the jungle and see how thick it really is. I said that they would get bitten by a snake. Sure enough as we rounded the next curve there was a 4-5 foot snake in the road.

We found out once we arrived at the hotel that they didn't have us on record as having a reservation. Thankfully we brought along our email confirmation and even though the hotel was sold out, they found us a room. Usually the weather in Santa Cruz this time of year is very hot...approaching 100 degrees recently. Everyone had told us how hot we were going to be, so I only packed us shorts and t-shirt kinds of clothes. Of course it rained almost everyday we were there and was pretty chilly too. We didn't care. We had a great time anyway. We swam in the rain in the semi-heated pool and sat in the almost hot tub. :>) The first day we were there we walked around the main plaza in town. It was chilly that day and as I said we only took shorts. So we donned our shorts (that we haven't worn since we've been in Bolivia) and walked around. Our teens said "We look like tourists!" since most everyone else was wearing jackets and pants. We found this amusing since we ALWAYS look like tourists in Bolivia....for pity's sake, WE'RE GRINGOS!! However, we did stand out even more than usual on that day. It was actually nice that it wasn't too hot while we were there. We all had fun and no one got sunburned...until the trip home that is. On the way home it was plenty sunny and hot. I sat on the side of the car that had the sun coming in the window and got sunburned from my upper thigh to my knee and some on my arm. Below is a picture I took but it was taken more than 48 hours later so the difference isn't as pronounced as it was in real life.

Also on the way home I drove for the first time in over 5 months. It was fun!! It was the first time I've driven a standard probably close to 20 years. That was fun too. Passing big truck on mountain curves was exciting, but I didn't drive for too long because I was worried about the police check points and not having a license. It was a good time while it lasted though. I didn't know how much I missed it. I thought I wouldn't drive here in Bolivia for our first term because the traffic is so crazy. Another missionary told us you have to think like a school of fish. That's the way traffic moves...not in lanes, but like a school of fish. Also, they don't stop for red lights. Never on Sundays on not faithfully on weekdays. But they DON'T turn right on red (go figure) and they don't run yellow lights. The reasoning behind not running yellow lights is because the opposite traffic is already going and in the middle of the intersection by the time that you have the red and they have the green, so if you don't stop on yellow, you will get broadsided. :>) It's just a lot of honk and go. The biggest vehicle, the bravest one, or the person who cares the least about damage to their car has the right of way. At one main intersection in Santa Cruz there was a place where 6 lanes of traffic went down to 2 as you went through a stop light. There were no warnings, no rules of merging, etc. It was just "you guys work it out" and everybody does. The number one driving rule in Bolivia is don't make eye contact, pretend like you don't see anyone and just go. I can't wait to get my license!

If You Would Like To See A Slide Show Of Our Trip, Click This Link

Friday, September 28, 2007

Beanie Babies Galore

Well for those of you with Ty Beanie Babies socked away in your basement or attic waiting for them to make a come back and make your fortune for you or put your kids through college, I've got some bad news. There is a glut of them in Bolivia. When I was shopping for Hopey's birthday present in La Cancha I saw hundreds. I saw even the rarest ones in mint condition with tag protectors. You remember Ty Beanie Babies don’t you? First we had to buy the Beanies and they had to be ‘real’ Ty Beanies not the imitation ones, but the kids didn’t want to play with them, they wanted to ‘collect’ them. They had to be kept in perfect condition. The company played into this and had limited releases and limited numbers of prized Beanies. They even sold ‘tag protectors’ these plastic covers that kept the tags (that you HAD to leave on the Beanie) in pristine condition so that their resale value would be greater. I remember the days of waiting in line for stores to open with anxious kiddies so we could purchase certain new releases of Beanies. I remember waiting in long lines at McDonald's to collect all 4 Teeny Beanie Bears available ‘for a limited time only’ in Happy Meals for each of our kiddos because they "had" to have them all and they were going to be worth lots of money. (Yeah, right.) Evidentially there were plenty of other kids (and parents) who got caught up in the Beanie Baby frenzy because the remains of the fad have made their way to South America. I suppose they were garage sale items that had too high of a price and so made their way to Good Will where they again had too high of a price so they were shipped off to Bolivia to be sold in the North American thrift store rejects part of La Cancha. Here's the kicker: I can buy the rarest of Beanies in mint condition with a tag protector for only 50 cents! So, I guess if you're waiting on their comeback to make your fortune, perhaps you should think of something else like figure out how to reconfigure the new iphone...oh, that's been done. Better think of something else. Maybe you can find a chip that looks like the Virgin Mary and sell it for thousands of dollars on e-bay. Oh, that’s been done too. Or better yet maybe you'll spill your hot coffee on you or find a severed finger in your Happy Meal and sue McD's for millions. After all they owe you for all the money you spent there buying all those Teeny Beanies. There's more than one way to get rich there in the USA. :>) Oh yeah, I know what some of you are thinking. I'm not taking any orders for certain Beanies to complete to your collection ‘just in case’. But, I promise if you come here to visit I'll take you shopping for them. I bought one for Hopey for her birthday. We have a new generation of Beanie Baby kids at our house. This generation actually plays with them. :>)

It's Like They Have a Different Word for Everything!

I feel like I've hit one of the walls that people with experience have told me would happen in language school. Even though we've been going for less than 2 months I'm feeling a bit burned out. I'm overwhelmed by the daunting task of it all. It's like they have a different word for everything and I don't know what those words are. I feel like a baby. I talk like a baby. Actually that's probably overstating it....a baby is much better at language than I am at Spanish. At least their 'mamamama' sounds CLOSE to what they are trying to say and they get their point across to smiling faces. All I get is confused looks. In fact all the babies here speak Spanish much better than I do. When we arrived in Bolivia on a Thursday in May, the following Saturday there was a yard sale at the SIM Guest House compound where we were staying. Hope met some little Bolivian friends and she came back all excited to tell me about it. She said she just met some kids and they were speaking Spanish and I quote here "like a big dog" so it must not be too hard. Boy, was she wrong. Those must have just been some awfully bright kids. :>) At my age it's hard enough to remember the word I wanted to say in ENGLISH, my native tongue that I've been speaking for over forty years! Our language teachers try to engage us in conversation by asking us questions. Often (I suppose because we are missionaries and a former a pastor and wife--not a former wife, just a former pastor) those end up being questions about how to deal with different sorts of counseling questions. Often I sit there dumbfounded and can't think on my feet of what I'd like to say....not in Spanish, but in English....I don't know how I would answer to the situation in English much less Spanish. I'd like to ask my teacher for time to pray about the situation and get wisdom from God, but I don't think this is the answer she's looking for. :>) Of course Joe has just the perfect words of wisdom along with Bible verses to back it up and he says it all in SPANISH! I’d like to just reach over and bop him on the head in a loving and supportive wife sort of way. :>) Just kidding I’m as proud of him as always. It’s a burden I’ve had to bear knowing he was smarter than me. But it’s even harder when faced with it day after day. As I said we were warned by those ahead of us on this path of language acquisition that we would hit many walls so I should’ve been prepared. Today I was just telling Joe today that I feel like I'm on the verge of wanting to work hard and put in the necessary study, but I'm just not quite there. Right now I just feel like I'm muddling through. Learning a new language (especially at my age and brain cell level) is hard work and it takes a lot of motivation and I've hit the "lack of motivation wall". At my stage of life it takes all the motivation and concentration I have just to get out of bed and get through another day with out saying the wrong English word like "Please pass the sofa...I mean veggies" or "Please be quiet I'm trying to shower...I mean type" of the ever popular "Please come here Josh, I mean David, I mean Joy, I mean Faith, I mean Caleb or whoever you are!" It's overwhelming and frustrating to not be able to speak to people we came here to serve, and I wonder if I'll ever be able to truly communicate. Language is such a huge barrier to overcome. I believe down deep in my heart that I will get past this, that learning Spanish will happen, that I will turn the corner and pour my heart into it, but right now I still feel stuck. :>) It probably doesn't help that Joe has already turned this corner; he's a bit ahead of me on the road and past his wall, now he's ready to start pouring over the books. Actually that does help because I know I'll get back on track too. Keep on praying for that gift of language for me!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More About Sending Packages

Several people have asked me to share more about sending packages again. So I'm going to take this space to do that. We are in no way asking anyone to send us parcels, just giving info to those who have asked. Here's a little background: We live in a city of almost a million people and there is no home delivery of mail and there is only one post office. I'm not sure if this is the cause or the effect of only a few people getting mail. Think of it. We don't get any junk mail. Now before you get too jealous let me tell you about our last trip to the post office. We needed to mail a letter to the SIM office in the States. We walked to the post office and realized that we needed an envelope to mail the papers in. So of course the post office doesn't have envelopes. What were we thinking? We walked out of the post office to a little tienda on the street that sold envelopes. Then we trekked back to the PO. Inside there are about 15 teller windows but akin to the North American DMV only two were open. At one of the windows someone was actually writing their letter while we waited. This is not uncommon. When they were finished it was our turn. We purchased a first class stamp to the States and the teller put it on our envelope then she cancelled it and gave it back to us. We then walked it across the post office and found the wooden box that says "North America" and put it in. That's a bit of the way the postal system works here. I guess government agencies all over the world have the same kind of efficiency training. :>) For those who receive packages the postal employees put them in these cubbies that are labeled something like this: A-C, D-F, G-I, etc. So, in order to get pick up a package at the post office, you must know that you have a package coming. When we were at the post office the other day I looked behind the counter where these cubbies are. There were only 20-30 parcels there at the most. Remember, this is a city of about 900,000 people. Thankfully, our mission agency has a post office box where we can get mail. I'll give that address at the bottom of this post.

Okay now to the nitty gritty of getting packages. There is a page on the USPS website about sending packages to Bolivia that you can check out. Here's the link: I do know that it is expensive to mail packages to here. I believe that there is a discounted flat rate if you can fit your stuff into the supplied size of box or envelope. The info for this is one that same web page but I'll copy and paste some of it here:

Priority Mail International Flat RateFlat-Rate Envelope (9.5" x 12.5"): $11.00 The maximum weight is 4 lbs.
Flat-Rate Box: $37.00 Merchandise is permitted, but written communications having the nature of current and personal correspondence are not permitted. The maximum weight is 20 lbs. or the limit set by the individual country.

Here's one more thing to consider before you mail. It is a possibility that we will not receive the parcels you mail. (The following is pasted from a previous blog entry). Remember that sending mail to us is not like sending it to military personnel or to government employees. They are much more likely to actually receive their packages and in much shorter time. So, keeping that in mind, it probably wouldn't be wise to send anything too expensive. Again, our fellow missionaries have said that anything less than 2 kilos (about 4.4 pounds) we don't have to pay customs duty on which is about 50% of the value of the item. Also they have told us that the easiest packages to get are ones in padded envelopes that weigh less than 2 kilos. However, having said that, please feel free to send anything you desire. When you are mailing, you must list the contents, but please don't place a value on it. Also, it's best if are able to write the descriptions in words that people that don't have English as their first language can understand. For example: instead of saying "books" you might say "reading materials". Instead of "towels" you might say "drying apparatus". This could give you vocabulary and creative writing practice as well as blessing us with mail. :) If you choose to mail a larger box that we must pay duty on, please open any new items and take tags off of them. This way they are considered 'used'. Please write 'used' on the description. So, then we only have to pay duty on 'garage sale' prices. For example: a new CD would cost maybe $15, but a used (opened) one would only be $1 or so. Therefore we would only pay 50 cents duty instead of $7.50. If you must place a value on your items please remember this and write extremely low values.

I had a list on my blog before of some things we had wanted, but since I posted it we've found some of the food items here (but not the elusive but much desired Star Bucks coffee). Granted the imported items from the States are much more expensive to buy here, but it's also expensive to mail things.

So far the only packages we've received have been a couple of padded envelopes of books from our friends the Donelly's mailed by our home group in Virginia and a couple of padded envelopes of candy (and toothbrushes) mailed from our friends the Lindsey's in Kansas City (that's the one we're opening on the video). My parents have mailed a box (almost 2 months ago now) as have a few others. We haven't received these yet although we are praying that they will arrive. So, I guess that actually means that so far the only packages we've received are the 9 x 12 padded envelope kind. I'm sure we can and will get other ones, we just haven't yet.

If you'd like to guarantee that the package will arrive here you can mail via Fed-Ex or DHL but these are very expensive. They didn't build Fed-Ex Field without getting money from somewhere. :>)

I know this is a long entry and I hope I’ve answered some of your questions. If you have more, please let me know and I’ll try to answer those.

Here's where to mail the packages:

Mision Andina Evangelica
Joe and Denise Holman
Cajon 736
Cochabamba, Bolivia
South America

Monday, September 24, 2007

Dead Man Walking....or at Least Awakening

How many of you saw the news story this past week about a guy that woke up in the middle of his autopsy? The medical examiners knew something was wrong when he started bleeding and quickly stitched him up. YIKES! It happened here in South America. In developing countries, it's not as uncommon as you would think for someone who everyone thought was dead to suddenly wake up. Here in Bolivia it's the law that a dead body must stay in the house of the deceased at least 24 hours and at least over one entire night. This is for several reasons one of which is to ensure that they are indeed dead. A Bolivian friend told us that she was at a funeral when the 'deceased' man sat up in the coffin! That would wake everyone else up for sure!! Joe asked me to do him a favor. If he dies here in Bolivia he wants me to drive a wooden stake through his heart. He says the last thing he wants to do is to wake up in his coffin buried underground. Maybe I should attempt something less drastic just in case he isn't quite dead or maybe I could even auction off the chance to drive the stake through his heart. Then at least I'd be financially set for the rest of my life. Any takers?

You all know that I am only kidding. I love my honey and I know you all do too. I showed this entry to Joe and he thought it was hilarious and wanted me to include that last part.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My Man Loves Me

Look at what he bought me!!! We made a special trip on Saturday to find a new market that we heard had a small supply of these. Our trip gave new light to the verse that says "Knock (and keep on knocking) and it shall be opened unto you, seek (and keep on seeking) and you will find. Ask (and keep on asking) and it shall be given unto you". I love my man!!

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Here is our family's new favorite pizza. Look how HUGE it is!! The box is about 3 feet by 3 feet and the pizza fills up the box! I think it's 40 large slices of pizza. It's called "Interminable" which means 'unfinishable', however our family can finish it no problem.

As many of you have read on our family's website ( we have a new hot water heater. It is the tankless kind so we now have endless hot water. However, we are having trouble explaning to our teens that endless hot water doesn't mean endless water.

Speaking of water, the other day I over heard David talking to the girls. He told them that when we moved here he figured out what the unfamiliar letters on the faucets meant. As many of you Spanish-speakers know, 'F' stands for frio (cold) and 'C' is for calente (hot). But I like David's explanation better. He says 'C' is for cool and 'F' is for freezing.

Here's a fun, short video of the kiddos receiving a package of some goodies from some friends in the States.