Presbyterian Missions Weblog

Day 5 Cambodia-Myanmar 09

Posted in Cambodia,Myanmar by lenpine on November 5, 2009

The Lord’s Day in the Cambodian Countryside

An early start on a warm day greeted us, and we piled into the van with our water bottles and other paraphernalia that we needed to do our tasks for the day. We stopped at Prey Pdao first, where Mark holds services at the home of a Christian family. Attendance has been down here after persecution and intimidation on the part of a local man, an alcoholic with a nasty temper, aimed at keeping people away. How sad that the very faith that could free him of his bondage is what he most wants to avoid, and  also that he wants to keep others from the same freedom. Well, we enjoyed a very nice meal with the family, who waited for us to finish our meal before they ate (the usual custom). Mark had also thoughtfully brought along a thermos or two of iced café mocha, which we made short work of. We then held a Sunday School for the children, of which there were about 20. Many of the kids had attended the first

Prey Pdao Sunday School

Karen's SS class under the house

day of VBS over in Prey Pbaom the day before, and had told their friends, so it was a good group. Around 8 or 9 adults also sat in on the lesson (the story of Noah – Karen led the class). The rest of us helped get the craft going with the kids, again blessing the ladies of Grand Island BPC for preparing everything so that all we had to do was just hand everything out in order. More kids and adults showed up after Sunday School, and we held a simple worship service: song, prayer requests/prayer, sermon, song, prayer. All of this under the house in the shade…still quite warm, but the breeze and the shade made it comfortable enough.

During the service there, a funeral was also going on in the village. Blaring chants and the traditional droning music, the funerals are designed to “guide” the lost spirit of the deceased to the right path of eternity. Needless to say, preaching about god delivering the lost (Psa 107:4-9) contradicted that idea rather directly. At one point it felt like a war going on – the music and chants kept getting louder, especially when the Scriptures were being read. At one point, as Socheat, our translator, read the text, I prayed in my heart for silence, so that the Word could be heard without distraction. Moments later, all was quiet, and remained that way until we finished. (We heard it fire up again as we left the village.)

Socheat Translating

Worship Service at Pdao

Then, in the middle of my sermon, the alcoholic walked up! He slipped in quietly, made no trouble, and listened intently. I didn’t know who he was until afterwards…but when he showed up I was dealing with freedom from bondage (Psa 107:10-16), and using alcoholism as an example. God’s providence is perfect. We’re praying that the Lord will use his Word to change this man’s heart and give him true freedom in Christ. The powers of darkness are definitely there, but God’s power is greater.

From there we traveled on to Prey Pbaom, and repeated the service schedule. About 80 children and a dozen adults greeted us there, and we had a wonderful time of fellowship with them. Far off in the distance we could hear another funeral fire up, but this one caused no disturbance to us. The presence of God’s testimony is stronger in this village, since there are many believers here. There has been no oppression from the neighbors. Mark seemed very encouraged by our work there, and we headed back on the long ride, anticipating further fellowship as a team together that evening. Mark is a good cook, and we all enjoyed his Cambodian

Sunday at Prey Pbaom

The Pbaom Sunday crowd

curry (sweeter and milder than Indian curries) at his house. I confess that I fell asleep in the living room while Mark was cooking, and I think Miriam did, too. When I woke up, she was nowhere in sight, and I heard movement behind the wicker sofa…she had lain down on the tile floor to take advantage of a little coolness there and conked out. Anyway, the brief rest helped our conversation to be more coherent around the dinner table – I hope! We caught a tuk tuk back to the hotel and enjoyed a blissful night’s sleep.


Day 4 Cambodia-Myanmar 09

Posted in Cambodia,Myanmar by lenpine on October 30, 2009

First Day of VBS

We got up early and met Mark downstairs after our breakfast at the hotel…a mix of Western and Burmese dishes. Best to avoid the Western stuff for the most part, since it’s just not quite right and will disappoint you. Stick with the food of the land, and you’re better off. So, rice and vegetables, fruit, and an egg or two. Karen did take advantage of the toast and jam, however.

The Van

Our Ride

Mark hires a van through a local company. The driver happens to be a Christian guy named Pbo. He’s a good driver, and a great guy besides. Anything pleasant like that is a blessing, because the roads are terrible. Not so bad right around Phnom Penh, but after that it’s all about dodging potholes (and motos, and trucks, and pedestrians, and bicyclists…you get the idea). It’s a two-hour ride one way down National Highway 2, and you get bounced around a good bit. We were thankful for the AC, for sure. Mark used to do this ride on his own moto every week, but the jarring so abused his wrists that he’s had to stop doing that. Much easier to haul all his gear out there, anyway, and one can arrive in fairly decent condition to actually do something. The second half of the trip is on unpaved roads, and the jarring gets worse, and the noise (from going over the bumps) is loud enough that you have to almost shout to be heard sometimes. Mark told us that the van has to be periodically and frequently in for service just to tighten up all the bolts underneath. I believe it.

We made three stops on the way, one to pick up our translators. Along with Mark’s usual translator, Socheat, we also hired two others, Soka and Salteya. These two young ladies were excited about serving the Lord with us. Soka had quite a bit of experience, and we could not have asked for anyone better to help us get started off properly with our VBS. Salteya was quiet and sweet-tempered, but new at the translation thing, so we put her to use in the craft and game times, for which she served very well. Anyway, the second stop was a little south of Phnom Penh at a bakery where we picked up 100 loaves of French bread (long baguettes, really) for the children’s snack that day, and the other stop was in a village about half way down to pick up some fruit for our host family in the village.

We arrived sometime between 10 and 11 in the morning at Prey Pbaom, and found that many children were already waiting for us at the church, even though we weren’t scheduled to

Opening Day Crowd

First day group quietly waiting for us to get started.

start until noon! We dropped off our gear and walked over to the home of our hosts, the lay pastor and his family, for an early lunch. It’s common for extended families to live together in the same house, or in adjoining houses, and that is the case here. So there were quite a few people gathered at the house. In addition to growing rice, the family also weaves silk cloth (mostly used for weddings and funerals and other formal occasions) with looms set up under the house. We were also joined at our meal by various and sundry chickens and dogs, who were eager for the scraps of chicken bones that we all tossed away. A few yards away the pig and the cows were tethered, and so our alfresco brunch was colorful, noisy, chaotic, and delightful all at once. The food was basic Khmer fare of rice, vegetables, seasoned and boiled chicken or fish, and an additional treat of grilled beef as well. In addition, we also were served prahock, or “Cambodian Cheese,” a paste which is made of fermented fish. Very salty and intense. Mark loves it. The rest of us took our “no thank you portions,” though I did take a little more after finishing the firsts off.

OK, VBS. It was an incredible first day. The kids (100+ of them crowded into a hot little sanctuary) behaved marvelously. We had no discipline issues, and it was only a bit on the noisy and chaotic side due to the sheer numbers of them. This was all very new to them, and they had no idea of what to expect or to where to go or what to do, with very little point of reference to try to understand what we were asking of them. Miriam and Mark did the lessons, on Creation and the Fall of mankind into sin and rebellion against God. I should say that we used the wordless book concept as the structure of our lessons, but from a Reformed perspective and with our own ideas of how to use the colors. So, blue was creation, black represented sin, red the Cross of Christ, white was resurrection and purity, green was growth in Christ (sanctification), and gold was heaven. In addition to the actual “books” we put together for teaching, a Christian bookstore here in Buffalo had given us several boxes of teaching

Creation Class

Miriam teaching in the "outdoor classroom"

materials from which we put together a great selection of teaching tools, all of which we left with Mark and the Kimas in Myanmar when we left. Thanks to the hard work of the ladies at the Grand Island BP church, the crafts we used to reinforce the lessons went astonishing well. Not only the crafts themselves, but the way they were prepared for our use…all the parts already bagged in workable quantities, or everything needed for a particular item all together in one bag made it easy to distribute everything and help the kids keep what they needed right there with them. We did over 120 craft items the first day (the adults joined in, too!),

Creation Mobiles

The kids made mobiles that featured what God created...a big hit!

and did the craft session in the allotted time of 15 minutes, and that was with translation. We also did games with them, and they enjoyed learning some new ones (or games that were variations of things they do over there already, like “Duck, Duck, Goose” – their version is a little more violent). Bible memory was a big emphasis, and they really got into it, and we did lots of singing, too, teaching them new songs and working on ones they already knew, too.

All the while, the neighbors next to the church sat at the property line and listened in. They wouldn’t come over, but they didn’t leave, either. The owner is the local music teacher, and also heads up a little traditional ensemble that plays for weddings and funerals all over the district. We generally had the traditional music as a background all day long. When we finished up about 4, we trooped over next door to see all the instruments and the guys over there played us a tradition song. Great stuff.

We headed back to Phnom Penh, very tired, but elated at how well everything had gone. Went to a great restaurant around the corner from the hotel called Khmer Surin…great Khmer food and atmosphere. A satisfying end to a satisfying day.

Day 1-3 Cambodia-Myanmar 09

Posted in Cambodia,Myanmar by lenpine on October 29, 2009

En Route

Karen and I had an uneventful trip, arriving on in Phnom Penh after a brief but very helpful night’s sleep at the airport hotel in Bangkok…what a good idea, I intend to stay there every time I make this trip in the future. Actually felt human when we got to Phnom Penh. It was awesome to have Karen travel with me and share the adventure!

Bangkok Airport Hotel Lobby

Yeah, that's the inside of the building!


Rev. Baldwin enjoying taking up the entire back seat of a tuk tuk

Rev. Mark Baldwin met us at the airport with a big smile and nice van. He’s doing well, and was obviously very busy with last minute preparations. Just as obviously he was excited about the prospects of a great ministry together. We got settled in at the Goldiana Hotel in Phnom Penh. Very comfortable, very reasonable, and the staff is genuinely courteous and helpful. Besides, in Karen’s opinion they have the world’s most beautiful elevators. It’s a small car, but the interior is all hand-carved wood. Since we were only one floor up, we felt a little embarrassed to ride the elevator, but Karen’s love of the elevator would not be denied. After dumping our stuff off and taking a rest, we enjoyed lunch and then dinner later at a couple of different Khmer restaurants in the neighborhood within walking distance. Good stuff.

Lounging in the Lobby

Ladies in the Goldiana

Miriam’s flight down to PP was a little more eventful. Her connection was delayed and then cancelled, and she was two hours late. Since she was supposed to land at around 9 pm, it got to be a very late night for all concerned. Nonetheless, we were delighted to finally see her smiling face…and then get her into her room down the hall from us and rush back into our own bed! We had an early start ahead of us the next day.

Bolivia #13 – Winding Down

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 28, 2008

Wednesday was kind of a blur, as I still felt rotten and weak and couldn’t get out to do anything. Certain aspects of this thing just wouldn’t let up. Couldn’t figure out what the problem was and was beginning to suspect a parasite of some kind. Everyone was worried. I just wanted to be able to preach, and not have my gut hurt!

In the morning, tract distribution was scheduled, and Pastor David had prepared about 3000 to send out. I heard them when they left, and when they came back. They were pretty excited. All 3000 had been given out in about an hour, and they came up to see me and tell me how people crossed the street to come and get a tract, how eager many were to receive one, how exciting it was, how they wished people in the States wanted to hear about the good news of Christ with the same determination. They had a good time.

The afternoon was free time so the team could go out and do some shopping. They had been looking forward to this for a long time, and I was very sorry not to go with them. I stayed in bed, feeling marginally stronger and wanting to keep it that way. It was very quiet during the afternoon, and I slept it away. Meanwhile, they were busy! They enjoyed exploring the Witches’ Market area and finding their own places to buy gifts of thanks and remembrance for people back home. By the time they returned, they were pretty tired, but showed me the stuff they bought like warriors returning in triumph. And, some of them did really well in the bartering – others, well, let’s just say they were a little too soft-hearted!

I tried eating a very little before the service, but it didn’t set very well, so I quit. One of the church members came up to the office about a half hour before the service – he was helping conduct the opening parts of the service – and started talking to me about my symptoms. He’s a dentist, a very fine man, and was quite concerned for me. His name is Victor, and a good friend. Anyway, after hearing what was going on, he said it was clear to him that I had an intestinal infection, not a parasite, and he knew what I needed. He and Roldan took off to a local pharmacy and were back in a few minutes with some strong antibiotics and some other things, including an instant Bolivian version of Gatorade, and got me going on it. I was ready to try anything.

The Lord helped me through a long, emotional farewell service, and the message went pretty well. Started slow. Ed told me it took about 5 minutes for the engine to start running properly, and it felt that way. But the Lord gave the strength, and the preaching seemed to go well. I usually am a little on the longish side anyway, and these messages are all translated – even though I shorten them a bit, it’s still twice as long due to the translation, so we go about an hour. It was a long time to stand, but I hardly felt it once I got going. The Lord was good. I’ll admit I was ready to sit down, though!

Well, Victor’s prescription worked. I slept through the night for the first time since Saturday, and woke up feeling alive again. So well, in fact, that I spent the day with the team walking (slowly!) around La Paz through a museum and in some nice parks with views of the city, even doing a little shopping with them. Was pretty wiped by the end of the day, but it was great to be out again, and to spend our last day in Bolivia in fellowship with more than my pillow.

It was a beautiful, warm day, and the museum we went to was a great way for the team to get to know the history and culture of the area. It even had rooms full of silver and gold from the Inca days, and lots of dioramas, costumes, weapons, etc., from a the various eras of La Paz’ history. It’s located in a preserved area of old colonial La Paz that takes you back a couple of hundred years to what the streets were like then. The parks are perched on top of ridges that overlook the city, and have a lot of big toys (concrete and steel, not wood like here) and play areas for kids. My particular favorite thing to do in Laikkota Park is to spin the kids around on the merry-go-round until they scream for mercy, and then they laugh and want me to do it again. Once I start with a few of them, any kid within sight comes running to jump on. It’s fun. The girls and Pastor David slid down a giant slide, and Ed and a few others allowed themselves to be swallowed by a giant alligator. The locals must think we’re crazy.

After lunch it was time to finish up the last minute shopping before heading back to the church for a special farewell meal. It was a feast, and Gloria and Gonzaga worked all day preparing it. My only regret was that I couldn’t hardly eat anything. But no one else seemed to have that difficulty, and the food was delicious. They had even obtained a cake from a local bakery and we had a wonderful celebration. Gloria and Gonzaga have worked so hard throughout our time here, with absolute joy and a determination not to let us do anything for ourselves that they could do for us. They are very special people.

So the day ended with last minute packing – had to get up at 3:30 in the morning or so. Rachel and Liz were determined to just stay up all night, which they did, and I think regretted doing the next day! The Quisberts and Irustas all came the next morning with us to the airport, and patiently waited while we got checked in, guarding our carry-on stuff. We all went to breakfast at Burger King in the airport before tearfully saying goodbye. These are good friends, well-met, and it has been a trip that no one will quickly forget. Thanks for your prayers. After about 20 hours of travel, all are safely home!

Bolivia #12 – A Long 48 Hours

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 22, 2008

Sunday night was a long night, went to bed early, and then woke up about midnight feeling really bad. It’s now Tuesday night, and it’s the first time I’ve felt well enough to do much of anything. Basically had the 48 hour version of the 24 hour flu. And yes, it is what Carol had. The last two days have been a blur, sleeping most of the time (in between trips downstairs), but I can tell you some of what the team has been doing, anyway.

Monday was painting day, and the team was able to prime the whole interior of the church, and get the outside painted entirely. Pastor David hired a couple of painters to come finish up the inside – they were here until about 11 pm. The sanctuary and outside are now a very nice, warm, sandy-yellow color. It’s light and inviting. Pastor David is ecstatic. It really looks nice from the street, too. Painting is quite different here than in the states. First, you have to tint your own paint. You buy the base, and the tubes of tint, and then bring it home and stir it up. Then, for some reason, they like to thin it out with a lot of water. I could understand that if I were spraying the paint, but they get it really watery and roll or brush it on. Takes more coats that way. It was driving Carol crazy – she had the consistency just where she wanted it, and the painters came in and started adding more water! I think we kind of got to do it our way on the exterior. But, either way, it looks very nice, much better than the raw, grey concrete it was before.

Rachel, however, didn’t have such a good day. While priming an area over her head, some of the primer dropped into her eye, partially dissolving her contact lens and causing a lot of pain. It took some doing for Carol to get the lens out, but she was able to do so. Rachel was in a lot of pain, and felt bad besides because it knocked her out of the work crew. Carol lubricated the eye with drops and patched it after looking on the internet to see what to do. Today, Rachel still couldn’t see much out of the eye, so they took her to an eye doctor here who said everything looked pretty good, and that the biggest issue was an infection in the eyelid. He gave her some anti-biotic and anesthetic drops, which have really helped the pain. Praise God she is seeing better this evening and a lot more comfortable.

I understand the evening Bible study at the Ramirez’ home was terrific, with the house packed with about 30 people, and plenty of food (not that I was interested in that). Sorry I had to stay behind. The Ramirez family are good friends. I just slept. Tried to eat a few crackers and a little soup, but that was about it until this morning. Still going slow, very drained. Tonight, though, is the best I’ve felt, so I’m hoping for a good night of rest and a normal day tomorrow.

Tonight everyone has taken off again for the home Bible study at the Huanca home. The Huancas are also very good friends, and I’m sorry to miss it. But I’m worried about pushing it too fast. Today was a good day for the team: Rachel is better, Liz has a cold, but is plugging along, Carol headed up a women’s Bible study that went very well from what I am told, with a lot of ladies in attendance. This afternoon the team gathered with a group of young people for a couple of hours of sports at a local Wallyball complex, and Roldan brought a devotional. I guess there were about 20 young people there besides the team. Ed came back breathing hard, remembering that the altitude hasn’t lessened! But they had a great time. And yes, I slept through it!

Had a light dinner tonight, and am trying to regain equilibrium. For those of you that knew about this and were praying, thanks. I’m sure I’m out of the woods now. Have to preach tomorrow night, and we’re supposed to go out and distribute tracts in the morning. Also, we scheduled some time for shopping in the afternoon tomorrow, and the team is anxious to find gifts for folks back home. I hope to go with them to help them find what they need and help them barter for the best deals. It’s more fun than actually buying stuff for yourself!

I found out that my blog host is having issues with their service that they use to post pictures. I tried to upload some yesterday in a coherent moment, and the deal is that nothing that I post will show up for the moment. So, when they get it straightened out, I’ll be putting pictures up for Peru and Bolivia. Until then, thanks for reading and keeping us in your prayers.

Bolivia #11 – Weekend Witness, Work, and Walking!

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 22, 2008

Saturday was a lighter day, with only teaching and helping with the children’s OANSA program in the afternoon. That’s the Spanish version of AWANA in the States. More on that in a moment.

Well, we took some time in the morning to get some money changed and walked downtown, about a mile or so, to the exchange place. It’s located about a block from the San Fransisco church and plaza, in the heart of La Paz. We passed out tracts as we went, and more when we reached the plaza. None of us have enough Spanish under our belts to really engage people with the gospel, but we are thankful that most receive the tracts willingly and even begin to read immediately. Roldan spent some time with a drunken man in the plaza, and tried to relieve him of his liquor. It’s so sad to see this sight frequently – men staggering through the streets in midday in a stupor. The verse that reads, “without God, and without hope in the world” comes to mind. After exchanging some money, we walked through the church, which is about 460 years old or so. Its façade is an ornate blending of traditional Inca, Tihuanacan, and Catholic art, and the interior is a blend of baroque and neoclassical Catholic images and designs, much of it covered in gold leaf or gold paint. The walls are lined with images of saints, with people praying to the images and offering flowers and incense. The mix of pagan and Christian symbolism is obvious, typical of the Romanist tendency to syncretize with local religions rather than remaining true to biblical Christianity. The devotion of many to this false religion is an occasion for sorrow, and reminds us of why we are here.

Back out in the fresh air, we decided to take a stroll back uphill toward the church to find a taxi. This area of La Paz is a big tourist draw, and the streets surrounding the church are lined with shops that sell every kind of tourist trinket, traditional handcrafts, musical instruments, and Bolivian clothing of all kinds. And, the famous “Witches’ Market” is also in this area, interesting to be so close to the Catholic church! The walk uphill can be grueling, with grades of 10-15% sometimes, so we went slowly, did a little browsing along the way, and enjoyed soaking up some local sounds, smells, and sights. There was the traditional wedding we saw a part of in the streets, the crowded Saturday market streets, fresh-squeezed orange juice from a street vendor’s cart (one of my favorite things to do in La Paz!), and doing our best to avoid becoming a hood ornament on taxis and busses! We never did find a taxi or bus that was free along our route, so we ended up walking the entire way back to the church, tired but happy from the experience. We had handed out about 250 tracts, and found a few bargains on gifts for people back home, and become one with the city for a time.

The afternoon OANSA program is an outreach to the children of the neighborhood, and from 3-5 every Saturday afternoon the kids pile into the sanctuary for a time of singing, Bible stories, Bible memory, games, and activities. Today, our team was privileged to be the leaders (helped a lot by Gloria, Martin, and Gonzaga!). The kids did a great job with their memory work and crafts, and they loved the game time, too. I brought a Bible story from the book of Job. I think there were about30 kids present. The church has been doing this outreach for a little over a year now, and is sponsored by the Grand Island BPC in New York.

Since we didn’t have anything planned for the evening, we continued a tradition of taking the team and the Quisberts, Irustas, Roldan, and the kitchen helper out to a nice dinner as a thank you for all their hard work. We went to a awesome restaurant at the top of the Hotel Presidente downtown. The food was superb, and the view was incredible 17 stories up. You look all around and see the panorama of La Paz at night. It was beautiful.

The Lord’s Day services went very well. Susan and Carol taught the children’s Sunday School classes, and I preached in the morning and evening. It was a blessing to see the church pews full, and to know that this is the regular attendance, too. With some of our special services, we have a lot of visitors, which is wonderful, but it is nice to see the regular attendance at good levels. In the afternoon, we had a kind of in-house concert where the music students for the week played piano and violin, and team members did more solo or small group pieces/songs, and the whole group did several Aymara and Spanish songs. It was low-key and a great time of fellowship. These music students have worked with our teams before, and continued their practice in between, and they really make progress with our music teachers. This year, Carol had the violin students, and Susan the piano students. It was a special treat to have our friend Christian spend the concert time and evening service with us. Susan had taught him piano four years ago, and while he had had lessons before, he hadn’t made much progress. He took what he learned from her and just took off. He plays mostly by ear, and plays with incredible virtuosity. And, he especially loves hymns, and when he plays he just grins from ear to ear with joy in the playing. It’s a blessing to hear him.

I’m not feeling well this evening, not sure what is going on. Hope this doesn’t turn into what Carol had this week.


Bolivia #10 – Wrapping up a full week

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 19, 2008

Forgot to mention yesterday how the final English classes went. We had a smaller number of young people show up, but still in the neighborhood of 60 or so, including some new ones. We all made a particular effort to  make a final presentation and urging to the gospel which, in my class at least, was soberly received by most of the kids.

Rachel and Carol took it easy this morning, and both are feeling better. Don’t know if it was something they ate, or just the winding road and altitude adjustment that hit them, but we’re thankful for the Lord’s strengthening them. They were ready for the day in the afternoon.

Today was our last early morning broadcast, and I finished up with the church at Philadelphia. I’ll have to cover the other churches that I have left (Pergamos, Sardis, and Thyatira, in that order) on Sunday and next Wednesday. Ed is looking forward with a little trepidation to the final two home Bible studies in the evening next week, but I’m sure that he will do well. He has been a blessing to the people. Some of them have even been calling him “Pastor” which really makes his day!

We wrapped up VBS this morning, with about ten children. The kids were really terrific this year. School is in, or we’d have a lot more, but we are glad for what we had.

The last music lessons were also done today. We will include some of the students in Sunday’s concert in the afternoon. The participation has been enthusiastic, to say the least. We’ll have students playing violin and piano numbers. We had the rest of the afternoon free, so did some practice for our own music on Sunday and came up with a good program for that afternoon. It will be more of a “personal” kind of concert, doing some of the music that we have done so far, but also doing a lot more solo and small group songs. Roldan is even going to do a solo on his harmonica – he’s pretty good!

The choir “invitational” in the evening was quite a big deal. We started doing this four years ago with the first team that we sent down here, and it has become a tradition. This one was the best organized and executed yet. There were five choirs that came, and our team, each singing three songs. The choirs come from all over La Paz. Some are from specific churches, but most are Christian community choirs that any believer can join. The music was almost all done in Spanish, and was a blessing to listen to. Some of the songs were hymns that we know in English, and others hymns and gospel music that is indigenous, at least to South America. Other songs had a decidedly classical touch. Wonderful variety without being worldly. We marveled at the piano accompaniment of a young man that Susan had taught four years ago, and has essentially taught himself to play anything by ear with tremendous skill and virtuosity. He played for almost all the choirs, all by ear, sometimes only glancing at the music (when it was available) to make sure he had the tune in his head.  Then, one of the choirs asked me to play for them, two songs that I had never seen or heard before! Well, I didn’t do as well as Christian, but I survived and so did the choir, as the Lord helped us put it together as they performed the songs. Our team did two songs in Spanish and two in English. It was a beautiful evening of worship and celebration together. Susan was given an engraved silver plate in thanks for her coming for the third time. They really love her here.

After the service, Gloria Quisbert and Roldan had a surprise for us — ice cream! Roldan overheard Liz saying how much she was longing for some, and he went out and bought some for all of us. We enjoyed it all together with our Bolivian brethren before our evening devotions and bed. God is good. It was a great day!

Bolivia #9 – Gifts of Strength

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 19, 2008

Well, today was a big day. In addition to our usual Bible study in the early morning and VBS, we were looking forward to visiting a couple of radio stations up in El Alto this afternoon, coming back for English class, and going back up to El Alto for the evening concert. Well, I have to say we really weren’t looking forward to that schedule, because it’s a good half hour up to El Alto on steep, winding, bumpy, twisting roads, and its exhausting just making the trip. And, we were painfully aware of how much practice we needed for the concert. Well, as it turned out, the Lord saw to it that we got some rest and the practice! The radio stations called to say that they had sold time in the afternoon, and that we could only come later, during our English class time. So, that was cancelled, and we were able to stay here at the church for the afternoon. Pastor David made arrangements with a secular station just up the street from us about 2 minutes to go in and do a team interview and some songs for about 20 minutes or so, and we were able to do that. This station particularly is designed for factory workers in the area, and we were able to talk about the gospel, and ecumenicity, and the contrast between us and the Catholic church, all as the announcer asked questions. It was great.

We go in some good practice, and spent the rest of the afternoon getting ready and gathering strength for the evening. It’s hard to imagine the difference a couple of thousand feet can make in the extent of your endurance, but at this altitude it can be huge. After a nice dinner, we took a minibus up the tortuous way, but a little quicker this time since we took the toll road. Still, on the way Rachel started feeling really rough. Thought we were going to have to stop to let her out a couple of times, but she held on. By the time we arrived at the church, she was pretty green. Roldan found some local herbs that are good for this sort of thing, and they perked her up considerably, enough so that she was able to participate in the concert! God is good. We really needed her voice and flute, since we’re a pretty small bunch, and it was a big sanctuary. Carol started feeling poorly about the time we started the concert, but held on as well. The trip down was rough for her, but the herbs did the trick for Rachel.

The concert went really well, and was well received. There were about 200 people or so there, many of whom I know from past trips, and many new faces from all over El Alto. Most exciting to me was seeing our new brother in Christ, Ronald, walk in, grinning from ear to ear. He was just beaming, and I felt like jumping up and down with joy at seeing him. He is clearly a new person. He will be coming to church here, and Martin and David are taking him under their collective “wing” to make sure that he is in a place where he can grow in the Lord.

The church we sang at is a large one, and the building is relatively new and still unfinished. But they have come a long ways from the last time that I saw it and ministered there. The pastor is the head of the CALA ministry and a leader in his denomination. CALA is the ministry that produces hymnals in Aymara, the songs that we sing for the concerts we do. They are amazed that Americans like and care about their music, and they treat us as one of them. It’s a blessing.

We came home tired but elated that we survived our concert, and thankful for the strength that God gives to do his work. Thanks for your prayers.

Bolivia #8 – A Holiday, and What Happened

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 17, 2008

Today was the 199th anniversary of the independence of the city of La Paz, and fireworks were a major part of the festivities last night, and they have continued through the day. The day began as usual, with our early morning Bible study, only I switched with Ed, who is now doing the rest of the home studies. I needed the projector for my series on the seven churches of Asia, and he was happy to swap with me. In fact, he did the study last night at the Irustas. The study is going very well, and people are really getting into digging deep into these incredible letters in Revelation 2 & 3.

With school out today, we had 28 kids in VBS, which was great! I dropped in during crafts time and the kids all crowded around to show me their decorated foam crosses and give me hugs. They are precious children. There’s one 5 or 6 year old ittle girl in particular, Beatrice, whom I’d adopt if I could and her parents would let her go! She comes by herself every day, usually with her friend Carol, and always runs to greet me and jump into my arms. Yeah, she’s got me wrapped around her little finger, I admit it.

Well, even though it was a holiday, all the music students showed up in the afternoon, and the classes lasted a long time, longer than the scheduled time even. The English classes were officially cancelled, but we still had five girls come anyway, and we met in another room. Tomorrow they’ll all be back, and we’ll work our usual program, but today we were kind of low-key. I taught them a gospel song by going through the lyrics line by line, explaining the English meaning, and then using it as a testimony of why I have confidence in Christ. Ed helped me out, and the gospel just flowed out.The response was pretty incredible. One girl in particular said that though she had heard things like God loves you, and you can trust Him, before, she had never heard it like this – never heard about Christ as the foundation of our faith and confidence for this life and the next. She wants to come back to one of our concerts, and I hope that we can see her come to a saving knowledge of Christ. She and another girl in particular are really open and eager to hear. It was an awesome time.

We had a regular service here at the church in the evening, and just kept on with the Revelation series. We sang some Aymaran special music, and Rachel played her flute and sang, too, with Liz accompanying on the piano. It was a very good day. The wind picked up and the temp dropped sharply tonight, and it was pretty cold. Everyone is dreading taking a shower, as the sporadically hot water falls over you, getting you nice and wet so that the icy wind can chill you off as you shower and then race back to the relative warmth of your room! Everyone has been trying to get showers in during the middle of the day to take advantage of the warmer air (it gets up into the 50s during the day). Anyway, looking forward to seeing what the Lord has for us tomorrow. We’ve got a big concert in the evening, and we need more practice! Pray hard! Thanks.

Bolivia #7 – Another Full Day

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 16, 2008

Ed started us off again today working through the value and application of the Bible to our daily lives. The folks that are attending in the mornings really appreciated the practical nature of the lessons.

We held VBS today, with about 8 kids, and it was a blessing. We’re running a pretty typical program of Bible lessons, singing, crafts, and games. The kids love it. The program runs from 9:30-12:30.

We had another wonderful meal for lunch, pretty typical food for here, and lots of it. They are spoiling us rotten. We’re not complaining! They won’t let us do our laundry, insisting on doing it for us.

Instead of music lessons this afternoon, I held a seminar in Biblical Interpretation for pastors and church leaders and teachers. It was pretty well attended, and recorded, too. I didn’t get through but about half of my notes, but was able to get a good foundation laid. It was very well received.

On the heels of the seminar we had the English classes again, with the same kids and some new ones, too. It was great. We were able to share the gospel with the kids in all the classes, and they keep coming back for more. In our advanced class we continued our discussion about the foundation for discerning right from wrong, the basis of law and judgment, and were able to bring them right to the Law of God in the Ten Commandments. They are taking it all in very seriously and intensely. Tomorrow, because of the holiday, we won’t hold the full program, but several told us that they would come anyway, even though school was out. They want to talk. The Law is the schoolmaster that leads to Christ. Pray that we can do just that tomorrow and Thursday.

We had another home Bible study this evening, this time at the home of Deacon Martin Irusta. We had a wonderful surprise in a homemade pizza dinner (VERY good!), and enjoyed an evening of fellowship around the Word, games, and praise. We played charades in two languages, which gets pretty wild. The party outside, with the holiday celebrations heating up, gave us some competition in the noise department, but we managed to stay on track and had a wonderful evening together. The Irustas, live within walking distance of the church, and so we walked through the markets and vendors and smells and sounds of a La Paz evening, up and down the steep streets. A walk in the cool evening air was just the perfect way to end a great day. Thanks for your prayers.

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