Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Growing Seeds

I began this post when we were in Bolivia. Due to slow internet connections and lack of time, I did not finish it until now. May it be an encouragement to each of you as you read how God is moving in the lives Bolivian young people!

When Gerson and I left Bolivia to serve the Lord in McAllen, Texas, it was bittersweet. It was bitter because Bolivia holds a dear place in our heart. Gerson is from Bolivia, and it is where he and I met, dated, married, and started our life of marriage and ministry as a couple. It was sweet because we knew the Lord was leading us, and we knew God doesn't make mistakes.

More often than not, when one is in full-time ministry, it is hard to see the results of one's labor. I remember leaving Bolivia wondering what seeds we had planted and how those we had had the privilege to disciple would fare, since our departure from Bolivia was very sudden due to my high risk pregnancy with Jayden. (If you want to read more of THAT story of God's faithfulness, go to and click on the posts from the fall of 2008!)

Coming back to Bolivia after several years has opened my eyes to how the Lord is working in the lives of His children here in this country. The greatest joy for me upon our return has been to see how God is growing the seeds He planted while we were here. I'd like to share some of these with you, praising God who is the One who is doing the work in these individuals!

The first group of people we had the privilege to meet with was the Boanerges or "Sons of Thunder" cell group from the University Church. Gerson was the founder of this group of young men. When we left, he left Limber, one of the young men in the group, with the baton of leadership. Limber has done an incredible job with these young men and the group has grown. (There was a small group our first evening with them due to several conflicts that night.) There has been so much growth that it was decided to split the group into two cell groups --- one for married men and one for single men. Another man from the original group, Gonzalo, now teaches the married men. What a joy to see not only the growth of numbers, but the  depth of growth we witnessed spiritually in these young men. Several came by the house and talked with us one on one about what God is doing in their life. What a joy to hear the testimonies! I'm excited about how God is using these young men to impact Bolivia! Pray that the Lord will bring the single men a godly wife who will join them in ministry. That was a concern on many of their hearts as they spoke with us. 

 Limber with Edson --- they became fast friends.
Another joy for us was to see Gabriel and Angelica. We met them back in 2008 because Gabriel's brother attended the Boanerges cell group. He had shared with Gerson that his brother and sister-in-law were going through a hard time and he was concerned for them. Gerson reached out to Gabriel and we began meeting with this young couple in our home. They were struggling in their marriage, and Gerson and I had the amazing privilege of sharing God's perspective of marriage with them. They had had a civil wedding ceremony, but as they studied God's Word, they really had a desire to have a religious ceremony to consecrate their marriage to the Lord and renew their wedding vows. December of 2010, they had a beautiful wedding to do just that!
We were unable to return to Bolivia to attend their wedding, but while we were here in Bolivia this time, Gabriel and Angelica invited us out to eat one evening, and then the following week cooked a traditional Bolivian meal for us. During that time of fellowship, they showed us pictures of their wedding and gave us the video of the special event! What immense joy to see this couple grow in their love for each other as their love for the Lord grows! They also shared with us that Gabriel is feeling the Lord's leading to formally study the Bible, even though he is a successful businessman. He doesn't know what the Lord has in store for him, but he wants to be prepared to serve Him completely! The fact that he is willing to be obedient to the Lord in so many huge areas of his life is a testimony to how God is working in this man and his family!
Another couple we were able to see was my best Bolivian friend from Trinidad, Blanca Elena, and her husband Roberto. They made the sacrifice to travel overnight by bus to spend a weekend with us. When I lived as a single missionary in Bolivia, God sent Blanca across my path through our church Sunday School class. Blanca quickly became a close friend, and I was thrilled when she and Roberto, with whom I was on the praise and worship team at church, began to date. They got married 4 months after Gerson and me. This couple has an incredible passion for the Lord and have become leaders in a small church plant in Trinidad. Blanca recently quit her job, allowing her to plunge freely and whole-heartedly into ministry! What an incredible privilege to see how God is using this couple to further His Kingdom!

There are just a few of the people who have impacted our lives and who we see God using in ways we never imagined when we lived there. The seeds fell on fertile ground and grew fruit. Now that fruit is sowing seeds and others are coming to know Christ through them. Our joy knows no bounds! Praise the Lord!

Please pray for these young people. As they shared their ministries with us, they also shared their struggles, hurts, and desires. Pray they will remain strong in the Lord, focused on Him, and that He will continue to bless their lives and ministries. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I'd Like to Introduce You to . . .

 Gerson's Father: Fermin

Gerson's dad is from a part of Bolivia called Los Yungas de La Paz. In his prime, Fermin was a professional soccer player for a team in La Paz, Bolivia called Municipal. In total, he spent 6-7 years playing soccer either professionally or semi--professionally. He's a jack of all trades, however, and also worked with heavy machinery when Gerson was a young boy. One of his bigger projects was asphalting the runway in Tarija. He also mined and worked various other jobs to help support his family throughout the years. Playing professional sports in Bolivia is not as lucrative as it is in the States. He made enough to support the family, but did not make an overabundance to continue supporting them once he was out of professional sports.
 Currently, Papa Fermin is working at the Bolivian Evangelical University (BEU) here in Santa Cruz. He is the athletic director. He views this more as a ministry than a job. In addition to organizing the BEU's sports teams for the Santa Cruz University Olympics each year, he also coaches the girls' indoor soccer team. He has also taken over the BEU soccer school that Gerson helped found in 2005 and coaches soccer to young boys from the neighborhoods around BEU.
 Gerson's Mom: Dora

Dora is from Tarija, Bolivia. Her joy in life is cooking! She loves to be in the kitchen cooking for her family. And she's a TREMENDOUS cook! From the time she gets up in the morning until it is time to serve lunch, you can find her slaving away in her kitchen. This is her way of serving her family.
 Mama Dora has diabetes. As I've mentioned in a former post, she's quite the business woman. She has no medical insurance, so she finds ways to raise money to cover her medical expenses. She sometimes cooks empanadas, or other such treats, to see at the soccer games where Papa Fermin coaches. She also has begun a jewelry business. She makes beautiful jewelry and has built up a clientele, both here and in Tarija. If any of you is interested in buying some of here jewelry, let me know! I can hook you up!
 Gerson's Brother: Aldo (in the blue shirt)

Gerson has a half-brother, Aldo. He and his family live on the other side of Santa Cruz, so they do not come over to his parents' house often. Aldo is taxi driver and that is how he supports his famiy. Judith runs a little store from inside their house, selling staple groceries to families in their little barrio (neighborhood). We're happy that so far we've seen Aldo and his family 3 times since we've been here!
 Aldo and Judith have three precious children. Hudson is the oldest. He is 8 years old and loves school! He reminds us a lot of Jayden. Jairo is 6 years old. Their little girl is Alison Jamie and she is 3 years old.  It's been a joy watching Jayden and Edson getting to know their Bolivian cousins. We hope they will get to spend even more time with them before we head home.
 Gerson's Sister: Cathy

Cathy is the family care-giver. She is a true SERVANT! She lives with Gerson's parents and takes marvelous care of her mother when she is sick. She also keeps the rooms of the house clean, does the yard work, and helps in the kitchen when Mama Dora is sick. She has just finished taking her classes at BEU to get her degree in English. She has her final exam to take, and then she can graduate! She works at a Christian school within walking distance of their home, where she teaches English to elementary children.
 Gerson was the first Christian in his family. He prayed for the others and Cathy was the next person to understand her need for Christ. Cathy and Gerson began praying together fervently for the rest of the family, and one by one, they all accepted Christ and are living for Him! Cathy is a real prayer warrior and loves the Lord. I can't wait for God to bring along a godly man who will embrace her, her gifts, and her ministries. She is a woman on fire for the Lord!
 Gerson's Youngest Sister: Silvana

Silvana is a professional basketball player here in Bolivia. We went to one of her games, but she didn't get to play because the other team didn't show up. We were disappointed and hope that she will play again before we leave. As I stated above, although she is considered a professional, the pay is nothing like you'd expect for a professional athlete in the States. However, she does make enough to support herself. She rents an apartment several blocks from her parents and lives independently --- which is NOT normal for a young female in this Latin culture.
Silvana also goes to school. She is studying something called "Physical Activity." The way I understand it, this type of degree would allow her to be a PE teacher, own and run a gym, or even coach sports. She still has two years of studies ahead of her. She is the sister who joyfully washes our clothes by hand for us. She has also helped a lot by helping me take care of the boys.

So, now you have met Gerson's family! This is them in a nutshell. :) I am blessed to have such incredible in-laws who embraced me and accepted me from the first moment Gerson introduced me to them. It's a joy to be reunited!