Wishing you a very joyous Christmas from Bolivia.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Our “grupo familiar” (home group) has been studying the gospel of Mark for almost 10 months. We go through a short passage each week and have learnt and discovered together a lot about Jesus and his life. Most weeks Luke teaches but we have also worked with other members of the group to prepare and teach the study. It has been encouraging to see different people step out of their comfort zone and take up the challenge of leading a Bible study.
Last week, we got to the passage about the last supper, Jesus celebrating the Passover with his disciples. We had this great idea of doing a Passover dinner with the group, a creative and experiential way of learning about the Passover.
The first challenge was finding lamb. We had never seen lamb sold at the supermarket. After some “research”, we found out that we could order a whole lamb at the supermarket or buy it on Friday so they could sell the rest over the weekend. Our group meets on Thursday. So then we found out we should be able to get it any day at the markets. After walking around the markets Luke eventually found a place that sold him some pieces of lamb.
The next challenge was how to cook it so we decided that putting the meat on skewers and grilling it would work out best. Not quite what the Jews did at Passover but it was close enough. The market lady sold us lamb that took us hours to get off the bone and onto sticks. We had no idea what we were doing… butchering lamb was not something they taught us in any pre-field training.
We also bought a type of flat bread that wasn’t quite unleavened bread, grape cool-aid/cordial that wasn’t quite wine, and purple lettuce that wasn’t quite bitter herbs. All combined with lamb kebabs! We were a bit stressed about it all BUT it ended up working out great. We chatted and waited while the lamb was grilling and then we were able to explain why the Passover was celebrated, salvation for the firstborn of each family that had put the blood of the lamb on their door frame and how Jesus also gave his life to save us.
Pray for us as we study the final chapters of Mark about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Some people in our group have been going to church for years, others don’t go to church but are interested in learning more. Pray that our relationship with Jesus will be impacted by what He did for us on the cross.
While we enjoy living in Santa Cruz, sometimes we just need to get away. All surrounding the city there are small towns and cool places to visit; after two and a half years we have yet to discover them all. I think that part of settling down is feeling like you know your surroundings and have places to escape, to refresh, and take a break from the busyness and routine of life.
It had been a while since we’d been outside the city, so this last week we decided to visit Porongo. We read about it in El Deber, the local newspaper, it sounded pretty interesting and was only twenty kilometres away. Once we left the city, the scenery changes completely. After only ten minutes, we were on a bumpy dirt road surrounded by plains and palm trees. There were hardly any other vehicles and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.
At one point in the journey, there was a sign that pointed us to Porongo. Fourty-five minutes after we left the city, we arrived in a typical small town of the lowlands, maybe similar to what Santa Cruz was like over fifty years ago. People were hanging around the large plaza. The first thing that caught our attention was the cathedral. It was one of the last Jesuit missions constructed in Bolivia built in the year 1716. The buildings surrounding all four sides of the plaza were typical camba (lowlands) style with long narrow porches along the front of the building covered by red tile roofs supported by rows of carved, wooden posts. There was a peacefulness and calm that stood out from life in the city. It felt like we had gone back in time.
It was a good morning away for us. It not only helps us recharge for the week but encourages us to keep learning about Bolivia, Santa Cruz and the culture.
Everyone has a papaya tree in their backyard, so I decided that I would give it a go too! We live in a tropical climate so how hard can it be?
So after some googling, I collected the seeds from a really good papaya that we had bought from the store. I dried the seeds then dug some holes and planted them next to the compost pile. EASY! Before long, my seeds sprouted. What they don’t tell you on Google is that tortoises like chomping on papaya sprouts. On their daily trips around the yard, Crush and Pip would eat up any sprouts that would appear.
Not happy… start again…
This time we put chicken wire around our papaya sprouts and I was a happy camper watching my papaya sprouts take root. On the website they told me to plant 5 seeds in each hole but ALL my 5 seeds sprouted in the 5 holes so then my 25 spouts were too close together. UGH! It was hard to figure out which ones to cull out, knowing that papayas come in male and female. I was suspicious that my culling efforts were taking out all the female plants and I’d be left with the male plants. I have since found out that they also come in bi-sexual plants as well!
As the plants grew, some of them fell victim to Murray who was still a puppy. He would jump up and grab the leaves and then the poor papaya would bend and break on the chicken wire. He thought it was so much fun. In the end, we still ended up with 4 trees and then began the wait to see if they were male of female.
As the trees began to flower we thought we had 2 female trees (left) and 1 male tree (right). Due to unsuccessful culling, our 4th tree is still alive but probably too close to one of the other trees to be able to grow well. As the male tree continued growing, it started producing fruit too, so I’m not sure what is going on as it doesn’t fit the characteristics of a bi-sexual tree. Now about 13 months on, they’re growing well, way taller than us and seem to enjoy their spot next to the compost pile and in the sun. There are over 15 papayas on the trees and we’re about ready to harvest our the first ones. Hopefully they’re taste good!
Pretty easy! If you don’t have tortoises or puppies!
It has been almost a year since we started the young married couple group at El Buen Pastor. Most of the couples were engaged but as the year went by, we attended wedding after wedding. Now there is only one couple in the group who is not married. It has been a challenging ministry for us that has taught us many new things about the culture in Santa Cruz and Bolivia, the dynamics of relationships and marriage, and about ourselves.
During this year we have had studies based on The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and This Momentary Marriage by John Piper. The second study series based on Piper’s book really helped the group to go back to the biblical basis for marriage and then apply what the bible says to their context.
There have been times when we have felt out of our depth in knowing how to lead the group and know how to move ahead in a way that was culturally appropriate and useful for young couples from Santa Cruz. We tried unsuccessfully to look for another older couple in the church who would be able to help us.
A few weeks ago, Amilcar (red and black striped shirt) and Soledad (green shirt) approached us about helping out with the group. They have been part of the group from the beginning and have been married for almost a year. We both spent some time praying and have since been able to get together twice to talk, evaluate and plan. It has been good to get a different perspective of how we can encourage these young marriages to grow and flourish, both in their relationship with God, with each other, and as a group.
Together we have come up with a plan to focus on the spiritual growth of each couple in the next few months. Each week we will be studying a Fruit of the Spirit and encouraging each couple to meditate and discuss a passage of scripture as part of trying to kick-start the habit of having a time set aside for a couple’s devotional. We are also planning more social activities so that the group can continue to bond and get to know one another better and hopefully be a network for support and encouragement in the future.
Pray for us as we continue to meet up with Amilcar and Soledad, to encourage them as a couple as well as plan and evaluate the group activities. We praise God for answering our prayers and providing another couple who want to see this ministry move forward. We’re excited about the prospect of working together as a team and realise that they have many gifts and abilities in areas that compliment our strengths and weaknesses.