February 29, 2012

"In all labor there is profit..." ~ Proverbs 14:23

 "He that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he." ~Proverbs 14:21

"The poor is hated even of his own neighbor: but the rich hath many friends." ~Proverbs 14:20

February 28, 2012

continuing construction and future construction

Tony went with a group of guys again recently to continue construction on a church plant bathroom. Then they went back again.

This was the bathroom before:

This is the bathroom now:

They are making progress.

Here are a few more pictures of one of the construction days:

In less than two weeks Tony is going with another group back to Bariloche to continue work on church construction there:

February 27, 2012

goin' to meeting

Since our van is broken, this is how we went to church on Sunday.

You know you're jealous, just admit it.

It felt kind of like an episode of Beverly Hillbillies. Especially when we had to share and pass around the only handle to crank open the windows. No seat belts, mind you - but, hey, who needs them? And keep in mind that the handle in the back seat does not open the window, but the door. This is important to remember when rounding a bend and you want to roll down the window... 


February 24, 2012


God is good. He really is. I wish I believed it and lived it more than I actually do.

After our prayer request last week, a lot of help came in. We can now pay next month's rent and eat! This is good news.

We want to thank everyone that has (ever) sent support. We wish we had more time to write personal emails and thank yous, but we just don't. It's a struggle just to keep up with this blog as it is. Our system is not stream-lined for that much correspondence, and even if it were, we wouldn't have the time to write dozens of personal mails - although sometimes we try. That's one of the reasons we started this blog - you can get news to 100 people by writing just one post. It's a relief to us and very conducive to our life here. Life is hard and busy and unpredicable in the third world. I wish you knew how much. Most days I feel like I'm just trying to keep my head above water. You must fight, fight, fight for the smallest things.

Yesterday, for example, we took our car - which is now broken and leaking radiator and power steering fluid (how we didn't blow up or break down on the way home from Bariloche, only God knows) - to several auto parts stores downtown. We can't get the part we need. They just don't sell it here in Neuquen, nor perhaps in all of Argentina. We can probably get it in Chile, though, they told us. You can get just about anything in Chile, lots of port cities and all. Or mail order from the U.S.

Well, okay, then. We'll just hop on over to Chile and get right on that. And, I'm sure people mail order radiators from States all the time around here. [UPDATE: As I was writing this, Tony called to say that that's what he ended up having to do: order one from the States. $650. The power steering part, fortunately, we were able to adapt from a Ford Bronco for use in our Econoline.]

Life is definately not easy here.

But, we are learning that you don't necesarrily need a car to do missions. And Jesus never said life would be easy. For getting around, there are things like bikes, borrowed cars, bummed rides from friends, and walking. When you hear stories of families that used to ride their bikes to church, for years, their toddler falling asleep on the handlbars as they rode 5km one way on a Sunday morning... well, it just puts things into perspective for you. That same family, after I burst into tears at church several Sundays ago over our problems, immediately invited us to their house for lunch, fed us, encouraged us, laughed with us, then sent us home with bags of fresh vegetables, eggs, and fruit. When the dad pulled out his wallet to hand me a hundred dollars (I'm guessing a tenth of his monthly salary), I burst into tears again. I refused to take it. How could I? If you could have seen their humble home...

And you know what he said me?

You have to take this. I feel in my heart that I want to give this to you. If you don't take it you are denying me an opportunity to bless you, to obey God. Growing up we were taught that a gift is a gift, when someone gives you a gift you are to graciously accept it and just say Thank You.

I took it from his hands through my tears and said Thank You, and that I wouldn't tell Tony until I got in the car, or he would make me give it back. In the car I pulled the money out of my pocket to show him, and teared up again. I think I cried the whole way home.

It's so humbling to be on the receiving end. But as we were driving home (back before we realized the radiator was leaking), I realized that these are good lessons for us. We came here to evangelize and to help the poor, to do anything God asks us to do. How must the poor - the really poor - feel to receive from others? From us? It's good for us to know how it feels to be in need, really desperately in need, to have nothing but prayers to God on High for miracles.

A few days later our friends, another missionary couple here, came over bearing gifts: peanut butter and a jar of molasses! They had discovered these hidden treasures of happiness in a health food store downtown. I don't know which I was more happy about, the peanut butter and molasses (that I can use to make homemade pancake syrup, at last!) or the financial gift that was also inside the bag.

Sometimes it's hard to trust God, sometimes it's just hard. I don't want to trust God, I don't want to need Him, I want to do it all myself.

These weeks have been weeks that I have longed more for heaven than for life here on this earth. Heaven: where there is no need, no trial, no suffering, or hurt, or sin - where everyone already has Christ and we don't have to sacrifice to tell anyone else about Him. But, we're not there yet. Not yet.

We are here.

February 20, 2012

my little friends

I'm so behind on this blog. I feel like we have so, so many things to post and write about, but just no time. So, so many pictures to share, but no time to upload them.

The other night we were visiting with fellow missionary friends and I was commenting on the fact that I have, it seems, no free time. I used to have free time. I know this because I used to read. I used to have time to read. I rarely read anymore, I just don't have time. It's been an adjustment for me, because I love to read. But all my free time now, once eaten up by a deliciously good book (or some other selfish pleasure), is eaten up by socializing. Or cleaning. I have never cleaned so much in my entire life. My kids are always filthy, and so is my house. I have never seen so much dirt in all my blessed life. I can't keep up. With the dirt. Or the people. We're too busy being with them to have time for much else. Argentines are very social people. And that is, in fact, how you reach people. You have to actually spend time with them.


So here is a picture of my new little friends.

Marcela's kids. I love them.

Marcela came to church yesterday for the first time. I sat next to her and helped her find her way through the Bible as the pastor preached. She got teary-eyed and went forward for prayer at the end. Her two sweet daughters, Camila (9) and Sofia (2), came with her to church. They kept looking shyly at me all throughout the service. So, of course, I fed them cookies. Later Camila took off with the 6-12 year olds on a three-day camp retreat with the kids from church. Just like that. She is there now, learning about God and Jesus and the Bible.

Today we went up to the slums to visit Marcela and her family. As we were heading out at 6pm, I thought of how many times our plans had changed in just one day. The morning started with Tony doing our taxes. Then he was going to fix our van (it's broken - radiator and power steering leaks), and then head out an hour south to continue work on a new church plant bathroom. But that fell through - post-poned until tomorrow - so it was off to the slums. But, wait, Juan was going to come over for a Bible study at 5 - what to do? So we called Juan to reschedule. No problem, Juan would go with us to the slums instead. Okay. But when the time came to go, no one could get a hold of Juan. So on the way out, we took a major detour and stopped by Juan's house. He was there. We all piled in the church's pickup and headed out.

Not two months ago this would have driven me crazy. Annoyed me at the very least. I barely noticed today. This is life here. Make plans, but roll with it. You never know how a day will unfold. And after we came home and stripped our dirty clothes for much needed baths, leaving piles of desert sand on the bathroom floor, the kids seemed to think dinner at 9:30 at night was perfectly normal, as well. I don't hear much of a peep out of them anymore over it (well, except the high-maintenance one, we always hear a peep or two or a trillion from her). They had too much fun running through dry river gorges up in the desert mesa with their new little friends. Throwing rocks at tin cans, kicking a ball around, and avoiding scorpions. Oh yes, scorpions. (No pictures, Denise, I promised.). Marcela said they've found them in their bed and crawling up the kids' legs. But no worries, the sting is nothing, she assured me. Her kids have been stung - "no big deal"....

The Starfish Thrower

There was a man who was walking along a sandy beach where thousands of
starfish had been washed up on the shore. He noticed a boy picking up
starfish one by one and throwing them back into the ocean. The man observed
the boy for a few minutes and then asked what he was doing. The boy replied
that he was returning the starfish to the sea, otherwise they would die.
The man asked how saving a few, when so many were doomed, would make any
difference whatsoever? The boy picked up a starfish and threw it back into
the ocean and said, "Made a difference to that one..."

~ Adapted from "The Star Thrower"

February 18, 2012

We're not crazy

THESE guys are!

Wetsuits? Winds of up to 100km/hour? Temps of 55 degrees? Oh, okay, yeah... and WE'RE the crazy ones. Riiiiiight.
When we were in Bariloche, after dropping off some supplies and visiting with local missionaries, we popped on down to the lake. Our objective was to pacify the troops, who, after our run-in with The Shower, were finding missions somewhat distressful and not in the least bit fun. They're kids. When in ministry or missions, it is VERY important to pay attention to your kids (well, it's always important to pay attention to your kids, but you know what I mean). If it's always about everyone else, they will end up hating you, others, and even the God you say you serve.

So we left our friends up on the hill and headed out looking for something fun to do, that they wanted to do.

So there we found ourselves, standing on a deserted lake shore, throwing some rocks and sticks into the water, just minding our own business, when across the volcanic pumice...

Pumice (the white hill of smaller rocks running down the center of this picture)

... walk three guys in wetsuits.

Are you kidding me?!?

Now, I know it's summer and all, but summer in Bariloche is not like summer in Florida. And certainly not on this day. I love the cold, but even I was shivering in the blustery wind, wishing I were somewhere (as in indoors) sipping something warm and cozy, enjoying the view from there. But, because I love my kids, I was standing on this chilly lake shore, being whipped to shreds by some serious wind, throwing rocks into this wild mountain lake, trying to act like I was having fun. Because I'm a good mommy.

But, I must be officially old or something, because I don't do dangerous anymore. Except when God asks me to (which lately seems to be kind of often). And going for a swim in this lake on this day, summer or not, was not on my "Must Obey God" list.

But in these young whipper-snappers went. Young people these days. *shaking head*

And then they disappeared. Lost in the waves. I couldn't help thinking these were probably someone's kids. One cramp out there and no one's gonna hear your cries for help. You're toast. I hope my kids don't do stuff like this. But, considering their parents, they probably will.


*Fortunately, and to my relief, they later emerged from the crashing waves.

February 17, 2012

driving through the ash plume

In getting ready for our little trip to Bariloche, and at some point while packing, it vaguely and momentarily dawned on me that we would be driving right towards the volcano. In fact, we drove right through the ash plume and were only 60 miles from active volcano Puyehue in Chile. We realized how close we were when it began to get strangely hazy. As it got worse and worse, it dawned on us that it wasn't, in fact, dust being whipped into the sky by the persistent Patagonia winds, but it was ash! *gulp*

My heart bobbed right up into my throat in a moment of, "Now what stupid thing have we done?!"

It turned out to be fine, though. We just rolled up the windows and kept driving, trusting it'd all be okay, sending up some prayers, and snapping some photos for posterity's sake. Besides, this is missions, there are supposed to be things like danger and exploding volcanos and malaria and things like that, right? Otherwise, where's all the fun? I mean challenge?

heading out across the desert towards the Andean foothills

it started getting green and hilly

oh look, kids, ñandú!  [lesser Rhea/small ostrich]

Andean foothills, also known as the Patagonian Steppe [and overheated car]

stopping to hand out water for said overheated car

Oh, look, kids - guanacos! (llamas)
starting to get very ashy now


crossing one of the many resevoirs, you can really see the ash

we stopped here for a potty break - all the white stuff on the hills is ash from June's explosion
[see some FANTASTIC PHOTOS of the eruption!]
pretty :)

driving through the heart of the ash plume

visibility dropped to about 3km

At this point, we were praying that God would shift the direction of the wind and blow the ash away.

Needless to say, we were pretty amazed when that's exactly what happened.

Right as we drove into Bariloche, after six hours on the road, four of it driving through the ash plume, we saw it happen right in front of our eyes!

the sky: half clear, half ash
there was a literal line - it was WILD!

clear skies over Bariloche (there's the tail end of the ash being blown out on the right)

We were blessed with clear, ash-free skies the rest of the weekend!

February 15, 2012

prayer request!

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." - Ephesians. 3:20-21

Here's a prayer request we just sent out; thought I'd post it here, too, because - as you'll read - we need some prayer. :)

Tony still has not found a job, and we have officially run out of money, so things are getting interesting. Freelance work has come to a standstill, and we are needing God to open doors for permanent employment here for Tony. Next month the TV station that is hiring will be hiring ONE person, not five as they originally said. Tony was #1 on the list, but who knows what that means now. You never know here, things change in a moment's notice. Anyway, he is pulling all the strings he has and is also looking for employment elsewhere and has had other interviews, but this job would cover our expenses, the others not really. So we need some prayer! We will be going food shopping today, and then that's it. It's all gone.

Nonetheless, we are trusting in God who is Faithful and believe that He will come through. Missions and ministry is taking off and we have more than enough to do, and have been very busy in that respect. Which is why we came. But we are not without many trials, that is for sure. But Jesus who fed the 5,000 knows we have earthly needs like food and shelter, so we need people praying to the King of Glory on our behalf (and on the behalf of the ones we came to reach here). Needing some miracles and answers to prayer!

For all of you that have just freaked out on our behalf (Mom, Dad), we remind ourselves often of the following:

The only thing that doesn't have a solution is death.

We're not dead yet, so there's a solution. And in my desperation the other day as I was wallowing in bed mid-afternoon with another raging migraine, I recalled, with a glimmer of hope, that God has not left us without options. We could always sell the van and move back to the States on what we would make (last case scenario, because that would be lame and depressing).

So, prayers, please pray with us.

We are children of the King, after all, right? He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and He has always come through. ALWAYS. We don't prefer 11th hour rescue operations, but for some reason He operates that way at times in our lives. We are tested, our faith grows, and He is glorified.

Lord, Your kingdom come.Your will be done... On earth as it is in heaven. (Mat. 6:10)

February 13, 2012

potty break replete with ashy whirlwinds

Driving in Patagonia means driving through some pretty remote places. No service centers or nice, clean bathrooms along the way, smelling of flowers and sanitizer, stocked with toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels. It's BYOTP (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper), whirlwinds of volcanic ash...
and some condors to keep you company.

And make sure you find a bush, because every once in a while a car, or ten trucks, come around the bend...

You can water the local ash...
[the white stuff]

...feeling good about your contribution to the fertility of the region.

The view making up for any inconvenience, of course:

February 11, 2012

Trip to Bariloche

I've tried writing something about our recent mini-mission trip to Bariloche, but I can't seem to get anything out. Homesickness and sadness hit me hard this past week from completely out of the blue, and I just can't get myself together. I'm teary, weepy, sad, feeling sorry for myself, unmotivated, convinced at the moment that perhaps we are either stupid, crazy, or both for doing this missionary thing. What were were thinking?? Maybe it's just hormones and homesickness talking, but I'm wondering if we've completely ruined our kids' lives by bringing them here. Sigh. Sadness sucks.

Well, anyway, not to go on about that, and don't worry about us too much (but you can pray, we need that). For now, here are a few pictures from our trip six hours southwest to the mountains.

the church/community building where we stayed in Bariloche (back view)

the new church they are building down the hill
 After I saw a huge black spider in the bathroom, I was like, "Hey kids, let's pop the tent open inside and sleep there!" My suggestion was met with delighted squeals.

Me and my girls zipped up safe in there, while the boys slept out in the van.

how I heated the building when we got up in the morning - it's chilly in the mountains in summer
{in the forefront is one of the trash bags of clothing and supplies we brought}
and we finally used our carseat. Roadtrippin' is a good time for safety.

the wood stove I didn't know how to work - it sure did put out a lot of heat, though, when our friends lit it!

the kitchen
we had to use water collected in buckets to wash dishes, our hosts graciously provided us with bottled drinking water
(volcanic ash is in the water system and carries dangerous heavy metals making it unsafe to drink, at least that's what they told us)

the view from the kitchen - spectacular
that's snow-capped Mt. Tronador on the left, it lies on the Argentina/Chile border

talking in front of the church (on the right) with missionaries Enzo and Sandra, who live and work in the neighborhood
Sandra is holding a soccer ball we were able to give them to work with the kids (they were so happy about that ~ thanks, Hughes'!)
Incidentally, there was volcanic ash EVERYWHERE. You can see it in this photo, it's the white stuff that covers everything. After we packed up to leave, I swept the church floor. I regret not taking a picture of the amazing amount of grit and sand and ash (all from the volcano) I collected. It was another reason we slept in the tent. There was just no way around all that grit.

the soccer field where they play and do outreach with the neighborhood kids
(that is not sand or dirt, it's all ash)

more of the neighborhood
Enzo and Sandra have been living in this neighborhood (located at Km 23, for those in the Bariloche know) for ten years. They are two of the few Christians of the about 500 families that live here. They are working for the most part alone, but receive construction teams from the church here in Neuquen from time to time, and visitors (like us) who take them supplies, and hopefully encouragement, from time to time.

They are self-supporting local artists and native missionaries. 
They make mates out of gourds and sell them at fairs throughout the region. They scrape by, but it's an artist's life. (And missions isn't easy either.)
When they're not doing that, Sandra is teaching literacy classes in the church building. They have to teach the residents of the barrio how to read, before they can teach them to read the Bible. They also hold a weekly Happy Hour (kid's Bible study and craft) and play soccer with the kids. It's slow work. Their obstacles are many. I don't know how they do it, I really don't. They did say that that is why visitors are so important. They couldn't do it alone.
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