Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | April 10, 2020

Good Friday- Viernes Santo

On Good Friday we remember the Cross. The death of Jesus Christ, many, many years ago.


This one event changed history- and the future. My future, but also the future of all creation. Good Friday in a way is not a celebration; that comes on Easter Sunday. Good Friday signifies suffering and isolation; forgiveness and hope; redemption and salvation; shame and rejection. But new life, the defeat of death and Jesus’ victory are soon to come on Easter Sunday. Jesus took my shame; my sin; my pain; my worthlessness; my rejection of my Creator on himself on the Cross. Astounding. Asombroso. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.

Totally humbling.

This Good Friday falls at a completely unique time for us. We are in a complete lockdown in Santa Cruz- we are literally only supposed to leave the house once a week. We are experiencing a little bit of isolation and distance- although nothing to compare to the isolation and distance Jesus experienced.

It is also nearly a year since Roz’s Mum died. And this is where the power of the Cross comes through. Because Good Friday always leads to Easter Sunday; Jesus’ death leads to His resurrection; apparent failure and disaster leads to victory. And this gives us assurance that we will see my mother-in-law again. Jesus died and was resurrected and so will she.

Hope. Redemption.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | January 24, 2020

They think its all over… its not yet

I realised that I have just left you- the readers of this blog- hanging with the situation in Bolivia. What must you have been thinking or wondering? Unanswered questions, worries and concerns, doubts and fears flooding your minds.

Or maybe you’ve just been getting on with normal life which is what we’ve been doing.

The strike lasted 21 days in Santa Cruz in the end and ended with the police mutinying and high up members of the Armed Forces calling for the President to resign. The President, Evo Morales, eventually did, seeking asylum in Mexico initially but then going to Argentina. An Interim President was sworn in- Jeanine Añez and peace and prosperity has ruled.

Well…. not really. Although in Santa Cruz that is nearly true. Life has gone back to normal; the streets are cleared and people generally are pretty happy with what happened. Not everyone though: we know people who are genuinely upset that Evo has lost power.

Many parts of the country have not been like this however. There were continued violence and confrontation in parts of La Paz and Cochabamba and many rumours about what is happening in the Chapare region.

2020 feels like it will be a year of transition for Bolivia politically. New elections will take place in May and hopefully the new government will be able to restore some stability and take the country forward. We will see; it´s not over yet.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | November 11, 2019

Interesting Times

As the greatest author ever, Terry Prachett, was wont to quote, we have been living in interesting times in Bolivia in the last three weeks.

Today has been the 19th day of a general strike that has closed the roads of our city and paralised the whole country. It has been incredible to experience and view a country fighting for democracy against suspected election fraud.

On Monday night I went to the Cabildo (a big concentration of the people) that took place at the Cristo- a white statue of Jesus Christ on the second ring of Santa Cruz. Actually there are massive gatherings of people there every night since the strike began. The president of the Civic Committee usually gives a speech and encourages people to keep striking or he explains the next part of the strategy. At the beginning of the strike he started with a hand held megaphone; he now has a lecturn, giant speakers and a massive stage.

Monday night though was not just a gathering; it was massive. I have never seen anything like it. The atmosphere was amazing. The sense of unity and togetherness in one cause was palpable.

We are in the middle of historic events- interesting times indeed- and it has been amazing to witness and experience. I feel a greater sense of appreciation for Bolivia and the people.

On Friday night the police began to mutiny against the government. This mainly involved police officers shutting the doors of police stations and waving flags from the roof. Then people started to arrive outside the police stations to protect the police.

Earlier today an independent audit declared that last months elections could not be considered trustworthy; that there had been manipulations and that it was unlikely that Evo Morales had actually won by the 10% necessary to win in the first round. They fell short of declaring fraud, but the message was clear.

This led to Evo declaring new elections, but this was not enough and later in the afternoon he announced his resignation, as have many of his ministers.

We thought it was over…. but not yet. People are wary of the history of Venezuela repeating here and Morales returning. Nonetheless we went to the nearest blockade to see some of the reaction: there is a sense of celebration but it is incomplete. The best moment was to hear the crowd cheer as a police officer drove through the blockade on a motorbike. The police are often viewed with distrust for asking for bribes.


Sadly though, this is not the whole story. There have been breakouts of violence, currently in La Paz more than anywhere else. So far three people have died in the protests. Santa Cruz itself is relatively safe, but we know friends who live in neighbourhoods where there have been problems.

I have been struck by the importance of symbolism again here: the flag, the national anthem, a letter of resignation that was to be delivered to Evo… and the Bible. There has been a big deal made of returning the Bible to the Palacio Quemado in La Paz.

We are processing everything that has been and is happening: how events have unfolded and wondering about what may happen next.


Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | November 3, 2019

Truth and lies

We are now on day 12 of the strike and things have got more serious. Tragically two people were killed on Wednesday in conflict between government supporters and the opposition. The government were quick to blame the opposition for causing the blockades in the first place- the deaths were quickly politicised. On Saturday the opposition gave the President an ultimatum, asking him to resign by Monday evening. We will see what happens.

Generally it is hard to trust politicians- there is a lot of rhetoric and some of it seems to be playing to the crowd. Politics in general is seen as corrupt and in some ways the suspected fraud which is the root of the current strike did not come as a suprise, rather it was expected.

Social media is another source of lies. Videos and memes can go viral or be shared very quickly and it is only later that people realise they are false news. Roz and I learning not to open things that we get sent in various social media groups.

Confidence in what is true is very low. What is trustworthy and true? How can we tell?

But God’s word is true. In a world of corruption and fraud, lies and false news it alone is 100%  dependable. God does not lie. He keeps His promises. He does not seek to pass blame onto others, His judgement is perfect.

But even more than that; Jesus not only says that His words are true but that He is truth himself. Truth as a person we can know and relate to; talk to, confess to and trust in. Depend on when the news and social media is untrustworthy.

And I feel uncomfortable writing about lies and falsehoods without looking inside myself, at the lies I tell or project or allow others to believe about me. But God’s truth- Jesus, the truth- can deal with that too. It’s true.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | October 28, 2019

Social media, news reports and bike shops

The strike continues in Santa Cruz and, according to statements issued, neither side seems to be willing to make concessions. I thought I’d just comment on the three areas mentioned in the title…

Social Media

I’m not a big fan of social media but the strike has put it in harsh contrast. On one side it is a great way of communicating and sharing information, but on the other side what is shared is not always true and can encourage fear and worry. Negative messages- videos, memes and news reports seem to be more likely to be shared. Whatsapp is the main means of communication here.

Bolivian News

We’ve been watching lots of news to keep up with what is happening. Unfortunately this news is often accompanied by stress-inducing, dramatic music. It totally manipulates your feelings and seems a distraction but this is the style of news.

Bike Shops

On a lighter note, owners of bike shops are one group of people who are doing very well. The strike and roadblocks mean that people are not able to get about in cars, so everyone gets their bike out. Invariably this means discovering flat tyres and rusty chains so the bike shops are doing a roaring trade.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | October 24, 2019

Uncertainty, unrest and instability

Here in Bolivia we are living in uncertain times. The general election was held last Sunday, 20th October, and, at time of writing, the final results are not quite in. The current president, Evo Morales, needs to win 51% of the vote or have a 10% margin over the next most popular candidate, Carlos Mesa. It currently looks like he will have this 10% margin.

So far, so straightforward. But it is anything but. Evo is running for a fourth term as President which was something banned by the constitution. So Evo held a referendum (as all Brits know, this is always a great idea) to ask the people if he could run again. The people voted no. So instead he went to court and won a case arguing that it was against his human rights. This did not prove popular with many Bolivians who feel that he has no right to even be running in this election.

On top of that there are many accusations of fraud with the counting or reporting of the ballot papers such that there is little confidence in the accuracy of the count. The OEP, the organisation in charge of the practical side of the election is under a lot of stress and scrutiny resulting in resignations and some of their buildings being set on fire.

Which brings us back to today. As a result of all these suspicions of fraud, Santa Cruz, the city we live in, is on strike, as are a number of other major cities in Bolivia. It is a time of great uncertainty, unrest and instability- such as we have never experienced before, whether here or in the UK.

As foreigners, we did not have the right to vote so feel slightly removed from the protests, however we are residents here and it is our friends, neighbours and colleagues who are on the streets protesting.

Mostly this is peaceful- there are roadblocks on larger roads where people with flags are singing the national anthem- however there has been confrontation and violence between different political supporters in other parts of the city.


A roadblock near where we live. This junction is normally full of cars

How should we respond to this? With fear? Sticking our heads in the sand and hoping it will all go away? Supporting the strike? We are trying to work this out at the moment.

I guess that we should definitely turn to God though. And my first thought there is that while we are surrounded by uncertainty, unrest and instability, he is the antithesis of these things. God is sure and certain- His promises, His love, His will. He is the God who gives rest to His people- one day complete rest in heaven but also rest now in the midst of worry. And He is stable, unchanging, the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the Rock. Let’s try and put our trust in Him.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | July 9, 2019

Cambio de clima

Here in Santa Cruz we’re in the bleak midwinter right now, although there is certainly no snow on snow.

Nevertheless it feels unusually chilly, so much so that we have been making use of such strange items as slippers, hotty botties (you know, the ones you put in your bed with boiling water inside), coats and even a hat or two.


Here it gets cold when a sur, a south wind, blows in and this ‘cambio de clima’ is the sign of great portents and gets the blame for any range of health issues. When we first moved here I nodded knowingly at such talk of all known illness being blamed on a change in the weather. How wrong I was. When the wind changes like this and comes in from the south it doesn’t set your face in the mean expression you’re currently using but it does affect breathing, allergies, coughs and colds and the like.

So, while we cope with colder weather, snuggle up more than usual and feel the chill, it’s good to reflect on how things I thought I knew better about often aren’t the case and it’s better to be open to learning new things than closed minded.


Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | July 1, 2019

The birthday party

Celebratory days are given a high importance in Bolivia. This includes mother’s day, father’s day, Independence day, the day of the sea and teacher’s day (my personal favourite!) amongst many others. Birthdays are also a chance for a big celebration where everyone will personally congratulate you.

This year we decided to go for a full on birthday party for Evie. A classic birthday party often consists of the following wondrous ingredients (disclaimer- this is by no means exclusive):

  • Lots of fizzy drink
  • Sweet filled party bags
  • Panchitos (hotdogs) with ketchup and mayonnaise
  • Some kind of colour scheme and theme to the party (frequently Disney-inspired)
  • Jelly
  • A creamy, often luminous coloured birthday cake
  • Absurdly, painfully, loud music
  • Animadores- adults who lead dances/paint faces/run games. This used to be clowns but they are less fashionable now
  • Balloons
  • A display with the name, age and photo of the birthday celebrant- obviously linked to the overall theme of the party
  • Singing happy birthday, blowing out candles
  • Chanting “bite the cake”, then pushing the birthday celebrant’s face into said creamy cake. This is always a highlight! It never grows old.
  • Sometimes speeches by parents
  • A piñata followed by some crying children

Roz and I were reminiscing about some of the best parties we have been to since moving to Bolivia; this included a number of first birthday parties where all of the above was included with a frankly fearful-looking, bemused small child at the centre of it all. For some reason we haven’t been invited to that many first birthday parties recently. Maybe we’ve passed that stage?

What tops a birthday party though is a 15th birthday party. This is even more spectacular and we feel this may be the next stage that we’ll be approaching. These are such lavish affairs that family and close friends are asked to support with costs. We’ve been asked by some really good friends to be the God-parents of the cake for example. Just to clarify this does not mean we will be providing spiritual guidance to a giant creamy cake and counselling it after someone’s face is shoved into it, rather that we’ll provide the cake.IMG_20190629_124753523_HDR.jpg

Anyway we’re not quite at 15th birthdays yet with our children but we did celebrate Evie’s birthday recently. We didn’t do everything on the list but we did go for it.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | March 30, 2019

The Youth Camp

I love a good youth camp. Thinking back, I have been on many back in the day: cubs/scouts, youth group, carting I think (although I am a bit hazy about that one), sailing, Scripture Union, school trips, and so on. And in many different settings- old school scout tents with the real deal canvas, youth hostels, boarding schools and the like. And then the classic camp activities: hikes, wide games, campfires, drinking hot chocolate, some kind of random talent show and that inevitable moment where the tent simply will not fit back into its bag.

Youth camps are very evocative for me- spending some of my formative years freezing in gale conditions with the exciting prospect of an ice cold shower to look forward to; my body somehow shutting down for several days at the thought of using a camp toilet; eating off plastic plates/canteens with my name stuck on a plaster; the shame of walking dog poo onto a sailing boat: a heinous crime. Oh, good times!

I exaggerate of course. I love a youth camp- cooking marshmallows on a campfire; looking at the stars; the camaraderie of being with lots of other young people. I’ve also had some key experiences at youth camps: I became a Christian at a Scripture Union camp, a massive event that has changed my life forever.

Anyway, enough about the past: I actually meant to write about a recent youth camp that I ran for some of the young people in our Church. These are young people who have not had the wealth of youth experiences that I had; in fact I often feel that a lot of their lives is spent basically working in some way or caring for younger brothers or sisters. They are still ‘youth’, so glued to mobile phones, often unresponsive and find everything embarrassing until the moment they realise that really they love it. But they are also funny, creative and full of life.

Our camp was over Carnival this year and was only one night but we still packed in lots of games, activities, silliness, the traditional campfire, as well as prayer, worship and the message that God really knows us- actually He lived a totally human life as Jesus and understands us. It’s a crazy idea that only sometimes I feel I can get my head around.

Here are a few images from the camp- most of these are from a photo competition we held.

I love a good youth camp.


Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | March 4, 2019

Cultural challenges

Technically we have been back home now for well over a month and one or two important things have happened: all of our children are now at school, we’ve celebrated a birthday and Roz is working in two jobs. But I have been meaning to write about what it’s like coming back to Bolivia from the UK…

The UK was cold and wet by the time we left in January. By way of contrast Bolivia is hot and humid at this time of the year. We swapped wellies and slippers for chinelas (flipflops), numerous cups of tea for ice-cold banana smoothies and coats, scarves and gloves for shorts and t-shirts. What’s so weird about all that is the instant change that flying by plane subjects you to. There’s no gentle progression, it’s just boom! Welcome to sweat again.

The other thing I notice is that there is a period after travelling from country to country where your cultural sensitivity is heightened, before you get used to the differences again. For example that realisation again that time does not mean the same here in South America as it does in the UK. Something starting at 10 o’clock for example means that everyone will be there by 10 in the UK. In Bolivia though, people may be arriving around 11 or later. This does make some events hard to plan…

Thinking about these cultural differences we decided to invite some neighbours round for a Devon cream tea (or as close as we could get), replete with English tea, scones, jam and cream. It went down very well.


Check this out, the presentation is sconderful.

Sometimes cultural differences can feel hard, especially the switch between the two- occasionally we can worry about how the children will cope with living in both cultures, but in reality it is enriching. Experiencing the challenge of different cultures makes you reflect on why you think or act in a certain way and what is really important. It helps you understand people, and yourself more. In reality it is much more of a blessing than a challenge.





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