Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | November 26, 2013

Christmas is coming!

One of the weird things about finishing the school year in November is that some aspects of Christmas have to come earlier. Yes, I mean the school nativity! This year Roz and I were consumed with pride as Chloe got the part of Mary in her nativity. There may have been two other Mary’s but they were clearly inferior. We decided to make the most of Chloe’s Mary costume with a little family Christmas photoshoot so here you are:


Joseph and Mary receive the glad tidings with joy!

Joseph and Mary receive the glad tidings with joy!

Joseph's tea towel starts to get a little annoying...

Joseph’s tea towel starts to get a little annoying…

Joy is a little less apparent but Mary and the Angel are still going strong

Joy is a little less apparent but Mary and the Angel are still going strong

Joseph's had enough of the whole thing.

Joseph’s had enough of the whole thing.

Oh well.




Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | September 28, 2013

You and you

Some things about speaking Spanish are hard because English just works in a different way. For example masculine and feminine. Why are nouns- things- masculine or feminine? I have no idea. And why are some things that should surely be feminine actually masculine- like dresses, I mean if a dress has to be described as masculine or feminine it should be feminine. Surely. But, oh no- a dress- vestido is masculine. Who decides this kind of thing anyway?

Although that tirade may make it slightly unbelievable, I have actually come to accept that side of Spanish. I don’t understand it, don’t think about it too much, it just is. And you have to learn it. Like some things in Maths as I tell my students sometimes there are things we just have to learn, not worry too much about understanding.

However when it comes to you and you my understanding needs to improve. In Spanish there are two words for you. Well actually there are four to be accurate- usted, tu, ustedes and vosotros. It is fairly clear when to use the plural you- ustedes. I can count if I am talking to more than one person, so that’s alright. But the other yous are for formal and informal situations.

My main issue is that I am unclear on when I should show respect and use usted- with someone who is older (but how much older?) or who I don’t know. But how long should I know someone before using tu? And then here in Santa Cruz people will sometime use vos in informal situations.

Clear as mud then. My current tactic, and I have utilised this for a while, is to mix it up a bit. Inconsistency, that’s the key. This means that the people I am talking to and I myself have no idea what you will come out of my mouth next. It’s like living on the edge. Make’s conversation that little more exciting.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | September 25, 2013


I bet the title of this bad boy got you all excited. Responsibility is not exactly a glamorous word is it? It’s the kind of word us teachers use frequently as in “You need to take responsibility for your actions” or in school reports “needs to show more responsibility.”

I think naturally the last thing many of us want to do is take responsibility for something. Well, since David our Pastor has been away the leadership team and Roz and I have had more responsibility in the Church. People have been coming to us with issues and problems; we’ve had to make decisions; we’ve needed to organise things; we’ve had to watch out for the toilet paper situation. None of this has been glamorous or particularly exciting in itself (apart from maybe the toilet paper), but it is part of leadership and building the Church.

David has just got back and will be with us for a month or so and sadly a big part of me would like to heap all this responsibility back onto his shoulders for that time and sit with my feet up. Metaphorically. Evie and Caleb don’t really allow us to do that sort of thing. However I think that is the opposite of what we should really do. Instead we should continue in the same way, carrying the weight and responsibility but with an extra person to support, guide and lead us.

The other thing that comes to mind when I think about responsibility is that Jesus takes responsibility for me. For my actions, my sin. He doesn’t need to- my sins are my responsibility. But He does and frees me from the consequences, freeing me to live for Him. Responsibly of course.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | August 27, 2013

August update

We have not blogged for a while so I will give you some brief details of the past month- it has felt quite busy.

Chloe celebrated her fifth birthday with the help of Mister Burger King and some good friends. I think she really enjoyed it. Evie currently loves all things birthday related and spontaneously bursts into “birthday to you” at any given moment. Vociferously. She likes to round it off with the traditional chant here of “bite the cake!” (when the person celebrating their birthday starts to bite the cake but- surprise, surprise- has their face shoved into the cake. Everyone knows this is going to happen but we all love it anyway) while rubbing her hands together in excitement. Balloons, cake, presents- at the ages of 1, 2 and 5 what is there not to like about birthdays?

We also celebrated Bolivian independence day, naturally by marching as a school. This celebratory march as ever involved lots of standing around waiting and about 3 minutes of actual marching. Fun is not the word. On the other hand we were very impressed by the patriotic coca-cola bottles sporting little Bolivian flag waistcoats in our local shop.

As a Church we had a barbecue/bring and share together at a local park a couple of weekends ago- it was a great event and a good opportunity for families to get together, eat, share and have fun. There were no quiches so it may not qualify as an official bring and share. Also somehow I managed up to do the barbecuing.

Tragically there was also a horrendous incident in the prison in Santa Cruz last week. Many people were killed in an explosion which looks to have been the result of gang fighting within the prison. We know several people with family members who are in the prison but fortunately they are in other sections. A shocking and scary event.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | July 25, 2013

Semana fría

This week has been really cold. We are in winter here in Bolivia and it really feels like it. It is so cold that all fashion sense has gone out the window and coats, hats, scarves, gloves and leg warmers are the order of the day. Roz has been spending her days with a hot water bottle under her jumper. At school the hope has been that classes will be suspended. This hasn’t happened, but we are starting later every morning.

We watched the news the other night, something we don’t do very often. It was traumatic. They managed to get over half an hour out of weather news accompanied by dramatic music that was nearly loud enough so you couldn’t actually hear what the newsreaders were saying. By the end we felt quite stressed. One of my colleagues describes news reporting here as sensationalist; I am inclined to agree. They showed several interviews with people discussing how cold it was, a live view of a weather persons computer screen, the plight of the cold animals in the zoo (don’t worry Auntie Ju- the free roaming sloths have all been collected and put in a room with a heater so they will be okay) and reports on the affect of the cold on crops. My favourite part though was when they showed a roaming reporter out in the field demonstrating the frost that was covering trees and buildings. There were several minutes of frosty views, and the reporter- well wrapped up in a garish tiger blanket- picking frosty leaves, rubbing them together and shivering. All accompanied by dramatic music showing how newsworthy this was. Classic TV.

There is a serious side to this though. Santa Cruz is not set up to cope with these cold temperatures and while the sloths in the zoo may be okay, people die from the cold. We have several friends who live in poorly sheltered houses and we have been worried for them. Hopefully it looks like it is starting to warm up.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | July 15, 2013


We have just started a sermon series at Church on the Parables of Jesus. Adrian Plass describes a parable as a story that entertains at the front door while the truth slips in a side window.

They are mainly short and simple stories, but we have to be careful in how we interpret them. The meaning, the truth, is not always as simple as it appears at first. Jesus actually said that he spoke in parables because people would hear them but not understand. There is something mysterious about the parables. This challenges me. I often feel that I need to overexplain everything, making sure I have presented every side of the Gospel and that people need to have a full understanding to have faith. They don’t always. Jesus did not teach this way, I don’t need to either.  

Through parables we get to see our own lives from a new vantage point.

When reading the parables it’s always helpful to ask which character in the parable we are. There is often one character who describes us- our situation, our personality. It’s not always a flattering comparison as well. Yesterday I preached on the parable of the prodigal son and the character in that parable I am most like is the older son. He is annoying, judgemental and proud and at the end of the story he is outside the party and we don’t get to find out if he goes in or not. Nice.

This is a warning for me. I know the Father. I have the opportunity to be with in and enjoy spending time with my Heavenly Father, so am I doing that? Or am I too focused on rule-keeping and working? I want to enjoy the party too, just like the younger son. I hope this truth is slipping into my mind bit by bit.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | July 11, 2013

All the small things

David (our Pastor) and Sarah have just gone back to England for six months. Well actually, David will come back for a few weeks in the middle and then leave again. But basically we have been abandoned. We are trying not to get too depressed about it all.

What this means though is that our Church will be left without our Pastor and Pastor’s wife (that well known role in many Churches). As a leadership team or Directorio we have been meeting regularly to plan for life without them for this extended period of time. It is a little scary how many things we need to organise; how many responsibilities there are to pass around. As a small Church with one and a half full time staff our Pastor has a long and interesting job description that he kindly shares with his wife.

We have been through a preaching and welcoming rota, someone to organise and coordinate things. We are now down to the nuts and bolts of what makes our Church run, the nitty-gritty, the glamorous side of Church. Yes, who will bring toilet paper every week? Who will make sure towels are washed and dried? Who will check the supply of tea, coffee and sugar? (bearing in mind that sugar supplies diminish very quickly in Bolivia when everyone has five sugars in their tea). I didn’t realise all these roles came under the job description of Pastor.


The toilet paper committee

The thing is that, boring as some of them may be, small as they appear; all these things need to be organised in a Church to help it run. Actually without toilet paper our Church could not function. (I have spent a long time trying to think of a toilet-related gag/image to use here, but it’s not come to me. If you can think of one, please let me know.) 

But there is a danger here. It could be easy to try to assume responsibility for everything, go into ultra-organisational mode to make sure everything gets done and lose sight of the two big things- Jesus and people. Before leaving David reminded us that a bad sermon does not mean the bottom has dropped out of the world, just like no toilet paper is not the worst disaster ever- perhaps unless the world has dropped out of your… (there it is! I knew it would come to me!) and that what we need to focus on is loving Jesus and caring for people.

So as our first Sunday solo comes up and its my turn to preach and someone else is taking care of the toilet- oh alright I’ll stop going on about that now- we are praying for growth while our pastor and his family are away; for leaders to step up in taking responsibility; for people to be saved and added to us; for our worship to continue increasing in joy; for us to love and care for each other and new people and for God to bless David and Sarah as they are away.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | July 7, 2013

The legacy of hank

We have just sadly said goodbye to Liz and Ju, our latest visitors.

Liz and Ju!

Liz and Ju!

We had a great time with them, despite it being really cold and raining nearly every day! However the question to ask now, in the aftermath of their leaving, is what legacy have they left behind?

I don’t know if you find this- maybe it is more pronounced for us because we don’t have that many people to stay- but whenever people do stay with us they leave us something behind, a memory or a habit or a game or a recipe or something that gets integrated into everyday Powell family life.

In the past we have had visitors who have left behind Monopoly Deal, a love for tractors, a roast dinner cooked for the whole of Church, a beautiful pose modelling fruit, ‘hammockland’, a deep respect for the Tilley and Panama hats.

So what legacy did Liz and Ju leave? Ju did teach us how to make a proper cup of tea (well she does supply tea for the Queen), slothwatch became a major preoccupation and Liz introduced the game Grandma’s steps; but the major legacy they have left is the introduction of Cockney rhyming slang to Chloe’s vocabulary. When feeling hungry Chloe will now say “I am hank” (as in Hank Marvin- starvin’ as I’m sure you knew) or “I am hank of all the world!” This phrase sits slightly strangely with Chloe’s voice and accent, but I feel it is here to stay as part of family lingo forever. Liz and Ju we thank you for your visit!

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | June 18, 2013

Out of control

Sometimes we think of sin as an easy concept, but there are different ways to define it- missing the mark, independence, doing bad things, living without reference to God. One way is to think of sin as setting ourselves up as our own gods- making it all about us, wanting to be in control of everything ourselves. And wanting to be in control doesn’t always seem like a bad thing. I sometimes get a lift back home on the back of David’s motorbike and having to totally trust someone else, while feeling very unprotected on the roads of Santa Cruz which are filled with crazy drivers, some of whom don’t even know what they are going to do next, is scary. I imagine it would be slightly easier if I had control of the bike.

With Evie’s adoption, apart from the actual receiving and taking care of Evie (which is actually the most important thing by far, but we need to remind ourselves of that) we have never been remotely in control. There seem to have been problems at every stage- I can’t even remember what some of the problems were now, but it has nearly got to the two year mark and the current problem is getting in touch with Evie’s birth mother.

Our lawyer needs to get in touch with her to arrange her audience with the Judge where she will confirm her decision for Evie to be adopted. This is proving hard to do. Her phone is not working; we’re not sure where she is. And we are out of control. Again. The key part of this meeting with the Judge is between the birth mother and the Judge, in a sense we have little to do with it, our turn will come later. And so it is out of our hands. And we find this hard. To be honest we would prefer if everything depended on us, was just up to us. Then we could achieve it, finish it, work hard and get it done!

But then it all becomes about us, and not about God. And that is sin, right? And the answer to this is faith- accepting that it is out of our control, but it is still under God’s.

And then it becomes easy to berate ourselves for not having enough faith, and trying to be in control of our faith. And then my head starts to hurt as I go round in circles.

Instead we want to trust the only one who is in control, to depend on Him, not be independent. And accept that, actually, it is okay to be out of control. Let’s accept that we’re not the ones driving this particular motorbike on this long journey of adoption.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | June 2, 2013

Growth and development

One of the most striking things about being a parent is watching your children grow and learn and develop. Much of this seems to happen without or even despite of your input.

Evie’s big development at the moment is her language. She seems to have a new word almost every day. She still steadfastly refuses to ‘perform’ this talent for the benefit of our friends or family though. And she does still return to her favourite word of Chloe all the time.

Caleb is developing in his mobility. He is able to climb onto a scary range of objects and then stand on them bouncing up and down grinning at you- “Look at what I’m doing!” He is not walking yet (although as I have no doubt my mum will have told you that I didn’t walk until the age of 4 so he’s still well ahead of other Powell males. In my defence I would like to say that my brother had to have walking lessons to help with the basics of not bumping into things, falling over or walking on tiptoes permanently. Have I mentioned this before? Sorry.) but is utilising a trolley or play cot to push around in front of him at high speed. He has started playing  jokes on us now as well, such as the hilarious old run away (or crawl) when its bath time trick. Never ceases to be funny.

Chloe is getting more and more into letters and letter sounds, although this does create some minor conflict when we differ in pronunciation from the American style of her perfect ‘can do no wrong’ teacher at school.

We are having to grow and develop too. One of the difficulties with growth is that a stage that you had just got used to and started to enjoy has now ended and you need to adapt. Again. I suspose this will continue throughout the different ages and stages of our children. Actually though, if it didn’t there would be something very wrong. It can be bittersweet as you realise that calling your youngest children babies is not accurate anymore, but seeing and encouraging them to grow is part of what parenting is all about. It’s just that we have to do it at the same time too.

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