Posted by: powellsinsantacruz | 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: powellsinsantacruz | July 15, 2013

Parables

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: powellsinsantacruz | 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.

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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: powellsinsantacruz | 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: powellsinsantacruz | 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: powellsinsantacruz | 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.

Posted by: powellsinsantacruz | May 29, 2013

Changing habits

As Roz and I are in our late twenties (please note the late twenties carry well on into the early thirties, and beyond) we have found our hobbies and habits changing.

I guess there are lots of reasons for this- children, where we live, the climate, friends, transport and so on. But two hobbies in particular have surprised me at just how much we enjoy them. Naturally I’m talking about gardening and DIY. Maybe it’s automatic. As you get older your hobbies move away from more active ones like football or tennis and gravitate to pottering around in the garden.

I should qualify this though. Gardening in Bolivia is generally very easy. You buy an exciting exotic plant or flower such as a buganvilla, dig a hole, shove it in and then it grows. You just need to water it really. The climate here is highly conducive to growth. We’ve also noticed that all gardens/parks/green areas have basically the same plants- there’s the white one, the nice palm trees, the spiky one- we have no idea what their names are. Fortunately in June we will be visited by an expert professional gardener who can advise us further. The thing that I enjoy most about gardening though is hacking. The trowel is not a commonly recognised gardening tool here, whereas the machete is. Gardening is a lot of fun when it consists of getting the machete out and hacking away at some leaves or branches.

And when I say DIY I should make it clear that I’m talking about very small scale, put a screw or nail in DIY, rather than fix up the plumbing myself. In fact I’m not sure that I actually enjoy the DIY itself. What I do enjoy though is going to a Fereteria and buying the required screw or nail and just looking at all the tools and exciting things to be found there. The other part I enjoy is the feeling of satisfaction when the task is complete and the picture is hanging on the wall or whatever the tiny task was. Sadly the bit in the middle, the actually doing it, is always fraught with difficulties- I haven’t got the right nail or the right tool, or more commonly the right skills and basic practical ability to actually do what I want to. If that bit could be missed out, DIY would be very enjoyable indeed.

So there we have it- on a given Saturday Roz would frequently choose to go to the equivalent of a garden centre here, while I would be in the ferreteria. Our children seem to be following in this too- Evie loves all tools and dangerous DIY objects, while Chloe and Caleb love messing around in soil. Everyone’s happy.

Posted by: powellsinsantacruz | May 13, 2013

Wanting to be where you are

Last week I was looking after Evie and Caleb solo. While Roz and Chloe have been off galavanting in the UK, eating unhealthy numbers of British sausages, I have been guarding the fort. Actually, as tempting as it is to seek sympathy, it has been mainly good and fun at times. Life with Caleb and Evie is not boring. Frustrating, tiring, very funny at times, but not boring.

And I have got to experience first hand something I notice them doing with Roz a lot. Following her. Yes, this week my every footstep has been dogged by the pitter patter of little feet (and the drag, drag of crawling knees to be accurate. One of my jobs for the week from Roz was to teach Caleb to walk. It’s not happened yet.) This includes when I’ve been washing up, sitting down for a cup of tea, sitting at the computer, doing gardening or even on the toilet. Now I appreciate an open door toilet policy as much as the next man, but it is rather off putting when someone is trying to take everything out of the toilet bin, play with the toilet brush and get into the shower. But they just want to be where I am. Sweet. Endearing. Practically a bit tricky.

But what if I had this attitude with God? Of wanting to share every moment of every day with Him, fully? And it’s possible too with the Holy Spirit. One of the good things with Evie and Caleb following me is that at least I can see what they’re up to. It’s those suspicious silences where all kinds of naughtiness could be happening that are perhaps worse. And with God too, the closer I am to Him, the safer I am. The happier I am.

The other thing I have experienced this week though is a real missing of Roz. I have wanted to be where she is. With her being away I realise how much we act as a team, how we share life together and something crucial is missing. But she has had the opportunity to meet our brand new nephew, Dylan John Good, and I must give a massive congratulations to Mim and John. I’m glad that Roz and Chloe have been able to be there, but I couldn’t wait to be with them again.

Posted by: powellsinsantacruz | April 27, 2013

Matrimonio

We have had two Church weddings in the last six months. They were great, not so very different from an English style wedding. They were two extremes- one a young couple who have been going out for a few years, the other a couple who have been together for years and have several children.

As a Church we are doing a marriage course at the moment- El Curso del Matrimonio. We are following the course from Holy Trinity Brompton, but have adapted it for our culture and setting. This means, for example, that instead of romantic ‘table for two’ dinners surrounded by mood lighting and music (as recommended for the course), we have food from plastic containers eaten off laps. With loads of the couples children around (including our own!). These millions of children are then packed off to be looked after while the adults go through the course.

Some of the crucial messages are tricky to translate to our setting as well. Marriage time or a weekly date night is made difficult when people are working six days a week, get home late, have virtually never had a baby sitter and share their bedroom with all their children. Who don’t go to sleep until ten. In some cases as well calling it the marriage course is slightly misleading as not all the couples are actually married.

Roz and I are leading some of the sessions which has been challenging for us but in a good way. Teaching about marriage, especially the place of forgiveness as we did last week, highlights conflict and issues in our own marriage.

The other thing that makes it hard is that we know that many of the couples on the course have been through or are going through really hard times and that there are big things to forgive. Things that Roz and I have not had to experience.

But despite all the difficulties this course is well worth it. It is great that we are able to put time and resources into the marriages within our Church. It is practical and crucial to work with people in this way. It has been good for Roz and I to evaluate our marriage again- the good parts and the bad parts. We trust that God is speaking to couples, healing issues and hurts, improving communication and fun, bringing families closer and strengthening marriages. And nearly marriages- hopefully we’ll celebrate some more weddings as a Church!

Here we all are!

Here we all are!

 

 

 

Posted by: powellsinsantacruz | April 3, 2013

Death swallowed up

Easter is all about new life. Well, and Easter eggs. And the Easter Bunny. Chloe met him at school last week- she gave him a carrot and he gave her a sizeable number of Bolivian Easter eggs. Given my opinion of the quality of Bolivian chocolate, I’m not sure who did better on the deal.

However Easter is also about death. Horrific, painful, unjust death. Our Easter here has also been overshadowed by death. Susanna, one of the members of our Church, died last Tuesday. She died of a heart attack after suffering heart problems for some time. One of the sad things is that she died while waiting for tests in preparation for an operation to help her heart issues. Susanna’s family have been part of the Church since it started- in the early days the Church met in Margarita’s (Susanna’s Mum) house. Susanna has a beautiful daughter called Cati who has now lost both her parents within the last six months or so. She is part of the adolescents group that we lead at Church.

In Bolivia the funeral and burial are done as soon as possible, usually the next day. On Tuesday afternoon we went to see Susanna’s family at a wake they held in Margarita’s house. Susanna’s body was there in a casket which enabled you to see her face. It was the first dead body I have ever seen. It was Susanna, but not.  Her body was there but she wasn’t. We went to be with the family, with nothing to offer or say.

On Easter Sunday David spoke about Susanna and her death. But he also spoke about Jesus and His death. And His resurrection from 1 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 15 says that the body that is sown- that dies- is sown perishable, in dishonour, in weakness, a natural body. But that it is raised imperishable, in glory, in power, a spiritual body. Susanna died in weakness, but because of Jesus, and because she trusted in Him, we can have real hope that she will be raised in glory.

That is real hope. It makes all the difference. Because of Jesus, death will be swallowed up in victory. People still die now- Susanna died- it is really hard, especially for her family. Yet Jesus defeated death.

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