Recent Blogs

Purpose and Pendulums

When I was in seminary I had a history professor who used the metaphor of a pendulum swinging back and forth to describe controversies in the church. When people don’t like something, they swing way to the other side, sometimes too far.

A lot of times in life, we look back at the mistakes of the past – and we do our best to avoid those mistakes in the future. This is the point of history, but sometimes we take it too far. (Think about the lesson behind Finding Nemo)

Crisis in Confidence

What is the point of Church?

Today, more than ever before, society challenges us in our priorities.

Sports, school, clubs, college applications, family vacations, scholarships, part time jobs, homework, church programs – our children are overwhelmed!  Oh yeah, and how about some fun thrown in there too. (They are kids after all).

The truth of the matter is that there simply are not enough hours in a day, nor days in a week, to get it all done. Something is going to get cut. We are forced to prioritize.

Monthly Guide To Spread The Spirit Of Christmas

  1. If you received a gift that you don’t like, doesn’t fit or really do not want nor need it, instead of returning or exchanging, take to the Goodwill store on Ogden Avenue and make it a donation. You can even leave the tags on it so they know it is new. This way, you are helping both the person that will purchase it, but also the folks that work there. This is a way of re-gifting that works all year long.

Is Christmas just for kids?

Advertisers want us to think of kids when we think of Christmas because they know that when it comes to our kids we will do lavish, sometimes crazy things.

The Christmas story though, invites us to look at life with adult eyes, like how do you negotiate life living in an occupied territory? It starts with a census because Rome needed money. Do the authorities care about Mary’s condition? Do they compensate Joseph for hours lost at the carpenter’s lathe? These people are living in fear, like many of us who fear everything from cancer to stewardship programs.

Roofing and Blessing the Huacuyo Church

Huacuyo Church

Last week more than 50 volunteers built 17 colossal roof trusses and put a metal roof on the new Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) Church in nearby Huacuyo Valley. This is a momentous event: it’s the first new church in this region in more than 20 years! Now that it’s roofed, it can be used. The “floor” of dirt and grass, the absence of doors and windows, and the occasional bird flying through don’t concern the members. Now that the roof is on, they consider everything else “obra fina,” fine work, minor details.

Youth Olympiad and Retreat

Youth Olympiad

In this Thanksgiving season we are awash with gratitude. We are grateful to have the good fortune to serve here, and honored to ensure that donors’ gifts are maximally stretched and wisely invested.

What's First?

What's First? That’s a question we ask ourselves, over and over, consciously or subconsciously, each day.

What's First? -- we may ask in the morning – eat breakfast, or take a few extra minutes to exercise? Work a little more on my morning’s first meeting, or...just grab my jacket and head out the door to make sure I get to work in plenty of time?

What’s First? -- we may ask during the day – write that letter or get down on the floor to really spend time with the kids? Call that person I haven’t seen in a while...or tackle that closet?

Trench, Drench, Quench

Thirteen pairs of fresh hands from Grace Church in North Augusta, South Carolina, worked with us July 22 through 25. Along with about 50 local folks, the team’s construction crew trenched and laid a new 400-meter water line connecting a mountain springhead to a church construction site in Huacuyo Valley. Others in the SC team taught vacation bible study classes to kids in Huacuyo, Copacabana, and Santa Ana, which is so remote none of the kids knew any Spanish – a local church leader translated to Aymara. They offered a sticker-art project, and a host of fun animal- based play, followed by a snack: animal crackers from the States!

One team member left us cash to replace bent, uncushioned crutches used by Paulina, a woman who’d lost one of her legs 30 years ago to a post-accident infection. After a circuitous search in La Paz last week, Jeff found a new pair of sturdy, US-made aluminum crutches; he bought extra tips and grip pads. Although we’ve never heard her complain, judging from Paulina’s blistered hands, she’ll be overjoyed to have more comfortable, workable crutches to help her get around.

Bolivia, the Lonely Planet travel guide, lists Bolivian Independence Day as one of the top ten festivals in Bolivia, and specifies it’s “best in Copacabana” and is “characterized by pilgrimages, round-the- clock music, parades, brass bands, fireworks and amazing alcohol consumption.” Copa’s 8,000 residents made room for about 30,000 visitors, mostly from elsewhere in Bolivia, or Peru. Streets were so clogged with vendors, shoppers and drinkers that taxi drivers worked only the outskirts or not at all, and tourist buses loaded and unloaded at the edge of town. Jeff caught this (below) of one of the quirkier street hawkers selling horse fat. Our middle-aged friends told us it’s meant to treat skin conditions. Their young adult offspring snickered and told us in English, presumably so their parents couldn’t track, it’s “for make hot man.”

Building New Hope

Church construction

Claire Ault, Jeff and I spent Sunday June 30 helping a team of nearly 60 indigenous volunteers build a new Iglesia Nueva Esperanza (New Hope Church). Note the saw hanging on the cross-like scaffolding in the photo above.

Claire AultLocated in the Huacuyo Valley, the church is about a half-hour, dusty, bumpy ride from Copa. The mixed crew of volunteers included little kids, a bevy of teenagers, the lay pastor and his wife who are in their late seventies, and a Catholic family with Methodist relatives. Valley residents are enthused about the new church and more than willing to help build it.

In return for a full day of hard work the church served a colossal lunch of chicken, rice, potatoes, and a heap of chuño, small potatoes that turn black during a three- day process of overnight freezing and day-time drying. It was an upbeat day of cheerful camaraderie. During a break a young Aymara woman chatted with her husband, who was perched in a window opening. As she headed back to haul sand bags, she playfully smacked his butt and jogged away laughing.

By mid afternoon most of the kids splintered off to play soccer or chase baby lambs in the hope of cuddling with one of them.

Happy New Year 5521!

Happy New Year 5521

As in the past two years, we again joined hundreds of indigenous Aymara to celebrate the June 21 Winter Solstice haling the dawn of the new Aymaran year 5521.

We got up at 4:30 a.m. By 5:10, in utter darkness, we were climbing a nearby mountain along with crowds of other celebrants.

The sacred ceremony is led by Aymaran priests, called yatiris. The head priest, pictured below, opened the event by blessing the mountains, called apus or “protectors,” the sky, Lake Titicaca and its tributaries, and the people of all nations – he named countries in South America, Europe, and also the U.S.

The yatiris solemnly prayed for the blessings of the Supreme Spirit, Pachamama (Mother Earth), Inti, Wara, Yassi (Father Sun, Mother Moon, and the stars), and Manco Kapac and his sister/wife Mama Ocqllo, who, according to the Aymaran creation story, mystically appeared from nearby Isla del Sol, Sun Island, under direct orders from the sun after a very long period when the earth was a dark and lifeless wasteland.


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