Friday, June 26, 2015

Mission Experiences of Steven and Helen Continued in Bolivia.

Hello everybody,
This is Steve writing.

We did not buy tickets last night to leave Bolivia. Why? 

1. A work opportunity came to me here teaching English part time that would allow me to pay a large portion of the loan payments. This would allow me to remain volunteering here and teaching English can also be used as a ministry. I had been looking through the classified ads in the newspapers looking at jobs that were available here, but had not considered teaching English.

2. Brothers and Sisters in the church offered to help with the rest of the bills for us to stay. I am amazed at the generosity of the people who are willing to help.

3. We have peace with making plans to stay here. We did not have peace with making plans to leave here.

4. We are convicted that the time that we have remaining to be free to do mission work is quickly heading to a close, and that we need to tell people the truth about what is going on.

Jesus is coming soon.

Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 NLT

God bless,

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Plans up in the Air.

Plans up in the Air.

Six years ago I got in a small plane at Andrews University Airpark and started flying south, a long way south. I flew south over the eastern U.S, then south across the Bahamas and the Caribbean, and then finally south across the Amazon to Bolivia.

Since I left Andrews I have made 390 flights totaling 784 hours of flight time in the mission field. That is an average of two hours per flight. The shortest flights lasted about six minutes, while the longest flight that I made lasted 8.7 hours.

I long ago lost count of how many missionaries, medical patients, and tons of supplies that I flew in this time. The lowest elevation take off and landings were at Ogle airport in Guyana at 0 feet above mean  sea level(below sea level at high tide), and the highest elevation take off and landings were at La Paz Bolivia at 13,325 ft above mean sea level. I went with David Gates when we were the first SDA mission plane to land at airstrips in the Alti Plano of Bolivia. Many of the take off and landings were made at airports, and there were also many take off and landings at airstrips in villages in the jungle. During this time I was also maintaining the mission airplanes.  However, in the past couple years I have been flying less, and working more maintaining mission airplanes.

It has been an amazing adventure. I have seen so many places and things. So many blessings have come out if this experience. I met my wife in Bolivia and we had Timothy here in Bolivia. I learned another language. I can understand missionaries and appreciate the work that missionaries are doing. I have learned the joy of giving.

When Helen and I were married Helen had already volunteered as a missionary for three years in Bolivia, but she had not received any donations. She would volunteer for a school year in Bolivia, and then go back home and work to pay for the next school year of volunteering in Bolivia. Then she worked at the Matteson Mission School where she received a very small stipend, which she saved and used to fund her further mission trips to Bolivia. When Helen and I got married we agreed to volunteer as long as God provided for us to continue volunteering. We had agreed that if God stopped providing for us to continue volunteering then we would return to working for hire.

We are very grateful to all those who have helped support us. We have never lacked our basic needs. And we have been able to afford some comforts, we have been able to comfortably furnish the house we were able to build, and buy a motorcycle.

There is an open spot for you in the mission field.

At Andrews there is a statue of J.N. Andrews on the steps of Pioneer Memorial Church. The statue depicts J.N. Andrews with his children with their luggage ready to board a ship when they went as missionaries.  The statue has a trunk that Andrew’s daughter is sitting on. Next to her is an open spot on top of the trunk, and it is said that symbolizes the spot that is open for you in missions.
Studying at Andrews gave me very good flight and maintenance training.

Unfortunately studying aviation at Andrews is one of the most expensive things to study at Andrews. As a result of the high cost of studying aviation at Andrews I left Andrews with a large student debt. Thanks to the donors who have supported, the debt has grown smaller than when I left Andrews. However the debt is still large and the monthly payments are large. For more than a year now we have not received enough donations to cover the payments on the loans in spite of all our efforts to reduce our costs of living.

To reduce our cost of living we have tried gardening, but success has been very limited due to pest animals and bugs that eat the plants, heavy rains and strong winds that beat the plants down, and scorching sun. There are ways to overcome these challenges, but it would take a considerable investment.

An attempt at gardening.

We have also tried sewing and selling diapers. Helen also considered sewing other things. However, Helen found it hard to be a wife and mother, sew the diapers, and get them to market even when I was helping cutting out the fabric, applying snaps, and running to town on the motorcycle to buy materials.

Helen sewing with Timothy helping.

Timothy wearing a new diaper.

Selling diapers in the market.

We have also been supplementing our diet with food that the people at the market have been throwing away. They have been giving us half rotten fruit and we have been canning what is still good. We have also been canning food from the market when it is in season and really cheap so that we can eat it when it is more expensive.

Tomatos were canned when they were at low costs, and apple sauce made from free half rotten apples.

But still we are not coming close to making the payments, and options like deferments are running out. We have been seriously praying for God to supply funds to stay volunteering for five months. We waited till Helen had permanent residency in Bolivia. With permanent residency we can be gone from Bolivia for two years and still maintain residency here. So since we do not have enough funding to stay volunteering in Bolivia we were loaned money to leave and work for hire.

We are planning on heading to Canada. If something changes before I apply for residency in Canada then we can return to Bolivia. However, if I apply for permanent residency in Canada then the government wants me to promise to stay in Canada as a resident. That would mean that I would have to stay at least six months of the year in Canada. That would mean an end to volunteering in Bolivia for a long while. But we will not count it as time lost, Paul did not count it as time lost when he had to work. Our sphere of influence will just be move to a new group of people. Click the following link to understand a little more of how we came to this decision. Laboring Under Difficulties

Change comes hard. When I first came to Bolivia I knew only one person here (DJ Knott), and he left a few days after I arrived. Now I have friends spread over large distances. As a pilot you get to know people in many places. Now we will have to leave all these friends behind. There still is a great work that needs to be done here.

We are waiting just a little bit longer before we buy tickets to leave Bolivia. We are going to wait a day more before we buy tickets in order to see if there is any change. Why do we wait? We are waiting because we know all too well the work that is left to do here. We don’t want to jump the gun. Also we are waiting for my passport. I renewed my passport at the US consulate here and I'm waiting for my new passport before I can travel. It should arrive in a week. But we can’t wait till the last minute in order to decide to leave because there are some things that I need to do before we can leave for Canada that can’t wait till the last minute. I will have to get my police record from Bolivia and have it translated.

That is why I say our plans are up in the air. I feel kind of sad to think about leaving Bolivia. It is the same kind of sadness I felt when I left Andrews. But it says something good about the people you worked with if you feel sad to leave working with them rather than feeling happy to leave them. God knows whether he wishes us to stay or go, and he can arrange things according to his will. I can only find peace by surrendering my life to his will.