Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New Job!

After several months of transition a routine is starting to emerge!  On August 1, John started his new position with Food for the Hungry.  John’s new position is Program Director for the Luke 2:52 project and Director of US Church Engagement.  (That is the name we are using now, although the title is subject to change as the position becomes more clarified.)  John will begin his job focusing on organizing and launching the expansion of the Luke 2:52 program. 

The Bible verse, Luke 2:52 talks about the wholistic growth of Jesus.  These four areas (mental, physical, spiritual and social) provide the framework for all development strategies used in the FH fields.    The Luke 2:52 program is a project that seeks to encourage and strengthen local indigenous churches through wholistic ministry principles.  By taking churches through a 10-module training, over the course of 5 years the program seeks to reveal God’s intentions for the local church and its role in overcoming all forms of poverty within its people and the community for which it is located. 

The Luke 2:52 program has existed and been running for over 10 years in several Southeast Asian countries and has produced incredible results.  By empowering local churches through ideas and principles rather than finances and material resources the program is changing the way local Christians think, which is in turn changing the communities they live in.  Over the past ten years 1,000 churches have been trained through this program and several hundred have declared their local communities as having been lifted from severe poverty through this project. 

John’s connection to this program is as follows.  For the past 3 years in Bolivia John has been working to implement this program among local churches around Sucre.  Through training up 3 Bolivian pastors as project leaders, the project has slowly “taken off’ in Sucre.  Though only a few of our churches in Sucre have officially graduated the program, much positive fruit has been observed  As we have witnessed the churches walking in obedience to God we have seen God be faithful in providing for them in numerous ways. 

Around 6 months ago, John started the process of handing over this project to several key pastors and leaders.  This transition has happened in order for John to take his current position, which is overseeing the expansion of this church-strengthening project globally.  As this project looks to expand into other countries and regions John will be in charge of organizing and launching these programs.  John will spend a great deal of time developing new training curriculum and organizing manuals for teachers and students alike. 

Along with the Luke 2:52 project John will also be working with a variety of churches and organizations here in the US to train and implement Missions education.  John will teach and train in various lessons dealing with poverty, worldview, and the role of the local church.

We are very excited about this new role and look forward to sharing more as his position grows! 


In mid July three of us (John, Jennie and Ella) took off for Colorado Springs to attend missionary debriefing and renewal (DAR) with an organization called MTI (Missionary Training International).   We spent a week at a retreat center call The Hideaway with 16 other families that were also moving back to the US from various countries all over the world.  The main topics we touched on were stress, transition, and soul care.  Most importantly it was a time to share with each other the good, the bad and the ugly, and to discover that what we are feeling is completely normal!

The Hideaway

Ella had her own "class" of 5-6 year olds.  Everyday she also talked and played with kids that were in the same position as she was.  Her amazing teacher, Sandy, helped these kids to learn how to figure out how they were feeling and helped them to put words to those feelings.  We as parents learned invaluable strategies to work with Ella in helping her grieve in a positive way and adjust to a new culture.  We learned a lot about how this transition is different for her than it is for us.  We left Bolivia and came back to something familiar.  For Ella, Bolivia was what was familiar and more "home" to her than the US.

We can't speak highly enough of this amazing opportunity to attend DAR.  We met incredible people and cherished the chance to take a break from our crazy life-in-transition- to really process what we were going through emotionally.  We learned wonderful coping skills and made great friendships as well.

The beautiful view of Pikes Peak we woke up to every morning.
Ella's class
DAR debriefing group, July 2012

July: Still on the Move

After 2 great weeks we said our final good-byes to friends and family in Cincinnati.  Sunday afternoon June 24th Jennie and the girls took a flight from Columbus, OH to Sioux City, IA and then on to Yankton, SD by car.  John took off with the moving truck the next morning.  He stopped in Indy to pick up our good friend Bill Fisher, who graciously offered to accompany John on the 15 hour drive to South Dakota.  It certainly made those 15 hours fly by and we are so grateful for Bill's willingness to come.  

For the month of July, Yankton was our home and Jennie's parents let us "move in".  We can't thank them enough for making their home our home and helping out with the girls as we took on the task of transitioning our lives back to the US.  Our list was big and at times very overwhelming: house, cars, insurance, cell phones (surprisingly the most stressful decision!) schooling for Ella, etc.  Jennie's parents were pactient with us as we slowly made progress and the Lord was so good in providing for our needs. It was indeed a very special time to live with parents/grandparents.  One that doesn't happen often, but we really had a great time and enjoyed our late evenings of pinochle.

Enjoying the "beach" at Lewis and Clark Lake, Yankton SD

One of the amazing ways the Lord provided for us was in our housing arrangements.  We knew we would have to start out renting, as getting a mortgage without having lived in the US for several years was going to be impossible.  We really wanted to find a house (rather than apartment or condo) to rent since John was going to be working from home and needing an extra bedroom for an office.  We were really struggling to find something in our price range that was in a decent neighborhood.  We discovered that good homes were renting really fast.  So Jennie made several appointments to see a few rentals and we headed up to Sioux Falls one weekend.  The very first home we went through had been foreclosed and stood empty for 2 years.  A couple purchased the home and were in the process of redoing it was in rough shape.  But the potential was awesome and it was in our price range.  We filled out an application that same day but were bummed to learn that 3 others had filled out an application that same day as well.  The only thing we could do was to sit and wait.  Two days later, we received a phone call from the landlords saying they wanted to rent their home to us!  Just one day of house hunting and 2 days later we were able to cross off a huge item from our list.

Moving day was three weeks later.   We went back to the storage unit in Sioux Falls where we had unloaded all of our things a month earlier.  A big thanks to my family for helping us move in.  (Uncle Dean, Dan-O, Cousin Riley, Uncle Dave, Cousin Matt, Dad and Mom for watching the kiddos!)  We've moved that stuff into and out of storage units quite a few times in the past 2 months, and all the help really made it all seem pretty easy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back to the States!

We officially left Sucre on June 8th.  After spending a few days in Santa Cruz, we got on our 2:30 am flight to Orlando, Florida via Panama City, Panama.  (Thanks Ces for finding us a place to stay!)  Despite the early hour, everything went without a hitch.  We were excited to get through the flight and on to our little mini family vacation in Florida.  After spending 3 days at Clearwater beach we flew into Columbus, Ohio where we were received by our family, signs and wonderful smiling faces!

We spent the following 3 weeks in Cincinnati.  The best way to tell you about our time there is to thank everyone who did so much to help us in our first transition back to the States.

Thank-you to the Angstadt family for hosting us!  We invaded their home with our 2 young energetic children and over 10 pieces of luggage.  They fed us, played with our kids and let us do loads of laundry.

Thank-you to the Kendall family for letting us borrow their car for three weeks!  It was an invaluable gift to us.

Thank-you to the Hope Missions committee for taking us out to eat, and listening with open hearts as we shared about our time in Bolivia and the next steps God has laid out for us.  Your continued support means so much!

Thank-you to the Journey and Empty Nesters communities, and the kids ministry of Hope Church for allowing us to share about our journey home and sharing in our excitement for our new ministry.

Thank-you to the Jensen family, for the awesome welcome home basket that was waiting for us a the Angstadt home.  For the fun night out on the town, great pool afternoons, for taking our family for a fun day to King's Island, and for your amazing friendship!

Thank-you to Erin for driving down to Cincinnati to spend the afternoon with Jennie.  It was great to have a heart to heart with a great friend.

Thank-you to Collin for helping to organizing a troop of people to help us pack up our moving truck.  And of course for everyone that showed up to help us move!  (Denny, Steve, Joe and Lori, Lee, Melvin, Jeff, Rob, Collin, and Greg)  We couldn't believe you all showed up and how quickly we were able to get it all done.

Thank-you to Matt Jensen for coming over for "ice cream" which turned into a 3 hour-repacking of our 24 foot truck to fit in a few last minute things.  (Can you see Matt in the picture below...way back in the truck on top of everything?)

Thank-you to the Pinkston and the Dowling family for storing some of our things for 3 years (!) in their basement!

Last but not least a big thank you to the Warden/Dowling family.  For welcoming us home with open arms, watching our kids, all the fun sleepovers with cousins, and showering our kids with gifts and special outings.  We love you and appreciate your support.

The danger of starting a list like this is that it's impossible to record everyone and everything that was done for us while we were home.  There is probably people who were doing things in preparation of our return that we aren't even aware of.  So...for those of you not on the list, for all the dinners and lunches, and encouraging words shared with us, THANK YOU!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

May: Selling, Packing, Good-byes

To begin to explain the craziness of May, we really have to preface the month by explaining what happened a few months earlier as we were planning our trip back to the US.  We knew we were going to have a LOT of luggage.   We also knew that American Airlines (the only US airline that flies to Bolivia) just reduced their baggage allowance to only one bag per person, with the second back being $70.  With this in mind, we were going to fly on Aerosur Airlines, a Bolivian airline and the only other airline besides American Airlines that flights nonstop to the US.  They just started flying into Washington, DC, which was perfect for us, because we could fly Southwest from there to Columbus and avoid any kind of luggage fee.  When we went to purchase our Aerosur tickets in March, we found out that just the day before Aerosur had suspended all their international flights.  It was the beginning of a huge mess, including bankruptcy, which the airline was and is going through.  It's a long tale of corruption and government involvement that I won't get into in this blog, but really fouled up our plans.  Eventually we would find out that we couldn't even fly Aerosur domestically, which in and of itself opened up it's own can of worms.  We were left with 2 options.  Either the expensive American Airlines ticket or another South American carrier that would stop for a layover somewhere in South America. We decided to try COPA airlines which stopped in Panama City and eventually continued on to Orlando, FL.  The flight was super cheap, which was wonderful, but there was one big downside...the flight left at 2:30am in the morning!  

By the time May arrived we had most of the departure details figured out, now it was time to sell our stuff!  And boy did we have stuff to sell.  We moved to Bolivia with just 6 big duffle bags and 3 small carry-on bags.  Months later we moved into an apartment that had NO furnishings...not even appliances.  We had to purchase all those things on our own, so now it was time to sell them.  We made a list of all the things we had for sale and started to circulate them around to everyone we knew.  (Craigslist hasn't made it to Sucre yet!) Much to our surprise, we had a LOT of interest in our things and sold most of the major items by the end of April.  To sell the rest of our things we decided to have a garage sale, despite the horror stories we had heard from other missionaries.  We thought the best way to avoid many of the problems others had was to be super organized.  So we worked for several weeks, pricing everything and groupings like items together.  The hardest part of the garage sale was doing all of this with 2 children underfoot.  Anything we wanted to put out for the sale would quickly be undone by our 1 year old.  And our 5 year old was not happy to keep finding price tags on her toys!  We really couldn't set anything out until the night of the sale.  We were up until nearly 2am getting everything ready, but everything went really well during the day of the sale, and we were able to sell most of our things.  

Once we sold the things we weren't taking with us, the next task was packing up everything we were taking with us.  We couldn't fit everything into our suitcases, and ended up packing up 7 boxes to ship. We took a couple of weeks to carefully pack the boxes,  trying to select items that took up space yet weren't very heavy.  We were happy to finally seal up the boxes and take them, via taxi, to the post office.  

You may have looked ahead at the picture below to see open boxes.  No, we did not put the pictures out of order.  When we arrived to the post office we found out, much to our dismay, that the process for shipping boxes to the US had changed.  We were going to have to use boxes issued by the post office, and each and every item would have to be individually weighted on a little tiny scale.  UGGGG.  So our 20 minute trip to the post office to drop off our boxes turned into a 3 hour ordeal.  

With all the crazy details of physically moving we also had a lot of goodbyes to go through.  John was doing one last staff training before leaving, and before his training session the office surprised him with a 15 min time of appreciation and farewell. 

While our days were full, we tried to make sure we took time to have a few last visits to our favorite places and last dinners with friends.  It was especially important for us that Ella have good good-byes with her friends.  She had spent more of her life in Bolivia than in the US, and it had really become home to her.  She is doing a lot of blogging about her experience that you can read about on her blog if you are interested.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Where HAVEN'T we been?

Well...the past few months have been a whirlwind adventure for our family.  We have learned that moving internationally is not for the faint at heart.  We can definitely say that we have walked through the most stressful and overwhelming time of our lives and are glad to have many moments behind us!

Here is a brief timeline summarizing our last few weeks:

June 3rd Flight from Sucre, Bolivia to Santa Cruz, Bolivia
June 5th 2:30am flight from Santa Cruz to Orlando, Fl, with one stop in Panama City
June 5th - June 8th - Family vacation in Tampa, Florida to recharge our batteries
June 8th flight from Orlando to Columbus, OH
June 8th - June 24th  Cincinnati, OH, spending time with family and friends, touching base with supporters about our new ministry position.  Packing up the moving truck with our things from Cincinnati.
June 24th - Jennie and the girls fly from Columbus to Sioux City and drive to Yankton SD to Jennie's parents.
June 25th - John and our friend Bill Fisher leave in the moving truck for the long drive to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
June 26th - unpack the truck in a storage unit in Sioux Falls, look at several rental home options (we found one that day!) and test drive minivans
June 28th - present - We are currently staying with my parents and slowly getting back on our feet.  We are working on a million details, new cell phones, health/car/rental insurance, enrolling Ella in school, etc, etc, etc.

 While there were days where it seemed nothing could go our way, God has been so faithful throughout our journey and has blessed and guided us along the way.  He has used so many of YOU to bless and encourage us and for that we say THANK YOU.  We will try to chronicle our adventures in the next few blog posts.  Now that some time has passed we can now look back and laugh at the funny stories that added to the craziness of our adventure...hopefully they will bring a few laughs for you as well!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Three Amigos!

Over the past 3 years John has been working with a great staff of FH workers.  With that said, we would like to introduce you to 2 very special FH friends who have blessed us and been a significant part of our ministry and family during this time.   Both Luis and Marcelo are pastors and have been a part of John’s church strengthening team over the past 3 years.  Both of them are very gifted and talented and have an incredible heart to see the local church growing in thriving in its role of transformation in the community.  John has learned so much from these 2 friends and he credits the success of their project with churches to the prayerful heart and passion of Luis and Marcelo. 

Marcelo Lazo is the country director of church strengthening for Bolivia.   John first met Marcelo the first week he was in Bolivia.  Two months later John and Marcelo traveled to Lima Peru for a church strengthening and worldview conference and God has continued to shape their friendship ever since.  Marcelo has a great sense of humor and has been a huge support of John over the past 3 years.  Each time Marcelo visits Sucre from La Paz he joins us for a dinner or lunch and we as a family have enjoyed getting to know Marcelo.  Ella has especially become a good friend of Marcelo’s.  John has found it a privilege to support Marcelo in his efforts to reshape the philosophy of working with churches and they have become great friends through the challenges, obstacles and difficulties of working with churches.

Luis Negron, is John’s co-worker in Sucre.  Luis joined the church strengthening staff about 2 years ago.  God could not have provided a better fit for John in the work he has been doing here in Sucre.  Luis is an incredible man of God and has such a humble and joyful spirit.  Luis and John have been working with over 20 churches the past 2 years and John is blessed to be sharing this responsibility with a pastor who has such a passionate heart and is so gifted to do this work well.  Luis has an incredible testimony of transformation and God has used his story to touch and relate to so many pastors, families, and youth in Sucre.  John looks forward to working time with Luis each day and together they make a great team!!!

Both Luis and Marcelo have been such a blessing to us here in Sucre.  Our work with churches has grown due to the amazing spirit and heart that both of these men have.  John has learned so much from both of these individuals and is thankful for the unique friendship that has been fostered over the past 3 years.  

Thanks Luis and Marcelo for making our ministry and time here in Bolivia such a joy!