Heather’s recent correspondence reflects a lot of changes in Tarija, especially with the Candelero Kids. She is excited to see the positive changes in some of the children and youth that are joining them. Particularly, Heather shares the following about Jesus (pronounced HEY-zoos), who is living at the house in San Blas, and who is responding to the love being shown him:  “He’s a great kid with a renewed hunger to learn.”

Jose is another boy who also moved into the house in San Blas on April 19, and began school soon after. He is 9 and struggles with his school-work, and with fighting with his school-mates, but despite the setbacks and the acting out, she sees potential in him to grow and develop.

The Candelero Kids house was dedicated on May 2nd, and Steve (Area Director for Latin America) and his wife Myra were on hand to celebrate with them. That was a real highlight. But there are growing concerns too.

Some of the “regular” kids haven’t come to the Candelero Kids Support Centre for a few weeks. We pray for protection for Eyber, Mirco, Esteban and Paola as there are many bad influences around them. We found out a few weeks ago that Rodolfo, another kid who used to come, is now in jail because of drug-related problems.

You don’t have to listen to Heather for too long before you become aware of both her big heart, and the litany of problems she and her ministry partners are up against. The kids have very few positive role models in their lives, and as a result have little capacity to trust even themselves let alone anyone else. Despite their youth, many of them are in adult-sized trouble with the law, and with substance abuse. And yet, they are image-bearers of God who need compassion, teaching and stability. And we pray that with wisdom, patience and the constant flow love from Heather and the other staff at Candelero Kids, their young lives would be transformed.

In related news, we’re excited to announce that, having just graduated language school, Helen is on her way to Tarija to join Merle, Rachel and Heather. We know that God is going to use her energy and passion to bless the EFCCM’s ministries in Tarija!

As a follow-up to a previous post written from the missionaries’ perspective, I thought it would be engaging to post the church’s perspective as well. This is a guest post from Pastor Steve serving at Okotoks, who embarked on a short-term trip to Bolivia with a team from the church. If you feel led to a short-term missions trip, we invite you to get in touch with us!

Sometimes missions work and our missionaries seem thousands of miles away, but not when you go and serve with them.

What an exciting time our Okotoks EFC team had in Bolivia from Nov. 15th to Dec. 1st, 2010! When the planning started for this trip we were not sure what would we would be involved in, but God knew. As the applications came in and people were selected for the trip God put a team together that matched the projects we would be working on. We had a painting contractor, we had an engineer, we had people skilled in mounting and finishing drywall — exactly the people needed for the jobs that we would be doing! We painted the exterior of the Bridge Ministry Centre, built large trusses for the new church roof, put wall board on two new homes and several other projects.

It was very unfortunate that one of our original team members had to cancel out two weeks before we were to leave, but God brought an 18 year old onto our team that God knew would be used in an amazing way. Many businesses and church family generously donated supplies and tools for the building projects, and also sound equipment for the church and ministry enter. These really helped cut down the funds that the missionaries had expected to use for these projects and allowed the money to be used for other things. We felt so blessed to be able to come along side of our missionaries, and help out in our small way. We were really encouraged by the quality and passion of our missionaries down there. It was great to get to know them. Did our work do anything for them? I will let one of the missionaries answer that question with a thank-you letter they sent to our church:

“Thank you for standing behind the mission team with finances, prayers and encouragement. The work and impact they left on Bolivia will bear much fruit. They accomplished so much in the physical sense but what they did for us personally by encouraging and supporting the ministries in Bolivia far exceeded what we had expected. We all worked really hard and the ministry centre and the missionary homes look fantastic, but we feel energized and motivated to keep pressing on till the race is finished.”

I would encourage your church to send a team there, and, if you like, we would be glad to share with you a few things that we learned along the way. We need to encourage our missionaries and this is one great way to do that. They are on the front lines, let’s make sure we back them up. No doubt, we as a team were blessed much more than they were and our love for them and the work they do has expanded greatly. We really believe that we are a team with them.

We currently have an opening for one or two young men to complete a team (based out of Alberta) teaching English in Tarija & Sucre, Bolivia from January 13th to 30th, 2011. No English language training necessary.

If you enjoy leading Bible-study discussions, have experience with youth or camp ministry, a heart for evangelism, enjoy leading games, activities, music, drama, sports and travel, contact us (or e-mail Lisa directly) for more information.

This could be the beginning of a great adventure for you!

Jake and Mary were blessed to host a work team from Okotoks Free Church at their ministry centre in Pailon, Bolivia. While they were there, the weather was suddenly chilly (by Bolivian standards, at least), dropping down to 10 degrees or so, but that didn’t hinder the team’s work. In a week, they accomplished what would take our missionaries months.

“The blessing a team can bring to the mission field and its workers is something no amount of money can buy.”

It’s not just about the physical work, but also feeling the team’s encouragement, prayer, laughter, listening and camaraderie. Thanks again Team Okotoks!

The team’s work centred on the church’s expanding facilities, as they are working on larger sanctuary building on the same site. Construction is progressing quickly, and the congregation is giving sacrificially toward its completion. The rafters that the team built are ready to be put in place as soon as the walls are high enough. The new bathrooms will be ready soon, another important addition to handle the growth.

Youth make up half the church. As the missionaries and pastor pray for new leaders, they are seeing a growing group of youth ready, willing and able to serve. These young people know the language and the lifestyle of the Mennonite colonies. We believe that God is raising them up to share the message of Christ to their broader communities, restoring perspective on hope and grace that have been lost in strict adherence to tradition. Plans are in place to share the church’s Christmas program in two other communities in December.

Quick Update on Casa Mariposa

One new 18 year-old girl joined the shelter this month. She comes from a very abusive situation, and initially it was tough to get close to her. But now if she’s asking for Mary, she’ll ask: “Where’s Mom?” They are learning together what works and what doesn’t. Jake and Mary are feeling the need for more workers: they wish that more more time could be spent with the mothers and youth that come so that they could be more effectively nurtured to restored health.

Jake and Mary are planning Christmas dinner for the shelter. They already have some gifts and the turkey. None of their guests have ever had turkey before, so they are all looking forward to the Christmas meal! They will play games and other fun activities together, and share the Reason for the season. It is sure to be fun day!

We just received an e-mail from Heather who serves in Tarija, Bolivia. One of her primary areas of ministry is among street kids who come to Candelero Kids, and she wanted to highlight some of their personalities and specific needs. This shows the relationship that she has with these children, and the emotional front-lines work that she’s involved in. The following is in Heather’s words:

Soraya – When I moved to Tarija in 1998, I met a woman who was very lost in immorality, alcoholism, depression. From time to time, I would get together with Soraya, or would see her on the street and would try to point her to Jesus. About 4 years ago, she gave her life to the Lord, and I began to see her change. But, this year the Lord has helped her to mature spiritually at a greater level. She’s been, and is, a huge blessing to my life, and to the Candelero Kid’s ministry, not only through her prayers but also with professionally as she’s a lawyer. Her transformed life is a testimony of God’s might at work.

Jose Luis – When I left for Canada in September 2009, I honestly didn’t see much hope for 15 year old, Jose Luis from Candelero Kids. God chose to use Cecilia Huezo to influence his life spiritually and emotionally. Now, listening to him pray, laugh and tease, and forming a friendship with him through ping pong games and talks have really shown me that God is mighty to save. Jose Luis is learning to give his struggles to the Lord and it’s great to see his faith grow.

Kids Living in Santa Cruz – In July, three of the kids whom we’d sent to live in Homes for street kids a few years ago, came to visit us. It was so exciting to see these transformed lives. Luis Enrique, the brother of one of these kids, went with us to our outing to the waterfalls and obviously saw the huge changes in Lidia and wanted them for himself. God worked out the details for him to be accepted in the YWAM home for boys in Santa Cruz, and he’s changing too.

Support Centre – We knew in May that we would have to move out of the “Candelero Kid’s House”, and prayed much for God’s provision. We signed a contract for a place in June, but that didn’t work out. Other places didn’t seem right for us, but then God led us to the apartment you can see in the above picture. Even though it’s smaller, it has proved to be the right place for us for now, and we are encouraged with God’s provision. It’s about 7 blocks from our previous house.

Marieta – Some of Marieta’s family has gone to my church for the last 5 years. Whenever they talked about Marieta, who lived elsewhere, she seemed like a very hard woman. She moved here this year and I talked with her in the hospital when she broke her ankle a few months ago. Well, through the witness of different people from our church, she has come to the Lord. It’s always encouraging to see the faith of a new Christian, in spite of the problems they face in life.

Thinking about the praises mentioned above, gives me hope to believe that God will continue to prove that He is mighty to save.

Jacquelline – I’ve known Jackie, who is 17, for almost seven years. Her addictions to robbery and the street have landed her in jail, recently, where her problems with alcohol have augmented to drug abuse. Fanny, her Mom, is so tired of dealing with her rebellious daughter. Today, I was trying to encourage Fanny to keep trusting the Lord and not give up hope. We are praying for God to do a miracle in Jackie’s life.

Julio – Since arriving back in Tarija in April, I’ve seen the “rollercoaster ride of life” that Julio has been on. If you could meet him, it probably wouldn’t be obvious to you right away that the enemy has a tight grip on him, but his addiction to returning to the street and its vices is very strong, and he is on the street again now. We keep praying and believing that God has other plans for this 13 year old whom we care about.

Jesus, Blanca & Sara Nieves – In previous prayer letters, I’ve mentioned these siblings who suffer from abandonment from their alcoholic parents. Their situation has not improved. Once again, we are looking to the authorities in Tarija to intervene so that these kids won’t suffer the dangers around them on the street. We long for the Lord to allow them to live in a secure home.

Home in San Blas – Jesus Nieves is one of the boys who we believe would benefit greatly from the home we still have yet to open in San Blas. Many times this year our staff has clung to the promise that God’s timing is perfect. It hasn’t been easy to wait. A few couples had interest in helping us with the home, but, it was clear to all of us that God said, no. So, we are presently praying for a single Christian man to work with 3 – 5 kids at the home. The Support Centre would act as the base for these kids during the day, and the worker would look after their needs at night.

Two different Christian homes for street kids in La Paz and Santa Cruz run their homes in this way and have seen God at work in the lives of the kids. Our goal is to have the home in San Blas running by Jan. or Feb. 2011. I ask you to pray for God’s will to be clear to us. We have heard of a dedicated Bolivian Christian man named David, who could possibly join our team and work at the home. We will find out more about him in the next few weeks, as we’ll be able to have more contact with him. We believe that God will use this home in incredible ways to help kids, and we are waiting for His provision of staff.

Thanks so much for your prayers, financial support and encouragement throughout this year. Merry Christmas to each of you!