My New Room

I am finally beginning to feel as though I'm staying, as though I belong in Bolivia this year.  Things are coming along so that I will be able to begin raising support soon, I have plans to get my visa, and... I have a place to call home.  I have been living in Heather's house since the team left, but the room I was staying in couldn't be my room permanently.  But this week that changed.  I have moved into "my room" for the next year.  Check out the nice colors:
My favorite piece, the rug.
It's funny how quickly a room of your own can make you feel like you have a place.  Also, although I was staying in the "hot room (apparently unbearable in the summer)"  my lovely roommate Adreana set up a sweet screen door today so that I can get catch the breeze and stay cool.

The final picture that I have to show from my room goes to show how God provides.  I had no clothes to teach in when I came, but through the Arrowhead team and other random donations, I only had to buy one pair of pants, one pair of shoes, and one shirt to teach in.  And look how much clothing I have!
Thanks everyone who contributed to this!
I am so grateful to those of you who helped make these clothes possible, and I praise God that He provided me with all that I needed.  Pray that He will continue to provide for my needs this year.

Standing in awe with you of His faithfulness.



The sun here is nothing but a fuzzy ball in the sky for most of the day, and it's bright red before 8am and after 5pm.  The reason?  Santa Cruz is enveloped in smoke.  We currently rank as one of the world's most polluted cities due to the burning of sugar cane fields around the area.  I've never seen anything like the smog, country girl that I am, and I'm ready for it to go away.

I have to confess that my heart has felt a little like this city the last few days.  The light is only partially penetrating the fog that my heart is wrapped up in.  I feel like I'm striving to see it, striving to get past the worry that my students will never behave, that they won't learn a thing, that I will cry a lot while I'm here.  Striving to see past the heaviness of my heart to the truth.  God has called me here, and "When I pass through the waters, He will be with me."  I don't know how many times that verse from Isaiah 43 has been my rock of refuge in the last two weeks.

Today I had an especially hard talk with the father of one of my students, and as he left my classroom I sat down at my desk, pulled out the many notes that the team left for me to read, and found Psalm 116.  "I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy... The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, He saved me.  Be at rest once more, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you."  What more sustenance do I need?

I want to write more later about the funny stories, the cute things my students do, and the amazing fellowship I'm finding here, but I needed to write my heart today.



Quick update.  God is faithful AND gracious.  Friday was a much better day behavior-wise than Thursday, and the Open House went great, good, well, grammatically correct. :) 
Now I'm off to youth group and hopefully tomorrow I will write a bit about my students.


Real Life

Reality sets in. My students were not behaving today, and I'm afraid that I will have behavior problems all year.  Parent Open House is tomorrow night, and my classroom is a bit messy.  I have to raise support, leave the country to get my visa, and fill out a mission application in the next few weeks.  While teaching 5th grade.  I desire peace.  God will provide.  He will provide time, and money, and strength.  Have I said lately that God is faithful?  It's still true.



I keep thinking that I will only write in here once a week, but it's becoming a good way to process.

Today as I walked from the bus stop to my house, the smog/dust was so thick that I couldn't forget that I was in a city of 2 million people in Bolivia.  When I'm at SCCLC, everyone speaks English, the classrooms look like classrooms, and it's easy to begin thinking that I'm at home.  But then I leave, and taxis beep at me, and the streets aren't all paved, I stick out like a sore thumb, and I remember that I am the foreigner.  Usually I think about being different in light of being the one who is pegged as having money-- the target.  But today I thought about what my skin and my background make me socially.
I was walking on one of the few lengthy sidewalks in Bolivia (it's amazing and several miles long), and, since I walk fast like an American, it became necessary for me to pass a Bolivian woman walking (slowly) ahead of me.  She was wearing a cleaning uniform common to workers here.  As I got closer, I was shocked as she stepped off the sidewalk and waited for me to pass. I turned to her and said Buenas tardes and gave her a timid smile, and I was shocked to see the fear on her indigenous-looking face.  Why would she ever be afraid of me?
I started thinking about it.  No one has ever cleared a sidewalk for me.  But her people have lived through years of oppression by people with skin lighter than theirs.  Why wouldn't she be afraid?  The fear I could understand.  But deferring to me as I passed?  I feel guilty for I-don't-know-what just thinking about it.  What is my responsibilities in these situations?
My classroom.  Today one of my Bolivian students told me he used to live in a mansion.  The first day of classes I talked about my student's parents making their lunches, and they informed me that their maids packed their lunches.  How can I make them understand equality?  My heart yearns for justice here.  In the States.  In my church.  Lord, teach me how to live.
Micah 6:8
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."



Although I'm trying not to get involved in too much ministry other than teaching right now because of being crazy busy, tonight I went to the high school's Bible study.  I loved it!  We talked about the importance of the name of God.  Could there be a better topic?  My favorite verse: Acts 19:17 "When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor."
May I experience His names this year.
Pray for relationships with some of the MK girls who go to this Bible study.  I am so excited to get to know them!


My first week

Wow, I really meant to update the blog earlier today with stories of my first week, but now it is getting late.  I still want to capture some highlights and tell you a little about my students.  Since it's a great number, I think there will be three points.
1.  I have 19 students.  11 boys, 8 girls.  7 MKs (three of whom are at least half Bolivian/Latin), 12 from Bolivian families.  With the exception of two or three, all of my boys are pretty crazy and love to play games and receive as much attention as possible.  With the exception of maybe three, my girls are quiet and would love to just sit and talk with me or draw portraits of me while they wait for others to finish their assignments.  I'm trying to do a good job of classroom management so that I won't have to be telling my students to be quiet all year, but my tendency is definitely to err on the side of "kindness" (isn't it actually kinder to discipline well?).
2. My students love to speak Spanish during class. But I'm not allowed to let them.  Heather mentioned that it's a complete paradox that I, a linguistics major who loves Spanish, would come live in Bolivia for a year and be forced to stop people from speaking Spanish.  I have one boy in particular who will raise his hand to make a comment and start telling me a story about the mosca who was in his book and how he tried to kill the mosca.  Then, when I make him translate mosca into English, he says, "Why would you ever call it a fly?"  Matthias is wiggly and loves to talk over me in class, but I am so excited to get to see his heart and direct his energy towards serving the Lord.  I have so many funny stories that I would love to tell about all of my students, but you will hear more as the year goes on.
3.  God is faithful.  He is FAITHFUL.  I knew so little about teaching when I came into this job.  He put Ellen in the beginning to teach me the basics. He put Amy, the missionary with a Master's in Education, in my life now to give me tips and to model good teaching for me.  He made my principal a woman I really like and respect, and she has training in Special Education (great because I have a boy with ADHD).  The 6th grade teacher is my student's mom who has the best ideas!  He put a literacy specialist in 2nd grade to help me help my ESL students, and He gives me His strength every day to plan lessons, teach, and love my students.  I get to teach Bible and do a devo with my students every day.  I get to give them hugs and tell them that I pray for them by name.  Ellen wrote me probably the most encouraging letter I have ever read, and she told me to read it at the end of my first day of teaching. The verse I have been clinging to from that letter says, "'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts."  -Zech 4:6 
If I could write a book on the last week and a half it would not be sufficient to document the ways God has worked in my life and in the lives of those around me.  I have felt very humbled to see the ways that I have been taken care of.  I have relied on God's strength.  I have failed to rely on God's strength.  I have been stretched.  I have felt God's power in me when I had none on my own.  He is FAITHFUL.


Back to Bolivia, Back to Blogging

I wish there were a way to put into words all that has happened in my life in the last three weeks.  There is no possible way to explain all that God has done in my heart and in my life, but I will begin to share.
When I left the camp that I worked at all summer three weeks ago, I was so excited for what lay before me.  Two weeks in Bolivia, followed by a few weeks at home, followed by moving into the most linguistically diverse neighborhood in the US (in Minneapolis) where I hoped to find a job working with the Latino immigrant population.  There have been few times in my life where I felt as confident as I did about the plans I had made.  God had caused me to make each one exactly as He planned, and they completely lined up with my dreams of working for a few years before going on the mission field.
I hugged my parents goodbye during a quick trip home, and, this being my fifth trip to Bolivia, they joyfully sent me off with a "See you in two weeks!" and peace of mind.  I went back to camp to finish packing and prayed with Ellen Warneke about letting God use me however He wanted to while I was in Bolivia.  I had no idea what awaited me.
Once in Bolivia with a team of 21 from Arrowhead Bible Camp, we spent a week doing construction at an orphanage and speaking in churches.  On Saturday night, God began putting into action what He had planned all along.  Bev Smith, the missionary hosting us, mentioned that Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center (SCCLC) needed two more teachers for the upcoming school year which began in twelve days.  I jokingly mentioned that I had no job and should apply, and we continued eating.
When I woke up Sunday morning, the idea of teaching was heavy on my heart.  I kept thinking throughout the day that I had no concrete plans back home and that there was no reason why God couldn't use me in Bolivia.  That night, I began to ask people to pray for me.  I also called the director of the school and set up a meeting for the next day.  After going to the school, I was as lost as ever about what I should do.  Cody Kargus, Ellen, and Heather all helped me think through my decision, but all of them told me to follow God's leading. 
On Monday night I spent a lot of time reading Philippians over and over, thinking about the choices that lay before me.  When I went to sleep, I had no idea what I would do, but I had peace.
My school with the discipleship staff
Tuesday brought with it the flu, and I could not do ministry.  I stayed home, thinking and praying about what to do.   I kept feeling God gently asking me, "What's holding you back?"  "Haven't I created you for times like this?"  That night I told my sister that I thought I would try teaching.  Before I told anyone else or before I really knew what I was doing, I called the elementary principal at SCCLC and told her I wanted to teach 5th grade!!!  I was shocked when I hung up the phone.  What had I gotten myself into?  How would I support myself since the school couldn't pay me? What would happen to my dream home in Minneapolis?  What would my parents say?  What about my friends?  How was I going to survive in another culture for an entire year? 
My desk
These questions and many more have been in my mind for the last week (It has only been a week and two days since I decided to stay), but God has been faithful.  I am not a certified teacher, but God has been reminding me (through Ellen) of His word in Zechariah 4:6, "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty."  His strength is perfected in my weakness.  He will use me as I struggle through lesson plans and as I work to make students understand prepositional phrases and vascular and nonvascular plants. And He will receive all the glory, because I could not do this by my own power or might.  I will praise Him every day for using broken vesssels like me.