Sunday, October 31, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
|Ruth and Noemi Transition House board members, spouses and staff|
|Marizabel (house coordinator), Loly (director), and Vanessa (board president)|
|Licaria and Josue Bernabe|
|Andreina is due in a several months|
|Estrella and David|
Monday, September 13, 2010
Dear Friends and Family,
How are you? We hope and pray all of you are doing great and enjoying God's peace and blessings. Recently God has shown me, Vanessa, how He really is in control. It drives me crazy, by the way, when I feel I am not in control, which is 90% of the time here in Santa Cruz. We recently welcomed a new baby into the Ruth and Noemi Transition House. Licaria gave birth Josue Bernabe, a healthy baby boy—our second baby in the last month. How great it is to see that these babies, who came so close to being aborted, now carry Biblical names! God is awesome! I had been so worried about medical care for the mothers and babies. Because the Transition House does not have a large enough budget for medical care, we are using a free government program. I have heard rather depressing stories about impersonal nature of the government program, but when I went to see our girl who was in labor I was happily surprised to see a brand new little hospital, very clean and nice. When I asked Licaria how she liked her doctor she said, "She is very young and sweet." As I left the hospital I was thanking Jesus for providing in all ways for this girl who desperately needs Him.
We have been hosting four girls for a while now, our youngest Dear Elizabeth,girl is 16 and pregnant. The Lord has also sent us a new director and two new volunteers, so things are running pretty smoothly. I have had more time to work on getting the manual ready, which is coming along great and soon we will have a new logo. I am learning so much. I used to just freak out and worry desperately about these girls (I still do sometimes), but now I try to go through the steps and remind myself and my staff things we have recently learned from the directors of Safe Haven in Texas. Our first task is to share the gospel with these girls, and it is not our place to judge them! I am very fast at deciding what is wrong with people but now I really have to look inside me and look again and try to figure out what I can do to help them, and not what they can do so I will approve of them.
There are two of our girls I am especially worried about. They both have families but their families are the reason they are at the house. Their moms don't want them, and both moms have both chosen their husbands over their daughters. Please pray that the Lord will give these girls a new and wonderful support system for when they have to leave the Transition House. This week I will be starting with my counselling class again. This will be the second year. Please pray for extra strength and energy.
A quick update on Agua Yaku: We have two team out drilling right now. One in the area of San Lorenzo de Moxos and another one in a farming community about four hours from Santa Cruz. We have had a number of interested visitors and teams come down to Bolivia this year to see the well drilling in action. We so appreciate all the visits and support we have received, but we are still way under-funded for the year. We would love to expand our staff and the scope of our work. Please pray for our work and witness in rural communities around Bolivia and help us raise for operational funds so we can continue the work we have begun.
As for our family everyone is doing great. Isaiah is already having a wonderful school year. His teacher said he is the best reader in the class!! Luciana is growing up too quickly and she is really beautiful inside and out. Nathaniel is in his first year of college in Durango, Colorado and he also seems to be doing great so far. We have been enjoying our little veggie garden in the back yard (lots of fun) and we love watching movies and eating the pop corn that our daddy makes.
Here are some praises: Good health care for the moms and babies in the Transition House, Warren and Jackie's precious new baby Norah, new director and volunteers at the transition house, Isaiah's new teacher, God protecting Nathaniel in the woods in Colorado and Lucy's sweet spirit.
Here are some prayer requests: Nathaniel receiving enough financial help from his school for his room and board, all the girls from the transition house—their relationship with Jesus, and for healing both sand physically, the transition house manual and all other paperwork, protection for our kids—and also their relationship with Jesus, new best friend for Lucy (I mean, in Santa Cruz), Crossroads team coming on September 24th, more financial support for the Agua Yaku water well drilling project.
Thank you for doing missions with us. You are loved and thought of a lot! Please let us know how we can also pray for you. And do come and see us soon.
Danny and Vanessa Beams
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
|Flying from Santa Cruz to San Lorenzo de Moxos|
|Going up river to Villa Hermosa|
|Breaking camp after the first night on the river|
|Patiently waiting for clean water|
|Carrying water from the swamp to begin drilling|
|Setting up the drill rig|
|Rowing till your arms drop off|
|Clean cool water from the well|
|Pirana fishing in the late afternoon|
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:3-6) Paul says it better than I ever could, but we really do appreciate your partnership and your prayers for our ministry here in Bolivia. We also appreciate your visits. It is so much fun to host teams who participate directly in our ministry and share their personal faith with people in Bolivia. Last month Vanessa shared about the great work that the Brazos Pointe Fellowship team did renovating the Ruth and Noemi Transition House. The other half of the Brazos Pointe team went with me and our Agua Yaku staff to drill a well in a remote Yuracare community in the Beni department. It was our first foray into this department to drill water wells. Logistically, it is difficult to get into this area, but the need for clean water is so great we cannot ignore it. We drove our drilling equipment in several days before the team (16 hours overland) and then flew the BPF team to San Lorenzo de Moxos in two small chartered planes. From there it was an eight hour canoe ride upriver to the village of Villa Hermosa. The river was full of crocodiles, fresh water dolphins, and thousands of birds, making the trip anything but dull. The community has eight families and a small elementary school for the children. The Yuracare are hunters, fishermen, and farmers. While they earn almost no money from their farming activities, they subsist pretty well from hunting and fishing in the forest. They do not, however, have access to clean water or medical care when they get sick. During the last rainy season their village flooded and they lost all of their planted crops. They even spent several weeks sitting on top of furniture inside their flooded homes or in trees waiting for the water to recede. They have never had a water well, but instead drinking water directly from the dirty brown river or from the swamp that surrounds their community. It took Agua Yaku and the Brazos Pointe team only two days to dig a 100 foot deep well and install a hand pump. The water came out cool and clear. The families immediately began filling every container they could with water. The kids splashed and played in the water while the women washed clothes. After the well was completed we even had time to go fishing for piranha.
One of the best outcomes from the trip were the contacts we made with other communities in the area. After seeing the clean water in Villa Hermosa, other communities in the area wanted clean water too. The first week in July Carlos and Fernando, Agua Yaku staff, made their way back to San Lorenzo and then upriver to Villa Hermosa. From there, they hiked eight hours overland to two other communities called Nueva Natividad and Santa Rosa. These communities are on a river that has dried up during the dry season and the only way in is by foot or horseback. Village members carried the drilling equipment on their shoulders (including 100 lb sacks of bentonite-drilling clay) for the full eight hour hike. While Carlos and Fernando were drilling the wells a cold front passed through Bolivia (it is our winter) and the temperature dropped into the 30s for over a week. This is unusually cold for Bolivia. This extreme cold snap actually killed most of the fish in these tropical rivers. The rivers became a carpet of dead floating rotting fish. We saw news reports that many children were becoming sick after drinking water from the rivers with the rotting fish. It will take several years for the population of fish in these rivers to recover. While we cannot do anything too quickly to resolve the problems, we will continue to drill as many wells as we can so that people in these rural communities will have access to clean well water year round. Carlos is heading back in to San Lorenzo these week to drill more wells. Pray for Carlos and for a local missionary, Natividad, who has been working in this area for decades. We want to bring clean water and share the gospel message with everyone that we can.
We have also recently had a second Agua Yaku team drilling a well in a Mennonite community about three hours from Santa Cruz. We are drilling this well for a family who is holding Bible studies in their home in direct resistance to colony leadership which forbids colony members from reading the Bible or their own or holding Bible studies outside the "official" church. This family of new believers is being ostracized by the colony and has even been denied access to water. While Mennonite colonies in Bolivia have an outward appearance of "Christianity," they are more truly a pseudo-Christian sect operating under quite strange and oppressive rules. Four EFCCM missionary families are working in the Mennonite colonies, sharing the true gospel message of Christ and encouraging change within the colonies. We hope that Agua Yaku can provide much needed water for Mennonite families and will be another way that the gospel can be shared in the colonies in a non-threatening way. Neto and Eric have been heading up this project. Both are Brazilian Christians who came to Bolivia to work in missions. Neto has been working with Agua Yaku for about a year now and has become a quite competent well driller. Eric, a mechanical engineer by training, recently moved to Bolivia to complete a course with YWAM (Youth with a Mission). His professional background will prove quite helpful as we strive to improve our well drilling technology. We hope to bring him on full-time with Agua Yaku as soon as possible. We have also had the help of several Trinity International church members on this Mennonite well. A special thanks to you guys for getting muddy with us.
A quick update on the Ruth and Noemi Transition House for Girls: We now have four girls in the house. Three of them are pregnant and came to us through referrals from the Centro de Vida Crisis Pregnancy Center. The first baby was born last week and two more will be soon to follow. Pray for these girls and their babies. They may have a lot of spiritual, emotional, and financial obstacles to overcome, but nothing is impossible in the strength of our Lord.
Family update: Vanessa and Luciana just returned from a quick trip to Kentucky—a necessary trip to maintain their resident status in the U.S., but also a great chance to visit with Nathaniel and other friends at home. We will be trying to complete Vanessa's and Luciana's U.S. citizenship this year, so please be praying that all goes smoothly with this. It is a bit complicated because we spend the majority of our time out of the U.S. Nathaniel will stay in the U.S. this year. In a couple of weeks he will be moving to Durango, Colorado where he will be a freshmen at Fort Lewis College. He will be studying sustainable agriculture and will be a member of the cycling team (which consistently wins the U.S. colligate national championship). Tomorrow, Luciana begins tenth grade and Isaiah third grade at the Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center. Pray for all three of our kids as they begin to find their place in this world and strive to grow in their faith.
Thanks so much for your commitment in partnering with us in this work in Bolivia. We covet your thoughts and prayers. Please feel free to contact us with specific questions about how you can help. We always need new financial partners. We would love to expand our reach those in need.
Danny and Vanessa Beams
EFCCM missionaries in Bolivia
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Beloved and missed friends and family,
Wow, this has been a busy and crazy summer so far and there is more to come.
Maybe we should start by praising the Lord for his Love, Provision and Patience. He has kept us safe, well fed, alive and for the most part content!
I am still discovering who Jesus is and how He relates to me. Sometimes He is my daddy and sometimes when I really need a hug He is the wind!
I have recently read a book about prayer where the event of the cross is describe as a series of encounters and breaking ups! Encounters between God's love and justice, between good and evil, between life and death, between the desire of the devil to take us away and the reaction of a loving powerful God, encounters between human and divine! The main break-up is the one between us and the forces of evil, between us and the darkness that can sometimes drive our lives! I loved it! It helps me to see my God in a new refreshing way! His power accomplished so many things with one amazing event! I also learned that Jesus represents us in front of His Father as well as He represents his Father to us. When we pray, intercede we are being introduced to the Father by Jesus whom we belong to. I am more aware now of the power of prayer and the team work between us, Jesus and the Father! I am saying all of this because I am also 100% convinced that nothing will change here or anywhere without prayer. There is a huge load in my heart to pray for the girls from the transition house and other children and young adults who lack the faith to allow change in their lives.
Last month we had a team from Brazos Pointe Fellowship- Texas, who came and completely renovated the transition house! It is so beautiful now. The walls are bright and clean, we have colorful new curtains and the bedrooms are happy and neat! These guys worked so hard, it makes me dizzy to remember that week! We also had a training for the staff and volunteers in which we learned about how to better structure our rules and our partnership to the Centro de Vida (Pregnancy Crisis Center) The training was held by a wonderful lady from a house similar to ours called Safe Have in Lake Jackson-Texas all throughout the week this lady kept on saying: " Different people, same problems!" So please, make us one of your prayer requests, both the Ruth and Noemi Transition House and Safe Haven!
I really loved the day that we just prayed for all the girls that have gone through the house, and then we prayed for the house itself, we went into each room and it was so wonderful to hear all these voices at the same time, there were words like: Father, friendships, safety, laughter, I mean I just caught some of them, but I know God heard them all!
Since the team left we got one new girl and two more have come to see the house and are still thinking about it!
On a more personal note, Saturday was my birthday, I turned 36 and Danny's birthday is tomorrow! Praise God for life! I am thankful for mine, I am thankful for my beautiful family, for my loving husband and for the awesome opportunity to serve God.
Please remember that you guys are also part of this ministry and that you are serving hand in hand with us, as you pray for us and those we serve, as you support us financially, as you come and visit and work with us. God is using you as well!
We love you very much!
Danny and Vanessa Beams
EFCCM missionaries in Bolivia
Friday, June 04, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
Warren McCaig and I will be going with eight team members to drill a well in Villa Hermosa, a Yuracare village near San Lorenzo de Moxos in the department of Beni. We have been wanting to expand Agua Yaku into Beni for some time now, and this trip will give us a great way to kick it off. In an exploratory trip last week, Warren and I drove eight hours to Trinidad, the capital city of Beni, and then a further six hours to San Lorenzo do Moxos where we met Natividad, a Bolivian missionary who has been pastoring and starting new churches in rural communities for decades. He heard about our well drilling project and invited us to drill some much needed wells in the indigenous communities where he has been working. By night fall we were traveling up a crocodile infested jungle river in a dugout canoe. The only practical way to get into or out of Villa Hermosa is by boat. We hitched a ride with a neighboring farmer who was delivering emergency food relief supplies to Villa Hermosa. Earlier this year the river flooded and all the villages along its course lost their crops for the year. The World Food Program (WFP) is helping see them through the difficult months. The promised four hour journey soon turned into seven. We stopped on the shore and 1:00 AM and camped on the shore for the night before continuing another hour the following morning. I won't recount the entire journey here. Visit our Agua Yaku blog at: www.aguayaku.org for a more complete summary of the trip. I'm sure the team will have a great mission experience and will be helping bring clean water to a much needed area.
As we mentioned in a previous letter, Agua Yaku lost a major donor that had planned on funding new work teaching SODIS (Solar disinfection) of contaminated water. Thankfully several donors have visited our project recently and will be picking up some of the shortfall in our budget. We are moving ahead with the SODIS training as a component of our ministry. Several weeks ago we attempted to drill a well in an Ayoreo community near San Jose de Chiquitos. Unfortunately, the terrain is too rocky and we were not successful in drilling a well. We did however teach water disinfection using SODIS and will be following up with a rainwater catchment project in the community. Check out the Agua Yaku blog for a complete report.
Thanks so much to everyone who is partnering with us in our ministry here in Bolivia. We covet your prayers and your financial support. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about our ministry. If you are not already a supporter, we hope you will consider becoming one. Check out the "how to send donations" section below.
Danny and Vanessa Beams
EFCCM missionaries in Bolivia
Friday, May 28, 2010
Even as we set out on our exploratory journey, Warren and I weren't sure where exactly we were going or how long it would take to get there. The first day we drove eight hours to Trinidad, the capital city of Beni. Trinidad is a dirty bustling city where the streets are overrun with cheap Chinese motorcycles and honking taxis. It definitely feels like a frontier town, a jumping off point on the edge of the Amazon wilderness. The Momore river, passing nearby, is the largest tributary of the Amazon River. That night we met with some local church leaders and business men. Over the best steak dinner of my life, we discussed our water project, and their Christian radio project and new church plants. I literally kept stuffing steak in my mouth until I could not squeeze in another bite. I wobbled away from the table and slept uncomfortably in the spare bedroom in the home of some generous church members. After learning that it was still another six hour drive to San Lorenzo de Moxos over rough dirt roads, we decided to leave super early before the city even woke up. By 6:00 AM we were out of town and crossing the Momore River on a ferry—really just a simple barge built out of rough hewn wooden planks and powered by a small boat with an outboard motor tied along the side.
We passed quickly through the beautiful colonial town of San Ignacio de Moxos and made our way on back roads to San Lorenzo, arriving around noon. Luckily, being the dry season, it was possible to drive overland all the way to San Lorenzo. For many months each year both San Ignacio and San Lorenzo are completely cut off from the rest of Bolivia. The only way in or out is by air or by boat. We didn't have exact directions to Natividad's house, but were told to simply mention his name to anyone on the street and they would direct us. We did and they did. Natividad lives in a humble home next to the evangelical church. Natividad pastors the local congregation and as well works as a missionary, planting churches in many smaller communities along the rivers. He set us up for lunch and a room in the home of a church member—there are no restaurants, hotels or even humble guest houses in San Lorenzo—and then went out searching for the connections that would make a community visit up river possible. Because it is the dry season, many of the rivers are too low to travel on even by canoe.
The first community he knew of that needed a well would take too many portages on the river or would be a six to eight hour hike. Ouch! When we were about to admit defeat, thinking this area would be too inaccessible for our intrepid Texas team, when Natividad met Limber, a friend and local leader from the Yuracare community of Villa Hermosa, on the plaza of San Lorenzo. Limber was in town collecting half a ton food rations being donated to his community by the WFP (World Food Program). Earlier this year Villa Hermosa and every other community along these rivers were flooded and the residents completely lost their crops for the year. Disaster relief in the form of food aid from the WFP is being distributed in these communities as a way to insure the residents do not starve until their next crop can be planted and harvested. It just so happened that Villa Hermosa needed a water well and Limber was traveling back home that same evening. We could come along in the canoe if we liked to see if a well drilling trip would be possible. We helped load the donated food into the back of our Land Cruiser and drove it down to the river "port." I say "port" but it was really just a river bank along a canal that fed from the river into a shallow lagoon about five kilometers from town. As we were loading the ten meter long dugout canoe, we met the owner, Teofilo. Teofilo said the canoe can carry about 2500 kilos of cargo. He was already headed upriver to his own farm and agreed to take Limber and the food supplies back to Villa Hermosa. We offered to contribute the 60 liters of gasoline necessary for the 120 km trip to Villa Hermosa and back. While we were loading the boat we met a group of Chimani Indians from Asunta, a village five days travel upriver. The Chimani were also collecting WFP food rations. Ten days on the river seems like a long way to travel for a half dozen bags of rice and flour. The Chimani women and children did not seem to speak a word of Spanish and acted quite fearful of the white foreigners (us). The Chimani still live primarily has hunters and gatherers. There were a number of long bows and spear-like arrows sitting round their camp. The women were roasting piranha and monkey over a campfire.
After the boat was loaded with rice, flour, beans, and cooking oil, we reloaded the Land Cruiser with the Chimani's green bananas (which they were taking into town to sell), and drove back into town to leave the vehicle parked safely in Natividad's yard. Limber and several others from Villa Hermosa said they would be traveling back home seven hours by horseback and would meet us the following morning to unload the boat. After a five kilometer hike back to the river through dark woods, we were finally on our way upriver by 7:00 PM. Teofilo had a fairly powerful 40 hp outboard, but he was afraid to give it much gas because the bearings were worn out and he could not find replacement parts. He assured us it would only be a four hour journey upriver to Villa Hermosa. We settled uncomfortably on top of the cargo and began shining our flashlights out into the underbrush. After only a few minutes of searching we had already spotted dozens of pairs of glowing eyes—caimans and crocodiles along the water's edge. Warren drifted off to sleep by nine, but I couldn't find a comfortable enough position to relax, so I listened to the hum of motor and scanned the moonlit shore for faunal movement. The hours passed slowly. Finally around 1:00 AM, after six hours on the water Teofilo pulled ashore and announced that there was too much brush in the river to continue on in the dark. We would camp along the shore for the night and continue on to Villa Hermosa the following morning. Warren and I scrambled up the muddy bank with our tent and personal gear and hastily set up camp. Teofilo, his two young sons and Felix a nephew disappeared into the woods. Only later in the night did I reflect on the fact that we might have set up our tent on the same bank that some large crocodile called home.
At day break we heard some rustling outside the tent. Teofilo was ready to get back on the river. Turns out we had camped at Teofilo's farm. Felix and the boys were going to stay behind to pick oranges while Warren, Teofilo and I continued on to Villa Hermosa. After another hour on the river we arrived at the village where we scrambled up the muddy bank and hiked the half kilometer to the village. Villa Hermosa is built on the highest ground in the area. Even so, the community floods almost every year. Earlier this year the community was flooded for weeks and they lost all of their crops. They showed me the water mark on the houses. There had been about two feet of water in the houses for weeks on end and no dry ground anywhere in sight. I asked Limber what they did during the flood. "What could we do?" he asked. "We had nowhere to go. We sat and slept on top of our furniture in our houses, ate bananas, and waited for the water to go down."
As we walked into the village a dozen dogs began barking letting everyone know of our arrival. Every member of the community came out to see who the visitors were. They knew Teofilo of course, but they didn't know what to make of a pair of tall white gringos. Limber still had not shown up on horseback so they hadn't been expecting us. We saw a half dozen stick and thatch houses loosely organized around a bare dirt plaza. The school was a thatched roof structure with open walls, a couple of benches, a chalk board, and a Bolivian flag. We met the teacher, a dozen men and women, and about as many kids. They said that nine families now live in the community, about fifty people altogether. The community walked in mass down to the river and we began unloading the heavy bags of food. The men threw the 120 lb bags of flour and rice onto their shoulders and confidently climbed the muddy bank. After everything was on shore the men shouldered the heavy bags for the ten minute hike back to the community. The kids and women carried smaller boxes and bottles of cooking oil. Ashamedly, I walked back empty-handed, mumbling something about a chronic back condition. The bulk of the food was wheat flour. About the only thing you can make with flour is bread. I didn't see an oven in the community so I asked one of the women how they would eat the flour? She said they would eat it just like it is. I didn't really understand but she demonstrated by pretending to scoop some into her mouth. I asked if they might build an adobe brick oven so they could make bread, or perhaps make fry bread in oil. She said they might.
Even though the community lost all of their crops for the year, they still have an abundance of meat and fish. Teofilo said the river and the forest provide all that they can eat. While the Yuracare are not simply nomadic hunters and gatherers like the Chimani. They do rely heavily on fish and wild animals hunted from the forest for a large portion of their diet. They eat a variety of fish as well as wild pig, jochi (a large rodent), wild turkeys, armadillo, monkey, tapir, anteater—practically any animal they can kill. They do not hunt with bows and arrows like the Chimani, but rather with ancient looking 22 caliber rifles and shotguns. They also have a few domesticated animals. I saw two cows and several dozen chickens, ducks, and pigs running around.
The school provides classes only through fifth grade. The closest high school would be in San Lorenzo. The teacher in Villa Hermosa, Juan Marcelo, is a young guy in his mid-twenties from Trinidad. He said he has been teaching in the community for three years. He said they did have seventeen students but now they only have twelve. I noticed the school has a kitchen. Sometimes the government provides food to insure that each student eats a good breakfast at school. Marcelo said they were not providing breakfast this year. Because of some confusion or miscommunication, Villa Hermosa had been left off of the list and has not been receiving food from the government for the breakfast program. Limber, the Corregidor (local authority) we met the day before still had not arrived on horseback. His wife, Regina, welcomed us into their home and quickly cooked up a heaping plate of masaco, green bananas fried in oil and mashed with a good bit of salt. We did not have supper the evening before or breakfast, so the masaco
was a welcome gift. She served it with hot chocolate made from locally grown cacao beans.
After breakfast, we met briefly with the teacher and all the adults of the community to explain the reason for our visit and the possibility of returning with a volunteer team to drill a well. They all seemed excited about the possibility of a well with a hand pump and promised to help with the labor. They are currently drinking water directly from the river, or from pools of stagnant water left over from the flooding. Now that it is the dry season, the pools have been drying up. They also showed us a shallow hand dug well about two meters deep where they draw out water with a rope tied to a bucket. The Yuracare in this community have been drinking dirty water their whole lives. I'm sure they live with endemic water-related diseases. Water from the river, from stagnant pools, or from such shallow wells is definitely contaminated with parasites, viruses and with fecal coliform bacteria from the livestock, wild animals and even their own fecal waste. A deep well with clean water will without a doubt improve the health and quality of life. If they will combine the use of clean water with proper hygiene (hand washing) and sanitation (use of latrines), they will quickly see even further improvements in health.
We left Villa Hermosa a little before noon with the promise of returning in two weeks time with the volunteer team. Back on the river with Teofilo and traveling with the current, we began making good time back to San Lorenzo. Along the way, we picked up Felix, the boys and a load of oranges and lumber at Teofilo's farm. The number of birds and other wildlife along the river was simply staggering. As the sun came out we saw more and more crocodiles along the banks for the river—literally hundreds of them. We saw half a dozen monster crocs that must have been at least twelve feet or longer. Interestingly, the Yuracare said they never, ever get in the river to swim or bathe. They only take bucket baths. I will follow their advice.
You can see a complete photo gallery of our trip at: http://www.pbase.com/beamsclan/sanlorenzomoxo.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
FUA is a community of about 50 people that recently broke off from Santa Teresita, a neighboring Ayoreo community. The Bolivian government has given land concessions to all indigenous people groups in Bolivia. Unfortunately, most concessions are in marginally productive or isolated regions of the country, making it difficult and to scratch out a living. Santa Teresita, located in a 22,000 hectare Ayoreo reserve, was originally set up by the Catholic church. I have not visited Santa Teresita so I do not know anything about the history of the community. The SAM missionaries said that in order to avoid further conflict, the evangelical Christians who were living in Santa Teresita decided to leave and begin their own community. They chose to settle on top of a hill, seven kilometers up an old logging road from the highway. They chose the site because the forest wasn't too thick, making clearing the land for farming a bit easier. One critical need they did not consider was water. Maybe 500 meters from the community a small arroyo channels water during heavy rains, but it does not run even intermittently most of the year. The community attempted to dig a collecting pool in one of the depressions. They were able to collect a bit of muddy water, but it soon became the gathering place for local wild pigs and was too impossibly filthy to even consider drinking. The only other ways they have been able to get water into the community is by paying to have it trucked it in from other communities, or by collecting rainwater from the couple of tin roofs in the village. When water is trucked in they can store it in a 1000 liter plastic tank they have on the ground. The SAM mission is helping build a church and the local government is building small brick school. The family dwellings are made of local materials—sticks, rough timber slabs, palm thatch roofs, etc. When we visited the community the plastic tank was empty and there appeared to be almost no water in the community. Leading health organizations estimate that people need a minimum of 25 liters of clean water per day. Anything below this is considered water poverty. Surviving on the minimum standards, FUA should be consuming more than 1250 liters (more than one tank) per day. Now, they are doing well if they can fill the tank once a week. Just to put this in perspective, the average person in the U.S. consumes 600 liters of water each day. If FUA were populated by Americans, we would need 30 tanks of water a day.
Agua Yaku traveled to FUA with our manual drilling rig on the slim hope that we could drill a shallow well and install a hand pump that would at least increase water availability for this community. We set up the drilling rig on an embankment just above where the community had dung the water pit in the arroyo. Several dozen adults and children from the community, Agua Yaku, and SAM enthusiastically carried equipment, tools, and water down to the site. After several hours of hard work drilling through clay and thin layers of sand we hit hard rock at about five meters. Sadly, five meters is not deep enough to install a hand pump and the layers of sand where too thin to collect water through the filter. On the surface it may have seemed like a failed attempt at drilling a well, but we actually gained valuable knowledge about the geology of the area and now the community can proceed with plans for a deeper well, confident in the knowledge that a less expensive practical alternative for subterranean water does not exist. The alcaldea, local government, has promised to drill a deep well in FUA. The only question is whether this is an empty promise, or if it will actually be completed in the near future. It would not be a wise use of resources for missionaries to invest $12,000 in a privately drilled well if the government already has funds designated for the same project. We recommended that SAM invest a smaller amount in the construction of tin roofs and rainwater catchment systems for the church, the school, and each family dwelling in the community. This could supply a good portion of the communities water needs, and could be supplemented with water brought in by truck during the drier months. Perhaps in the coming months or years the alcaldea will come through with the promised deep well.
We returned to FUA the following day to clean up the drilling site and collect our equipment. First we met with the school teacher, the kids, and as many adults as were around to train them on how to disinfect their drinking water using the SODIS method. SODIS (which stands for SOlar DISinfection) is a simple way to insure safe drinking water using two liter plastic soda bottles and the sun. We explained that by simply filling two liter bottles with water and setting them in the sun for one day, ultraviolet radiation and heat will kill 100% of the organisms (bacteria, viruses, and parasites) that can make you sick. It is essentially the same as boiling water, but does not require fuel for the fire and is safer and easier than boiling water. As long as the bottles are sealed after they have been in the sun for a day, the water will remain safe until it is consumed. SODIS gives people who do not have access to safe drinking water an inexpensive and convenient way to improve their water quality. Even if they collect surface water from rivers, streams, ponds, etc., SODIS can assure them they are drinking clean water. If the water is turbid (muddy), they can pour it through a simple bio-sand filter and then treat it with SODIS. Even though rainwater may be clean when it falls from the sky, it can become contaminated as it sits in open barrels and is transferred with dirty containers and utensils. If people with suspect water sources learn to rigorously use SODIS to treat their drinking water they can greatly reduce the number of water-borne illnesses. To help put unsafe drinking water in global perspective, unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of all diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Worldwide, 42,000 deaths occur every week from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions. Children are the most vulnerable—90% of water-related deaths occur among children under five years old. Encouragingly, most of these deaths are preventable. Studies have shown that clean water alone can reduce water-related deaths by 21%, sanitation (proper disposal of excrement) alone can reduce water-related deaths by 37%, and hand washing alone can reduce water-related deaths by 45%. While Agua Yaku is committed to improving access to water for families and communities through drilling wells or other systems of surface water collection, we also emphasize the importance of ensuring that water sources are safe to drink, and that proper sanitation and hygiene is taught in schools, churches, and homes. SODIS is one component that we will be adding to all of our Agua Yaku training.
The Ayoreo students and parents all confirmed the importance of clean water and promised to begin treating their drinking water using the SODIS method. The teacher said she would follow up with the training and begin to promote it daily among the students. We left several dozen empty bottles and two SODIS tables with the teacher. Before the crowd disbursed we asked for a hand in dismantling the drilling rig and carrying the equipment back up to the community where we could load it on our truck. All of the adults wandered back to their homes and only a handful of small children followed us back down to the well site. We eventually got everything loaded and were soon back on the road for the six hour trip back to Santa Cruz.
To see a complete photo gallery from our trip visit: http://www.pbase.com/beamsclan/fua.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Dear Friends and Family,
A few Fun Facts about Bolivia:
- Bolivia has the highest navigable lake in the world Lago Titicaca, on the border with Peru sits at 3810 meters (that's 12,382 feet above sea level). Santa Cruz is only at about 1000 feet, but we rode motorcycles up to 17,800 ft on the side of a volcano.
- The largest deposit of salt on the planet is also found in Bolivia. The Salar de Uyuni contains over 64 million tons of salt! The Salar de Uyuni is also the world's largest deposit of lithium and Bolivia could soon become a strategic player in the world market to supply battery manufacturers.
- Bolivia is located within one of the wettest zones on the planet. We get over 8000 millimeters (8 meters!) of rainfall per year.
- Bolivia has 23 major eco-regions, and is one of the most biologically diverse countries on the planet—containing 40% of all known plant and animal species.
- Bolivia has over 30 different native indigenous groups and is one of only three countries in Latin America to have a majority indigenous population.
- 59% of Bolivians are Catholic, 15% Andean spiritualists, 12% not religious, and 11% Protestant or Evangelical Christians.
While most Bolivians have been exposed to the Bible through Catholic traditions, and may say they believe in God, the vast majority mix these beliefs with other cultural traditions and do not have a personal relationship with their creator as is modeled for us in the New Testament. Bolivia is a beautiful and diverse country with a rich history and many economic and cultural resources. Missionaries, pastors, Christian leaders are sharing the gospel throughout the country, but we cannot reach everyone with the Good News unless we are backed in prayer and financial support from other Christians around the world. Please pray for Bolivia and consider what your part should be in reaching Bolivia for Christ.
We are having a good Spring (actually, it's Fall here). Many folks are visiting from our EFCC home mission office and churches in Canada. We also recently hosted a group from our home church, Crossroads Christian Church in Kentucky. They brought a team of youth and adults who worked hard building furniture and painting at two orphanages in town, Talita Cumi (http://www.talitacumi.org/index.php) and Judah Quy (http://judahquyhome.blogspot.com/) a new home for babies with special needs. Lindsey, our intern from Crossroads, was adjusting well and working hard, but unfortunately right after the Crossroads team left she found out that her grandmother passed away so she quickly returned home for the funeral before your scheduled time with us was up. We miss you Lindsey!
Ruth and Noemi Transition Home for Girls: We moved the girls to their new apartment about a month ago. We still have three girls, Juanita, Marina, and Fernanda. Pray for each of these girls specifically. Each one is struggling with finding their place in the world and understanding that they are truly daughters of a loving God.
Agua Yaku: We have been retooling this month, rebuilding our motorized drilling rig so we can drill more quickly and efficiently in the hard clay soil in the area around Pailon. We have had to drill up to about 60 meters through extremely hard clay and with our light rig it takes almost two weeks to complete one well. We hope that with our recent modifications we can reduce the time to drill each well and thus punch a few more holes in the ground.
Regrettably, the funding we thought we would be receiving in 2010 to move forward with our SODIS water disinfection program will not be forthcoming. This puts our project in a real financial bind because we have been hiring extra staff, training, and purchasing equipment with the expectation of this promised donation. We would love to continue with our plans to implement SODIS but we will need some new donors to come onboard quickly so we can continue our project. If you have been thinking about making a donation and would like to encourage us, this would be a great time to do so! We are also gearing up for a number of well drilling mission trips this summer. There is still time to put one together with your church or other group, or if you don't have your own group let us know and we can attach you to another group already planned. Just let us know.
I want to give a special thanks to all our long time supporters who have stuck with us through these hard financial times. We could not be here your prayer support and backing. It is wonderful knowing we have such a great team behind us.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
These last couple of months I have been feeling the weight of being away from family and friends. I want to ask you to please pray for us. Pray for our marriage and pray for our children.
I (Vanessa) have been struggling with depression and have felt powerless before the pain and suffering I see here. It is easier to just go into this self made cocoon and try to find refuge there than to work through issues with God. Although I know (in my head at least) that power to change and freedom and trust come only from Him and that I have no power to help anyone or even myself, I still get into little arguments with God and struggle for control.
Update on the kids: Nathaniel just left for Lexington, Kentucky where he will finish out his senior year of home schooling with his mom and will be racing bicycles before he goes to college. He has been accepted at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado (which as a great cycling team); he hopes to become a professional cyclist and a missionary specialized in sustainable agriculture. We are very proud of Nathaniel and miss him a lot. It is amazing to me how time goes by and how our little boy is now a man! He is handsome and smart and has a heart for God. We are very grateful for this. Luciana is doing great and school—she herself has grown and changed a lot. She is quite involved in school activities and seems to really enjoy it. She will be performing in a Shakespeare play in April. Lucy has been missing her best friend Sierra who recently moved back to the US. Please pray for her as she herself and not just us the adults, learns to deal with the realities of being in an ever changing community! I am proud of her for being such a faithful friend, she has been there for her friend Sierra in hard times and even after she left, Lucy has made it a priority to stay in touch, something I am not very good at myself and for which I apologize to all my dear friends! Isaiah is growing up fast, he is sweet and funny and smart too, but has been struggling in school quite a bit this year and last. Last year he had four different teachers because our school did not receive a first grade teacher. Please pray next year he will have the right teacher or just a good year school wise, even if that means we home school him. If this does have to happen please pray the Lord will help us figure out what will need to happen during that year with the transition house for girls!! One possibility would be to hire a temporary director to take my place until Isaiah can go back to school for grade 4th. This is still unknown to us, only God knows the answers but what I do know is that I love that little skinny, freckled face seven year old too much and he is a priority.
Ministry Update: Again, thank you for praying with us and being there for us. It is very rewarding and touching when we are in the US and friends thank us for our newsletter and tell us they enjoy reading it! It makes me feel important and loved! The Agua Yaku guys have had a couple of hard weeks because of the rain. But they gearing up to start drilling again and have several projects already planned. As for the "Ruth and Noemi" Transition House for Girls, we signed a new rental contract for a new apartment yesterday, thank you for your prayers on this! The new place is right next door to the Centro de Vida (crisis pregnancy center) and we will be moving in this weekend. Last week I went to interview a girl at Centro de Vida who is pregnant and needed a place to live, we had a good time talking and she seemed ready to move and understood what we were about but when the coordinator came to pick her up she had disappeared. Please pray for her and her baby. Also please pray for protection for our three girls, two of them are being harassed by the same parents that abused and abandoned them years ago. One mom has been threatening to beat one of my girls because now that she is working she is not giving her money and the other one's dad who abused her for years has been tracking her down to the point he even called my cell phone one night! Don't worry I let him have it! Please pray that these two people and their spouses will meet Jesus Christ and that they will stay away from my girls so that the girls can forgive, heal, and move on. Please pray that the girls' eyes and mine will be opened so they can see and accept truth about their own lives and about God and that soon they and I will be able to trust and live free of fear.
Tomorrow, and I am very excited about this, we will be picking up our friend Lindsay from our home church - Crossroads Christian in KY and she will be working with us until May! Please pray for her, for protection and for the Lord to show her how much He really loves her while she is here. Also at the end of this month we will be hosting a team from Crossroads and we will together serve Talita Cumi, the Transition House and a new home for babies with physical disabilities that missionary friends of ours are starting. Please remember to pray for this team too.
Thank you for being here with us through prayer and support. Thank you for allowing us to open our minds and hearts to you and for being faithful just like Christ is in our lives. We love you and would love to see you and/or hear from you.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I know it's no longer December or even 2009, but we are way behind in our correspondence, so I will just go with it. We had a great holiday season visiting with Vanessa's mom who came down from Kansas and with her brother and his family who traveled from Peru. We also had a great 15th birthday celebration (called a quinceanos and an important rite of passage in Latin culture) for Luciana on the 28th. But I'm glad the holidays are behind us, the kids are back in school, so we can get on with the work we are here to do. We have a lot of interest from church teams who would like to come down in 2010 to join us in working with the girls transition home or with Agua:Yaku drilling water wells. Please contact us soon so we can get your teams on our calendar.
Many of you have ask about the political situation in Bolivia, so I will give you a bit of an update. In December Bolivia re-elected Evo Morales as president. Earlier last year his party also passed a new constitution. Bolivia continues to be run by his socialist government, tightly controlling the oil and gas industry. The majority of Bolivia's indigenous population supports Morales in hopes that he will help revert the great social and ethnic inequalities that have marked Bolivia since the days of the Spanish conquest. While we don't agree with everything that Morales stands for or is doing, his landslide victory in the election has given him a political mandate that has somewhat pacified the opposition parties. The Santa Cruz opposition that has been crying for autonomy the last couple of years has quieted down and daily life has been pretty calm. We do not see nearly as many road blocks, protests, or fuel shortages as in years past. In some ways it is harder for NGO's to do relief and development work in Bolivia because of new regulations, but as of now missionaries are continuing to work as they always have.
Ruth and Noemi Transition House update: We have three new girls in the transition house this year. Juana, Fernanda, and Marina have come to us from Talita Cumi. Each have turned 18 and need to leave the orphanage. Bety recently decided to leave the transition house, so we now have four girls (including Paula, who has been with us for a number of months). Marizabel, the house mother, and Sara, our volunteer from Australia continue to work closely with the girls. We have had to move the transition house out of our formal rental property because of some legal issues with the property. Thankfully, we have found a new apartment that is in an ideal location next to the Centro de Vida crisis pregnancy center we work closely with. We have temporarily moved the girls into our old house, which is now the Agua:Yaku office and a mission guest house, until the new apartment is ready on February 1st. Please continue to pray for all of these girls, but especially for Bety as she tries to make a life on her own.
Agua:Yaku Water Well Drilling update: Warren McCaig, my missionary partner in this project, is back from a long fund raising trip to Canada. We also have a new short-term volunteer from the U.S., Greg, who will be working with us for a while. As I described in the last newsletter, we are gearing up for a new program to promote the use of a solar water disinfection method called SODIS. We will continue to drill wells where we can, but if wells are not possible because of geological constraints, we will promote the disinfection of contaminated water sources through the SODIS method.
Family News: Nathaniel will be heading back to the U.S. the first week of February where he will continue racing bicycles with his Ohio based team and will prepare to college in the Fall. He is planning on going to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado where he wants to major in sustainable agriculture. And of course he wants to go there for the cycling. Fort Lewis has one of the top collegiate teams in the country.
Thanks so much for supporting us financially and in prayer. Please feel free to contact us if you would like further info on our ministries. We would love for any and all of you to come down for a visit if you want a front row seat to see how God is changing lives in Bolivia.