Friday, August 17, 2012

Praise Report!

Just a quick note to say thanks to all who prayed for our visas/passports to be ready soon! We received them from our lawyer on Monday - at almost 3 months after we applied for the 2 year visa! We are so thankful to have our passports back in our possession and to be legal for another 2 years. This means we can leave the country for under 90 days and come back in and not have to re-apply for new visas within these next 2 years. Our future plan is to come home for a 89 day visit (;o) next summer (June/July/August) and then return to Bolivia to continue the work God has for us to do here until He tells us to come "home" or move on to something different. Once the 2 year visa is up, we then apply for a 5 year visa. We don't know at this point if we will be here that long or not. Solo Dios sabe....

I might as well give a report on our first full week of school here. So far, so good. However, it was not without tears, whining, and the normal frustrations of homeschooling. The curriculum we ordered for Jude arrived today! Our friends who were in the states graciously lugged them all here for us. Ironically...the books were ordered from a place in Lewisville, TX (just hours from our home, 1 hour away from my in-laws, and less than 30 min. away from my sister's home), were sent to Arkansas to the place our friends were staying, then with them went from there to Florida, from Florida to Panama, and finally from Panama to Bolivia. Believe it or not, it's much cheaper to do it that way than have someone mail the books to us straight from TX.

Tonight we have organized a Back To School Bash for our youth group in which we will have a scavenger hunt, food, drinks, and ice cream sundaes!! Pray that we have a great turnout, much fun will be had, and that the students start coming back on a regular basis. I'm planning on presenting our idea for a student leadership team next Fri. at group and praying that God will raise up the student leader's He wants to be a part of it.

Muchisimos Gracias por todo -


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer (Winter) Break 2012

Wowzers! It has been too long since our last update. Sorry, folks. I guess the laziness of this break really got to me. We have enjoyed the time to just "be" after a really hard year. We really took it easy and just chilled at home most of the summer (ok, I can't call it summer because it just flat isn't!). We tried to do some fun things around town with the kids so they wouldn't be cooped up the entire time. I had to come up with a daily schedule for us to follow so that they wouldn't be glued to the xbox for hours on end! This included daily chores, much to their chagrin. A few opportunities we had this break were: 1. Visiting several parks in the city where the boys could ride their skateboards and Livi could ride her bike and scooter. Cochabamba really does have some great public parks for which we are thankful.  2. Checking out the local Museum of Natural History. It was quite small but really very interesting. The coolest part was seeing a stuffed condor, the national bird of The Andes. 3. Since we were unable to travel outside of the city (our passports are still in La Paz at the immigration office, awaiting our 2 yr. visa stamp) we decided to stay a couple of nights at a local hotel as our mini-vacation. It was a beautiful place and we had a great time relaxing and letting the kids swim in the heated indoor pool (winter in Coch = freezing outdoor pool water!). 4. Helping a short term missions team build a house for a Quechuan Pastor, his family, and his brother's family. Lowell posted some photos of this project on facebook at this link:
Arriving at our in-town mini vacation - the kids were so excited to pose for the pic
Lowell and a missionary friend, Rick, laying bricks to build one wall of the Pastor's house

We have continued to meet with the youth group at church throughout the break, even though many, many of the students left for the summer, or graduated and left for good. Our numbers have been few, but we have enjoyed meeting every other week to discuss "What the Bible Has to Say About....." certain topics that the group chose, including Sex, Drugs/Drinking, Dancing, Love/Marriage/Dating, Music and Money. On the off weeks, we planned fun events for the kids to participate in. We are looking forward to a new semester with the group and having our numbers increase again. We will be starting a new series of discussions on Christian living with the students and hopefully will see our goal of a student leadership team realized. Please continue praying along with us for this multi-national (Bolivians, Canadians, U.S.A.ians) group of young people that God has put us in leadership over.
Honoring a great group of Seniors - a huge loss to our group, but an awesome gain for the world!

Lowell had an increased role with the music leadership at church this summer as well since one of the three leaders is on furlough (home assignment) in the states for 6 months. The third was also visiting the states for 2 weeks so he didn't get a break for awhile! He has been trying to recruit some new band members and build relationships within the music ministry so he's excited about possibilities for growth. He's had meetings with the Senior Pastor and the elders to present some ideas he has about doing church/ministry more effectively - all things he learned so well at CCCC.

Of course we celebrated Jude and Livi this summer! Jude turned 11 on July 22 and we had a family style party at the house. Livi turned 6 on Aug. 3 and we had the most pinkeriffic slumber party ever! I had a blast planning and decorating for her party. 
Jude really did turn 11...I just only had 7 candles in the house! 
Olivia and her pals...all dressed in pink for her pinkalicious party! you all are in the "back to school" mode in the states, we are here as well. As stated in my last update, we will be homeschooling the kids again (yes, ALL of the kids - Jude had a change of heart). As this will be our first experience homeschooling in another country, I am just a little on the nervous side. There is no such thing as homeschooling in Bolivia, so it is very difficult to explain or for a lot of people here to understand. And although we do know a few other missionary families that homeschool, the support and resources are basically nil. However, I am excited about the possibility of being able to find more ministry opportunities to be involved in as a family or for the kids to do. We will be looking to get out of the house quite a bit so we do not fall into the trap of living in a nice little bubble. We must still seek out relationships with Bolivians, work on our Spanish, and get to know this culture better. So far, Olivia is enrolled in dance classes 3 times per week, which gives her a great opportunity to make Bolivian friends and build her Spanish skills. It also is a perfect opportunity for me to build relationships with the moms and practice my language skills as well. The boys just haven't gotten into soccer (which is like baseball here...extremely intense and they start at age 3), so we are looking for a possible sport or other activity to get them involved in for relationship building and language learning. I've heard a rumor of a baseball league and Lowell and the boys did meet a man that has a really cool "ministry" (don't think it's Christian based and he's not a missionary, per se) to street kids here. He is from New Mexico and he and his wife help get kids off the streets by providing a place for them to come hang out, skateboard, learn skills such as playing an instrument or recording music, or entertaining, such as juggling or clowning. Sounds like a perfect fit, so we shall see.

Much love and blessings to all. We appreciate your prayers and financial support more than you will ever know.

The Ballew Family

Prayer Requests:
1) Homeschool - beginning Monday, Aug. 13. Grade levels are 8th, 6th, 5th, and Kinder. Pray for the kids to be motivated to learn and to ease into the new schedule well. Pray that Lowell and I will be good "teachers" for them and love them well, above all else.
2) For our 2 year visas to be granted and our passports to be sent back to us A.S.A.P.
3) Growth for the student group (ThE MiX) - in numbers and spiritually. That the Leadership Team would be realized soon!
4) Language. Our Spanish is just not nearly as good as it should be. We need more practice and formal instruction, but cannot afford to return to the school we used to attend. Pray for language helpers for us all.