Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ballew Mission Supporters' Reception!

We want to say thank you and share some photos, videos, and stories of our time in Bolivia with all of our awesome supporters, prayer warriors, and friends! Please join us next Saturday night, June 22, from 7:00pm-10:00pm (come and go) at Panera Bread - I45 and Bay Area Blvd. location. We will have coffee and dessert and share how you can continue praying for Bolivia and be a part of what God is doing there! This is our small way of showing everyone our appreciation for loving us and supporting us and making this amazing experience possible! Please let us know via email, text, or facebook pm if you plan to attend. We also have a small gift from Bolivia for each of our financial supporters.

Shay: 832-803-6080
Lowell: 832-803-4041

On a hiking trail in an old, ancient Incan ruins site called "Incachaca"

Monday, June 3, 2013

Home Again, Home Again...

Goodness gracious me! I can't believe I haven't written an update since April 7! What a whirlwind the past (almost) 2 months have you can imagine! I suppose I'll just begin by saying, "We made it "home"! I seriously wondered there for a while if it would really all happen and come to pass. Things became quite stressful and challenging trying to get out of our house in Bolivia, but thanks to my amazing husband, it happened. We spent our last 3 weeks in Coch staying in a missionary guest house that some other missionaries had just opened up. We got to "break it in" and test the comfort level :o)! Let me tell you, if any of you ever get the opportunity to go to Cochabamba, Bolivia on mission, it's THE place to stay! It truly is a wonderful ministry and so very needed in the city. They are putting all the funds raised right back into other ministries and to help Bolivians in need. Find them on facebook at "The Harvest Guesthouse".
Lowell with Rick, one of his best friends here in Bolivia

We had an incredible despedida (going away party) hosted by some of our best friends, TJ and Tammy Mitchell. We felt very blessed by the presence of so many dear friends we made in Bolivia. It was overwhelming! We enjoyed sweet fellowship, amazing FOOD, and a prayer time led by TJ. We brought along our journal that friends had signed for us at our going away party here in League City back in March 2011 so that now, on the flip side, our missionary and Bolivian friends could sign it. I actually just grabbed it out of a suitcase the other day and read all of the words of gold that folks wrote for the first time! What a treasure for ages to come!
Shay with some of her friends - both other missionary wives and Bolivian beauties!

Our travel back was fairly uneventful, which is exactly what you want when you are traveling internationally with a family of 6! This certainly doesn't mean it wasn't hard or challenging, but no major bumps or serious issues along the way. We flew directly into Orlando to stay for a week at a vacation home some fellow missionaries in Bolivia just bought - to use as their home base when they are home on furlough, and as an investment when they are in Bolivia. We were able to "do Disney" and made it to the beach one day, which was absolutely splendid after being in a landlocked country for over 2 years! Ahhh...the coastline! It was pretty crazy going from 3rd world, developing, poverty stricken country, to Orlando! Vacation capitol of the world, where everything is super new and shiny and RICH!!! Whew. But, we had a great time and just felt so blessed beyond belief to even be there and get to do that!
The boys with a few of their best buds (all MK's...a special breed!)

As you can imagine, we had some pretty sweet reunions with family and friends once we returned to Texas. We spent time with my parents, my brother and his family, and my oldest sister in Brenham, Lowell's parents, sister, and nieces in Frost, my other sister and her family in Denton, and were able to see some old friends along the way. It was great to see how everyone had changed (kids) and how they reacted to one another after more than 2 years. Funny. Teenagers are just funny :o) After more than 2 weeks of traveling around and going from place to place and living out of suitcases, the kids started begging to get "home" to League City. So, we cut our travel time short and arrived to LC on May 22. Some of you may remember me asking for prayer for a place to stay until July. We had an old friend from our days at CCCC offer for us to stay with her in her large house, so...we are settled, but not really! We still have suitcases everywhere, still digging around looking for stuff, still anxious to be really home and settled. We will be here in her home until the end of June, although one week we will get to attend a family camp at Mo Ranch with other families from our new church.
A few of our faithful Bolivian students from youth group

God was so good to bring Jake Beaty along to take over the youth ministry! You guys are in good hands!

Speaking of our new church. Lowell officially began his new position as Worship Pastor yesterday and led his first service this morning!! It was LifePoint's 5 year anniversary big celebration service - so, it was doubly special! I'm not sure if there is any way at this point to feel more blessed, but we have already had our hearts just blessed beyond measure by our new church family! WOW. I could just keep saying wow all day long over the incredible things God has done and how he has used folks from LifePoint to take care of us in huge ways. This church has a big passion for missions and ministry and taking care of others' needs, let me tell you! This has been so evident even before we arrived. We received a donation of a CAR from a family, and many folks have offered up furniture and help.
Good friends from the married couples' group Lowell and I were a part of

I just don't even know how to put into words the thanks and gratitude we feel for all of you who have gone alongside of us on this journey that God called us into. YOU made it possible, through the Lord's prompting and provision. We are humbled and indebted to you. We do not feel like this journey is ending, but rather opening a new chapter and starting a new season! Please, if you'd like to walk it with us still, we'd love to have you! I plan on continuing the blog (I rather enjoy writing) and keeping everyone up to date with what miracles God is working in our lives and in the world around us. We  plan to continue being a big part of what's going on in Bolivia and support our friends who remain there, on the front lines. We might occasionally share what is happening in their ministries or share needs they have so that you can pray and give if God leads.
Miriam was our amazing, hard-working maid...but a much better friend. She was the most difficult person for me (Shay) to leave :o( Pray for this sweet soul.   

Olivia loved Miriam, and Miriam loved Olivia :o)

We will soon be hosting a "Post Bolivia Missions Journey" night for all of you locally who would like to come and hear more about our time there. We will share photos, videos, and most of all, what God did and is doing in Bolivia! Look for an evite and/or online invitation soon!
Here we are with Edwin Almanza and his two children, Isabel and Nate. Edwin played a HUGE role in us coming to Bolivia in the first place. God used this man to lead us to Bolivia.

Lowell with some of his favorite musicians from the worship team - je je je

Much love and blessings to you all! God is so GOOD! He is FAITHFUL, LOVING, and TRUSTWORTHY!

In Christ -

Lowell, Shay, Aidan, Liam, Jude, and Olivia

*On a financial note: Our Ripe For Harvest acct. is currently still open and active, but will be closed shortly. If you'd still like to make a one time donation to us and receive the tax deduction, please send it to our RFH acct. asap! All info is here on the blog - address, auto draft, etc...However, if you would still like to make a donation to us to help us get re-settled back here in the states and are not concerned with a tax deduction, please send to Lowell's parents as we are not yet back at our old address: Lowell Ballew; c/o Robert Ballew; P.O. Box 293; Frost, Tx 76641 OR, hand deliver locally to Lowell and I over a cup of coffee or some good Tex-Mex!!!!!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The clock is ticking

This will likely be the last post we make from Bolivian soil. From south of the equator. The countdown is on - we leave Bolivia exactly 3 weeks from Tuesday on April 30. Our flight out of Santa Cruz technically leaves on the first of May, but it's at 2 in the morning. We leave Coch in the evening on the 30th. Our Despedida has been planned (going away party), the invites sent out, 2 garage sales down, one more to go. Pick up day is scheduled for those who have bought furniture and other large items. The suitcases have begun to make their way out of storage. This is such a grueling, tiring process. We are NOT looking forward to leaving Bolivia, but we are so ready for this part of the transition to be over. We are heartbroken at the thought of saying goodbye, but we are overjoyed at the thought of saying hello to family and dear friends back home for the first time in over 2 years!! We already have a packed schedule upon immediate return. I'm not sure when life will slow down for us! We are so blessed to be able to spend a week in Florida as soon as we get back, just chillin', relaxing, regrouping as a family, and having some fun in the sun on the beach. We plan to spend the month of May traveling throughout Texas visiting family and some friends. Once we arrive back to League City, we hit the ground running! Lowell begins his new ministry position at Lifepoint Church on Sunday, June 2.

We have been praying for a place to stay for our first month back, since our current tenants in our house will not be moving out until the end of June. We have a strong possibility at this point, but nothing set in stone. Please pray that God would provide a place we can be comfortable but yet not be a burden on anyone else. We are looking forward to moving back into our old home and neighborhood come July! Not sure how many of you remember several years ago when we were trying to leave to come to Bolivia. The main thing holding us back was the fact that our house just would not sell! After 10 months of waiting and wondering if God really did want us to go, we were able to lease it, which in turn released us to be able to come. What an incredible blessing that we can now look back on - God didn't allow our house to sell for a good reason. He knew we'd be coming back. He had HIS plans, and we had ours :o)

We covet your prayers as we prepare these last 3 weeks to leave. It is so overwhelming but yet we know in the end, it will all get done! Pray that we can have some sweet closure time and that all loose ends would be tied within our ministries at the church, our home, with the sell of items, and travel plans. Pray for all of the relationships that we were able to build and cultivate to continue after we leave and that God would send others behind us, as he had sent others ahead of us! God is doing some very, very cool things here in the city of Cochabamba, and we look forward to sharing with all of you what we were allowed to experience and be a part of. And hope to continue being a part of.....

We will be holding an Open House of sorts for all of our friends, family, and supporters in the Clear Lake area once we return and get "settled". Be on the lookout for that invite and information. last time, from Cochabamba, Bolivia -

Lowell, Shay, Aidan, Liam, Jude, and Olivia
Eating breakfast at the coffee shop "Alexandar's" in La Paz, Bolivia

Some precious tiny girls from the region of Potosi were left alone to dance and make money. Lowell and I both were grabbed by them to come dance! 
At the Valley of the Moon outside of La Paz
On the shores of Lago Titicaca in Copacabana

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Deja Vu

Didn't we JUST do this? Didn't I just get through the process of going through papers, throwing things away, selling all (Ok, like 90%) of our belongings, packing, saying goodbyes, showing our house to strangers at a moment's notice, and hi-tailing it to another country? Surely it must have been only months ago. I know it's not possible that this journey started 4 1/2 years ago, and that I went through this same process on the other side of the equator over 2 years ago. It can't be.
Olivia w/2 of her beautiful Bolivian friends who are being adopted by another missionary family

Alas, yes, it has. And our time here in Bolivia is very quickly coming to a close. It is a very strange and awkward and emotional season for me - for us. We are faced daily with the battle of choosing to "be" here and make the best of our last weeks or choosing to do one or many of the thousand little things that need to be done in order to leave on April 30. We want to make these last days count, to have fun, to enjoy Bolivia, to be used by God, to be productive and make an impact, to "leave our mark" so to speak. We want to seize the last little bits of opportunity we have to help, to serve, to travel and see parts of this beautiful country yet unseen by us. However, we can't do it all. I've just come to this conclusion. There is no way we can accomplish all we'd love to in the next 7 weeks! We simply have to give our time to God, to ask for his guidance daily, and trust that He will allow those things to happen that HE wants to happen and that He knows need to happen.
2 of our precious Bolivian students from youth group

So, we are deep in the throngs of preparing to leave. It's unbelievable what we have accumulated in just 2 years here! The word is definitely out that we are leaving, so folks have been asking to look at and buy all of our stuff. We will be having official "sales" towards the end and are quite confident that we will not have difficulty getting rid of everything. This process is hard and sometimes grueling (for me, Shay) and more emotional than I expected. It is sad to be leaving a place that has become very dear to our hearts, but we know God still has great plans to use us for Bolivia's sake! Of course, the hardest part is the thought of leaving the people. We have made some incredible, amazing friends here - both Bolivian and other missionaries - and it will be heartbreaking to say goodbye.
Jude loving on one of the sweet orphan babies at Casa de Amor (just 1 of 1,000's in Cochabamba alone)

As we prepare to leave, we continue on with the youth ministry and music ministry at CIC. We are preparing to leave well and are seeking ways to transition the leadership of these ministries to new leaders and volunteers. Please pray that it will be a smooth and flawless transition for both and that the folks who have already committed to help will be faithful and blessed by God to do what needs to be done.
A man from the small village of Tarabuco in their traditional native dress

We have heard that "re-entry" can be hard, even after a short time, so please pray that God would prepare our hearts and minds and attitudes for the change. Our lives are forever changed, our perspectives new, we have seen much and felt much during this journey. We hope that these experiences will cause us to love more, serve more, hope more, and help move others to action. There is so much pain, hurt, poverty, sickness, and perverseness in this world. We cannot be simply content to sit in our comfortable suburban homes and live our busy activity-filled consumer minded lives while there are 80 year old women living on the streets, newborn babies found in riverbeds and dumpsters and cornfields, pre-teen boys washing windshields to earn pennies to buy glue to sniff, 1,000's dying every day without Jesus. We. just. can't.

Lord, show us what to do and how to live.

With much love, blessing, and hope -

Shay, Lowell, Aidan, Liam, Jude, & Olivia
A despedida (going away party) we hosted for our dear friends, The Gordons, who are moving on to ministry opportunities in Colombia

We want to humbly remind you that we are living on full support through May 31! Our account with Ripe For Harvest will be open and active until then. Lowell will not begin receiving a paycheck until June with Lifepointe Church in League City. If you would like to give a one time financial gift to help with our transition back into life in the states (we will need to purchase 2 cars, clothing, and an entire house full of furniture :O!!!) please feel free to send a check to Ripe For Harvest (w/tax deduction) or to Robert Ballew (w/out tax deduction).

Ripe For Harvest World Outreach                        Lowell Ballew
P.O. Box 487                                                         c/o Robert Ballew
Monument, CO 80132                                          P.O. Box 293
Acct. #304                                                            Frost, TX 76641
Aidan learning all about Bolivian history at Casa de Libertad in Sucre, Bolivia

Saturday, January 5, 2013

More change & transition

In case you haven't heard the news flash...we are moving back to the states in May. Yes, you are correct in thinking that we were just going to go home for a "visit" and then return to Bolivia to continue serving. Well, that's what we thought too. We were perfectly prepared to stay here in Bolivia for as long as we felt we needed to be. Apparently that time is shorter than we thought. Our original minimum commitment was 2 years. That 2 year mark will be March 31. Lowell and I began praying about what God would have us do once our minimum commitment was up. He felt a very strong pull to move back to the states for some reason. I wasn't surprised or shocked or angry. I came here with a very open mind to stay long term or return once our time was done. However, once we really began thinking about it and praying about it and talking it over, the thought of leaving this place we've called home for almost 2 years, the thought of moving back to the states, the thought that our "time here might be over"....was very overwhelming for me. I prayed, I cried, I journaled, I read God's word. It started to become clear to me, too, in my heart of hearts, that we were being asked to go "home".

And then Lowell was offered a job. Wow. Just like that?! Yes, we really felt like that was the deal that sealed it. The confirmation, if you will, that we were indeed to move back. It all seems so crazy to me. That we did all this for only 2 years!? And boy, has it flown. I mean, I know we still have the last 4 months and I so do not want to discount those, but man...when a journey like this enters a new season/stage, where you see the end in sight, you just start having thoughts like this: "What have we accomplished while here?"; "Did we do any good?"; "What did we learn/what did our kids learn?" "Did we spend our time well and were we good stewards of the money our supporters gave us?"; "How's my spanish after 2 years...??", etc, etc, etc...!!!! You know, for some of those questions rolling around in my head, only God knows the answer. And I just have to accept that. I have to trust that those seeds that he allowed us to plant (and are GOING to plant in the next 4 months!!!) will grow into fruition and that He was gracious enough to use us for His glory and to further His kingdom here.

Please be clear that we were in NO WAY looking for an "out" in this journey. We have loved every crazy, wild, hard, rough and tough moment. We love being here and we love Bolivia, especially the people. Oh, the people. Ok. I can't go there. Tears welling up. Yes, it has been a challenging journey, but isn't life hard no matter where you are on this planet? I will honestly say that it has been the most difficult on our kids. They are mighty troopers. They are my heroes. We chose to do this crazy mission right smack dab in the middle of the boys' pre-teen/teen years. I won't lie and say that their hearts and emotional state didn't have some significant influence on our decision. It was very hard on Olivia more in the very beginning, but now I really think she loves it here and will be very sad to go. Her age (4 when we left) was a better time to go if you're going to go, although I think much older than that and it gets really tough.

Another thought I'd like to share is that Lowell and I both feel very strongly that just because this phase or stage of our mission journey is ending soon, that does not mean that we are "done". We plan to forever be involved in missions, whatever that may look like. We look forward to being able to pray for and support our local church here, the many missionaries that have become dear friends to us, and possibly plan and lead short term teams down!

Anyway, we had a great visit with Lowell's parents while they were here! We were able to travel to a city named Sucre which is my favorite city in Bolivia (so far!). We took tons of photos! I am working on putting them all into my flickr account, so I will link to that from here.