Friday, November 30, 2012



 Whenever it comes time each year to write an “end-of–year” update on our family’s adventures,   I always spend a fair amount of time just sitting and staring blankly at the screen. I mean, really, how on earth can one possibly condense one entire year of a family’s life onto one, blank, white sheet of paper? It is always so very difficult for me to summarize and pick out the few significant moments to write about. At first, I had the brilliant {ridiculous} idea that I would just do a photo album of our year for you – here, on paper! Ha, ha, ha!!! Three full pages later of tiny, squished-to-fit photos with captions I came to the wise conclusion that not one of you (ok, two…mom and MIL!) would appreciate receiving a 3 page Christmas newsletter and would promptly throw it in the trash, and that if anyone REALLY wants to see that many photos of our year, we will kindly direct you to visit our facebook pages :o)
  December marks our 1 year, 9 month anniversary of being in Bolivia. Just a few short months from now we will celebrate 2 years. Some of you who know that our minimum commitment here was 2 years may be wondering what our next step is.  For now, we continue to do the work that we feel God led us here to do, which is leading the worship and student ministries of Cochabamba Intl. Church. We are continually praying that the Lord will lead us and guide us into what HE has for us. We are open and willing to do whatever He calls us to do, whether that be to stay or leave. At this point, we do not feel a strong, clarifying pull either way, so our tentative plan is to come home for a 3 month visit next summer, and return to Bolivia, for as long as God has planned. There is much work to be done here, that much is evident. There are also many effective ministries, projects, foundations, and opportunities in place for one to serve, volunteer, or devote their time to. In addition to serving at the church, we try to help out in several of these various ministries or projects as well, as much as we can.
  We went back to homeschooling the kids this year so they no longer attend the MK school, Carachipampa. There are positives and negatives to this choice, as with any. We must make more of an effort to get out and get “into” the culture and use our Spanish. It does afford us the opportunity to get involved in more projects during the week and obviously guide the kids’ learning more. There are several other missionary families that homeschool so we get together frequently for good social time (not to mention support and encourage each other!)
  How can we possibly express our gratitude to each and every one of you that have loved us, prayed for us, supported us, and given to us financially to make this journey possible? There just will never be words enough to say how humbled and thankful we are for your sacrifice and gifts. We do not ever want to forget that we are here because of your generosity! That we “get” to live this journey and adventure that God has us on with your help. And no other way! We love to pray for our supporters and thank God for you. We humbly ask that you continue to support us in this mission, and that if you feel led to give a one-time end of year gift, please do so using the information below or click on the "give" button above.
  We look so forward to keeping you updated on what God is doing here in Coch and in our lives!

Feliz Navidad y Bendiciones  por el año Nuevo!                 
The Ballew Family - Lowell, Shay, Aidan, Liam, Jude, & Olivia

Stateside address (non tax deductible gifts):           Mission address (tax deductible gifts):
Ballew Family                                                           Ripe For Harvest
P.O. Box 293                                                            P.O. Box 487
Frost,TX 76641                                                        Monument, CO 80132
                                                                                 *NOTE acct. #304 Lowell Ballew on check*
Field address (notes, cards, packages only)
La Familia Ballew
Casilla #6505
Cochabamba, Bolivia
South America

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Happy Bolivian Babies

Howdy, all. It's October already. Smack in the middle of springtime here in Bo. As long as we are here, I will never get used to the backwards seasons. Oh, how I miss fall. You know, REAL Autumn? Like you all are experiencing back home. Orange, and brown, and gold, and deep dark hues of red. Pumpkins, and squash, and gourds, and hay. Scarecrows, and costumes, and candy corn...not to mention caramel apples. Cool breezes, a nip in the air, chilly nights, and sweaters. Spiced tea, pumpkin spice lattes, carrot cake muffins, and cinnamon candles. Oh, gosh, I really, really miss this time of year back home. Enjoy it all for me, friends! It will be a very long while until I can experience it again. Springtime in Coch means heavy winds, warmer weather, bright sunshine, and the impending, coming rainy season. Yes! This is all good. How can I ever complain about the amazing weather here? The climate is incomparable. So lovely to be cool in the shade, and warm in the sun. And when the rains come, all of the dust and dirt will be washed away and the air will be clear!
I hope I never grow tired of the amazing sunsets we get to enjoy this time of year from our dining room window!

We have been in the throngs of school now for just over 6 weeks and of course it has not been without it's challenges. The boys are doing a good job of taking more responsibility getting their schoolwork done in their "PACES" (Ace Homeschool Curriculum....a new path for us), and really only need us to help when they get stuck or don't understand instructions. Olivia is in need of one on one attention right now since she is learning to read and cannot read any of the instructions in her workbooks. She is learning how to take instruction from Mommy and Daddy as her teachers and working really hard on sitting still and staying focused!
It's nice to be able to have "homeschooling lessons" like this with Olivia. She helped me put together some "bags of blessings" to hand out to street kids who beg for money on the streets.

We have been able to help out with a ministry here called "Baby Washing" in the main plaza a couple of times this past month. This takes place every Sat. and tents are set up along with many bins of water to wash, rinse, dry, and clothe babies, ages newborn to 5, with a new set of clothes. Most of the folks who take advantage of this amazing ministry are indigenous peoples who likely have no home or at least no running water in their "home". I have a feeling that most of these moms who come are single and desperate, with no jobs or skills, including reading or writing. They come to have their babies washed once a week. I mostly helped out with dressing the children and Livi helped me with that. Lowell and the boys help with set up and tear down and playing with some of the older kids who have their hair washed. Please pray for these mamas, not only for their physical needs, but of course that the love of Jesus would be so evident in the volunteers that it change lives!
Here Olivia and I are helping transfer the babies back to their mamas after they bathe and dress them.

Last week we took a fun day trip along with two other families to a part of the Chapare jungle region called Inca Chaca (which means bridge of the Incans). It is a beautiful place with typical jungle vegetation, rivers, waterfalls, and swimming holes. It was life-giving to get out of the city and get into nature and enjoy God's amazing creation! The kids had a blast swimming and hiking and exploring and I had a blast watching them come alive in their element! We are trying to regularly get together with some of the other missionary families that homeschool for our kids to have social time and build friendships here.

We made some exciting changes in the auditorium at our church, at Lowell's leading and suggestion. The direction of the stage and seating arrangement was reconfigured and it looks awesome! This may sound trivial, but simple things like this really do make a huge difference in how a service is conducted, how things are perceived by newcomers, how the music sounds, how easy (or not) it is for people to find seats when they walk in, etc...Lowell was given the permission to make these changes and to invest in some lighting and possible new sound equipment for the music ministry. These are all wonderful advances in this growing ministry and I believe God is using Lowell and his knowledge to do some exciting things for the Music and Worship Ministry of CIC! I was also able to do my very first stage design, which was fun and brought back great memories of serving in that area at CCCC. I look forward to doing more of that and discovering creative people in the congregation that can help.
This is the new set up, although now the projector screen is centered. Here is Shay teaching the students at youth group.

Lowell and I have been able to get back involved with the young couple's bible study now that we are homeschooling again. Right now we are doing a book study of the book Powerful Promises for Every Couple by Jim and Elizabeth George. Each week one couple hosts and leads the discussion of a chapter. Well, Lowell and I are hosting and leading this Monday night!!! THIS GROUP IS ENTIRELY IN SPANISH! Please pray for us as this will be our first time leading anything in Spanish. We feel very inadequate to do this, but we also know that this is a very loving, forgiving group and it's a great place to start and practice! I have been working on translating the chapter into English first, so I can understand it well before leading a discussion on it!
Shay at a retreat for the wives of the young couple's bible study

We are looking forward to another visit from Lowell's parents in December! Our year end newsletter will be coming out via their snail mail before they head down to visit us again for Christmas. We truly do hope that until then you will be blessed and thoroughly enjoy all that this season has to offer. Again, we are so humbled by your support, love, and encouragement of all that we are doing here. God is so good!!

Shay, for the family!

Prayer and Praise:
1} We have our two year visas and our passports back in our possession!! This feels so great! Also, we were able to begin the process to obtain our new carnets, which are Bolivian i.d. cards, and should have them within 30-45 days. After we get them, we can renew our Bolivian driver's licenses!

2} Continue to lift us up concerning homeschooling. It is not the easy road, but is what we feel God led us to do this year. Pray that the kids would be highly motivated, independent learners and would be cooperative and diligent and maintain positive attitudes (not only about school, but Bolivia in general)

3} Pray for private Spanish tutors for us all, or at least good Bolivian friends to practice with :o)

4} Growth for the music and youth ministries that we lead. Ministry opportunities for us to serve in as a family.

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.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

No Left Turn

I do plan to write a June/July update soon, but this isn't it. This is a story. Quite often (pretty much daily!), I think to myself, "Wow, I really should share that story on the blog." But, life happens and I don't take the time. Something happened to me (Shay) yesterday however, that I really wanted to share. I had my first - well, technically second - run in with a Bolivian police officer. Here's the whole story in a nutshell:

Aidan and I had gone down to La Cancha to get haircuts from our favorite stylist in the afternoon. You don't realize it, but this simple "errand" takes a lot of planning here. First, you must think about the right time to go (after 3 pm when siesta time is over), next you must think about how to get there - in a taxi? a trufi? a micro? your own car? Well, my first thought was to take a trufi. Trufis are like taxis, only slightly larger vehicles (typically a mini van) and have a fixed route - meaning they only go certain directions/ways/streets/locations, etc... We have a trufi line that goes right by our house and goes down to La Cancha, so it's quite convenient. Plus, they are really cheap. However, any time I think about taking a trufi, honestly, I groan and whine inside. They are usually slow, jam packed, dirty, and stinky. On the other hand, taking our own car was risky because it is extremely difficult to find a parking spot anywhere downtown or in La Cancha. Well, after deciding to take the car, we made our way down and ended up finding a decent spot that was only a few blocks away from the hair salon. We got our haircuts and left the scene. Here's where the story really begins. You really can't understand this unless you've lived here and know the area that we were in, but it is a very, very busy, crazy, chaotic, area where the streets are all either one way or you are forbidden to make left turns, etc. I have actually only personally driven down there once before. I have ridden with Lowell a couple of times and been in a taxi or trufi once or twice. All that to say, I really (really!) don't know all the traffic rules down there or which way the streets go or where you can turn and not turn. It's all so crazy...and much like a lot of stuff here, doesn't make any sense to me. The first main street we came to,  I couldn't turn left on, second main street, I wasn't sure...didn't see a no turn left sign so I thought I'd go for it because no cars were coming. BAD IDEA. Problem was, if I kept going straight, I'd go deeper and deeper into La Cancha. Believe me, you do not want to get stuck in the depths of LC in your car. So, I made a lightening fast decision to turn when I had the chance. Whoa. Two police officers started blowing their whistles at me and yelling something at me and pointing over to the right. Of course, I had no idea what they were saying except for, "you can't turn left here!". So, I stop and try to back up into the lane to go straight. Another bad idea. I was so flustered and I had no idea what he was saying, so I just went ahead and went straight (for Cbba residents, what I did was turn left onto San Martin from Aroma - f.y.i = don't ever do it!!!). So...I drive along for several blocks, not thinking there was any problem when a po-po comes up beside me on his moto telling me to pull over. Oh, STINK. I immediately started praying for God to intervene and help me! I was scared to death. I acted totally dumb and asked him what the problem was. It would be impossible to tell you how our "conversation" went from that point, but basically it was very hard and stressful to try and communicate with him. I was almost in tears. When he saw that my license was expired, I tried to explain to him that I couldn't renew it until I received my new 2 year visa and that we had payed for those already and they were in process. I showed him my receipt for that, as my lawyer had advised us to do in case of any trouble like this, but he wasn't accepting it. He wanted to take me to transito (the police station, basically) right then. You see, the Bolivian process of paying fines for traffic violations is completely different than what we are used to in the states! They do not issue a ticket, then you go pay it on your own time. No, they take you in right then and there and you pay the fines at the office. Well, this scared me to no end and I argued with him that I could not go to transito right then and eventually told him I would go, but not without my husband. So, he asked where my husband was, where our house was, and said, "Ok, let's go to your house and get him!!!" What?!! I was like, um...ok, that is so freakin' weird, but Ok!! At that point, I just needed Lowell with me, so I was willing to drive all the way to my house with the guy following me to get him. I called Lowell once we start
'/0ed off and was a complete basket case! I explained to him through tears what had happened and that I needed him to help me and that we were coming to the house to pick him up! He immediately called our lawyer once I hung up the phone with him to ask for advice.

  PART 2:
After driving for a while (we live a far distance from LC), the officer pulled up beside me again and asked again where my house was. When I told him again (this time, my brain worked a little better and I told him the name of our neighborhood and he finally realized how far it was!), he asked me to pull over again. I did so, and we had another agonizing "discussion". He told me that he could not go all the way to our house and that we needed to go to transito immediately. I told him that my lawyer could speak to him and explain to him the reason for my expired license. See, he was going to make me pay a fine for turning left where I wasn't supposed to (totally was my fault, I did it. But, I totally really didn't know I couldn't. However, I was prepared to pay that fine) AND for my expired license. Wasn't going to pay that fine, because my lawyer had clearly told us that as long as we showed our receipt for our 2 yr. visas, that there would be no problems. Ugh. He talked to my lawyer on the phone, and after that long conversation, she said something to me that I didn't understand at all. She asked if I had copies of my passport and carnet with me (! I'm a resident here, not a tourist). I said, I have some at home, Lowell can bring them to me or I can go home and get them for the guy. I was guessing she had made some arrangement with him, but I was clueless. What I understood, was that I was to wait there while he called his boss to "explain" things and see what he suggested. In the meantime, I called Lowell again and told him I had no idea what I was really supposed to do. He said, "Babe, just go to transito with him and pay the fines. I'm sure it will be fine." I said, ok...but you have to come meet me there! After getting off the phone with Lowell, I told the police officer that I could go with him to transito and pay the fine. I could tell he was extremely exasperated and frustrated with me at his point at not understanding anything that was being said or arranged!! He said, "NO! It's all ok. You can go home. I am going to explain the situation to my boss. I will explain to him that you are a foreigner and did not understand the rules or anything I said (or something of that nature)!!"

I was relieved to say the least. I honestly believe that it was whatever my AWESOME lawyer said to him on the phone that made him change his mind! She probably told him to have pity on that dumb, ignorant gringa who was clueless. Not sure, but either way, I am extremely thankful for her and thankful that the Lord was watching out for me. I honestly can't stop thinking about the whole situation - it really shook me up. I have a hard time knowing that I did something wrong, was caught, and didn't have to pay for it. I feel like I really want that guy to know that I was willing to pay the fine I owed, but that I was freakin' scared to death to go to transito with him!! He was being a very good officer, because he refused to take my money personally (which I had offered him at least 3 times). And, he in no way was being mean or rude to me, either. He really was simply a good Bolivian police officer trying to do his job well. For that, I credit him greatly.

All in all...just another crazy day here in Coch. I'll try to post more "daily life" stories here more often.

We Love you all!!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

April/May 2012

  The month of April and May (so far) have found us very, very busy! We are winding down the school year, which ends June 6 with a closing program and graduation. We are all ready for the break, of course! Every April, Carachi has its annual "Field Days" and it was a total blast to get to participate this year. The entire school is divided up into 3 teams - Red, Yellow, and Green (the colors of the Bolivian flag) - and for the remainder of the time that you are at the school, you are a part of that team. Each student is required to compete in several events and points are earned for each place they finish in. Our boys loved the entire experience and proved themselves to be excellent athletes and fierce competitors! Many ribbons, medals, and trophies were won, and Jude broke a school record in the running long jump for his age category!  The best history making news of all - RED team won after 16 long years!!! What's the big deal, you ask? WE are on the red team! This proud Mama can't help but believe that her boys had something to do with it. It was a very emotional time for those students who have been on the red team their entire school career at Carachi and never experienced the blessed taste of Victory!!
The purple ribbon is for his record break! He also won 2nd overall in his age group - his best buddy beat him for 1st by ONE point!!
Aidan proved himself to be a great sprinter and long jumper (long legs DO come in handy!) 
Awards ceremony - Liam tied for 3rd place overall in his age group
  Bolivia celebrates its Labor Day in May so we had a couple of days off of school, which made for a 4 day weekend. We took the opportunity to go on an adventurous road trip with some great friends - The Discua Family - to the Salar de Uyuni. This is an area of Bolivia in the altiplano (the high plains) region, in the department of Potosi. The salar is the largest salt flats in the world and we feel so blessed to have gotten to see this amazing, awe-inspiring creation of God. We took some incredible photos - if you are interested in viewing all of them, you can click on one of the following links to see my albums.
OR here:
  It was a blast to have this one last Hoo-Rah with our friends before they returned to the States to do ministry in California. They served here in Bolivia for 8 years but felt the Lord's call to return stateside. We will miss them tremendously. Ask any missionary and they will tell you that one of the hardest things about being one is having to say "goodbye" so often to dear friends and family.
The Discua and Ballew boys = TROUBLE

Lowell giving me a smooch on the head
I've got Liam on the tip of my foot!
  Since the last update, Aidan has celebrated his 14th bday - as you can see, he is about to surpass Lowell in height. Every birthday, I find it harder and harder to believe that my babies are becoming young men!
  After much prayer and thought, and listening to our kids voices (I mean, listening to their hearts, with our hearts), Lowell and I decided to give them the choice of how they are educated next year. If you've kept up with our ministry updates, then you know what an extreme challenge it's been for our boys (and our whole family) to transition from a homeschooling family into private christian MK schooling. And that was only one of the many transitions we had to deal with. So...after TELLING the kids what they were going to do for the past 3 years or so, we felt convicted to allow them to choose their own path for education for the next school year. At this point, Aidan, Liam, and Olivia have chosen homeschool, but Jude chose to return to Carchipampa. We are hoping and praying that this will open up more opportunities for us to serve in ministry areas as a family and get out and about in the city and country more. Pray for us as we prepare ourselves for this journey again!!

1) Unfortunately, Lowell was the victim of pickpocketing the other day. This is common here, and you always have to be on your guard - especially when going to certain parts of town. His entire wallet was stolen out of his front pocket. All important i.d. cards, driver's licenses, credit cards, insurance cards....everything was in there. No cash was taken. The day before this happened, his debit card was "eaten" by an ATM. Mine was eaten also about a month ago. The urgency of this? Our debit cards are what we live on here! It is almost strictly a cash society so we depend on getting cash to pay for everything with our cards. We cannot use our debit cards here to pay for things because our bank is still in the U.S. We can use our credit cards for certain things - the large grocery stores or nice restaurants - but of course we try not to use them except for emergencies. Thankfully, my new ATM card will be here on Tuesday, delivered by a good friend of ours who is a missionary here, but is from Texas and was there for two weeks sorting out visa issues.

2) Speaking of visa issues! Our 1 year visa has expired and we have applied for our 2 year (which is the next step in the visa process). So, we are without our passports while they process our request in immigration. Please pray it would be quick and that we would have our passports back asap with the visa! It's slightly nerve-wracking being without our passports and a current, valid visa. Along with an expired visa, we now have an expired driver's license and expired carnet (a Bolivian i.d.). (and yes....all of this was in Lowell's wallet that was stolen). We do have a "voucher" to show in case the need arises that we have paid for our 2 yr. visa and that it is in process.

3) Pray that we would be prepared to do homeschooling again - in every way. Academically, emotionally, spiritually.

4) Please continue to pray for the youth group that we lead at church. Pray for growth - both in numbers and spiritually. We feel like we haven't been able to put as much time and energy into this ministry with the pressures of school, so we look forward to the break so we can devote more time to it. We had a large group of Bolivian students come for the first time this past week and we were so very pleased! Pray that at least some of them will begin attending weekly and that the "regulars" would make them feel welcome and at home.

We love and miss you all! Blessings!!

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

Friday, March 30, 2012


  "What?! Seriously?! You've got to be kidding me. One year? You guys have been here a year already?!!" Yeppers. This was the response recently from a friend we met just a couple of weeks after arriving last April.  He just couldn't believe it! And honestly, it is so hard for us to believe as well. I have to say that for me (Shay), this has been the fastest year of my life! No lie.  We plan to celebrate in style with the fam and honor our kids for being true champions. We plan to praise the Lord greatly for His constant love, provision, and blessings. We plan to look back and see how the Lord has worked in our lives and changed us. We plan to record all of the wonderful things He has done!! Initially, our plan was to take this first year to adapt to the culture, learn the language, build relationships, and really seek out exactly what the Lord wanted us to do with our time here. So far, I believe we have accomplished those goals (with God's help and guidance, of course). No, we do not speak Spanish fluently like natives...yet. Yes, there are many, many things about this culture that bug us and frustrate the heck out of us and that we will never agree with or understand. But, we have adapted and learned to be flexible and learned to deal with whatever comes our way - even at a moment's notice. Hopefully, when we do, we are doing so lovingly and graciously and through our actions and words, are sharing the love of Christ. We are abundantly blessed with friends here and continue to build relationships with folks at church and school and out and about in the city. We feel led, at this point, to continue helping lead the music and worship ministry and youth ministry at CIC and to finish out the school year at CCS, teaching art, music, leading chapel worship time and coaching basketball. We will serve and help in any other capacity the Lord leads us to throughout our next year in Bolivia. I (Shay) still desire to volunteer at one of the local orphanages that a friend of ours runs, but the way just has not been made yet. Our desire, as a family, is also to participate in more ministry outreaches, within the city and in the outlying jungle or mountain areas of Bolivia. We can't wait to see what our 2nd year in Bolivia brings!!!! Here are some photos to enjoy......

Olivia with our pet bunny, Peter

And...Olivia with Maddie, our now inside doggie. Yes, sometimes she loves the pets a little too much!

One of the best views of Mt. Tunari we've had from our 3rd story window this year! of the many amazing sunsets we are blessed to enjoy almost every evening out our dining room window. God is such an incredible artist.

Lowell leading worship at Cochabamba International Church

Aidan playing drums for the main service at CIC

A typical Sunday morning worship service at CIC - a beautiful mixture of nationalities and languages, all worshiping together!

This is how we roll in Coch
Shay's art room at Carachipampa Christian School

Liam lovin' on a sweet orphan at Casa de Amor (house of love)

Who looks most scary? Jude, Shay, or the totem pole dude?!

Please pray for this beautiful city!

We just can't find a way to express our deep thanks and gratitude to all of you that have supported us in this journey! We know that it would not be possible for us to be here without your love, support, and prayers. Please continue to let us know how we can pray for you - we love to lift our supporters up in prayer and know what is going on in your lives back home. And we humbly ask that you continue to pray for us and send us an encouraging note via email or facebook every once in awhile. You have no idea how it strengthens us to know family and friends back home are thinking of us and praying for us. A HUGE special thank you goes out to those of you who have taken the time (and spent the $) to send us care packages. They are exactly that! a box (or envelope)!! It makes us feel so loved, cared for, and not forgotten!

Woot Woot!! Here's to our first successful year in Bolivia!! YAY GOD!!

Un fuerte abrazo y un beso para todos (a big hug and kiss to everyone!! yes....we greet almost everyone with a kiss on the cheek here, just like the Bible says!) -

Shay, for all

Saturday, February 4, 2012

10 Month Update

  Today (Jan.31) marked our 10 month anniversary of being in Bolivia. One year ago we moved out of our home in League City to stay in a temporary duplex until our date of departure. It is truly hard to imagine that our 1 year anniversary of being here is just around the corner. Time flies when you're having fun, right? Or at least when life is crazy and you've turned your world upside down and started over from scratch in a foreign land and just tried to live moment by moment to survive and thrive. Whooh. Here we are...beginning a new year in our new country and wondering what on earth God has in store for this family of ours here in this place. Why are we here again?! Oh, yes! We did this crazy, insane thing because God told us to! No matter what, we said. No matter how hard. No matter how rough and tough and ugly it gets. And it has - gotten that way, I mean. At times. Otherwise, on the other side of the pesito ( that would be a little tiny coin...) there have been wonderful, beautiful, fun, productive, positive times. Moments when we feel all cheery and good and that things are just "right", you know? I won't lie, this life we have chosen isn't easy, and it's not all rosy and grand. However, we have to know that God is good. God is great! He called us here and He has a purpose for us. He is not going to leave us or forsake us. He is with us. He will lead us and guide us into His perfect plan and will for us. As we lean into starting a new year here in Bolivia, I have asked the Lord, "What do you want with us this year? What shall we do? What things, Lord, can we accomplish for you?" We want to make this time worth it. Worth all of the sadness and heartache and missing home and missing friends and doing without. Worth all of the leaving behind we did.
 I (Shay) feel strongly that the Lord wants me (personally) to build more meaningful relationships with Bolivians and strengthen my Spanish speaking ability. The two really go hand in hand. I have a deep desire to focus on discipleship, specifically with students, considering that is the group of folks here that the Lord has clearly led us to minister to. He just continues to give Lowell and I both opportunities to serve these amazing kids here who need to know Jesus and grow in their faith. We are prayerfully considering ways to develop a leadership team within our youth group at the church. This kind of thing really excites me and pumps me up! I love seeing young people step up and be bold in their faith and become leaders for their generation. Please pray along with us that the Lord would lead us and guide us as we begin this new endeavor. Another incredible opportunity that the Lord has given Lowell is to be the Assistant Coach for Carachipampa's basketball team (! For those of you who know Lowell well, you know that basketball was a huge part of his life as a young student. He was a very talented and skilled player and now he has the chance to pour into these young men in yet another area - teaching them and encouraging them on the basketball court! Our oldest son, Aidan, has decided to join the team, making him the only 7-9th grader out there amongst a team of 10-12th graders! At CCS, high school is 7-12th grades and since the school is so small anyone has a chance to be a part of the team. We are so proud of Aidan, that he didn't shy away from joining, just because the rest of the team was older. Incredibly, he is now just as tall as many of the Senior players.
  We enjoyed a wonderful three week break for the Christmas holiday and we were incredibly blessed to spend the majority of that time with Lowell's parents! It was truly amazing to welcome visitors here, when we still feel like visitors ourselves! I cried tears of joy seeing them step off the plane and walk through the gate to us. It was overall an enjoyable time, besides Lowell's Mother being very ill for a week and having to be admitted to the hospital. Lowell's Dad purely enjoyed every second of his time here in Bolivia, reminiscing of his peace corps days and visiting old friends, speaking to the locals of "the good 'ole days" of Cochabamba in the 60's. Christmas was different, but very, very blessed. The kids discovered that Santa really does make stops in Bolivia. For a few days after Christmas, we were able to travel to Santa Cruz, Bolivia by bus (quite the experience) and enjoy some fun family time at a waterpark called Aqualand and a beautiful butterfly and bird sanctuary called Biocentro Guembe. The climate in SC is very similar to Houston - hot and humid!
  The second semester of school is in full swing and our grueling schedule continues. Olivia has gone back to her school, Rise and Shine, although the Bolivian school year does not officially start until next week (Feb. 6). She will officially be a Kindergartener!! She enjoys her playdates with her friends and will be taking swim lessons with them starting next week as well! Jude is a star student and we are so proud of how well he has done this year in this new environment. Liam and Aidan are still working hard and persevering through the changes as well. The struggles they have faced in the past 10 months have made them stronger and pretty darn tough, I think! They continue to make new friends and use their gift of music to help lead worship for youth group and chapel at school. Liam is excited to celebrate his 12th birthday next week with some of his friends from church and school with paintball and a sleepover. Speaking of's hard for me to believe, but this Monday, the 6th, is my 40th. The "big one". Mid life, right? Ha! I sure hope not. Lord willing, anyway! Looking forward to celebrating in Bolivia!

1) Continued relationship building with our empleada, Miriam. She has lots of good questions related to God and is definitely seeking truth! She is attending church regularly.
2) A memorable visit with Lowell's parents
3) Growth within the youth group! We are averaging 40 students and more Bolivians are coming! Pray that the MK's will reach out to them and make them feel welcome and comfortable.

1) That our Spanish speaking ability would reach a new level.
2) That we will be more intentional about building relationships with Bolivians.
3) That God would lead Lowell and I as we develop the student leadership team.
4) Continued transition and adaptation - it's an ongoing process and symptoms of culture stress and missing home and friends rise frequently. There are still tears and sadness and emotional breakdowns at times.
5) That all kids would do well in school and that they would actually come to really like it and look forward to it! Pray for good, significant friends for all of them.

God's goodness and blessings upon you ALL!!!

Shay, for all of us
Us with Lowell's parents visiting the Simon I. Patino Palace Museum 

Being crazy on Christmas Eve in the pj's my Mom sent

Olivia, la Mariposa muy linda, at the Biocentro Guembe in Santa Cruz