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