This month has been full of blessings. I say that and then I think- when is it not? That has been on my mind a lot: the graces, blessings, redemption, peace of God... So I pray that you and I are seeing and walking into the blessings and presence of God that abounds around us.
Two university girls came into El Camino the other day. One had passed by when we served our monthly lunch and had come in and later she pushed her friend to come with her to visit us again. Their names are Graciela (from the state of Potosi) and Natalia (from the state of La Paz). We were chatting and they shared they still don't know many people in Tarija as they've only lived here for less than a year and how they normally just go from school to where they live or work. I invited them to my house the next week and honestly didnt know if they'd come. People in Tarija are more reserved than they were in Sucre. But they came and we made pizza and played cards. It was good to have college girls in my house again. They were always at my house in Sucre and I miss it. Please be praying I can connect with them and be an encouragement and light in their lives.
The church has been having a lunch after Sunday services the last Sunday of every month and taking advantage of it to bring a cake and sing happy birthday if there has been a birthday. This month Nichole Cabrera and I celebrated our birthdays and the last Sunday was actually on my birthdate. Pilar had spoken with her guitar teacher, Alberto, and said she wanted to play/sing me a song for my birthday but she's never played in front of people and was nervous to do so. Alberto and his family had come to church a few times before because he had given singing classes to the team. He is so nice and said he would come and play with her. So he and his wife and 4 year old son came to services and stayed for the lunch and after they played quite a few songs, including the song Pilar wanted to dedicate to me. His son actually had celebrated his birthday in September so he helped blow out the candle and we celebrated his birthday too. The church was full of laughter, conversations and music. It was a joy for all and a special gift to me what Pilar did.
Some pictures from Tarija:
These are dancers celebrating Saint Roch, the patron saint of Tarija. They dance on different routes through Tarija all through August and first of September.
The costume represents the covering people had to use during a plague in Italy during the 1300's and in which it is said that Saint Roch helped those with sickness and healed them. The story goes that he eventually contracted the plague and isolated himself in the countryside so he would not pass it on to anyone else. There, it is said, God sent a dog who would bring him food and would lick his wounds, healing him.
He is the patron saint for illness and for pets, especially dogs.
A passageway between a cathedral and a building. Baskets were painted and hung in a festive way.
As I mentioned earlier- it's incredible to think about grace and redemption. How we live in a broken world. Broken by selfishness and sin, heartbreak and illness. But how we as Christians are called into the brokenness to be a part of how God redeems it and how He shows His graces. My two girls came to me through being born into brokenness. But God had a plan to defeat the brokenness and by His grace to me and to them He is providing redemption.
I gave my second daughter the name Catalina Grace (Catalina meaning “pure” so pure grace) thinking of Ephesians and how God redeems is through grace. In Ephesians it talks about our identity in Christ (which is what I hope my daughters will find- their identity in Christ not in anything else) and how we are adopted by God.
How incredible is our God who works through grace to redeem us - not just for eternity but in the here and now- and how He calls His children into His work and allows us to be a part of it. We are called to be God’s grace and a part of His redemption plan for someone, maybe somehow even for everyone we meet. And that is for His glory and because of who He is and because He gives us everything we need to live a life of good works.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” -Ephesians 2:10. The world is full of bad works but good always defeats the bad. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” -Romans 12:21 and we can be a daily participant in that victory.
I received the final sentencing papers for Catalina's adoption a two weeks ago from the court in the state of Cochabamba and presented the papers to the court here and have been working on getting a birth certificate. Once I have that I can get her ID card and her Bolivian passport. Catalina is doing better. The first couple months were really hard for her. It's still has it's moments but getting easier for her as she is learning to trust in the stability of her family now and our love for her. Love, kindness and faithfulness can change lives.