Saturday, November 20, 2021

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

Over the past few months, I've spent five weeks helping to bring our second airplane project to completion. The airplane came to us disassembled in a shipping container, and it has taken more than a year to completely clean, strip, repaint, and rebuild it. Many people have contributed financially and of their time to help us prepare this ministry tool that will help us reach remote communities in Bolivia. Dave, one of our volunteers, has donated a full year, and this is what we have to show for it: a beautifully refurbished airplane ready for service in Bolivia!


Except for one small detail: the airplane can't enter Bolivia. In October, a law was passed prohibiting the importation of airplanes older than 25 years. Since our airplane is a 1981 model, we cannot take it to Bolivia under the new law.

This was just one more bit of discouraging news for us. I had been looking forward to getting some flight hours in the airplane prior to our return to Bolivia. More importantly, it was going to be a valuable tool for our ministry, especially since our primary aircraft is currently down for repairs.

From our perspective, it doesn't make sense why God would provide the resources to purchase and refurbish the airplane, only to bring us to this point. Although ministry can still take place without aviation, having an airplane multiplies our effectiveness and enables us to reach isolated communities that otherwise are very difficult to get to. Yet, we know that He sees the big picture, and trust that He has a reason for allowing this to happen.

We are praying that the law will be repealed (which, if it happens, will probably take several months), or that we will be able to sell this airplane and put the resources toward a newer aircraft. The Cessna 206 is a very good option for us, but there are other airplanes that will do the job. However, from a worldly perspective, the cost of those aircraft is prohibitive. That said, we would love to see the Lord provide a newer, capable aircraft for the ministry! We still believe that aviation is an important tool for reaching the unreached of Bolivia, and we pray that God will provide just the right airplane. 

Please pray for wisdom as we determine how to proceed, and that the Lord will provide just what we need!

Friday, October 29, 2021

Knowledge Leads to Peace

I opened my Bible this morning to 2 Peter this morning, expecting to read a chapter as part of my morning devotions. Two verses in, I had to stop and meditate on this sentence: 

“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”  2 Peter 1:2

That may not sound like a verse that would stop someone in his tracks, but the past two days have been busy and full of stress. I had not been experiencing the peace of God para nada.  In fact, if you have read our latest newsletter, you know that the past few months have been somewhat tumultuous. 

So when I encountered the phrase, "peace be yours in abundance," I immediately took notice. I had been living the past few days under an enormous burden—and all for nothing! The Lord offers grace and peace in abundance; all it takes is to truly know Him! When we truly know God and understand His character, there is nothing we can do except rest in His peace. 

Yet, it can be so easy to take our eyes off of the Lord Jesus, and to forget all that we know to be true about Him. We often fail to look back and reflect on everything He has brought us through in the past. We listen to the voices of the world, rather than turning to Him, listening to His voice through Scripture and in prayer. Take time to truly get to know the Lord, and experience the true peace that only He can offer!

Monday, June 7, 2021

New Videos Posted!

If you haven't visited my Vimeo channel, I hope you'll go check it out. I've recently posted a few videos of my flights in Bolivia, such as this one:

I am still working on my video setup, but I hope you'll enjoy a glimpse into our ministry with ITM!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

ITM Conference, Part 2—The Culture-Transforming Gospel

In the last post, I wrote briefly about the ITM conference that was held last month. One afternoon during the conference I sat and talked with one of our missionaries who lives in San Lorenzo. I had never talked to him before and it was really interesting to get a small glimpse into his life.

Julio is from a Chimane family in the region of the Beni where ITM works. He had a difficult upbringing, moving frequently and often being left on his own. As we talked, one of the things he shared with me was how the Lord has begun to soften his heart since he came to know Christ. In the course of our conversation, he mentioned that in his culture no one sheds a tear when a child dies. The way he described it, the death of a child is not very different from the death of an animal, and in some ways children are, in fact, treated much like animals. 

This got me thinking about the power of God, not only to change individual lives but to change a culture as well. There are many in our society who imagine remote, isolated tribes as living in a tropical paradise. They get angry at the idea that Christians would bring their "Western" religion into these "unspoiled" communities. Setting aside the idea that true Christianity is not Western or American, what they don't realize is that many people who have been isolated from the modern world do not live in paradise. They die of preventable illness, have high rates of infant mortality, and often live with superstitions and beliefs that keep them in bondage to fear—and can lead to tribal warfare and murder. Often, women and children are given little value. Most importantly, they live and die without ever having experienced the light of Jesus and the true life that's experienced in Him.

So, yes, we need to be careful to distinguish between the Gospel and the aspects of our own culture that can easily become intertwined with our faith. But we certainly should not feel sorry or regretful when we bring the Gospel into a culture that has remained in darkness without the light of Christ! 

Books have been written about this concept, and many missionary biographies testify to the power of God to transform lives and cultures. There's no way I can cover the topic in a blog post (and I'm not very long-winded). But even as a Christian, sometimes I can let my culture influence my thinking. My brief conversation with Julio was a reminder of the many people growing up like him in the remote regions of Bolivia—people who are not living in a blissful jungle paradise, but who need to hear about Jesus and are just waiting for someone to tell them!

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

ITM Conference, Part 1—Looking Outward

This past weekend we had the pleasure of participating in a weekend conference with the rest of the ITM family. It was an encouraging time to refocus, worship together, and hear what's going on in the various areas of ministry. This is the first time we've been able to spend time with many of our teammates since arriving in Bolivia in 2019, due to political unrest followed by COVID-19.

Our first year in Bolivia was a difficult one due to the isolation we were forced to experience. Protests, civic strikes, and COVID-related restrictions have kept us at home and out of fellowship for much of the year. It has been easy for us to be self-focused, thinking about our own situation while assuming that everyone else on our team is doing fine. After all, many of them have known each other for years, and those living away from the city are not subjected to the same restrictions that we are. Surely we are the lonely outsiders and everyone else is doing just fine, right?

We realized this past weekend that we are not the only ones struggling and feeling isolated (shocking, I know!). We came here knowing that a big part of our ministry would be supporting the Bolivian (and American) missionaries who are working out on the front lines in the remote communities of Bolivia. But we didn't feel that we were yet in a position to do that well—not knowing the team, still feeling like outsiders, and being limited in our Spanish ability. But this weekend we discovered that those barriers are not as real as we have made them out to be. We had been waiting for people to reach out to us, but maybe we should have been the ones taking the initiative all along.

In just a few days we have begun feeling much more connected to our brothers and sisters who serve alongside us with ITM. We have gained confidence in our communication and realized that the language barrier doesn't have to prevent us from encouraging and spending time with our Bolivian teammates. Our perspective has shifted, as we have begun to look outward, asking how we can help encourage others. And in the process of doing so, we have found that our own needs are being met as well.

Please pray for us as we continue to look for opportunities to encourage our team, and others in our community. We trust the Lord that as we take our eyes off ourselves and serve others, that He will also care for the needs of our family.

There were several other things that stood out to me during the conference, and I hope to share them with you in the coming days and weeks. I hope it will be an encouragement to you, and give you further insight into our life and ministry here in Bolivia!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

So Much to Say

It's Valentine’s Day, and I should be out having a romantic dinner with my wife. Unfortunately, we are quarantined at home on Sundays and I'm suffering some ill effects from something I ate yesterday. So, as I was sitting here on the couch, I realized I hadn’t written a blog post for a while. And wow!, it has been a while. There is so much to report that it would be impossible to catch up on everything in one post. Let’s start with an update on the last one.

After what seems like an eternity, I finally have my license to fly in Bolivia! It required a written test, a flight test, handing over a bunch of cash, and then waiting for several weeks—but I finally have a piece of plastic that authorizes me to fly in this country! I've been able to make several ministry flights, mostly to Oromomo and San Lorenzo, where several of our missionaries work. But I also made one flight to a town called Baures to help deliver some medical supplies and biosecurity supplies to the medical workers there. It has been great to feel like I am actually making a contribution to the mission as a pilot, rather than just being extra weight in the airplane!


Happy to be cruising over the Beni with a good cup of coffee,
transporting building supplies for the Bible school in San Lorenzo.

Of course I had been doing other valuable things: studying Spanish, doing aircraft maintenance, and helping with administrative tasks that are a necessary part of operating the ministry here in Bolivia. If I never would have been able to fly, there would still be ways I could support the ministry, but I am grateful that I am finally flying on the field—something that I have been looking forward to for many years!


Delivering medical supplies to Baures with Pastor Elias.

Now, the bad news. Saying that I have my license to fly in Bolivia in a bit of an oversimplification. What I have is a convalidation of my FAA pilot certificate, which will be valid for up to one year. That means I still need to get a permanent Bolivian pilot certificate, which will take more time and money. Please pray for us as we figure out the best (and most cost-effective) way to do that.

There’s more to share, some of which we talked about in our January newsletter. Please check it out if you haven’t had a chance to do so. That’s all for now!


Thursday, December 3, 2020

Making progress!

After several years of working toward the goal, I came to Bolivia in 2019 with my commercial pilot certificate, instrument rating, and airframe and power plant mechanic certificates. The unfortunate part is that none of these are recognized in Bolivia. So I've spent the better part of a year learning Spanish and flying with other pilots who can legally act as "pilot in command" in the right seat while I fly in the left seat.

A view from the left seat of the Cessna 206.

This week I took the first of many tests that will be required for me to serve as a pilot-mechanic in Bolivia. I successfully passed the theory test (in Spanish—an extra challenge) for the convalidation of my pilot certificate! Convalidation is not a word we really use in English, but it means that Bolivia will recognize my pilot certificate from the United States. But there's a catch. We had hoped that the convalidation would be for at least two years, and praying that by some miracle I might even get a permanent Bolivian license. But as of now, the law states that the convalidation will be for six months, with the possibility of a single six-month renewal. This news was a big disappointment. So what does that mean for me?

I have already begun the convalidation process, and after that I'll have one year to get a Bolivian pilot certificate before the convalidation expires. That means I get to start over as a private pilot student, and eventually I will go from being recognized as a commercial/instrument pilot to being recognized as a private pilot only in Bolivia (my FAA certificates will still be valid in the States). Of course, it will be much easier this time around, since I still have all the knowledge and skills that I've developed over the past several years. But I still need a piece of paper (or plastic) that says I can legally fly in Bolivia. That piece of paper will require 40 hours of flying, more tests, and several thousand dollars.

Please pray with us as we continue to work through this. I still have two flight tests ahead of me in order to get the convalidation, and then we need to start thinking through options for flight schools. Of course, it would be great if by some miracle I could get my FAA licenses permanently converted, but unless we get Bolivian citizenship this does not appear to be a possibility. It is possible to get Bolivian citizenship while retaining our U.S. citizenship, but that requires being in Bolivia continuously for three years.

So we're not exactly sure how things will proceed, but thanks for praying with us and following along with us on this journey! Your support and encouragement means a lot!