Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A third culture...

The 2011-2012 school year has kicked off at the Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center (SCCLC). This school truly is a culture all it’s own. It is an educational institution for missionary kids from many different countries, Bolivians, and other students who desire a private education based off of an American curriculum and schedule. Some of you may know that Molly has her degree in Elementary Education and from 2007-2009 she served as the 4th grade teacher at SCCLC. When we returned to Santa Cruz this past April we were feeling God directing us toward more ministry with our Spanish speaking churches and Molly knew that she wouldn’t be teaching full time. However, the key word in a missionary’s vocabulary is “flexibility”. As the school year was nearing the start, SCCLC still needed to fill many teaching positions. One of those positions was in the 4th grade. A teacher was lined up, but she was still in the States raising her support. Molly saw a need and decided to help out. For the first 2 weeks of classes Molly got back into her teaching mode. I was able to help with decorating bulletin boards and grading papers. It was actually quite fun for us to work together in that setting. Praise be to God that the other teacher was able to raise the rest of her support rather quickly and she is now safely in Santa Cruz and Molly has been able to step back from charge of the 4th graders.

We have also been able to fill the need of leadership with Jr. High and Sr. High ministry at SCCLC. On August 15th we jump started Sr. High Bible study. We had 35 youth show up for tacos, games, and a brief testimony sharing. Each Monday night from 7-9 at the house of some fellow missionaries, we will be meeting with the 9th-12th graders from SCCLC. We are really excited for how God will use us to mentor these youth this year.

Our goal is to have a couple Jr. High activities each month. This past Friday we hosted an ice cream party at our house. We did a gross ice cream sundae relay where we split the youth up into 2 teams and each team had to choose 5 non-traditional toppings out of a cup. Team 1 chose hot sauce, soy sauce, bbq sauce, a scoop of flour, and salsa. Team 2 received mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, pancake syrup, and pizza flavored crackers. When I designed the game I had not intended on playing, but we had uneven teams so I got in on the “fun”. With plastic spoons in hand, the relay began and I’m proud to say that my team won! They youth were able to get those gross flavors out of their mouths with some delicious brownies, ice cream, and regular ice cream toppings. As everyone enjoyed dessert, I shared a short devotional from Matthew 5:13. I challenged the youth to think about how they felt during our relay game. Some said it was gross and they wanted to quit or they wished they didn’t ever have to take another bite. Then I asked them to think about this thought. “Do we ever present ourselves like gross ice cream sundaes?” People expect us to be sweet, but once they get a taste of who we are, they find bitterness and wish that they never had to experience another taste. I really enjoy the Message paraphrase for this particular passage.

Matthew 5:13
The Message (MSG)

Salt and Light
 13"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”

I asked the question to myself as well as the Jr. Highers. “Are you bringing out the God-flavors of this earth in your life?”

It was really fun to watch their brains work as they thought through that question. I am excited to see how they process these challenges and live them out this year.

Bryan acts like he knows how to play charango

Thank you so much for checking in on our ministry. Your prayers, encouragement, and support continually bless us.

In His Hands,
Bryan & Molly

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spanish with a southern accent

Work Team by the Numbers
15 Great New Friends
1 Trip Up the Mountain

1 Good looking couple

1 of many waterfalls at Las Cuevas
1 Flat Tire on the Bus

1 of 2 Spanish Sunday Morning Services
This one at Lineage of God Church
"GracePointe Choir" accompanied by Bryan on guitar

4 days of Manual Labor 

Half a dozen blisters on each hand
from this job of "tamping the floor"

12,000 bricks used for the project

5 Afternoons of Vacation Bible School

July15-26 were amazing days for us in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, As you can see from the pictures, we did many things and went many places. Looking up at the waterfalls at Las Cuevas was breath taking and helped me appreciate God’s creation more and more. On the days when it rained too much to work at the building site, we took the team shopping around down town. This gave me a sense of pride as I realized I was starting to better know my way around the city. There was great joy in seeing the smiles on the faces of kids at VBS each afternoon. There was a great sense of accomplishment when the last brick was laid for the building project. Yet there was such a great spirit of unity, openness, and spiritual surrender during our evening devotional times at the mission house, that I have to say those times were my favorite moments. As full time missionaries we seek to be good hosts, servants, and tour guides. Our main focus is making sure that the short-term mission team has the best experience possible. We desire that God will speak to them in a special way, as they are out of their normal environment and serving in a different culture. We anticipate that they will be challenged and God will speak to their hearts, but I have to confess that I was not expecting that for myself. We split the devotional leading responsibility between us missionaries and the work team. Each night we heard encouraging scriptures, personal testimonies, and spiritual challenges. My heart was truly blessed. I know this was a time of stretching and relying on God for many of the team members who were not extremely confident in sharing their stories. As each person shared, I thanked God for filling him or her with courage and wisdom. Let me encourage those that may feel like you have nothing to share about. Perhaps you think your testimony isn’t good enough. Everyone has something to share that will touch the heart of another. It was good to hear people talk about the change God has made in their lives, but even more amazing to see them live it out daily in ministry. I am still learning Spanish and have by no means mastered it. The work team can attest to the fact that I am not yet the greatest translator. To be honest there are days where I simply use all the words that are in my current vocabulary and then I get stuck. This is when I remember the words of Francis of Assisi. He said, “Preach the gospel and if necessary use words”. Sometimes all it takes is a smile, a hug, picking up a crayon to color with someone, making a balloon animal that the child will likely pop 5 minutes later, making another balloon animal to replace the first, shoveling some sand, pushing a wheelbarrow, carrying some brick, mixing some cement, eating the food prepared for you even if it is the thirteenth time you’ve had chicken in the past ten days, dancing at VBS to a song you don’t know the words too, or making a fool of yourself on the soccer field. Through these simple things and more, we can show Christ’s love. Through these simple things the GracePointe church DID show Christ’s love to the people of Santa Cruz, Bolivia including us missionaries who call Santa Cruz home.

Thank You (English)
Gracias (Spanish)
Y’all did a jam up job (Georgian)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Winter in July...among other things

Wow how fast a month flies by. A lot has been happening here in Santa Cruz.

A Funeral: A couple from one our churches lost their 11 year old son due to medical complications. More of the story can be found HERE on Gordon Elliott’s blog.
It was the first Bolivian funeral service for both Molly and me. It was an all day commitment. We arrived at the church around 9am and didn't leave the cemetery until about 2pm. It was such an unnecessary loss, but it seems a common thing when people just don't have the money to get the help they need.

A Wedding:  Molly and I embarked on a daunting task of crafting as we agreed to supply over 20 bows for the wedding of Molly’s friend Veronica. I have a new found respect for the establishment of Hobby Lobby. There isn’t really a one-stop shop for all your crafting needs here in Santa Cruz. It took a few more steps and searching in different markets, but we found tulle (that we later cut to the proper width and length ourselves) and ribbon that, amazingly enough, was a good match for the wedding colors. Granted Molly did a majority of the work with actually assembling them and doing the needed “fluffing”. In the end they really made the church look fantastic. 
Wolheter boys
all dressed up for the wedding

Us dressed up for the wedding
The wedding and the reception were both beautiful, but a bit chilly.  

A Change of Seasons: Yes that is right. I said, “a bit chilly”. It is currently winter down here in the southern hemisphere. Now winter in Santa Cruz is of course greatly different from winter in my home state of Iowa. We don’t have snow or sub zero temperatures here, but we also don’t have insulation in our houses or central heat. I kind of laughed at the other missionaries when they said it was going to get cold, but when you have had a couple weeks in the mid to upper 40s, with lots of rain, and with a house made out of brick, concrete and tile, it tends to chill you to the bones. Thankfully the cold didn’t stay too long and it looks to be warming up for a long time. We’re looking for the other extreme here pretty soon. Could be upper 90s with 110% humidity. Now THAT feels more like an Iowa summer.

A Week with Adolescents: Each year World Gospel Mission extends an invite to Evangelical Church Mission in Bolivia to attend their annual retreat. This was Molly’s and my first time participating in this retreat. We went just a little bit out of the city of Santa Cruz to a nice retreat center called Los Cedros. Molly and I were asked to lead the youth program and we enthusiastically accepted. We led the youth in a four-session study entitled “Stressed Out”. It talked about four ways that we experience stress and paralleled with experiences from the life of Abraham in Genesis.
1. Stressed Out by High Expectations
2. Stressed Out by Situations Out of Our Control
3. Stressed Out by Instant Gratification
4. Stressed Out by Loss

The youth responded well to the study and we had great discussion each day. The study was beneficial for us too. As we prepared the lessons we were challenged in our own lives to trust God with everything we stress about. It was a great week and I think everyone felt really refreshed. 

4th of July
campfire for roasting marshmallows

James Wolheter wowed us
with a great fireworks display 

Celebrating America's Independence
While in Bolivia

Jenny Zimmerman and Nathan Brown play a
 "minute to win it" game
 while Mark Elliott watches on the sidelines.

Eva Brown and Haziel Martinez playing

Bryan looks on while youth build
marshmallow and spaghetti towers
for a lesson illustration

A Group of Smiling Georgians: Tomorrow we have a work and witness team arriving from Fort Valley, GA. There are 15 on the team and they will be here for 10 days to do a building project on our district lot as well as help at an afternoon Vacation Bible School at one of our local churches near the district lot. We would appreciate your prayers for safe travel, safe working, and for God to be present in every part.

That pretty much gets you caught up with what is going on with us down here. Aside from special events like weddings and retreats, our weeks are filled with Spanish classes, homework, church services, and just trying to immerse ourselves in the culture. Thank you again for being part of our ministry circle. We couldn’t do anything without your prayers and encouragement. We’ll post some more updates after our time with the work team.

Bryan & Molly Canny

Saturday, June 4, 2011


This week I learned more about tortoises than I had anticipated. For instance, the plural of tortoise really is tortoises and not torti like I originally thought. There are some different answers floating around the web as to what the proper name is for a group of tortoises. A group of turtles is called a "bale" and some say this goes for tortoises as well. Other answers were a "herd" or "fleet". My personal favorite was, "a creep" or tortoises, named such for their slow movement. Listed below are some other interesting facts about these reptiles. 
The key differences between Tortoises and Turtles
Yellow Spotted South American Tortoise
You may be wondering, "Why the sudden fascination with tortoises?", and I will tell you. This past week, Molly and I took a few days away from the city for our one year anniversary. It was a good time to get away and reflect on all of God's blessings over the past year. The place we stayed at had lots of interesting exhibits like a mariposario (butterfly sanctuary), aviario (bird sanctuary), and a tortoise sanctuary (sorry no fancy name). One day as we were walking past the tortoise exhibit we looked over to see four stubby and scaly legs flailing about. One of the tortoises (We'll call him FLIP) had somehow gotten flipped upside down. 
As he struggled to rock his shell back and forth and get himself righted, there were others creeping along about the habitat. It seemed like no one noticed their fellow reptile in distress. Those that were close and could help just minded their own business. The whole scene reminded me of the story of "The Good Samaritan". 

Luke 10:32-34

The Message (MSG)
 30-32Jesus answered by telling a story. "There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
 33-35"A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I'll pay you on my way back.''

So you're probably wondering, "What ever happened to the tortoise?" After several minutes of struggling, rocking back and forth, and flailing around his legs, he somehow got up enough momentum to flip himself over. He laid there for a while not moving. We imagined he was just catching his breath. Then a larger and seemingly older tortoise came over to him. I promise you it looked like they were having a conversation. In my mind it went something like this...

FLIP: Whew. I thought I would never get back up right. 
OLD TORT: I was on my way over to help ya, but you know I'm not as fast as I used to be. 
FLIP: That's fine Old Tort, but what about these guys who were standing around me the whole time just munching grass? Talk to them man. All I needed was a little nudge. I wasn't asking for much. 

 After a minute, Flip just turned around and walked away from all those who had stood around him and had offered him no help. He headed for the far side of the habitat as if he was trying to really send them a message of his discontentment. 

A few weeks ago my good friend, Dylan Does, preached a message from the passage in Luke. It really made me stop and think. Take a listen. I hope it challenges you too. 

Here is the link to the sermon audio : "GRACE VALUES"

Bryan & Molly

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


We are fortunate enough to have several fruit trees in our yard. The unfortunate part is that Molly isn’t a big fan of citrus or tropical fruits. I love fruits of all kinds but, being from Iowa, I know absolutely nothing about the growing process of the fruits in our yard. All I know about these fruits, I have learned by observation. I found out that a papaya starts out as a bud, turns into a flower, then from the middle of the flower sprouts a small green fruit that grows and grows and one day fully ripens and turns orange. This is a fascinating process to behold, but it takes a long time and papaya flavor is kind of hit or miss. It is either incredibly refreshing or it tastes like feet.

Along with papaya, we also have bananas, a mango tree, and up until this past week I thought we had two orange trees. One morning, this past week, I went outside and looked under our two orange trees. I saw that under each tree were a few green spheres. I went over to gather the fruit and bring it inside to clean. You might be asking, “Did he say green spheres”? Yes I did. One learns quickly here that you can’t judge an orange by the color of its rind. 
After I cleaned the fruit I started to peel an orange from the first tree. Inside it was some of the sweetest and juiciest orange colored citrus I have ever eaten. I was so excited that I decided to peel an orange from the second tree. As I picked at the rind I realized a few things. The fruit inside was far more yellow colored and the sweet aroma that I smelled from the first fruit was not wafting from this citrus. I thought to myself, “Perhaps I was mistaken. Is this a lime tree?” but had to taste the fruit to be sure. As my teeth bit down, the juice trickled down to the back of my tongue and there it settled on the taste buds that trigger the bitter sensation similar to what you might feel if you accidentally inhale bug spray. Then I knew that we most certainly do not have two orange trees. I asked different people what they thought the fruit might be and the most common answer was, “That is one of those good for nothing fruit trees. It doesn’t even make good juice.”

How could this be? The bases of the two trees are only about four feet apart. The trees stand almost the same height. The fruit on the branches looks quite similar with just a small size difference, but what lies beneath the outer layer is completely different from one tree to the next. Then I thought to myself, “I have heard this story before”.

  Matthew Chapter 7
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Like I said before, the trees in our yard look the same. It isn’t the appearance of the tree that matters, but the fruit it bears. So what kind of tree are you? Do you bear fruit that is sweet to savor or a bitterness that God wants to spit right back out? Take some time to ponder.


Monday, May 9, 2011


As usual I’m a little bit behind with keeping our blog up to date. There has been so much going on in our lives since getting to Bolivia. The first few days here we “hit the ground running” as our field director, Gordon Elliott, promised we would. Gordon was a great help to us in running us all over the city to different offices for everything from blood tests to finger printing and all the seemingly endless paperwork involved with moving to another country. We had to get everything in process right away and Gordon wanted to help us while he could because he took a visit to the states just a few days after Easter to attend his son’s college graduation and will return May 19 or 20th. You can read all of Gordon’s updates at his blog “Ch’airo for the Soul”. The link is in our “Blogs to Check Out” section in the right hand margin.

Aside from paperwork and unpacking/settling into our house, we also joined our fellow missionaries in La Paz for the Bolivian Easter Junta (celebration). You can read accounts on both Gordon’s page and The Guerrero Clan blog (also linked in the right hand margin). One main highlight for Molly this year was that she did NOT get food poisoning. It was a few years ago when she made the trip up to La Paz and unknowingly ate some tainted rice for lunch one day. Luckily this year we had only good food, but both had some trouble adjusting to the altitude change and found that neither one of us slept super great while there. We are back in Santa Cruz now and sleeping much better. Just to give you the perspective, La Paz is roughly about 13,000 ft. while Santa Cruz is only about 1,300 ft. above sea level.

My highlight of the trip came on Easter Sunday morning before any of the services actually started. The Bolivians have an amazing tradition of marching the streets in celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Some even start marching as early as 5 am and march for 4 hours. Some of the missionaries wanted to be involved in at least part of the march and so I joined in. We didn’t march at 5 am, but just got in on about the last ¼ mile. I have to confess that my attitude was totally not in the right place when we started the march, but about two blocks into it God got a hold of my heart. There was a band marching behind us playing “Where He leads me I will follow” and I just started to think of those words. I had been acting like it was some huge sacrifice to get up a little early and walk just a short distance. Then I thought about Christ marching up the hill to His own death and the huge sacrifice that He made for all mankind. I started to get a knot in my throat and by the time we reached the tabernacle I had tears streaming down my face because I was so overtaken with the joy of my salvation. 

Molly & Bryan at Lake Titicaca

Disney Family Fun magazine gave us a
great tip for dying eggs with grated crayons.
The eggs have to be hot so be careful.
The results were pretty cool.
And a good alternative to dyes
because you can mainly get only
brown eggs in Bolivia.

just a portion of the crowd that was gathered on
Easter Sunday morning

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