Sunday, April 17, 2011

BACK FOR GOOD

This blog was started a little over a year ago as I (Bryan) sat on the couch in Gordon and Niki Elliott's living room in Santa Cruz, Bolivia and started to journal my experiences from my first trip out of the United States. We have certainly come full circle as I am writing this new post from the exact same cushion on the exact same couch in the exact same house in the exact same city. There is one key difference between then and now. I am no longer chronicling a tourist visit, but now posting updates as a career missionary with the plan to live here for a few years rather than just a few weeks. 


TOP 5 Initial Adjustments to living in Bolivia


1. HEAT. As Gordon told one of the Bolivian pastors when he commented on how much I was sweating, "Iowa es muy frio" (Iowa is very cold). I am also the only red head I have seen here so far. Red head = fair skin. PTL for sunscreen.


2. LANGUAGE. We will be starting Spanish studies with a tutor in just a few weeks after Easter and after we have settled into our new home. I am looking forward to hearing Dr. Bruce Moyer preach in Spanish in La Paz on Easter Sunday. 


3. CURRENCY. The current exchange rate is about 6.9 Bolivianos to the dollar. Bolivianos don't switch over to bills until 10 Bs. so you tend to end up carrying a lot more change. Sadly, I already misplaced my coin pouch and found myself jingle jangling down the street yesterday.


4. SPORTS. I anticipated the lack of American Football and surrendered to the fact that I would keep up with the Chicago Bears online (if there is an NFL to keep up with this season....) As we drove back home from church today we drove past a large stretch of soccer fields, one right after the other, where games were being played on each. I played soccer in a YMCA league back in about 7th grade, but we didn't exactly play by ALL the rules. I really have to figure out this game. 


5. CRITTERS. Molly spotted her first lizard in the apartment at the mission house, but sadly I could not find it later. I had my first, of probably many nights, trying to fall asleep while knowing something was still crawling around somewhere on a wall or floor or under the bed. 


This morning we attended Trinity International Church which is the English speaking church that many missionaries attend. We saw some familiar faces of teachers that Molly previously worked with at the Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center and that I met briefly last April. The repeated question was, "So are you back for good?" To which we answered, "Yes. For good." This has been the reality sinking into my brain since Friday morning at 5 AM when we arrived at the Santa Cruz airport and gathered our many expertly packed (thanks to a great father in law) army style duffel bags. Santa Cruz es nuestra casa. (Santa Cruz is our home)


Blessings
Bryan & Molly 





Monday, April 11, 2011

GEORGIA ON MY MIND...

Fun fact: This post is about our time down south in South Carolina and GEORGIA and this font is called GEORGIA. Hmm...I hope I don't cause a tear in the space time continuum. 


Molly at the coast in Charleston
We rejoice in the unique experiences we have had on this deputation. We have not only had the privilege to meet many great people across the Evangelical Denomination, but also to see a lot of interesting and fun places along the way. One of those fun places was Charleston, South Carolina. Molly and I were invited to the South Eastern Conference Pastors and wives retreat. Neither one of us had spent much time in the south and we had a great introduction to that part of our great country. We are seriously thinking about hiring Lynda Eckhardt as our own personal travel agent. 
We saw a lot of historical Charleston such as Fort Sumter (where the Civil War began), the historic Provost Dungeon where Pirates were once held captive, and we even were in some buildings that George Washington stayed in. It is amazing to see all the history of America, but it also reminded me just how young our country is. We are a baby of a nation. We're still having growing pains and learning how to walk most days. We gave Molly's dad, Kim, a book for his birthday that has pictures of "the Holy Land" and it shows all of these places where Jesus walked. Can you imagine the amazing feeling of history as well as spiritual significance that is in those places? There is a large gap between history that is 200 years old and 2000 years old. 
After leaving Charleston, we went to Georgia for a few days. We stayed in Macon where we saw some more historical places and even had a chance to go to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Our main purpose for being in Georgia was to be a part of the South Eastern Annual Conference meetings hosted at Fellowship Community Church in Lizella, GA. 

I don't know a lot about the South Eastern Conference history, but this year was definitely an exciting one. It was the 30th annual conference which is an accomplishment in its own right, but there were also some notable events. The conference doubled in size over this past year. It went from 2 churches to 4. There are now 3 churches in Georgia and one in Arkansas. We had the privilege of speaking in Fairfield Bay, Arkansas quite a few months ago (events are in a previous blog post). We also had the honor of sharing at GracePointe Church in Fort Valley, GA on a Sunday morning and then at Fellowship Community Church in Lizella, GA on a Sunday evening. We didn't speak at the other new church, which is in Roberta, GA , but we met the pastor and his wife and they threw a great barbeque for us after our Sunday evening service in Lizella. 


FELLOWSHIP COMMUNITY
It was such a joy to be able to spend the weekend at Pastors and wives retreat with Russ and Tami Bozeman. They are super great people and we love their accents. We also thoroughly appreciated their hospitality as their church hosted the Annual Conference for a couple of full days of meetings. They always made sure everyone felt welcomed, was well fed, and made comfortable while they were in their church. Russ has had his credentials with the Evangelical church for a little while, but it was so exciting to be a part of the Lizella church joining our denomination. We look for God to do many great things in this partnership in years to come. 


GRACEPOINTE
God really knew exactly what He was doing in the timing of our deputation. In our original schedule we had planned to return to the field in January and were kind of bummed when the support just wasn't raised at that time. God has since then shown us many reasons for keeping us in the states. One of those reasons was to end up at GracePointe in Fort Valley as our final Sunday morning service. This was important because GracePointe will be sending a work team down to Santa Cruz in July to work on the Tutoring Center Project. We had the unique privilege of meeting many of the team members during Sunday school time and had a great question and answer session. This is going to make the time in July that much better because we will already know some names and faces. We are so looking forward to all God has planned for this new and exciting ministry ahead of us. Along with meeting the team, our Sunday morning was so much more abundantly blessed. Pastor Clint Wood shared the story with us and the congregation of such an amazing gift. I still can't wrap my brain around the amount of sacrifice and surrender from this group. Clint shared that at a recent church board meeting they were discussing finances and ministries and the upcoming work team to Bolivia. As a church they had a large sum of funds set aside in order to plant a church some time down the line. During the board meeting as they discussed the work team the discussion quickly turned to an idea to build ministry in Bolivia first before building a new church in Georgia. Clint asked what part of the money they would want to give toward Bolivia and it was unanimously voted to give it all. "GIVE IT ALL!", Clint shouted, as he shared with the congregation. GracePointe church  just started a building project and are raising money toward a goal to one day build a new building. They are so blessed to have the need to have 2 services and are running over 200 total in those 2 services. They are simply outgrowing their existing building. Knowing that they are in the middle of their own building fundraiser makes this sacrifice even more incredible.


Here are some more pictures of our time down south. 


local potter feeding a peacock at a
plantation outside of Charleston

Inside Fort Sumter

Bryan inspecting the cannon

a "cannonball" embedded
in the wall of Fort Sumter

$4 Million Dollar Home on Coast in Charleston










Wednesday, April 6, 2011

FLYING SOLO

Goshen Evangelical Church


I was single for 25 years before I met and married my bride, Molly. That is a quarter of a century being defined by being alone. You would think that being or doing something for that long would make that existence somewhat comfortable. So why is it that when I was given a weekend alone, while Molly was at East Central Conference Women's Retreat, I had no idea what to do with myself? I felt utterly UNcomfortable. I played my guitar a little and caught up on a little reading, but at one point I found myself sitting and staring at a spot on the wall and realized I wasn't quite sure how long I had been staring. What had defined me for 25 years was no longer comfortable. I am now defined by what has been the norm for the past 10 months. One existing as one is not even close to as good as two existing as one. 


When Sunday morning of that weekend came, I knew I would be speaking alone at Goshen Evangelical Church. I had grown comfortable sharing together with Molly so I prayed that God would give me the right words and give the congregation the right amount of grace if I wasn't as articulate on my own. God really answered my prayer in ways that I didn't even expect. He made me feel comfortable through the simplest act. There was a man that greeted me at the front door of the church. His name was "Shorty". I don't know if that was his given name, but that is what everyone called him and it fit. He instantly made me feel comfortable and welcomed because he looked exactly like my dad. They could be twins. After meeting him, any nervousness just faded away. The words flowed in the service and afterward as I greeted people and shook hands. After service I had a great lunch with Pastor Mitch Hile and his wife Shawn. It was a blessed morning


I'm sure you are way ahead of me on this spiritual analogy. Think about all you are defined by. Are you comfortable to live spiritually "alone" or will you find a new comfort in living in relationship with Christ? Maybe you have had a relationship with Christ for years, but something feels a bit "off". Perhaps that discomfort is there because you have been trying to revert to your former comforts of when you were defined by being "alone"......take some time to ponder it while you get comfortable in your easy chair and stare at a spot on the wall. 




Blessings, 
Bryan E. Canny

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