RestoBolivia: Dependencia

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I am pretty sure I have a problem with the idea of dependence, especially when it slams into those areas where I think I should be competent.  Let’s be frank.  I have some serious pride issues.  Wouldn’t you know that our trip to Bolivia would put me smack dab in a place of God’s grace so that he might continue his good work of refining — just a bit more — this stubborn child of his?

As one who loves and works with kids (and one who barely gets outside of Arlington County), I knew a trip to Cochobamba to play with the kids of Ninos con Valor and to encourage the children’s ministry leaders of La Trinidad Anglican Church would be just my thing.  I knew that my few years of French wouldn’t exactly sub in for having taken no Spanish, but these were KIDS we were talking about!  I speak kid!  And teachers?  I’ve loved teachers forever and being with them and sharing ideas is what gets me really excited.  This was going to be a piece of cake!

Except that it wasn’t.  Always.

Prior to our trip, I began to get those butterflies, a sure sign to me that all is not well in my spirit.  I began to loosen my grip and reach out to friends to ask them to pray.  My anxiety decreased.  As we waited to board our flight at Dulles, I asked Eva-Elizabeth to create this for me, a reminder that I am God’s child and he most certainly speaks my language:

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Throughout our trip, I found myself being less and less “sufficient” and more and more in need.  I needed help knowing where to go in airports.  I needed help translating handouts for the teacher training.  I needed help understanding what others were trying to tell me.  I needed help telling others how much I appreciated them.  I needed help with the Colombian “TSA” as they pulled me aside for a pre-board check of my person and my bags.

I needed.

And with every need, God provided.*

There are – I have learned – tremendous gifts in being dependent.  Doing so forces me to deny self, to give up control, to acknowledge my own weaknesses; and to learn to receive.  Even more, dependence allows me to see others’ strengths and to nestle in and see God at work through them.

As I hustle back in to my daily life in Arlington, may I continue to rest in his grace and proclaim ¡Señor! ¡Oh, cómo te necesito!

-Louise Brooks-

*Thanks, Equipo Bolivia for loving me well!

RestoBolivia: Partners in Christ

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There’s something unsettling about reading a persuasive article on reasons to cancel one’s short-term mission trip while in the middle of such a trip.  Pitfalls associated with short-term missions were clearly spelled out in the article, including imposing one’s vision and ideas on a community or church without their input or participation.  Should Restoration’s mission trip to Cochabamba, Bolivia, in which we ran a Vacation Bible School at La Trinidad Anglican Church, have been cancelled? 

Photo Jul 03, 3 52 32 PMAs I reflect on this question, I return to a core belief of Restoration that we are all broken people in some way or form.  I believe that in recognizing this truth (or having it thrust upon us!), we had the opportunity to experience our time in Bolivia with humility and open hands.  Although our approach to VBS at La Trinidad was in no way without flaw in terms of classic shortcomings of mission trips, I do celebrate and give thanks for how God orchestrated a solid partnership among La Trinidad, our Restoration team, and the residential group homes of Ninos con Valor (NCV).  More than mere platitudes, I can say without these three groups working together, VBS would not have been possible.  We came as an imperfect team, with two members unable to join us, many not knowing Spanish, others suffering from altitude sickness, and limited time to understand the space and needs of the kids who would be attending.  La Trinidad graciously welcomed more than 40 children into their sanctuary and grounds and provided staff and delicious refrescos for the kids.  NCV sent eight teenage girls from their home for girls to serve as assistants, and they cared for and supported the children in ways we couldn’t have.  We were also hungry recipients of all the chatter, giggles, small presents, and attention we could soak up from the kids.

 As we and our partners spent the Olympic-themed week learning about God our coach, running the race of life as a Christian, and sharing “the gold” with others, we trust that God did a good work in the lives of the children we came to love.  We also believe that our neediness, despite the relative abundance of our Western resources, allowed us to authentically enter into a gospel partnership with our dear hermanos y hermanas in Christ.  We’re thankful for the family of God that knows no boundaries.

~Susie Wallin

RestoBolivia: Breaking yokes

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On the morning of the first full day spent in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the Bible verse Isaiah 58:6 stood out to me during a time of devotions on the way to our first day of Vacation Bible School on our team’s “trufi” bus. It states:

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

This verse along with a short time reflecting with Rev Liz Gray led to a time of contemplation regarding what I would be giving up, or fasting from, while spending the upcoming week in Bolivia as well as what “yokes” may need to be broken in my own life as well as in those that we would interact with in Bolivia.

In my typical life at home, I have quite a bit of control over my daily schedule and how I spend my time. Often times this leads to patterns and habits, both good and bad. For the time in Bolivia, these would be abandoned. During this trip I would give up time with my wife, television, and constant access to internet to name a few biggies. In order to make efficient use of our short time in Bolivia, we needed to stick to a daily schedule that included time for Vacation Bible School at the church, activities with children from Niños Con Valor, a workshop with members of La Trinidad Anglican Church, meals as a group with hosts, devotional time as a team, and rest at night to rejuvenate us. Every night, Tyson Malo, the coordinator in Bolivia of our trip  and director of Niños Con Valor, would send our schedule for the next day to the group we created on WhatsApp, a group messaging  application for smart phones. Each schedule was full with activities that ultimately strengthened my relationship with the people at La Trinidad Anglican Church, Niños Con Valor, and as a group. I left feeling connected and for that I am grateful.

logo_ncv_Divi3During multiple conversations with Tyson, he mentioned difficulties that the children at Niños Con Valor were having in their lives. He indicated that especially the pre-teens and teenagers are more likely to listen and receive the words coming from a team like ours than from him and the tias who are in their lives on a regular basis. Could this be a way that God would use us to break “yokes”? The fact is, these pre-teens and teens displayed so many strengths during our time together it was nearly impossible to believe they were actually struggling. Speaking words of encouragement to these youth was easy. I was reminded that despite their apparent challenges, each of these individuals has God given gifts and talents to contribute to the world. It was a privilege and honor to be welcomed and accepted by them. My hope is that as the children at Niños Con Valor come to know and understand themselves that they recognize these gifts and talents which will ultimately offer resiliency in overcoming the challenges they have and will face. I trust God is at work.

Walking alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ at La Trinidad Anglican Church was a blessing. A relatively small church with a large population of children due to the attendance of the children from Niños Con Valor, it is apparent that those who attend are very committed to being disciples of Christ and serving the children in the church well. We were lucky to attend their worship service twice as well as have an afternoon to pray with and encourage those that work with the children in the church. It was especially neat having the opportunity to learn some worship songs in Spanish during my interactions with the worship team. Spending time together and encouraging each other reinforced the importance and power of prayer and communication in caring for ourselves and others in the church.

~Andrew Intagliata

RestoBolivia: Team Love

unnamedEquipo Bolivia – our team to Cochabamba – is home! And over the next few weeks we will be giving you glimpses into our time in Bolivia. I do hope you will enjoy them! Why not take a team member out for coffee and ask them about their experiences? And look out for RestoBolivia – a night of stories and images … coming in the early Fall! And so first off – here’s some thoughts from Gloria Kim.

When I consider my time in Bolivia, I am grateful for the teammates God orchestrated into my life.  Each of them brought a strength to fill the weak spaces and a unique beauty to our interactions with the workers and children of La Trinidad and Niños con Valor.  Coming together from a variety of backgrounds and interests in public service, spanning the age spectrum, being introverts and extroverts, Spanish speakers or solamente inglés, starting as friends or strangers, we gelled together in Christ’s love in order to serve outward.

c7ab5cd2-4877-4901-865b-62d8464e0ac3During our 11 days away from home base, I witnessed my teammates’ courage and care in connecting with Bolivian children who were once neglected, abandoned, and/or abused.  They earned the children’s trust, affection, and the familiar labels tío y tía simply through a myriad of moments of quality time in structured activities and free play.  My team’s efforts were the gifts of childhood for these young Bolivian hearts, the same kind experienced by little campers in the States.  I also witnessed a wonderful exchange of ideas about best practices in teaching children the Word during a workshop to refresh the Bolivian Sunday school leads.  I believe that God recalls all of this love by name.  And, I do too.

The babies of our team—Carson, Grace, and Craig—reminded me of what freedom looks like.  Freedom is impeccable manners and fun play all at the same time.  Carson’s constant words of “thank you, thank you so much” in response to kindnesses was heartwarming, while his easy way of taking and giving cues in imaginative play with the boys of Pedacito de Cielo reflected the type of innocence worth carrying into old age.  Freedom is dancing and laughing.  Craig taught hip dance steps to the girls of Corazón del Pastor as they clamored “Tío Craig, Tío Craig” in a special, earnest way.  Grace danced sweetly to the worship music, while engaging with the children at La Trinidad in the mornings with her open smile, enough to substitute for every good Spanish word in the dictionary.  Plus, Grace’s giggles, finding pure humor in language within our team, were energy boosters.  Freedom is connecting to others.

The seasoned women of our team—Liz, Louise, Susie, and Marla—showed me a window into a desired future as a woman of God.  Liz’ amazing ability to save the day, here and there, wherever she is needed, even before we realize that she is required, helped us not miss a step in our plans.  Louise’s tenderhearted way of sharing her experiences in children’s ministry with thoughtful, Scripture-grounded answers to her Bolivian counterparts’ questions was moving.  Susie’s mini Bible lessons in Spanish guiding into the VBS crafts captured the attention of the children.  And, the energetic Marla fully engaged with everyone at all times, whether helping a child up onto a beam in the playground or regaling the team with stories from her wonderful life.  No wonder Carson wanted to sit by her many times!

The joyful couple of our team—Endel and Kate—are bright spirits, very shiny with big kid hearts.  Their prior investments into Bolivia brought forth the fruits of these days in July.  And, they with Andrew were our in-team translators, sometimes having to navigate multiple conversations at the same time.  Truly taking one, or more accurately many, for the team.

My talented peers—Andrew, Lauren, and Eva-Elizabeth.  Andrew shared his guitar playing talents in harmony with the praise team at La Trinidad and led the children through many a “celebrad a Cristo, celebrad” followed by a clap-clap-clap, clap, clap-clap-clap-clap.  Lauren ran a smooth VBS with great leadership that brought forth a rainbow in the sky on the last day.  Last but not least, Eva-Elizabeth, with Andrew, cared for the littlest littles among the children, the most challenging bunch with many needs, for four whole mornings.

Through each of my teammates being exactly who they were created to be by God, in Christ, with the Holy Spirit, the workers of La Trinidad were refreshed, and the children of Niños con Valor felt their value.  And, I too felt their love.  How Lauren provided mini-debriefs each evening as my roommate on the trip.  How Kate and Marla’s positive energies radiated into me by osmosis next to them.  How Liz, Louise, and Susie validated my way of participating and who I am at various activities.  How Carson enthusiastically and profusely appreciated a leftover coloring page I gave him from an afternoon activity.  How Grace’s humor made its way into my brain and stayed, such that I found myself laughing with her quite often.  How I saw that the joy of Grace was also the joy of Louise, like mother like daughter.  How Eva-Elizabeth let me assign her to the artistic task of face painting for the children and endured even when the children began coloring all over her lovely face in their childish scrawls.  How Andrew gave encouraging words warmly.  How Endel walked all the way back to one of our planes to try to retrieve my little cross body purse that held my passport, so that I can come home.  How Craig told me that it’s alright when I triggered the alarm to a door I walked too near while in line at customs.

On July 11th, coming from Bolivia to the States, the singular thought about my team and what we gave and received was this: God knew and knows what He is doing!  And, God does love.

~Gloria Jin Kim

#Cambo … a reflection

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Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Landing in Cambodia, it was the heat that struck me first.  I had read about the sub-tropical climate we’d experience, but reading about the heat and actually feeling its suffocating effects are two entirely different things.  That’s just common sense, you say.  But I was the little girl who confidently told her mother she knew how to ride a horse because she’d read a book about it.  Later, my cousin’s horse would be spooked by a rabbit leaping across its path, and I’d land tangled in a mess of barbed wire that would scar me for years.  But somehow I continued to believe that reading about something, and knowing about that something, were interchangeable.

True to form, I read many books about Cambodia before traveling there with our Restoration team last summer.  I read about the country’s history as a French colony, about its role in the Southeast Asian geopolitical landscape, and about Saloth Sar the privileged Cambodian who became Pol Pot the murderous dictator.  Under his rein, and through the hands of his Khmer Rouge soldiers, Cambodia in the latter half of the 1970s became a country-wide concentration camp and terror ruled the land.  Soldiers slaughtered babies while their mothers watched, helpless.  Fathers disappeared in the night, never to return.  Families that weren’t torn apart in the chaos of sending townspeople to the countryside soon were separated when children were dispersed to age- and gender-specific work brigades.  Long days of forced labor, compounded by a dearth of food, led to widespread starvation.  And a disdain for education and trained medical personnel made even the most treatable illness a potentially fatal one.  In all, 3 million of the 7 million Cambodians alive in 1975 had perished by 1979.

But reading about these events didn’t prepare me for the reality of seeing those events etched in the faces of survivors and their families — the teenager whose mother was a child in the 1970s, the octogenarian who’d been incarcerated in the Tuol Sleng prison and survived (no easy feat, as 14,000 entered but fewer than ten exited alive).  I was 5 when the horrors began in Cambodia, and 45 when I visited Phnom Penh.  Despite the passage of 40 years, the scars of that traumatic season in Cambodia’s history are still quite apparent — and in some ways, troublingly fresh.  Individuals who lived through the Pol Pot nightmare continue to suffer greatly.  In one study published in 2005, the authors reported on roughly 600 Cambodians who’d lived through Pol Pot’s regime and then fled to California.  Twenty years after resettlement, the statistics are still startling:  62% suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 52% suffered from depression.  Numerous studies of Cambodians — both in Cambodia and in resettlement populations globally — report similarly high rates of mental dysfunction and suffering. 

Sadly, studies also show that the psychological impact of Pol Pot’s regime isn’t limited to those who lived through the late 1970s.  A growing body of literature based on studies of the Cambodian genocide and the Holocaust concludes that the psychological effects of war trauma can affect parenting styles and perpetuate dysfunctional behaviors in subsequent generations.  Survivors, who were deprived of “normal” family life and subjected to unspeakable horrors, remain haunted by those events and later struggle to build healthy families.  Genocide and political conflict have profound consequences not only for individuals, but for entire societies.   

Just as reading about the Cambodian genocide couldn’t adequately prepare me for its concrete realities, neither did my visit to Auschwitz as a teenager prepare me for walking the paths of the Killing Fields as an adult.  Toward the end of our stay in Cambodia, our team visited the site where thousands of Cambodians detained in Tuol Sleng were brought for slaughter.  Although the mass graves were excavated long ago, the earth still tells the stories of those who died there, as fragments of clothing and bone continue to work their way to the surface.  I was stopped in my tracks by a pair of children’s shorts exhibited in a glass box along the path.  And a sign describing the so-called “Killing Tree,” against which babies’ heads were bashed by soldiers, left me awash with grief.  But what lingered in my consciousness long after that afternoon was the narrated admonition of a Cambodian genocide survivor telling other survivors that they must pull themselves up by their bootstraps and heal themselves.

As a survivor of childhood abuse, I know full well the effects of PTSD, the darkness of depression, and the struggle for normalcy.  Like the survivor who narrates this admonition as visitors rest alongside a lagoon near the Killing Fields, I spent decades fighting for sanity and health on my own.  And for decades, I failed. Thankfully, my story has a happy ending — through two intense years of Christian counseling and healing prayer, Jesus met me in amazing ways and made me whole.  But Cambodia is a country where only 3% of the population knows Jesus.  This stark reality makes more precious the willingness of Sarah and Jesse Blaine to move halfway around the world and plant a church in Cambodia, and the willingness of Restoration to support their efforts.  It also underscores clearly the need for continued outreach, because only Jesus can deliver the true healing that Cambodia so clearly needs.  How can you help make Jesus a reality for Cambodia today?

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28.

For those interested in reading about the lingering impact of Pol Pot’s regime, check out “Cambodia’s Hidden Scars:  Trauma Psychology in the Wake of the Khmer Rouge” (Talbott, Van Schaak, Reicherter, Chhang, eds. 2011).

~ Christine Wilson

Bolivia!

Click here to learn a little more and apply.

Meet the RILA Team!

 

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What a team! Sadly Michelle was missing when we took this…

We all know that our church is full of some amazing people offering their time, treasure and talent many times over.

But do you know who is behind the launch of our very own Restoration Immigration Legal Aid Clinic (RILA)?

Check these folks out – and come on Tuesday February 16th at 7:30pm to learn more.

Jason Braun is the volunteer attorney who will provide legal oversight for our clinic. He has experience in family and immigration law. To prepare for this role with RILA he has been taking Continuing Legal Education classes in specific areas of immigration law and volunteering with various local legal aid clinics. He and his family have attended Restoration since 2011 and usually attend the 9am service.

Natalie Foote is a licensed clinical social worker who has completed an Overview of Immigration Law course through CLINIC (one of our partners!) She has training in asylum law as well. She also volunteers at local legal aid clinics. Natalie and her family have attended Restoration since January 2015 and usually attend the 5pm service.

Michelle Swearingen has a Master’s degree in Public Policy with a certificate in Refugee and Humanitarian Emergencies, which included coursework on Refugee Law and Policy.  She is currently taking the Overview of Immigration Law course through CLINIC. Michelle and her family have attended Restoration since 2014 and usually attend the 9am service.

Aiding these three masterminds are Liz Gray (Associate Rector for Prayer and Outreach), Erin Owen (Interpreter), Susie Wallin (Committee Chair) and Christine Jones (Vestry Liaison).

Now that you know the team, come and join us in the Fellowship Hall and learn about the clinic at the Legal Aid Introduction Night Tuesday February 16th at 7:30pm. We look forward to meeting YOU!

Why Immigration Legal Aid?

So, maybe you have heard that Restoration is starting a Legal Aid Ministry this Spring.  Why legal aid when there are so many other issues out there?

We are choosing to serve in this way because God invites us, throughout Scripture, to love, show compassion and mercy, and to do justice. Why are there dozens of Scriptures in which God tells us to love and care for those who are far from their homes? We believe that the unique experience of the immigrant and the migrant moves God and He hears, sees and responds. God is inviting us to do the same – to hear, see and respond.

Addressing the legal and practical needs of immigrants is one way we can join God in these things. Our human experience is necessarily connected to that of immigrants. We are all longing for a home and have been ourselves welcomed by God into His house, the Kingdom of Heaven. We are choosing to join God in caring for those who are far from home, welcoming them into this country and inviting them into the Kingdom of Heaven.

There is also a present and real need for honest, inexpensive legal services in our area.  We are the Church, reflecting to the world who God is and what God is like.

And when we pour ourselves out for others, sourced by the living water that is poured into us, we bring the light and reality of God’s Kingdom into our own hearts and into the world.

And if you want to hear why other churches are serving the immigrant, check out this presentation at Willow Creek Community Church where Bill Hybels interviews author Matt Soerens on the issue of immigration from a biblical perspective.  Bill’s introduction (the first 10 minutes) is very helpful if you don’t have time for the entire 60 minutes presentation.

~Christine Jones on behalf of the RILA Team (Christine Jones, Natalie Foote, Jason Braun, Liz Gray, Erin Owen, Susie Wallin, Michelle Swearingen and more!)

And RILA has an email: ila@restorationarlington.org  feel free to get in touch!

RILA? Soooo – what exactly is that?

 

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Question: What is RILA??

Answer: Restoration Immigration Legal Aid, a ministry being launched by Restoration in March 2016.

RILA’s mission is to holistically support the immigrant community in our neighborhood through providing low-cost immigration legal assistance, advocacy, and community building events.

RILA’s objectives include:

  • Creating a hospitable, comfortable and safe environment.
  • Providing immigration legal services, including consultation and initial assessment, and legal representation in areas of immigration law in which we choose to focus.
  • Providing appropriate referrals for legal services that exceed the scope of the services we offer.

For over six months, a dedicated team has been working to make an immigration legal aid clinic at Restoration a reality. And the clinic’s doors open in March! On February 16th we will share in detail the vision, plans, and ways you can get involved. You’ll meet the team, learn about our community partners and learn about why Restoration has chosen to launch this ministry.

If you have any questions, Nat Foote or Jason Braun can answer them.   But we encourage you to come to the Fellowship Hall, 7.30pm on February 16th.

~Christine Jones on behalf of the RILA Team (Christine Jones, Natalie Foote, Jason Braun, Liz Gray, Erin Owen, Susie Wallin, Michelle Swearingen and more!)

 

Heading to Bolivia this summer…wanna join?

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Have you ever been to Bolivia? Scratch that. Have you ever heard of Bolivia?! Well, it’s a special place, and this summer, if you’re up for an adventure, you can experience it firsthand. But first, some context…

Why Bolivia? Did you know that more Bolivians live in the Metro DC area than anywhere else in the world outside of Bolivia? Wild, huh? So over the last few years, a group of Restoration-ites with a passion for Latin America has been exploring ways our church can minister to, build relationships with, and walk alongside Bolivians – both locally and in Bolivia. So far we have held three small groups to pray about ways we might serve, sent a small ‘exploratory’ mission team to Bolivia in 2014 to build relationships with the local Anglican church, La Trinidad, and the children’s ministry Niños con Valor (NCV), and most recently initiated the process of establishing an immigration legal aid center at Resto. Now, we’re excited to announce that this summer, Restoration will be making its first formal mission trip to Bolivia. And we want you to come!

Bolivia? 

Bolivia is a landlocked country in the heart of South America with an enormous range of cultural, ethnic, geographic, and environmental diversity. There are more than 36 distinct indigenous populations dotting the map (with just as many unique languages), and its borders stretch from the Amazon-basin lowlands of Santa Cruz in the east (bordering Brazil) up, up, up to the oxygen-deprived capital city of La Paz at 12,000 feet (the highest capital city in the world). IMG_6101

But alongside this cultural and environmental richness exists tremendous poverty — both materially and spiritually. It is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (behind Haiti). And though over 90% of Bolivians identify as Christians (mostly Catholic), only 30% are active; Christian faith is more a cultural and nominal tradition, and less a profound and life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Where and Why? IMG_5986

It is into this context that Restoration will embark on its first formal mission trip July 1-11, 2016 to this unique and beautiful country. We will travel to Cochabamba, a city located in the heart of the country at the foot of majestic peaks. The purpose of our trip will be to deepen relationships with two separate but interconnected ministries:

The first is La Trinidad, the local Anglican Church in Cochabamba, and part of the broader Anglican diocese of Bolivia. These partners in faith are doing bold things to share the gospel, proclaim Christ, and guide Bolivians toward a relationship with Jesus. We are excited to come alongside them and explore ways in which we can minister to one another.

IMG_6028The second is Niños con Valor (NCV), a children’s ministry that operates three unique homes for abandoned, orphaned, abused, or neglected children. These ‘least of these’ are just a few of the thousands of children in need in Bolivia, and NCV seeks to raise them in a Christ-centered, family-oriented setting.

Our time will be spent with both ministries, seeking to build relationships, train their leaders (particularly in children’s ministry and healing prayer), and refresh their workers. We are thrilled about what God is doing there, and about the ways he might be able to use us as part of His story.

We would love for you to consider being part of the team. If you’re interested, why not apply?  2016 Bolivia Team Application. And if you have any questions, please reach out to Endel Liias or Liz Gray.

Gracias y bendiciones!

The RestoBolivia team

Endel Liias
endel.liias@gmail.com
(339) 222 – 2158

Liz Gray
liz@restorationarlington.org
(202) 294 – 5131

 

© Copyright Restoration Anglican Church