November 2022

As I send out this email, Santa Cruz is in its 12th day of an indefinite strike over the Bolivian government’s refusal to carry out its decennial census which should have happened this year. The census is important, not only for Santa Cruz but for every region of Bolivia, because the distribution of the nation’s population determines which areas will receive greater governmental aid for education and health. It also is a determining factor for the allocation of seats in government. Santa Cruz’s population has boomed over the past ten years and it rightly wants to see those changes reflected in policy as soon as possible.

The short term consequences of the strike are the shuttering of all major businesses and blockades throughout the city that make vehicular circulation for anything larger than a motorcycle nearly impossible. This strategy by the people of Santa Cruz (which I support) is a peaceful way to use economic pressure to motivate the government to act justly and swiftly to carry out a census as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, violent pro-government forces have reacted dangerously and mercilessly by sabotaging and blockading roads needed to bring in food and gasoline to the city, and they have clashed with peaceful protestors. Food prices are rising and the cost of petrol is selling for four or five times the normal cost. Trash collection has stopped, leaving more than 8,000 tons of garbage at homes and in the streets.

Please keep the strike in your prayers, that it would be resolved quickly and peacefully in a way that will benefit as many Bolivians possible.

Before the strike, I had the pleasure of catching up with Nicol in person. She visited the children’s home Talita Cumi to celebrate Women’s Day with us. Nicol continues to spend time with her friends at school and she’s looking forward to her graduation on November 15. Upon graduation, we will help her transition into the next phase of her life: looking for a part time job and pursuing her higher education most likely taking art-related courses at an institute. 

Ruth, who will be joining Ruth’s House in January, will be celebrating her graduation soon as well. I’ll be sure to include photos in my next update.

Please be in prayer for the two of them as they wrap up their high school education and enter the university phase.

Despite the current challenges of the strike, Nicol at Ruth’s House and the children at Talita Cumi are well-fed and they are continuing their education via Zoom. In fact, last week, when the atmosphere was calmer, the boys and I walked a couple of miles from the home to take in the sights of the strike. It was strange walking peacefully through one of the busiest avenues in Santa Cruz that is typically packed with cars, trucks, and buses. The boys enjoyed the adventure.

My devotionals with Lider (17 years old) and Juan Pablo (15 years old) are still continuing. We’re working our way through the book of Philippians, studying themes related to Paul’s joy in Christ, what it means to live as citizens of heaven, and living humbly as explicated in the Kenosis passage.

Juan Pablo attends church with me and takes English classes there before the service. He recently graduated from the beginner’s English class and received a certificate, about which we were both quite pleased.

I also had the joy to take a few of the kids out to the movie theater to celebrate their good grades. We laughed our way through “Tad, the Lost Explorer and the Emerald Tablet.”

Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

October 2022

I am pleased to announce that we have received official confirmation that we will be receiving a new young woman into Ruth’s House. 

She shares the name of the ministry; her name is Ruth. Ruth is from another children’s home called Amparo (Refuge). She recently turned 18 years old, which means that she needs to move from her current children’s home to another safe place where she can continue on with the next stage of her life. 

Ruth is introverted and loves to study; she will be graduating with honors from high school this November and has been the best student in her class for three years in a row. She’s quite ambitious. She received an entrepreneurship grant from a local nonprofit to start her own baking business from home and she would like to pursue the medical field in her university studies. 

Ruth will be moving into Ruth’s House in January of next year. She already knows Raquel, the guardian of Ruth’s House, because Raquel serves at the children’s home were she currently resides. Beyond that, Ruth already knows Nicol and has spent time with her at church and other social activities. So, we are excited to receive her in the near future and we trust that the relationship building with Raquel and Nicol done prior to her arrival will help make for a smooth transition. Ruth (left) and Nicol (right) in the picture below:

We are pleased to see that Nicol is advancing in her studies, and we anticipate her high school graduation by late November or early December of this year.

Nicol was taking computer classes in the evening at an institute, but when we realized that they were not advantageous to her particular skill set, we counseled her to discontinue the course in favor of taking art classes next year. This plays to her strengths as an artist and, Lord willing, will open up more job opportunities in the future. Meanwhile, we are encouraging her to find a part time job. 

While Nicol was more content to spend time alone in the first few months of her transition to Ruth’s House, I’m glad to see that she’s doing more social activities and school-sponsored outings with her classmates. She really seems to enjoy them as she is expanding her horizon with more relationships and experiences. Nicol (far right) in the photo below:

Talita Cumi Children’s Home:

September, in many ways, was a month of routine and more routine at Talita Cumi: school, homework, meals, and playtime at the park. Two major events stand out: 1) we received two new girls at Talita Cumi; 2) our celebration of Students’ Day.

We received two sisters: Luz María (16 years old) and Liliana (12 years old). The girls seem to be taking their new surroundings in stride, although the transition to a new home always comes with difficulties and complications. Luz María is more reserved, though I’ve noticed her speaking with more frequency. Liliana is a child who hungers for love and a nuclear family atmosphere; she asks all of the aunts and uncles at the home if she can call them mom and dad. 

Liliana (left) and Luz María (right):

For Students’ Day we went to a park with two pools, a soccer field with artificial grass, a sand volleyball court, and a playground. The kids were able to let loose and enjoy a day off from school.

Please keep Ruth in your prayers as she transitions from her children’s home to Ruth’s House early next year and Nicol as she looks for a part time job. Please also keep Luz María and her sister Liliana in your prayers as they continue to adjust to a new living situation and grapple with the trauma of their prior circumstances.

September 2022

August was an emotionally charged month.

One of the older boys at the home escaped in the middle of the night, which left us profoundly concerned for his safety and quite confused considering that there were no warning signs. After a long search throughout the city of Santa Cruz, we finally located him at his mother’s house and he willingly returned to Talita Cumi. 

In the aftermath of his return, we discovered that a group of men from a human trafficking ring were trying to lure him across the Brazilian border with promises that they would cover the costs of his passage from Bolivia to Ukraine so that he could fulfill his dream of fighting in the war. Thank God we found him before they were able to get him across the border or we might never have seen him again.

Please keep this situation in your prayers. An escape creates a lot of emotional turmoil for the entire home. We’re thankful to the Lord that he is safely back with us, but an escape typically awakens false hope in other children that they too might be able to realize their dreams or solve their problems by running away. We certainly don’t want any child to put his or her life at risk in this way.

On a brighter note, we celebrated Yessica’s quinceañera, the most significant birthday for a girl in Latin culture. One of the highlights was hearing Yessica, in her own words, commit to serving the Lord as she grows into a young woman. 

Recently I had the pleasure of spending one-on-one time with Lider at a cafe. He is the oldest boy at Talita Cumi, turning 17 years old this month, which means he has about one more year to live at the home. We talked about his life, his studies, and his future aspirations.

Lider is a good kid with a good heart. In addition to his studies at high school, he’s attending an institute at night in order to become a certified electrician. One of his highest priorities upon leaving Talita Cumi is to help take care of his mother who is paralyzed.

This week the children finish their second trimester of school. A number of the children are up to date on their studies and homework, but several are not. This has meant long days and late nights as they scurry to catch up and finish the semester strong.

The past month has not been without some recreation and relaxation. The younger boys love going to the park to play soccer and race bikes. 

Thank you for your support and prayers. I’ll have more to say about Nicol at Ruth’s House in my next newsletter. She’s doing fine, advancing in her studies and continuing to work on her art in her spare time.

August 2022

Goal Accomplished!

It was a great delight seeing so many of you gather together at our Ruth’s House Banquet a couple of weeks ago at The Bridge Church. We had about 100 people in attendance. That evening I shared with you our goal of raising $20,380, and we raised $20,135. Beyond that, a number of you expressed interest in partnering with the ministry in prayer, with your special skills, and coming down to Bolivia on a short term mission trip. 

Your generosity means that we are in a sound financial position to receive three young women (Ruth, Helen and Ana) into the home next year. All additional funds raised this year will be saved and earmarked for future participants at the home and longer term goals like purchasing, rather than renting, a house for Ruth’s House. We will keep you up to date on these exciting developments.

I’d like to thank all of you who, by the grace of God, have provided such a strong foundation for this growing ministry. In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to those of you who expressed your willingness to join with the ministry in other ways. Thank you!

Upon my return, I was also able to catch up with Nicol, the first participant at Ruth’s House. Her transition from Talita Cumi to Ruth’s House has been quite the challenge for her, but in the past month and a half we’ve seen progress. Nicol passed all of her classes at school, she’s more communicative with her feelings, she’s been interacting more with people at church, and she has taken on a more active role in maintaining a clean home. Please continue to pray that she will mature more in her personal relationship with the Lord and grow in the area of taking full responsibility for her own school schedule.

Being back in Bolivia means that I’ve been able to get back into the swing of things with the children. Last week they wrapped up their final week of vacation. The children were kept busy with tons of fun activities like arts and crafts, soccer tournaments, painting the house, singing praise songs and doing devotionals in the mornings, riding bikes, and visiting nature parks. 

June 2022

In the month of May, Talita Cumi held a fair to sell arts and crafts and baked goods made by the kids. The money that they earn is saved in their personal accounts. The turnout was large and even a young orchestra showed up to provide music!
The Alpha course with the two oldest boys and the two oldest girls at Talita Cumi came to a close after 9 weekly sessions. The kids really enjoyed learning about the essentials of the faith such as: who is Jesus Christ, who is the Holy Spirit, the purpose of prayer, and the importance of evangelization. I believe that the course helped strengthen them in their knowledge of the faith.

My weekly devotions with the two oldest boys Lider and Juan Pablo (pictured above in the grey sweatshirt and green t-shirt) is still continuing. We’ve completed 21 chapters of Proverbs so far.

The kids finished their first trimester of school and recently endured a bunch of final exams and projects, so getting the boys out of the home and taking them to the park and pool for some recreation was more than welcome. May was a beautiful month as the toborochi trees were in full bloom.

Thank you for your prayers and support! Blessings.

May 2022

April was a meaningful month full of church activities and times of celebration too.

For Easter I took four of the boys from Talita Cumi to Trinity International Church. Trinity is a multi-cultural church with services in English. It has a Scottish pastor, missionaries from the United States, Canada and Great Britain, along with a majority of Bolivian attendees. The boys enjoyed stacking their plates for brunch and then listening to the service interpreted into Spanish.

One Sunday I had the privilege to share about Ruth’s House at Trinity along with the director of Talita Cumi who gave an update on the children’s home. The church supports four ministries in Santa Cruz, Talita Cumi being one of them.

On April 12 we celebrated Children’s Day. We spent the afternoon at a site with two pools, a soccer field, and plenty of space to play games. We ate lunch and served cake as well.

This past weekend, the Talita Cumi team had the pleasure of traveling for a retreat. We saw many beautiful sites along the way.

Nicol has been having difficulty learning how to balance her new liberties with new responsibilities, but we have seen progress over the past couple of weeks. We recently received a message from her Language professor reassuring us that Nicol is on the right track with her studies in his course.

Raquel will be spending more time helping Nicol to learn how to manage and express her emotions rather than shutting down. Please pray for wisdom and patience in this regard.

Beyond prayer for Nicol, please keep the children in your prayers as well. Their return to school has been a blessing in that they’ve been able to interact with their friends at school and participate in fun activities, but it has also opened the doors to bad influences from their peers as well. Please pray for the Talita Cumi team so that we can address these challenges wisely and with discernment.

Blessings.

April 2022

Last month was full of new, exciting activities and one big gift for the Talita Cumi children’s home.

To begin with, I’d like to thank all of you who took part in the minibus campaign for Talita Cumi. We needed to raise $39,900, and thanks to your prayers and donations, we exceeded that goal! The children love their new vehicle. Thank you!

We celebrated Talita Cumi’s 21st anniversary and Father’s Day on the same night. The children hosted the entire evening by emceeing, dancing, sharing words of encouragement and thanks, reading Scripture, and a couple of girls played a duet on their recorders. The children made cards for all of the men at the home for Father’s Day.

A local church is offering a nine-week program based on material developed by Alpha, an international ministry that utilizes a film series and group-based discussions to help new believers and potential believers to learn about Jesus and/or grow in their faith. It asks questions like “Who is Jesus?” “What is Faith?” and “How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?” 

I’ve been taking the four oldest children at the home (Lider, Juan Pablo, Ana and Helen) to these sessions and they love them! It’s a thrill to see them embrace these questions and the discussions with such enthusiasm. Each one of them is at a different stage in their faith, so please keep them in your prayers.

It is a tradition in Bolivia for children to bring their fathers breakfast on Father’s Day, and while I wasn’t expecting anything, Nicol kindly thought of me. She and Raquel, her guardian, swung by my house to bring me breakfast.

Please continue to keep Nicol in your prayers. She has been progressing nicely in some areas of her life, but also struggling in others. Praise God she is healthy, making new friends at school and at her institute for her computer class, and she is participating in a new youth group at her church. On the other hand, learning how to effectively manage her own schedule with all of its new liberties and responsibilities has been quite the challenge for her. Furthermore, while Nicol is passing her classes at school (seeking to obtain the Bolivian equivalent of a GED), we would like to see her grades improve. Please keep these things in your prayers.

Thank you again for your prayers and support.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

March 2022

February was one of the most thrilling months of ministry that I’ve had since arriving in Bolivia back in 2017. 

Three of the boys made the decision to be baptized and follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The boys were quite pensive about the occasion, realizing that baptism is not salvation itself, but that they were making a public declaration of their faith, and that the submersion in water was a representation of the eternal life and resurrection we have in Christ. Please keep them in your prayers, that they would continue to advance in their faith.

Lider, Jhon, Mateo

We also celebrated the quinceañera (15th birthday) of Geraldine. The 15th birthday in Latin culture is the most important one. We had a wonderful celebration presenting her with roses, reading Bible verses, singing, eating, and praying over her. I had the distinct privilege of accompanying her for her entrance. Later in the program I presented her with a watch signifying that this is a special time in her life where she’s leaving her childhood behind and entering into her young adult years. I encouraged her to make the most of every moment to glorify the Lord with respect to Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”

The night of the quinceañera, we also saw off Valeria and Nicol, two young women who have turned 18 years old and are commencing the next stage of their life outside of Talita Cumi. Valeria will be living with the family of the director of Talita Cumi and Nicol will be living in the transition home Ruth’s House with the guardian Raquel, a Spanish missionary.

This momentous moment marks the official inauguration of the Ruth’s House ministry, bringing to fruition a dream shared by many within Talita Cumi for many years. Please keep Nicol in your prayers as she continues with her studies and integrates into a new church community. Thank you for your prayers and offerings to care for Nicol and launch this project.

Nicol is already making friends at her new church.

Grace and joy be with you.

February 2022

January was a fun-filled month for the kids. We took full advantage of their school break to take countless trips to the park to play soccer, to play summer games with water balloons in the 90+ heat, and even take a trip to Güembé: a large park with a butterfly sanctuary, a lookout, pools, trails, and biocenters to learn about different animal species.

The children returned to school today (February 1) and the current plan is that they will be attending classes virtually four days per week and one day a week in person. While the children have enjoyed all of the vacation activities, they are excited to return to school in large part to see their classmates again. 

My role at Talita Cumi will be expanding to include new responsibilities. I will be playing a heavier part in helping the boys with their studies and homework. Furthermore, I will be tutoring Juan Pablo (15 years old) who has taken a keen interest in learning English. In a recent effort to care for the children on a much more individual level, each child has been assigned a worker as his or her own personal mentor. Juan Pablo has been assigned to me. So, not only will I support him in his studies, but I will take on a more individual effort to help him grow closer to the Lord and advance in all areas of his life.

Beyond that, I’ll resume my weekly devotions with Lider (16 years old) and Juan Pablo at my home. We’ll continue going through the book of Proverbs to learn what it means to be a man of God.

Lider, Juan Pablo, me

As for Ruth’s House, Nicol commenced her studies today (February 1) in her course to finish her last two years of high school in one year. She is also enrolled in an institute to continue her computer course that she started last year. Due to complications related to the pandemic, Nicol has not moved into the Ruth’s House apartment yet, but I expect that she will within a week or two. Yesterday I asked Nicol how she’s feeling with all of the changes and she said she was “excited.” I’d like to thank all of you for your prayers and financial support to launch this ministry. 

Helen (left), Nicol (middle), Clara (right)

Prayer requests:

~ Please keep the Talita Cumi team in your prayers as the kids resume their studies. It’s no easy task assisting 27 children in virtual classes simultaneously. 
~ Please pray for Nicol’s transition from Talita Cumi to Ruth’s House. This will be a challenge for her to get accustomed to an entirely new living situation and mode of studying.

Grace be with you,

Derek

January 2022

I hope that all of you had a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The children at Talita Cumi are in full vacation mode at the moment. All 27 of the children were able to spend Christmas with a family. My parents and I hosted six children at my house for three days and three nights. We shared meals together, took the children to the park to set off fire crackers (a Bolivian Christmas tradition), and also spent time in the 90+ degree heat at the pool.

Talita Cumi put on a big Christmas celebration. The children look forward to this evening all year long: they sing, dance, read Scripture, put on a Christmas play about Jesus’ birth, and of course there is a lot of food. They did an amazing job. That night I asked a few of the children what they like most about Christmas and all of them replied similarly: they enjoy getting together to celebrate the holiday as a big family.

In a couple of weeks Ruth’s House, the transition house for the girls aging out of Talita Cumi, will officially launch. Nicol will be the first girl to participate in the ministry and she will be moving out of Talita Cumi around January 15. This will be an immense transition for her since she has lived at Talita Cumi since she was 10 years old. Please keep her in your prayers. The following is a picture of her at the Christmas celebration.

Thank you for all of your prayer and financial support through 2021. I’m so thankful for all of you supporting Talita Cumi and Ruth’s House, and giving me the opportunity to serve the Lord in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I look forward to another year of fruitful work in the Lord.