Letter from May 25, 2008

Hello Everyone!
As you are mostly experiencing spring in Canada/ USA / Germany, we are heading into our “dry/windy season”. We still have warm days, but when the wind blows from the south it can get very cold. On Tuesday night the wind howled especially loud and we were awakened early by the news that a couple pieces of equipment (cement mixer and table saw) were stolen from just outside the carpentry shop. Three trust-worthy Bolivian workers were sleeping in a trailer right next to the shop but with the loud wind noise, they didn’t hear anything. We found that the fence along the highway had been cut and the machinery had apparently been carried to the highway by foot (it isn’t a large distance).

Calling the police is pointless, as they are corrupt and can very easily be bribed. Generally, people here have to take care of their own security by hiring guards and securing their properties well. On the mission property we had a guard as well, until about January of this year, when we terminated him, as he wasn’t guarding the property anyway.

Since Tuesday night the men of the congregation (including Theo Wentland from Edmonton, who is currently here) have taken turns guarding the premises as well as their cattle. The problem is that every night there has been suspicious activity on the highway directly next to mission property and on the property itself.

In this situation we think of the verse in Psalm 127, 1

Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.

So, we ask that you please continue to keep us in your prayers. Please pray for the men guarding the premises – for safety, wakefulness, health (it is exhausting to be awake at night and still try to work during the day). Please also pray that we may find more long-term solutions for security e.g.) a hired guard, a good watchdog. Most importantly, that GOD may protect us all and the livelihood of the families (i.e. cattle) as well as mission property.
Otherwise, life is still very busy here but things are going well. We now have enough trustworthy workers to help the work progress. One of the three poor families for whom houses have been built have moved in and another family will move in shortly. The church is nearing completion. Today Theo Wentland and helpers installed a new sound system about which we’re very excited (a gift from the congregation in Edmonton). The Fenske Carpinteria (named after a Swartz Creek couple, from whose estate the funds for the building came) has been started. This shop will provide work for Old Colony families who have left the Old Colony to attend our congregation (otherwise they have no way of making a living) The Corn and sorghum crop from mission property has been harvested and yielded a profit despite first year start-up costs (also provided incomes for workers). School is going well, although our two teachers will be leaving soon. Lena Thiessen is leaving on June 11 and Lorraine Makus is leaving on June 18. We are grateful that Jennifer Semler is coming on June 5 to help with the school, but we are still waiting to hear which other teacher is coming from Mexico. The school is key in building spiritual groundwork and the faith of the children is precious to see.

Spiritually, we are grateful that we are seeing growth in the congregation. We are also enjoying our weekly Women’s Bible Study and find it helpful.
Our children are doing well, although they ask every day when we are going to Canada and can hardly wait until we go – we’re due to fly to Edmonton on July 16. The children have many friends and play outside a lot, however, they still consider Canada their home and miss the people there. They have needed to say good-bye to a lot of people here (volunteers, family visitors, friends that moved to Canada etc.) and Ricaela finds that especially difficult. Our girls (especially five year old Rebecca) now speak Low German like the Old Colony people. If we want to know how to say something in Low German, we ask Rebecca J! I never imagined that, like an immigrant, I would learn a language from my five year old daughter! The girls still speak English (with grammatical errors J), but that will probably improve. We read English books to them regularly, do a little English home-schooling, and they like listening to English songs, so that keeps them exposed to that language as well. Adrian has been walking since he was 9 ½ months old and is now running and climbing. His favorite word is “Mau” (calf in Low German) and he would like to be outside most of the day. He gets up early (between 5:30 and 6:30am generally) and then proudly goes with his Dad to check on the building projects.

Roland, Lorraine and I (and others here) recently added daily Spanish lessons to our already full schedules. A Spanish teacher, who has taught many missionaries, was willing to come and teach us here on site. This was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I have needed to drop back to three lessons a week, as more was too exhausting for me, but we are making progress. Getting our homework done (which is imperative) is still a daily struggle, but otherwise we won’t learn.

Health-wise, I am doing relatively well. I’ve had weeks that I had absolutely no joint pain. Lately it’s been worse again, along with continuing exhaustion, but today I’ve felt better again, so hopefully this is a good sign. I’ve found that if I let things bother me, it affects me negatively, so I probably need to learn to trust in God more, rather than be frustrated with things that I often can’t change anyways.

The children and I had hoped to come early to Canada (travel with Theo Wentland when he returns) so that we could still hope to spend more time with my Grandma Popke, who has stomach cancer that has metastasized to the liver. At the moment this doesn’t seem feasible, as Theo has a different return route. We don’t know what God’s way in this is – please pray that God would work this situation out according to His plan. Rebecca reminds us that we will see TicTac Oma in heaven and that we have photos to remind us of her, but it would still be nice to see her in person. It gives us comfort that Tic Tac Oma is at peace and has laid everything in God’s hands.

May Gods hands protect and guide you as well. Thanks for your continued prayers!
In Christ’s love,
The Stiebens