During the final weeks of last year I read a book by Johann Hari called Chasing the Scream. He’s also given an excellent TED Talk. The book is a fascinating and unsettling book which asks tough questions about the war on drugs (particularly as it is conceived and executed in relation US foreign policy) and urges that the focus shifts to putting an end to the incredible human suffering which accompanies the drugs trade and to providing addicts with ready-access to pathways out of addiction – pathways which address the underlying ’causes’ of addiction and prioritises connection/community, creativity/work, and meaning/purpose.
As the book draws to a close Hari makes a breathtaking statement.
It’s not often that I think someone says something which it’s worth me pushing out on my Facebook, but this I had to share:
“For a hundred years we have been singing war songs about addicts. All along, we should have been singing love songs to them.”
The language of ‘war songs’ and ‘love songs’ blew me away.
And he’s right.
Addicts (just like the rest of us) need love, not judgement, rejection and condemnation.
The truth is whatever ‘war songs’ have been sung about addicts, and however loudly they have been sung, ‘love songs’ have been sung too. They’ve been sung in families, in churches and in places like Yeldall Manor for decades.
Novō is about creating more of these places.
More places where love wins.
More places where mercy triumphs.
Novō is about creating communities in developing nations where addicts can encounter the incredible love of the God who sent his Son to “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3).
OK. Sermon over. Or (as my Daniel is fond of saying, quoting the Sheriff of Nottingham to Friar Tuck in the Disney version of Robin Hood): “Save your sermon, preacher, it ain’t Sunday yet!”
So, what’s been happening here?
Well, it’s been really good to take 10 days off over the Christmas/New Year period and to take what (with the benefit of hindsight) was a much-needed break. 2015 was such an intense year of transition for us all and it was good to take stock, unwind, and see our energy and enthusiasm levels go back up.
It’s the hottest time of year here so no matter what you do with decorations, music, food, etc, you really can’t create that feel which, if you grow-up in a cold climate, you associate with Christmas. We (actually it was all Mickey…) did our best to make it feel special for the kids and the feedback forms all suggest we did a good job!
On Christmas Day we went to Güembe, a place with swimming pools, aviary, butterfly enclosure, and a great buffet, celebrating together with British friends here, and watching The Queen poolside on the phone!
In terms of church celebrations we enjoyed going back to Trinity International Church (where Andy was the Pastor when we last lived in Bolivia) for their Christmas Eve Candle light Carol Service. Then on Sunday 27th we were part of a fun day with everyone from Fuente de Vida Church which gave us a great opportunity to build relationships as we played football, lunched, and swam together.
Finally, just before the New Year weekend we spent a couple of nights in Samaipata, a small hillside town a couple of hours from Santa Cruz, and made the drive out to the La Pajcha waterfalls.
Before I finish, let me update you on the trip to Canada which Myron, Warren and I took at the start of December.
You’ll remember that the focus was on meeting with the leadership of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission (EFCCM) in Vancouver to further develop our working relationship and to ‘launch’ Novō with some key potential supporting churches and individuals, sharing the vision with them for the first time face to face.
Overall we flew over 13,000 miles and drove another 2,500, visiting Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Steinbach and a bunch of other places along the way! I had the opportunity to experience the vastness of Canada, the majesty of the Rockies (as we drove Calgary to Vancouver), and the institution which is Tim Horton’s.
Our meetings with Bill Taylor and Dave Penner from the Evangelical Free Church went very well, and we left with a clear sense of mutual trust and shared vision as we move into the next phase of the development of Novō.
Our meetings with churches and individuals were also really positive, making all those miles of travel worthwhile. Warren and Myron have some absolutely brilliant friends and supporters up in Canada and, as well as being a pleasure to meet them, I was encouraged by their keen interest in Novō, their heart for Bolivia, and their desire to be involved as we move forward.
The icing on the cake came when, just after Christmas, we got word that one of the churches we visited wanted to make a gift of £25,000 towards the start-up costs for the project here in Santa Cruz!
I’ll write again soon to give you a bit of sense of what lies ahead for 2016 and the timeline we are planning around in terms of the opening the doors of the project.
For now, let me close-off by saying: ¡Feliz año nuevo!