¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

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!
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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.

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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!

News & Prayer Update / 006

It’s Sunday afternoon and it’s been a good weekend.

Yesterday was spent visiting the excellent Santa Cruz Zoo (a £4.50 for all-the-family bargain!), lunch with friends and haircuts for the boys. This morning it was a great church service at Fuente de Vida with a message on developing vulnerability and honest relationships followed by chicken and salad for lunch!

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It’s also been a good week.

First thing on Monday morning we went to Immigration to see if our visas had arrived back from La Paz and, as you can see below, they did. This means we’re legal for the next two years. After that, because Phoebe and JJ are Bolivian citizens (on account of being born here), we should be able to make applications for permanent residence!

While we were sat in Immigration we received more good news – very good news. The following came through from the Charity Commission:

We are satisfied that NOVO COMMUNITIES is a charity and it has been entered onto the Register of Charities with the Registered Charity Number 1164421.

This is fantastic (and super-significant) news!! Thank you so much for praying.

Charitable status means we can claim Gift Aid (25% extra) on all gifts made to Novō as a charity (as opposed to our personal support via Stewardship) by UK taxpayers who use the Novo UK Giving Form. It also means we can make applications for funding to Grant-Making Trusts whose charitable objectives align with ours, something we will begin doing early in the New Year!

Looking forward we have an important couple of weeks on the horizon.

On Friday 27th Andy, Warren & Myron leave for a two-week trip to Canada with a two-fold purpose.

Firstly, they will be meeting with the senior leadership of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission (EFCCM) in Vancouver to further develop the working relationship between Novō and the EFCCM. The EFCCM is playing a similar role in Canada to that which the Novō Communities Trust is in the UK, enabling us to receive donations tax-effectively, as well as providing pastoral oversight to us. These meetings will help us to work through some of the technical aspects of the relationship between the UK and Canadian sides of Novō, as well as provide us with a great opportunity to plan and prayer together.

The second purpose of the trip is to ‘launch’ Novō with potential supporting churches and individuals, sharing the vision in much the same way as we have already been able to do in the UK. This is an exciting step for all of us, particularly for Warren and Myron whose friends/family/supporters have known that Novō has been coming down the pipe for a while now, and are eager to hear more! We’re looking forward to speaking at two key churches and to a range of groups and individuals in what is going to be a jam-packed schedule. In addition to 24 hours of travel at the start and end of the trip we also need to drive something in the range of 3,000 miles. Please pray for us – for energy, for safety in potentially hazardous conditions, and that many people will catch this vision for the creation of transformative communities where hurting and broken people can find healing, wholeness, and hope!

Mickey and the kids will be staying in Santa Cruz. Please pray especially for them – that they would have a great couple of weeks together and that everyone would stay safe, well and at peace. 

Finally, let me (Andy) share something a bit more personal with you. During our Tuesday morning Team Novō meetings we have been meditating on these words from Luke 4.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’

As we prayed for one-another after meditating on this passage my prayer was that God would ‘soften’ my heart towards to those he is calling us to help – the poor, the prisoners, the oppressed.

When, back in 2008, we first felt God prompting us to explore starting a residential project here in Bolivia I’d felt a deep passion for the addicts and alcoholics we see all the time as we drive around here in Santa Cruz, particularly those working the main road junctions washing car windows. This burden stirred me to prayer and it prompted the explorations which kicked-started the journey which took us to Yeldall and, now, back here to Santa Cruz.

I haven’t, however, felt it much recently. The 3+ year long process of laying the foundations for Novō has primarily been a rational process: a good, Spirit-filled, thoughtful process of listening to, and seeking to obey, God’s call; a process of looking at our skills and experience and recognising that we can make an impact deploying them well in this context.

None of that has felt at all wrong. I just felt at the start of the week that I’d like to feel, in a fresh way, something of God’s heart for the hurt, broken, and addicted.

I wasn’t thinking about that prayer at all as Daniel and I arrived at church early this morning for him to be a part of the worship practice, but as we arrived there was a guy waking up from a night sleeping in the entrance way to the church. His name was Cristian and he was evidently an alcoholic. We see street people every day, every time we drive anywhere, but something about seeing Cristian waking up on our church doorstep ‘got me’ at a heart level. We said hello and, with others from the worship team speaking with him, I headed-off to get a coffee.

I was just a few metres from church when I noticed a young boy, asleep in the little cash machine cubicle.

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I didn’t take his picture at first, wanting to protect his dignity, but as I walked on I knew there was something significant to what God was doing in that moment and I wanted to be able to show Mickey what I had seen. So I went back a few steps and took a photo, encouraged to do so by the fact that his back was turned and his identity hidden.

I think the thing that got me about this particular boy’s situation was something that isn’t immediately obvious. It’s the fact there is a small lock on the inside of the cash machine cubicles. A small lock which, when closed, gives an otherwise utterly vulnerable child just a little bit of security in a deeply hostile environment.

I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like as a 8 or 9 year-old boy to sleep alone in a cash machine cubicle at night. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have only a glass door with a puny lock protecting me from the awful dangers of being a child living on the streets at night. I can’t begin to imagine what effect all of this has on your ability to ‘grow-up’, on your sense of security, significance and self-worth as an adult.

As I felt a deep sense of concern for this lad it hit me that this is exactly the kind of experience which will have defined the ‘childhoods’ of so many of the men and women, like those featured in the two films below, who Novō is here to help. IF YOU ARE READING THIS BLOG IN YOUR EMAIL YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO SEE THE FILMS UNLESS YOU CLICK ON THE BLUE TITLE ABOVE AND VIEW THE BLOG ONLINE.

In response to this, please pray that God will do “more than we could ask or imagine” for those men and women who, even now, desperately need His mercy and compassion! 

Thank you, as ever, for walking with us on this journey – for your love, encouragement and support, expressed in a multitude of ways!

 

News & Prayer Update / 005

We hope it’s not too soon for another update from us but lots is happening and we want to keep you up to speed!

As a family we are feeling more and more at home and enjoying being able to operate on ‘auto-pilot’ more as routines form and all sorts of things shift from feeling ‘foreign’ to ‘familiar’. Looking back we have realised that we have all been ‘in transition’ since January when we began the process of packing-up, prepping the house for rental, preparing to change schools, etc, and that the whole process took much more out of us than we expected it to.

The kids have just finished their first ‘quarter’ at school and all received really good school reports. You’ll remember we asked you to pray especially for Jemimah who was struggling with feeling secure at school. I just asked Jemimah how she’d describe school now and her response was: “I feel like I fit in now”. This is great news! Thank you for praying. The picture below is from Jemimah’s birthday, she’s just enjoyed the Bolivian tradition of trying to take a bite of the cake at the end of the happy birthday song – before someone plants your face in it!!

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In other family news, we’re continuing to enjoy being a part of Fuente de Vida and Daniel especially is making a real contribution to church life by drumming in the worship team. This took real courage but, as you can see from the YouTube video below, he’s doing a great job and growing in confidence by the week, particularly now that he’s having lessons with an ace drum teacher each week!

The final piece of family news (and a key prayer request) relates to our visa applications. After 4 separate police checks in 3 separate locations (all requiring multiple visits); health checks (blood tests, urine samples, chest x-rays); birth & marriage certificates legalised at the FCO in London, the Bolivian Embassy in London, and the ‘Cancilleria’ here in Santa Cruz; endless fees; some fines; a not inconsiderable dollop of stress and anxiety (not least during the 4 hours or so when Andy’s passport went AWOL); and lots and lots and lots of queues like the one featured below; we submitted our applications at the end of September! We are now eagerly awaiting their return from La Paz. Please pray with us that there will be no final hitches and that we’ll have our visas back quickly!

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In terms of Novō there’s lot to give thanks for at the moment, though a number of the items are ‘nearly there’ and so we’re praying that nothing will get in the way of what God is doing.

We have a verbal agreement for the rental of Quinta Totaices (see pictures below) the property for the first project here in Santa Cruz! We’ll take it on in February with a sliding scale of rent (starting at $500/month ending at $1300) until we have full use in August. A lawyer is currently turning the agreement into a written contract so our prayer is that this process would go smoothly!

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Novō SRL is now set-up! This means we are a limited liability company and can employ, own property, conduct a range of business, etc… This is a big praise and amazing provision – for which we are giving thanks. We now need to get legal advice re. what, longer term, our ‘ideal’ structure/s should look like, particularly as we blend charitable and income-generation together so that we can operate with a sustainable model of recovery community which can have application throughout the developing world.

Rachel Burton (a member of the Therapeutic Team at Yeldall Manor since 2008) has her flights for Bolivia booked for the start of February. She’s joining Team Novō under the auspices of CMS (Church Mission Society) and her plan is to be in Bolivia for 2 years, with the first 3 months up at language school in Cochabamba. Rachel’s knowledge of Yeldall groups as well as her administrative skills are going to be crucial for the process of setting-up the project and training staff. Rachel is currently support-raising and has an event at Emmanuel on the evening of Saturday 14th so please pray that that will be a successful.

Perhaps, the biggest news for Novō is that we have received notification from the Charity Commission “that the organisation has aims that are charitable in law”. This is massive! We should have a charity number in the next 4-6 weeks at which point we can begin fundraising for Novō as a charity in the UK. Please pray that there will be no hitches with the charitable approval in the UK and for rapid and significant progress with our Novō fundraising over the coming 6 months!

As we wrap up, let me leave you with the these words from Psalm 139 – words which affirm for us the fact that wherever we are (even if we’re “in the depths” or on the “far side of the sea”) God’s Spirit is right there with us – guiding us, guarding us, gripping us.

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We are pioneering Novō as self-supported missionaries. If you would like to support us financially you can do so tax-effectively through an organization called Stewardship. To make a one-off gift or to set-up a regular monthly donation, please go to: www.give.net/20171708 or send me an email.


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News & Prayer Update / 004

Greetings from a hot-but-not-too-humid Santa Cruz!

It’s been a little while since our last News & Prayer Update, so I thought I’d bring you up to speed with how we’re doing and how things are progressing with Novō.

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As a family we are feeling more and more settled and at home. That hasn’t stopped Phoebe and JJ from asking questions related to what’s going to happen when we get back to our house, our school, etc… but it does mean we’re getting into the kind of routines and patterns which take some of the stress out of life and that our house here is starting to feel like our house.

After a couple of months of research (and, confession here, a couple of ‘bunk’ Sundays…) we’ve settled on a church. Fuente de Vida (http://fuentedevida.info) is pastored by our friend David Adjei and has a special concern with being a welcoming and safe place for those who, like those we are here to help, have lived/are living on the margins of society. It’s a part of the New Frontiers network of churches and has a relaxed, friendly, safe feel to it. A key blessing for the kid is that they each have an english-speaking friend in the church, someone to help them (not least through translation) to get comfortable in a Spanish-speaking church.

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In other news, we had a visit from Mickey’s parents in late August/early September which was a massive help to us in getting our home set-up and the kids’ settled in school; JJ had his sixth birthday; Phoebe has made some great friends and is doing really well with her work; Daniel has been playing volleyball for the school team and looks set to strart drumming at church. We have also just welcomed a little Cocker Spaniel called Barney into the fold!

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Of all the kids Jemimah has found the transition to a new school the most difficult and we’d appreciate you praying with us that she’d develop a really good friendship with one of the kids in her class and not need to ‘be brave’ every morning!

We’d also appreciate your prayers for our finances. God has been incredibly good to us but there’s been a seemingly endless list of start-up costs (next-up are visa application fees and school fees) and we’d appreciate you pressing into Him with us at the moment – both for one-off gifts to help us with these expenses and for the additional amount we need each month for our regular support to hit its target!

Things are really progressing with Novō.

The most exciting development has been José’s arrival at Yeldall Manor for 6 months (perhaps a tad more) of training. This has already been an intense experience for José but by all accounts he is adapting really well to his role as a full-time intern. José is living-on site at Yeldall, eating all his meals with the residents, working day-to-day with the guys on the estate, and is ‘on duty’ some evenings and weekends. This is seriously challenging work, even when English is your first-language, and José needs our prayers! It’s also an incredible learning opportunity and I’m so encouraged by the fact that God is preparing our first local Novō staff member in this way!

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We have also been able to set-up an office from where we can work. This also gives us an address at which we can register Novō as a legal entity here in Bolivia – a process which has taken a significant leap forward over the last few weeks! To start from scratch setting up an SRL (very similar to a Limited Liability Company and the best option for us at the moment) costs in the region of £4,000 and takes months and months of work. However, as a result of some changes to another ministry here in Santa Cruz we have been given the opportunity to fast-track the process Novō will be set-up as a fully-functioning SRL by the end of the month for under a £1,000! This is a huge boost to us for which we’re very thankful.

thumb_IMG_1767_1024 2We also received another major boost through the visit of Trevor Childs, the Chair of the Novō UK trustees, late in September. Trevor’s career was spent running global chemical businesses – legit global chemical businesses, not the sort for which Bolivia is well known… Currently he works as an executive coach and during our time together, in addition to lots of planning, we explored our Myers-Briggs personality types and our approaches to conflict resolution. This was a strategic time for Myron, Warren and I as we established foundations for the kind of team leadership we want to bring to Novō – leadership which is built on rich, honest and vulnerable relationships, and which is effective in announcing in the Kingdom and leading many, many individuals into genuine freedom from addiction and new life in Christ! Please keep praying for us as a team during these important months. 

Trevor is currently working hard making some requested amendment to our application for charitable status with the Charity Commission, squeezing it in alongside professional and church responsibilities. Please pray for him – and also keep praying that our application will be successful and we will have charitable status soon!

As I wrap-up, let me leave you with a verse which my brother, Matt, shared with me when I was beginning work at Yeldall – words which express God’s heart for you, us, and all those who (even now) are hurting, broken and looking for a loving community where they can experience transformation and discover life in all its fullness.

The Lord your God is with you; 

His power gives you victory.

The LORD will take delight

in you, and in his love he will

give you new life.

Zephaniah 3:17

 


We are pioneering Novō as self-supported missionaries. If you would like to support us financially you can do so tax-effectively through an organization called Stewardship. To make a one-off gift or to set-up a regular monthly donation, please go to: www.give.net/20171708 or send me an email.


 

Quinta Totaices

Greetings from a wet/cold Santa Cruz!

There are a number of exciting developments to report on but, for now, let me tell you about Quinta Totaices – an amazing property here in Santa Cruz which looks to be opening-up for us as the home for the first Novō community!

Quinta Totaices is a large property on about an acre of land close to the edge of the city. It’s owned by an ex-pat couple who increasingly spend their time away from Santa Cruz and are therefore looking to rent it from spring 2016 with a viewing to selling in the next couple of years. Following our first viewing we met with the owners a couple of weeks ago and, having spent a great evening talking through the Novō vision and our and their practical plans, we left with a sense of confidence that we could work well together during the period of the tenancy and towards an equitable sale.

The property ticks a number of boxes for us:

LOCATION. We’ve always said the first project needs to be within the city so that staff can reach it on public transport, and residents can have visits from their families. It also means we can relate to a range of churches and are able to generate income within the economy of the city.

DESIGN. As you’ll see from the film below the property has excellent gardens; large rooms which could be used for offices, meetings and lounges; great outdoor spaces; an ample kitchen; and plenty of rooms for residents and some live-in staff.

TERMS. To be able to rent with a view to buying is ideal for us. It gives us flexibility and a chance to ‘try before we buy’, and also the chance to focus on training staff, developing our income-generation, and shaping the culture and programme of first community before we get into fundraising for a building.

FEEL. More of this below, but just to say for now that there’s a level of character and personality to Quinta Totaices which it’s really quite hard to find here in Santa Cruz.

A couple of weeks ago a group of us went to do a ‘second viewing’ of the property and spent some time on-site praying together. Once we’d finished-up I did another walk through and filmed this Through the Keyhole video tour of the property:

 

Before I wrap-up, a confession.

A couple of years ago I began writing a list of the things which ‘made Yeldall, Yeldall’ and which would therefore be ‘non-negotiables’ if we were to create communities which were genuinely built on the Yeldall approach. This list included the following qualities, each of which we have included in our description of the qualities which will mark out Novō communities:

  • founded on Christ.
  • focus on the whole person.
  • partner widely with local churches.
  • communities of love and discipline.
  • characterized by grace and truth.
  • promote freedom and responsibility.

My original list also included another quality of Yeldall, a quality which never made the final cut because I felt, to put it bluntly, it was too much to ask/expect.

What was that quality?

A physical environment (buildings and grounds) whose beauty and ‘feel’ speaks to the residents of the power and goodness of God – and of His intense love for them, the value He sees in them, and the hope they have in Him.

Quinta Totaices has made me realise that that quality needs to be back on the list – and should never have slipped-off in the first place! Quinta Totaices is very different to Yeldall Manor (very different!!) but, if you were truly translate Yeldall Manor into the situation here in Santa Cruz, it’s what you’d get.

We have a strong sense that this is the place where God wants to form the first Novō community but, of course, we need to hold that in an open hand. We also need to pray that nothing would hinder His will being done and, as a result, His Kingdom coming. Please pray with us to that end and that, whether this is the place or not, we’ll be led to a place whose beauty and ‘feel’ ministers healing, wholeness and hope into the lives of those residents for whom God creating this first Novō community.


We are pioneering Novō as self-supported missionaries. If you would like to support us financially you can do so tax-effectively through an organization called Stewardship. To make a one-off gift or to set-up a regular monthly donation, please go to: www.give.net/20171708 or send me an email.


 

News & Prayer Update / 003

Well, we’ve been in Bolivia for just over 6 weeks now and on returning from a trip out of the city over the weekend, we said for the first time, ‘it’s good to be home.’

Despite returning to a country, city and neighbourhood (aptly named Condominio Britannia…) we already know, the process of getting settled has been harder and taken longer than we expected.

It’s hard to say exactly what has made it hard. We’ve felt a number of things: a sense of weariness from having been in packing/unpacking mode since February; the loss of the family, friends and church community we left behind in the UK; and the stress of trying to balance family, work and the practical demands of getting ‘set-up’ here without the kids being in school. I’ve also felt a deep sense of loss as my departure from Yeldall has gone from feeling temporary to permanent and I’ve missed the structure, camaraderie, and ‘intensity’ of the Manor.

More broadly as we have readjusted to life in a developing world context we’ve wrestled with an inner conflictedness (not a word, I know) which comes from feeling both fed-up because we are ‘going without’ certain things and guilty because we have access to so much compared to so many. This is inevitably heightened by the fact that we’ve had to do so much spending to set-up home, buy a vehicle, etc…

One of the benefits of the transition feeling hard has been the extent to which, as we’ve wrestled with some of the costs involved in making this move, it has forced us to press into God for a renewed sense of calling to the vision and mission of Novō and, more broadly, to making our home here in Bolivia. It has also reinforced for us the integral role which sacrifice and obedience plays in the coming of His Kingdom. As we pray, ‘your Kingdom come, your will be done’, we know we sometimes need to pray, with Jesus, ‘Yet not as I will, but as you will’. We know God has a plan to see many, many more transformational communities like Yeldall Manor created here in Bolivia (and beyond) and if we need to make some sacrifices to see that happen, then we’re committed to doing so.

All of that said, we’re also counting some wonderful blessings: we have some incredible friends here; we’ve been blessed with a secure and comfortable home in a brilliant location (we even have access to a pool which is perfect for an intensely hot/humid/dusty city); and we’ve also had the opportunity to do some superb trips outside the city.

See what I mean about feeling guilty for feeling like we’re sacrificing?!

So, enough introspection, what’s happening?

After a postponement due to a number of factors the kids’ school year at the Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center (SCCLC) commences next Wednesday (26th August). We’re looking forward to the structure and stimulation this will bring to all of our lives. Please pray that Daniel, Jemimah, Phoebe and JJ will all make a positive start to the school year and quickly form good and positive friendships.

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I’ve been invited to be on the Board of Trustees of the kid’s school (SCCLC). This has already involved a good deal of work and meetings as we are entering a crucial year in the life of the school and are working with an excellent educational consultant to see the school thrive and successfully work through the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) re-accreditation process. Please pray that the ownership and leadership of the school would be effective in making the changes needed over the year ahead and that I’d make a really positive contribution in my role.

One of the highlights of the last 6 weeks has been getting to know and working with José Ernesto, a local Bolivian who we believe has a crucial leadership role to play in the first Novō community here. José Ernesto comes highly recommended and has a massive heart for those on the margins of society. It was José Ernesto who set up some of the filming opportunities we used in the main Novō film and the ‘Getting Sticky’ film (go to http://novocommunities.org/media/ if you haven’t seen them). We’re excited that José will be travelling to Yeldall at the end of September to complete a 6-month training placement to prepare him for this role. Please pray that José will be quickly granted his visa to enter the UK! Also, if you feel prompted to contribute towards the cost of this strategic training placement (£3,850), do let me know as he could certainly use your support.

It has also been good to be working closely on the leadership of Novō with Myron. In particular there are some exciting things on the horizon relating to a property for the first Novō community, a fast-track on creating the first of the Bolivian legal entities we need for Novō, and some excellent office space from which we can work. More on these next time! For now, please pray for us as we develop our working relationship over the coming weeks and months.

Back in the UK the Novō Trustees have been working hard on our application for charitable status with the Charity Commission, which was submitted last week. The submission of this application was severely delayed by the challenges we had applying for a bank account and we now need charitable status in place quickly so that we can press on with our fundraising goals for Novō and be in a position to launch the first project during 2016. Charitable status is crucial because it enables us to claim Gift Aid on donations to Novō as a charity (as opposed to our personal support which is administered separately by Stewardship and for which we are already claiming Gift Aid) and make applications for funding to grant-making Trusts in the UK. Please pray with us that our Charity Commission application will go smoothly and that we’ll have charitable status in place very soon.

Thanks, as always, for your interest, prayers and support. We’re so thankful that we are on this journey with you behind us!

Andy & Mickey

PS: pasted below is a selection of photos from the last couple of weeks!


We are pioneering Novō as self-supported missionaries. If you would like to support us financially you can do so tax-effectively through an organization called Stewardship. To make a one-off gift or to set-up a regular monthly donation, please go to: www.give.net/20171708 or send me an email.


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Gallery

Landing

So we made it! And so did our cases which, given that we only had a 30 minute layover in Asuncion, was a small miracle. It’s been just over two weeks since we arrived – an intense two weeks spent finding our feet, kitting out our home, buying a vehicle, re-orientating ourselves to Santa Cruz, and catching-up with people. I’ve also managed to squeeze in some priority Novō business… We still have some more practical stuff to do (both to set-up life here in Bolivia and to close things down in the UK) but it feels like we’re turning a corner and by the end of this coming week the initial settling phase will be complete. We’ll see. First impressions? That it’s really strange returning to make home in a place which is definitely not ‘home’ but in which we’ve previously ‘made home’; that Santa Cruz is an intense, growing, gritty city with an extreme wealth/poverty gap (a gap we’re seeing with fresh eyes, not least because of our kids’ questions and observations); that getting out of the city is massively life-giving for us; that it’s a huge advantage coming back to a place we know, to people we know and love, to a language we ‘know’ but that that also means you skip the “wow, isn’t this exciting?!” honeymoon phase! What else? The weather has been rough – mainly wet and/or cold – but that hasn’t stopped the kids asking to go swimming. I got stopped/fined by the cops on Day 4 (poor JJ was sure I was going to get hauled off to prison!). The kids have already made some great friends and we’ve all had such a warm welcome from friends here who’ve stocked our fridge, had us over for meals, and looked after our kids while we’ve shopped. Phoebe has had a terrible stomach bug for a couple of days, but was super-brave about it! It seems the people who lived in the house before us fed the local strays so we’ve been plagued by ferrel cats (a mangy white one is sauntering past the window as I write…) I’m tempted to get into something more reflective on what has been an emotionally/physically/spiritually intense couple of weeks, but I think we’ll save for that for a future post! For now, here are some snapshots we’ve take whilst out and about over the last couple of days. If you’re reading this as an email you will only be able to see the photos if you read this post online (which you can do by clicking on the blue blog title above).

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The view towards the city from the only high-spot near to Santa Cruz

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On the banks of the River Pirai

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Sunday lunch at ‘La Sierra’ where they serve incredible duck… Mickey adds that they also have monkeys and parrots – not to eat though!

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Visiting Kairos, a professional class Bolivian church, this morning

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Our new home

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Scooting on our street

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  A roadside fruit seller or ‘fast fruit’ as Mickey calls it!

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Daniel takes a rest from our furniture shopping!

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The road behind our neighbourhood

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On the main road into the city

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Take Off

By the time you read this, we’ll likely be sitting on TAM flight JJ8085 from Heathrow to Sao Paulo. TAM is a Brazilian airline and from Sao Paulo we’ll fly to Santa Cruz via Asuncion, Paraguay and arriving in Bolivia at midday on Saturday 4th July.

It’s strange to think that we’ll be flying over Paraguay and Bolivia whilst the Yeldall Open Day is in full-swing!

All told, despite the two stops it should be an 18hr45min journey from take-off to landing – not bad compared to the 24hr+ trips we’ve done in the past via Miami. Also on the plus side, we each have a 2 x 32kg bag allowance (yep, that’s 12 big cases to haul to check-in) and the joy of knowing we got a sweet deal on the tickets!

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As I write we have a couple of hours until we head off to the airport and, despite a few tensions/disagreements/outbursts there is an air of calm about the house… the lull before the storm?! Earlier, we all sat round my Mum and Dad’s garden table with an ice-cream (JJ had an orange Calippo, the rest of us had Twisters, if you’re interested…) and we took it in turns to pray, each of us sharing one ‘thank you’ and one ‘ask’, as well as how we were feeling.

It was a special and significant time – and a key moment for us to get a glimpse into their thoughts and feelings. Daniel prayed that they wouldn’t be too nervous about starting new schools; Jemimah said thank you for the ‘incredible opportunity’ we had as a family; Phoebe prayed that no-one would get poorly; JJ said thank you for his new Lego for on the plane!

It’s exciting to be at this point! After so many months of praying, wrestling, dreaming, discussing, planning, and preparing we are about to wrap-up the Introduction and begin Chapter One. As I look back over the last couple of years my mind keeps going back to a sermon Ben Davies preached at Kerith Community Church, right back at the start of this journey.

The message was based Genesis 17:18 where Abram, laughing at the promise that God would give him (a man of 100) a son through his 90 year-old wife Sarah, prayed and asked God to bless his son Ishmael instead. The message asked the question ‘Why Did Abram pray the prayer?’, a prayer for second best. Here are my notes from sermon:

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At that time (and since then on more than one occasion) we have been tempted to pray for ‘second best’, for an ‘out’ from the thing which God has called us to do. We’ve felt each of the pressures listed above but, again and again, God has affirmed to us His call to go, affirmed to us the truth that He will be with us every step of the way, and encouraged us all to ‘walk unafraid’.

We have also known the incredible love, care, generosity and encouragement of so many people so we want to say a huge thank you to each of you for the different roles you have played in getting us on the plane and the foundations laid for Novō!

We’ll write again once we’re unpacked.

With much love,

Andy & Mickey

PS: we’re planning be a little more active on social media once we get to Bolivia so if we’re not already connected on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, let’s change that!

News & Prayer Update / 002

It’s been a little while since our first News & Prayer update and a lot has happened since then, so it seems it’s about time I caught you up on how things have been going!

In terms of the items I mentioned back in News & Prayer Update / 001 back at the start of January, here’s a quick update:

  • We had a positive response from the American Mission re. the property which could make a great home for the first Novō Community. However, we felt the rental price they came back with was too high to justify making a move on the property at this time, a good number of months before we actually need a property.
  • Jony Muñoz has arrived and is both loving being at Yeldall and making a very positive impact as part of the therapeutic team.
  • We are still a few steps away from being in a position (in terms of our bank account being set-up) able to apply for charitable status for Novō here in the UK but we appear to be very nearly there.

So, what’s new?

Well, it’s been a busy period with my time as Director of Yeldall Manor coming to an end, a fabulous holiday visiting friends in St Andrews at Easter, and now a period of packing-up and preparation for what lies ahead!

We are very grateful to have secured tenants for our house who are moving in at the end of the month. This means, having boxed up our personal effects and sent them off on their 40-day sea voyage to Bolivia, we are now taking care of everything that remains and ensuring we leave the house empty (with items given-away, dumped or sold, as appropriate!) and with everything ship-shape from a maintenance perspective.

We have also had some super opportunities to share about Novō and what lies ahead for us as a family and we’re very thankful to Wymondley Chapel, Crowthorne Baptist Church, Great Hollands Free Church, Woodley Baptist Church for the different ways in which they have welcomed us and adopted us as a missionary family.

We’re also very grateful for the support of our church family at Kerith Community Church where we held a Novō Evening to which a mixture of Kerith people, Yeldall people and other friends and family came. For us the highlights of the evening were the interview and Q&A, which enabled us to really talk through in some details the opportunities and challenges which lie ahead, and the time of commissioning prayer with which the evening ended.

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We are continuing to raise the financial support we need as a family, having got to about two-thirds of the way towards our start-up and monthly support targets. We now have an online facility with Stewardship through which you can make a one-off donation or set-up regular giving which you can find here: www.give.net/20171708.

We’re also starting to turn our attention to fundraising for the Novō Charitable Trust and this was given a great kick-start by a brilliant team of 8 supporters who ran the Reading Half Marathon dressed as sloths. I can’t tell you how hot it was in those costumes (something not helped by the fact that I had to run with the flu) but it was well worth it to see nearly £4,000 raised as seed money for the first transformational community in Santa Cruz, Bolivia!  

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Looking ahead, our flights to Bolivia are now booked for 3rd July! During June we have a family wedding and then holiday time planned with both Mickey’s family and my family. We’re so grateful for the chance to be able to spend special time with our families before our departure and a new season where our relationships will hinge on the quality, more than the regularity, of our time together.

We’d so appreciate your prayers in relation to all of the above, or anything else you feel prompted to pray into. Thanks for your support and please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to follow-up on anything!

Novō Evening

Mickey and I want to invite you to a Novō evening at Kerith Community Church, Bracknell (in the K2 building) on Tuesday 21st April.

It’s going to be an engaging and exciting evening which will include a mixture of films, interviews, and Q&A. There will also be information on how you can support Novō practically and prayerfully. The evening will close with a time of commissioning prayer for us as a family.

We’ll start with cheese & wine at 7.45pm and you’ll be able to get away promptly at 9.30pm.

It would be great if you could join us. If you are planning on coming, do let us know – but feel free to just turn-up on the night!

Here’s a map and the address for your SatNav:

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The Kerith Centre, Church Rd, Bracknell, RG12 1EH