We moved house!!!! Thank you to all of you who were praying for us. We now are living in a house in a nice area just a couple of kilometres from Jasmine’s school. And on top of that there is a lovely little nursery school in the road just behind us where Gaby is enjoying herself in the mornings! Both girls are really very happy with their activities. Jasmine still has never said she didn't want to go to school in the morning, her teacher is very lovely. Gaby settled into going to her “school” very quickly and is now desperate to go each day.
The house we have is very big (visitors welcome!) and is in an area where many missionaries live, so we are enjoying getting to know several other ex-pat families, many of whom also have small children. Also we are now very close to the main road that leads out to El Alfarero (girls’ home). Sometimes though we miss our big garden, they built this house so big there was no room left for a lawn!
The girls’ home has really made some good steps forward. There is more a feeling of stability there. That doesn't mean that each day is calm and without problems though! Since we last wrote, at one point we got up to 6 girls with 4 children between them, it started to look quite crowded up there! Just now however there are 4 girls and one toddler, Alison.
When Alison arrived in the home 3 months ago with her mum Shirley, she was very malnourished. Although she was 18 months old she could hardly sit up by herself. She had scabies and her tummy was full of parasites. She now seems like a different child. Her health improved dramatically within weeks. She was given treatment for the scabies and worms (though she may need to repeat the worm treatment soon) when she first arrived and obviously started to be given good food. Very soon she was sitting, then standing and walking. Now when we take our girls up there the 3 of them run around together, laughing and playing. If she had stayed on the street any longer it is likely that by now she could have been dead.
In February, 3 of the girls started going to night classes, each chose a course suited to them. Shirley is studying beauty (hairdressing just now), Isabel chose dressmaking and Rocio does party decorations. Heidi has not gone to night classes as she has started in school this year instead. All of the girls also have about 2 hours a day with a teacher who comes into the home to help with their academic studies. Each of the girls are normally friendly and good-natured and it has been nice getting to know them.
Just now Jimena (one of the staff) is taking 5 months out from working in Alfarero to do a DTS (Discipleship Training School) and Yanyt and Salustio have been harder worked than ever. We could really do with another full time member of staff, so that when Jimena is back it will be easier to give more time off to each of the workers. For the next 4 months Claire from England will be working and living in El Alfarero. In August though she completes her year as a student here, working with the street kids and will return to England.
We have really felt very encouraged with the church recently too. This Sunday we had 33 people in the morning service. Also I have been very encouraged by Gladys coming and joining me with leading the children's group. This was very necessary as quite often the children make up about half of all who come! Gladys is 19 years old and is from Peru. She came to work with the street kids last September and was particularly keen to provide help for the small children and babies of the street kids.
Just before Christmas we had 3 baptisms, once again in a paddling pool in our garden! Margarita, Liliana and Luis Alberto were baptised. We have known Liliana and Luis Alberto from when we first were in Bolivia- which for David is 10 years ago now. Both of them were on the streets and for most of the time we have known them have been battling, coming and going from the street life. Recently though, they have both been coming along to church and bringing family with them.
Just last week we had Robert and Nicky Thursfield staying with us from Uckfield King's Church. Through talking with them we were greatly encouraged to spend time getting a clearer vision for the church. We have tended, as a group, to focus on the practicalities of getting the church meetings planned and done and have lost direction and vision along the way. Please pray for us as we sort out our priorities and find out how to build the church and go forward.
I have already written most of our big news at the beginning of this letter but one not-so-good thing that has happened recently is that when David was on his way to the airport to pick up Robert and Nicky he was involved in a car crash with several cars. We are very grateful to God that David (and everyone else in the other cars) were not too badly hurt. David had whiplash but is now feeling nearly better. Our car was in worse shape though and we won’t be able to use it for over a month as it gets fixed. However now that we have moved house its only about 10 mins walk to both a bus that can take us to Jasmine’s school and a bus that goes most of the way to El Alfarero (which is about 20 km out of town).
The other bad thing that has happened to us recently was that we were mugged at the river by about 8 young men with knives. I was with my Mum and Dad who had come to visit, and the girls (David was at work). We had gone to play on the sandy river banks for the morning. The men went through our pockets to search for money. I felt very sad for Jasmine and Gaby particularly though, having to watch their family being threatened with knives. Gaby was particularly upset at the time and was crying and screaming, Jasmine was just asking “why are they doing this?” (she asks “why” about everything at the moment!). But her granddad was just calmly encouraging her to pray to Jesus that everything would be OK. When the men had taken all the money they could find they left us. The girls seem to be alright about what happened. Jasmine asked why it had happened a number of times over the next few days but Gaby had a particularly good night’s sleep that night, so I don't think she was still thinking about it. This is our year for visitors! My Mum and Dad came to visit at the end of February and stayed for just over 3 weeks. We loved having them here once again. We all had a lot of fun together, we went swimming a lot and Jasmine and Gaby have learnt to swim without armbands. Then we had Robert and Nicky. Next we will be having my Aunty Deb come and stay which will be exciting as she’s not been here before. Then in June David’s parents come for a couple of weeks and finally in July my sister Catherine comes to stay. We are very happy to have everyone here and it is so good for Jasmine and Gaby, while they are so young, to be able to see members of their much loved, wider family so often even though we live so far away.
Thank you for your love and support
With our love, Sarah, David, Jasmine and Gaby xxxx
P.S. Since writing the above Rocio from El Alfarero found out that her ex-boyfriend from the streets had been sent to prison and has sadly left the home in the hope that somehow she’ll be able to help him….