A year in Bogotá

I just realized that today marks a full year of life and ministry here in Bogotá. A lot sure has happened throughout the year, see cute picture of our brand new daughter below. We’ve had mountain peaks and valleys of success and failure, joy and grief, deep fear and deep rest. But most of all, we want to express how thankful we are to you, our network of financial and prayerful supporters for allowing us to be your ambassadors here in Bogotá and beyond. What a joy that we don’t take lightly.

IMG_5554

On Friday many of you know that we welcomed our daughter, Evelyn Jude (calling her Evie or Evie Jude – the jury’s still out), with whom we are so enamored. She’s already animated our little family with her eagle screams and explosive burps and we look forward to how God moves in and through her.

Fox is very impressed by his new baby sister

Fox is very impressed by his new baby sister

what are you doing new year’s eve?

Having grown up in the southeast US, I thought I had a corner on the market of holiday traditions that no one fully understands but everyone celebrates.  Eating pork every New Year’s Day so you won’t “scratch” in the year to come?  What does that even mean?

Come to find out, Colombians have so many New Year’s traditions it puts us southerners to shame.  In addition to the ubiquitous fireworks and loud music partying, Colombians observe quite a few rituals, called agüeros,  that are vital to the celebration of the turn of the year.  Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Wear new yellow undergarments on December 31st, for good luck.  You would be surprised how many yellow knickers were for sale in stores, on the street, at intersections, whatever.  Why yellow?  Couldn’t tell you.

2. Put one of these on your table, so you’ll be sure to have bread on the same for a whole year.
Image
3. On the stroke of midnight, eat 12 grapes to bring good luck for every month of the coming year.  Remarkably similar to chubby bunnies but with more choke-hazardly objects.

4. Take 3 potatoes and peel one, peel half of one, and leave one unpeeled.  Put them under your bed.  At the stroke of midnight (taking care not to choke on your 12 grapes, one must imagine), reach under the bed without looking and grab a potato.  If you get the unpeeled one – congrats!  You will have an abundance of money this year!  If you get the half-peeled one, I guess you’ll be alright but we’re not talking Bill Gates here.  If you get the peeled one, bummer.  You’ll be poor as a churchmouse (in Colombia they say “peeled” like we say “broke”).

5. At the stroke of midnight (I think the trick to completing all these at the correct time is to have a very Latin American view of time…) grab a big suitcase and run around the outside of your house or block with it.  This is so you will get to travel in the year to come.

Being the culturally savvy people we are, we tried to accomplish a few agüeros, although I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy yellow drawers at a stoplight.  As we watched the ball drop in Times Square, we chomped a handful of twelve grapes.  I regret that there is no photo to document this, but I didn’t think I could handle a camera at the time.  Twelve is a lot of grapes at once.

Part of me feels warm and right at home in a culture with so many time-honored traditions.  Part of me wonders how much to celebrate agüeros in a country where many people are as superstitious as a baseball player.  Only instead of jumping foul lines, they’re putting mini shrines to the Virgin Mary on the dash of their taxi.  I guess there’s both good and potential harm in observing any New Year’s tradition, depending on where you really think your help comes from.  Thank the Lord our true well-being is in his hands alone, and he doesn’t need us to perform any rituals to try to ensure it.

And not to worry –  I have pork in the crock pot right now, which we will be eating with our greens (actually spinach – no one’s heard of collards here) and black-eyed peas tonight for supper.  No one wants to scratch in the new year, whatever that means.

what does the fox say?

So, what does the Fox say?  This is a popular question these days.  And while many of you think the Fox says, “Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding” or “Joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoffhe”, you may have been deceived.  He actually said, “belly hurt, belly hurt, kiss it”.  And that was a life-saving phrase for our little Fox.  Skip to the cute picture at the end if you’re not interested in medically-themed posts.  Or just watch the video, apparently 230 million folks have.  We’re probably responsible for about 500 of those.  Yikes!

As many of you are aware, we have just surfaced from our most intense parenting experience thus far.  “Belly hurt, belly hurt” went from “oh that’s just gas pains” to “well maybe he’s getting a little bug” to “he’s throwing up blood, it’s time to go to the doctor”.  In God’s providence one of our embassy friends had given us the number of a reputable pediatrician months before.  Fox is generally pretty healthy, so we just figured we’d save it until we needed it.  When we finally navigated nearly an hour of traffic, hoping the taxi driver wouldn’t kick us out because of an obviously sick baby, we arrived at Dr. Patricia’s office.

She started the typical doctor questions about symptoms and family history, until she was interrupted with more blood vomiting.  “I think you need to go to the hospital.  Now!” she said.  The panic in her voice didn’t compare to what we experienced, running a couple of miles holding a boy who’s barely with it, in need of fluids and a diagnosis.  Things had gone down hill fast.

Once we finally arrived and got Fox hooked up to some fluids, the serious prodding and poking began.  Watching our son undergo some horrific procedures was really gut-wrenching.  After about 12 hours of this, we got the word that his appendix look inflamed and surgery was going to be vital.  The catch, however, was that the surgeon was going in not really sure what she would find.  Scary.  Outcome 1 and 2 were really complicated, requiring open incisions and future, follow-up surgeries.  Outcome 3, was by far the best possible diagnosis, appendicitis with a local infection.

And so we prayed, “God you love our son more than we do.  Take care of him.  Help him not to be scared.  Give us outcome 3”.  It was around 11 that night when the surgeon entered the room beaming.  Appendicitis, local infection, all cleaned up and ready to heal.  Rejoicing.  God had spared our son.

He spent three nights in the ICU recovering and battling the remaining infection.  If you ask Laura Kate, she would tell you this was the hardest because we weren’t allowed to stay with him past 8pm.  Little man was coming off surgery, with no mom and dad, in a room of nurses who only spoke Spanish.  Frankly, I had a hard time being in there.  He looked so engorged by the fluids and swelling, hooked up to all kinds of wires and tubes, barely able to open his eyes, I couldn’t be in there without feeling like I would weep uncontrollably at any moment.

Parents should never have to watch their children go through things like this, and worse.  What a wicked perversion of God’s good story.  What a treasure to serve a God who “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” in order to fix all this mess that’s been made.  What a loving sacrifice to watch your own son endure a more horrifying experience, to save people who don’t deserve it and can’t fully appreciate it.

Halfway through our hospital stay

Halfway through our hospital stay

Days went by, Fox improved, and we were able to move from the ICU to a more normal hospital room.  Laura Kate showed off her freakish mom powers by spending the night on a board-like bed while six months pregnant.  Tolerating food and moving muscles that haven’t moved in a week was quite the task, but these little critters are so resilient.  I thought, “there’s no way he’ll be able to walk on those limp little legs anytime soon”.  Sure enough, the next day he was running, with us precariously wheeling his neck-port-IV-thingy behind him.  Amazing.

After ten days, we were allowed to vamos, to go home and finish recovery there.  We’re really thankful for the folks who prayed for us during this crazy time.  For the Bogotá visitors, for the US visitor (LK’s mom), for the cards and stuffed animals, for the meals from our teammates here, for the dear nurses and doctors who patiently endured our non-medical Spanish and loved our little boy.  We are thankful for those of you who support us financially, because you enable us to have the type of insurance that allows us access to excellent medical care here.  So, what does the Fox say?  Or I guess what else does the Fox say?  He says with us, “Thank You!”.

Fox back to normal, shouting "green eighteen" ready to throw to his favorite target

Fox back to normal, shouting “green eighteen” ready to throw to his favorite target, an unsuspecting Edith

help us get our first intern here by September!

We’re excited to announce the imminent arrival of our first GYFM intern!  Asia Morris is a recent UNC grad (Andrew says “Go Heels”, LK says “Don’t hold it against her”) who is in the last stages of raising support to work for 8 months with young people here in Bogotá.  Asia will be helping with our ministry to college, high school, and middle school students at United Church of Bogotá (UCB), teaching English at the same foundation for at-risk kids in Suba where LK teaches music, and lending her talents to music ministry at UCB.  We are eagerly anticipating her arrival!  Here’s a video to introduce you to this lovely lady:

Asia has raised all of the one-time and most of her monthly financial support she needs to come to Bogotá.  The sooner she gets here, the sooner we can have a wider reach in ministry to young people here in this city.  Would you prayerfully consider adding to your support of our ministry by supporting Asia with a one-time or monthly gift for the next 8 months?  And would you pray for her as she prepares for this adventure in cross-cultural youth ministry?

You can donate to Asia’s support account through this link:
https://donations.mtw.org/donate/AddDesignation.aspx?No=14668

an mk on a mission

It’s really cool when various aspects of our ministry converge, internationally with missionary families and here in Bogotá.  We’re coming off a couple of weeks in which that happened thanks to the generosity of folks we don’t even know and the willingness of a 17-year-old MK growing up in Honduras.  Here’s what Maddy had to say about her experience, along with a few photos:

“About two weeks ago, I stepped on a plane in the San Pedro Sula airport and left my home in Honduras behind. This was to be the third time I had gone by myself to work as a missionary in a country that was not my own. I would leave my friends and family behind to answer the calling of the Great Commission – but you know that already. My name is Madison Pettengill, and this is my story.

Every year for the past three, I have taken a solo mission trip to somewhere else. I raise support, take the airplane trip, and spend weeks (relatively) under my own supervision. This year I went to Bogotá.

The Lupton family invited me to visit them in their ministry and be as helpful as a seventeen-year-old-missionary-kid is able to be. I spent the first week of my trip making friends with cute kids, babysitting Fox Lupton, and generally making it as easy as possible for my partners-in-missionarydom (read: The Lupton Family) to go about their daily lives. I bought groceries, washed dishes, cleaned poopy diapers, and became a temporary sue-chef.  Missionary work at it’s most glamorous.

Week two, though lacking in diapers, was no less challenging. We kick-started what will later become an ongoing English Camp in one of the poorer subsections of Bogotá. Many of the children who attended said camp did receive some form of English class in their schools. Unfortunately, some of the education was so poor that what little English kids did know was simply rote memorization. Moreover, colleges in Colombia require students to pass an English exam before entering. College education is one of the few ways that these children can escape the cycle of poverty. Thus, although our classes consisted of basic English, this camp provides a crucial step for the hopes and dreams of a better future.”

Maddy helping with English homework

Maddy helping with English homework

A lot of the students were very impressed with Maddy's drawings

A lot of the students were very impressed with Maddy’s drawings

Teaching a mostly captive English class

Teaching a mostly captive English class

Maddy translating and helping me translate a sermon to 250 kids

Maddy translating as I preached to 250 kids

Last day trip up to a vista of the city!

Last day trip up to a vista of the city!

My Hips Don’t Lie (even when they try to)

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”  – Martin Luther

As I tried (and failed) to keep up with the energetic rhythms of the rumba dance class I attended last week, two thoughts became apparent to me: 1) I am really, really, really white.  2) These Colombians know how to enjoy their music!

From traditional cumbia to Shakira, this is a culture rich in music.  And although there are excellent schools with top-notch music programs here, there are areas of town where quality music education, and sometimes education of any kind, is not accessible.  Suba is a neighborhood like that.

IMG_3042

Our teammates, Wes and Hope Parsons, have started a music school at a children’s foundation here in Suba (for the incredible history of the director, Carlos, click HERE).  The foundation gives kids a place to go other than the streets when they’re not in school, which is half the day here.  In addition to a hot meal, homework help, and music classes, the kids are taught about Christ every day in chapel.  It is a place that is saturated in the gospel, in word and deed.

I’ve started helping out with piano classes, and the plan is for me to take on new classes to be added when the next term starts in July.  I can’t even tell you how much I have enjoyed my time with these precious kids!

DSC00780 IMG_4560 IMG_4564 DSC00797

DSC00779

area retreat roundup

At last we’ve gathered all our photos from an excellent ministry event in Spain to share with you all. As you may know, one of the coolest parts of our job is that we have the privilege of encouraging missionary families all over planet earth by ministering to their kids. About a month ago we ventured to Europe as a family to do just that. 

8687430230_7bede07b25_b

Once every four years or so the missionaries spread throughout Europe gather for a time of refreshment and encouragement. As revitalizing as these times are for moms and dads, students tell us that this event is their spiritual highlight for their family’s term on the field. Imagine having few, if any, Christian friends in a spiritually dark context in which your family serves, and the welcome relief it is to spend a week focused on God’s grace with folks who understand you and may turn out to be your closest, lifelong friends.

IMG_6991psSo, naturally, when given the opportunity to facilitate something like this with a wonderful group of Tweens (think 8-11ish), we decided to host “Flight School”. Meet our instructors (and GFYM Associates) for the week, Baxley and Becca:

IMG_4072

These cats worked with us at Ridge Haven for many years and we jumped at the chance to have them minister with us again in a camp-like setting.

IMG_5398tweenOur cadets not only earned their wings throughout the week, but other pilot essentials like passports, aviator sunglasses, and of course bushy mustaches (which is now Fox’s favorite word). He’s giddy now that we’re back in the land of Juan Valdez.

IMG_3977In the evenings we worshiped together and talked through how the unique stories God has given each of us fit within God’s unfolding story of redemption (using Tween words, of course).  This was especially powerful for us Luptons now that we are missionaries ourselves, living in a strange land, away from loved ones, longing for a day in which God makes all things new and there are no more goodbyes.

IMG_6878psIMG_6949psThis was our first Area Retreat ministering with a child of our own. Fox, who was in the womb last time, is normally easy peasy on trips like this. However, this trip he got a nasty European virus and had to stay in the room with one of us for half the retreat. God provided and our little man felt better eventually, but it was stretching for all of us nonetheless. 

IMG_7034ps

We saw students growing in grace – engaging with the Gospel, sharing their struggles with one another (yes, Tweens are perfectly capable of this), enjoying their new friends, and spending quality time with their dear families. We can’t thank you enough for those of you who make this possible financially and prayerfully. We really believe that in doing so you’ve helped support the work of church planting in Europe.

We think of you often and praise God for the ministry partnership he has given us!

just as stunning as the day I married her...

just as stunning as the day I married her…

  

Mi casa es tu casa

When we visited Bogotá for the first time two years ago, we fell in love with the people, the culture, the city, and the beautiful Andes mountains standing guard around it.  We also fell in love with the neighborhood of Belmira – strategic ministry location, very safe, lovely patches of green grass, flowers, and trees in the middle of a huge city, etc.  But we knew we could never live here because in the past few years the prices have skyrocketed.

Fast-forward to February of this year.  The day after we arrived in Bogotá, a sign went up in the window of a townhouse in our beloved neighborhood.  We decided to call and see if maybe, just maybe, there was a chance.  To our amazement, the house was within our budget, and we were the only ones to have inquired about it.  Long story short, through God’s gracious answers to your prayers, we have rented a wonderful house in the very neighborhood we thought would be out of the question.  Here are some pictures of our new digs:

The outside of our building

The outside of our building.

Our living room, aka Edith's favorite place to nap the day away.

Our living room, aka Edith’s favorite place to nap the day away.

Our kitchen, complete with "dishwasher".

Our kitchen, complete with “dishwasher”.

Fox having a bath in the "tub".

Fox having a bath in the “tub”.

 

View of the street

View of the street

Another view

We love looking out and seeing the Andes mountains!

 

 

 

 

The Tale of the Ransomed Purse

Once upon a time one out of every three kidnappings in the world occurred here in Colombia. As we traveled around building our support team you probably heard us say how much safer things are now in Colombia (especially in parts of the capital city, Bogotá). Nonetheless, big cities are big cities and crime, especially thievery, abounds.  On Monday, we suffered a purse-napping, and a rather strange one at that.

Andrew grew up in a part of the States where locked doors were about as rare as hen’s teeth. So when we first heard the phrase “no dar papaya” (literally – don’t give papaya), we needed a lesson from some of our more city/travel-savvy amigos. No dar papaya means don’t put yourself in a situation in which someone could easily take advantage of you. And no dar papaya on Monday meant for us that you shouldn’t put your purse in your shopping cart at the big bed-bath-and-beyond-like home store. Apparently someone saw some vulnerable, papaya-giving gringos waltzing about Home Sentry and thought, “hey, if they’re giving papaya I might as well be taking papaya”. And so Laura Kate’s purse full of papaya (cash, phone, credit cards, and sadly on this particular day her US Passport) was sneaked, snuck, snucked right out from under Andrew’s potpourri-sniffing nose.

Every good story ought to have a twist, right? Well here it is.  After despairing, scurrying to cancel cards, and rushing to the US Embassy to report the purse-napping and to get Laura Kate a new passport, we get a call yesterday from the thief herself. Losing money is a big deal, but losing a passport before international travel is a really big deal, so Andrew sent a text to Laura Kate’s phone shortly after the pilfering saying that we’d be willing to pay for the passport. We thought nothing of it until we got the call saying that some gal had “conveniently” found the purse in a restaurant in the north of the city. We would have had every reason to believer her alibi were it not for the fact that the only way she could have gotten Andrew’s number was that she was the thief or was in contact with the thief. The number was nowhere written in the purse and the phone was probably already in the hands of a satisfied, back-alley customer. Naturally, Andrew arranged a meeting with the thief to get the purse its precious papaya back. After an hour or so of changing the location (like your favorite crime show, right?) and amidst a tremendous hail storm, Andrew and team leader, Rick, finally meet the purse-napper. After realizing the thief was kind enough to have left the passport, driver’s license, and Fox’s graham crackers intact, money was quickly exchanged and we were off!

Every good story also ought to have a moral, right? Well this one has a couple. First, we learned that we need to be more careful with our papaya and that putting papaya in a shopping cart is a major “no-no”.  Papaya should be firmly under your arm at all times. Secondly, we saw again the power of praying to our Father as we asked many of you on Facebook to pray that this might all be resolved. We weren’t praying in faith, but wow! Thirdly, and most importantly for us was how God encouraged us. Fox was with a babysitter during all of this and when we called to tell her what happened and that we were going to be late. She was frustrated like us, but not despairing. Her words were balm for our angry, hurt souls, “God is in control, and he’s in this somehow” (or however you say that in Spanish). What a comfort and what a great reminder that though we came to Colombia to serve the church, God is already at work here.  Colombian Christians have encouraged and served us since the day we arrived.

First Week in Review

Wow! That pretty well encapsulates our reaction to our first week of life in Colombia. Many of you have asked how our transition has been thus far, so we thought we’d give you a quick update.

All packed up, fat dog included...

All packed up, fat dog included…

We packed up all our worldly possessions (mostly books and clothing) and set sail last Tuesday. Our two special passengers (Edith and Fox) were world champion travelers, granted Edith was on doggie drugs (Fox was not). Flights were slightly rough, customs was a breeze, and Edith’s doggie visa was just right. Our team leader, Rick, and long-time friend and teammate, Wes, picked us up at the airport.

Our little amigo helping us unpack

Our little amigo helping us unpack

We are staying with Rick and Pam Box, who have graciously opened their home to us as we search for housing. We recouped the first day, gave blood to the government the second day, and spent our third day stressed out about whether or not we would have to do Laura Kate’s visa all over again. Thankfully God worked out the complications and we can live here legally until we renew our visas in two years. Government paperwork, don’t get me started…

UCB is one of the most beautiful protestant churches in the city

UCB is one of the most beautiful Protestant churches in the city

We worshiped at our new church home on Sunday, United Church of Bogotá. We’ll lead worship in song here, work with young people (mostly international – TCK’s), and launch a university ministry among the many surrounding universities. We felt so welcomed and honored to be a part of this unique body of believers, made up of folks from all over the globe.

Standing in front of a potential casa - clean, safe, parks, with enough room for students and guests.

Standing in front of a potential casa (more like a townhouse)

And every other moment has been filled with a search for housing. Our best friend has become metrocuadrado.com. Our dilemma is: do we live close to the church, the universities, the diplomat/embassy community or do we live further north near the missionary families who we will serve alongside and whose children we will minister to? The paperwork to apply for housing as a foreigner is nuts. Again, don’t get me started…

Here are some ways you can pray for us:

  • That God would clearly show us where to live and that he would provide safe and affordable housing soon
  • For our bodies, minds, and emotions, as making an international move is taxing and can do funny things to you
  • That our Spanish would return and expand quickly
  • For Laura Kate as she travels to Honduras next weekend to sing and play in her friend Shannon’s wedding

We are so thankful for you all!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 73 other followers