Good Investment News from 2008

Are you tired of bad investment news? Us too. So we thought you'd like to see an annual shareholder's report showing you how your long-term investment in Latin America is paying off BIG.

During 2008 there have been times when our life felt like it was in slow motion, when just figuring out how to buy groceries (fruit stand, then butcher, then... where do we buy cereal?) and wash our clothing took all day (the sink or the chinese laundry on the corner?); other times when I woke up I couldn't even remember what country I had arrived in the night before. When things were slow, we despaired of doing anything worthwhile, but as we were filling out our year-end ministry report we were encouraged to see God's work around us. And since that would not have been possible without your prayers, financial and emotional support, we wanted to share it with you.

One of Tim's greatest fears is boring you, so in an attempt to communicate this good investment news in a way you find engaging, we'll allow you to choose how you want it served up. Here are your options:

Executive Summary

What was accomplished per our stated objectives for '08. This is the annual report we're required to hand in to our team leader and the U.S. Mobilization Center of OC Int'l.

Story Time

For those who are drawn in more by stories than statistics, these are a few anecdotes from our life during 2008.

Argentina: Settling In

As we look back over the past year we can hardly believe that this time a year ago we hadn't moved to Argentina yet but even though took a while to figure out basic logistics and get into a rhythm, we now feel at home.

installing our AC - kind ofHere's a story that exemplifies our struggles with adaptation. The 420 square ft. apartment our friends Pedro and Analia are loaning us while they live in Brazil doesn't have central air, but they decided to install a wall unit air-conditioner for us. Because we moved in during beautiful fall weather, we didn't need for it but we were grateful for their thoughtfulness and foresight. After a few emails back and forth with Analia and some phone calls to Fravega, the store they had purchased it from, we thought the hard part was over because the store would both deliver and install the unit. The whole day of the delivery we were housebound, but finally they came and got to work, knocking holes in the freshly painted wall inside the bedroom and outside the window in the light well. As we looked at the installed unit we were surprised to see a 2 foot long power cord dangling down the bedroom wall. It wasn't plugged in.

"How are we supposed to plug that into the outlet over there?" Tim asked pointing to the electrical outlet 10 feet away on the other wall.

"Oh, you just get an extension," the workman replied. "But what you will have to figure out is how to catch the water that comes out here (pointing to a tube hanging outside the window of our 5th floor apartment) so it doesn't land on this air conditioner (signaling the downstairs neighbor's unit on which the tube was currently resting)."

And with that advice they left.

A few days later, Tim set off in search of the extension cord. He had to visit a number of stores to find one that was long enough and had the right connection. By the time he found it, the weather had gotten cold so we put the cord away until summer.

Six months later we ripped open the plastic bag holding the extension cord. We didn't really need the air conditioner yet, but I wanted to work on the dripping water problem before we really needed the unit working at full blast. I confidently put the three male prongs of the foot long cord hanging down from the unit up to the three female holes at the end of the extension cord only to see that the holes were smaller than the prongs. But the plastic was soft so I tried forcing them in. I made a bit of headway but it was tough so I called Tim. He couldn't get them in any further.

Walking around the neighborhood one day Tim saw a Fravega store and thought they might sell the cord we needed. We're not sure if he talked to a salesperson or just the security guard but the conversation went something like this: Tim explains the situation; Fravega guy responds, "No, we don't sell anything like that kind of extension cord and you won't be able to plug the unit into the cord you have because there is metal inside. But if you go to any hardware shop they'll be able to drill out the holes so the prongs fit."

So Tim goes to the small hardware store a block down the street for help. The father and son who run it are always helpful, patient and informative but they tell us they cannot drill out said cord. "It simply doesn't work that way. And even if it were possible, it's illegal," the father explains, "because air conditioners use high amperage and it could be dangerous."

"So what am I supposed to do?" Tim asks bewildered.

"Well you need to connect the air conditioner into plug to this 20 amp outlet (He shows us a 3x5x3 plastic box). Then you need an electrician install it and run cable from this outlet to your electrical system. They'll chisel out your wall, put the wire in, and then plaster up the wall again. Or you can just let the wire run the outside of the wall."

Seeing Tim's confusion he added, "We're kind of busy today but come back on Monday and I'll help you with it."

It took another visit to the hardware store, which elicited the exact explanation for us to realize that our problem was that we had been interpreting the words, "Oh you just get an extension" to mean an extension cord, not another electrical outlet. Originally we had been less than thrilled at the thought of having an extension cord running down the wall and along the floor but now we were facing a minor remodeling project.

By now we were not only in the middle of summer, we were actually in danger of summer finishing before we got to use the air conditioner. One particularly hot day we mentioned our air conditioning woes to Diego, a waiter we have developed a relationship with, who told us that one of the other waiters, Pablo, has studied to be an electrician and could help us.

American perspective:
Thinks someone could alleviate the problem and make a fortune by creating a 20 amp extension cord for air conditioning wall units.
Argentine perspective: Doesn't consider it a problem, but when they understand that we have a problem they marvel at the fact that we don't know how to install a high amperage outlet.

The night before Pablo came to the house we were eating with some friends from church. Of the whole story, the thing that was hardest for them to believe is that Tim didn't know how to do basic electricity. We explained that in the US, houses come with things like central air, and are already wired for major appliances so "basic" electrical work is more optional than it is in Argentina.

The story has a happy almost-ending in that Pablo did a fantastic job; you only notice the new outlet and wiring if you are looking for it. I say "almost ending" because we still haven't figured out how to catch the condensation water so it doesn't drip into the patio of the ground floor apartment.

Laying a Firm Foundation

The launch of the Especialidades Juveniles Institute for Youth Workers (Instituto EJ) has taken a more circuitous route than we anticipated when we signed onto the project almost two years ago. We know that if the institute is going to reach its lofty goal of "equipping a new generation of Latin American youth workers through transformational training" and if it is going to last over the long haul, it needs to have a firm foundation. We aren't structural engineers, but we're doing the best we can and trust that in the end the support of the project depends more on God's shoulders than ours.

Youth Specialties InstituteImportant parts of the foundation laid in the past few months have been the addition of a director for the Institute here in Argentina, Esteban Borghetti, and formalizing the relationship with the International Theological Seminary. Instituto EJ benefits enormously from the seminary's years of experience, their personnel and administration, and their formal accreditation by the government; they will benefit as we draw in a whole crop of students who hadn't considered going to seminary but want to finish the degree they began with Instituto EJ.

Classes start in Argentina the 3d of August 2009 and there is an astounding amount of work to do before then, so we appreciate your prayers. A few specific concerns are finding the right students, establishing good relationships with pastors and local churches, finding the right location for the school (actually we've identified our optimal location, what we need are either the funds to buy it).

Well Positioned

When we left Mexico one of my primary concerns was to make sure that our major investment into the Roots textbook for youth ministry and its accompanying animated classes wasn't in vain. Every year we teach the material to several hundred people and through our partnership with Miami International Theological Seminary anyone who wants to take the course online for credit, can. But now the book has been published by the best known publisher for youth ministry materials in Spanish, and the classes have their own web site, We don't know the number of people who have taken the online classes but the feedback has been incredibly encouraging.

The most common question about the Institutes is if we have a distance education program. And although the institutes don't because they center on mentoring style formation that is impossible at a distance, it feels good to be able to answer them saying that they can learn the basics of youth ministry online through the classes we've developed.

I could write on and on, but I'll save something for next time.

Appreciating you!!

.... Annette (with Tim helping out as editor)
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