Hello faithful readers of the Newell family adventures. I want to thank those of you who have kept up with us since our early webpage beginnings in 2000 when we left for Bolivia. It's hard to believe that 12 years have passed since that time. Thanks for being a part of our lives as we have journeyed from the Andes Mountains, to the Arizona desert and now to the beautiful hill country of Texas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Seriously. A whole year has gone by since I last updated this blog.  I had done so well during the first 3 years we lived here in Austin, updating every month.  So sorry for the long silence.  I think one reason that I didn't update the blog sooner was because I didn't want to cover up the last blog I wrote...the one about our trip to Bolivia.  It was so special to me and I wanted to savor it longer.  Well, I think a year is long enough to savor it and now it's time to keep moving.  So, here's the latest on the Newell clan.  2012 has been a good year.  We continue to homeschool our 3 cool kids which has been such a blessing to be able to walk through every day with them, learning how to love each other and love God.  Pete is enjoying his job as a water engineer and is thankfully staying very busy.  This year we have taken on a few more responsibilities at church which has been a bit hectic at times, but good.  We are finding ways to love on people around us as we spend time shopping at grocery stores, hanging out eating bagels at Panera, visiting a nearby nursing home, hanging out with kids in our neighborhood, playing sports, and simply making ourselves available to go where God wants us to go and talk to those He wants us to talk to.  Life is truly an adventure!
Lily: self-portrait. July, 2012
Pete and Silas went on a father/son weekend with a few other cool dudes.  They enjoyed a weekend of fishing, shooting, hiking and being boys together.
B celebrating her birthday in August.  She was queen for the day with 3 sweet little interesting looking servants.
Pete's "company picnic" this year was held at Sea World in San Antonio.  We all had fun enjoying the shows and seeing the awesome animals.
Opposite day:  the kids all dressed up in each other's clothes.  Lily squeezed into Joe's shirt and pants and the boys are sporting Lily's cute clothes.  
October camping trip.   What a great weekend we had at Inks Lake: fishing, playing, hiking, eating yummy food, sitting around a campfire and enjoying God's creation with great friends.
Lori was blessed by a wonderful trip to Boston, Maine and New Hampshire with her sweet mom, B.J..  We enjoyed rich history, beautiful scenery, tasty food and fun times together.   THANK YOU MOM!!!!
While Lori and B were away in New England, Grandad joined Pete and the kids in Austin to take over the schooling.  The kids loved their substitute teacher for the week.
Put 'em up!  Lily, Silas and Joe are always playing, imagining, acting and having fun.  One of the joys of homeschooling...LOTS of time to play together.
These three superheroes visited us one night.  We felt very safe while they were here.  
A family photo taken at Lori's cousin, Cody's wedding in Houston at the beginning of November.  
We took a quick trip to Indiana for Thanksgiving.  Silas' birthday fell on Thanksgiving day, so he enjoyed a day of eating and partying with all of his cousins.  He wanted a scavenger hunt so here is one of the teams:  Newell and Joe.... pretty cute.
All 12 cousins lined up together in Indiana.   What a crew!
Pete and I were invited to go to Spain at the end of November to help our Children's Pastor facilitate the children's program for our missionaries' regional conference.  We had a 24 hour lay-over in London and spent the day in Oxford with our good friend Pete Howard and his sweet wife, Angela and new baby girl, Cornelia.  We had an awesome time walking around this amazing town rich with history.  Here we are sitting where C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien would sit every Tuesday morning to discuss their writing.  Pretty cool!  
We made it to Spain and enjoyed 4 days with these little people(2 were napping at the moment), teaching them all about the treasures we have in Christ.  We were treasure seekers every day, dressing up like pirates and going on fun adventures. We had a blast!  The biggest blessing for me(Lori) was to be able to work as a team with Pete and see him do an incredible job teaching and loving the kids.  
Pete and I enjoying the southern coast of Spain with the Mediterranean Sea in the background...beautiful!

When we got home from Spain, we found these pirates ready for action!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rugged mountains. Beautiful green fields of potatoes, corn, abba beans. Adobe homes hidden in the landscape. Fires coming out from darkened doorways. Dirty faces of children peering curiously. Weathered toes that look like animal feet. Potatoes served hot, cold, with homemade cheese, with pasta, in soup, with rice, peeled, not peeled. Campo life filled with hardship, toil, sickness, death and dirt.
These things have not changed in the last 8 years since we left Sorocoto, Bolivia. They were all so familiar to us as we drove into the mountains last Tuesday. At times, it felt like we had never left. But then when we made it to Sorocoto and began to visit our dear friends, 8 years seemed more like 20 years as our friends had noticeably aged and their children had grown from being children in our Sunday School class to being parents themselves with 3-4 children already. It was awesome to be with Simon again, the main church leader in our community. His hair had more gray, but his spirit was still young and full of the joy of the Spirit. He told us that we were like family to him and when he heard we were coming his heart was so happy. We felt the same way toward him and it was awesome to be in his presence again and be encouraged by his incredible faith. He is an amazing man of God whose heart for the Lord continues to grow even in the midst of hardship and sometimes being the only man who is following Jesus in his village. God’s timing was perfect as we were able to encourage him and also encourage other brothers who had left the church for various reasons. The church was full of young people who had attended the Sunday School many years ago and now were singing praises out of the Quechua hymnal and listening to the Word of God. We walked over to see our friend, Juan, who helped us build our house. As we sat and ate more potatoes we listened to him tell us how he now had 4 kids, how he had gone to the city to work but had come back so he could be home with his young children. He had also taken steps to follow Jesus, but for various cultural reasons had not yet made a full commitment. He came later to the church that day to help with the piƱata we had brought out for the kids and he also participated in the church service. It was good to be with Juan. Our time in Sorocoto ended with Simon and the church making a circle around us and praying for us. Awesome.
We sadly didn’t see Fransisco (the other church leader) since he and his family had moved to another city a few years ago. We were also sad to hear that my dearest friend, Sinforosa was in the city and not living in Sorocoto. When I heard that news I was sad that we wouldn’t visit with her family in the campo, but I was hopeful that we could find her once we got back to the city. The next morning we drove back to Sucre and were able to call her husband Alejandro (a huge difference in the campo was that many of our friends now had cell phones!) and we picked him up and drove to their home which was a large room that they rent. Words cannot fully explain all the emotion that was felt during that time spent with Sinforosa and her family. We all cried a lot when we first saw each other and I couldn’t stop crying every time I looked at Sinforosa’s daughter Heidi (who is now 11 years old). My sweet friend Karina (Sinforosa’s daughter who was 11 when we left) was full of life and spunk, just like she was when we lived in Sorocoto. She pulled me to a corner alone after I began to ask more about her 5 year old daughter. She explained to me what had happened to her one night 6 years ago when she was walking home from school. I cried as I held her and heard about the pain she had experienced, but also about the love she has for her daughter, who’s father is unknown. We also heard of other accidents and hardships that had happened during the 8 years we had been gone. Our time that day was sweet and short and wonderful and sad. A day that I will always remember. The Lord blessed us those two days with incredible reunions with our dear friends… a dream come true. My passion for serving and loving the poor in other cultures was still burning bright and I even began to dream of what I would want to do if we lived in Sorocoto again. I jokingly told Pete, “Maybe it’s time for Sorocoto part 2.” We both had ideas of what we would do now if we were to go back… disciple the youth in the church, focus on strengthening the families in the community, encourage the brothers to love their neighbors and reach out to those who don’t know Jesus with the love of Christ and also focus on the abundant life we have in Christ… not just the cultural do’s and don’ts of Christianity. The Lord is faithful and is not slow in keeping His promises. Our friends are in good hands and we can trust the Lord to carry them on and move them forward. It was hard to say goodbye again to Sorocoto and to Bolivia, but we left with full and thankful hearts. Thank you to those of you who were praying for our time in Sorocoto and also for Silas and Joe who stayed behind with B and Grandad. They did great, had a blast, and stayed healthy. God is so good and He is faithful.
(Check out the pictures below)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

BOLIVIA: Lost in the Andes...8 years laterLet the journey begin! Here we are boarding the plane in Houston to begin our South American adventure. In all, we boarded 9 planes to get there and back. Lily was a trooper!
We first made it to Lima, Peru where we spent 5 days with the Smedes, including Thanksgiving. We were very thankful for the time we had with our dear friends.
We relaxed, laughed, played, went sightseeing, ate yummy food, shared and prayed.

This was one of Lily's favorite things to do while in Lima: play in the Smedes' backyard with Toby, Ellie and Gabe and take Coby, the neighbor dog, for a run.

We enjoyed seeing some sights in Lima including some Indian ruins and the beach, where the kids had fun rolling down a steep hill again and again.

Date night with Ryan and Angela! We had so much fun with our friends... once again. For the past 11 years the Lord has blessed us with rich, full, and fun times with Ryan and Angela. Many good memories have been made with these two dear ones. Can't wait till next time!

Lily, Ellie, Gabe and Toby had fun with Ryan and Pete one morning making a movie called, "The Pirate Kids." A must see!

We enjoyed delicious meals on the back patio in the perfect weather.

Lily with her buddies the day we left Peru.

Time to go to Bolivia!!! Here we are standing on the roof of our hotel in Sucre. Beautiful city!

Showing Lily all around our favorite city in Bolivia. Here's one of our favorite spots, the Recoleta, where you can look out over the city and enjoy a smoothie or iced cappucino. Yum!

Buying fresh veggies and fruit at the market before we head out to the campo!

The road out to Sorocoto. For some reason it seemed a lot more dangerous to me this time. Maybe because I'm older and wiser, or maybe because I'm a mother and one of my children was in the car with us!

Getting closer to Sorocoto(the excitement was building!). This picture was taken behind us after we passed Tomoyo. If you look closely at the river bed down below you can see a bridge. That bridge was not there 8 years ago and for those of you who remember our accident in the river... that's about where we lost our truck... right where that bridge is now!

First stop: Alejandro and Marcelina Pacaha's house. These were friends of ours from the beginning and their kids were little people when we lived there. The girl standing in the middle, Karin, was about 2 years old when we left.

We made a quick stop by our old house. It looks about the same from the outside. The community is renting it out to a few men who are working on the basketball court. They are putting a huge cover over the top to provide shade for the kids while they play.

Walking on the footpaths through the fields. Lily fit right into campo life as she skipped along the paths, played in the river and hung out with the kids.

Saira, who was Simon's granddaughter, loved Lily and followed her everywhere.

Pete and Juan(our friend who helped Pete build our house). It was great to spend some time with Juan and hear about his life. Lily with Juan's son, Moises. Moises was just 2 years old when we left. Kids sure do grow up fast!

We spent most of the day with Simon at his house and at the church. Here's Simon blessing Lily.

We had 2 services that day. Here's the worship service during the earlier meeting. Some additions were: a sound system with big speakers facing out the windows for the community to hear, young people helping with the instruments and leading the songs.

Lily and Lori praising God in Quechuan.

Pete had a great idea to take a pinata out for the kids to break. We had a little celebration with the pinata and then a few impromtu relay races that Pete and I taught the kids.

Pete preaching his second sermon of the day. It was a privilege to be able to worhsip with the "brothers" in Sorocoto/Soroscopa and to also encourage them in their walks with the Lord.

I also had an opportunity to "give some recommendations", as Simon would say.
After Pete and I both spoke and prayed for the church and Simon, the church gathered around us and prayed for us and sent us off with their blessing. It was awesome! A day we will never forget.

A family picture in the campo in front of potato fields.

It was an emotional reunion back in Sucre with my dear friend, Sinforosa. And she loved Lily immediately.

Little Heidi, Sinforosa's daughter (now 11 years old) sitting to the left of me. She was almost 4 years old when I left so she didn't remember me. Belen, Sinforosa's 6 year old daughter, is sitting to the right of me and little Katy, Karina's 5 year old daughter is standing in front of us.
I couldn't contain my tears every time I looked at Heidi. When we left Bolivia 8 years ago I had wanted to put her in my suitcase and bring her home with me.

With the whole family, minus their oldest daughter, Ilvia, who lives in Argentina and their son, Ivan, who is 14 years old and working full time at a shoe shop. Pictured from left to right is Sinforosa, Alejandro, daughter Karina holding her daughter Katy, daughter Belen, daughter Susie holding her 8 month old daughter Mayti, Lori, and daughter Heidi.

Pete and Alejandro

Lori with dear, sweet Sinforosa. Thank you Lord for allowing us to be together again!

With dear Karina in the pink shirt and Susie in black (and 5 year old Katy in front).

The trip was sadly over and it was time to start heading back to the United States. First, we took a plane from Sucre, Bolivia to La Paz.

A shot of La Paz below... a huge, dirty, busy, crowded city. (can you tell I'm not a big fan of La Paz?)

Sitting in the airport in La Paz, showing off her new hand made coin purse and her pink, crocheted back pack that Karina made and gave to Lily as we were leaving.

The day we left for Bolivia, Silas turned 5 years old! Here we are celebrating with Quinn and Olivia for lunch before we headed off to the airport.

The day we got back from Bolivia, Dottie turned 95 years old! Here is the beautiful birthday girl with her beautiful daughter, B.

Here's Dottie at her birthday party with 9 out of her 14 great-grandchildren.

Dottie sitting with her sister, Gladys, who turned 102 years old the day before! Happy Birthday Dottie and Aunt Gladys! We love you both!