Bolivia to be exact.
What an incredible gift God gave us to be able to go to Cochabamba and surrounding regions.
I will try to adequately express the amazing-ness of our travels:
Our team united in Dallas on October 24, 2009. Kim and David came from Ohio, and Sylvia, Sara and I met up and left from San Antonio. Our flight was delayed in Dallas a little over and hour, and even as we were all crammed in the jetway waiting to board the plane I was so impressed by the testimony that I saw my team presenting. Right off the bat my very own team was meeting people and explaining to them the adventure we were embarking on; Sylvia was helping a little old lady with her heavy bag, and I just was soaking it all in. So happy since attitudes like this show how serious these people are about their God.
Due to the delay we missed our flight out of Miami. I was disappointed but reminded myself that there is nothing WE can do about it. So we decided to live it up on our American Airlines vouchers and make the most of our time. Right away I knew this was going to be good for us. Even though Cochabamba is where we wanted to be. We had devotions on the river, a good breakfast and fun at the beach in a CHEAP rental car.
We had an overnight flight to Lima, slept in the airport and got to La Paz after lunch on Monday. Our luggage had been "misplaced" and after some detective work, and favor from an American Airlines staff, our bags were returned shrink wrapped and everything. We got an incredible deal on flights to Cochabamba and went into the city of La Paz for dinner. With only one case of altitude sickness, we quickly got out of there. We arrived in Cochabamba at 11:30 p.m. and Mike Timmer, my former roomate Katie, a bolivian friend Patto, and the Cristo were all waiting for us.
We spent our first day in Cochabamba visiting the orphanage bearing gifts from generous supporters stateside. We had a soccer game with the kids, and I quickly realized how much the altitude really affects one. We also helped at Nate's workshop, did some grocery shopping for the week, sorted the mountain of donations and had an "orientation". My friend Katie took her personal day from the school where she teaches to spend time with us and even made dinner for us of Sopa de Mani. Delicious!
On Tuesday we tagged along with Mike, Ted (or "Tedly" as he was affectionately nicknamed by some of my teammates), and Remberto to the Chapare (the Jungle). We saw progress on the homes there and the tree farm which will support the day-to-day expenses of the homes. The scenery was beautiful, and it was neat to return to the jungle and see the culture there.
We did some preparation work around the Hacienda (the guest house where we stayed) for the bonfire/birthday party for SARA! We made a quick trip to the Cancha (market), and then went to the Center where there was a sweet reunion with the missionaries and kids there and I proudly presented my team. (because I really am proud of them!). At the center we participated in play time, tutoring, games, nail painting, and more play time. It was a special occasion for them to have so many visitors so they decided to spend the regular class time having a soccer game. We returned home where Sylvia got right to work making Sara's birthday dinner. The plan was to have the bonfire after dinner, but once again time works very differently in South America, so dinner was getting ready the same time the guests were arriving. It was somewhat similiar to feeding of the 5,000. I mean on a smaller scale. Our dinner for 5, somehow fed nearly 30. The food was delicious, fellowship sweet, and the fire was big, though I barely had time to enjoy it.
The most fun thing of the evening was... well, 2 most fun things actually:
1st: It was really cool to see how excited everyone was that it was Sara's birthday. Everyone congratulated her, and sang the Bolivian birthday song to her with such emotion.
2nd: it was very cool to give out all the gifts that we had brought for all of these wonderful people. And incredibly rewarding to see their excitement.
It was a wonderful evening and a great way to start the 2nd leg of our journey to Potosi.
At 6 a.m we were ready with bags packed, trail mix handy and high spirits. We left on a mission to deliver Samaritan's Purse shoeboxes to rural communities in Southern Bolivia.
Jorge is a Bolivian Doctor and WAldo is a clown turned Dentist. Both men are founders of Red Vida de Esperanza (Life of Hope Network). The do a lot of work in these small communities encouraging, empowering and discipling the people there. Basically, it was an incredibly stretching 5 days. there were rarely bathrooms, we showered once, we were called upon to sing specials, give testimonies and teach classes with seconds notice. I feel that I learned and grew a lot and God came through in such a powerful way. We had the amazing surprise of returning through the Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats). It was beautiful. We got back at 1:30 a.m., 11.5 hours behind schedule, but slept very good that night.
At 5:30 David and I got up and headed off to the airport to purchase plane tickets. We were expecting to have to leave that night, but miraculously a new airline had recently started up in Bolivia and offered a flight to Santa Cruz the next morning for $20 cheaper than the leading airline. We took advantage of that, so excited that we would have an extra night in Cochabamba. After breakfast with the girls, we went to the cancha again to finish up some souvenir shopping, we finished early had some Papas Rellenas for lunch and decided to take advantage of our extra hour to go up to the Cristo. We didn't have time to take all the stairs, so we took the cable cars. We got to the top to see the beautiful city one last time. Then we headed off to the center to play and say goodbye. That was the hardest goodbye, I guess because there are so many people there that were so good to me, and have continued to be an encouragement to me since then. We hurried back to Zona Frutillar and had a little Christmas Party with the kiddos and said goodbye. Dinner was with the Timmers and the Moseys followed by a rousing game of Telephone Pictionary, and then we were off to my 2nd Family's house for a visit and volleyball game. We got home late, walked Katie home and packed up.
I was not ready to leave, but was so happy with how amazing the week turned out. My heart was aching, but at the same time was very very happy. I have never felt so loved in all of my life!! Incredible.
The next morning (Day 13),
Mike picked us up at 5, and we said goodbye to the Hacienda, Pop Tart and one very cool missionary. We were delayed three hours in Santa Cruz due to a sick pilot and by the time we got to Miami, after a little confusion in immigration all of us missed our flights out of Miami and once again spent the night at a hotel. So ironic.
So the next day we got up early (once again) and went back to the Miami airport. Goodbyes were rushed and we all headed our seperate directions. I was mostly choked up as I said goodbye to my cousin, as she was the last person I saw and I realized that now it was really over. I wished it could've lasted forever... I guess that's why we take pictures.
I can never thank you enough for your support, donations, and prayers. We KNOW we could not have done it without you. There were definitely times where we would say, "do you have any idea how many people are praying for us right now?" It was a great source of motivation and encouragement knowing that we were representing you and God.
So keep praying for the people of Bolivia. Pray for favor for the missionaries with the people there, as well as workers to go. There is so much work to be done.
Don't forget that you can still sponsor a Christmas project in Bolivia. The projects are budget friendly and a tangible way to bless the people for whom you've been praying. Go to www.navidadenbolivia.info for more information.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Keep watching the Photo blog for more pictures...