I cannot thank you enough for you prayers, encouragement and support of our trip to Bolivia. We are well aware of the fact that without you we would have been unable to accomplish as much as we did.
We spent a few days in the city of Cochabamba visiting a few different ministries, catching up with dear missionary friends, and distributing donations. We had the honor of meeting Gracia Burnham, and staying with the amazing Hedvall Family while in Cochabamba!
God brought our team together in the most unique way for the Potosi trip. We knew that we would go with Dr. Jorge and Dr. Waldo (who formed Red Vida de Esperanza years ago). I've been going with them for four years now and they are always asking when I can bring another team (so start saving up!!!). Sylvia, David and I came down from the States. Laura was a friend through mutual friends and Eduardo went to the same church as me when I lived in Cochabamba. The day before we left for Potosi I met Jed at baby washing (He was an intern with the same organization I worked with in 2008). He decided on that day to join our team to Potosi. When we arrived at the terminal Eduardo informed me that the little boy named Edwin would be accompanying us as we returned to his village Kharimayu Frias-which we visited in May/June when I went. It was so neat to see God orchestrate that and our team really had a neat dynamic and we worked together in an amazing way.
If you recall, Edwin was my little patient on my last trip down. He broke his leg a year ago now, and we took him out of his village in June because he needed to have some major surgeries in the city. He has had three surgeries and still needs more. He hadn't seen his family since June so he came along with us to spend time with his parents and siblings and returned back to Cochabamba for more medical attention. It was fun having him along and he was one of THE most joyful kids I've ever seen!
The trip consisted of two days each in two communities. Kharimayu Frias was up in the mountains and much more remote than the second village. They have installed running water since I was last there. People travelled for hours by foot to see us. We shared a Bible lesson, had games, coloring and songs with them. They also had a day for Especiales, where they would sing for us and we would sing for them, had dramas and testimonies. It was a joyful place, they slaughtered a sheep for us, and cooked up everything! We were humbled by their generosity and saddened by the harsh realities they face every day. Rain has been scarce and their only agricultural crop of potatoes has suffered. We spent a morning with Edwin's family which is one of the only christian families in the community. They are under immense pressure from the leaders of the community due to their refusal to worship mother earth (Pachamama) and are blamed for anything that goes wrong (lack of rain, etc).
On Thursday morning we arrived in Vacuyo (which I visited with a team in 2008). We did a similar program there. This community wasn't as remote or poor as the first, but still depended on the crops and livestock/llama herds to sustain them. The rituals of worship to the sun god and pachamama were still a big part of the culture but the church seemed to have a bigger influence in the community. We try to make sure the people know that we are associated with the church so that their job of following up with those who have questions or make decisions to follow Christ will be easier. On the last night we had a program with testimonies, a message of God's love and power as the only one who can save us, skits by Waldo the Clown and Co., and an invitation to follow Jesus. Many children responded and we finished the night by praying for the leaders of the church in Vacuyo and some leaders of neighboring churches that had come to be involved in the program we were hosting. There were tears all around, and we were reminded of the harsh conditions these laborers are under both physically and spiritually.
We gave out gifts in both communities, it was the last of the Samaritan's Purse shoeboxes as the bolivian government has imposed taxes on any incoming shipments of boxes which the organization cannot afford. So we supplemented with the load of donations which we brought. God's people were very faithful, and I must admit that I was surprised by how much we were actually able to pack! We must've seen over 150 kids and I kept thinking we weren't going to have enough but wouldn't you know it--we did!
God is faithful and his timing impeccable. The hike in gas prices was withdrawn late Friday night and everything was back to normal by Sunday. We even got to see the presidente! We had no problems with the vehicle that we rented and we stayed mostly healthy throughout the trip. Our flights were on time and our luggage only got lost on this side of the trip.
Thank you so very much for your prayers and for all of you that donated please know that you brought joy to the children and families of Potosi. Continue to be in prayer as to if and how God would use you to continue to support the ministry of Red Vida de Esperanza. Jorge has been praying for a vehicle of their own for years, and always asks me if we can bring another team (He's hoping for July...), the women also have handmade tapestries, bags, bracelets etc, that have also been sent with me if you would like to support these women and receive one of these unique pieces prices vary and 100% of the money goes back to these people in Bolivia. The need in Bolivia (as elsewhere) is great and God has burdened Jorge, Waldo and the other leaders of RVE to assist, teach and bless the rural communities throughout the country. I am always humbled and blessed to be a part and hope to continue to communicate to you how you can be a part also, and as always if you want to be removed from my mailing list just let me know and I'll be happy to oblige. :)
Mil gracias (many thanks) from the bottom of my heart! :)
God's blessings to you in 2011.
Much love and appreciation--
Jehova nuestro Dios, Jehova uno es.
The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Deut. 6:4