That means Gracias--or Thank You.
On behalf of my 10 teammates, Dr. Jorge, and some of the residents of Wak'u Mayu, Koll'pa, Senegoma, Potosi, Cochabamba, Uyuni, etc...I want to express my deepest thanks for your prayers, financial support and encouragement. We are so grateful for all you did to make it possible for us to go on your behalf and share the love of Jesus.
We began our journey on New Years eve. I must admit that it snuck up on me...kinda like Christmas or my birthday!
Our flight from San Antonio was cancelled so we scrambled to try to work things out. We stood in line for about two hours and found out that we had automatically been booked on the flight that left 30 minutes from when we finally got to speak with someone. (While most of the people in line in front of us had to go home and return the next day to get a flight to Dallas). We didn't see our team until nearly 24 hours later than when we were supposed to meet up with them. We had to fly through Lima, Peru and every flight we took was at least 30 minutes delayed--for no apparent reasons. We finally arrived in Cochabamba and my friend Eduardo had conveniently recently purchased a micro (large minivan) that held all of us and our luggage. We stayed at Laura's family's guesthouse and were taken very good care of. We spent our two days in Cochabamba visiting orphanages and the Cristo and preparing for the trip to Potosi.
We left for Potosi Tuesday night. I had asked for prayers for that as we left with two injured teammates. Turns out that was the least of our concerns as our bus left with half of our luggage and none of us! We ended up having to go to the smaller terminal, but it was gone. Jorge was able to get tickets for us to go three hours to Oruro where we had to find another bus to take us to Potosi. We made it, and prepared the gifts for the children. We left for Potosi in a rented bus. We spent many nights on that bus! We arrived in Senegoma late Wednesday night. We had our first program that morning. We were given oatmeal milk for breakfast with water crackers (kinda like unsalted saltines). The children hanging around were cared for by their ten year old brother as the parents had gone off to the city to celebrate "Kings Day".
We were joined by Carlos and his 14 year old son Emmanuel and they were clowns and just about the best I've ever seen! We sang songs with the kids and then Carlos and Emmanuel took over. They did games, skits, a Nativity Skit (with us as pawns. I happily played a sheep!). They explained how Jesus came to live among us but all the people in Bethlehem were too busy to let him in. He invited the children to allow Christ into their lives. Then we gave out the Christmas gifts (donations from generous friends and family).
We continued to follow the road until we got as close as we could to Wak'u Mayu where we had to get out of the bus and carry all of our things to the village. We were assisted by some of the men from the community. they carried huge loads tied to their backs! It was only about a 30 minute hike to the village. The people from the community gathered to watch and play. They slaughtered a lamb for us and the women prepared a large pot of lamb soup. We repeated a similar program to the one we did in Senegoma. Dr. Jorge cared for patients while we continued the activities with the children. That evening everyone gathered in a small room for what was supposedly a 40 minute worship service. There is no church in the village, and it seemed that the people were so excited to have more believers to fellowship it easily turned into a two hour service. Dr. Jorge shared about Jesus calming the storm and his power to calm the storms in our lives and to keep us from being overcome by difficult circumstances. We sang a few songs in English and they sang a few songs in Quechua and Spanish. We closed the evening by praying with a lady who had decided to follow Christ. Us girls piled into a small room lined up like burritos. We were graciously given llama skins to sleep on. It rained all night long and we woke up to a sloppy courtyard and another 30 minute hike back to the bus. We had another breakfast of tea and crackers and set out for Koll'pa. Because of the rain the roads were impassable and Dr. Jorge announced that we would have to hike to reach the village. He stated that it would be about 2 hours. It might have been if we had been practicing hiking mountains at 4000 meter altitude...after a lunch break and challenging hike around the mountains about half of us arrived at the village after 3 1/2 hours. The scenery was gorgeous--I felt like we were in a mixture between Narnia (minus all the creatures) and Sound of Music! It was absolutely breathtaking. When we arrived we gave out a snack, vitamins, gifts and gave a short presentation to the children. There were only about 25 as most of the adults and children were at a community celebration for the holiday. Someone had gone and announced that we were there and a few stragglers came to see us. Some ladies had traveled a few hours from Kharimayu Frias (the village we visited last year) to sing with the band. They sang some songs in Quechua and Spanish accompanied by guitar and Charango played by the men from Wak'u Mayu. A drunk man approached yelling that they didn't want the gospel to come to their town. He was hurling large rocks along with his insults and the musicians and children quickly dodged for cover. He continued ranting as he wandered off. We quickly wrapped up the program to head back and reunite with the 5 of our teammates who had stayed back. We walked quickly as we realized the urgency of catching up with our friends before the angry drunk man did. We also knew we had little time to cover as much ground as possible before darkness fell. We found our way back and shaved an hour off of our trip as we stopped for fewer breaks and walked faster. We praised God that we arrived safe and sound. I feared for us having to hike in the dark but we had some experienced mountain climbers and for that I was grateful!
We drove all night and enjoyed an early morning shower and swim at the hot springs at Miraflores--after having gone about 4 days of not showering.
We returned to Potosi and made room for Jorge's extended family to accompany us to Uyuni. We spent Sunday morning at the worship service in Potosi. The entire service was focused on Communion (Santa Cena) or the Eucharist. The pews were all turned to face the table in the center of the sanctuary. The church members sang with enthusiasm--yet somberness like I've never experienced in the states. The pastor closed the service by informing the church members of our trip to the mountains and let them know that we would be visiting the prison, orphanage and hospital as time permitted. He announced that we would close the afternoon by visiting the Salt Flats and returning to share in the evening service. He invited the church to accompany us. We walked to the prison shortly after the service was dismissed. It looked like any other residence until the large wooden doors were opened. We were led into a small courtyard with a broken down car, a beat up pool table under a suspended tarp, and several mangy dogs. One vocal prisoner stated that many of the prisoners were still sleeping as it was the best way to "kill time". He went and told a few to come out. A few men and women slowly wandered out and lingered in the corners while eying us suspiciously. We sang a few songs and then Katie and I were put in charge of sharing the same message that Jorge had given in Wak'u Mayu. Four men decided to give their lives to Christ and it is a beautiful reminder that God desires to save us no matter how far we've travelled down the wrong path He has the power and authority to redeem our broken lives and transform it into something so beautiful. Please join us in praying for our new brothers! We were unable to visit the orphanage as the children were out for the afternoon. We went to the hospital and saw the only patient.
We piled back in the bus (along with a lot of youth and adults from the church) and went to the Salt Flats! It had just rained and it was a beauty which I really cannot explain. It's easily one of the coolest places I've ever been! We went to the salt hotel and enjoyed the beauty for a bit. On our way back the axle on the bus broke. They announced that they were going to fix it with a "goma" (long rubber strip--kinda similar to a bungee cord). They managed to fix it, I have no idea...and then limped it back to town. We arrived late to church but marched in nonetheless. Dr. Jorge preached after the other preacher finished. We had a late dinner of chicken, fried potatoes and rice. We went to bed on our straw matresses exhausted. Sometimes I don't understand how it is possible to do so many things in only one day!
The next morning we received a tour of the radio station, had breakfast, devotions with Pastor Max, devotions with Jenny and an open floor for testimonies. It was amazing. We heard some amazing stories of God's redemptive work in the broken lives of team members, Jorge's family and were reminded of some cool things He had been doing for us that week. Jorge's sister decided she wanted to pray to invite Christ to take her life so she could rest from struggling to control it and allow Him to be LORD of her good days and bad. She and her daughter prayed and we rejoiced for the broken axle which allowed us the chance to share--although we rejoiced once it was repaired too!!
We travelled back to Potosi and saw some snow on the way. It turned to rain after our arrival as Jorge and his family ran around for the afternoon. There were no more bus tickets that night and they worked diligently to find a way for us to get to Sucre to catch our flight the next morning. He finally got a bus to drive us there. It was missing a seat but we piled in anyways for the three hour drive. We spent the night at his nieces' house and flew to Santa Cruz the next morning. We spent a day and a half there with Amanda and Limberg's aunt and uncle. We went to the market, walked around town, and enjoyed a break.
We praise God for His faithfulness every step of the way. A million thanks to all of you, and an extra million if you made it through this ENTIRE update! :) And thanks to the team: Amanda, Limberg, Annette, Jessi, Nancy, Julie, Tee, Jenny, Laura, Jorge, Carlos and Emmanuel. I'm honored to know and have had the opportunity to serve alongside you!