Hi all! Thanks for your thoughts, prayers and support – I appreciate it!
It’s wonderful to be back in Bolivia, albeit somewhat sweaty and dusty. I arrived at 8am on the Wednesday of last week and had back to back meetings with different organisations and churches until 10.30pm (3.30am English time) – I realised from Day One that my time here would be pretty intense! I’m working with International Mission Board, whose presence here in Bolivia is more or less for the purpose of coming alongside multiple different organisations and churches and connecting together those who have similar aims and goals and can support each other. Thus, I’ve been volunteered to serve several different local ministries all over everywhere. I’m so glad I don’t have problems understanding the language this time!
From last Thursday morning until midday Saturday I went to a conference for indigenous leaders, run by a Bolivian organisation who aim to unite and train indigenous church leaders to work (and ultimately plant house churches and disciple people etc) in unreached areas. It was really good! I was, in part, the presence of the ministry and also of ‘white people’ at the conference – and as well as learning a lot about indigenous people groups (and the struggles that indigenous Bolivian missionaries face in unreached communities) I was able to do some networking and put people from different organisations in touch with others from other groups, which I was told was very helpful and full of divine appointments.
When the conference ended after lunch on the Saturday I didn’t have to be anywhere specific – so I spent the rest of the weekend visiting the places that had meant the most to me when I lived here last year. I went back to my old house and had a coffee with the leaders of the ministry I worked for before; I visited the YWAM base where Ben and the team did their DTS (Discipleship Training School) and where I’d visited several times even after they graduated; I went to my church, which had been an amazing support for me last year, and it was such a blessing to see everyone again and to participate in the service; I went to our favourite city-centre coffee shop with a Bolivian friend with whom I’d worked my first night shift in the home; and I went both days to visit the girls’ home where I’d been working for my time here last year. It was amazing, but very full – though I’m used to that!
In the midst of being busy usually from early morning until late evening and going from place to place, by God’s grace I’ve been able to find rest in Him and time to pray on a regular basis, and have learnt to appreciate the time I spend on buses and in cars or taxis or queues! The time difference between the UK and here has also worked in my favour – I feel very much awake in the mornings as it feels like it should be later, and am able to easily spend time in prayer and the Bible before going out anywhere. Although at times I’ve felt tired, I’ve felt very well rested most of the time and at peace 🙂
Early on Monday morning I set off with Christy (a friend who I knew through church last year and visited a lot, and who I’m currently staying with and working for), Caroline (a friend of Christy) and Caroline’s two kids, to go down south to the department of Tarija to visit a small Quaker community a long way from any paved roads. We stayed there four days – though two of those were almost completely taken up with travelling; it took about 10 hours each way – and by the end I was very sad to leave. I certainly plan to keep in touch with them. They live without running water or electricity (though they have a well and also a small generator for one or two light bulbs and some power tools!), and the 3 familes live within a few miles of each other. The women and girls wear long dresses (with puffy sleeves) and hair coverings, and they look absolutely beautiful. I learnt a few practical skills like milking cows and other cow-related things, I saw some impressive insects and spiders and the like, and I had my first experience of an outdoor shower (involving a bucket tied to a rope with a shower-head-like hole in the bottom of it), which I thoroughly enjoyed! I also learnt some other things, relating to the simplicity and purity of life, and the necessity of silence in the midst of a world of busy clutter. Funnily enough, I recently wrote an essay regarding the latter, as I studied Quakerism for my Church History assignment!
We got back to Santa Cruz fairly late last night and returning to Christy’s apartment was like entering a different world, even though we’d only been away less than a week. This morning I went to a pastors’ meeting/breakfast thing with the Bolivian Baptist Convention, and there I saw the pastor of the church where we took the girls from the home to last year – he remembered me and it was nice to catch up. After running a few errands around the city in the afternoon I have this evening now to rest and spend time with friends.
Tomorrow morning I’m helping at an event for leaders regarding Islam in Bolivia and how the Church can relate to and reach out to the Muslim communities here. I know little on the subject, having encountered few Bolivian Muslims thus far because, I’m told, they mainly live in communities separated from the rest of society – but I hope to learn more about this tomorrow as well as helping with setup and refreshments. Then tomorrow evening I’m helping teach English in a group in the University run by an American friend – around 40 students attend and she’s the only teacher. Should be fun!
On Sunday I’m attending a party (all afternoon and evening) at the girls’ home where I used to work: the home will have been open 11 years! I still have photos of the last year’s party on the wall of my bedroom in Gloucester, UK… I’m very excited! Then I’m spending next week helping with English classes at the University; volunteering a bit with a couple who work with girls in prostitution; and preparing things for the upcoming disaster relief trip to the Beni (different state/department in Bolivia), such as sorting out medical supplies and hammocks (to sleep in while we’re there) and the like. After that, the Beni trip itself! Watch this space for updates.
Ben is in Senegal and seems to be thoroughly enjoying it, picking up French and Pulaar and making water pumps…! 😀
– for the opportunities to learn and to serve that He’s provided for me here
– for the blessing of being back and the chance to see friends again here
– for protecting my health thus far
– for giving me a love of Spanish an ability to talk with people here easily this time
– for providing the finance for my stay here
– for giving me energy and strength, and for providing time to just talk with Him
– for God’s continued protection over my health
– for God to continue to teach me and keep me open to whatever He wants to do
– for God to use me as a blessing to His people here…