VIM BOLIVIA TRIP REPORT #2 Cochabamba 22 junio 2010
Our first workday of a new week is winding down at the Instituto Americano and our days begin to take on a rhythm of construction, vacation bible school, and special excursions and talks — interspersed with delicious meals featuring potatoes, quinoa, and tropical fruits. Although it is winter in Bolivia, all we´ve experienced are sunny blue skies, temperatures in the 70´s, and cool nights for sleeping. All in all, perfect for falling into bed exhausted after another day of being in community with our Methodist brothers and sisters in this lovely city surrounded by the mountains of the Cordillera Central.
Leaving a day early this year allowed us a bonus day on Saturday to don our work gloves and head over to the construction site of the future Luz de Vida church building, where a truckload of eucalyptus logs kept some of us busy. Others headed to the home that still houses Luz de Vida´s overflowing congregation, and put their backs into hauling a small mountain of rocks from the street through the garage into the backyard. One side of the property is being prepared for the installation of bakery equipment which will provide members of the congregation with a means of income. If we meet our goal, we will be taking bread from its ovens with us on our trip to the Chapare rainforest region next week!
Already the surrounding neighbors are intrigued by the energy and life emanating from this house church. As rocks were being hauled into the backyard on Saturday, a man no one knew stopped, considered, and began loading himself up with stones to take out back. Today when team members returned to resume working, he did as well. They learned that Diego has lived there awhile, yet has felt no connection to his neighborhood. He was willing to lend a hand to find out what was happening, to feel connected to something. I don´t think he was hauling mere rocks, but actual living stones from which he may be able to build a community, and find the light of life, la luz de vida.
While Sunday morning saw a few of the group back at the same house for worship, most headed over to Iglesia Piedra Viva, a church several of us also had a hand in helping its congregation build from the ground up. Six years on, to see Jaime and Hilda, the lay leaders who brought about the founding of this vibrant church, well past retirement but never resting in their commitment to their neighborhood´s children, to worship in a simple yet moving sanctuary with the congregation, to explore the additional work they have done to the church building, and to hear of the outreach programs that involve children, young adults, and women,– to see all of this is to see what Luz de Vida will become in a few years: not the dusty worksite of today but another vibrant house of a living, creative, loving God.
Sunday afternoon included a bus tour of the city: the ¨must-see¨ stop being the towering Cristo de la Concordia, which a handful of enthusiastic VIMmers with good lungs climbed; a drive through the bustling main market, La Cancha; and stops at the Plaza Principal, the Prado area, and the perennial favorite, Globos, for ice cream.
By 8 a.m. this morning the construction crew headed off to continue work on the bakery and the church building, and 4 teams of vacation bible school teachers went to Luz de Vida, Piedra Viva, Emmanuel and Nazareno Churches, delighted with the hugs and exuberance from the children who participated. While numbers were lower than expected due to a new national holiday (the Aymaran New Year began today) we will have four more days to share smiles, bible stories and crafts together. We ended our day in discussion with Pastor Gustavo from Piedra Vida, and Daniel Flores, the District Coordinator. How can our conferences best continue to participate in programs that promote health and education for Bolivia´s rural women and children, in the changing political and social climate of the new government? There are no ready answers, just a determination to forge a “complementary” relationship where the gifts and graces of one community are exchanged with the gifts and graces of the other, to truly experience and bring into being the kingdom of God, here, and the light of Christ, now.
We welcome your continued prayers, and anticipate sharing our experiences with you in person, so that you will come to know the Bolivia and the Bolivians we cherish.
Hasta entonces, until then. VIM Bolivia 2010