Presbyterian Missions Weblog

Bolivia #13 – Winding Down

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 28, 2008

Wednesday was kind of a blur, as I still felt rotten and weak and couldn’t get out to do anything. Certain aspects of this thing just wouldn’t let up. Couldn’t figure out what the problem was and was beginning to suspect a parasite of some kind. Everyone was worried. I just wanted to be able to preach, and not have my gut hurt!

In the morning, tract distribution was scheduled, and Pastor David had prepared about 3000 to send out. I heard them when they left, and when they came back. They were pretty excited. All 3000 had been given out in about an hour, and they came up to see me and tell me how people crossed the street to come and get a tract, how eager many were to receive one, how exciting it was, how they wished people in the States wanted to hear about the good news of Christ with the same determination. They had a good time.

The afternoon was free time so the team could go out and do some shopping. They had been looking forward to this for a long time, and I was very sorry not to go with them. I stayed in bed, feeling marginally stronger and wanting to keep it that way. It was very quiet during the afternoon, and I slept it away. Meanwhile, they were busy! They enjoyed exploring the Witches’ Market area and finding their own places to buy gifts of thanks and remembrance for people back home. By the time they returned, they were pretty tired, but showed me the stuff they bought like warriors returning in triumph. And, some of them did really well in the bartering – others, well, let’s just say they were a little too soft-hearted!

I tried eating a very little before the service, but it didn’t set very well, so I quit. One of the church members came up to the office about a half hour before the service – he was helping conduct the opening parts of the service – and started talking to me about my symptoms. He’s a dentist, a very fine man, and was quite concerned for me. His name is Victor, and a good friend. Anyway, after hearing what was going on, he said it was clear to him that I had an intestinal infection, not a parasite, and he knew what I needed. He and Roldan took off to a local pharmacy and were back in a few minutes with some strong antibiotics and some other things, including an instant Bolivian version of Gatorade, and got me going on it. I was ready to try anything.

The Lord helped me through a long, emotional farewell service, and the message went pretty well. Started slow. Ed told me it took about 5 minutes for the engine to start running properly, and it felt that way. But the Lord gave the strength, and the preaching seemed to go well. I usually am a little on the longish side anyway, and these messages are all translated – even though I shorten them a bit, it’s still twice as long due to the translation, so we go about an hour. It was a long time to stand, but I hardly felt it once I got going. The Lord was good. I’ll admit I was ready to sit down, though!

Well, Victor’s prescription worked. I slept through the night for the first time since Saturday, and woke up feeling alive again. So well, in fact, that I spent the day with the team walking (slowly!) around La Paz through a museum and in some nice parks with views of the city, even doing a little shopping with them. Was pretty wiped by the end of the day, but it was great to be out again, and to spend our last day in Bolivia in fellowship with more than my pillow.

It was a beautiful, warm day, and the museum we went to was a great way for the team to get to know the history and culture of the area. It even had rooms full of silver and gold from the Inca days, and lots of dioramas, costumes, weapons, etc., from a the various eras of La Paz’ history. It’s located in a preserved area of old colonial La Paz that takes you back a couple of hundred years to what the streets were like then. The parks are perched on top of ridges that overlook the city, and have a lot of big toys (concrete and steel, not wood like here) and play areas for kids. My particular favorite thing to do in Laikkota Park is to spin the kids around on the merry-go-round until they scream for mercy, and then they laugh and want me to do it again. Once I start with a few of them, any kid within sight comes running to jump on. It’s fun. The girls and Pastor David slid down a giant slide, and Ed and a few others allowed themselves to be swallowed by a giant alligator. The locals must think we’re crazy.

After lunch it was time to finish up the last minute shopping before heading back to the church for a special farewell meal. It was a feast, and Gloria and Gonzaga worked all day preparing it. My only regret was that I couldn’t hardly eat anything. But no one else seemed to have that difficulty, and the food was delicious. They had even obtained a cake from a local bakery and we had a wonderful celebration. Gloria and Gonzaga have worked so hard throughout our time here, with absolute joy and a determination not to let us do anything for ourselves that they could do for us. They are very special people.

So the day ended with last minute packing – had to get up at 3:30 in the morning or so. Rachel and Liz were determined to just stay up all night, which they did, and I think regretted doing the next day! The Quisberts and Irustas all came the next morning with us to the airport, and patiently waited while we got checked in, guarding our carry-on stuff. We all went to breakfast at Burger King in the airport before tearfully saying goodbye. These are good friends, well-met, and it has been a trip that no one will quickly forget. Thanks for your prayers. After about 20 hours of travel, all are safely home!


Bolivia #12 – A Long 48 Hours

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 22, 2008

Sunday night was a long night, went to bed early, and then woke up about midnight feeling really bad. It’s now Tuesday night, and it’s the first time I’ve felt well enough to do much of anything. Basically had the 48 hour version of the 24 hour flu. And yes, it is what Carol had. The last two days have been a blur, sleeping most of the time (in between trips downstairs), but I can tell you some of what the team has been doing, anyway.

Monday was painting day, and the team was able to prime the whole interior of the church, and get the outside painted entirely. Pastor David hired a couple of painters to come finish up the inside – they were here until about 11 pm. The sanctuary and outside are now a very nice, warm, sandy-yellow color. It’s light and inviting. Pastor David is ecstatic. It really looks nice from the street, too. Painting is quite different here than in the states. First, you have to tint your own paint. You buy the base, and the tubes of tint, and then bring it home and stir it up. Then, for some reason, they like to thin it out with a lot of water. I could understand that if I were spraying the paint, but they get it really watery and roll or brush it on. Takes more coats that way. It was driving Carol crazy – she had the consistency just where she wanted it, and the painters came in and started adding more water! I think we kind of got to do it our way on the exterior. But, either way, it looks very nice, much better than the raw, grey concrete it was before.

Rachel, however, didn’t have such a good day. While priming an area over her head, some of the primer dropped into her eye, partially dissolving her contact lens and causing a lot of pain. It took some doing for Carol to get the lens out, but she was able to do so. Rachel was in a lot of pain, and felt bad besides because it knocked her out of the work crew. Carol lubricated the eye with drops and patched it after looking on the internet to see what to do. Today, Rachel still couldn’t see much out of the eye, so they took her to an eye doctor here who said everything looked pretty good, and that the biggest issue was an infection in the eyelid. He gave her some anti-biotic and anesthetic drops, which have really helped the pain. Praise God she is seeing better this evening and a lot more comfortable.

I understand the evening Bible study at the Ramirez’ home was terrific, with the house packed with about 30 people, and plenty of food (not that I was interested in that). Sorry I had to stay behind. The Ramirez family are good friends. I just slept. Tried to eat a few crackers and a little soup, but that was about it until this morning. Still going slow, very drained. Tonight, though, is the best I’ve felt, so I’m hoping for a good night of rest and a normal day tomorrow.

Tonight everyone has taken off again for the home Bible study at the Huanca home. The Huancas are also very good friends, and I’m sorry to miss it. But I’m worried about pushing it too fast. Today was a good day for the team: Rachel is better, Liz has a cold, but is plugging along, Carol headed up a women’s Bible study that went very well from what I am told, with a lot of ladies in attendance. This afternoon the team gathered with a group of young people for a couple of hours of sports at a local Wallyball complex, and Roldan brought a devotional. I guess there were about 20 young people there besides the team. Ed came back breathing hard, remembering that the altitude hasn’t lessened! But they had a great time. And yes, I slept through it!

Had a light dinner tonight, and am trying to regain equilibrium. For those of you that knew about this and were praying, thanks. I’m sure I’m out of the woods now. Have to preach tomorrow night, and we’re supposed to go out and distribute tracts in the morning. Also, we scheduled some time for shopping in the afternoon tomorrow, and the team is anxious to find gifts for folks back home. I hope to go with them to help them find what they need and help them barter for the best deals. It’s more fun than actually buying stuff for yourself!

I found out that my blog host is having issues with their service that they use to post pictures. I tried to upload some yesterday in a coherent moment, and the deal is that nothing that I post will show up for the moment. So, when they get it straightened out, I’ll be putting pictures up for Peru and Bolivia. Until then, thanks for reading and keeping us in your prayers.

Bolivia #11 – Weekend Witness, Work, and Walking!

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 22, 2008

Saturday was a lighter day, with only teaching and helping with the children’s OANSA program in the afternoon. That’s the Spanish version of AWANA in the States. More on that in a moment.

Well, we took some time in the morning to get some money changed and walked downtown, about a mile or so, to the exchange place. It’s located about a block from the San Fransisco church and plaza, in the heart of La Paz. We passed out tracts as we went, and more when we reached the plaza. None of us have enough Spanish under our belts to really engage people with the gospel, but we are thankful that most receive the tracts willingly and even begin to read immediately. Roldan spent some time with a drunken man in the plaza, and tried to relieve him of his liquor. It’s so sad to see this sight frequently – men staggering through the streets in midday in a stupor. The verse that reads, “without God, and without hope in the world” comes to mind. After exchanging some money, we walked through the church, which is about 460 years old or so. Its façade is an ornate blending of traditional Inca, Tihuanacan, and Catholic art, and the interior is a blend of baroque and neoclassical Catholic images and designs, much of it covered in gold leaf or gold paint. The walls are lined with images of saints, with people praying to the images and offering flowers and incense. The mix of pagan and Christian symbolism is obvious, typical of the Romanist tendency to syncretize with local religions rather than remaining true to biblical Christianity. The devotion of many to this false religion is an occasion for sorrow, and reminds us of why we are here.

Back out in the fresh air, we decided to take a stroll back uphill toward the church to find a taxi. This area of La Paz is a big tourist draw, and the streets surrounding the church are lined with shops that sell every kind of tourist trinket, traditional handcrafts, musical instruments, and Bolivian clothing of all kinds. And, the famous “Witches’ Market” is also in this area, interesting to be so close to the Catholic church! The walk uphill can be grueling, with grades of 10-15% sometimes, so we went slowly, did a little browsing along the way, and enjoyed soaking up some local sounds, smells, and sights. There was the traditional wedding we saw a part of in the streets, the crowded Saturday market streets, fresh-squeezed orange juice from a street vendor’s cart (one of my favorite things to do in La Paz!), and doing our best to avoid becoming a hood ornament on taxis and busses! We never did find a taxi or bus that was free along our route, so we ended up walking the entire way back to the church, tired but happy from the experience. We had handed out about 250 tracts, and found a few bargains on gifts for people back home, and become one with the city for a time.

The afternoon OANSA program is an outreach to the children of the neighborhood, and from 3-5 every Saturday afternoon the kids pile into the sanctuary for a time of singing, Bible stories, Bible memory, games, and activities. Today, our team was privileged to be the leaders (helped a lot by Gloria, Martin, and Gonzaga!). The kids did a great job with their memory work and crafts, and they loved the game time, too. I brought a Bible story from the book of Job. I think there were about30 kids present. The church has been doing this outreach for a little over a year now, and is sponsored by the Grand Island BPC in New York.

Since we didn’t have anything planned for the evening, we continued a tradition of taking the team and the Quisberts, Irustas, Roldan, and the kitchen helper out to a nice dinner as a thank you for all their hard work. We went to a awesome restaurant at the top of the Hotel Presidente downtown. The food was superb, and the view was incredible 17 stories up. You look all around and see the panorama of La Paz at night. It was beautiful.

The Lord’s Day services went very well. Susan and Carol taught the children’s Sunday School classes, and I preached in the morning and evening. It was a blessing to see the church pews full, and to know that this is the regular attendance, too. With some of our special services, we have a lot of visitors, which is wonderful, but it is nice to see the regular attendance at good levels. In the afternoon, we had a kind of in-house concert where the music students for the week played piano and violin, and team members did more solo or small group pieces/songs, and the whole group did several Aymara and Spanish songs. It was low-key and a great time of fellowship. These music students have worked with our teams before, and continued their practice in between, and they really make progress with our music teachers. This year, Carol had the violin students, and Susan the piano students. It was a special treat to have our friend Christian spend the concert time and evening service with us. Susan had taught him piano four years ago, and while he had had lessons before, he hadn’t made much progress. He took what he learned from her and just took off. He plays mostly by ear, and plays with incredible virtuosity. And, he especially loves hymns, and when he plays he just grins from ear to ear with joy in the playing. It’s a blessing to hear him.

I’m not feeling well this evening, not sure what is going on. Hope this doesn’t turn into what Carol had this week.


Bolivia #10 – Wrapping up a full week

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 19, 2008

Forgot to mention yesterday how the final English classes went. We had a smaller number of young people show up, but still in the neighborhood of 60 or so, including some new ones. We all made a particular effort to  make a final presentation and urging to the gospel which, in my class at least, was soberly received by most of the kids.

Rachel and Carol took it easy this morning, and both are feeling better. Don’t know if it was something they ate, or just the winding road and altitude adjustment that hit them, but we’re thankful for the Lord’s strengthening them. They were ready for the day in the afternoon.

Today was our last early morning broadcast, and I finished up with the church at Philadelphia. I’ll have to cover the other churches that I have left (Pergamos, Sardis, and Thyatira, in that order) on Sunday and next Wednesday. Ed is looking forward with a little trepidation to the final two home Bible studies in the evening next week, but I’m sure that he will do well. He has been a blessing to the people. Some of them have even been calling him “Pastor” which really makes his day!

We wrapped up VBS this morning, with about ten children. The kids were really terrific this year. School is in, or we’d have a lot more, but we are glad for what we had.

The last music lessons were also done today. We will include some of the students in Sunday’s concert in the afternoon. The participation has been enthusiastic, to say the least. We’ll have students playing violin and piano numbers. We had the rest of the afternoon free, so did some practice for our own music on Sunday and came up with a good program for that afternoon. It will be more of a “personal” kind of concert, doing some of the music that we have done so far, but also doing a lot more solo and small group songs. Roldan is even going to do a solo on his harmonica – he’s pretty good!

The choir “invitational” in the evening was quite a big deal. We started doing this four years ago with the first team that we sent down here, and it has become a tradition. This one was the best organized and executed yet. There were five choirs that came, and our team, each singing three songs. The choirs come from all over La Paz. Some are from specific churches, but most are Christian community choirs that any believer can join. The music was almost all done in Spanish, and was a blessing to listen to. Some of the songs were hymns that we know in English, and others hymns and gospel music that is indigenous, at least to South America. Other songs had a decidedly classical touch. Wonderful variety without being worldly. We marveled at the piano accompaniment of a young man that Susan had taught four years ago, and has essentially taught himself to play anything by ear with tremendous skill and virtuosity. He played for almost all the choirs, all by ear, sometimes only glancing at the music (when it was available) to make sure he had the tune in his head.  Then, one of the choirs asked me to play for them, two songs that I had never seen or heard before! Well, I didn’t do as well as Christian, but I survived and so did the choir, as the Lord helped us put it together as they performed the songs. Our team did two songs in Spanish and two in English. It was a beautiful evening of worship and celebration together. Susan was given an engraved silver plate in thanks for her coming for the third time. They really love her here.

After the service, Gloria Quisbert and Roldan had a surprise for us — ice cream! Roldan overheard Liz saying how much she was longing for some, and he went out and bought some for all of us. We enjoyed it all together with our Bolivian brethren before our evening devotions and bed. God is good. It was a great day!

Bolivia #9 – Gifts of Strength

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 19, 2008

Well, today was a big day. In addition to our usual Bible study in the early morning and VBS, we were looking forward to visiting a couple of radio stations up in El Alto this afternoon, coming back for English class, and going back up to El Alto for the evening concert. Well, I have to say we really weren’t looking forward to that schedule, because it’s a good half hour up to El Alto on steep, winding, bumpy, twisting roads, and its exhausting just making the trip. And, we were painfully aware of how much practice we needed for the concert. Well, as it turned out, the Lord saw to it that we got some rest and the practice! The radio stations called to say that they had sold time in the afternoon, and that we could only come later, during our English class time. So, that was cancelled, and we were able to stay here at the church for the afternoon. Pastor David made arrangements with a secular station just up the street from us about 2 minutes to go in and do a team interview and some songs for about 20 minutes or so, and we were able to do that. This station particularly is designed for factory workers in the area, and we were able to talk about the gospel, and ecumenicity, and the contrast between us and the Catholic church, all as the announcer asked questions. It was great.

We go in some good practice, and spent the rest of the afternoon getting ready and gathering strength for the evening. It’s hard to imagine the difference a couple of thousand feet can make in the extent of your endurance, but at this altitude it can be huge. After a nice dinner, we took a minibus up the tortuous way, but a little quicker this time since we took the toll road. Still, on the way Rachel started feeling really rough. Thought we were going to have to stop to let her out a couple of times, but she held on. By the time we arrived at the church, she was pretty green. Roldan found some local herbs that are good for this sort of thing, and they perked her up considerably, enough so that she was able to participate in the concert! God is good. We really needed her voice and flute, since we’re a pretty small bunch, and it was a big sanctuary. Carol started feeling poorly about the time we started the concert, but held on as well. The trip down was rough for her, but the herbs did the trick for Rachel.

The concert went really well, and was well received. There were about 200 people or so there, many of whom I know from past trips, and many new faces from all over El Alto. Most exciting to me was seeing our new brother in Christ, Ronald, walk in, grinning from ear to ear. He was just beaming, and I felt like jumping up and down with joy at seeing him. He is clearly a new person. He will be coming to church here, and Martin and David are taking him under their collective “wing” to make sure that he is in a place where he can grow in the Lord.

The church we sang at is a large one, and the building is relatively new and still unfinished. But they have come a long ways from the last time that I saw it and ministered there. The pastor is the head of the CALA ministry and a leader in his denomination. CALA is the ministry that produces hymnals in Aymara, the songs that we sing for the concerts we do. They are amazed that Americans like and care about their music, and they treat us as one of them. It’s a blessing.

We came home tired but elated that we survived our concert, and thankful for the strength that God gives to do his work. Thanks for your prayers.

Bolivia #8 – A Holiday, and What Happened

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 17, 2008

Today was the 199th anniversary of the independence of the city of La Paz, and fireworks were a major part of the festivities last night, and they have continued through the day. The day began as usual, with our early morning Bible study, only I switched with Ed, who is now doing the rest of the home studies. I needed the projector for my series on the seven churches of Asia, and he was happy to swap with me. In fact, he did the study last night at the Irustas. The study is going very well, and people are really getting into digging deep into these incredible letters in Revelation 2 & 3.

With school out today, we had 28 kids in VBS, which was great! I dropped in during crafts time and the kids all crowded around to show me their decorated foam crosses and give me hugs. They are precious children. There’s one 5 or 6 year old ittle girl in particular, Beatrice, whom I’d adopt if I could and her parents would let her go! She comes by herself every day, usually with her friend Carol, and always runs to greet me and jump into my arms. Yeah, she’s got me wrapped around her little finger, I admit it.

Well, even though it was a holiday, all the music students showed up in the afternoon, and the classes lasted a long time, longer than the scheduled time even. The English classes were officially cancelled, but we still had five girls come anyway, and we met in another room. Tomorrow they’ll all be back, and we’ll work our usual program, but today we were kind of low-key. I taught them a gospel song by going through the lyrics line by line, explaining the English meaning, and then using it as a testimony of why I have confidence in Christ. Ed helped me out, and the gospel just flowed out.The response was pretty incredible. One girl in particular said that though she had heard things like God loves you, and you can trust Him, before, she had never heard it like this – never heard about Christ as the foundation of our faith and confidence for this life and the next. She wants to come back to one of our concerts, and I hope that we can see her come to a saving knowledge of Christ. She and another girl in particular are really open and eager to hear. It was an awesome time.

We had a regular service here at the church in the evening, and just kept on with the Revelation series. We sang some Aymaran special music, and Rachel played her flute and sang, too, with Liz accompanying on the piano. It was a very good day. The wind picked up and the temp dropped sharply tonight, and it was pretty cold. Everyone is dreading taking a shower, as the sporadically hot water falls over you, getting you nice and wet so that the icy wind can chill you off as you shower and then race back to the relative warmth of your room! Everyone has been trying to get showers in during the middle of the day to take advantage of the warmer air (it gets up into the 50s during the day). Anyway, looking forward to seeing what the Lord has for us tomorrow. We’ve got a big concert in the evening, and we need more practice! Pray hard! Thanks.

Bolivia #7 – Another Full Day

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 16, 2008

Ed started us off again today working through the value and application of the Bible to our daily lives. The folks that are attending in the mornings really appreciated the practical nature of the lessons.

We held VBS today, with about 8 kids, and it was a blessing. We’re running a pretty typical program of Bible lessons, singing, crafts, and games. The kids love it. The program runs from 9:30-12:30.

We had another wonderful meal for lunch, pretty typical food for here, and lots of it. They are spoiling us rotten. We’re not complaining! They won’t let us do our laundry, insisting on doing it for us.

Instead of music lessons this afternoon, I held a seminar in Biblical Interpretation for pastors and church leaders and teachers. It was pretty well attended, and recorded, too. I didn’t get through but about half of my notes, but was able to get a good foundation laid. It was very well received.

On the heels of the seminar we had the English classes again, with the same kids and some new ones, too. It was great. We were able to share the gospel with the kids in all the classes, and they keep coming back for more. In our advanced class we continued our discussion about the foundation for discerning right from wrong, the basis of law and judgment, and were able to bring them right to the Law of God in the Ten Commandments. They are taking it all in very seriously and intensely. Tomorrow, because of the holiday, we won’t hold the full program, but several told us that they would come anyway, even though school was out. They want to talk. The Law is the schoolmaster that leads to Christ. Pray that we can do just that tomorrow and Thursday.

We had another home Bible study this evening, this time at the home of Deacon Martin Irusta. We had a wonderful surprise in a homemade pizza dinner (VERY good!), and enjoyed an evening of fellowship around the Word, games, and praise. We played charades in two languages, which gets pretty wild. The party outside, with the holiday celebrations heating up, gave us some competition in the noise department, but we managed to stay on track and had a wonderful evening together. The Irustas, live within walking distance of the church, and so we walked through the markets and vendors and smells and sounds of a La Paz evening, up and down the steep streets. A walk in the cool evening air was just the perfect way to end a great day. Thanks for your prayers.

Bolivia #6 – A Day of Surprises

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 16, 2008

Our formal ministry began early this morning, with Ed bringing the morning devotional on the 10 commandments. We learned last night that the morning messages are going to broadcast on the radio, which will reach all the way to the Peruvian border and south to Cochabamba! Ed’s a little nervous, but Semper Gumby is the battle cry! He did just fine, and will finish up tomorrow morning.

Today only three kids showed up for VBS, so we cancelled it for the day, and the group went to the market to hand our tracts. It was really easy, as people would come up to us and ask for them, crossing the street to get them. Even handed them to policemen standing around! In less than 30 minutes we handed out several hundred, and we’ll do this again another day with even more tracts. While the team was out, they saw several school band parades, as the city is gearing up for the 200th anniversary of La Paz on Wednesday. The team also had the chance to go through a typical meat market, where most of the meat was still alive – chickens, ducks, guinea pigs, turkeys, rabbits, etc. Rachel almost found herself being offered guinea pigs to eat, but managed to escape!

Music lessons came after lunch, and we have several students that are working on piano, violin, and music theory. Susan, Carol, and Rachel are heading up these classes, which are very popular. We had about ten kids or so in the classes, of all ages.

It was great to see an old friend of mine today, Brenda Calle, who came up from Cochabamba to visit her family and stop by to see me and Susan. We met Brenda on our first trip here in 2004. She is a doctor, working with Compassion International, and our 2004 team stayed in her parents’ hostel. She nursed all of us back to health that year at one time or another. We had a nice visit, and then Brenda asked me if I would go to the hospital with her and visit her cousin who is being treated for cancer. So during the music lessons we caught a minibus and headed to the other side of town. The hospital was operating with about 1950s facilities, and made me thankful for what we have and so often take for granted in the US. The gentleman was just finishing up his chemo treatments, and was scheduled to go home today. He was glad to see us, and we were able to talk a little, pray, and I sang a song for him. The whole ward stopped to listen. It was great to be able to testify of the power of Christ. He is a new Christian, and it was obvious that he is filled with new life even in his weakened condition. Brenda told me that he and his whole family are completely different now, with a new joy and faith that they never had before. It was an awesome trip over there.

I got back to the church just in time for our English classes. When I walked in the door, I was met with the sight of over 100 young people crammed into the sanctuary, all students (mostly high school juniors) from a local private school! I about fell over. Most of these kids are not Christians, and we have them for four days this week. It took a little doing, but we got them all divided up into classes by level, and got right to the work. I had the advanced class with Ed and Susan, and we had a great group. We started talking about politics and philosophy to get them talking, and the conversation found its way to how you know you can make a right decision about anything. Most of them did not believe that there is an absolute standard, and that you cannot really know if something is right or wrong. What an opportunity. So we started working through it. We got as far as thinking about some of the options there are for a basis for making a judgment about something, and will pick it up here tomorrow. The class lasted almost a half hour longer than scheduled, but everyone was eager to stay. Praise the Lord!

After dinner we headed to a home Bible study in El Alto at Hermana Dina’s home, and the trip took about four times as long as it should have because of a parade that blocked the route. This night parade was a commemoration of a Bolivia freedom fighter who was martyred during the fight for independence. Of course, it was accompanied by torches, bands, singing, and lots of noise. We crawled along up the steep streets, once having to get out and walk because the van couldn’t make it up the grade at the slow speed we had to go. We eventually were brought to a complete halt at the place where the street had been blocked for the rally itself, and just sat there watching it all (we were in the front of the line of cars and busses) for about 30 minutes. Eventually we got to our destination, and I brought a lesson introducing the seven churches of Asia to the small group. We had a good time of fellowship, refreshments, praise, and games until it was finally time to go home. We got back about 11:15, elated but exhausted.

Bolivia #5 – The Lord’s Day

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 16, 2008

On our first Lord’s Day, we got up early and readied ourselves for a really full day. Ashlynn and Carol are teaching Sunday classes for children today, we’re doing special music in all the services, I’m preaching twice at IPB (Iglesia Presbiteriana BIblica), and once at the Presbyterian Church for the Deaf in El Alto this afternoon, and Rachel, Ed, Carol, and Ashlynn are giving their testimonies throughout the day. Liz and Susan will play the piano through the day, and all of us will begin to build on the relationships begun last night in the welcome service.

Ashlynn did a great job in her SS class with the little children. Deacon Martin Irusta helped her translate. Ashlynn is proving to be a real blessing, adding a dimension we’ve never had on a team before – specifically, she is able to relate and minister to the kids who are close to her age in ways that we as adults can’t do as well. Even though she doesn’t speak very much Spanish, the kids just gravitate to her, and they have a great time together.

Carol worked hard on Saturday with Roldan to get her lessons translated, and she was able to present her lesson in Spanish by herself. Both Ashlynn and Carol were only asked to do their classes a couple of weeks ago – Semper Gumby!

The rest of our services today went really well. We did have to come up with some special music on the fly, and Rachel, Carol, and Liz did a wonderful job playing their instruments in a beautiful rendition of Pasion por Ti on the flute, violin, and piano. Carol played her violin in the evening (planned!), a very nice arrangement of Amazing Grace. Our trip to El Alto in the afternoon was an eye-opener for the first-time team members, as we wound our way up the narrow and twisting streets through La Paz up to El Alto to meet with the deaf congregation there, the only one in the whole area. The sights and sounds of a La Paz were both interesting and sobering. Sunday is mostly a day off, though there are still vendors and businesses that are trying to make every dime they can. Community bands are around every corner it seems, and people drink beer and dance in the streets in their finery. There is a lot of drunkenness as well, and it is heartbreaking to see many people sagging in a doorway or staggering down the streets.

When we arrived at the deaf church, we were enthusiastically greeted by the members there. Most of us don’t know any sign language, but Susan, Rachel, and Liz know a little. So, we were able to communicate. The pastor is a hearing person, and there is a very able translator there, too, so we got on well. These dear people were so happy to welcome us. They meet in a nice little upstairs chapel in the middle of a residential district. This work was started and is overseen by a Korean Presbyterian group, though there were not any Koreans there today. It was a typical service of greetings, Scripture readings, singing (quieter, of course!), special music, and a message from the Word. The girls signed/sang two songs, which the congregation loved, and the congregation signed/sang for us as well. They have so little, and yet have so much in the Lord. They gave us a large bag of tangerines as a gift, and we went our way back down the hill with hearts full of thankfulness for the providence of God.

Today I started a series of messages through the book of Revelation, particularly the messages to the Seven Churches of Asia in chapters 1-3, and will end with chapter 4 and the vision of the throne of God. The messages this morning and evening covered the vision of the Son of Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, and tried to establish the proper framework for understanding the book as pointing to the certain victory of the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. God was good, and strengthened me for the work today. Thanks for your prayers for all of us! It has been an awesome day.

Bolivia #4 – Semper Gumby

Posted in Bolivia by lenpine on July 16, 2008

The US Marines have a saying that sums up their approach to life and warfare: “Semper Fi!” (Always Faithful). After just a few days of working together and preparing for the labors of this week, our team has come up with a saying of our own: “Semper Gumby!” (Always Flexible). Gumby, you may remember, is a children’s toy made of green rubber that could be stretched in any direction. On any team like this, being rigid only makes the work harder. Everyone has to be ready to do something they didn’t expect to do, often at times that seem the least convenient, with resources that seem to be inadequate. So our team has been learning how to be flexible: last-minute teaching assignments, schedule changes, mid-message adjustments to accommodate for time requirements of radio broadcasts, adjusting to the needs of the rest of the team when it comes to such things as sharing one bathroom among 8 people, presenting special music when we didn’t know we were going to present special music, giving testimonies and greetings on the fly, postponing VBS a day because a children’s parade took all the kids for the day and going out to hand out tracts instead, learning to not be stressed when the scheduled time comes and goes without the scheduled event starting, diving into new foods and smells with joy (or at least, courage!), and even the challenges of unfamiliar beds, are all part of the experience. The team is doing really well with all of these things, taking all in stride with a great attitude. I think about Samson, who dispatched 1000 Philistines with on the jawbone of an ass. Just think of what the result would have been had Samson said, “I can’t do this, I don’t have a sword or spear, or even a knife!” As it was, he looked around and took advantage of the resources that he had at hand, and won a great victory. That’s what we’re praying for here, and expecting, too. Semper Gumby!

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