Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bolivia, The Mirrior of the World

Bolivia is called the "The Heart of South America" and is the poorest country in the continent. We have been looking forward to our time in this nation for a while because Tanya’s cousin whom she hadn’t seen since they were very young has been living here as a missionary for the past twelve years. She works with the poor in indigenous communities and has been keeping in touch with us waiting for our team to visit here. Our bus was supposed to leave from Paraguay at 1am so our team packed up and headed to the side of the street to wait for it. We waited and kept waiting there on the side of the street until about 4am we finally got the message that the bus had broken down and would be another few hours, so we went and slept on a church floor until about 7am and then finally our bus arrived and we made our way over bumpy dirt roads toward the border. The immigration office was just a small dusty building in this little village consisting of two or three houses belonging to the family of the immigration officers. The officials had been drinking and the border police especially had a few too much. He was hasseling certain people and making unreasonable demands. Everyone from the US needed to buy an entry visa for $135 but they only had three visas there because it was not normal for big groups to pass through that way. At first they told us that we would have to go all the way back to capital of Paraguay again and there was a lot of confusion back and forth deciding what to do with us. At last they were going to allow us to enter the country if we bought the three visas they had there and someone was supposed to meet us in the first town with another ten visas that night. So the immigration officers accompanied us on our bus. It was now after dark and the roads seemed to get smaller and rougher. Our bus went down on one side and came to a quick stop. We had gone off the side of the path and were deep in sand up to the frame of the bus. All the guys got out and attempted to push the bus out of the sand. It just went in deeper. We had two shovels and spent a lot of time digging the sand out and laying large sticks under the wheels and attempting to push it out again. Every attempt we pushed it back out of the hole a little bit more until we were ready to push it forward. It seemed to have been completely free until it went down again where we realized was the same spot it got buried in the first place and was now even worse. There was nothing we could do except for continuing to try again. Praise

God a Large truck passing nearby was able to pull us out. We arrived tired and hungry late that night in the town of Villamonte. We waited around for the immigration official to sort things out for our visas only to find out that he had been given false information and had no visas for us there. His heart toward us changed and he became nice and apologetic. He gave us instructions to go to the border of Argentina the following day, an hour journey south, where we would be able to get our visas. So we spent our first night in Bolivia illegally. Tanya was feeling bad and apologizing that my birthdays were usually crazy days like this. I can’t think of a memorable way to spend a birthday than crossing borders into new countries and overcoming obstacles with testimonies of Christ’s faithfulness. Thank you Jesus for allowing this journey to be never boring but always keeping us in dependence on You with anticipation of what You are going to do next.
For our first few days in Bolivia we stayed in the village where Angela, Tanya’s cousin, is living with the Weenhayek tribe. It is the hottest part of Bolivia and very dusty and dirty. It was impossible to escape the swarms of gnats at times and by the second day many of us had our arms and legs covered in bites and it was difficult to not scratch our skin off. During the days small groups walked with Angela to different villages ministering to the children and praying for different families. In the evening we gathered together with the people outside or in the church and sang, danced, shared stories and preached.
This tribe has been suffering a lot in the past few years because there industry is fishing and there has been little fish because of lack of water in their rivers. Most families believe in Jesus but also hold to traditional beliefs of spirits that own the rivers, forests and land and they serve and fear them. Currently Angela is the only missionary working with this tribe and the spiritual atmosphere is very heavy and caused many on our team to suffer even during the four short days we spent there. We were able to pray for the sick and encourage them to no longer serve and fear the demon spirits but to trust fully in Jesus to protect and provide for them. The Spirit of God was moving
and God did many amazing things there. There are many dogs in the villages and normally they go crazy when foreigners or anyone not from their tribe comes in, but they did pay much attention to us at all which caused people to remark that it shows that Jesus must really be with us. There had been no water for quite some time where we camped but the day we got there the well filled up and lasted until the day we left, even though it never rained. As we prayed for and ministered to people many of them wept as the Spirit of God moved in their lives. I was especially touched at one altar call outside at night when many people came forward and kneeled in the dirt I noticed two young boys were on their faces in the front weeping before the Lord as we prayed for people.
We left from that village and traveled six hours through the mountains west to where Angela was living for many years before. Our team divided into four teams and accompanied local pastors out to their villages in the mountains, which is where I am typing from now. It is beautiful up here. We feel so far away from the world. The people are lovely and we have been visiting in different homes during the days, hearing people’s struggles and needs and we are able to pray with them and share with them.

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