Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dupade Chiro Yoquisinaigueone

This past week I had the privilege of helping with the annual camp put on for Ayore girls. For many years our teammates, Mirtha , Sandra , Toni and others have invested so much time, effort and energy in reaching these girls. It became clear through their work that it was far easier to prevent the prostitution of young girls than it was to get the older experienced girls to stop. For a long time occasional weekend retreats were held to spend some intensive time with the girls and build relationships, but about 6 years ago, the idea of putting together a week long camp was formed. Although weekly Bible Studies in the community were making some change, the opportunity to help the girls ‘retreat’ from their normal circumstances and have time to silence some of the heavily negative influences surrounding them was the perfect option for having time to express to each girl their worth and value, especially in God’s sight.
Sandra doing a morning devotional

So every year, our team works together with several other organizations to hold a week long camp for 8-18 year olds (who are not yet married). These girls come from 6 different communities near Santa Cruz and this year we had around 82 girls. I know the girls from the communities look forward to this week every year, since any time we visit they are always asking about it!
Camp Store "Kiosko" - helps prevent campers from leaving the campus to go buy candy or gum etc.
Feeding a small army! Around 100 people fed each meal!

The staff is very multicultural, which I love.  Every year there has been a small team of North American college students to help, Bolivian volunteers from local churches and each community sends 1-2 adult women from the Ayore church to help as well.  We spend significant time in praise and worship, chronological Bible stories, crafts (which the girls love) and games. This year featured a slip n slide!!
Learning traditional weaves during craft time

One of the highlights of the week was ‘Princess Night’ where everyone dresses up and has a nice dinner together. We put together decorations and special music. We as leaders also dress up as an example of how to dress nicely and use appropriate amounts of makeup while still looking pretty. The entire purpose of the night is to emphasize our worth as children of God (hence, the princess theme) and to spend some time talking about how valuable each person is to God and should never be given up on, or thrown out.  This is particularly relevant in a culture where girls are ‘sold’ for sometimes less than a dollar.  Our identity as children of the King is a huge part of what we would love to see these girls internalize, respecting themselves and others.
Mirtha on right with girls from Poza Verde community
Princess Night Decorations
Prince Charming is excited to greet the princesses!

A few things stuck out to me as I spent time with the girls this week, and they are all very random thoughts (since Ezer didn’t let me sleep more than 2 hours in a row at night all week long)….so bear with me!
Prince Charming was exhausted from being passed around all the time
Recuperation naptime!

1.       It’s always a little chaotic, trying to encourage the girls to participate and pay attention, particularly during story time. Often it feels like (and looks like) no one is hearing anything you say. As an oral story telling culture however, the girls have a remarkable ability to multitask while listening and, at the end of the week during the Bible quiz time, the amount of information the girls retained regarding the stories was incredible.  Of course it helps to be motivated by a few simple prizes!
Carol teaches a Bible Story
Sister Jenny helps her campers put on a skit depicting the Exodus
2.       Working in multicultural teams is always hard, but it’s also always rewarding if you stick with it and have Christ as a foundation. Qualities like assuming goodwill, respecting others and active listening helps to smooth over inevitable bumps and accidental hurts.  Learning to live in community, giving and receiving forgiveness is a beautiful picture of how the body of Christ should work and a good example to the girls who come from places where conflict often results in moving to different communities.
Mirtha during Bible Quiz time at the end of week
Sister Blanca helped with cooking ALL week- Empanadas YUMMY!
3.       I am privileged. I have so much and these girls have so little. There was a couple of days of camp where it got cold (50s with a brisk wind) and I was able to call Jason to bring me extra blankets and layers for me and Ezer while some of the girls only had their shorts and t-shirts. Another little girl only had one outfit the whole week, but when someone let her borrow a beautiful dress for “princess night”, the look of joy and pride on her face was heart-warming.
Making Friends! Mayra is 4 months old
Playing with the girls!
The three 'men' of the week- (ages 3, 14 months and 8 months)

Victoria (our summer intern) and I taking just a moment in the kitchen
  If you are interested in more photos, please check out the Bolivia Bound group on Facebook. If you are not a part of this group (or our Facebook friend) and you would like to be, send us a note!  

Friday, February 19, 2016

Carnaval Camping

The other weekend we went out to Poza Verde for an extended weekend camping trip. Extended because we were trying to avoid the Carnaval craziness in the city. We got a little sample of another craziness as we left the city, half a mile of semis 3-4 lanes wide leftover from the trucker blockades right before Carnaval.  Notice the oncoming traffic in the photo below, we had to cross over into the oncoming lane to get around it all.

 During Carnaval people tend to spray each other with dye and throw paint filled balloons at cars hence a lot of people lay low or escape the cities for a few days. As you can see below even out in Poza Verde some of the kids got painted.
We joined Cesar's supporting church who were also out there camping out.  We had a great time getting to know them and making new friends. They boys and I stayed in that tent under the tree to the right.
 Of course there was plenty of Volley Ball, the sport of choice in Poza Verde. 
And to the victors go the spoils!
 We had some great morning devos and worship sessions.  Jenna did a great job translating for me during my devo morning since I wasn't quite up to giving it in Spanish.
It was a toasty few days so we found ways to keep cool.
 The bed of our truck became a popular hangout spot for the kids.
 All our boys made friends fast.
 I made some great new friends too!  A bunch of fellow nature nuts/biology/herpetology students came to the camp out and we all went for a night time hunt for reptiles and amphibians.
 We brought some of our finds back to share with everyone the next morning.  Not everyone was as enthusiastic but the boys sure were!
Some times we struggled talking about the creatures we found across the language barrier but we understood the latin names!

 The boys loved helping in the kitchen.
Making cuñape is always a big hit.  It is cheesy yucca (tapioca) bread.
There was some great food and fellowship time
 But what's for dinner?!?
 Ah... grilled armadillo
 Well we learned an important lesson: Always keep your freezer well stocked with the necessities such as Armadillo and birthday cake.
And ending with cute photo so as to not leave you on the image of an armadillo in the freezer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Conference in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

  It has been a long time dream of our team to be able to host a conference for indigenous missionaries to indigenous people. These men and women work tirelessly in their own communities to bring the light and life of Christ to dark places. Because they work in their own communities, often in incredibly isolated places, it can be very difficult for these brothers and sisters to receive any type of encouragement or refreshment. 
River Beni- view from our hostel
Our goal was to be able to provide them a week of respite, refreshment and spiritual renewal away from their daily grind. Most of the time these are the pastors and missionaries who are leading, planning and directing their own church conferences, so we wanted to give them a place to come and just receive the Word. Even pastors and teachers need space to heal, refresh and rejuvenate them to be able to continue doing the work God has called them to. They are only human too, struggling with their own challenges, fears and doubts.

  This December we were blessed to have a team come from Summit Church en Español (in NC) to help bring this dream to fruition.  I had the privilege of accompanying this team (along with Ezer while Jason stayed home with the other boys) to a small town in rural Bolivia, Rurrenabaque.

Ezer's first plane ride was in a Cessna. He did great!

  This team was great because they were basically responsible for putting together this conference. The pastor from the church brought the messages each morning and evening. I was even able to sit and enjoy the encouraging messages this Pastor spoke. There were several from the church’s worship team and brought incredible music to this tiny church in the middle of nowhere. Others were caring for the missionary kids- allowing them to enjoy fun crafts, songs and times of teaching, allowing the MKs to relax for a week instead of just being the missionary kid with high expectations for model behavior. Other team members were able to spend time in prayer and counseling individuals and couples. I know of one couple in particular that benefited from the pastoral counseling as they were on the verge of separation.
 Some of the highlights for me included:
  • Hearing from several indigenous missionaries about the work they were doing in their own communities.
  • Meal times! The team and the participants all ate together, and the fellowship was sweet!

    Fish was served for lunch after a morning session on Jonah
  • The night each family/indigenous group represented there sang worship songs in their own languages! It was a little foretaste of every tribe and tongue giving praise to the Lord. 
  • Volleyball! Although I was just a spectator (hard to play volleyball with a baby in your arms), the joy, fellowship and laughter was infectious and a testimony to enjoying good things as a body of believers.
  I believe around 50 adults came (plus a few random people from the community) that represented around 7 different indigenous nations in the Eastern/Northern portion of Bolivia. Some individuals traveled up to 3 days to get to the conference, coming via walking, bus, car, plane, bike and boat- pretty much every possible imaginable mode of transportation. The plan is to continue this conference each year as a respite option for indigenous missionaries, for further development and training, for fellowship and community building.