Door to Door Visiting-The Bolivian Way

New Christians from Sirujiri

New Christians from Sirujiri

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Hundreds of thousands of Aymara people live in the Altiplano (high plain) of Bolivia, most of who are spread out in small villages usually between one hundred and two hundred people each.  If I started walking today from the city of El Alto, I don’t think I could reach half of these people for Jesus over the next twenty years.  That is why our Bible Institute in Patacamaya is so critical.  There, we are training leaders to make disciples that make disciples, in order that the Bolivian people can reach the Bolivian people.

Nevertheless, it is important for Rhonda and I to visit the people of the village of Calacachi, where we have planted a small church that our partner, Pastor Juan is leading.  We also visit the neighboring villages where we hope to plant a new congregation.

The drive to Patacamaya where I picked up Juan takes about an hour and forty minutes.  From there we take the road to Chili for about twenty kilometers until we see a broken concrete sign on the side of the road.  That’s the marker that signals us to turn into the rocky dirt for another twenty kilometer drive to a smaller path that leads eventually to a rocky river where Calacachi sleeps on the other side.  This is door to door visiting and witnessing, Bolivian style.

When I say door to door, you must understand that one door may be a mile or more away from the next door, and much of time that distance must be covered on foot.  There aren’t many roads, and if there is a road it is rock and dirt, with ditches and creeks.

Today, we are fortunate.  Even though we are approaching the end of the rainy season, the river is very low and we are able to slowly drive across in our two-wheel drive ’97 station wagon.  I love our new vehicle, but I continue praying for a 4 wheel drive SUV that we so desperately need.  Juan and I are visiting Leonacio (Leon), our leader of the church in Calacachi first.  He is proud to show us his cow, because it was one the brothers in the US helped to buy when his cows drowned in a flood.

There hasn’t been much rain this year in and around the village and the crops of Quinoa and papa (potatoes) are not doing very well in most of the Altiplano (they aren’t terrible, they just aren’t great), yet Leon tells us how God is blessing the village of Calacachi with the best crops in all the area.   This will cause Calacachi to prosper.

We headed out from Leon’s house to the village of Sirujiri.  Rhonda and I had taken a medical team to this village in 2013, but we hadn’t been back since.  We stopped at the tiny village school first and the director and teacher of the school greeted us immediately and remembered me, even recalling my name and asking about Rhonda (she wasn’t on this trip).  I’m pretty sure there hadn’t been another Gringo in his village since we were there-so I think we are pretty memorable.  We had a nice chat and I said hello to the kids, and our friend, the Director, invited us back-anytime!  It is our hope that our next church plant will be here.

We hiked up to a house on a little rise and visited with some folks from Sirujiri in their “kitchen.”  Their kitchen is a circle of brush with a small clay “stove” in the middle.  It is completely outdoors and baby chickens chirped around our feet while we talked.  They too, remembered me from the medical clinic of 2013.  They didn’t speak a lot of Spanish so Pastor Juan took over and shared the gospel and life of Christ in the Aymara language.  After about a half hour, they knelt and prayed to receive Jesus…and they renounced their other gods as well.  We left them with the book of Mark in the Aymara language and promised to come again soon, this time with Rhonda.

Throughout the day, I picked up people walking on the side of the dirt paths and took them to one place or another.  I have often said that we could have a ministry of picking up people because the walks are always long and they people are always glad to take a ride—even from a Gringo.  Once in the vehicle we always talked about the Lord Jesus and why we were there.  Inside the vehicle they are captive audiences.  We planted seed, shared stories of miracles, and always finished by inviting them to the Sunday service in Calacachi.

In another village that I hadn’t ever worked before, we passed by as school was letting out.  This school has about thirty to forty students of varying ages.  I tried to talk to many of the kids, some laughed and some were afraid.  They may have never seen a Gringo before, especially not in their own village.  One ten or twelve year old girl thought I might be the devil and she backed away from me.  Another young teen smiled and talked.  I told her I had come to pray with those who need it.  I told her I was sent from the creator God to tell them about Jesus, his son.   My heart broke when one girl said she never heard of Jesus and she was surprised to learn that he came to the earth 2,000 years ago.  The harvest is so white and ready here!

We gave some kids a ride to a location near their home.  Normally they walked the four or five miles.  It was a blessed time and soon they will come to know us and we hope to develop a trust.  Maybe they will take us to their home where we can visit with the whole family.

So, that is just a part of what door to door visiting is all about in Bolivia.  Please take a second and pray for us, for the new converts and for the gospel to spread to the Aymara people.

The Children Receive School Supplies

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In our church in Senkata, Bolivia, one of the poorest zones of the city of El Alto, our children received their gifts of school supplies after a Sunday service.  Watch the genuine smiles on their faces in the short video.  You would have thought it was Christmas and they were receiving a greatly anticipated present instead of just paper and pencils and notebooks.  I am fortunate that I never knew what is was like to sit in a classroom and want to learn but not have paper or notebooks to do my assignment, but that is what these children often face.  But not this year, thanks to those of you who gave to this project.

We were a little concerned when Sunday morning began because the Pastor’s jalopy broke down.  We were able to find a ride from his relative over the rough roads to the little storefront church, but early morning rains meant mud filled streets that Pastor Gustavo traversed on foot, walking miles to the children’s homes to see if they would be able to walk back to the church.  One of kids, a fifteen year old, was worried because she didn’t have any shoes to make the walk, but she showed up-about a half hour late in shoes too small for her feet.  She and the others were so thankful and blessed.  I thank God for you, our sponsors that make this possible. Gracias from the children of Remenante de Israel.  

Bible Institute and Church

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The brothers and sisters of the Sower of Light and Life Church – Patacamaya, Bolivia

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On the 12th of January I read “If you wait for everything to be perfect before you take that step for the Lord, you will never accomplish anything.” On the 13th of January I found out that the Lord had been preparing me to take that step…or should I say leap?

We arrived in Patacamaya to look at a small building we could use for the Church. Until this time we were using a dark, damp, garage/storage room for our church and it was really becoming too small. Pastor Juan told us he had found a good place.

When we arrived we were surprised to discover that the building was large and perfect for not only the church but for the Bible Institute as well. And the price was just what we were looking for. The main floor has a kitchen, an eating room and a small foyer. Upstairs are 5 rooms and a bathroom. In addition, downstairs are two rooms that open to the street and can be used as storefronts. We also discovered that the brothers and sisters had chosen a name for the church; Luz y Vida el Sembrador (Sower of Light and Life). It is interesting to note that Patacayama means “100 Dead” and the brethren have chosen a name that means LIFE!

Watch this short video (minute and a half) showing the building…our amazing gift from God!

We are excited to begin discipleship classes next Saturday, February 21, 2014. We will have a 12 week discipleship program. Week 6 will include baptisms and week 7 we will be serving the Lord’s Supper for the first time. What this means is that we will be baptizing on Palm Sunday and having first communion on the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Easter Sunday. Please pray for the brothers and sisters as they take on this commitment to learn and to grown in faith.

In June, we hope to begin classes at El Camino de Nueva Vida (The Way of New Life Bible Institute). The name has been selected based on Acts 24:14-15 “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way…I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets having a hope in God…that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.”

The building is located in front of the big stadium where all the soccer matches are played and in front of the weekly farmers market. There is a lot of foot traffic and visibility. We believe this will be a great location to reach the community of Patacamaya.

Thanks for your prayers and generous giving. We are doing this great work of God together!

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Idolatry and Witchcraft in the Streets of Bolivia Today

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A thin fog hovered over our neighborhood, but it wasn’t the weather.  This fog carried a dense aroma of liquid soaked wood that causes it to smolder without being consumed by the fire, so that a Yatiri (an Aymara witch) can offer sacrifices and blessings to Ekeko, the little god of abundance.  Today, and every 24th of January, is the day of Alacitas.  It is a day where the Yatiris and Ch’mankanis (head witches that “control the darkness”) set up shop in the parks and plazas in order to “bless” the people.

The Bolivians turn out in thousands buying “fake” money, tiny wooden cars, tiny wooden houses, and other trinkets to offer as sacrifices.  Booths selling these trifles and food line the sidewalks and the streets.  In my neighborhood there was so great a number of booths that there wasn’t enough room for them all, so the main thoroughfare was closed to accommodate the masses.

After buying an object or several objects, the purchaser stands in line waiting for the Yatiri or Ch’mankani to offer their blessing.  The Yatiri takes the object and waves it through the smoke of the smoldering wood, offering their prayer, making a chant, and sometimes touching the objects with a flower dipped in various oils.  He or she may also ring a bell or even burn the object until it is consumed and disappears in the smoke.

Objects for sale to be "blessed"

Objects for sale to be “blessed”

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And what is the purpose of all of this?  The idea is that if a witch blesses your tiny purchased trinket, you will receive this object in the near future.

In the picture below, a family puts their hands into the smoke after they were washed in grain alcohol, while the Yatiri rings his bell, so that they will have success in their endeavors.

A Yatiri "blesses" a family on the Day of Alacitas

A Yatiri “blesses” a family on the Day of Alacitas

But I have a greater promise from God, the Creator, that I am like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that I do, I prosper! (From Psalm 1).  I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places and I am seated in Christ, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.  (From Eph. 1 & 2).  I am blessed in the city and I am blessed in the country, my children are blessed, my basket is blessed, I am blessed coming in and going out. (Duet. 28).  And I am adopted by God the father, I am blessed to be called a child of God (Eph 1 and John 1).  I have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light (Col 1).  And I am loved by Christ and nothing can separate me from it; not death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in creation. (Rom. 8)  I am saved and forgiven from sin and I can say He is my God and I am his people!

There must have been more than fifty Yatiris in my small neighborhood and I am sure that 10,000 people passed through their smoke.  I went into the city today as well, and there on nearly every corner was an individual passing out a small amount of fake money while pointing to a Yatiri and his fire not far away.

Usually jammed with traffic the street closed for the Day of Alacitas

Usually jammed with traffic the street closed for the Day of Alacitas

Sometimes I am asked how much Christianity is present in Bolivia.  The government claims there is a strong Catholic presence, and yet the President is a high priest serving mother earth, making stricter laws that disfavor Christianity, and the streets flow with the people looking for a blessing from an idol.  And when I see it, when I walk through it, my heart breaks for them.  How much Christianity is present in Bolivia?  Not near enough!

A last word:  Today I thought of words of Reinhard Bonnke when he said, “In other religions, people spread the table for their gods, but in Christianity, our God spreads the table for us.  In other religions, people search for their god, but in Christianity, our God searches for us.” (Paraphrased).

Our Church of Children

 

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Pastors of Remenante de Israel

Pastors of Remenante de Israel

Pastora Doris and Pastor Gustavo planted a church 13 years ago in the heart of the poorest area of El Alto, Bolivia.  But this is no ordinary church.  This church is aimed at bringing the message of salvation in Christ to the next generation.  This church, called Remenante de Israel (The Remnant of Israel), is for poor children from birth until 15 or 16 years of age.  Most of their parents are not Christian, some don’t even know who Jesus is, but the children are being schooled in the Bible, prayer, miracles, worship and hearing the voice of God.

Mary Luz

Mary Luz

I remember Mary Luz when she was 5 years old taking up offerings and singing to the Lord in front of the church.  Mary Luz is now 13.

Mary Elena, Sonja and Florinda in back with Jessica in front

Mary Elena, Sonja and Florinda in back with Jessica in front

Jessica, now 10 years old, has been coming to this church since she was 1.  Mary Elena and  Sonja have grown up in the church, coming since they were very little.  Mary Elena is now 13 and Sonja is 15 years old.  And Florinda, who wants to be a doctor, is also 15 and soon she will be helping to teach the younger ones.

 

Rhonda and I have been ministering at Remenante since our first trip to Bolivia in 2008, when our friend and missionary Steve Reed brought us.  And Pastor Doris and Gustavo are best friends and prayer partners.  To us, they are heroes of the faith.  They minister each and every Sunday, and they rent the building and pay for things to help these children almost completely from their own pocket.  They have had to change buildings several times, always renting a place in the same neighborhood.  Right now they are in a small storefront, and they are happy to have it, but it doesn’t even have a bathroom.

The kids are getting ready to start school.  Here in Bolivia it starts in February.  Year after year they scrape by with barely enough materials, and we just don’t want to see that happen anymore.  They need pencils and paper, pens, color pencils or crayons, rulers or a geometry kit, a notebook and erasers.  I hope to be able to get the three oldest girls a backpack.  This is where I need your help.  We currently have 30 children.  Sometimes these children don’t even have enough to eat three meals in a day.  They need your help.

The minimum materials we want to buy will cost $10.  That’s it!  TEN American Dollars!  The backpacks will cost about $25 each, and we need 3.  You can donate that money right here!  Go to the donate button.  These kids frankly need a miracle to make it.  It is so easy for them to look around and lose hope.  Please help, donate some hope.  And please pray for them.  Florinda wants to go to medical school; this will be a miracle.  Rhonda and I, and Pastor Gustavo and Doris have already begun praying, asking God for a plan for her.  She has seven brothers and no money to even get to university, even though it doesn’t cost much here.  Pray for her, Mary Luz, Sonja, Jessica and the others.  And please pray for these heroes that spend all they have to keep this church going, Pastor Gustavo and Doris.

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Fasting: Sharpening the Edge for 2015

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We have determined to set aside 21 days to fast before the Lord. If Jesus fasted to complete/accomplish/fulfill God’s calling on His life while on earth, shouldn’t we fast for these same reasons? Fasting is a time to draw closer to God by denying our flesh and feeding our spirits.

This 2015, we are asking for God to sharpen our the edge of our spirits; “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.” (Ecclesiastes 10:10)

“Fasting is a time to recover our edge, preparing the way for us to gain more strength and effectiveness through the power of the Holy Spirit rather than through the power of our own limited strength.” (Franklin, pp xiii-translated by Rhonda.

We are seeking God’s direction for our lives and the Ministry of Lovely Feet in 2015. We desire to be more in tune with His will and His voice. We are asking Him to clarify, confirm and articulate plans for 2015. We are also asking for strength and health. In the 50 days that we have been here, I (Rhonda) had a severe sinus infection; Ron has had his back go out and had a bad case of flu. We need strength, health and the favor of God and man to accomplish God’s calling on our lives here in Bolivia. We are asking for clearer revelation and discernment as we study God’s word. What are you seeking God for in 2015?

We are inviting you to join us in this 21-day journey through the dry desert of our flesh to experience the living waters of Christ’s spirit that dwells in us. The bread of life satisfies our hunger; the living waters satisfy our thirst.

The idea of the “Daniel Fast” comes from 2 incidents in the life of Daniel. The first in Daniel chapter 1 when Daniel and his friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego of Fiery Furnace fame) asked that they be permitted to eat only vegetables and drink only water so as not to defile themselves with the food of Babylon. At the end of 10 days they were healthier and heavier than those who ate all the choice food of the King. This is where the some of the substance of the “Daniel Fast” comes from.

The other incident is from Daniel chapter 10 when Daniel “ate no delicacies, no meat or wine” (Daniel 10:2) for three weeks. Daniel made this time of fasting in solidarity with his Hebrew brothers and sisters who where suffering. After this fast, Daniel received his most powerful vision from the Lord about conflict in heaven and on earth in the Last Days.

The Daniel Fast is not a law and it does not make us more holy than other people who choose not to fast. What it does is fills our body with good things made by God that are sufficient to nourish and sustain us. Those things most loved by our flesh (pop, fat, processed food, meat, CHEESE…) are abstained from and as our flesh is denied, our spirit is strengthened.   When we walk in the Spirit our spirit is stronger and our flesh is weakened.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Gal 5:16-17

We have separated our petitions to the Lord into four categories:

1. God Speaks to us:

  • Discernment
  • Revelation/Illumination of His Word
  • Direction
  • Wisdom

2. Fulfilling Plans

  • When should Bible Institute classes start?
  • Who should be part of the Ministerial Association?
  • How should the Association be structured?
  • How/What curriculum should be compiled?
  • Spend 3 days a week in the Altiplano
  • Building a church building in Calacachi
    • IF we should
    • How much does LFM do/give to project?
    • When?

3. Receiving Tools

  • Need a car or 4×4 (we are VERY close to getting a car)
  • Renting a building for Institute/church in Patacamaya
  • Funds
    • Institute (100k to buy building, $300est a month to rent
    • 4×4 – Mitsubishi Montero (11k+)
    • General Materials

4. Personal

  • Spanish mastery
  • When do we start learning Aymara
  • Health
  • Friendships


PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU WILL BE PARTICIPATING WITH US IN THIS FAST!
Email us at Ron@lovelyfeet.org or Rhonda@lovelyfeet.org or you can reply to this post. We want to pray for you as you will be praying for us.For contemplation and mediation during this time I (Rhonda) am reading “The Fasting Edge” by Jentzen Franklin and “The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast” by Kristen Feola.

Below are suggestions of foods to eat and foods to avoid. In addition to the dietary choices for this time, Ron and I will be fasting television in all forms (programs, movies, videos, etc).

TOMORROW, January 2nd, WE BEGIN!

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Foods to Eat

Fruits: fresh, frozen, dried, juiced

Vegetables: fresh, frozen, dried, juiced

Whole grains: amaranth, barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa, millet, whole wheat Nuts and seeds: almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, nut butters.

Unleavened bread: whole grain breads made without yeast, sugars, or preservatives Legumes (canned or dried): black beans, black-eyed peas, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), great northern beans, kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans, split peas

Quality oils: canola, coconut, flaxseed, grapeseed, olive, peanut, sesame

Beverages: distilled water, filtered water, spring water – we are adding Hot Coca Tea to this list due to altitude issues

Other: herbs, spices, salt, pepper, seasonings, soy products, tofu
Foods to Avoid

Meat: beef, buffalo, llama, fish, lamb, pork, poultry

Dairy products: butter, cheese, cream, eggs, milk

Sweeteners: agave nectar, artificial sweeteners, cane juice, honey, molasses, raw sugar, granulated sugar, brown sugar, syrups, stevia

Leavened bread and yeast: any bread with yeast, baked goods, Ezekiel bread (contains yeast and honey)

Refined and processed food products: artificial flavorings, chemicals, food additives, preservatives, white flour, white rice

Deep-fried foods: corn chips, French fries, potato chips

Solid fats: lard, margarine, shortening

Beverages: alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, coffee, energy drinks, green tea, herbal

For some excellent recipes we recommend: “The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast” by Kristen Feola
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Taking Jesus to the Brothels

 

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Rhonda and I have always loved to sing Christmas Carols, so when we received an invitation from Word Made Flesh ministries to join them singing Christmas Carols in the brothels of the area known as 12 de Octubre, our decision was easy.  The zone known is about three miles from our house and is one of the most crowded areas of El Alto, filled with street vendors selling clothes, toys, food, bread, pots and pans and anything else you can think up.  There is no sense of space, people bump and push past at every turn and so, it is also an area of high crime.

In and around this area are the brothels, non distinct buildings without signs but with red doors that men literally pour in and out of.  Inside the door a small hallway leads to a large very dark room where  loud music pulses and grinds, and drinks are served.  Surrounding this central room are doors to small bedrooms where men file in lines, peering inside open rooms to take a look and see if they are interested in what’s inside.

Yes, prostitution is illegal in Bolivia, and yet this is the thriving scene for brothel after brothel, six brothels within a three block area.  On one corner a police bus sits-in case there are any major disturbances, but the brothels function uninterrupted.   

In 2005, there were 1,295 known prostitutes in my city of El Alto and now it is believed that there are at least 3,000 and they are paid $3 per encounter, 10 encounters per night.  78% did not finish school and cannot read or write—which does not mean that they did not want to finish school or that they could not finish school.  Here in Bolivia, it is not uncommon for families to put children to work at very early ages in order that they eat.  90% of these women have a history of sexual abuse prior to becoming a prostitute.  Many of the women have had 3 to 4 abortions and some as many as 10.

And there we were!  Singing Christmas carols in the middle of the brothel, fourteen of us on our team-all dressed in Santa hats trying to show the love of Christ, trying to show the smallest light in the midst of the darkness.  And in one brothel, one crowded brothel with men pushing in lines, all of a sudden the men stopped!  Their feet stopped shuffling, no one called for a drink, no one tried to make a deal, no one spoke.  There was no music in the background, and the only sound was our team singing Noche de Paz, Silent Night.  It was amazing!  I would love to say this is what happened in every brothel, but I can’t.  It was only in this one.  I would love to say that someone came to the Lord, understood what we were doing and saw the love of Christ, but I can’t.  All I can say is that something miraculous happened.  Everyone-everyone, in this brothel stopped, stood still and listened.  And at the end of the song-we left.

Putting the team together

But don’t think that all we did was enter a brothel to sing.  Let’s first understand the miracle that existed in the fact that we were even allowed to enter each and every brothel for the purpose of singing Christmas carols.  That miracle is thanks to the amazing cultivation of relationships by Andy and Andrea Baker, the leaders of this ministry, Word Made Flesh that reaches out to these prostitutes.  They have spent twelve years in these trenches snatching souls from hell.  And the bartenders and brothel workers have such respect for the Bakers that when Andy enters and tells them to turn off the music so that his team can sing—they do it!  Tell me that is not the power and favor of God!

While most of us sang, Andy and others that regularly work in the ministry went to each door of the brothel to visit the ladies, giving them a Christmas cake and sharing that Jesus loves them.  Sometimes the ladies asked how much the cake cost, and they were surprised when they were told it was free, just a little example of grace and love to these ladies who daily live under judgment and condemnation.  But as Andy told us before we left, “Who are we to cast the first stone?”

Getting the songs right

Getting the songs right

It is the heart of this ministry to show the love of God.  It is through this kind of demonstration that the ministry is able to help some of these ladies leave the brothels and begin a new life.  The ministry helps those who leave to find a new life, teaching them about Christ and helping find a new job, training some to make products such as those you can buy at www.sutisana.com  (Take a look at their products and support their efforts to find a new life in Christ). 

And please pray for Andy and Andrea Baker and those at the ministry of Word Made Flesh.  They are all warriors for Jesus.  (The pictures accompanying this post are those of our practice and prayer prior to leaving for the brothels.  We had two teams.  Our team consisted of fourteen people, four men and ten women.  The other team was even larger.)

What a great Christmas it has been for me, what a gift the Bakers and Word Made Flesh gave me.  On Friday night, I saw Jesus.  He was wearing a Santa hat and singing in the middle of a brothel!

Practicing before we go

Practicing before we go

Practicing Christmas Carols to sing in the Brothels of Bolivia

Practicing Christmas Carols to sing in the Brothels of Bolivia