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.