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.  

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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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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