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.

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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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A Miracle Morning

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Rhonda and I were up at 6:00 a.m. and soon walking the ½ mile to the Teleferico where we would descend from our mountaintop in El Alto in the little glass box that provides transportation similar to a tram.  Fortunately, it was a nice day, the sun was rising and it was warm and the views of the mountains and the city below us were excellent.  We arrived at a stop thousands of feet below where we live and met some of our Pastor friends in a place called Obrajes.  There we walked across a long bridge and arrived at our destination, a hill that was filled with houses and apartments and small stores, called tiendas, streetside.

Riding the Teleferico down into the city.

Riding the Teleferico down into the city.

The hill is without roads, people ascend staircases to reach their own home, so the neighborhood is closed to outsiders.  But in the middle of the neighborhood stood an empty apartment, given to our Pastor friends for the purpose of a new church plant.  The location is ideal to reach this entire neighborhood and our friends, Polycarp and Teresa also are the owners of a tiny storefront at the street where they have a small restaurant.  This storefront isn’t like those we have in the U.S.  The door is more or less a garage door that opens and reveals the restaurant fully open to the street.

Our purpose this day was to pray, to usher in the anointing of God, to dedicate the location, the hill, this neighborhood for God.  The Lord gave Rhonda a word from Matthew; “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 5:14-16)  This was its inauguration and God’s light was shining.  We prayed from across the street, taking in the view of the whole hill and all the houses on it and then Polycarp opened the garage door and we entered into the little tienda restaurant to pray some more.  We raised our voices and our hands and invited the Spirit of God to make this place a light on the hill and we invited in God’s presence.

And then it happened!  As we prayed a young man of about 30 years happened by on the sidewalk.  The sound of our voices stopped him, froze him there on the sidewalk a mere 8 feet away from us.  There he waited and tears began to roll down his cheeks.  When we finished our prayer, we all turned to him.  Through his tears he told Rhonda that he had an accident.  His face and hands were covered with scars from a fire.   His wife had left him and taken his child and he had left God whom he had known and taken to drinking to relieve his pain.  He smelled heavily of alcohol, but he begged us to pray that God would change his life and take him back.  For the next thirty minutes we prayed.  He spent several minutes in my arms, resting his head on my chest and then, strangely, he looked in my eyes and said to me that I was a tiger and not afraid of anything.

He fell to his knees, cried, hugged us all and then, he picked up Polycarp’s guitar and began to play beautifully.  He is obviously musically talented and he sang and sobbed to God.  His name is Eusebio and he is our brother in the Lord.  Please pray for him.

We all received this as a confirmation that God wanted to work in this neighborhood.  How many times have you had an experience that simply during prayer, someone came and begged for God to change them?  I can tell you that it has happened more than once to us here in Bolivia.  And each time is a beautiful event.  I often like to say that God does the most beautiful things when it is not part of our planning, but it is simply when we are available.  He then works his plan.

I know that some of you reading this may think that Eusebio will not continue to follow the Lord, that it was simply an emotional response of someone who had too much to drink, but I must walk by faith and I am asking you to pray and believe with me that we have snatched this soul from the gates of hell.  Let’s pray that the grave clothes of that old dead man will be removed and that he will walk as a resurrected man, given new life and that his scars, both physically and emotionally will be healed in the name of Jesus.

One more thing:  The morning was not over.  Rhonda and I returned to the teleferico where we expected to return to the city for a second meeting with two other Pastors.  Only Rhonda and I and one other woman were in our little box that would climb back up the mountain.  That woman, Jacquelyn, began to talk with us, but her casual conversation turned to one of seriousness.  Her son of five years old named Benjamin was in the hospital here in La Paz.  She brought him here because he was diagnosed with cancer.  There, flying over the city, through tears we all called on the Lord, on the name of Jesus, to show himself in that hospital room and heal this child.  Jacquelyn and Benjamin are not from La Paz, they came from Sucre to get him medical care and this day they were to return home for Christmas until she would bring him back for more treatments in January.  We gave her our number and asked her to call us upon their return—but we are praying they will not need to return.  I am asking again for your prayers—for Benjamin and Jacquelyn.

OH, one more:  The day wasn’t over.  After a great meeting with the other Pastors, (although we were more than an hour late, they were understanding), we found ourselves in a cab with a Christian man who told us about his family—all Christians except for one 19 year old son, Marcello.  That’s right, we again enjoyed the privilege of prayer together, this time that God would demonstrate his power and show himself strong in the life of Marcello.  Amen.

It is unusual for us to meet so many Christians in one day.  Often we are confronted with witches, those who bow to Mother earth as animists, and sometimes cult groups, but today we met those in the body of Christ who needed encouragement.  What a privilege, what a blessing.

To that I say, Here we are Lord, send us!  Let your kingdom come and your will be done.  Amen.