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Christmas Distribution '08 | Soup Kitchen | Hope for the Hopeless |
While Bethlehem Slept |Celebration in Tiquipaya | Roadblocks Again? |
Christmas Project |
Bolivia is known as the 'Tibet of the Americas'-the highest and most isolated of the Latin American countries. It has two major indigenous groups (Quechua and Aymara) as well as several smaller ones. Bolivia is the most 'traditional' country in the South American continent. A land with about 8,725,000 people (2004-CIA Factbook) of which fifty to sixty percent of the population are of pure Indian blood. The official literacy rate is only 75% although children from 6-14 are required to go to school.
According to statistics, 95% of Bolivia's population are Catholic but these belief systems are mixed with the Inca and Aymara beliefs and is turned into an interesting 'religion' of many different doctrines, superstitions and rites. Although the coca leaf is the source of cocaine, it is chewed daily by many Bolivians. Bolivia is known as the world's third largest cultivator of coca after Columbia and Peru. They believe that 'Mama Coca' is the daughter of Pachamama (mother earth) and it is believed to drive away evil spirits from the home and work fields. Sacrifices to Pachamama are made in order to cause a good crop or apologizing for disturbing the earth by using plows and tractors. (including coca, alcohol, and the blood of animals especially of llamas.)
Please remember to pray for Bolivia and it's people and traditions. Only God can do a miracle, but you can help by praying! <top>
Today was the day! We started out our morning around 5am and were headed out the door and on the road by about 7:30am. A car load of toys, food and blankets had already gone ahead of us and we were caravanning with another Nissan Patrol like our own. These are the only types of vehicles good for the roads we were about to experience! The first part of our trip was just leaving the city heading towards La Paz on a paved road. I thought, "This isn't too bad!" We drove about an hour on a paved road...and then we hit the dirt. And the next 2 1/2 hours of my life I prayed more than I think I ever had....non stop.
After having bounced for over an hour on very dusty road we stopped in a huge dry river bed. I wondered why we were stopped and the people in the other car pointed at the truck that was up on the hill and coming down. He explained that it was ONLY a ONE WAY road and we had to WAIT until the truck was down at the bottom and MAKE SURE there was no one else coming down the road. I thought that was interesting because even on the 'one way roads', there is usually enough space for another car to pass. So we waited and waited. We watched as the truck went around and around the mountain, finally making it to the bottom. As the truck came closer we could see the people packed into the back of it, standing close to each other, holding on to the side.
Finally we made it to our destination! The people were very colorfully dressed with many of them wearing very brightly colored, pointy hats and black rubber sandals (made from tire). I didn't realize it at the time but we had gone up several more thousand feet in altitude and must have been at around 10-12,000 feet altitude. There were no trees but the mountains were green from the recent rainfall. The only bushes there were, had been/and were being used for 'firewood' and kindling.
As we were now within blocks of our meeting place, the children began to run after the car and jump up onto the back of it. I could only see about a dozen 'houses' (little adobe shacks, many of them with thatched roofs) so I wondered where we were going to get the 500 children we were expecting. Amazingly enough, they came out of the woodwork! (or shall I say, adobe-work) They kept coming and coming and coming. I tried to count them but it was a little hard with so much movement, but I still estimate that we had at least 650 people in attendance, including the children.
Gustavo shared in Spanish about the gospel and the real 'meaning' of Christmas and what Jesus had done for us. It was all translated into Quechua as the people didn't speak very much Spanish, if any at all. After that there was a special 'typical/traditional' music prepared by the people. Some men had 'home made' wooden flutes that they played a 'traditional' carnival type song and dressed in their native costumes. Then there were other children singing and dancing with little tiny guitars and very brightly decorated costumes with hats, feathers and various other types of decorations. I think there were about 10 groups of people who had prepared something special for us. It was all done in Quechua so we didn't understand much, but even my children were interested in it!
Then began the fun! We weren't sure how to divide the mass of people into groups to distribute the toys, blankets and food. Finally, we decided to divide them by age group and they all went onto a 'basketball' court by age and waited for their gifts. We brought 'panetonnes' (fruitcake) and gave them to all the people who had participated in the special dances and songs. Then we gave out food baskets to all the families from the church as well as the ladies who were working hard to prepare 'bu˝uelos and api" (refreshments) for the masses. We THANK THE LORD that we had enough toys for each child to get one. THANK you for participating. After that we called all the 'widows' and were able to give each one a blanket. It was a wonderful time and I know that it was because of your prayers and generous gifts that we were able to give toys, food and blankets to this very remote village.
As we were leaving the village, one of the Bolivian men driving with us told us that was the FIRST gift these kids had EVER received. I do believe it too! Kids from the ages of 1-12 were able to receive something. These people are so poor that even if they had 'money' for a gift, they would have to use it to buy food or clothes for their families. Most families have several children (like 4 or more), and many of them are single parent families either because they are widowed, or because one of the parents has left. One family was of 5 children and both of their parents had died. They were being raised by some other family member.
It was a blessing to be able to give to these people and share with them about the love of Jesus. There is a small Quechua church (about 15 families) that meets on a regular basis. Please pray that these families will grow in the Lord, and be open to share with their neighbors and friends (who are spread apart in the mountains) about the good news of Jesus.
Thank you for caring for these ones. God does!