Wow! What an exciting week we had here in Bolivia!
Last Sunday, a team of doctors, nurses and children’s ministry workers arrived – 30 in all! They came with the purpose of providing medical and dental care to the people of Bolivia and using that to share the Gospel with them. Word of Life partnered with us and provided an Evangelism team that went with us to all the ministry sites. Word of Life also cooked all our meals. I could not have survived the week without their help!
Here is an overview of the week:
We went just down the road to the village of Kaluyo and attended in the “Posta”. There were several hundred people in attendance, we saw about 260 medically and dentally.
The Evangelism team was relentless and made certain that everyone who walked through the gate heard the Gospel. The community was so excited about our presence that they turned it into a health fair of sorts. They even sent a representative from the mayor’s office to thank us!
We left at 4:00 A.M. to get up to a mountain village before some announced blockades began. We were unsuccessful. At 5:30, we came around a curve in the road at the top of a mountain and there were about 20 protesters that had built fires and littered the road with rocks and boulders. We explained the situation; that we were trying to help their people, etc. – no go, they would not let us pass. In fact, while we were standing there, a bus tried to just barge its way through and the people began hitting it with rocks. This was a great concern for me. The people here are very docile, but they can become violent in an instant – I was worried about the safety of my team.
We realized that we needed to turn around and go back the way we came to try and find a village to attend in for the day. This is easier said than done! We were in a 40 passenger bus, on the side of the mountain with a 3 foot median to turn around on.
|Yes, that is as close as it looks and yes, it does drop off about 50 feet.|
Needless to say, the Americans became restless and despite the danger from the protesters of having them outside the bus, they eventually all got off and stood to watch the “90-point” turn.
|I guess you could say we had our own blockade - no one was going anywhere until this bus was turned around!|
We got back down the mountain to realize that there were more blockades below us – we were stuck.
But, God had a plan!
We went into the village of Punata, found some contacts and they let us set up in their town theatre. The people were so grateful! People kept coming, asking for help. Also, I got to do two radio interviews and 2 television interviews, one of which was with the mayor herself! They even brought us lunch in appreciation!
|Interview with the Mayor (the one in the vest). I am in the blue scrub top with the Helping Hands logo.|
We attended to about 250 patients there. Of course, our Evangelism team was hard working all day long, making sure everyone heard the Gospel.
At 5:30 the blockades were lifted and we continued traveling to the town of Copachuncho, a three hour drive through the mountains. We were all exhausted and hungry when we arrived.
We were able to attend in Copachuncho all day Wednesday. People came from all over to receive medical and dental care. Approximately 250 were seen there also. The Gospel was shared with all.
ThursdayWe went to Cochabamba and attended the prisoners in the male and female prisons of San Sebastian. Our children’s ministry team went to the Casa de Amistad and worked with the prison kids there. I got the Men’s team situated and then went over to work with the Women. We had a great time, the prisoners were so thankful and happy to be able to see a doctor. We stayed until the prison doors were reopened at 2:00 and then left. (sorry, cameras are not allowed inside the prison)
That night the whole American Team and the entire Word of Life Bolivia team went to Bufalos for dinner. There were 85 of us! It was a great night of fellowship and food.
FridayWe went to the mountain village of Mojon for our last day of ministry. We attended at a school. The principal said that she was so happy to see her students happy; the parents of most of the students neglect their children because they are constantly working to provide enough food for their families. She said that this was the first time in a long time they had been laughing and playing like children should. We saw around 200 patients- all hearing the Gospel.
One team member who was helping with check-in fell down some uneven steps. She cut her arm open (17 outside stitches, 3 inside) and fractured her pelvis (we didn’t know about the fracture until later)! She was so brave and strong. She would grit her teeth but not say a word. We were 3 hours from Cochabamba and an x-ray machine. The doctors sewed her arm up and treated her for the pain. Finally, at 8:00 that night we got her to a hospital and confirmed that she had a fracture. The problem was that they were flying back to the U.S. the next day! What to do?
Luckily, there were lots of doctors on the team – a fractured pelvis is inoperable, the body has to heal on its own. So, they decided to fly her back, as comfortable as possible, so she could rest there in her own home.
SaturdayThe team went souvenir shopping and then we (myself, the injured team member and a few others) met them for pizza and on to the airport. At 6:00 their flight left for Santa Cruz.
ConclusionIt was a wonderful week, full of challenges – both physically, mentally and emotionally. This was the largest team that I have been responsible for. I was overwhelmed at times but with God’s help and guidance it was a great week where Bolivians heard the Gospel. As I think back, trying to see how I could improve and do better, I see all the ways that God’s hand was guiding us throughout the week. I had never thought or considered going to Punata for ministry, but God had. He knew that His people there needed to hear His Word. I was also unsure about the openness or effectiveness of attending in the city prisons. But, once again God had His plan. The prisoners were so grateful; doors were opened for future work with these people in such need.
Personal UpdateI have to admit it was a great struggle this week. I was stretched and pulled and torn many times. Just the daunting task of leading such a large group would be enough, but the added factor of still being sick made it a job of mammoth proportions that only God could handle.
We have decided that I have a resistant strain of Typhoid. This means a very strong, specific medicine. God provided. One of the doctors had the medicine I need donated to him before he came on this trip – it was prescribed to a patient but it was not needed - it is “several hundred dollars” worth of medicine and only enough for one patient! I am receiving 2 shots a day of this antibiotic in hopes that along with rest I will recover.