Humbled. The best way to describe how many of us are feeling today. I’ll do my best to catch you all up!
After last night’s dinner we had a debrief of our day and shared the hardest part and the best part of our trip up to that point. Some of us mentioned the plane ride as being hard (and it was – sitting in those plane seats – well, you remember from yesterday’s post). Some mentioned lack of sleep and some mentioned missing family. I think all of us related to those things that were mentioned.
However, as we moved on to the “best parts” of the trip to date, it was easy to remember why we’re here and how thankful we are to be here! The wedding we attended was so great. The Pastor did a great job sharing a challenging and motivating message to the young couple. And there were really cool elements to the wedding that were new to many of us. A very adorable little guy of about 4 carried down a big Bible and laid it on the table to represent marriage being built on the foundation of God’s word. Then they brought down a miniature house, representing that the couple would be starting a new life and a new home together. I think our favorite part was “the kiss”. Sweetest wedding moment I’ve seen. The truly blushing bride was so shy and the groom tenderly put his hands on her face and kissed her very sweetly. There was applause all around and probably several…”Ahhh’s” from the ladies in our group.
We returned to the hotel and the wonderful Compassion leaders with us negotiated with the hotel to serve our dinner early, at 5:30. After dinner we had our debrief and then at about 7 we all headed off to our rooms. Most of us went straight to bed, so by 8 pm (6 pm Colorado time) we were sound asleep – no worries about waking up too early by going to bed that early! We were exhausted and so slept soundly (well sorta soundly – there was some kind of concert event thing going on late at night that woke a few folks up) until morning.
After a good nights rest, we all felt so much better from the long travel exhaustion we had been feeling. We took our “sorochi” pills (a natural herbal remedy for high altitude symptoms that the Bolivianos use) and drank our Coca Tea. We ate a delicious buffet breakfast with many things like fresh Bolivian papaya (yes, so good to be “home”). Then we embarked on our bus to the first church and Compassion center for the day.
It was a service like many of us had never experienced. There were MANY presentations for us. First we were greeted and given very cool hand made satchels as gifts from the members of the church. They sang the song “Bienvenidos” to us with great enthusiasm. Then there was a very unique Aymara praise band that led us in a few hymns, followed by a baby dedication, followed by children singing, followed by another Aymara praise band all playing very typical instruments found in Bolivia and other Andean mountain regions in South America. The tarka (flute), charango (a mini guitar-like instrument), the siku (panpipe), the quena (flute) accordion, guitars, and more. After a few more presentations by the children, Rob (my husband) preached a sermon about how God takes our small acts on His behalf and turns them into very big things. That small acts can start great movements for God. He reminded us that we all have something to pass on to someone else about God and that we should look for opportunities to do so. We never know what one conversation, a word of encouragement, a kind act, and other single actions become a catalyst for something very big in another person’s life.
After the sermon was over, Dan Wakefield and I were asked to sing a few songs. It was really fun to sing worship songs in Spanish. When we were finished, the church congregation had planned a big potluck for us. They were very gracious in preparing a special meal for us Americanos with weak stomachs – they prepared rice, potatoes, green beans, carrots, beets and chicken and beef. The “real” potluck however was done Aymara style with blankets on the floor and then all the folks in the congregation just spread the food out that they brought on the blankets – their food consisted of chuño smoked salted little WHOLE fish, potatoes of all shapes and sizes, fideo (pasta) and other things I couldn’t recognize. Shout out to Torrey House, Dan Wakefield, Rob Kelly, Chuck Irsik, David Irsik and Brian Howell who ate chuno for the very first time.
We left the church service to go to another Compassion center where we will spending a few days building a classroom and doing kids activities later this week. Their 2 year anniversary was a month ago, however, when they heard we were coming they decided to wait and celebrate with us. Again we were so honored as they greeted us with the Bienvenidos song, gave us “honorable members” of the center cards and we were treated to many special presentations from the children. The highlight of that service was when they recognized Dan Wakefield (who is having a birthday tomorrow) and sang happy birthday to him and had him take a huge bite out of one of the cakes they were serving. He had to put his hands behind his back and to then literally bend down to the cake and chomp out a bite. We were all amazed at the very large bite he took. Way to go, Dan! 🙂 You’re the cake-biting master.
We spent quite a while interacting with the children and families there and again Dan and I were asked to lead some songs. The cool thing is we decided to toss in a Portuguese song, Palavras me Faltam, which is a song Dan taught me quite a few years ago that an artist by the name of David Quinlan sings. We sang it and afterwards a woman came up to me chattering away in Portuguese. She assumed I knew how to speak – I did understand her, but quickly found Dan to help speak with her. Turns out she is Brasilian living here in El Alto and hearing a song in Portuguese today was a huge blessing to her! God is good, isn’t He!
We left feeling so honored and blessed, and though they thanked us abundantly for coming to be with them, I know we were the ones who should be thanking them. Watching them care so much for these children and knowing their tireless work day after day after day to help these precious little ones really are lessons we take from them. They are intense with their faith and their work. They are joyfilled and very courteous in making sure everyone is cared for. They are the heroes of the day! Pastor Dinocio and the other leaders of the churches and centers we visited, you made a huge impression on us today and we are humbled to be a part of the work you have started and continue to do for God. As they say in Bolivia, “Que Dios le bendiga, muchisimo!”
Tomorrow – There is much anticipation tonight for tomorrow is the day we get to spend with our Compassion sponsored children. What a joy it will be to watch those who will meet their child in person for the very first time. I am excited to share with you and will update you on how it goes. We will be spending the day playing with the children at the zoo. Woo hoo! Rob and I are so excited to see Isaias and I know we’ll be surprised how much he’s grown up since we saw him last in March of 2010. 🙂
Families and friends – thanks for your prayers for us. I end with how I began. Humbled. That is how we are feeling tonight.