We began our trip on a Thursday morning when we started driving toward Miami. After 11 hours we decided to call it a day and stop for the night in Titusville, Florida. Aliza did amazingly well on the drive down, and the big kids helped out a lot, keeping her happy and well-fed. But after all those hours she was glad to be out of her car seat. Her big smiles won her lots of friends at Cracker Barrel! 🙂 We are thankful for everyone who prayed for us during the long car ride.
|Aliza did amazingly well on the long car ride!|
We got to the airport around 4:15 for a 10:30pm flight, which meant lots of waiting at the airport. Unfortunately our flight was delayed twice, but by 1:00am on Saturday we were finally airborne. After a long drive and more than eight hours in the airport we were ready to get some sleep in the dark aircraft cabin. All was well until they decided to turn on the lights and serve us dinner around two o’clock in the morning. Who needs dinner at that hour? Not me, but I suppose someone would have complained about not getting the meatballs they’d paid for. I would have gladly given my meatballs to that guy in exchange for an hour of sleep.
|Happy to finally be en route to Bolivia!|
Saturday was a rest day, and Sunday we visited the “International Church”. I put that in quotes because the church has evolved from a mostly English-speaking church to a church comprised mostly of Bolivians and other Spanish speakers. A few songs were done in English, but the rest of the service was in Spanish. I was pleasantly surprised that I could understand a majority of what was said, so that was encouraging. After church we had lunch, rested for a while, and went for a walk around the neighborhood.
After a couple days of settling in and learning about ITM's ministry, I had the opportunity to fly out to one of the villages where we would pick up a team that had been serving there for a couple weeks. The morning started early, when I rolled out of bed at 3:30. Cristian, one of the ITM staff, arrived to pick me up at 4:15. That was the first of three stops he was making around the city, and by 5:00 the truck was pulling into the airport, crammed full of adults, children, and cargo.
|Getting ready for an early morning departure.|
To make a long story short, the weather didn’t clear and we cancelled the flight. That’s just part of flying in Bolivia during the rainy season. It seems that the old saying is true: “Time to spare? Go by air!” That being said, the airplane is still—without a doubt—the best way to get out to the tribes.
Later in the day, our family had lunch with several families and individuals that serve with ITM in Cochabamba. It was encouraging to hear about the church planting and discipleship that is happening in many small villages in the highlands near Cochabamba. There is also a great need for more laborers to disciple believers in these young churches. We had an opportunity to share about our journey, and our time together concluded by praying for one another. It was a very encouraging afternoon!
Finally, we drove out to see Cristo de la Concordia—the giant statue of Jesus that overlooks the city. By the time we got there it was pouring rain, so we didn’t spend much time there. At the base of the statue is a sculpture of an open Bible with the text of John 14:6; yet there are so many people in this region who haven’t heard about Jesus—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
|Cristo de la Concordia|
Thursday morning, the weather was looking good, so we tried again for the flight out to the village of Oromomo. This time we were able to make it out of Cochabamba on top of a sea of clouds. As we approached the village the clouds were breaking up, but there was still a low cloud layer that Tony was able to duck under and make a landing in Oromomo. While Tony shuttled the team to a nearby village I stayed in Oromomo where I got a tour from Tito, the pastor of the church in the village. He also explained to me the need for more laborers to reach the many unreached settlements around Oromomo. After seeing the village, I enjoyed a cup of coffee (and a taste of mate) and conversation with Tito and Ramon, one of the team members who had been serving in Oromomo.
One of the things we love about the ministry of ITM is that the staff is multicultural, and most of the church planting and discipleship is being done by Bolivian nationals. There are even short-term teams that come to serve from other parts of the country. As expats, we would be supporting and working alongside Bolivians that are reaching people within their own borders with the Gospel.
|Flying to Oromomo at about 14,000 feet.|
|At the airstrip in Oromomo|
During our visit to the radio station, we had a few moments to sit and talk with Ivan and Cendy, the staff members who run the station in addition to other responsibilities. They were so encouraging to us, and especially to the kids. After we talked for a while they shared some Scripture and prayed for our family. We felt very blessed by them, and would be excited to help support these Bolivian missionaries who have made significant sacrifices to serve in remote parts of their own country.
|At the airstrip in San Lorenzo|
|Walking down one of the main roads in San Lorenzo.|
|The radio station and one of the Bible school buildings.|
We came back very excited about the possibility of serving in Bolivia with ITM. It's not the easiest place to serve, and there would be some challenges. But we know that the Lord will be with us wherever He calls us. We're not making any big announcements quite yet, but we are excited about what lies ahead for our family.
From the window of the mission house in Cochabamba we could see the outstretched arms of a giant Jesus statue. That was pretty neat, but we are thankful that there is a real Jesus who actually holds and sustains all things, and we continue to trust Him to direct our steps, desiring His will to be done in us! Thanks again for walking alongside us on this journey!