Wednesday, November 6, 2019

An Unexpected Getaway

As we shared in our last email, the country of Bolivia has been in turmoil since the presidential election that was held October 20. At first the demonstrations across Bolivia were peaceful, and blockades were set up throughout Bolivian cities as a form of protest. These were inconvenient for sure, but presented no danger. Over the course of time, other groups were sent in to forcefully remove the blockades and disperse the protesters, leading to violent confrontations. This only strengthened the calls for the current president to step down, as there was evidence that some of these violent groups were supported by the MAS party that is currently in power. Huge numbers of people began meeting in public spaces in the cities across Bolivia to stand for democracy in Bolivia, and are calling for new elections. The current president has already held on to power far beyond constitutional term limits allow, and there are many allegations that fraud has taken place to keep him in power.

It's hard to explain in one post all that's been happening, but it's clear that the situation has been escalating and there is no end in sight. On Saturday evening, the opposition called for the resignation of President Evo Morales, giving him 48 hours to comply. That same evening we received a call from our leadership asking us to consider whether it would be best for our family to return to the States until the situation in Bolivia was resolved. On Sunday morning we got another phone call strongly encouraging us to leave, and that same afternoon we were taken by motorcycle to the airport in Cochabamba—the only means of transportation that could get past the many roadblocks in Cochabamba. We had about six hours to get our things in order, and to pack bags that we could carry on a motorcycle. By Monday morning we were arriving in Miami—where we found what may have been the last rental car available—and drove to stay with Tara's family near Tampa.

So here we are in the States, not sure what we are doing or how long we will stay. We are thankful to be here for the safety and security of our family, but our hearts still ache for the people we left behind in Bolivia. I have already been experiencing a mix of emotions, and I'm sure more will come. We believe that coming back to the U.S. for a time was the right decision for our family. But it's hard to escape the feelings of guilt and the thought that we have abandoned our Bolivian brothers and sisters who have no choice but to endure this time of hardship. But the reality is that—as expatriates who had only been in country two months—we could do very little to help. If anything, we felt that we were becoming a liability, consuming local resources and needing help from our Bolivian co-workers that could otherwise be directed to help people who really needed it.

The reality is that most Bolivians I know wouldn't leave right now if given the chance. They love their country and see this as a pivotal time in the history of their nation. They are proud to be a part of it! Another ray of hope is that the church has united and mobilized to pray for Bolivia. It is a difficult but exciting time! Surprisingly, I feel sad that I cannot be there to go through this with my Bolivian brothers and sisters. When we return to join them, hopefully in a few weeks, they will share the bond of having endured this trial together and emerged on the other side, while we were away in the relative safety of our home country. I know that if I was there I would not be able to be out on the streets with them anyway, and that there was wisdom in the decision that was made. But there is a part of me that wishes I was still there, if for no other reason than a demonstration of solidarity.

Please pray for us, but more importantly for Bolivia. We are praying for a peaceful resolution, that the church would be united, that God's will would be done, and that He would be glorified through what's happening there.

We just obtained our long-term visas and have every intention of returning. We will be in the States at least through Thanksgiving, but we really don't know how long we will be here or what our time in the U.S. will look like. For now we are just recovering and resting for a bit. We will share more in the near future, but in the meantime please feel free to reach out if you'd like to connect personally. Thanks so much for your prayers and support!

At first the blockades were peaceful, and there were even families out on the streets with their children. They were often taken down for short periods to allow people to get out and buy food.

Over time the blocks became more intense and more difficult to pass. The demonstrators also were refusing to temporarily remove them to allow people to buy food and supplies. Violent confrontations were also on the increase.

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