Bolivia: Mt. Bethel UMC Update 2

The Mt. Bethel UMC mission team is currently in Quesimpuco, Bolivia. Each year, a group of men from Marietta, Ga., look forward to spending time together serving the people in this remote Andean village and sharing during devotions. SIFAT’s executive director Tom Corson, administrator Terry Haynes and board member Art Stephenson joined this team. Bert Blanchard, a former team leader, could not go this year, but he has been sending out daily updates he receives from the team to family and former team members. Bert’s updates include photos, descriptions and stories from previous years that will help you understand the landscape and culture of the area. For more information on SIFAT’s work in Quesimpuco, download our latest update here. For the first half of the Mt. Bethel team’s week, click here.

Wednesday, October 28

The team finished the irrigation pipe work that could be completed and are planning to spend more time getting to know the families in the village. They completed the work faster than expected with the help of their new friends. He said there was one woman in particular who was carrying large stones down to support/protect the pipes that no one from the US could keep up with.

Team members have been working alongside community members to lay pipe for a microirrigation system.

They have been enjoying time together in the small-group atmosphere: sharing devotions, cooking meals and playing cards. Wayne Hiott is leading the music and songs. Andy Rogers is leading worship, devotions and setting the tone for their spiritual nourishment.

Today, they were planning to spend more time playing with the kids, and Art Stephenson was to share a devotion with the people of Quesimpcuo about his experience with NASA.

Thanks to the past 20 years of support by SIFAT and mission teams like this one, the kids now have clean drinking water, more nutrition in their diet, a school, a medical clinic, and they get to worship and hear about Jesus Christ. Before, none of these things were possible. You can see the impact in one generation already. The kids are taller and healthier than their parents and have many more opportunities to use their gifts to support a bright future for the village.

One especially encouraging story is about a young girl whose family history would have expected her to become a shepherdess to help tend the sheep and goats, like her predecessors. The school in Quesimpuco at the time only went to 2nd grade…enough to teach the kids some basic reading and writing. But the leaders of the village asked SIFAT to help them educate the children, and SIFAT supporters built and staffed a Christian school where kids had a chance for a real education through 12th grade. The young girl, Ruth Noemi, was a very strong student and graduated first in her class. They saw great potential in Ruth, who wanted to learn more and help her people. SIFAT arranged support for her to attend college and then medical school. Dr. Ruth Noemi is now working in Quesimpuco at the clinic and traveling all around the region to serve her people. Being a female doctor is especially important, since she specializes in supporting women’s health issues that normally don’t receive proper attention. Two years ago, Mt. Bethel’s team donated a special medical backpack that is stocked with items useful in the remote areas of the region.

There are many other students who have graduated recently with plans to study for careers in engineering, math, etc. (even seminary!)

The next major project/need that has been requested is from the nearby village of Chigmu. They don’t have any place for medical care and sometimes the long walk to Quesimpuco is difficult for the sick and injured. Their leaders have asked for SIFAT to consider helping them build a clinic. Two of the main leaders from Chigmu are Nicolas and Patricio. This village had great status in the region because of the stone idols that people from miles around would worship to ask for blessings from their “gods” like Pacha-mama, the puma, condor, and llama god. It was a rival tribe to Quesimpuco, so the neighboring villages were not “friends.”

Twenty years ago, Nicolas’s wife was in labor for three days because of complications and was near death. Without medical care available, this was, unfortunately, too common. One of the first Auburn UMC medical teams happened to be in Quesimpuco, and Nicolas sent for help. The team’s doctors immediately went to Chigmu and saved his wife’s life. He became a believer as he saw Christianity in action. He and Patricio began reading the bible that was given to them. They got to Leviticus 26:1, “Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God.” Nicolas and Patricio realized that they had been worshiping false idols! They tore down the stone idols that originally made Chigmu famous, and Patricio became the Christian spiritual leader for the village. His nickname is Idol Slayer! Later, God answered their prayers for clean water when they joined their former rival, Quesimpuco, in a water project, which has had a huge impact on the general health and well being for both villages.

This guide has photos of the local people like Benjo, Dr. Ruth, Patricio and Nicolas, so you can see the faces of these brave first-generation believers. Their testimony and seeing the Gospel alive is part of the reason we keep going back to Quesimpuco, where we get to see genuine faith and joy in knowing Christ.

I am sorry for such long-winded updates, but I can’t help but want to share as much as possible about these people and this place that has made a huge impact on my personal relationship with Christ.

Today’s Devotion: Our Source is Christ

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:5-13

 

Friday, Oct. 30

The men didn’t have a chance to call yesterday, which doesn’t surprise me given the activities they had scheduled. They were planning to hike to the site of the first irrigation project which is near the village of Paradia on Wednesday afternoon/evening. This would give them a chance to camp out and sleep in Benjo’s “million star hotel.”

Cassimiro’s family farms in this area, and there is a grove of eucalyptus trees that makes a nice camping area. The trees were from seedlings given to Benjo’s father over 70 years ago. This is a beautiful place to see the stars, enjoy a campfire and hear Benjo give his testimony. I haven’t told you much about Benjo Parades in my updates, but he is the reason that we go to Quesimpuco. You need to ask your loved one to share what they learned about Benjo’s journey–starting from his birthplace in Quesimpuco to the jungles of Sapecho, where he became a Christian after meeting the Corson family. It is an incredible story of a man who once despised Christians and hated Americans, who was saved by faith in action that has resulted in thousands of people hearing the gospel in the remote mountains of Bolivia. To me, Benjo is a modern-day Paul. Benjo’s son Isaac is continuing the good work of improving the lives of the people in the remote regions of Bolivia, both in the mountains and the jungle. Sarah Corson’s book, Risking Everything is an inspiring account of the Corson family’s experience as missionaries in Bolivia and how they met and eventually saved Benjo for Christ. I highly recommend you buy a copy!

Yesterday, was the last day in Quesimpuco, and the village hosted a “market day” for the team. Market day is held in a small grassy courtyard beside the cafeteria and outdoor bread oven, where people come to bring their handmade goods to sell. The Mt. Bethel men will have a chance to purchase some beautiful wool, ceramic and carved wood items, such as blankets, belts, bracelets, bowls, etc.

 

The team participated in market day, where they were able to purchase handmade items from the local people of Quesimpuco.

 

After market day, the village will host a small party with singing, skits and speeches where the leaders get to thank the team for their work, generosity and friendship. Gifts of traditional Quechua hats and scarves will be given to each of the men along with a final handshake and hug.

 

Soon, the men will be saying goodbye to their friends in Quesimpuco.

 

This morning, the team woke up at 3 a.m. to head back to La Paz. They leave very early to allow for an early afternoon arrival time in the big city and avoid the gridlock rush hour traffic. There is a good chance they will find an internet phone tonight or tomorrow and get to call home. The first hot shower in a week and a nice hotel room will be a real treat!  Also, it is likely that they will head to Eli’s pizza down the street to eat a giant pizza.

La Paz is a safe city to walk around and see the dynamic culture clashes between the old and new ways of Bolivia.

We look forward to seeing the new pictures and hearing from the team soon!

Yesterday’s Devotion: Our Example in Christ

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him … When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’” John 13:1-5, 12-17
Today’s Devotion: Our Advocate
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:19-21