Bolivia Volunteers in Mission

VIM Bolivia 2012 Trip Report #1 – Sunday Evening, June 24
This is the first report of the 12-member VIM Bolivia 2012 Team, a small but mighty band of loving servants from Connecticut (Rachel Bird, Rev. Bill Pfohl, Cindy Svensen), New York (Dennis Angle, Chris Freeman), Pennsylvania (Diane Hetrick, Kathy Silva, Ginny Stevenson, Mary Thrush), New Hampshire (John Borchert, Rod Wendt) and even Minnesota (Anders Svensen).
For 3 of us, this is our first Bolivia VIM experience.

Summary: we arrived Friday safely and without incident; Saturday got right to work on construction work and Vacation Bible School preparation; Sunday
worshipped in THREE churches; and are gelling into an amazing Team!

We gathered at La Guardia early Thursday afternoon, June 21, and proceeded with the hardest part of the trip – travelling to Cochabamba. A late afternoon flight to Miami, a LONG overnight flight to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, an 8-hour layover on Friday (softened by a day- stay at Hotel Sun near the Santa Cruz airport where we could nap, shower, and have lunch), a late Friday afternoon flight back to Cochabamba, and FINALLY we were there! The welcome at the airport by over 30 members of the Cochabamba Methodist churches was classic amigo Boliviano Metodiste – abrazos and shrieks of joy, singing, smiles of recognition, and the familiar laughter of FRIENDS reunited.

Saturday, June 23 we began work in earnest – construction at Iglesia Luz de Vida and preparing to teach Vacation Bible School at both Iglesia Luz de Vida (Light of Life) and Iglesia Piedra Viva (Living Stones). Iglesia Piedra Viva was the very first church we have helped build “from the ground up” and Iglesia Luz de Vida is the second “ground up” church. Both are near and dear to the Bolivia VIMers who
have worked on them since 2004.

At Luz de Vida, work by us and other teams to create a new church building has proceeded with amazing speed. When the 2011 Team departed last year, Luz de Vida was a 2-story skeleton with no enclosed rooms. When we arrived Saturday it was a fully-enclosed structure with a fully functional first-floor sanctuary, and 3 second-floor rooms, fully plastered, in need of painting. Daniel Flores, Luz de Vida Pastor AND Architect AND our construction mentor, showed us what he needed done and we quickly got busy sanding plaster and woodwork, and then priming plaster and painting woodwork. Under the great leadership of Bill Pfohl, workers Dennis Angle, John Borchert, Chris Freeman, Dianne Hetrick, Anders Svensen, Cindy Svensen, and Rod Wendt made great progress, ESPECIALLY for the first work day after our grueling travel! We learned – as we do every year – that a good day of work can really clear out the travel fogginess!

Meanwhile, back at the Guest House, detailed preparation for the Vacation Bible School for the young children (which begins Monday, June 25 at both Luz de Vida and Piedra Viva) began in earnest. VBS Leader Rachel Bird was joined by Kathy Silva, Ginny Stevenson and Mary Thrush in this preparation. The theme is “Fruits of the Spirit” with one of the Fruits being the focus of each of the 5 days of Vacation Bible School: Love, Joy, Kindness, Patience, and Peace. The Guest House dining room table was covered with craft project preparation during the afternoon, and after dinner all 12 Team members joined in assembling crafts. Several Team members learned they really DID have “crafty fingers”; several others learned they did NOT!

Sunday, June 24, our “day of rest”, was spent at 3 – count ‘em, THREE – worship services: Iglesia Piedra Viva (8:30AM), Iglesia Emanuel adjacent to the
guest house (10:30AM) and Iglesia Luz de Vida (6:00 PM). At each we heard different messages on a common scripture (Jesus calming the waters, Mark 4), and reconnected with old friends from each congregation. Highlights included reconnecting with Pastor Gustavo Loza and Methodist World Peace Medal recipient Casimira at Piedra Vida; delivering over $8,000 in Sewn Goods money to the Sewing Co-op women at Iglesia Emanuel; and a wonderful light dinner before our first-ever worship in the new Luz de Vida sanctuary.

Earlier in the afternoon, between worship services, we took a brief Cochabamba city tour, and saw the Christo de Concordia statue, the tallest in the world, as we do every year. This year 4 of our group made the climb up inside the Christo.

As we close this report on Sunday night, we are a tired but very happy Team. Tomorrow, Monday, is back to work on painting and Vacation Bible School!