Holiday Homecoming

Dear Family and Friends:

It’s hard to believe we’ll be back in the Midwest in two days! We’re eager to see family and friends, worried about the cost of living in the U.S. for five weeks, and a little stressed to leave our Copa home and our work here.

But we’re aiming to shelve the worry and stress. It’s time to give thanks! Our first two or three months here were devoted to settling in, meeting people, getting to know our new neighbors, and listening. Now, at the seven-month mark and close enough to Thanksgiving that we can nearly smell the turkey, we want to share our successes with you. Your generous gifts of prayers, love, encouragement, and financial support have fueled a lot of good work:

  • The start of construction of a new church in Huacuyo, Bolivia.
  • The imminent completion of a new church in Puno, Peru.
  • The first phase of construction of a large, adobe greenhouse to provide food, jobs and work experience for people living in Munaypata, a poor neighborhood in Copacabana, Bolivia. Greenhouses enable growers to stretch the growing season to 12 months, and they can raise vegetables that normally don’t thrive here. We’ve earmarked funds for another greenhouse project and are researching whether it’s best to build one large greenhouse or several smaller, community-based greenhouses; profits will help local churches provide urgently needed human services.
  • Plans to purchase and distribute certified quinoa seeds to help feed and bring economic stability to about 100 poor families (about 700 people).
  • Six-week English classes for 30 mighty eager students. Word about the English classes has spread throughout Copa. In the next round of classes starting in January, we anticipate a lot of return students, as well as many new enrollees, especially teens, young adults, and people who work in Copa’s bustling tourist industry. The ability to speak English can make a profound difference in employability, income, and quality of life.
  • The coordination and funding of two, free, four-day, intensive training sessions of local Promotores de Buena Salud (volunteer public health workers who commit to teach and practice preventive health, first aid, and basic medical and dental care in their communities – critical needs in a region with virtually no hospitals, doctors or nurses). 15 trainees attended the course offered in Puno, Peru; 16 others attended the course in Copacabana, Bolivia.
  • Trained Promotores continued a school-based dental hygiene program they conceived and designed. Every student receives a free, donated toothbrush and is taught how to brush properly. Students write their names on their toothbrushes, which are kept at the school. Especially in poor rural areas, schools are more likely than homes to have water, and teachers require students to brush daily.
  • Creation of blueprints and a business plan for a 24-bed residential senior center for “abandanados.” Classrooms in the center will help meet the growing demand for courses on nutrition and nutritious cooking, preventive health care and Promotores’ training, business management, and English classes. The classrooms will also serve as short-term, temporary medical and dental clinics.
  • Plans for a new partnership with Heifer International (they approached us!). We hope this project will start in 2012 with construction of a greenhouse, a rabbit farm and a cuy (guinea pig) farm. The animals will generate income and increase protein in local diets. Breeder pairs will be given to families to start their own sustainable micro-farms, which in turn will provide income for the families, with a percentage returned to the churches.
  • Creation of an “artesania” project in which women of the Peru and Bolivia churches cleaned and spun raw alpaca wool bought by the mission, then knitted and crocheted more than 100 original items to be sold in the U.S. to help raise funds for construction and human service projects in their own communities.
  • Very recent discussion of a proposed project with a poor, rural school that serves 95 students in Cusijata. Bolivia. The school’s director would like to get Internet access and a few more computers for the resource center, which now has seven computers. The director would also like to build a greenhouse, partly to teach the students about gardening, and partly to pay for Internet service. He is hoping the mission will buy a modem, maybe a few computers, and the plastic roofing material for the greenhouse. Cusijata residents will make adobe, and build, maintain, and teach in the greenhouse. The director envisions charging residents a small fee for internet access – a mutual benefit for residents, and the school. We like the long-sighted self-sufficiency of this modest proposal and are eager to explore it.
  • Construction of many bridges – figurative bridges, between our local churches here, people, and communities. We and many of the local vendors, and even some of their kids, all greet one another by name. If we’ve been away for a day or two, they notice. When we return, they’re keen to know where we were and what we did. Another example: women who attended the Promotores’ training in Puno learned that the mission needs hand-made yarn crafts to help raise funds. The mission offered them substantially higher wages than the sweat-shop rates they’d been paid (U.S. equivalent of $.33 cents per day), and arranged to return a substantial percentage of the profits to the local churches – a triple win!

We’re honored to be able to help address so many pressing needs with efficient, sustainable programs. Ultimately, we aim to work ourselves out of our jobs here. But that’s often challenging. With three languages in play, cultural differences, and a long history of previous mission work that essentially provided short-term help – such as cash, materials &/or labor for building projects, or free medications – local people are sometimes puzzled by our requirements for business plans, proof of sustainability, and accountability. Teaching the new concept of sustainability is a big, important part of our job.

We feel our mission’s sustainable “progress-per-dollar” rate is admirably high, and we hope you concur. We heartily thank our donors for the gifts that have enabled us to launch so many important projects in 2011. And we humbly seek your financial support for the mission’s work in 2012.

If you have any questions, please email us at (Note: only one “d” connects “and” and “deb.” We will be back in the Chicago area from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and would be glad to meet with you in person, if you’d like.

May your holidays be blessed with health, happiness, and security,
Jeff and Debbie

Copyright © 2018 First United Methodist Church, Downers Grove. Please report any problems to