Hola From Bolivia!

We’ve just walked back “home” to our house in Copacabana, after a regional worship service in nearby Iglesia Manko Capak (named after the 1st Incan Emperor and the name of the Province in which Copacabana is located). The Bolivian Methodist Church (Iglesia Evangelica Metodista en Bolivia) is celebrating its 100-year jubilee. Each church district is hosting celebrations of this kind. The 4.5-hour service was unusually brief, probably because Bishop Javier Rojas (the only Bolivian Bishop), officiated. He dashed back to La Paz immediately after the service … and so missed a huge festival with a 20 piece fiesta band, dancing and local food specialties. More than 250 Bolivian Methodists gathered from up to 60 miles away for this three-day celebration. Many of them camped on the church grounds or nearby pasture. Virtually no one here has a car, so people came by bus, taxi, cattle truck (we saw approx 20 Aymarans diembark for one), bike, or on foot. People walking to the event were toting kids and supplies on their backs or on mules.

Fortunately, the bishop speaks slowly and carefully (about 90 percent of the audience speaks only Aymara, so segments were translated every few moments). His sermon called for a united effort to preserve water quality of Lake Titicaca. He drew analogies to San Juan 14 (John, verse 14), and life-giving water for those who depend on the lake here and now (fish provide much of the very limited protein in local diets), and for the children and grandchildren who will depend on the lake in future decades. Spot on, and inspiring!

Every worship service includes many, many songs – 15, 20, or more. Every verse of every song is sung at least twice – the entire song twice in Spanish, then every verse of every song twice again in Aymara. No wonder services are 5 to 6 hours long!

Services also include formal blessings. The entire congregation will crowd on their knees to the front of a church, where a pastor or a lay pastor (there are many more churches than pastors) will lay both hands on each bowed head, and give a brief blessing. Sometimes this involves water – a dahlia or chrysanthemum bloom is dipped into a bowl of water, then doused over each person’s head.

Worship services always include a version of Joys and Concerns, four to six times during the service. The pastor leads these 4-6 minute sessions in a loud voice, directly addressing God with general pleas and thanks for help, mercy, forgiveness, and blessings. At the same time, all congregants murmur/whisper their own personal prayers, eyes closed, palms up. It’s powerful. One has the image of a column of united prayers rising up to heaven. At every one of these “Joys and Concerns,” nearly all the women and most of the men cry – hard and openly. Early on, we marveled at this. How could so many people get to tears “on cue”? In our first weeks here, I confess it seemed contrived. But on further thought, most people here probably live pretty close to tears.

Which brings us to the goals of the Lake Titicaca Border Mission. As you may already know, the mission aims to build churches and help strengthen church leadership, improve health (with water filtration, clinical services, and training of local volunteer public health workers), and promote sustainable economic and agricultural projects. It’s a great joy to us that already five mission teams are in the early stages of planning work trips here. If you or your group would like to know more – cost, timing, specific needs and goals, travel, sight-seeing – please email us at jeffandeb@gmail.com. (Note, there’s only one “d.”) With or without plans for a mission trip, we’d love to hear from you!

BTW: If you want to see picture and videos of this event and the work we are doing we will be updating our website with in the next week with new pictures and videos.

Bendiciones y chao chao,
Debbie & Jeff

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