Bolivia Update #6
Dear Gateway Family...
The past few days have been extremely busy, coming and going with the Mojica family, serving in the churches and learning more about ways we can best minister along side our brothers and sisters here in Santa Cruz.
Simeon Trust Conferenc
The conference ended on Friday and was a great success. When I say success I am not talking about how great our teaching was - and JD & Dennis both did a great job - but I am talking about how these men have grown through the years. At the end of our conference we had a time of sharing testimonies which was both eye opening and encoraging at the same time.
It was eye opening because we realized how much the Old Testament is neglected as a preaching text, and if it is preached it is typically moralized and Christ and the Gospel is not even considered. One of the lessons we teach is called "Travelling through the Cross" which helps the students see how they can get to the Gospel and Christ from any text in the Old Testament.
It was encouraging because the men have grown year after year and you can see in the classroom conversations that they are grasping how to approach God's Word in a greater way each time they come. All of them expressed an eagerness for next year's teaching which will either be on Old Testament Poetry or Prophecy.
On Saturday everyone was tired and so it began as a slow day to recover. In the afternoon we went to the Faria - the fair - which is much like an enormous flea market where people were selling all sorts of things. It is primarily an indoor market and there are hundreds and hundreds of shops. The best way I can describe it is to imagine a public storage facility but with every storage unit the same size, maybe 10 x 10 feet. Each vender is surrounded by their merchandise and is sitting on a plastic chair of some sort. Their children are usually playing both in and around their unit and there is typically some small strategically placed television set. They sit there all day with their children hoping to make some money. As much as I am humbled by that picture I am thankful for the example of sacrifice, entrepaneurship and hard work.
In the evening we went to the downtown district where we were able to do some souvenier shopping as well as enjoy the Bolivian culture of the Plaza, the central square where people come to talk, walk together, play chess and basically hang out. Sadly we also ran into, somewhat unexpectedly and literally, a Gay Pride Parade taking place in the plaza.
Hindered by a lack of working vehicles Matias, Adam and I were the only ones who were able to visit and minister in a village church. We went to the other side of Santa Cruz to speak in a relatively new church plant pastored by a man who is also a physician while Dennis preached in the combined Sunday School hour and JD broke the Word during the morning services. I am told by those in attendance that they both did a great job, Dinnis laying out the certainty of the Gospel from 1 Corinthians 15 and JD speaking on living out of that Gospel from Romans 12:1-2.
In the afternoon we gathered at our favorite restaurant, Los Lomitas, as a "Thank You" to the Mojica family for thier hospitality and love toward us as we ministered. In the evening something special took place. Adam shared a devotional for 15 minutes from Hebrews 12:1-2 and did a great job. It was encouraging as a Dad to see my son use his gifts and challenge the church and the youth about running the race to win. This was his first time ever speaking/preaching and I got it all on video. The evening continued to be a time of testimony sharing from both the Americans and the Bolivians and then we were honored by a meal of roasted chicken - yum! Yum!
Monday Camp & Idolatry
We rose early on Monday so that after some delicious saltenias we went off to see how things were progressing at the camp. Upon a rather bumpy arrival we were encouraged to see the two cabins that we invested in almost finished. Matias assured me that they were to be finished by November when they will be hosting camp. We also were amazed to see that the whole inner riverfront undergrowth and foliage had been removed providing for a meandering river with sandy banks for the campers to enjoy. There is still a lot of work to be done at the camp, but there is much progress being made.
In the afternoon we traveled to Cotoca, a town where there is a very famous statue of the Virgin Mary located centrally in a very old Catholic church. This is a destination for pilgrims throughout the year but especially during the month of December when people will crawl on thier knees in prayer to the Virgin Mary as they journey from Santa Cruz to Cotoca, a 12 mile trek. It was so sad to see such blatant idolatry and a focus away from Christ and His Gospel, but it was a reminder of where we can all be if we take lightly the things we have learned. We can be idol worshippers too, but in a much more refined way.
As I sat with Matias I asked him, "How can we best pray for you?" His response was as follows:
1. Pray for my health - he was bitten by a beatle when he was younger and, as a result, he has a life-long disease which can attack the heart. Mery also has the disease, but it is much more progressed with Matias. Thankfully, the doctors have finally been able to provide a medicine that slows down the process of decay.
2. Matias needs a new vehicle - His Isuzu Trooper was in the shop with transmission issues for all of the time we were there. His other vehicle, another Isuzu Trooper literally dropped the transmission while we were in the car one night. Last year Gateway contributed $5000 toward a new vehicle, but it will cost him at least $25,000 to get a new almost new vehicle like what he has and what he needs. Without a reliable vehicle he cannot visit the pastors in the churches and maintain his circuit riding ministry of oversight and care. At present he has $15,000 and we left him with another $2,000 toward that goal. Please pray that God would provide and meet that need. It is hard to communicate how important and significant this need is.
3. Pray for the Men attending his Bible Institute - He took our challenge last year to invest in the men of his church and some of the others in order to teach them and train them in ministry. He is beginning to see the fruit, but asks for prayer that more men would be eager to be involved.
That's all for now...
Pastor Rod (and JD, Dennis and Adam)