Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bolivia Mission - and earthquakes!

These reports are passed along by Mission Central, one of our mission partners, and reflect one of the many mission partnerships of our Susquehanna Conference of The United Methodist Church.
The 2012 Encounter with Christ in Bolivia VIM Team, operating as part of the Bolivia Mission partnership between the Susquehanna Annual Conference and the New York Annual Conference, is departed for Cochabamba Thursday June 21, and will return on Saturday July 7. It consists of 12 VIM's--9 of whom have been members of previous teams and 3 who are experiencing this adventure for the first time. Marking a significant milestone in the history of this mission, these 3 "rookies" bring to 150 the number of different individuals (from New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and scattered other locations) who have traveled to Cochabamba as Encounter with Christ VIM's since Bishop (then District Superintendent) Jane Allan Middleton led the first such team in 2002.

VIM Bolivia 2012 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 worshiped 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 - traveling 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!
VIM Bolivia 2012 Report #2 - Wednesday Evening, June 27
This is the second report of the 12-member VIM Bolivia 2012 Team, as we settle into our work in Cochabamba and gel as a team.
Summary: the construction at Iglesia Luz de Vida and the Vacation Bible School at both Iglesia Luz de Vida and Iglesia Piedra Viva are off and running with great success. We partied at Wilson & Nora Boots' lovely home Monday night. We barely noticed the 2 minor earthquakes in our vicinity early Tuesday morning, but Cindy Svensen's birthday celebration that day rocked the Team.
The construction work at Luz de Vida is focused on painting 3 upstairs rooms that will serve as youth activity and education space. Key workers have been Big Boss Bill Pfohl, supported by Dennis Angle, John Borchert, Chris Freeman, Dianne Hetrick, Anders Svensen, Cindy Svensen, and Rod Wendt. We began by sanding the plaster walls (no sheetrock here) and then applying a watery thin primer. Indeed, maybe it WAS just water! Sometimes we thought there was more on US than the walls! Next we began applying a coat of beige paint - almost as thin as the primer - to the ceiling and walls. It was a "learning experience" for all as we dealt with the watery paint, applied with both roller and brushes, but we have grown in skill and technique. Then we began applying a darker, coffee color to the beams and support members, for an attractive 2-tone look. As of tonight, Wednesday, June 27, we have 2 coats of beige on almost all the walls (hoping for a third) and a coat of coffee on all the beams. We have also become a well-oiled team.
A highlight was the arrival of about 8 young neighborhood Bolivian boys on Monday afternoon, curious as to what we were doing, One thing led to another, and before long we had 8 "helpers" getting more beige paint on themselves than on the wall, but much laughter all around. Building relationships is why we are here!
Meanwhile, Valerio the young Bolivian master mason was laying brick for the adjacent parsonage, and at various times he has been helped by Bill Pfohl and Anders Svensen. In fact, Anders may be able to apply for a Journeyman Mason's certificate when her returns based on his skill in laying brick!
While some have been painting upstairs or bricklaying outside, the Vacation Bible School has been held each afternoon downstairs in the Sanctuary. Ginny Stevenson, Dianne Hetrick , and Cindy Svensen, have been in the lead, supported by interpreter Ruth, with "guest appearances" by Bill Pfohl, John Borchert, and Anders Svensen. "Fruits of the Spirit" is the theme, with Monday focusing on "Love", Tuesday on "Joy, and Wednesday on "Kindness". Lots of laughter has been heard, as the 17-19 kids work on their craft projects in support of the theme of the day. Monday was Lambs in honor of the lost sheep, and heart name tags. Tuesday was butterflies and sunflowers. Wednesday involved bells and kindness medallions. To fully understand the relevance of all these to the themes involved, you just HAVE to be here in the classroom! Applications or the 2013 VIM Team are now being accepted!
At the same time, way across town at Iglesia Piedra Viva, the other Vacation Bible School Team has been hard at work on the same themes and the same projects. Rachel Bird was joined by Kathy Silva and Mary Thrush working with wonderful little Bolivian kids whose numbers reached 37 on Wednesday! They have been assisted by interpreter Priscilla and several people form Piedra Viva.
Our work days have been full and tiring - but rich and rewarding as well. We have tried to work in a little fun where we can. Monday night we all went to Wilson & Nora Boots' lovely apartment nearby in downtown Cochabamba, and enjoyed Nora's secret recipe passion fruit pie. That night BEGAN the celebration of Cindy Svensen's birthday, which continued the next day with celebrations at the work site, the Luz de Vida parsonage, and team dinner.
The minor earthquake? Two Richter scale 2 to 3 'quakes early on Tuesday morning, centered not too far from us, shook the Guest house slightly. Several of us awoke, most did not, no damage was done, and all are fine.

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