Feeling a million miles from…

Well… A million miles away from Christmas, from friends, from family and from home really. It is weird. We obviously miss our lovely friends and family but there is a kind of lightness that comes with only having a backpack full of stuff.

We have finally got our visas. It has been such a fiasco. We waited for nine hours in immigration. The system is so inefficient and frustrating. But do not be put off, any visitors can get a 30 or 90 day stamp really easily for free! So if you would like to come out to Bolivia for a trip – let us know and we can start planning.

Our drama team are amazing! They have been so committed to practices and keen to learn lots of sketches. We have been invited to present dramas in the main plaza, at the stadium and at the University. All of these have been great opportunities to talk to people and invite them along to church. Occasionally there is a moment of panic when we realise that somebody is missing and we have to swap roles, but thankfully we practiced with extras who could step in.

The Prison
This month we were invited to run a drama course in a prison/rehabilitation centre for young people. They wanted us to teach Christian values and self worth through drama and games sessions. We didn’t know what to expect as we heard some of the young people had been responsible for murder, drug trafficking and other offences. We have been overwhelmed and totally taken by surprise with their response to us. In 3 weeks we have built relationships with 9 teenage girls who come from various backgrounds but mainly from extreme poverty and abusive families/situations. The first time we met the group one of them asked if we could be their new mum and dad (we had to hold back the tears – seriously). I think it shows some of the deep needs of these young  lives. Parents are welcome to visit, but not many come.

Slowly the girls are sharing little bits of information about their lives. It seems obvious that many have been neglected both physically and emotionally. The prison staff and guards seem to really care for these young people and are doing their best to teach them new skills and coping devices for life on the outside. They even have access to knives, drills, hammers and soldering equipment which is amazing. But reality hits home when each young person is searched after our visits and locked up for the night.

We never thought that our new youth group would be inmates in prison!

As we now have our visas we want to dedicate much more of our time to the youth prison and in February we want to run a programme for the boys with whom we have already made some good connections. Richard, our friend from England has made some headway with “the boys from the hood”! Looking forward to the challenge…

This week the prison had a Christmas presentation with different groups performing dance, drama and music. It felt like we were at a youth camp for while and the girls performed a drama that we had been working on (sorry not allowed to take photos). The girls put there all into the performance as the whole prison watched in silence. I will never forget the look on the girls faces as we stood in a circle and one by one they thanked us for going in and sharing our lives with them. Awesome time! 

We are now starting to gather a team of Bolivians so that we can build networks for these young people in the future and we would also like to set up a drop in centre for when they leave the prison. The whole prison experience has been a totally unexpected and awesome journey for us – please keep us in your prayers.

Christmas Diary
Our Christmas diary for this year:
(Please remember us as you tuck in to your Christmas pud).

Dinner on the 24th with our spanish teacher Mauge. Chicken and chips with banoffe pie. No turkeys here I’m afraid:(

Christmas morning: calling home to speak with family and friends.
(Bolivians celebrate Christmas at midnight on the 24th).

Boxing day: 3 day mission trip on to the community of Piana with Belen church and the drama team. (Piana is way out in the mountains).
Deans duties: Drama evangelism and filming the trip.
Ruth’s duties: hair washing and cutting, feet scrubbing and toasting marshmellows.

4th January: Journey to the Jungle. 2 weeks working with a tribe in Riberalta in Pando. (This one will be quite an adventure in 80% humidity – no internet contact for 2 weeks).

Thanks for reading our update. We would like wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks for all your messages and parcels. We have a few parcels which have just arrived which we are saving for Christmas day:)

with love from Dean & Ruth.

Fundraising account:
Mr D Such
Barclays
Sort code 20 39 07
Account no. 50163678
(Any donations will be used to serve the different projects we are involved with).

 

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5 minutes after we received our visas after a 9 hour wait in immigration…

 

University students. 4 hours of dancing through the streets of Cochabamba.
University students. 4 hours of dancing through the streets of Cochabamba.
The good old Heart Sketch performed on the day of the pedestrian.
The good old Heart Sketch performed on the day of the pedestrian.
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Getting ready for street drama…
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Ruth and Belen.

 

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Jesse getting ready to play Satan.
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Alisia’s wedding day. One of our favourite spanish teachers. With all the spanish school students.
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Some great friends from Church. Melinka is helping us in the prison now and Joel cooks a mean BBQ. Look at the size of that steak!
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Outside the youth prison. Richard, Ruth and Milenka. Unfortunately we are not allowed to take photos inside.
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Christmas presents for the girls in the prison. Suggested items by the prison guard. Thanks to AFC youth for the donation:)

 

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Ruth making blankets for the Bolivian ladies in Piana.

 

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Hot Hot Hot… Ho ho ho…

It doesn’t feel much like Christmas at the moment because it is so hot (29 degrees)! Apart from a few lights in the plaza we haven’t heard anyone talk about Christmas yet. Which is a bit weird. This evening we are going with our drama group to perform evangelism in the plaza. We have been working with them since we arrived and they are so enthusiastic.

Although schools have now broken up for Christmas we were invited back to Centro de Amistad y apoyo to do a drama workshop. The children were quite timid to start with, but seemed to enjoy the afternoon. We are hoping to go back in the New year.

Last weekend we were invited to a “Rubbish Dump Lunch”… The church prepared a meal for all the people who work on the rubbish dump, sorting and sifting through the rubbish. They collect valuable items such as glass, plastic bottles and aluminium for recycling.There is an abattoir on the same site, no shade or shelter, and they have no protective clothing. After helping to serve lunch we performed a short drama and spent time chatting. One lovely lady told me about her five children and all thirteen grandchildren, names, birthdays, ages… Each person was given a nice shiny pair of brand new wellies as a gift from the church. They were so happy. It was like giving them gold! They left smiling, clutching their wellies wearing their bowler hats. It was such a privilege to be involved serving some of the poorest people in Cochabamba.

The visa saga continues. We had to send our marriage certificate back to the UK to be stamped at the Foreign Office. When it finally came back we had to go to La Paz to visit the British Embassy, to have it legalised and translated by an official translator. Eight hours on a bus cama (which is a bed bus… But if your thinking Harry Potter you’d be mistaken) we arrived at sunrise. There was torrential rain all day, rivers running down the streets. We managed to go on the new cable car from La Paz up to El Alto, which is on the upper rim of the altiplano. It was a pretty cool way to spend 30p in the rain. Our papers are now in the immigration office, after a nine hour queue and many frustrations. Not sure we can take the stress if we have to do it again.

There are lots of events in the pipeline. We start a new city wide drama course on Monday. We are going to be visiting a youth prison for short term inmates. A Swiss mission organisation have invited us to Ribbalta, which is in the jungle… Lots of spiders, snakes and very hot! They have offered to pay for our flights which was unexpected. They run a Bible course for tribal leaders for three months each year, they think that drama will be a great way to explain the Bible in a non- book culture. Five other members of Connexiones Entre Mundos will be there at this time helping with the course.

Our Christmas will be spent in Cochabamba with our new friends. (Thanks Elaine for the gravy granules). We will then travel to the rural area to serve a community from 26-28th December and deliver medical and basic supplies with the Belen church. (Bethlehem church).

Thank you for your support and prayers. Please leave a comment. We love to hear your news too. Thanks to MP and SP, PG, RJW and EW, JH for the parcels and for those which we know are en route. Xx

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The amazing young people at Centro de Amistad y Apoyo with special help from Benjamin.
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Dean with his new little friend Lola:)
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Ruth helping to paint at ‘Manos Con Libertad’. A support centre for women who have just come out of prison.
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Dean Painting.. in need of a makeover!
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Cooking for the Rubbish Dump Lunch
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The Rubbish Dump Lunch.
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The new wellies.
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The new friends.
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Cable car in La Paz
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British embassy in La Paz. Unfortunately no tea was offered 😦
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Illimani mountian overlooking La Paz.

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