A couple of weeks ago we were invited to go on a mission trip. We prayed about it, then agreed, went to a couple of planning meetings, bought supplies… But nothing really could have prepared us for what was, undoubtably, one of the best experiences we have ever had.
Boxing Day. 6.30 am. We arrived at church with our rucksacks and sleeping bags and soon were busy lifting stuff onto the back of a cattle truck (called a caminon). More and more people arrived – Bolivians are without exception always late- until the whole group of 45 had gathered. Enormous saucepans, a cooker, a generator, 20 + sacks of clothes! shoes, huge sacks of toasted maize, food, buckets, bottles of gas, ECG machines… You name it… We took it.
We didn’t know that much about the place we were going. We didn’t really know what we would be doing. Ruth had volunteered to help with hair washing, Dean was in charge of media and videoing.
The bus journey to Lapiani took six hours. Roads like ribbons, twisting on the sided of the mountain, deep gorges and ravines which made you look away. The famous “death Road” in La Paz was nothing in comparison to this… We arrived mid afternoon and started unpacking all the supplies. We had been given permission to use the school. The three classrooms became our kitchen, girl’s bedroom and boy’s room. The primary classroom was converted into a doctors surgery and dentist room. People started working frantically. Setting up the generator as there was no electricty, wiring up light bulbs, carrying buckets of water from the standpipe, boiling water and sweeping the yard. It was crazy. A couple of local people appeared and looked at us with bemused expressions. It was really remote. Only a handful of mud brick houses with tin roofs. We could hardly believe that “hundreds of people” would come the next day.
We spent the afternoon organising goodie bags for the children and hampers full of essentials like oil, sugar, salt, flour, rice and tea for each family. Collectivism in full force.
That night there was a hail storm – about two inches of hail stones. So we built a snowman. It was so cold. Bitter, but we all snuggled down and got some sleep.
The following day we were woken up at 5.30! Clean up and breakfast, ready for action at 8.30…no showers and awful toilets. The girls resorted to putting toilet paper up their noses to block the smell.
From 8.30 to 1.00 we all worked in teams. There were three doctors, medical students and nurses who were doing basic health checks and vaccinations. The dentists were treating cavities and removing teeth. The vets went out and gave every animal a vaccination, vitamins and anti parasite jabs. The hairdressers cut hair. We washed their hair in warm water and combed, plaited and gave them new ties. They all came to have their feet treated, washed in warm water, scrubbed, cut and then brand new shoes fitted.
It was incredible.
Hundreds of people did come…
We had a quick lunch and got ready for games and dramas, which we were involved with. All the children then lined up and we gave each one a goodie bag, with toys, balls and snacks etc. Every adult got given a blanket and a shawl. At about 5.00 we served hot chocolate and these yummy fried aniseed doughnut things. Then after a gospel message was shared by our Quechua pastor; we arranged all the donated clothes in long lines along the playground and there was a free- for- all rummaging for clothes. Words cannot really express the joy and blessing that was shared. Then every family was called forward and they received a plastic bowl, full of things for their family. Earlier in the day I had gone to one of the houses to borrow a stone to grind peanuts. They had no furniture apart from a basic plank and straw beds with a fire smouldering in the corner. I think about our lovely little house back home. Our garden and all the “stuff” we have collected. It was humbling.
It was tricky communicating with the older generation as they only spoke Quechua. But many people from the church can understand and/or speak. That night at midnight Dean surprised me by organising a seranata for my birthday and a few impressive fireworks.
The following day the doctors,dentists and vets continued to do their ministry and the rest of us went out exploring. Dean and I spent a bit of time “turning bulls” and peeling potatoes. Until finally it was time to load the truck and travel back to Cochabamaba. We had to sit on the back and pass out supplies to people on the way back home. It was like being Father Christmas, but instead of Playstations and Ferreo Roche we were giving soap, matches and blankets. Bruised, battered and burnt we arrived back to the church. A birthday I shall remember.
It was such an honour to be part of this team. They have been visiting different rural communities for 14 years. Just pouring out huge amounts of blessing on each community. It was truly exhausting. I could hardly open my eyes, but you know when you are tired – in a good way- and you just know that something good happened and you are just glad you were part of it.
Happy New Year everyone. Please keep in touch…
Tomorrow we are off the Jungle, no internet for 2 weeks!!