Brief Update – Bolivia

Well, after two weeks without any electricity, telephones, toilets (the bush was it the whole time), or drinkable water in places, I am back to civilization again.

Right now I am in the process of thumping out a story about all that
happened in the mountains and jungles of Bolivia. There is much to tell about my adventures there. The roads carved into the sides of sharp mountains were scary and dangerous, the lifestyle of the people was basic and fundamental, the temperature was approaching 50 degrees celcius, and the dangers were real – tigers, bears, vipers, malaria and chagas to name the most severe – but my time there was also very rewarding.

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Boliva – Back From The Jungle

Well, after three weeks without communication, I am finally back to somewhere that I can access internet. Where I went, there was no electricity, telephones and at times not even drinkable water nearby. It was certainly remote, but also very interesting. The mountains and jungles of Bolivia.

There is so much to say that I won’t ever get to tell you everything, suffice to say that these are mainly the highlights.
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Bolivia – Yacuiba

Well, we finally made it to Bolivia, after a 20 hour bus ride and being accosted by a bunch of peddlers at the border. That, and some problems actually getting through the border started our time here with a punch.

Border Crossing
It turns out that Chileans need a passport to get through the border of Bolivia. This was contrary to the information that we had been given before leaving our home in Corrientes. Fortunately the guards at the border were helpful, and with our whole team adding more pressure to get everyone through, we were able to come to an agreement that apparently did not completely break the laws. This was a good thing, for both us and our only Chileana.

Yacuiba Bolivia
The town of Jacuiba appears, for all intents and purposes, very much like any other town in Argentina. It has shops and cars and people everywhere, and of course there are the compulsory plazas where everyone gathers. The differences are not very obvious at first, but after staying here for a while, they start to stand out.

One of the noticeable factors of this town, is that some of the basics that we often take for granted such as water and electricity, are not always available. In fact, water is cut off every day to different parts of the city. Our section loses water in the morning often, and sometimes at night. Many of the schools only receive water during the morning hours. Electricity too is also cut off at times, although this has not been a daily occurance while we have been here.

Performing Art
Our main goal here has been to visit many of the local schools and colleges and share with the students there. As a group, we have a large range of theatrical pieces that we perform in front of large crowds of children, teaching them moral values and the consequences of poor choices in life. These pieces normally are followed by a brief chat about the values involved in each one, and the children are given an opportunity to respond to what they have seen. Many take this chance, and others come and talk with us afterwards.

We have also performed in the main city plaza, drawing large crowds of people. The following day we found ourselves in a local street in the outlying suburbs, in front of dozens of children and many of the locals from the surrounding houses. They too were treated to our performances, as well as a time of sharing and discussions.

Lower Living Standards
This street and the area around it was a much lower level of living standard than in the main town of Yacuiba. All of the roads here are dust, and the wind whipped it up into our faces that were lined with sweat from the heat of the day. The houses, barren of anything resembling luxury, sport only the necessities of life. Pots and pans, a wooden chair against a rickety wooden table, and perhaps a television to provide a means of escape. The overall feeling in the place was quite heavy.

With our time in Yacuiba coming to a close, we are now working side by side with a team of people to help run a camp for children over this weekend. Although we considered ourselves to be very busy before, this weekend is scheduled so tight that we only get 15 minutes to ourselves each day. The morning after the camp, on Monday, we all head out to the next location in Bolivia… Entre Rios.

Entre Rios
Entre Rios is said to be much greener than the area around us here which is bascially dirt and dust. The whole area of Entre Rios, which means “between rivers”, is very green, very humid and very hot, with a lot of surrounding jungle. Although we are going to Entre Rios, our work is amongst the people living in communities around this small town.

There are few roads here, and at best there are some walking tracks through the bush and jungle. Some of the tracks are expected to take three hours or more to walk. We have been warned to carry water with us as all water outside the town is bitter and bad to drink. Not only that, but we also will need to carry all of our gear with us too. For me, that means a very full and heavy backpack. For others, it is a heavy suitcase with wheels. I hope they will be able to roll along the tracks.

So as our time comes to a close here we prepare for the worst. Spiders and snakes and bugs and nasties are all reported to be in Entre Rios, even by those who have been there. It sounds like a very pretty but dangerous place. On Monday I will be finding out for myself just what it is like.

Until we talk again, Rob.

Bolivia and Beyond

It has been a long time since I have written, and although I would love to update you on everything, the time is still not with me. Right now, urgency is the thing that presses me to write to you at this time.

As you will probably remember, I left Buenos Aires to visit some friends in Uruguay, and almost immediately after that I ended up in the North of Argentina, in a city called Corrientes, right on the river that borders with Paraguay. In this city is a local YWAM base (they call it JUCUM over here) where I felt that God had called me to.

In this base I started to do the Discipleship Training Course which is a 6mth training school that teaches me the values of YWAM and many life-changing principles from the Bible. Now there has been many many things that have happened during my time here, and I have journalled much of it, so most of it is not lost, but as for writing about it I do not have time just yet.

The main thing that I can say right now is that most people keep noting that there have been obvious changes in me. I can see in myself that there has been a huge change in the heaviness that I had previously always felt inside of me. All of my anger and (controlled) desire to act it out has also left me and I feel no level of frustration like that any more. These are the more obvious things that I can tell myself. Most people simply say they can see a difference on my face.

Well after something like three months of life-changing teaching, instruction, and modelling, my theory part of the course has come to a close. There is no more to be said… for now we are required to go out and put into practice all that we have learned and use the new tools that we have been practicing with. Half of my class has already started their journey to Peru. My journey with the other half of my class starts tomorrow. We are heading to Bolivia.

Our goals are different, so I will talk only of Bolivia here. When we get there, we will be living in a number of different locations. Bolivia is a poor country, one of the poorest in South America, and Argentina is seen as one of the richest in comparison. We have no fixed address but instead will be moving in and often living amongst some of the poorest people in the country.

In these conditions there are dangers such as Chagis disease (where a parasite can eat your organs out over a period of 20yrs without cure), a skin-burrowing bug, and the usual other bugs such as hepatitis and so on. Our sleeping conditions are unknown, as is the condition of the places we will be entering. There appears to be few telephone lines in the area and some suggest that there may not even be power.

Our goal in going to these places is to help the people that are in need. If there is building that needs to be done then we will build. If there are churches around then we will help them in the areas that they are helping the people. Of course it is natural that we will be wanting to share with them some of the hope that we have also, and demonstrating the truth of it through healing and other miracles.

Throughout our time in Bolivia it is probably that we will be doing a tremendous amount of walking between places, catering for ourselves with the food that we can find (this should not be too much of a problem), and trying to keep spirits up in a sweltering heat. I too face the difficulty that nobody speaks English on my team, so all communication will be in Spanish.

Buenos Aires
After one month of working in Bolivia, we are all converging back in Buenos Aires at another YWAM base for a National Meeting on the 3rd of November. During this time of sharing our experiences and catching up with each other (including the team from Peru and the Buenos Aires students) we will be once again separated into two teams. These teams are likely to be somewhat different from our current teams. Then we commence the second part of our outreach – to Argentina.

We will be going to Jujuy and San Antonio del Santiago, two different teams to the two different provinces. Here will be much of the same sort of thing as in Bolivia, and for about the same amount of time. We finally return to our base in Corrientes on the 3rd of December. The next ten days sees us sharing our experiences and finishing up our course, which ends on the 13th of December 2004.

Your Part
If you are a praying person, then I ask that you would please pray for us as a team during this time. If it is possible to communicate with you during this time then I will try to do so, otherwise you will hear from me around the beginning of December.

And now… to my adventure. Bolivia, here I come!