Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bolivia Journal, Part I, IMAGO DEI

A Thousand Stories in Search of a Hemingway!

A dancer moves with the music to add visual richness to worship. The church is in Santa Cruz's poorest neigborhood.

Where does one begin? Ninety miles from his Key West home, Ernest Hemingway wove the tale of the heroic fisherman Santiago. I love the story. Santiago was a a master fisherman with a young helper. Now, with the boy no longer with him, his sails and gear tattered, he sets out to catch a giant marlin only to see his catch devoured before he can bring it to shore. I have often echoed Santiago's sentiment: "I live in a good town," about my beloved Valley and my former home in Crozet. In Hemingway's masterwork, tenderness and tragedy are artfully woven against a background of the harsh realities of life.

Four thousand miles from the beautiful Valley of Virginia, I step into the stories of some amazing people as well. I'm no Hemingway, not by a long shot, but there is much to learn and much to tell!

The graceful dancers move in unison, adding visual richness to a lively worship music. There is joy on the faces of young people and old alike. One can see the Inca ancestry in their faces. In a little church in the poorest part of Santa Cruz, I join in singing. They have a little LCD projector so I can follow the words in Spanish. They sing some favorites like "how Great Thou Art!"

The little church is there because a 12 year old boy who had received treatment at the Mission of Hope clinic had asked his Mother if a Pastor could visit them. A home Bible study grew into a meeting under one blue tarp. Soon it was three blue tarps. Pastor Enrique works at the clinic as a lab technician. He also gives a message to patients about the love of Jesus. To suppliment his income he works at another job as a lab technician at the public hospital. He receives no salary from the church.

The head nurse of the clinic also moonlights. Her husband Sammy is a stay-at-home Dad. He was hired to be one of our drivers for the week. They live in a single room that they rent.

Then there is the Mother who would not give up when her Son experienced kidney failure at a very young age due to an infection. Because she persisted, he eventually recieved a transplant (at Mission of Hope), and is now a Youth Worker. He shared these words with us:

"He who LOVES will SUFFER,
He who STRUGGLES will WIN!"

Then there are a thousand more stories. Driving to and from the worksite we see glimpses of them. Young and smartly dressed people texting under shop awnings, ladies in traditional dress selling bananas with a child (or two) close by, on street corners. Motor scooter mechanics work late into the night in little shops with roll-down doors.

On the square by the big church in the center of Santa Cruz, a shopkeeper's children sit under the arcade and enjoy some sort of cool treat as their parents keep shop on a Sunday afternoon. There is family life to be seen everywhere... but there is also a lot of abandonment and many single Moms are struggling to put food on the table each day. I met some amazing people and saw great love... love that manifested itself in struggle for those loved, and I heard testimony of victories as well!




Some members of the congregation.

A shopkeepers daughter enjoys a cool treat on a Sunday afternoon as her parents keep shop in Santa Cruz...

...and a young woman texts under a shop awning in the outer rings of the city.

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