First week in Bolivia and we are so excited to get involved with the church and fulfil the tasks asked of us as we continue to serve God. We are also looking forward to meeting new people, getting to know a new culture and spending even more time with each other – we are not quite bored of each others company just yet.
On Monday we caught our flights from Tarija to Trinidad, which mostly went smoothly, apart from the fact I had booked my flight for the 28th of April rather than May. Thankfully the desk people were helpful, and I was able to pay for another ticket. A few things have gone wrong on this trip from Argentina to our destination, with border problems and passport misplacements, but with God we are in good hands and everything has worked out perfectly fine. Our flight was split into two journeys with a layover at Cochabamba, where we were able to have a nice look around, and we also stopped at a nice (but expensive!) Café.
We arrived in Trinidad early evening where our STC Amanda collected us in an ambulance from the foundation! Although it was a squeeze with all of the bags in the back as well as us 7. Cool mode of transport nonetheless.
The first thing we noticed about our new surroundings was how green everything was compared to Argentina. There is also some really cool wildlife and we drove past some Capybaras! We were also super happy about our accommodation as it is certainly an upgrade to where we stayed in Tartagal. Comfier beds, sofas and a TV – I think we have watched a film practically every evening this week.
On Tuesday, Amanda and Simon (a cool guy who works with the church in the foundation) started our orientation where they gave more of an insight into some of the work we would be doing during our time here – including gardening, redecorating the church, taking part in children groups and football practice sessions also for kids and teenagers.
The rest of the day and the next couple days were spent settling in to our new environment and adjusting to the heat – somehow it is hotter here than in Tartagal and it is currently winter! Indeed we started our work on Thursday afternoon and we all split up to do various things. James, Tim, Rosie and Catherine went to work at the gardening lot, Izzy and Natalie went to the community centre to spend time and help out with kids, and I went to the football session with Simon. I believe we were all useful and had a productive time helping out. I definitely enjoyed the football session and attempting to speak Spanish with some of the kids on the side of the pitch.
On Friday we began the decorating of the church, and the first job? Sanding! To be honest I think a few of us struggled with this job as it was hard to see the change in the walls from the walls before being sanded compared to afterwards. It was also incredibly hot. Blasting worship songs loudly helped us through as we sang along while rubbing down the walls and getting covered in wall dust. In the afternoon the group (I stayed back for a sleep) went to the square as there was an event going on. Indeed, they saw many cool dancers with impressive big colourful hats, and a sloth was discovered on one of the trees! From how much they talked about it when they got back I’m sure it was a splendid and fun time.
On Saturday we had a relaxing day off, and in the afternoon Simon, Rudy (another cool guy who works with the church) Claudia, Olvidia and Andrea (others from the foundation) took us to a stunning lake close to Trinidad (of course we used the trusty ambulance to get there.) It was extremely pretty and the lake was a great way to cool off from the heat. We practically spent the whole afternoon in the lake, wiping and chucking mud on each other, wrestling, swimming and simply chatting.
On Sunday we went to church for the first time which is literally just through a door from where we are staying. The service was very different to the one in Tartagal as it is more conservative and quiet. The first song which they played was an English song translated into Spanish! Simon also kindly translated the sermon for us so we were able to understand what was being talked about, which was nice – we certainly felt blessed because of this. The church also felt more similar to our churches back in England which was encouraging for all of us – although we also miss the loudness and excitement of the Tartagal church too. Halfway through the service they stop for drinks to encourage mingling and chatter as people tend to leave church immediately after the service ends, another contrast to the church in Argentina, and also England as teas and coffee is usually served after the service has ended.
In the afternoon (after a nice lunch of pesto and tomato pasta with cheese) Tim ran a devotional session which encouraged us to spend some time simply listening to God. We all went to a quiet place for 10 minutes and just focused on what he had to say. It was a useful but also important time just to cut out all distractions and focus on what really matters. We all regrouped afterwards, and it was interesting to listen to what people had seen or heard.
In the evening we invited Claudia Olvidia and Andrea round for a few games. We played Phase 10 and Sevens, and then Tim and I also played chess with Claudia afterwards too. It was nice to be able to spend some time with new people and joke around, making new friends.
Thank you for everyone’s prayers over the last two weeks and months – we are here safe and slowly adjusting to this new lifestyle in this first week. The people we have met have also been super friendly and welcoming.
We are struggling a little bit with the heat, so it would be much appreciated if there could be prayer that we are able to deal with it. We have been told that there will be a cold (still very warm for England) spell coming which we are grateful for. Also, whilst this settling in period will and has been easier than Argentina as we already know each other, prayer for settling into the routine and structure of our life here in Bolivia would also be really cool, and additionally getting accustomed to the new church.
Thank you once again!
Jakob, Tim, Catherine, Rosie, Izzy, Natalie and James.