Thursday greeted us with bright sunshine and a nice breeze. We are in the middle of winter here in Santa Cruz. Last year the weather was in the 50’s with a cold wind each day. We were very comfortable doing hard labor but rather cold otherwise. This year the sun has been shining and the weather has been in the high 70’s and even 80’s while we work. It is perfect for those of us not doing the cement work but the men working with the cement have had to work hard to stay hydrated. Still, we are enjoying the warm yet mild temperatures and have been very comfortable even into the evenings. It has been wonderful.

The team members doing construction got an earlier start than everyone else. They had to get the cement work started in order to finish it all during the day. So, they were off before the rest of us and spent the entire morning and early afternoon mixing cement and pouring it where it needs to go. We picture cement mixing and imagine a big cement truck. That’s not quite how it is here. We have a very small mixer that we use and have to dump buckets of sand, buckets of gravel, buckets of water and a bag of cement that weighs over 100 pounds into the machine. It does the mixing which helps the workers not have to mix it by hand, which is a huge blessing, but it is still hard, exhausting work. Once the mixer does its part, the wet cement has to be dumped into wheelbarrows and moved to the various locations. From there, the workers filled buckets up with the wet cement from the wheelbarrow and had to lift them up to the men in the scaffolding to pour by hand into forms that had been built to hold giant cement beams that will support the roof of the foyer. It’s a huge, heavy and tiring process but our team members and Edwin worked tirelessly to get it done. They all did an amazing job and did even the hardest of work with the biggest hearts. Their work is so appreciated, both by the Faro del Cielo church and by their fellow team members.

We had one injury on the work site. Pastor Brandon was working on the cement and a small piece of cement got into his eye. They worked quickly to get the cement out and did an eye wash. As the water dripped down on Brandon’s face, he noticed that the water had a flavor. Someone had accidentally left out their flavored water in the room and it was grabbed instead of the new water bottle. Oops! There’s nothing like having cement and raspberry water dumped into your eye! Poor Pastor Brandon!

While the construction team worked, the others went out to the pharmacy to buy some more medicine for the medical clinic on Friday. We have seen a huge number of children and adults with parasites. We have run out of anti-parasite medicine each clinic day so have had to restock before each clinic. After the pharmacy, we picked up Maribel, our wonderful cook and dear friend, and went back out to the open market to pick up the food needed for the remainder of our trip. We had to shop for two more lunches and one dinner for the team and church members on Friday night. It was a quick trip but market days are always an adventure. We try to get each team member to join us on a market trip at least once. The sights and smells are not something to be missed.

Once we returned with all the food purchases, Pastor Gil, Pastor Brandon, Pastor Jim and Pastor Genelle met with Pastor Ruben and the architect of the new church building along with two other church leaders from the Faro del Cielo church. We invited Kisha into the meeting to start and we gave her a chance to share her heart behind this year’s Bolivia shirt design. She shared how God had placed the theme “Never Alone” into her heart and she knew she needed to design a shirt that would minister to the Faro del Cielo church. She wanted the church to be reminded that God never will leave them, in the good times and the bad. Beyond that, she wanted them to be reminded that they have family in the United States who are here to pray for them and support them and walk alongside them. Pastor Ruben was in tears and he said that years ago, someone came to his door at the church and told him, simply, that he is not alone. Pastor Ruben has held onto that in the hard times but these shirts are a reminder from the Lord that his words are true and that God is forever faithful.

When Kisha was finished sharing her heart, we were able to give Pastor Ruben the shirts that Lakeshore purchased for the Faro del Cielo church members. We left those with Pastor Ruben to distribute to the church members and then we got down to the business of the church building. We are so close to completion! There is a small amount of money needed to install the flooring in the sanctuary. Beyond that, all that is left is the remainder of the chairs, the windows and doors and the air conditioning units. There are a couple more speakers that need to be purchased for the sound system but other than that, the sanctuary is very close to being completed. Isn’t God good???!!! It is miraculous to sit in these meetings for four years now and see the checklist getting smaller and smaller as God continues to provide. I cannot wait for the day when we will get to come down and sit in that beautiful sanctuary and worship the Lord together with our Bolivian brothers and sisters. What a day that will be!

After our work day, we returned to the hotel for a very special event. Derek had shared with the team on Monday during our devotion time that he had been praying to hear God’s voice and to know what God wanted him to do. He felt strongly that God was telling him to be re-baptized. He had been baptized before he was saved and he felt that God was calling him to do it again now that He understood the grace of the Lord and had accepted Christ in his life. We decided that Bolivia would be the perfect location to do this. Pastor Gil braved the cold pool water and Derek joined him. In front of our team, Derek shared his heart and his reasons for wanting to be re-baptized and there in the hotel pool, Derek was baptized in front of our Bolivia team as they cheered him on. It was an awesome way to end the work day and was the best way to celebrate God’s goodness in Derek’s life.

After dinner, we returned to the church for their Thursday night discipleship class. The sanctuary was full of members of the church who are hungry to know more about the Lord. After an hour of worship, which is their normal allotted worship time (can I hear a Hallelujah!), Kisha was again asked to share the heart of the Bolivia shirt this year with the congregation. She did an awesome job and shared not just about the shirt, but about Lakeshore’s heart for the Bolivian people. She spoke truth and fire last night and God used her to share His own love for the Bolivian church in a mighty way.

Jim then took the floor and did an amazing job preaching to the congregation. Jim speaks Spanish fluently and he has the gift of being able to speak to the people of Bolivia and other Latin American countries with ease. He is so at home in this culture. For those of you who don’t know his story, his parents were missionaries to Bolivia for 30+ years and Jim moved to La Paz, Bolivia when he was three years old. He lived in La Paz until he graduated from high school. The Spanish language and the culture are in his blood and he is able to make people laugh and think and grow when he speaks to them. It is awesome to watch. What is equally impressive is watching Pastor Gil listen to Jim’s sermon in Spanish and still take notes on the sermon! That’s dedication. God used Jim mightily during the sermon and when Pastor Ruben took the platform and asked for responses from his congregation, the room filled with hands raised as those who had heard the call of the Lord responded. It was a precious night and one we will remember as God moved among his people.

We ended the evening saying good-bye to many of our friends as this was the last service we would have with them. Jim made it clear during the service that we are already planning our next trip. That announcement was met with a loud applause. The love between us is almost tangible when we are all together. We spent time giving hugs and being blessed by the words people were speaking. It is always the same. We come to try to be a blessing but instead are blessed so much in return. I can’t wait to spend eternity with these people. One week is simply not long enough.