It was such a bittersweet day. While we were happy to have accomplished what we came here to do and were, honestly, happy to finish working so hard, it was also a difficult day as it was full of goodbyes.
We spent the morning working. We finished filling cement into the last of the big holes and also worked on laying the brick for three more sections of the church walls. We are pros now at laying brick and working the cement mixers so it we were able to knock out all of the tasks in record time.
This morning we had the last of the salteñas for this trip and sadly, we said goodbye to those tasty treats as well. We’ve decided that we may need to open a salteña shop in South Carolina. We’re pretty sure we could all work there. The only thing we are missing is the recipe to make them.
The lovely ladies from the church cooked us one last fabulous lunch. What a privilege it has been to get to know Amalia and Maribel this trip. They are such precious women and have worked tirelessly for the entirety of our trip. They have shopped, cooked and cleaned not just for us but also for each of the church services that have happened each evening. Every time there is a meeting, for youth, young adults, or anyone else they are there preparing a snack for those people. They are talented cooks and serve with such a servant’s heart.
Today was especially precious with these women as we were able to sit for a few moments and talk about last night’s Holy Spirit service. Maribel had shared with me this morning that both of her sweet daughters received their prayer language last night at the service. It was precious to hear her excited heart as she described the experience for her daughters and explained that it was a night they would never forget. I had the chance to pray for Amalia last night at that service and this morning she wanted to sit and talk about what she had been feeling and what the Holy Spirit had been saying to me during that prayer time. It’s so precious to see how God orchestrates these meaningful conversations with these Bolivian people. I love seeing pieces of His heart for his precious Bolivian children.
After lunch we had a sweet devotion time and Robert brought us a great word from today’s Lakeshore reading in James. It was his special gift to Robert for him to bring our devotion today because it’s also Robert’s birthday today. After worship and the word from Robert, we had a few moments to get together with our prayer partners for our team and we spent some time praying for one another and all the things we will face as we get ready for re-entry into the United States and all the reality that brings. God has been good to us but preparing to leave and take all we have experienced with us is a bit daunting. We know He will be faithful and we know we have a group of people who will walk with us as we readjust to our normal routines.
Benjamin and Ximena came by the worksite this afternoon and Benjamin helped some with the construction projects. Ximena came up to me and wanted to share something that had happened since our dinner at her house. We had gathered around Ximena and Benjamin before we left and had prayed for them. We prayed that blessings would be returned to them seven fold for the sacrifice and the love they had shown with the meal at their house. Ximena excitedly told me that the prayers were already answered. Ximena’s aunt had come over and told them she had a give for them. She had purchased them a new oven and a vacuum cleaner, both which they desperately needed. Ximena was so excited at God’s answered prayer and we were thrilled to get to share in her joy.
This afternoon, Pastor Ruben and Isabel asked if we would stop working early in order to spend some time in fellowship. We were happy to do whatever they had planned so we stopped our work day today at 4:00. We first celebrated the team birthdays with a birthday banner and some pictures of Jerry (July 14th), Jim (July 17th) and Robert (July 22nd). Brandy had purchased a piñata for Robert for his birthday so we also had the birthday boys pull the piñata strings. When they pulled the strings and nothing happened, we gave Robert a big stick, a blindfold and a spin and pointed him in the right direction. In one swing, the candy went flying and the kids who were there (and those in the group who love candy) went running. The Bolivians thought the whole thing was pretty funny because, they explained to me, piñatas are for children’s parties. We explained that it is the same way in the United States…but this was Robert…and he is pretty close to a kid so we are okay.
At about 4:45, Isabel arrived with pastries for the group to celebrate the close of our time together. Pastor Ruben and Isabel along with one of the sweet girls who works at the church, Elba, presented the group with a big poster thanking us for our time there. Then Pastor Ruben called each of us by name and presented us with a shirt embroidered with “Santa Cruz.” He thanked each one of us for our contribution and our sacrifice and gave each of us a huge hug. We then all gathered together for some Bolivian pastries and our last time of fellowship with our Bolivian family. It was a precious time.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye to everyone. We each hugged our sweet friends and with hope said, “We will see you later.” We don’t know when we will see them but if not here on earth, we will see them in heaven. We love them dearly and we will carry them in our hearts as we return home.
Tomorrow is our last day here and our day of rest. In December we took Pastor Gil and Debbie to a town called Samaipata. Tomorrow we will be taking the whole group to this town and historical site. Samaipata is the location of very well preserved Incan ruins. The last time we were here they told us it was the largest set of Incan ruins after Macchu Picchu in Peru. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience to see these and it will be a great day of fellowship and rest after working so hard this week. We are praying it is a time of refreshing and fun before we leave this beautiful country and return home.
Thank you for praying for us on this trip. It has had highs and lows but, through it all, we have been blessed. We are so honored that God would use us to work with and love the Bolivian people. We are so grateful.