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We are in Bolivia during their winter season as Bolivia is located in the southern hemisphere. So far on this trip, the weather had been a little bit chilly. I know that everyone sweating back home in South Carolina doesn’t want to hear about the cold but it has been the tiniest bit cold as we have worked. It is honestly the absolute perfect weather for construction and we have been grateful for the God given gift of this weather each and every day. Today, however, for the first time since our arrival, the sun came out and stayed out for the whole afternoon. It is still only about 70 degrees but that little bit of sunshine just brightens up the day. It is gorgeous and we are enjoying seeing blue skies. Everything just seems happier on a bright, sunny day.

We got to the church this morning at our usual time and started right away with planning out our day. The footings for the foundation are still in the drying process so our day was filled with brick laying. The church is situated right in the middle of a neighborhood so the law says that the church has to be double walled for sound proofing. The outer walls are partially build so today we worked on laying the brick for the inner walls that will eventually be covered when the workers do the finishing work for the sanctuary. It was good to know going into the project that these weren’t weight bearing walls and they weren’t walls that would ever be seen. While we wanted to work with excellence, we were also glad that we didn’t need for our first time brick laying to be perfect!

Rich Starcher helped train us all as he has done some brick laying before. He was an excellent job foreman. He whipped us right into shape. The walls are divided into sections by support beams and we grouped off and each took sections of the wall to work on. It didn’t take long for a little friendly competition to develop. We needed to get seven rows of bricks laid before we could finish with that section so we all raced to see who could finish first. Rita and Jerry had the prettiest section by far. There mortar was beautiful all the way around. Others of us (I’m not naming names…but I may have been in this group) had the speed to finish our walls quickly, but without any of the beauty or finesse. We finished our wall and stood back proudly only to feel like we were looking at the difference between a kindergarten drawing and a Picasso. Rich was awesome and reminded us that these walls don’t have to be pretty…they just have to serve their purpose as a sound barrier. That made us less meticulous folk feel better about our less aesthetically pleasing brick laying. Rich is great at correcting us with a complement sandwich… “You guys are doing great. Let’s see if we can move a little faster. Great job everyone.” In other words…”You guys need to pick up the pace.” Amy said repeatedly that, even when we were told we were doing things wrong, we still felt so good about it after we were corrected.” It was true and we were able to get a lot done in a short time today thanks to Rich’s coaching.

The ladies at the church once again made us a great meal for lunch and then, after lunch, a few of us headed out to the open air market to get the rest of the food needed for the week. I had gone once before with the cooks to pay for the food purchases but today a couple of others came to help carry the purchases and for safety purposes as I carried the money. Bolivia has a great deal of theft that occurs quite often. The first time I went, I was told to leave everything at the church and to hide money inside my tank top. It was a little stressful as I was trying to keep the money out of sight for the whole previous trip. Today I didn’t feel any such need for caution and the cooks said I could even bring my purse this time as a couple of the men came with me. I felt like I had my own body guards protecting me as I made my purchases with the Bolivian cooks. We quickly made our purchases from one vendor to the next and then went back to the church to unload and keep on with our day. I wish I could transport you to a Bolivian open air market. The meat aisle was especially interesting to me as whole cow and chickens hung on hooks along the way. I kept wondering how long they had been hanging there but the cooks weren’t concerned so we decided we wouldn’t be either. So far so good!

After the work day was complete, the group made a quick stop at an artesian market to purchase some souvenirs of Bolivia to take home. Then we headed to the home of one of the families in the church. I remember Ximena from our trip in December and she and I have been friends on Facebook ever since. She and her husband, Benjamin, are absolutely precious people and it feels as if we have known them much longer than six months. They have three beautiful children, Benjamin Jr. who is four, Caleb who is two and Kayla who is one. The kids are at the ages where they are a lot of work but still, this precious family invited the whole group to their house for dinner and also included Pastor Ruben and Isabel, Bruno and Alejandra, and the foreman of the worksite Edwin, his wife Maribel and their two daughters. Benjamin and Ximena are so kind and so generous and it was such an honor for us to be in their home and to spend the evening talking with them and getting to know them better. Every time I am in South America I remember again the value of eating meals together, of hospitality and time spent in conversation. So often in the United States we value production above everything else but here, they value relationship. It is always a good reminder that people are important and that we should adjust our lives accordingly.

We stayed with them for several hours and returned to the hotel much later than normal to prepare for a long day tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be a day full of hard work. On Tuesday when we worked on the cement footings, 20 wheelbarrows full of cement had to be put into each of the six giant holes. That amounted to ten centimeters of cement in each hole. Tomorrow we need to put in 35 centimeters more into each hole. That means 70 wheelbarrows full of cement for each of the six holes. We are getting an early start and are going to get as much work as possible done as quickly as possible. We have even rented a second cement mixer for tomorrow to make the work go faster. It promises to be a long, hard work day for us all.

If you think of us tomorrow, please pray for extra strength and efficiency as there us much to do and the work is strenuous. We are also toward the end of our trip and bodies are more tired than they were when we arrived. Any prayers for supernatural strength and endurance would be very much appreciated. We will also be having a church service tomorrow night where Pastor Gil will be teaching on the Holy Spirit and giving an opportunity for people to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the service. Please pray for open hearts and that the Holy Spirit would reveal himself in a new and fresh way to the people of the church here. There are also still one or two people on the team who are not feeling 100%. Please pray with us against any sickness that may hinder the work God has called us to do here. Finally, please join our team as we continue to pray for Brett Haight who was supposed to be on the trip with us but could not join us due to some passport and visa complications. We know that he is with us in spirit but we also know it is disappointing to not be here geographically. We are praying special peace over him and his wife Maggie during this time and ask that you join us in doing the same.

Thank you again for your prayers and for taking the time to keep up with us through this blog. We are only 16 but we know that we are just one small part of a much greater whole who are here with us through prayers and support. We truly know that you are right here with us and we are honored to be serving along side you all. Love and blessings to you all.