The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of activity and emotions. Each year as our trip comes to an end, we are amazed at how fast the week goes and the emotions that are attached to our goodbyes. These people have become like family and each year that we come back, our relationships are strengthened and deepened. There is a supernatural bond between us that can only be the product of the Holy Spirit. Pastor Ruben mentioned this exact topic at the Thursday night discipleship service. When we met at the very first dinner between Pastor Gil, Debbie, Pastor Jim, Pastor Genelle, Pastor Ruben and Pastor Isabel, and Pastor Bruno and Pastor Alejendra almost five years ago, we knew that God was up to something big because of how the Holy Spirit fell in the middle of the restaurant that night. The meeting that night was so emotionally charged with the Spirit that it was difficult to find the words to speak. Those same feelings and emotions follow us each year. Our hearts are bound by a binding of the Holy Spirit that can’t be shaken through time apart. We are weaved together in the very fabric of our souls as only God can do.
Friday was our last full day in Bolivia and “full” hardly begins to describe it. We arrived at the church early and got to work. The medical and children’s teams left for a neighborhood on the far outskirts of Santa Cruz to do another day of medical clinics and children’s ministry. While they were off doing that, the construction team got to work taking down and removing some of the wooden scaffolding they had been using to set up the concrete beams in the foyer. It was a busy day.
This is the first year that the medical team has gone out to a third location to do the medical clinics. We had purchased another large supply of medications before we went but we were still underprepared for the extreme number of people. We arrived and within a few minutes there was a line of over 150 people waiting to be seen by the doctors. Many of the families had 4-6 children each. We worked with lightening speed but quickly ran out of reading glasses, anti-parasite medications and other meds in high demand. We had a shortened work day so we could get back to the church to clean up our room, pack our bags that we had taken to the church and get one last walk through of the sanctuary. We took patients from 10:00 AM until 1:00 and, after a short lunch, from 1:30-3:00. In that time, we saw over 175 patients. We had never moved so quickly. Even with seeing 175 men, women and children, we had to cut off our clinic with people still wanting to be seen in a line outside. It was difficult to stop when there were so many needs in front of us but we could have been there all night and still not reached the end of the line. The need in this very poor area was extreme and our very best and quickest work was still not sufficient. It is frustrating and humbling but we trust that God makes up the difference when we fall short and that all of the things done for the Kingdom will still bear much fruit, even when we have to stop before we are able to serve everyone.
The children’s ministry team worked tirelessly during the medical clinic as well. The day was very hot and they spent hours with the children. Our friends from the Faro del Cielo church again helped us to spread the gospel to the precious children in the area. Many of the kids accepted Christ through the salvation bracelets and their smiles could light up a room. These kids have no real earthy possessions but they have Jesus and they were such joys.
The medical and children’s ministry teams returned to the church at 4:00 and the whole team got busy cleaning up all of our supplies, storing and cataloging leftover medications for next year, and packing all of our gear in order to prepare for our flight the next day. We had planned to finish all of our cleaning in time to spend a short amount of time in the new sanctuary, walking the area and worshipping together. All of the stickers from our Lakeshore family who had prayed for chairs lined the floor of the sanctuary and we were able to walk the aisles where the chairs will one day be and to pray over each space where person after person will hear the Gospel and have their lives changed forever. We prayed together and worshipped the Lord in that space as we prepared to leave. It was a precious, holy time and the Lord filled that space with His presence. It was not difficult at all to see a small glimpse of all that God has in store for that ground. Those people who have contributed to the trip of the team members and who have helped to pay for a seat, and those who have committed to pray, you have planted seeds in that very fertile soil and God will bring the harvest in His time. We cannot wait to see what He has in store.
We took one last team picture and then said our goodbyes to those at the church and then took the bus from the church one last time. We headed to the hotel for a quick shower and then we were in the bus again, heading to a special dinner with the Faro del Cielo leaders and pastors. We have had this precious dinner each year and it is one of our favorite moments each year. We all gather together in the neighborhood of Pastor Ruben’s home where they have a large cabana area for the neighborhood to use. We have described the dinner before as a Thanksgiving Dinner for all of the church family to have together. We eat typical Bolivian food together and share a beautiful time together over a shared meal. I love that Pastor Ruben reminds everyone that there is something special about breaking bread together. There is a bond that happens over a meal. We notice that bond every single year.
After eating a delicious meal, Pastor Ruben got up to say a few words to the team. He is such a wonderful speaker and his heart comes through each time he speaks. He shared how much the people of Lakeshore and the team mean to him personally. He also shared that the theme of our shirt this year, “Never Alone,” really touched his heart. God spoke to him through that shirt and he was blessed by the sweet whispering of God’s voice to him.
As he shared, he also presented each of the team members with a special gift. Each team member got a collage photo of the team and the people of the Faro del Cielo church together. On the back of the photo were words written out by the Faro de Cielo church members to encourage us. Their words were precious and so encouraging. We were so blessed by them. They also presented each team member with a mug covered with photos. They managed to get a picture we had posted to Instagram on Wednesday night and added pictures of the pastors of the Faro del Cielo church to the mug as well. What a precious memento this will be for years and years to come. We were so thankful and impressed by their thoughtfulness and their sweet love given to us in a tangible way. We are blessed!
As the evening ended, Pastor Ruben had Kisha come forward and share her heart for the Bolivia shirt once again. As she finished speaking, Pastor Ruben brought out bags of the shirts we had brought to give to the church. We were able to distribute the shirts to the church leaders and staff that night and they were all thrilled to have a piece of the words God had spoken to Lakeshore with the Faro del Cielo in mind. The evening ended with pictures, hugs and kisses, laughs and lots and lots of love. It is always a precious time and one of the highlights of the trip. We won’t soon forget it.
As our evening wrapped up, we started to get texts from American Airlines. Our flight out of Santa Cruz was delayed, not just once, but four times over the course of the night. We knew right away that we were not going to make our connecting flight. We arrived at the Santa Cruz airport later than was originally planned on Saturday morning, due to the delays, and went about the business of getting everyone on the team rebooked for another flight. Unfortunately, all flights on Saturday night out of Miami were completely booked so the whole team had to spend the night in Miami in order to catch various flights on Sunday morning. We ended up getting booked on flights at 8:30, 1;30 and 3:30 on Sunday. Each of the team members headed to the hotel and got a good night’s sleep and then began the process of heading home one group at a time. Even though the flight changes were unplanned, there is something to be said about getting to rest for one more night before heading home to family and responsibilities. We all slept hard and we were grateful for one more moment of rest before heading home.
God has surprised us in so many different ways on this trip. Things have definitely not gone as we had planned on certain days, but each day was exactly as God had planned them to be. It has only been as we have trusted in His divine plan, the plan that sees the entire picture in its completeness, that we have been able to rest in the goodness of what the master painter paints. He is a good Father. He writes beautiful stories and builds connections that are unbreakable. He has taken the tapestry of Lakeshore and forever woven it together with the tapestry of the Faro del Cielo church and we are so much richer for it. There is freedom that comes from knowing that the God of the universe knows each detail and He knows what is best for us. It’s only as we realize that He never leaves us or forsakes us and that He knows how the story ends, in every beautiful detail, that we can have the freedom to let go of the details and trust Him like never before. We are so thankful to Him for what He has done this week and for the plans He made for this week and this time and this place. As always, we are so honored to be a part of what He is doing.
Thank you for sowing seeds into Bolivia and for being a part of what God is doing. You are a part of each moment of this trip and you will be blessed through the harvest. We had the biggest team traveling to Bolivia this year; it was bigger than we had ever had in years past, but we know that our team that was physically in the country was only a part of the huge team that God has assembled to be a part of the ministry in Bolivia. We are believing God for the harvest of each seed sown and we know that your blessings will be returned to you 100 fold. Thank you for partnering with us and for loving people you haven’t even met yet. Trust me when I tell you, you are unwaveringly loved back. May the precious God of the universe continue to awaken our hearts to what He is doing in Bolivia and around the world. May we continually be stirred to do whatever we are called to do in order to see His word proclaimed among the nations. May we rise up in obedience wherever He leads and trust that we are not alone, but are guided on the best path by El Roi, the God who sees, not just the here and now, but every moment that has been or ever will be. He is faithful and He has never left us and never will.