Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Connection in the Chuma Mountains

Bolivia Chuma Mountains church construction

The team takes a break after a long day of work

An intern sees firsthand the impact of Samaritan’s Purse in a rural area of Bolivia

I arrived in the dark, early morning hours in La Paz, Bolivia, on August 25 to start an internship for Samaritan’s Purse. Leading up to my departure, everyone back home kept asking me questions about my internship with Samaritan’s Purse. What do you expect to do? What do you hope to get out of this experience?  What do you hope to see?

I began to answer these questions for myself while in the mountains of Chuma, a community seven hours outside of Bolivia´s capital city.  Witnessing the influence that Samaritan’s Purse has had in the community over the past two and half years has been the highlight of my internship here in Bolivia thus far.

Bolivia Chuma Mountains church construction

Chuma

Hard Work at a Church Rebuild Site

I accompanied a Samaritan’s Purse staff member and a team of volunteers from the U.S who traveled thousands of miles to aid in the construction of a church in Chuma. No one on the team, myself included, had ever been to a construction site quite like the one in Chuma.

With no machinery in sight, everything had to be done via manual labor, hence a big reason our team was there. The work was no joke and came with a lot of lifting of heavy buckets filled with dirt from a seemingly never-ending pile. As someone who does not lift much of anything, I was shocked by the work at first. I questioned my usefulness to the project and wondered what exactly I could bring the table.

However, rather than focusing on myself, I decided to reflect outward and look at the church itself.

Opportunities for Ministry

The church, after 16 long years, is finally receiving a secure building for a place of worship. Their Pastor, David Chavez, leads the construction crew that is made up of his church members. They work together faithfully on the church every day. It was amazing to see not only his dedication to his church body but also to the rest of the construction crew. Later that week we attended Pastor David’s church that, for now, meets in a donated space that is partially outdoors.

While I wasn’t the best at the manual labor, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the opportunities to participate in children’s ministry during our trip. We were able to participate through games and evangelism in two Chuma schools during the week. I was especially encouraged by one bold volunteer who wasn’t familiar with Spanish but allowed himself to be translated as he spoke freely of God’s love for the children.

Bolivia Chuma Mountains church construction

The team spends time sharing and playing with the children of Chuma

Seeing God’s Work Firsthand

By the end of the week, we were all tired from the construction and other activities but looked forward to getting out of the construction zone and enjoying a time of fellowship and worship with Pastor David and his church.

Before going to his church that Sunday, we stopped by another local church, which happened to be a church Samaritan’s Purse helped build last year. The church was full!

It was interesting to see that people went straight to the altar to pray when they arrived rather than going to their seats first. The humility and dedication of the church members left a strong impression on me, particularly when the entire congregation took time to thank our team, one by one, for their service to the community.

I was also struck throughout the week by the commitment of the American volunteers to minister to the people of Chuma. Whether they were playing games with kids at a local school or doing the manual labor at the construction site, their desire to serve was evident.

“I saw God bring in a group of strangers,” one volunteer said about her previous time in Bolivia with Samaritan’s Purse. “Together, we all left as a family in Christ, from Bolivians to Americans.”

Bolivia Chuma Mountains church construction

Stephanie with a child in Chuma

That was how I felt watching the team in action. With team members from all over the map, who had the common call to travel to Bolivia with one mission in mind, it was powerful to see lasting connections being made in such a diverse group of people.

Lasting Change in the Chuma

Seeing God work throughout the week culminated in an experience I had with a local shopkeeper on my last day in Chuma.  I went to talk to Nieves, the shopkeeper around the corner from our hostel, to see what she had to say about Samaritan’s Purse being in the community.

I bought a soda from her and started asking her general questions about the community and Samaritan’s Purse. At first I was nervous and hoped that I wasn’t taking up too much of her time, but she immediately began telling me all the things Samaritan’s Purse has done for the community, starting with the churches.

She and her family attend one of the churches constructed by Samaritan’s Purse. She is also one of the direct beneficiaries from the agriculture program. Nieves talked about the chicken coup given to her by Samaritan’s Purse and showed me the eggs she sold in her shop. She said that, thanks to resources like the eggs given by Samaritan’s Purse, she has what she needs be to be able to provide.

She also told me that Samaritan’s Purse has been instrumental in bringing the community together by providing certain farm animals such as cows directly to the people of Chuma. I later found out that she sometimes brings refreshments to those working on the church building projects since her husband is a construction worker who has worked on a Samaritan’s Purse church project in the past. The conversation ended with Nieves eagerly sharing how much she appreciated the organization’s work in the area.

Bolivia Chuma Mountains church construction

Nieves with the eggs produced by the chickens given to her by Samaritan’s Purse

An Intern’s Experience

That conversation with Nieves will always stay with me. It was special to hear an individual’s direct experience with the organization. It was through our talk that I was able to see the personal touch of Samaritan’s Purse in the Chuma community. I know that being on this trip as an intern was a unique experience because it allowed me to be involved but also observe in ways that I probably couldn’t in any other function. My position as an intern here in Bolivia has allowed me to see how Samaritan’s Purse has touched an entire community for Christ while also being able to participate in the work itself.

I would encourage anyone who wants a memorable and enriching experience or to just to learn about a Christian nonprofit to apply to a Samaritan’s Purse internship. No matter who you are, you have something to offer.

The Samaritan’s Purse internship program is an opportunity for college students and recent graduates to use their skills to impact the world in a tangible way. Find out more here.

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2 Comments on "A Connection in the Chuma Mountains"

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Lana

It is the children that.. I hope.. under such a wonderful name get all that it means. Personally. the story that drew me to this site is nothing like the stories that will come from what you do for them. I tend to believe that God is a child and playing with barbies and tonka trucks. It makes me smile, but it makes me sad too. I think of technology and how close to God we really are. I pray that you keep it simple. Keep it wise.

Ron Culbreth

This post was very touching, in that the writer was so honest about what she perceived to be, her inability to have anything to offer to the project. If we present ourselves to God to be used of Him, we always have something to offer.

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