At the end of January 2022, a group of 30 brothers and sisters from several congregations in Germany travelled to Bolivia to support the brothers and sisters there with various building projects and also to participate in the local church services.
On Saturday, January 29th, we landed in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in the center of Bolivia. There, we were greeted by brothers and sisters with a bus and brought to our first stop, the Children’s Home.
For orientation: The Children’s Home of the congregation is located about 1.5 hours northeast of Santa Cruz, near Pailon. Further north from there is the Shalom Church of God, near Valle Esperanza. Not far from there is also the Spanish-speaking congregation “5 de Junio.” One hour south of Santa Cruz is the congregation of Via Gracia, where the ministry in Bolivia had its beginning. There are also schools in all three of these locations.
On the first Sunday, we arrived in Via Gracia around 9:15 a.m., after a blown tire on the bus had to be changed en route. Here we had the first church service, in which the brothers and sisters from Germany contributed choir and group songs.
Evening services were held in Shalom from Wednesday to Friday with Bro. Kowalski from Hamm, Germany ministering from the Word. On Saturday, a children’s day was held for children from the congregation as well as from the community. On Sunday, two more services were held, followed by a shared meal. In Shalom, about 100 to 120 people including children gather for worship.
Themes of the services in Shalom were:
-“He bears all things with His powerful word”
-“Pay more attention to the Word”
-“I’ve sinned – now what?”
-“The Father is waiting”
-“A question for all God’s children”
The following week in Via Gracia, there were also 5 services, from Wednesday to Friday in the evenings and two on Sunday. Bro. Kowalski’s messages were about the prophet Habakkuk, among others:
-“Habakkuk’s stand despite ungodly times”
-“Habakkuk waits for an answer from God”
-“The stiff-necked and the believer”
-“The effect of sanctification on the disciples”
About 50 to 60 people gather in Via Gracia for worship services. In these services, 3 brothers and sisters from Germany participated with songs. In addition, three sisters conducted Vacation Bible School sessions for the children. They were divided into three different age groups, and the sessions continued for several days.
One evening, together with the local pastor Bro. Stieben, we visited the rehabilitation center “Guia de Paz” located near the Children’s Home. Here, patients receive three months of therapy for various problems they are dealing with. Bro. Stieben gave a short message regarding the value of the Word of God, and we had the opportunity to sing a few songs for them. The Children’s Home takes care of the children of these patients, mostly Old Colony Mennonites, during the three months of therapy.
We were divided into two groups to do work in the Children’s Home and in Shalom. In the Children’s Home, a roof was installed over an inner courtyard, and solar panels were then applied to the roof. A second project there was to convert a residence for the staff into two apartments, with new plumbing, bathrooms, walls, and a porch. In Shalom, a new school building is being constructed. This was still in the shell stage, and here we assisted with sanding and filling work on the walls. The preliminary electrical wiring was also prepared.
In order for the school to start on time in February, a temporary school building had to be completed on short notice, which is also located on the church property. Windows and doors were installed in this building, as well as the sanitary facilities and the electrical system. The old school desks were completely restored with new wood for the tables and chairs.
Across the street, houses are being built for the Günter and Stieben pastor families, and the brothers and sisters helped with the construction here as well.
At the church building of the Spanish-speaking congregation, concrete floors were poured in the outside area so that a summer kitchen can be installed there.
The majority of the travel group flew back to Germany after 2 weeks, on February 12, and four brothers and sisters stayed on site for another week to help with the work on the new school building. Bro. Kowalski conducted the Wednesday service during this final week before we returned to Germany on February 19.
We are incredibly grateful to God for His help during the trip. Even with the many uncertainties regarding the entry requirements because of the pandemic, there were no difficulties. God also protected us from serious injuries during the labor. Some brothers and sisters experienced stomach and intestinal problems and required treatment by a doctor, but again, God gave grace and helped everyone.
We are grateful for the blessed fellowship with the local brothers and sisters and the blessings we were able to receive through the church services. May God continue to bless the work in Bolivia!