The Mt. Bethel UMC men’s team from Marietta, Ga., arrived in Quesimpuco late Saturday evening around 9p.m. after an 11.5 hour drive from the La Paz airport, which included a nice picnic lunch stop beside a high-plains lake that is known for flamingos. They saw plenty of llama herds, quinoa fields and incredible mountain peaks in the distance that exceed 20,000 feet, higher than anything in North America. Each year, the roads improve with more paved surfaces—when we first went to Bolivia in 2008, the drive took about 16 hours!
After a good night’s sleep, the team enjoyed a hot breakfast and a time for devotion. The men take turns preparing and cooking their own meals in the small kitchen with a propane stove and filtered water. Team members even bring guitars and a cajon to lead singing during devotions. They drove to the neighboring village Chijmu, where most of their time was spent in 2017 building a health clinic. The men received a royal welcome from the villagers with singing and gifts of handmade flower wreaths for each person.
They attended church led by first-generation Christian Patricio, and Mt. Bethel’s associate pastor Carey Akin was invited to give a sermon that was translated into Spanish and Quechua.
Pastor Patricio was one of the first believers in the region after witnessing healing by the first SIFAT medical missionary teams, who saved the life of his best friend’s wife. Patricio became known as the “Idol Slayer” after he tore down the stone idols that had been used in Chijmu for many generations prior to learning about the Gospel.
They held the official ribbon cutting for the clinic, which was followed by a big celebration and cookout with lamb, goat and roasted vegetables. The clinic in Chijmu is a big deal for this village; it represents the first project done by outside teams since the drinking water project shared with Quesimpuco more than 15 years ago. Chijmu was only accessible by foot until a road was cut in last year. This clinic will allow Dr. Ruth to care for the people in their own village instead of having to travel for aid. The majority of the labor for this beautiful clinic was provided by the residents, giving them ownership in the new clinic.