[By Amber Potts, Hemet UMC]
Fourteen people from different United Methodist congregations in Southern California traveled to Bolivia on July 2nd for an eighteen day mission to teach the laity the Basic and some Advanced Lay Servant classes. During the more than two weeks, the Bolivian people have opened their hearts, homes, and congregations to us.
When we arrived, we learned that all Pastors in Bolivia were at The American Institute, the place we are staying, for their annual conference. They shared with us that other groups from the United States have done good work by helping with infrastructure, but we are the first group who have brought Methodist and Leadership classes to the people. They were gracious enough to invite us to come and worship with them on Sunday.
Over two Sundays our group has been blessed with the opportunity to worship at seven different churches around Cochabamba. The congregations varied in size, but all had spirit-filled services. All of the churches had live bands that got everyone clapping and singing to praise the Lord. Some of the churches invited some of our California Pacific Pastors to deliver the message, a testimony, or help serve Holy Communion. All of our Bolivian brothers and sisters in Christ in those congregations expressed a message of unity with their brothers and sisters in Christ from the United States.
We also had the privilege of visiting the homes of four families. Each family shared with us a little bit about themselves and also wanted to know about our lives. We sang hymns, shared bible verses, and had dessert and tea. Everyone felt grateful for the chance to make a meaningful connection with the families we met.
Another blessing we received was being able to visit children’s centers throughout the city. There the children sang us songs and made little bibles for us. The ladies of our group were able to minister to the adult workers by giving them manicures and back massages. We also made balloon swords and animals for the children to play with. Those mornings were filled with laughter, fun, and giving thanks to the Lord for the children and the workers. Next week our Cal Pac native English speakers on this trip were invited to assist in teaching the English classes here at the American Institute for children.
Another gift some of our California Pacific group (2 laity plus 3 local pastors) received was the chance to go into the jungle to teach an abbreviated version of the Lay Servant classes. This was the first training this remote church has ever received. The enthusiasm for learning about Methodism and John Wesley’s graces, for the first time, was incredibly inspiring. Working with their children was a joy. We felt honored that the people opened their arms, hearts, and minds to us. We also brought the lay speaking class to a village called Cotani which required 3 of our Cal Pac local pastors to teach for hours in freezing temps.
The week long Basic Lay Servants class had 45 adults, taught at the American Institute. July 15th-17th we will be holding four advanced Lay Servant classes on Accountable Discipleship, Spiritual Gifts, and Cell Groups, and the class registration list is already full. This past Saturday our group also led worship and preached at the Regional Youth Gathering of over 300 youth. We even had youth visiting from other countries, Norway, Canada, USA, and Peru. We also taught over 200 youth a one day basic lay speaking course taught by 5 of our Cal Pac laity and pastors. God has already been moving and doing incredible work here in Bolivia and we have been doing our best to try to come alongside His will. We would be grateful for your prayers as we complete our last week and arrive back in LA on Friday afternoon. Additionally to help support the work here in Cochabamba, consider making a gift to the GBGM Advance.