Sunday, August 30, 2015

Johnny Chambi - My Final Missionary Companion

[August 24, 2015] Monday

We walked down to Av. Padilla to the Peluquería so I could get my haircut. My normal barber, Molly, didn't bring her hair cutting implements, so I have to settle for second best.

On the way, we saw this building with a living wall - quite interesting, so I took a picture and pasted it together to make a vertical panorama:

Beautiful building on Av. Pando in Cochabamba.
This evening, we met Elder Johnny Chambi along with his wife and son. They took us out to dinner so we could visit and reminisce. Elder Chambi was my companion for three months in Punata, right at the end of my mission. One of the most memorable aspects of his personality was his absolute joy in serving everyone. We finished our missions pretty much the same time.

He reminded me of a number of experiences we had had together. One of them reminded me of how well we got along.
Elder Chambi
There was a woman who cooked breakfast and lunch for us. We called her Doña Julia - I don't remember if we ever knew her last name.

For breakfast, we'd go to the market where she cooked papas rellenas for us. She'd put cooked vegetables, like carrots or peas, inside a ball of mashed potatoes that she'd then deep fat fry. We really liked these, and ate them every day. She'd change them up enough every day that it never got boring.

She also cooked us soup for lunch, but she made it differently from day to day, and it was very good, and very healthy. She'd make it from rice, potatoes, lentils, or pasta, and include vegetables, and chicken or beef. It had a clear broth, and she always cooked more than enough to fill us up. Her "house" was right on a corner, and as most, was merely a room separated by a hanging blanket that separated the eating area from the sleeping area. Since the climate was so mild, she never closed her door during the day - we'd just come walking down the street, and walk in when we arrived. The table we ate at was just inside the door.

When we got to her house to eat, the soup was on the table, and always hot. At first we couldn't figure out how she could do that, since our schedule was always variable. So, one day, Elder Chambi and I decided we'd see if we could figure out how she did it. So, we approached her house from a different direction, and were careful to sneak up on her house.

As we came up the street, we saw her come out into the street, and look down the street in the direction we usually came. Then she'd go back in the house, and repeat her investigation in a few minutes. We were able to get to her door without her seeing us, and when we stepped in the open door, she was surprised, and chewed us out for startling her. As we suspected, the soup wasn't on the table, yet. We all had a good laugh over that one.

Doña Julia cooking lunch for us.
He had other stories of how she would always insist that we eat all of our lunch, and how I turned the tables on her once when she was ill, and we went to visit her. She didn't feel like eating, but Elder Chambi remembered me insisting that she eat, just like she always insisted for us.

He also told us the fascinating story of how he met his wife.

Beatriz and Johnny Chambi, and us.
After his mission, he and a group of friends decided that they needed to go to Europe to find better jobs, etc. They decided Germany would  be their goal (none of them spoke German or English, but they figured it would work out), and that they would go through Argentina, and take a ship to Europe to save money. They went in small groups, and Johnny was going with his nephew. When they got to the border between Bolivia and Argentina, Johnny became aware that his nephew didn't have the right papers and couldn't cross the border, so they stopped there for a time.

While there, they needed to make some money while they waited, so, remembering the California Donut shop in Cochabamba, where we could get hamburgers (pretty much the only place in the country, and all the missionaries tried to stop there on transfers, etc. if at all possible), he started a little business making hamburgers. Since no one in the adjoining areas of Bolivia or Argentina had ever seen such a thing then, it was quite successful. He said that people came from parts of northern Argentina just for the hamburgers.

After being there nearly a year, he returned to Oruro (I'm not remembering why, now), and while there, he attended a church function. There was a young lady there that he recognized, but couldn't, for the life of him, remember her name. He figured he knew her from his mission, or school, or something, but just couldn't place her. Not wanting to show his forgetfulness by asking her directly for her name, he asked a friend. The name wasn't ringing any bells, so he introduced himself and asked where he could have known her from. When she indicated that she had only been a member of the church for less than a year, and had just lived in Oruro, he realized he couldn't have met her anywhere else. He concluded that he had known her in the pre-existence. (Whether true or not, they obviously are well suited for each other.)

They married, and within a year, he was called as a Bishop, and later as a Stake President, being set apart as such by President Jensen, who was in a position of Area Leadership at the time. Johnny moved here to Cochabamba just a few months ago, and is going to talk to his Bishop and President Jensen about becoming a temple worker. So, we'll be seeing more of each other in the months to come.

His wife, Beatriz, is a lawyer, but has put her career on hold to help him develop a business selling Quinoa products. Their son served a mission in Santa Cruz, and was studying medicine, but has started studying marketing and publicity to help with the family business.

All in all, it was a sweet reunion. Johnny's testimony is strong, and his desire to serve is as great as ever.

1 comment:

  1. Such a neat story! And I love the pics of that plant wall, and Doña Julia, and especially the one of you and Mom. I love you!