Thursday, May 11, 2017

Villazón, Potosí, Connections and Miracles

[11 May 2017]

Our view of Elephant Mountain just after moonrise.
We are really loving our mission here in Tupiza. We are now into Autumn. It is getting colder at night, but the days are still lovely and warm, usually in the upper 60's to low 70's. We bought a heater to keep the edge off at night. It has gotten as low as 50 degrees outside and will get colder we're told. We also found a lovely, heavy wool blanket to add to our other heavy blanket, so we stay cozy.

We enjoy teaching the Temple Prep Class in both branches. Charlie is such a good teacher. He loves our students and he loves the Lord and His gospel and they can feel it. I love to hear him teach. I always bear my testimony as well. We are getting close to these good people.

Last Friday the Vicente family were baptized in Rama América. They are a beautiful family with 4 children. The parents and two oldest children, an 11 year old girl, and a 9 year old boy were baptized. Charlie talked to them about going to the temple with the District in July and doing baptisms for the dead for their own ancestors. They came to our Temple prep class the very next Sunday. They are so happy to have the gospel in their lives and want to participate in everything.

Along with the Vicente family was a young man, Pablo Calla, who is about 18 years old. His parents are both members but have not been to church for many years. He remembers going to church with them when he was very little. He specifically remembered the bread and water of the Sacrament being passed. His father was at the baptism and seemed very proud of his son. There were a lot of members from Rama América there to support these new members. The chapel was full.
Pablo with us after his baptism.

Pablo and his father.
The room where you watched the baptism was over full, with people standing all around the back and sides.  The branch choir as well as the Young Single Adult choir sang. Food is a big part of every activity and after the baptism, we were brought red jello with slices of banana in it and a piece of cake and a fruit drink.

Two weeks ago, we were invited to speak about Temple and Celestial Marriage at a YSA-Young Single Adult (JAS-Jovenes Adultos Solteros) fireside. We enjoyed a more relaxed presentation with them and shared our experiences as we prepared for and followed promptings and sought answers about getting married. We enjoyed it and we made them laugh and hopefully gave them some ideas of things they can do now to prepare.

Last Sunday we traveled to Villazón with President and Sister Hansen to their Branch Conference. We will get to work with them as well and had not yet had the opportunity to go there, so we were grateful to be able to go with President and Sister Hansen. Villazón is about an hour away to the South, right on the border of Argentina. The city is bigger than Tupiza. It is about 1500 feet higher in elevation and about 10 degrees F colder. The chapel was very cold. They don't have central heating. They do have little heaters, but I think they were not functioning that day. It was very good to be with them. We were asked to bear our testimonies in Sunday School and we attended their branch council, which was very well attended.

After the block of meetings the Relief Society served everyone a hot drink. It is made from boiling cut up fruit like apples, pears, and raisins, and cinnamon sticks in water, then adding coarsely ground corn meal (semolina) and stirring until it thickens. It was served hot and it was very yummy and warmed us right up.

We love the people. One of our favorites is Jeannette, the young mother that sells us produce and almost whatever other thing we ask about at the Mercado La Paz. She is always so helpful, smiley and friendly. We always go to her first when looking for something. She just had a baby a week or so ago and is back at work. Her mother, as well as her father, go with her to work sometimes and hold the baby or man the business while she takes care of him. We have met her husband and children. They are such a happy sweet family. This baby makes the fourth son and his name is the same as his dad's, Oscar. We have talked to her a little about the church and have given her a pass-a-long card with our name and phone number on it. We hope to visit with their family sometime.

There are many other people that we look forward to seeing as we do our shopping down town. I hope they look forward to seeing us too and that somehow we can have a positive influence here. Charlie always leaves everyone smiling or laughing.

I have really enjoyed getting to know the children. Sometimes, when the parents bring their children to our temple prep class and the children are needing some attention, I get to take them out and play with them. We have done a lot of hide and seek, origami, singing, and even soccer. I love it when they come up and give me hugs. One night while I was waiting for Charlie, an 8 year old boy, Lucas, talked to me for about 45 minutes. Once a grandma, always a grandma.

We enjoy our time with the young missionaries. We have District meeting once a week and Zone Conference every 6 weeks. Our last Zone Conference was this week. It was with two other zones and it was held in Potosí. Our zone leaders arranged for a bus to take all 16 of us, ten missionaries from Tupiza, two from Quiriza, and four from Villazón. We met at the church at 4:50 am. The Villazón elders had a problem getting here on time so we left at 5:30 am. We made the trip in 6 hours, averaging 25 miles an hour. It only takes 4 hours to get to Potosí from Tupiza in the smaller rapiditos, but we would have needed three of them.

Here's a graph of the bus speed vs. altitude as we went from Tupiza at about 9700 ft, to Potosí, with the pass just before getting there being 14,300 ft. in elevation. Gasp.


We got in to Potosí about 11:30. Zone Conference started at 11. We had the bus go a more direct route to the chapel. However, the very narrow streets of the neighborhoods we were in could not accommodate such a big bus. At one point, I could almost touch the door of the house through the bus window and the other side of the bus was almost as close. We ended up backing out of that street. It was crazy. We eventually, left the bus and walked the 10 or so blocks to the chapel. We were an hour late. The streets in Potosí are sometimes very narrow, often with very narrow to non-existent sidewalks. The one-way streets are sometimes only wide enough for a car or truck, so you have to be ready to step into a store or doorway to avoid problems. Ahhh, Bolivia.

Zone Conference was amazing! We learned a lot of good things and heard wonderful testimonies from missionaries and the Hansens. I am so impressed with these young missionaries, their dedicated service, enthusiasm and love for this work is inspiring. My favorite part was singing with all those missionaries in that big beautiful chapel. The Spirit was powerful and it sounded good too.

The return trip took longer than the trip there by 30 minutes or so, so we made it home at about 1:30 am. Luckily, a taxi came by the chapel just as we got out of the bus, and we didn't have to walk the mile home.

[Elder Lyon's turn, now]
Just two things to add. We went to visit a couple who have been here in the branch for a very long time, Adolfo and Clementina Tejerina. He was baptized in 1970, when there was only a branch out in Quiriza (about 15 miles away, over very rough terrain.) Back then, all he had was a bicycle, and he negotiated the bike path to get to church each week. He was the only one of his family to join the church. Given that it takes an hour to negotiate the 15 miles now, I can just imagine how long it took him.

As we were visiting, he indicated that he had served his mission here in Bolivia, and served first in Santa Cruz. This would have been a couple of years before I got there. So I asked him about Ruben Peña, one of the very strong members there at the time. He frequently fed us lunch, and told us about his missionary efforts on his trips to Argentina. He couldn't wait until the temple in Sao Paulo, Brazil was finished (still three years away when I was there.)

As we talked, and I expressed how much I appreciated Hno. Peña, Adolfo told me that he had baptized him while there as a missionary. Small world. It made me very happy to make another connection with one of the sweet, humble, faithful members here in Bolivia.

Hno. Peña feeding the missionaries lunch. 

Hna. Clementina Tejerina. She's a bit shorter than the normal Bolivians.
And lastly,  here's one of the incongruities that you see pretty regularly in Bolivia. Here is a picture of a dentist's office:


Note the name. Here's a blown up version so you can see it a bit better:
Consultorio Dental - Señor de los Milagros
I'm sure some dental work here requires miracles, but I'm not sure I want to go to a dentist who advertises that it'll be a miracle if he figures out what to do with your teeth.

'Til next time....

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