A letter from Chenoa Stock in Bolivia
March 11, 2013
Sharing God’s Unconditional Love in Bolivia and Beyond
To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.—Thomas Merton
Greetings to you all from La Paz during this Lenten season! As I have been moving through and contemplating during these weeks, I have found that many of my Lenten devotionals have been focused on God’s unconditional love. Beyond the immediacies of our daily lives as individuals, these devotionals not only discuss the love between humans, but a love that is extended to all living beings. As we learn more about the effects of climate change, corporate exploitation of communities, and free trade agreements that do not favor or support local governments, these devotionals call to me and say that it is time to use that love to bring healing to that which needs our compassion and care—our entire global community.
As the Bolivian Joining Hands Network, UMAVIDA (Joining Hands for Life), we hear this call and heed it. One of the ways in which we do this is with our youth. In January a Bolivian youth delegation traveled to Peru for the annual International Youth Congress of Environmentalists, held in the city of Concepción. This is a week for youth of different regions and countries to gather together and share their work in environmental justice issues. This year there were participants from Peru, Bolivia, Chile, the U.S.A. and Canada. We heard presentations on topics such as land remediation projects, eco-engineering, indigenous movements, and the harmful effects of extractive industries. This Congress was not only a time to share, but also a time to hear what is happening in other regions regarding these issues, make connections, and use these similarities to build a movement together. These committed youth are dedicated to making a difference in their society and for the environment, and with the information gained in this Congress they are more equipped to share that message.
As Companionship Facilitator, I also have the task of sharing a message with you all, which includes not only the work of our youth but also the larger mission of UMAVIDA. I thank you for being a part of the journey with me thus far through your contributions, support, prayers, and simply keeping in touch. I hope we can continue together on the next three-year journey with UMAVIDA in Bolivia.
After every three-year term we, as mission co-workers, are asked to spend several months in the U.S.A., visiting churches and sharing the message of how we have been participating in God’s mission and sharing unconditional love in our part of the world, before returning for another term of service. With this, I am pleased to say that I am preparing a season of visits to churches, presbyteries and other community groups in August and September of 2013, and another three-month period in the second half of 2014. (Due to visa restrictions, I am obligated to divide my time into two three-month periods. I will also be participating in the International Peacemaking Program from September 24 to October 23, 2013, accompanying a Bolivian colleague.) As we have developed relationships over distance throughout these years, it would be a pleasure to come for a visit if you would consider inviting me.
If you’re interested in inviting me to share with you, please let me know as soon as possible so I can work out a schedule. I’ll do this on a “first come, first served” basis, while also trying to be a good steward of time, money, and fuel by grouping visits together geographically. If you can help me connect with other churches or interested groups in your presbytery or synod, I would be extra grateful! I will be based in Pittsburgh, Pa., and St. Louis, Mo.
I would love to share with you about my role as Companionship Facilitator as well as the work of UMAVIDA and Joining Hands in Bolivia in whatever context would be relevant to your community’s interests and experiences. Though participating in the Sunday morning worship service is possible through a “Minute” for Mission or Children’s Message, it is also beneficial to have another space for sharing in greater depth and focus and learning together about the work and mission in Bolivia. These months in the U.S. are completely dedicated to this sharing and interaction with you all, so mid-week engagements are also possible.
Some other possibilities could include any of (but not limited to) the following spaces:
- Sunday school (any age group)
- Special church event (potluck or otherwise)
- Confirmation class
- Youth group
- Young adult group
- Men’s or women’s groups
- Prayer breakfast
- Retirement home or nursing home
- Classroom (elementary, high school, college, seminary)
- Campus ministry
- Mission committee meeting
- Presbytery or synod meeting
- Church camp or vacation Bible school
A note on expenses:
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pays my salary while I’m on interpretation assignment, so I neither need nor expect any kind of honorarium. My food, lodging, and travel expenses are not covered, however, and I will need your support in meeting those needs.
We can discuss specifics as we plan, but please know that I will try to group visits by region and share the cost of airfare or car rental among several churches or organizations where possible. I’m also happy to work with you if you have frequent flyer miles to donate for airfare, a borrowed car, bike, metro pass, etc., available for transportation within the area. If you would like to invite me but cannot provide for my travel, please consider working with other churches or groups in your area to combine activities in the same week and share costs. If that is not possible, let me know and I’ll look for other ways to cover those expenses.
Thank you for your faithfulness in supporting me with your prayers, notes, and financial gifts. They are truly essential in making my work possible, and I look forward to sharing the story with many of you in person this year! It is best to contact me by email or through Skype (chenoas) to talk in more detail about dates and schedules.
May we spread God’s unconditional love to all those around us throughout and beyond this Lenten season, and may I be able to share with you the message of how that is spread in Bolivia through UMAVIDA in the coming months!
Peace, hope and renewal,
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 32
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For more info:
- Joining Hands Program: http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/joininghands/
- Joining Hands Bolivia—UMAVIDA profile: http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/hunger/bolivia/
- Presbyterian work in Bolivia: http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/global/bolivia/
- Chenoa Stock profile, funding, past newsletters: