A letter from Chenoa Stock on home leave from Bolivia
October 1, 2013
Sharing the Story
“Are you visiting another church?” asked my 10-year-old niece as I walked through the living room to the door with my backpack in hand and rather dressed up for a Wednesday night. Ah yes, Rayna has now recognized the lifestyle to which I am committed for these three months of Interpretation Assignment—a time for me to return to the U.S. in between terms to visit Presbyterian congregations and share what God is doing in Bolivia through the UMAVIDA Joining Hands network. But Rayna knows what she is questioning, as she helped me tweak my Children’s Sermon (“I don’t think they’ll understand that”) and accompanied me to my first church in Pittsburgh as I gave my presentation to an adult class and later preached during worship. She now has a better understanding of where I live and what I do, and my hope is that the churches I visited over this past month and a half and those I will visit in the month to come can and will say the same.
I know not everybody on this list is Presbyterian, but I must profess the pride I have for our Presbyterian family after visiting many of them in Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cincinnati, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Towanda, Pa. With every visit I was only reminded more of how we are a part of such a beautiful, strong and faithful network of support and love.
As I have traveled across the highways of the Midwest and eastern parts of the U.S.A., I have had time to take in the beautiful landscapes and slight leaf changes of autumn, observe all of the latest car models, hear the current radio hits, overcome my anxiety about driving on five-lane highways, and learn to have faith in a GPS system. I have been welcomed and invited to be part of church life and to share my own story of Bolivia, our struggles, and our connection of ministry with them within our globalized world. Through this time I am given the chance to tell the story of Primavita, an indigenous Quechua woman from the mining city of Oruro, whose land, water and livelihood has been affected by the 30 years of gold extraction from the Kori Kollo open pit mine. I share the role UMAVIDA’s partnership with U.S. presbyteries has had on our campaign to support these affected communities in speaking out to the government for environmental justice and clean water. We together learn that it is only through continued support and prayers that UMAVIDA has the strength and encouragement we need to continue in this long-term struggle for a sustainable change of policies and systemic structures.
Upon each church arrival, I not only share my own story, though, I become immersed in the story of a Presbyterian church, its ministries, its struggles and its joys. I have entered into discussions about the local issues of the church’s larger geographical community and have almost always been able to connect them to the larger, global issues we are all confronting these days. I have been listened to with curiosity and been asked questions ranging from Bolivian politics to my own, personal story, but I have also listened. I have listened to their stories, to their church history (being in the first church in the world to be lit by electricity!—First Presbyterian of Roselle, Roselle, N.J., Elizabeth Presbytery), and to their hopes for the future.
One may think this is exhausting. And it is. But with the overwhelming kindness and hospitality I have experienced from each church and host family and the feeling of ‘home’ I feel when I am with each congregation and group, big or small, there is an energy and spirit in that sharing that fills and sustains me.
I am on a journey to share with those who have been accompanying me on my own mission journey, but also with those who are just learning about the journey and may be thinking of walking with me. It is a journey of new and old faces, nurturing and building relationships and friendships, and simply being thankful for the diversity of our Presbyterianism, its leadership found in its pastors, mission/stewardship committees and lay people, and its solidarity in supporting us mission co-workers who are the outward, internationally reaching hands of the church to spread God’s love.
I have completed more than half of this journey and would ask that you keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I journey on to finish my Interpretation Assignment with the International Peacemakers Program. My Bolivian colleague, Wilhelm (President of UMAVIDA), and I will be traveling to give presentations together in the Midwest and West during this final month to continue to share the story of Bolivia and the UMAVIDA mission there. Please pray for us as we share the story of Primavita and our campaign for environmental justice, as well as how that change in environmental and mining policy could also affect Wilhelm’s individual work with child miners. He will share his organization’s work in equipping these children with the values and tools for an education that so many of them are normally forced to leave behind. In our search for a change of mining and environmental policies, we show the interconnectedness of our work—that the effects of speaking truth to power and addressing these root causes of injustice and poverty can and will be felt well beyond one community.
I cannot say a big enough thank you to the hearts and homes that have been opened up to me during this time, and I look forward to ongoing communications to continue developing these partnerships. If I was not able to visit you this time around, I will be back for my second Interpretation Assignment (IA) period during November 2014 to January 2015, if we want to start planning now! I would love to share my story with you and hear yours also. If you are interested in coming alongside God’s ministry with me, I invite your prayers, your correspondence, your financial commitment, and your interest and study to learn more. Please visit my webpage to read my quarterly Mission Connections letters and learn more from the links provided below.
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 32
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: