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A letter from Chenoa Stock in Bolivia

Advent 2013

Are You Ready?

Joining Hands colleagues, Valery Nodem and Wilhelm Piérola, working in solidarity for sustainable change

“Last call for flight number 3552 to Miami.” Doors closed, flight missed, costing me an extra night in Miami and an arrival to Bolivia one day later than expected.

Many of us like to say we are ready for the unexpected. But when it happens to us, how do we react? Can we, in some way, see the blessing in it? Can we make room in our hearts and minds to be open for what might come? Are we prepared for the newness that we might experience?

Traveling in the shuttle to the airport, I tried my best to do the above, and was pleasantly distracted from my poor attempt and my self-pity, and opened to a conversation with a fellow traveler, Curtis. We shared a short exchange about our travel situations, arrived at the hotel and said good night. The next morning I experienced another surprise and discovered that I was not being given a late check-out, but could ‘happily’ stay in the crowded, hotel lobby until I needed the airport shuttle in eight hours. As I was checking out, I ran into Curtis at the front desk and mentioned my predicament to him. Without thinking or blinking an eye, he told me he was changing rooms, would be out working and not need his room until late, and that I could use it to work and rest if I wanted. He explained that he had a daughter my age, and, that if she were in a similar situation, he would hope somebody would do the same for her.  Blessing found and experienced beyond words.

Birthday dinner blessings with parents, best friend and colleagues, Ruth Farrell and Alexa Smith, in Louisville, KY.

As I am adjusting to my life and routine back in Bolivia (I did finally arrive!), after having been in the US for three months on Interpretation Assignment, it is refreshing to return just in time to celebrate Advent. After three months of running around and losing track of days, this season gives me a chance finally to slow down and reflect, and open my heart and mind to experience fully the presence of God in my life and work here. That presence was certainly with me as I visited the many Presbyterian congregations in the US, and I thank you for bringing God’s presence through your warm hospitality.  Now, though, it is about intentionally recognizing and anticipating that presence that is with us always and at all times. It is about how we can prepare ourselves to be ready and alert for what is to come without fear. It is about finding the sacred and joy in the unexpectedness of Jesus’ birth and life in our own lives.

The Oruro leaders explaining the mining contamination issue at an Environmental Fair in La Paz, Bolivia, preparing for the Strategic Planning workshop to come.

UMAVIDA, the Joining Hands Network which I accompany as a mission co-worker, is in a timely state of anticipation as well. We will soon be carrying out a Strategic Planning Workshop with Dr. Serrano, a St Louis University professor, who has been walking with us throughout our campaign and struggle for environmental justice for communities affected by mining contamination in Oruro, Bolivia. This will be a time for the leaders and community members to come together and make room in our hearts, minds and spirits to discern where we are being led in our campaign, how we can be most productive and effective on that path for change and justice, and how our US partners and US Presbyterian congregations and other allies can walk with us on this justice journey.

Thank you for the many ways you support the ministry here.  Your prayers, advocacy and financial gifts make it all possible. I would ask that you put UMAVIDA in your thoughts and prayers, as we prepare not only for this event, but for the steps that will follow, and seek the strength and wisdom that will be needed to continue on that discerned path. We are in a critical time in our campaign planning and are always in need of your support, whether that be through financial contributions, correspondence or contacts with experts on mining or interpretation of law, and of course your prayers. We could not continue on in our hope and faith without you.

UMAVIDA youth of the Water School displaying their work at the Environmental Fair in La Paz, Bolivia. Anticipation for the future change they desire.

As we enter this season of Advent, this season of anticipation, let us prepare and open our hearts, minds and spirits to the opportunity of God’s presence in our lives and what that may look like for each one of us. Let that presence, however we feel or define it, call us to be ready for the unexpected, ready for a change, and ready to experience fully our call as stewards of Creation, embodying the teachings of Jesus, and letting his presence use us for the building up of God’s KINdom on Earth.

Peace and openness be with you,
Chenoa Stock



The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 32

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