A letter from Chenoa Stock serving in Bolivia
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Saludos calurosos (warm greetings) from the depths of Bolivian winter! Though my fingers are frozen from lack of central heating in Bolivian buildings, my heart is warm and full of God’s love, hope and spirit, filled throughout my time on U.S. Interpretation Assignment these past three months.
Interpretation (according to Dictionary.com): An explanation of the meaning of another’s artistic or creative work.
As a mission co-worker serving with the UMAVIDA (Joining Hands for Life) Joining Hands Network, my service is not only with the Bolivian people, advocating for environmental justice, but also with our entire Presbyterian family in the U.S. as well. You are not disconnected from our journey but through your prayers and correspondence walk with us every day in our struggle. Thus I am called to interpret our joint mission to you—to explain the meaning of God’s artistic and creative work here in Bolivia and how you can continue to be a part of it.
I am blessed that in these three months I was able to share our mission in mostly new-to-me churches in eight U.S. states in the Northwest, South, Southeast, East and Midwest. Through different presentations and experiences, I learned about our diverse Presbyterian family, spent time with youth of all ages, women, and men, and was greeted by familiar and new faces and friends at each church door. From the mountains of Oregon, the raining downpours of Round Rock, Texas, and the shining sun of Lakeland, Fla., to the chillier spring of the East, I witnessed that no weather can keep Presbyterians away from learning about this creative work that God calls us to do together.
After watching the forecast the last couple of days in Round Rock, it was difficult to predict if the rains would affect my scheduled time with Round Rock Presbyterian Church on Sunday. After preaching in both services that cloudy and drizzly Sunday morning, we waited to see what the clouds would bring for my evening presentation. As the evening approached, the downpour began. As I drove back to church with my host family in the pouring rain to set things up, we carried umbrellas and held doors for each other as we tried to keep dry while unpacking the car. As we decorated the fellowship hall and the heavy rain continued, I nervously remembered my host’s earlier comment that they had increased the order for the Mexican buffet due to last minute RSVPs. As people slowly started to trickle in, I was afraid that those few present would be having abundant Mexican leftovers for the next couple of days…
But by the grace of God and the commitment of Round Rock Presbyterians, despite the downpour the fellowship hall filled with people and the Holy Spirit. We enjoyed a delicious Tex-Mex buffet together, and I shared how UMAVIDA accompanies communities affected by mining contamination and how our newer campaign advocating in favor of a new water law in Bolivia is working to get this vital issue back on the local political agenda, remembering that “Water is Sacred” is a right for all and is the source of life itself.
Even as hurricane siren warnings sounded halfway through the presentation, we continued on, engaging in a profound time of discussion and praying for those who might be affected by this current natural phenomenon. Though strong, those thunderstorm winds did not blow the spirit from this church’s faith and passion.
I could tell many other stories of how the Holy Spirit was present throughout my Interpretation Assignment—teaching a Spanish song during the Children’s Message at Valley Community Church in Oregon, presenting to second- and sixth-grade classes in Spanish at an International School in Austin, Texas (and they all understood me!), presenting to a Presbyterian Women’s gathering in Fanwood, N.J., being visually reminded of the Spirit’s presence as I looked out on a sea of red on Pentecost Sunday at Forest Hill Church in Cleveland, Ohio, or pastors simply giving prayers or greetings in Spanish during a service or before a presentation. Whether they were gatherings of few or many, in the “interpretation”—the explanation of God’s creative work, this glorious mission in which we all engage in one way or another, both in Bolivia and in the U.S.—the Spirit that flows through it all was there.
Yes, travels are tiring and one grows weary from early morning flights, eating out of one’s regular schedule and diet (though I ate some amazing gluten-free food, so I will not complain!), and living out of a suitcase. But upon return to Bolivia, as I rested my head on my pillow—the 25th and final pillow of this journey—I was wonderfully exhausted from meeting so many inspiring people, from sharing in such a variety of spaces, from receiving such great questions about Bolivia and our work, and from knowing that with each hug I was given or hand I shook, I was made stronger, in body, mind and spirit.
Now to continue on in God’s creative work here in Bolivia! There was no delay, as I participated in a workshop on my second day back. This was an informative workshop for our UMAVIDA partner organizations to learn about mining and the water situation in Bolivia, about the proposed Water Bill, and the need for us to advocate together to get this bill back on the political agenda and broadly debated by all of civil society as it was three years ago. If passed, this bill would impact not only the communities with which we work in Oruro, but the entire nation. And so we march on.
A big muchísimas gracias to those congregations that hosted me during these three months and who taught me that God’s mission can be interpreted in so many different ways. I hope the next time around to be with those congregations I did not get a chance to visit. In the meantime, I invite all of you to pray for the future steps of UMAVIDA.
Both Bolivia and UMAVIDA are in exciting and changing times. I am particularly excited that your support for me as a mission co-worker makes it possible for me to accompany the UMAVIDA at this time. Please continue! With your financial support and prayers, I will continue to serve and interpret to you the meaning of this artistic and creative mission work we are doing to promote how the Holy Spirit is restoring God’s Creation through justice and love.
- Joining Hands program: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/joininghands/
- Joining Hands Bolivia—UMAVIDA profile: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/joininghands/bolivia/
- Presbyterian work in Bolivia: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/global/bolivia/
- Joining Hands Bolivia informative video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzXaDzcL0xc&feature=youtu.be
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