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The Renewing Rain

A letter from Chenoa Stock serving in Bolivia

Lent 2017

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Now, one might think that I would be a little frustrated when my travels and activities for the Carnaval long weekend holiday (the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday) were basically washed away due to daily heavy rains and storms. Or slightly upset when, two weeks later, my husband and I, after climbing only one route at our local climbing spot, were forced to stop and find shelter in the middle of nowhere when the black clouds lingering over us opened up into a great lightning-and-hail storm. Or maybe even angry when, one month after Ash Wednesday, I had to walk home in the pouring rain carrying a birthday cake in one hand and work materials in another, knowing that, even with my long trek, I would make it home faster than the taxis I passed stuck in congested traffic. But no—if not for the lightning or cake in hand, I would have put on some rain boots, pulled out my umbrella, and started singing “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Alleluia! Lluvia (Rain)! We in Bolivia have been suffering an extreme drought since this past November and are only now finally receiving a percentage of the rain we needed a few months back. We pray that we continue to receive these ‘showers of blessing’ to supply our empty reservoirs, bring snow to our barren, glacial mountains and nourish the dry land for the harvest to come.

For those who do not love being waterlogged from the rain, the situations above might have been complete justification to enter into negative thoughts and self-pity. But our Easter story never ends with darkness.

Yes, maybe our Carnaval trip did bring us a soaked tent and frozen toes, fingers and noses. But on the final day, while wandering around Bolivia’s highest mountain, Sajama, the clearing of the clouds allowed us to witness the first steps of a llama that had just entered into this world. New life.

Yes, maybe it was not a full day of climbing for my husband and me. But the danger of the storm helped my husband find the courage to climb up one last time and save our equipment before it was too late—a type of courage otherwise he might not have known he possessed. Faith in the storm.

And yes, it was cold walking home in the rain and my arms grew tired from holding that cake and materials. But the joy that that cake brought to a friend who was in need of love and care on her special day was so worth the wet shoes from the soggy trek. Compassion for all.

But isn’t that what the Lenten journey is all about? Out of darkness comes light. Out of storms come rainbows. As my dad says, the three Lenten R’s guide us: Repentance, Reconciliation and Renewal. We are given these special 40 days (and beyond) to renew our spiritual lives, to renew our commitment and faith in God, and to renew our call to care for all living beings in this Creation.

The Bolivian Joining Hands UMAVIDA (Joining Hands for Life) Network is a network made up of sacred and secular community grassroots groups working on campaigns toward sustainable, systemic change, specifically focused on environmental justice and water issues. UMAVIDA has been walking its own Lenten journey these months. In February the resignation of our coordinator was accepted by our General Assembly. We were sad to see Alejandrina go, but we are grateful for her work with and commitment to UMAVIDA throughout these years and keep her future endeavors in our prayers.

Out of darkness comes light.

We are now happy to announce the hiring of our new coordinator, Hivlin Siles, who started with us at the end of March. Hivlin has worked with one of our network partner organizations for many years, so she is familiar with UMAVIDA procedures, its mission and advocacy focus, and its partner organizations. She has hit the ground running to move our campaign for the passing of the Water Law bill forward – a bill that has been sitting in Parliament for four years now, being waylaid by government interests in the extractive industries, but one that would defend the responsible use of water, both domestically and industrially, for the Bolivian people. We are excited to have Hivlin on our team to walk with us on our campaign.

As we all walk through the desert to reach fertile land this Lenten season, perhaps your renewed spirit will be called to join us for our Reflection/Action delegation trip to Bolivia this July 22-29. This is a chance for us to walk the reality of our Bolivian brothers and sisters in their struggle for environmental rights and caring for God’s Creation together.

UMAVIDA and I could not walk this path without your prayers and support, so I thank you for your accompaniment and invite you to continue supporting us in whatever way you are able. One way to support the work of Joining Hands and the UMAVIDA Network directly during this Lenten season is through the PC(U.S.A.) One Great Hour of Sharing Special Offering. Please share this opportunity with your church and consider making a gift to support the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Joining Hands so we can continue in our mission addressing issues of hunger and poverty in the U.S. and through our global partners. http://specialofferings.pcusa.org/oghs

We are one in this renewed spirit, one in our commitment to care for each other, and one in the call to continue facing the storm, knowing the rainbow is waiting for us amidst the rain.

Blessings to you on this journey of renewal.

Paz/Peace,

Chenoa


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