Saturday, October 4, 2014

Student trip to Oromomo

One of the goals of the Etnos training program is to give the students an opportunity each semester to get off campus, see more of Bolivia, and get a practical, realistic taste of what ministry can be like among the various ethnic groups of this country.

This past week I had the opportunity to accompany my coworker Howard and the 8 students to a village north of Cochabamba called Oromomo.  It is a small community on the Sécure river, populated by 80 families of Chimane and Yuracaré ethnicity.  Oromomo is accessible by river (a week or so, from Trinidad) or by air (one hour, from Cochabamba).

As we planned the trip, we talked about several purposes that we wanted to emphasize and I believe that we accomplished all of them:
          -rustic living
          -language and culture learning
          -relationship building
          -church planting strategy
          -working alongside others with a different philosophy of ministry

The following is an assortment of stories and photos.  More, fully-captioned photos can be found in our Picasa web album at this link. And don't forget that you can click on these to see them much larger.

Sunrise on Jorge Wilsterman Int'l Airport, Cochabamba
We flew out from Cochabamba by small plane, operated by Mano a Mano.  The 4 singles and Howard took the first flight in a Cessna 206, without any baggage.  The 2 couples and I loaded up the bigger Piper Navajo with the bags and were on the platform getting our routine police inspection when the pilot got the call that it was raining in Oromomo.  The airstrip there isn't long enough for him to land the big twin-engined Navajo in the wet, so we had to cancel.
Group 1 on their way

The forecast didn't look good and there was a good possibility that those 5 were going to have to spend the night without any clothes, sleeping bags, mosquito nets, or bug repellent!  Oops.

Thankfully, the weather lifted enough in the afternoon that I was able to go out by myself in the 206 with all of their bags and mine too.  Unfortunately, the pilot and I miscalculated the weights and accidentally loaded about 50 kilos overweight.  We had a tough time getting up to 14,000+ feet to go over the ridge!  However, after turning a few climbing circles, he was able to coax enough power out of the engine and 45 minutes later, we were landing on a beautiful little airstrip in the middle of the Bolivian jungle.
Oromomo airstrip
Of course, everyone was glad to see their things arrive and we set about setting up camp in the house that we would be working on.
Howard showing the gals how to set up a mosquito net

My mesh hammock was a nice lightweight bed
The next morning, the 6 of us that were in Oromomo set about working on the projects that we were there to do.  One of the big things was to plumb a bathroom, which Dennis and I jumped on, with some help from the girls.
We started by removing an elbow that had been installed backwards :P
Eli started a fire so we could form bell joints on the PVC and Naty helped her keep it going, even in the rain
Around mid-morning, the 2 couples and baby Esteban flew in.  After accommodating themselves, we all got back to work.

We worked on 3 main projects: plumbing, doors and and window coverings, and church signage.  Several other small projects were mixed in as we went along.

As mentioned, Dennis and I pretty much handled the plumbing.  We plumbed the drains, then supply, and set the shower pan, toilet, and sink.

Meanwhile, Howard and Matias were working with Pastor Tito on making doors and window coverings.  Tito is half Yuracaré, half Chimane.  He grew up speaking both languages and learned Spanish in school.  He has a very interesting testimony and is a crazy man on many levels.  He handles a Stihl MS660 like he was born with it.

Leo worked with Cristian (Mano a Mano's supply buyer and accountant) to put the name of the church up on the building in all 3 languages.

The gals often helped where they could on our projects and employed themselves in a variety of other useful ways.
Boiling river water for drinking was a continual task, as was cooking, all over a fire

Eli prepping meat to make charque
Eli and Polette brightening up the kitchen
Our last day, Naty helped me grade and compact the passage between the kitchen and house

Kristen helping some of the kids with homework
During all of this work, we had many opportunities to rub shoulders with the ministers on-the-ground and the people of the community they are trying to reach.   

Much of life was centered around the Sécure River.  It was our water supply, bathtub, washing machine, refrigerator, and swimming pool.  We loved it!
Hauling water for washing, cooking, and drinking
We swam at least once a day, usually twice, to cool down and clean up

Tito's girls having a swim

The river was also a major food source; we ate a LOT of fish.  On Saturday night around 11pm, Tito took us guys fishing.  We went upriver about 2.5 kilometers by canoe, where he shot a couple small sábalo with his bow, for bait, and dropped us off on a beach.  Dennis and Leo caught two surubí each, but I got skunked!  I did catch one the following night, though.

It was Leo's first time fishing.  That one on the left weighed 20 pounds, cleaned!

Most Sundays, there are two families that come to church consistently and a third that is occasional. A few of the teachers from the school have been attending as well.  We were asked to share in the main service and in the Sunday school classes.
Tito leading the singing
Leo preaching
Kristen and Naty teaching the younger kids
Meanwhile, Dennis, Mati, and I were frying fish and listening from the kitchen!

Sunday evening, half of the group shared their testimonies.

On Monday, we worked in the morning and then Tito took the whole group upriver to meet his mom and see her place.  We had a good time in the boat!
Bow group
Stern group

That final night, we hiked about 20 minutes downriver to another part of Oromomo known as the Zona Baja. The plan was to have another meeting there, in which the other half of us would share our testimonies.  I didn't find out until we got there, but most of the people that live there speak only Chimane, so Tito would be translating!
Nathan sharing his testimony with lessons about faithfulness in teaching generation-to-generation from II Timothy
This experience solidified in most of the students' minds (as well as mine) the commitment we have to teaching in the heart language of the people.  We had no idea what Tito was communicating.  It is terribly difficult to keep a flow of thought going with the back-and-forth of translation.  We had no background on these people, how they think, or what they already knew about the Gospel.  For me, this was one of the best experiences that we could have had for our students, so they could see the value of what they are learning in this training program.

Finally, on Tuesday morning, it was time to say goodbye and fly back to Cochabamba:

l-r: Leo, Howard, Tito, Matias, Nathan, Dennis, Cristian

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