Back from the Jungle

This is story from Marcia, a volunteer who spent a month in Bolivia with Hospitals of Hope earlier this summer.

Last week was an amazing adventure!  Early Tuesday morning our group of 10 people met up with Miguel and Franklin (missionaries with Cristo para la Ciudad) and Anghelo (a doctor with Hospitals of Hope) and began our journey into the Bolivian Amazon jungle.

The travel consisted of four segments: (1) a harrowing 5-hour drive through beautiful mountains that initially were covered by farms and then gradually began to look like the mountains in the show Lost. (2) then an hour drive on a bumpy road through banana tree groves (3) then a 40-minute ride on a carved wooden canoe. We all sat on the sides and had to bail water out the whole time. (4) and finally a short hike through huge jungle plants to the town. It was so awesome!

We were there from Tuesday early evening through Friday morning. The whole thing reminded me so much of Jim Elliot and those crazy missionary stories. We learned this morning at the international church we went to, in talking to a pilot with New Tribes, that a similar event happened with this tribe. In the 70s, when New Tribes missionaries were still establishing contact with the nomadic tribe, one man was shot with a bow and arrow by the Yuquis hunters due to some superstitious beliefs they have about death. He was rescued after lying on the jungle floor for 48 hours and later returned to the tribe. Amazing! In 1999 New Tribes had to pull out of the area because of the area becoming a Red Zone for cocaine production, diseases, and other reasons.

So about six years ago, Miguel and his wife through Cristo para la Ciudad went into the town, though not living there full time, and have ministered to the Yuquis until now. It was obvious how much the Yuquis respected and cared for Miguel by how they were always crowding around the house asking for help or with gifts and how the kids were always so excited to sing the worship songs Miguel played on his guitar.

During our few days there, we did a breast cancer presentation (which we think was the first time any of them were even informed about the disease), including breast examinations - THAT was interesting for me to say the least. We also made lunch for 70 school kids both Wednesday and Thursday, and thankfully God made the food stretch to feed everyone. In the afternoons we did a Bible lesson, which I did one day, singing songs with Miguel, and then playing games and coloring. We did dental presentations for both the kids and the adults, distributing toothbrushes and toothpaste, and putting fluoride on whatever remaining teeth they had. Their teeth were a pitiful sight; even many of the young children's teeth were rotting away and few of the adults had any.

Nevertheless, they were a beautiful and precious people who I now miss, after the short time we spent there. The kids were so affectionate, constantly clinging to us and saying they wanted to go with us when we leave, and were very sweet and happy. Even the adolescent boys (who are too cool to cooperate with anything in the States) were kind and respectful, attending the Bible classes and joyfully worshiping along with everyone else. That was such a beautiful sight. I spent as much time as I could talking, playing, and kicking the soccer ball around with the kids. One of my favorite things was how all of the kids would call me "hermana" (sister).

Being there helped me to see that I would love to work with a remote tribe like that in the future. Although the tribe has become more Christianized, many of the adults still maintain there animistic beliefs and need prayer.

You can read more from Marcia's time in Bolivia at her blog.