On May 13th, we traveled to Tarija, Bolivia, where we had a mini-vacation and a meeting to attend. For the first day and a half, we spent time exploring the city and enjoying the beautiful, green plazas. With a population of 170,000 people, the smaller, calmer city was a refreshing change from the busyness of Cochabamba.
We attended a meeting on Saturday and Sunday with leaders from the Union de Jóvenes Bautistas de Bolivia (UJBB), the national young adult Baptist association. Hans is the official WorldVenture representative to the group and travels to their meetings a few times each year. It was interesting to see how the UJBB works and to hear what the local groups are doing across Bolivia. And it was great to get to know the leaders during down time – especially at night… the gals were up talking until 2:00am! (And I enjoyed every minute of it!)
On Sunday afternoon we headed to Bermejo, on the border with Argentina, to visit missionaries from Argentina who are starting a church there. Hans met the family when he traveled to Bermejo in January, and I was excited to meet them. It was a great time of seeing their ministry and how God is working in their neighborhood, plus we had a blast talking with Marcelo and Ellie, and playing with their three girls.
I mentioned earlier that the guys’ dorm at the jovenes camp in Tarija was a big convention building. Foam mattresses were brought in and lined the sides as beds, which left the middle of the building open for… soccer! The two barn-style doors on either end made great goals.
The following is an entry from my journal one night:
All the guys are in a conference center about the size of an ice rink, beds around the edges. Right now the guys are playing soccer in the middle. Occasionally two or three players run into the mattresses on the sides chasing the ball. I just stopped one with my hand. I saw one guy, while sitting on his mattress, head a ball coming in his direction. On one side of the building, a group from Cochabamba playing Uno ducks frequently because they’re sitting next to the goal (see picture below). Occasionally whistles and shouts are heard when a yellow card-worthy infraction occurs, often cheering louder than when one team scores.
Keeping with the sports theme, there was a movie night one evening; Facing the Giants was shown. I talked to a couple of guys about it; one had seen it three times, and the other five (he owns a copy of it). They don’t understand much (if anything) of the sport of (American) football, but they do really enjoy the movie.
Interestingly, the scene that grabbed the most attention was the Death Crawl.
Here’s a few more pictures from my week in Tarija:
For those who plan ice breakers and team competitions, you can learn a lot from the creativity of Bolivians! Below are a few games that I participated in while at the jovenes camp in Tarija (ages 18-28) a couple weeks ago. They didn’t have names when we played them, so I came up with some, but I’m open to suggestions!
All of these games are best played with larger teams (20+ members)
Move the Mattress
- Materials: a small mattress for each team
- Objective: Move the mattress, with someone on it, from one side of the room to the other, and back again.
Divide each team into two lines, sitting down, facing each other. Set the mattress over the legs of the players on one end, and one player lays on top of the mattress. When the game begins, players pull/push/move the mattress down the line towards the opposite wall. Once the mattress passes players, they need to get up and run to the other end of the line, so it can continue to the wall. Once the mattress hits the wall, it reverses direction until it returns to the starting line. Depending on the space available, this could be repeated multiple times. If space allows, race two teams against each other. If not, time each team as they go; shortest time wins.
We were told to be at the seminary at 6pm to load up the bus. Since I’m beginning to understand the Bolivian concept of time, I figured we’d leave around 8. And so I was surprised when the 52-seat bus pulled away from Cochabamba, filled with 55 jovenes (roughly ages 18-28). The fact that there were three people without a seat for the 18 hour trip didn’t surprise me, but the fact that we left at 7:00 did.
Considering the bus we took to Fichicachi, this was a luxury bus. There were still some broken seats and other signs of wear, but it was a much more uneventful and comfortable ride (meaning, we didn’t have to get out and push the bus up a hill). I woke up to see an incredible 5:45 sunrise over the mountains, and I think I slept more after the sunrise than before. After a stop for breakfast, we started making our way from the altiplano (plains) up then back down the mountains, ending in the city of Tarija, settled in a valley similar to Cochabamba. Cochabamba is known for being a green city, with a lot of parks, trees, etc., and I was surprised at how much more green Tarija was. A beautiful city!
We spent a day in the city, with a trip out to see Tarija’s well-known vineyards and wineries, then were brought to the Tarija fairgrounds, where the Baptist Jovenes’ national camp was held. This is an annual five-day camp, with each of the nine departments in Bolivia rotating as hosts. Last year it was in Cochabamba, next year in Potosí.
Even though Tarija is one of the less-central locations in Bolivia, there were a record 450 in attendance, including two busses from Cochabamba and one from Argentina. My role was not to preach or lead any groups, but just to attend, observe, learn, and get to know some of the jovenes. And I would say I was successful in that.
A few observations:
How to pray:
- One of the guys from Cochabamba that I’ve gotten to know lately came up to me a lot at the camp, with questions or just to talk. It’s exciting to see this relationship develop as he’s been confiding in me recently. Please pray that this relationship would continue to grow and be fruitful.
- I met with several of the the national jovenes leaders while in Tarija. Please pray for their ministry leading jovenes throughout Bolivia, especially as they try to unite a country that is so isolated by the terrain and poor roads. (To give you an idea of the challenge, Cochabamba is located in the middle of Bolivia, and it’s an 18 hour bus ride to Tarija. It’s just a 50 minute flight between the cities, but most can’t afford the $65 flight.)
- Dan, our supervisor, officially moved me from the orientation phase to the ministry phase. Praise God for how I have learned and adjusted to life in Bolivia. Pray for guidance as I begin more formal ministry, both with jovenes and our team’s administration and leadership, yet continue to improve my Spanish.