Bolivia

Bolivia 2017 1
Rachel, Brie, Aly, Katie, Maria, Claire, Becca, Delaney, Hannah, Yvette and CeCe

Task: Members of Jessup’s women’s soccer team will be traveling to Bolivia to work with World Venture in hosting a soccer camp for the children and members of local villages! They will be partnering with a local church who uses an established sport program through Compassion International to connect with the community. This is a perfect bridge between personal passions and the Gospel and the team is excited to serve the people of Bolivia!

Dates: May 3 – 17

Departure: This team left for the field on Wednesday, May 3. Check back later for updates as they begin their service in Bolivia!

The team has arrive in Bolivia! We got word that the team made it safely to Bolivia (with all their bags!) about an hour ago! Everyone is incredibly excited to be there after a LONG day of travel. Please pray for them today as they receive a bit of cultural orientation, meet their fieldworkers for the first time, and fight to stay awake for the next twelve hours! They landed at about 9 AM their time and need to stay awake until this evening to fight off jet lag, so pray for endurance!

More updates to come soon!

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We made it!

Update #1, Saturday, May 6

Hola de Bolivia!

This is Claire, writing on behalf of the whole team! First off we want to thank you all for keeping up with our journey. Your support in getting us here was huge, and it means the world to us that you want to follow along in this adventure! The last five days have blended together in a bit of a wonderful jumble for us all. We obviously couldn’t share every detail of everything that has happened thus far in this post, but we’ll give you some highlights.

We have a lovely host named Johnny who speaks little English and loves to serve. He quickly got comfortable with our team and is already poking fun at some of us. We eat almost every meal in his home. He even got Becca a cake for her birthday! (Which apparently it’s tradition that you smash your face in your birthday cake. So as to not offend our hosts, we pushed Bec’s face into the cake. She went eyes first…see picture.) It has been a great experience to be welcomed into his home and fed delicious Bolivian food. So far lots of meat and potatoes.

Johnny is the pastor at a local church here in Cochabamba. Sunday we get to go to one of his services. The funny thing is he has asked us to sing a worship song for the church. Soccer players singing as a choir? Go ahead, get your laughter out and then say a prayer for our singing skills. No worries though because Johnny also has an after school ministry where we have had the opportunity to play some fútbol.

There are dirt and concrete fields scattered around Cochabamba so we took a group of high school girls over to one of them near the ministry to play around. It was a blast. The longer we were there the more kids showed up. Manuel was one of the boys that we met. He said he was ten years old, but wow, he was the tiniest ten year old we have ever met. The kid was fearless though. He was half the size of everyone and yet could steal the ball from anyone. He was also a boss in goal. By the time we left he was covered in dirt; he’d been throwing himself everywhere and slide tackling like crazy. Mind you, this was a concrete court. Manuel loved the sport, and what an honor it was to share the game with him.

Today we had some free time in the morning so we decided to hike to the top of the mountain where El Cristo De La Concordia stands. The hike was a kicker, we’re blaming it on the elevation. It was some 2,000 odd steps to the top, and what a view when we got there. The statue is massive, and you can see all of Cochabamba from the top. Such a rad experience.

Tonight we were invited to attend a youth group on the north end of Cochabamba, which is the wealthier side of town, and every kid there had a cell phone. Apparently “selfie” is a universal language. We played some games, and were quizzed on our Bible trivia. To wrap up the night the pastor gave a short message on being strong and courageous in our pursuit for the Lord. Ironically the verse she spoke on was our team verse, Joshua 1:9, which says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

It has been a bit of a challenge not being able communicate with the people well. Yvette has been a life saver for us. Tonight we sat in a youth group attempting to sing worship songs in Spanish alongside Bolivian teenagers. Half the time we didn’t know what we were singing, nor were we singing the words correctly. What matters though was that we were worshipping the same God. A God who understands all languages and loves all nations. The one and only God, who has blessed us with the opportunity to come to Bolivia, and love His people.

More to come in the next couple of days. Until then: Hasta Luego!

Oceans of Love,

Claire

P.S. Shout out to Mama and Papa Cove… and the rest of the fam!
Click on a photo to enlarge it. 
Update #2, Tuesday, May 9

Hola, segundo blog post from team Bolivia!

Since our last update we have created more memories and experienced new adventures! Sunday was a true day of rest for us, as the Bolivian’s practice this to the T. We got to wake up and experience the Lord in a whole new way with a full day in the Lord’s house. As told before, Bolivian time is known as “Latina Tiempo,” which means for our 10 o’clock church service we left at 10 am and the service started at 11:45. It was a beautiful drive up that morning as the church was in the mountains of Cochabamba. Here we gathered in a small church with few adults and mostly children. We got to sing worship songs in Spanish and two of us (CeCe and Hannah), were able to put our musical talents to use by leading with guitar and piano. The BIG KICKER was we all used our musical abilities to sing “Set a Fire” and “How He Loves” during the church service. (Yes, soccer players STILL leading worship, it was two thumbs up!) But the fun didn’t stop there: Who would have thought a water bottle and rocks would entertain us all for the next hour as Claire led us in a game of homemade baseball. This simple game led to so many smiles and laughter creating a warm and loving conclusion to our time in the mountains. 

At lunch we were truly spoiled. We sat down for our usual meals, but there was a surprise halfway through the meal: ICE! Yes, ICE! Bolivians drink their beverages at room temperature, so that was something we had adapted to, but Sunday we were spoiled! (Hallelujah!)  The evening was capped off with a church service at Pastor Johnny’s downtown church. We were kindly welcomed and given the opportunity to hear him preach and once again (with our beautiful voices) we sang a second time.

Monday a new adventure began! We spent mid-morning at a local fútbol court where we brainstormed ideas for our soccer camp we would be leading this week, starting later in the day. But the best part of brainstorming was the post-debrief as we had some extra time to play fútbol as a team. Heading to another new region on Monday, we left around noon to the cities tucked away in the mountains of Cochabamba.  What a beautiful site to see on our way up (see the pictures)! Upon arriving we ate lunch with the kids and shared many laughs trying to understand each other, and then it was time to head to the fútbol courts and began the first day of camp. With a total 80-some campers, we had a blast splitting into groups and focusing on skills and drills before we played some live games! Despite the many different skill levels combined it still brought joy and competition to the many students. Even though it was a long and tiring day, we are powered by the thought that we are continually serving and impacting the lives of those around us. 

Adios for now!

Love, Team Bolivia (Hannah and CeCe)

Update #3: Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hello family and friends!

Becca, here. I hope you’re all doing well and know that we all miss you very much. I know that the past two blog posts were about the amount of fun we have had and the amazing individuals we have come to know. However, I want to share with all of you some of the cultural struggles that we experience on a daily basis. Let us not forget that we are in a third world country and it is not always a walk in the park.

Fun fact: toilet paper is not to be disposed of in the toilet here, it gets disposed of in the trash can. We went to the local fair the other day and had to pay to use the bathroom and we were only given a certain amount of toilet paper to use too. Another cultural struggle we face is water. Water from the facets is unsafe for us to drink so we constantly have to drink from water jugs. We have to brush our teeth with our water bottles in hand. You heard that this past Sunday Johnny spoiled us with ice! What a blessing it was to finally get cold drinks considering most of the beverages here are room temperature or hot.

Let me share with you what we see when we ride around through the streets. Bolivians have their own traffic system and, apparently, pedestrians don’t have the right of way and traffic lights mean nothing. As we drive around it seems like everything is under construction; there are several older individuals doing hard work, like laying concrete down or fixing a house. Reminds me of my grandpa Ramon who worked in his yard till he was 90 years old, something we rarely see in the U.S. The streets are also filled with trash and stray dogs. On Tuesday we went to the soccer court and after a few minutes of playing, we realized there was poop. Everywhere. Coach almost threw up trying to pick it up. Plus, she had a little bit on her leg, but because we were on opposing teams, I didn’t tell her till after we finished playing. Oops. Welcome to Bolivia! LOL.

The kids, both children and teens are the best part of the trip. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to other cultures, but these children are not the best dressed or most hygienic individuals. It is very common to see lice in the hair of the children, their teeth are missing, not because they’re growing up and losing them, but because they’re rotting away. They offer us their food even if that is the only meal they have for the day. This is the reality of the way they live every day and they are still the most beautiful, loving and selfless children. I applaud my team for sincerely diving into the culture and remaining strong, kind and generous with their time, love and effort.

One week down, one week to go! Thank you to our supporters for helping us get here to Bolivia. This is an experience of a lifetime. Thank you, again, for staying with our blog and being on this journey with us. A few of us were feeling a little homesick, but we all received our letters and trust me when I say, we feel so much better! Thank you! We can’t wait to see you all soon.

Shout out to my family (sorry, this may take a while), Dad, Mom, Cisco, Veron, Nico, Baby Garza, Mon, Joe, Chrissy, Baby Romero, Uncle Alex, Angie and Rikki. Miss you so much.

Becca and Team Bolivia

P.S. If you are picking me up from the airport, please have a Starbucks drink waiting. Rikki knows what I get. Thanks, haha (:

Update #4: Saturday, May 13

Hello Friends!

Katie and Aly here with you guys today! What a great journey we have had these past two weeks with our new friends here in Bolivia! Aly and I have realized just how blessed and fortunate we are in the United States. Like our teammates have said in past posts, Bolivia is absolutely gorgeous! There are the rolling hills, beautiful landscapes, and lots of dirt. 🙂 There are many houses, all on top of each other like San Francisco. Even though a large percentage of these houses are either run down, surrounded by debris, or lacking stability, the people inside are filled with joy, generosity, and kindness. Recently we have learned that this culture is known for being relational. One of our mission coordinators Eugene said that when you make a friend in Bolivia it will last for a lifetime. We have most definitely experienced this first hand.

As for these past few days, a squatty potty would have come in handy…as it’s been a real crappy situation! Let’s just say cultural differences in the food here have caught up with some members of the team. Yesterday, half the team stayed behind at base camp while seven of us went out in the morning and played soccer with Bolivian teenagers for an hour. Oh my goodness. Playing against them was almost worse than double days. We’re blaming our 5-4 loss on the altitude and not enough water breaks. We have noticed that the Bolivian culture invests their time and passion into the game of fútbol. Everyone and their mother play this game and fútbol fields here are like Starbuck’s: There’s one on every corner!

Once we had finished playing soccer with the kids, Johnny took our team straight up to the hill to continue our soccer camps that afternoon. Since half the team was there we had to run camp a little differently, but it was still a blast! Pastor Johnny had an outreach day for both the teenagers and the little kids and asked them if they wanted to accept Christ into their heart. Angels were rejoicing in heaven as so many children accepted Christ into their hearts yesterday and today, it was absolutely amazing to watch! Being able to witness the integration of faith and sports in another culture touched us in more ways than we can express.

One of the best things about the end of camp each day is snack time! Reminds us of when we played Rec Soccer and we got orange slices and Capri Suns after the game, but they do it a little different here by handing out cookies juice in bags (Yes, bags. You rip off a piece of the corner with your tooth and then drink from the bag from there).

To start the day this morning (Friday) the team had the opportunity to play soccer against at a local school in Cochabamba and after playing on this field Coach told us we can never complain about our fields back home at Jessup! If we were to describe this field and could only use one word it would be DIRT. Although the field wasn’t what we expected, we ended up having a ton of fun with the kids! (We actually won 3-2, but the 10-minute period turned into us all saying,  “let them score so we can end in a tie.”) All in all these past two days have been a blast! Thank you for your continuous support and prayers!

Shout outs to the Barrs: Thanks mom for quizzing me on my Spanish cards on the way to school, it has come in handy. Erin, I miss you… only a couple more days! Nate and Papa (as the French would say) “happy soon to birthday woot woot!” Miss you Josh! Love you all!

And to Camerer’s: Eric, I hope you passed your driver’s test and didn’t crash my car! Mom & Dad, I love you! And Morgan, please bring me Cheez-Its when I get back. Jared, hang in there. (Haha) Miss you all!

Update #5: Monday, May 15

Hello Friends and Family!

Yvette and Delaney here, writing the latest blog post!

Saturday was our last day up at the soccer camp, so to cap off the week we played two championship games between the older kids and set out to prove our skills as the chicas from the United States. Those of us with cleats strapped them on to face the boys, who were all dressed in Barcelona jerseys attempting to play like Messi. We were sending up silent praises to the Lord because we got some turf to play on! The field was a tad smaller than a normal soccer field so that meant less running and, honestly, the altitude gets to ya so it was a real blessing. The boys got to show us what Bolivian soccer in Alto Cochabamba was all about! They were good but we matched them up well, ending in a 1-1 tie. The younger girls watched on the sidelines, cheering us on, chanting each of our names; while the younger boys were just eager to get on the field for their turn once we were done. The game only lasted about 30 minutes, with a water break half-way through, but we were so tired after.

We had about a ten-minute break until the next game and the Bolivians thought waters weren’t enough for our respite, so they shoved cold ice cream down our throats before we had to get up and play another game. Some of us thought we would be sick, but we managed to keep it down while we played the girls in a much more relaxed game. This time around there wasn’t as much competition and we beat them by a fair number, while still maintaining a high level of fun! It was a blast ending the camp with those games and, based on the laughter and smiles all around, we think the kids enjoyed it just as much as we did.

When both games ended we got our cameras out, the kids all got out their phones, and so a photo session commenced. Lots of hugs were exchanged and yet not enough photos were taken. These kids blessed us so much in this one week it was so hard to know this was our last encounter with them. Their smiles, as big (and at times toothless) as they were meant so much to us. They enjoyed every moment and showered us with love from their endless hugs and thoughtful gestures. We shared one final service where Pastor Johnny gave a beautiful message and the school principal proceeded to thank us for coming, but honestly we could not thank them enough for the impact they made on our lives. Our hearts were so full from just this one week with them, making it so hard to say adios. Many more hugs were shared and even a few tears were shed as we said our final goodbyes. Hopefully they will continue their walk with Christ with as much passion as they have for the beautiful game we all love. 

After a couple of hours of rest back at the office we prepared to take on a shopping trip to the local market, and so came our first encounter with Bolivian public transportation! As we all lined up on the corner of the street waiting for taxis to drive by, our brave guide Eunice called over three taxis, told them where to go, had us hop in five at a time, trusted that we would be reunited at our destination and off we went! Don’t worry: We were all reunited without any trouble. : Once we arrived at the market Eunice lead the way guiding us past various vendor stands toward a multitude of tightly packed shops. At first we wandered through shops as a big group but then we got comfortable and were on the hunt for specific items with a buddy. We could not believe how cheap things were with the American dollar being equal to six Bolivianos. After 2 hours of shopping, we wrapped up our purchases, hopped in taxis and headed over to Johnny’s house for dinner. We were served Pique which is essentially the Bolivian equivalent to chili fries and, needless to say, we asked for seconds.

This morning we all loaded up in the van to head back up to Mollinos, the mountain church we visited last Sunday. This time we were welcomed by the familiar faces of those we had spent time with the previous week. As we entered the small, cement building we each took a seat and enjoyed worship, a sermon on John 3:1-16, and birthday celebrations (including singing, prayer, and hugs from everyone) for all who had birthdays in May, including our very own Becca. With it being Mother’s Day we were all excited FaceTime with our families. Once we had all made our calls and shared our love with our families, it was time for dinner. Once grandma had prayed, we all dug in to the two Hawaiian pizzas (with peaches) that were the size of a dining room table! Full of pizza we all relaxed and talked for hours. Finally, as we were leaving we were gifted with handmade Bolivian pins as memories.

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time here and so many memories have been made thus far. These next few days are going to fly bye but we will cherish them always. Until next time!!

Shout out to my Perez Familia! Thanks for speaking Spanish with me all these years, ‘cause boy oh boy has that helped this trip!! To my friends from Jessup who wrote me cards, those meant so much to me and I was so touched by all the thoughtful things you had to say! Mom, Dad, Walrus – See you soon and cannot wait to eat your home cooked meal!! Marco & Isaac (if you’re even reading this) – Don’t worry, I got you more than airplane peanuts as a souvenir this trip!! The rest of my fam, Tias, Tios and many Primos- I love you all so much and I will see you guys soon!

Shout out to the Langstaff fam! I love and miss you all!! Happy Mother’s Day Grandma, Mom, Haley, and Mary Beth!! Mom, Dad, Haley, Jake, and Josh- I will see you soon (only 3 more days)!  Please give lots of hugs and kisses to Kins and Liv for me! Roop family- I will be over as soon as I get home! Also, thank you so much to everyone who wrote me letters, they meant the world!! Finally, I want to thank my church family, friends, and everyone who has supported our team on this journey!!

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Update #6: Wednesday, May 17

Family and friends,

Maria here with our final update! As our time in Bolivia quickly neared the end, we headed in a completely different direction than we had previously ministered in and got to experience another way of culture and living here in Cochabamba. On both Monday and Tuesday we headed to a school drastically different than the one we had just attended the whole week before. This school had finished buildings, flushing toilets, play grounds for the children to play on, computers, organized sports teams, snack bars, matching uniforms, and students and teachers that spoke English. Privileged children between grades K-12 filled the school that made me forget that I was in a third world country. The time we spent at the school was split between different P.E. classes where we played soccer and volleyball with the students. Although we only spent two days with these students, it was obvious the difference between the way we felt saying goodbye to our friends at the other school than the students here. 

When I heard that the students spoke English I thought it would be easier to connect with them, but I was wrong. Even though the children treated us with kindness, they barely noticed our presence and it almost felt like we were just another guest attending their school for a couple of days. It didn’t feel like they needed our ministry in their lives and I left feeling like we didn’t have an as great an impact on their lives as we did on the other children we met. However, spending the last two days here was a great reminder to each of us on the team of all the things we learned while serving here in Bolivia. Most importantly, we were reminded that a communication barrier doesn’t stop people’s hearts from connecting, that love is universal, and that one doesn’t need much to live life fully, happily, and joyfully. 

The last full night we had in Cochabamba was spent enjoying one another’s company. After taking a more-than-full public bus for the first (and thankfully the last) time back to the office we headed up to El Christo De Concordia, to finish our time in Bolivia where it first started. No, we didn’t hike up those 2,500 steps again. Luckily our favorite driver, Jose Louise, got us safely up to the top of the mountain one last time in the Dragon Wagon. We spent our last full sunset overlooking the beautiful city and mountains of Cochabamba and captured priceless memories on Claire’s polaroid that will last us a lifetime. We finished off the night with a team debrief where we disused the highs, the lows, the laughs, and the tears. It’s amazing that there was still so much to learn about one another even though we spend hours together on a daily basis at home. 

Our mission in Bolivia was to perform God’s will, share the Gospel, and to hopefully make a difference in someone’s life along the way. I didn’t realize that it would be the people of Cochabamba touching our hearts and changing our lives. We have been so fortunate to have had this opportunity to serve God and to have met so many of the kindest, most loving people. While we are all happy to return home to our loved ones, we are saddened to leave behind those we grew to love. A huge thank you to everyone who supported us throughout this journey. It is because of all of you that God’s work will continue on in Cochabamba. We are all so grateful for this opportunity and the wonderful people we met along the way that left a lasting impact on all of our hearts. The smiles, memories, laughs, tears, and new friends will last forever. 

Adios for now Bolivia! 

Maria

Shout out to my momma and sister, Adriana. I love you both and can’t wait to see you soon! 

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Team Return: Team Bolivia made it home safely! Thank you to everyone who prayed along with their ministry efforts and supported them through reading their blog updates! Check out stories from our other teams!