Saturday, April 20th 2002. Four of us met at Frank Doolin's house, Frank, JW Peavy, Darrell Peavy and I. We left at about 3:00 PM and drove to the Miami Airport. We met the rest of the CWE crew at the ticket counter. Including the four of us, there was a total of seventeen people, thirteen men and four women. We left about midnight and flew all night, landing at the La Paz Bolivia airport just before sunrise. La Paz is an airport located at an elevation of approximately 15,000 ft. according to our pilot.
We left La Paz after a short stop to drop off passengers and pick up others and departed for Santa Cruz. No sooner had we taken off from the airport, we were looking down on snow capped mountains. The scenery from the air went from snow capped peaks to dark green forest covered mountains. They appeared to not have any roads or signs of any type of human touch. Less than an hour into the flight we left the mountains and descended over a low lying plain with fields of every shade of green and landed at Viru Viru airport just north of Santa Cruz and proceeded through customs without a hitch. Tony Henderson, (the missionary pastor), met us at the airport. Our luggage was loaded onto two small buses and we drove just a few miles down the road and across the highway to a small neighborhood of dirt streets and quaint masonry homes.
We unloaded the bus and began to unpack and set up a tool room in order to have all the tools readily accessible. We assembled the tools that had been disassembled for the flight. We then proceeded to help the ladies unpack all the food we had brought with us and get the kitchen set up. Darrell and I saw a few kids in the building that was being used as their church.
We both had brought toys for the kids. I found a boy named Oswaldo and gave him a little ball and a toy car. He immediately began playing soccer with the ball. He had two sisters, Felicidad and Abigail. I didn't notice until after I returned hone that in this picture on the first day, the girls were not smiling. Perhaps it was just the confusion of meeting new people and not knowing why they were there. The blank faces soon turned to smiles when Darrell began to juggle three tennis balls.
They got a real kick out of that. We hadn't gotten much sleep on the airplane so we were quite tired. We took our baggage and headed for our rooms. It wasn't quite like staying at the Hilton but we had beds, for that we were thankful. There were two sides to the building, each about 20 ft by 20 ft and divided into two bedrooms, another small room and a bathroom.
The bedrooms had two sets of bunk beds each so we could sleep eight on each side of the building. The bathroom consisted of a toilet (yes, when you flush it it goes down counter clockwise) and a shower. There was no hot water. There was a heater attachment on the shower head but I didn't really feel comfortable turning on an electric heater while standing in water. I took a nap and so did some of the others. After a short while I found out that one of my roommates had a snoring problem, it was time to get up.
I went back outside and found the three children. I had brought some clothes that my own girls had outgrown and gave some of them to Felicidad and Abigail. They and their father Oswaldo were thankful. That evening after dinner we got together for church. Abigail showed up and sat with me wearing her new shirt and bracelet.
The evening service began with singing. Abigail had to show me which page the songs were on because I couldn't understand enough Spanish to find it on my own. I tried singing in Spanish. I'm sure I butchered it but I sure tried. After service I gave out some toy cars for the boys and hair bands for the girls. They were just simple ones, nothing fancy. All the kids and the adults seemed to have such warm hearts. They appeared to be truly happy people.
Arising early Monday morning we went across the street to the job site to find a foundation and piles of block and brick. We began by building the columns on each side of the building, by lunchtime ten columns had been erected and it was time to start on the brick. We went to the kitchen and had lunch. The kitchen was a small simple building with one large room for cooking and congregation and a small room in the back where the ladies slept and showered. I loved the atmosphere of that room. Little did I know that in the weeks to come lives would be changed around that little room. At lunch time we took the opportunity to share testimonies of what brought us on the trip and a little about each of our backgrounds. Of the seventeen people that came, there were only two full time masons, for a week of building that was going to be 95 percent masonry work. There was Frank Doolin from our church in Lakeland Fl. and a man named Steve from Michigan. Steve works for Dale Oskey, Dale was suppose to come on the trip but couldn't make it so he sent his son Aaron. Aaron told us early on in the trip that he was unsure whether or not Steve knew Christ. Aaron was a young man and he and Darrell seemed to get along well.
I shared a room with Darrell, Aaron and another younger man named Justin, also known as Super Justin and Carpman. He earned the name Carpman by driving nails in his bed on which to hang his odds and ends. I had brought several small balls to the kids at church. My roommates and I had a great time throwing those balls against the wall in our room and trying to hit each other in the dark. You would think everyone had settled down and was sleeping and then you would hear the sound of a ball bouncing against a wall and then someone letting out a grunt as they were hit by the ball. We began this because of the snorer. We thought that if he started snoring we could throw a ball at him and wake him enough to stop the snoring. It never worked. One night Darrell even beat him with a pillow and it didn't stop him.
Tuesday morning we began work again at sunrise. The weather was very nice, it was hot when it was sunny but we seemed to get a nice breeze most of the day and the clouds often shielded us from the heat of the sun. Paul had picked us up some nice straw hats. I think he said they were about seventy-five cents a piece. They also helped keep the sun off our necks. On Tuesday I was given the task of building the baptistery. It is all block. My bricklaying the previous day did not go so well so I stuck to laying block (by request). Every so often I would need a block cut. The Bolivians were there all day helping us. If you'll notice, you'll see they were creative when it came to making hats. They all seemed to be hard workers. I was amazed how even though we did not speak the same language, we could communicate through body language and what little of each others language we did know.
While building the front columns of the church I noticed a man casually riding by on his horse, probably going to town.
The children would walk across the field on the way to and from school. I caught Abigail and Oswaldo on the way back from lunch and their dad took a picture of us.
Each night after dinner we would sit around and have a devotional time. We would share what was happening in our lives and stories of past trips. Playing games was also a big part of the evening. Most evenings pastor Tony and his wife Sarah would join us. They had a small son, Tyler and a newborn baby. J W was holding the baby and Darrell snatched the camera and took a picture.
One night Frank, Steve and I took a walk around the neighborhood, we walked past a church up the road a ways. A young man was giving out tracts. I learned that night not to follow Frank, he is not good with directions. Thursday began with rain, it rained most of the day. We were unable to lay any block or brick so some of the guys played soccer in the big building that was being used for the church. Frank fell into a puddle of water on the floor that had 220 volts going through it. He wasn't down long and his hair became more strait.
That afternoon we went shopping in downtown Santa Cruz. Paul took us all out to dinner at a nice restaurant and then we shopped for souvenirs.
Each night before devotions we would sing a few songs out of our song book. I was chosen as the song leader. We wanted to sing a special at the midweek service for the Bolivians so we took our strongest song, "Victory in Jesus" and sang the verses in English and the choruses in Spanish. I accompanied us with a guitar and we asked the Bolivians to sing the chorus with us. We had a lot of fun that night. Before the service Abigail was helping me practice. I had the Spanish song book and tried singing the chorus, she sang along the whole time looking at me funny, laughing at my butchered Spanish.
During the service, a small boy named Jorge sang a special with Pastor Tony directing and Tony's wife Sarah playing the piano. The entire service was translated into sign language by a young girl. I never met her but she did a fine job. After the service we took some photos with some of the people of the church.
That night while we were playing dominoes, I noticed Paul and Steve having a discussion. They took a couple of chairs outside and spoke some more. An hour or so later I found out that Paul had the opportunity to lead Steve to the Lord. Aaron said he saw something different in Steve's look, he knew what had happened without even being told.
Friday was our last day to work, we were on the job when the sun came up and the
last brick was laid that evening, finishing our part of the project right on
That night I gave the kids a coloring book and crayons and colored with them. Little Oswaldo laughed so hard at the animal characters in his coloring book. He never seemed to catch on that I didn't understand a word he said, he just kept right on talking and laughing.
The last night I snapped a picture of Oswaldo (the dad) and his two daughters in their new clothes.
Felicidad and her dad stopped me on the way back to my room for the night to give me a thank you gift. It is a coloring of a man and two girls playing outside. I think that was the most touching part of my stay. She wrote thank you on it. Neither she nor her dad knew any English so they must have gone through the trouble of asking either Tony or his wife how to spell it. It is truly a gift from the heart. Oswaldo also gave me a one boliviano coin, it's worth about fifteen cents and the average laborer makes about seven dollars day when he's working so I know was a lot for him.
Saturday morning we were awakened at about five AM to the sound of a guitar
playing and people singing in Spanish. The people of the church had come out
early to see us off. The songs they sang were "The Lily Of The Valley" and
"Victory In Jesus" Those two songs will never sound the same to me again.
As we were loading up, someone found a snake in among their suitcases, Julio beat it with a stick. I'm glad it was found on the day we left. I snapped one last picture of the church just before we loaded up to leave.
We had too many people to fit in the one bus so we piled seventeen people into a
little Nissan pickup. There were so many people that when we got to the airport,
we had to get out of the truck because it couldn't make it over the speed bump
due to the tires hitting the body of the truck. The people of the church saw us
off and we had an uneventful flight back to Miami.
Upon my arrival home, Kathy and the girls had a welcome home banner waiting for me and we sat up for hours telling of the trip.
Finished building, this picture taken at the end of the third week