The time was right and we felt the need to risk spending $200 to make the trip. It was still rainy season, and, in fact, it had been raining a lot. But we had the time and needed to try and regain contact with Blas, the man who led the medical team into his village in November. Since there is no phone signal in his village, we would drive into the trailhead village, Sikimirani, and leave a message with his daughter who attends the boarding school there. That is, if we could cross the river just 10 km this side of the village.
Another motivating factor was to learn about the road conditions going into this region from Cochabamba. Weeks earlier, DJ had found an important bridge on Google Earth that made that connection possible and maybe even shorter. But was it still there? In good condition? We needed to find out. So off we went, prayerfully.
Leaving Cochabamba, we bumped along the rough dirt road toward "the bridge." The barren country, covered with a thin blanket of alpine vegetation was dotted with huge boulders and piles of rocks. At times a creek or waterfall poked its way downhill. Occasionally, herds of llamas, alpacas or sheep blocked the road. We passed farmers plowing with their oxen, other digging potatoes, and still others turning the ground with simple tools. It was beautiful and refreshing.
As the afternoon sun slipped away, we arrived in the little village of Cocapata. To our surprise, we noticed a clinic built by Mano a Mano and decided to stop in for a visit. After chatting with the staff for an hour or so, we asked if there was any place in the town where we could stay. They chuckled a little, the town being too small to even have a market, and offered to let us stay in the overnight care room at the clinic. Two happy and well-fed campers left the clinic the next morning as the warm, early-morning sun began to peek over the mountains.
From Cocapata, the road descended 6,000 ft. into a large river valley. There at the bottom we found "the bridge." It was not as we had expected: scary, decrepit and dangerous. In fact, it looked sturdy and well maintained! Once on the other side, we drove through a small town where we asked for directions. The friendly locals informed us of a landslide on a section of road coming in from the La Paz side. We had originally thought of returning that way, but if we had tried, and had to turn around, we would have run out of gas.
The river valley and the bridge at the bottom crossing the large river.
Continuing on, we crossed several swift-moving creeks and climbed up the other side of the river valley to about 10,000 ft. We finally made it to the biggest question of the trip: the river just before the trailhead village. To our surprise, DJ was able to walk all the way across and not get wet above his knees!
Just then, a blue pickup truck crossed over and stopped right beside where we were standing. Opening his door, he extended a friendly greeting. After explaining what we were doing and why, we mentioned that we were Seventh-Day Adventists and that there were members of our church in these villages. He began to open up and tell us bits and pieces of his own journey with Adventism, including studying at an Adventist University, living with American missionaries and marrying an Adventist. A few locals had gathered to watch the crossings and one of them even offered to let us stay in some empty rooms in the village center during our next trip!
Shortly thereafter, Samson was crossing the river and picking his way up the switchbacks on the other side. Within half an hour we arrived at Sikimirani. We sat and chatted with the gatekeeper's wife and asked how we might find Blas' daughter. As we were about to go and look for the schoolteacher, Blas' daughter walked right by! Shyly she took the paper with the message for her father. After visiting with some church members on the other side of the valley, we headed back, hoping to get across the river and creek crossings before rains swelled them again.
"Trailhead village," Sikimirani.
The following week, our new friend in the blue truck scheduled a meeting for us with the mayor (the highest authority) of the Inquisivi Province, the area we want to work in. As we found out, he and his wife are Adventists from a small village across the valley from Sikimirani. Apparently, for many years there was an Adventist school there staffed by missionaries. They attended it as children (along with Blas, our trail guide) and that is the reason they are all still in the faith! Until just five years ago, it was a five-day hike in from the nearest road, donkeys being the only method of transporting cargo. The mayor offered to support us in any way he could, beginning by endorsing our project during the regional meetings the following week.
Looking across the Valley from Sikimirani to Patoco, the village with an Adventist primary school years ago.
We see God's hand guiding this project clearly. It's thrilling to get to know God so personally and see Him opening the way ahead of us! What a privilege to work for the Lord! We can hardly wait to see how God uses an airplane to speed the process of reaching these precious people with the news of His love and soon return. Thank you all for your prayers and support of the work in the mountains and highlands of Bolivia! God is reaping great things on your investments here!
God has impressed us to move toward building a Super Cub from a kit. This means our first goal is the $10,000 kit deposit and we're half way there! Stay tuned for more details!
Samson recently got some new safety features installed: More lights to illuminate dark mountain roads and front seat belts, especially important for the 55mph highway driving.
The Pathfinder club at our local church has been quite active. In the past month we've had a garage sale, arranged for uniforms, and been out to the mountains. Please pray for Club Siba and the lives being changed through this ministry.
We need some funds to buy a few more tents, a tarp, t-shirts, and a few other smaller items. If you're interested in helping, please send me an email: email@example.com
Much to all of our surprise, God is calling the Eno family on to another mission project. While we all thought their stay in Bolivia would be much longer, we trust that God's plans are best. They've been an encouragement to us during these last six months and we ask that you will continue to pray for them as they embark on this next step of faith.
Top Project Needs:
1. Airplane - Super Cub ($5,435 needed for 1st step)
2. Vehicle - Land Cruiser Ambulance ($18,500 remaining)