Friday, March 10, 2017

A Drought in Watertown

DJ & Jodi's February Update

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A Drought in Watertown


Where is Umamarca in all this fog? I stop to catch my breath, searching for the vague shapes of the packhorses on the mountain above. In Aymara the name means "the village with much water." During our October visit the village had been in an annual drought and we were scooping stagnant water from a small hole behind Pascual's adobe hut. Now it is February and the lush vegetation soaks us from the knees down as we switchback up through the darkening drizzle. There is no doubt that Umamarca will live up to its name this time.

The next morning, dry and warm in the mountain sunshine, I'm still thinking about water. The village leaders Pascual, Mario and Fermin are the first to arrive at the schoolhouse. While the dentist's first injection of anesthesia is taking effect, I pray with the team and we read from the Bible. Psalm 1 "…He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season…" and Jeremiah 17 "…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord…For he shall be like a tree….which spreads out its roots by the river…and will not fear when heat comes…and will not be anxious in the year of drought…" We talk about the living object lesson that we saw in the valleys we crossed yesterday with Fermin. The biggest, strongest trees grow down where the rivers run unceasingly. The men listen stoically and I dare not guess how they are receiving this.

As the stars come out, Alex and I sit in the dim light of a lantern with our generous helpings of potato soup. The rest of the group is staying with another family farther up the hill. Our conversation pours back over the events of the day. More than just the supply of water has changed here since our previous visits. This time our team arrived with the help of the village chief and his horses. Fermin has already promised help for the return trip tomorrow. Though this collaboration is a first for the people of Umamarca, that isn't all. Today Leandra's daughter asked for prayer over her newborn baby and Mario told me he wanted to be baptized! The way these pieces of trust and openness blindsided me is a reminder of how little I understand of this culture.

We both look up as the rough door bellows on it's wooden hinges and our host comes in. At 30, Pedro is the youngest man in the village, but I have some clues that despite his youth and quiet manner, he is a leader. He sits down next to Alex, and brushing off our attempts at small talk, uncharacteristically gets right to his point. "We want to be baptized." I try to find my tongue but he continues. "You know there used to be an Adventist church here; it has fallen down and there is nothing left. We have drifted away from God." Alex and I still haven't recovered from the first shock so he goes on, "My Dad was a believer before he died. I was baptized too. We want to come back to God.… The people are ready to rebuild the church."

He continues telling us of the days when Adventists walked hours from Quiñouma, Vacas and Vischachani to worship with the Umamarcans. As I listen to the thickly accented Spanish my mind turns back with painful clarity to our first visit in 2015 when we were almost turned away by the village leaders.

Suddenly the theme of water, that I haven't been able to forget for these last two days, comes clearly into focus. We had noticed how the rains brought new life and growth to Umamarca, ending the annual drought. But until this moment we were unaware of the gentle showers of the Holy Spirit, doing something far more wonderful in hearts and souls.

DJ, Jodi & co.
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