June 14, 2013

“Shores of the utmost West, ye that have waited long….”

By Sister Colleen Uiga

Bible class with an interested contact and some of the La Paz memebers“Do you believe in the things concerning the kingdom of God and the nombre de Jesucristo?” No matter the language, country or even continent, our hearts thrill to hear the words, to see the actions that proclaim “Yes, si.” A father baptizes his own daughter and they become brethren in an instant, standing with a long line of witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. She is not only a new sister in Christ, but the third generation in a family to take on that name through the preaching efforts there.

I had never wanted to visit South America. Firstly, not knowing Spanish seemed like an insurmountable hurdle. Second, what can one person do? Two sisters? Yet at the beginning of 2013 Sister Jamie Cawston and I were blessed and inspired to travel and meet the four Sisters Colleen Uiga, Milena Barboza and Jamie Cawston in Cordobamembers of the La Paz, Bolivia ecclesia (now five!), and witness the spiritual birth of the fourth member of the Cordoba, Argentina ecclesia.

Their numbers are small, but there is much potential. In Bolivia, most people welcome receiving pamphlets, and often time there are between 5 and 15 visitors at Thursday night bible class, Sunday morning exhortation or Sunday School. Some of the visitors have been attending faithfully for years; others take one of the multitudes of correspondence courses. Some do both, and one contact even asked if there were any more courses after completing all of the series’ written! The courses cover a multitude of topics, including first principles, bible events, and the life of Christ. While we were there, we supported those who were working long term: talking to contacts, correcting correspondence courses, and assisting the missionary family with whatever they found for our hands to do. Warm smiles and the tight hugs of the brethren greeted us, crossing all cultural and language boundaries, and many of the brethren and contacts spoke some measure of English. We often received the questions, “When are you coming back?  Do you like our city?”

Fruit stand in La PazThe city of La Paz is a metropolis at somewhere between 10,000 and 13,500 foot elevation, hemmed in on all sides by the mountains looming above. Llamas graze in the hills surrounding the area, and busy markets abound with colors too bright for our drab Western eyes. Street corners and parking lots are filled with garments made of fine woven work, beads, instruments, or produce; all sold by polite and gentle bargainers. “Yes, we do like your city, and would like to return if the Lord wills,” we would reply to the oft asked questions above.

The next stop after some adventures southward was Cordoba, Argentina. Here we witnessed the baptism spoken of above, and saw the next generation of brethren strengthened by the addition of one young sister. Here we had the opportunity to encourage her and her family to Friends and family at Milena's baptism in Cordobawalk in the way of life, as well as meet many other contacts thirsting for the good news. Again, the questions arise from many of the brethren and contacts, “Do you like Cordoba?  Will you come visit us again soon?” The city of Cordoba is a center of art and culture that transports one to the streets of Italy or Spain with street performers, jugglers, magicians and merchants all weaving their way through the mostly pedestrian crowd. Mate (tea) drinking groups of people lounge and chat of politics, religion and many other things while the ancient bells of the Catholic cathedral witness the incontrovertible passage of time.

The ecclesia at La PazIn countries with many ecclesias, we are blessed to know the fellowship of hundreds, and even thousands of brethren. When we visited South America, we saw the universality of the hope of Israel, our hope, our fellowship, and the one body of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether by many or by few, the Lord continues to call out a people for his name. Please remember in your prayers, and with your visits if possible, the workers in far off vineyards and our brethren of all nations, tribes and tongues. May we all faithfully strive until that day when the Great Shepherd gathers all of his sheep into one fold, and may we all be waiting to hear his voice!

Sister Colleen Uiga (Norfolk, VA)

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