Opening the Curtains
Changes are more noticeable after a period of absence, especially with children. The incremental changes from day to day often compound into a dramatic difference. The last 3 years have had their share of change, some of which has been by no means incremental, so, a return to Chile and Bolivia after such an absence bluntly revealed the effects of recent global upheaval.
In Santiago, Chile, the once elegant pedestrian malls are now open street markets. Prices spiral upwards, borders become irrelevant, and urban art has reached the walls of the cathedral.
In Bolivia the streets are clogged with protesting miners, and the city blocks previously dedicated to shops for tourists have been reduced to a single quiet street. There are no tourists.
Travel that previously was smooth and routine become an itinerary with cancellations and lost days as airlines struggle to staff their flights.
There is a tangible sense of agitation in the air.
Although the scenery around La Paz is breath-taking, the gasp on arrival is generally a result of the shortage of oxygen there at 14,000 above sea level. The ecclesia in La Paz is the highest on earth and gives new meaning to Isaiah 2:2. The 7 brethren in La Paz had been meeting online and this visit provided to opportunity to dust off the little hall and recommence a regular meeting.
The experience of meeting again after a period of online interaction seem to universally endorse the inadequacy of later despite its utility during the difficult time through which we have passed. It provides a new energy and impetus which was evident among all the brothers and sisters visited on this trip.
In La Paz, this experience was augmented because this first weekend of meeting again was also the occasion of the baptism of Cristian Mamani. Brother Cristian had studied for a number of years, most recently online from various parts of the world. He gave a tremendous confession of faith and his baptism brought together with the ecclesia the two sisters who live outside La Paz, and Cristian’s parents and relatives. In keeping with the age, the baptism was also transmitted via Zoom.
The ecclesia in La Paz has now reinitiated its regular programme. This visit was the first to La Paz since Brother Isaiah and Sister Rosie Tunnell returned to New Zealand having weathered nearly 2 years in Bolivia while the pandemic raged. The ecclesia here is well and in good spirits while waiting for the Lord’s return.
A similar situation to that in Bolivia existed in Santiago, Chile: a small office previously used for meetings lay semi-abandoned after months of online meeting. The effect was made worse as at some stage the window had blown ajar, and everything was covered in dust to lunar proportions.
Emerging from their isolation came two brothers and two friends with renewed energy for the gospel and in the case of our friend, renewed desire to be baptised in the near future.
Further south, near the city of Temuco, the ecclesia of 4 got together on the small farm belonging to the family of one of our sisters. Near the lake Villarrica and under the shadow of its volcano the opportunity to broaden fellowship, break bread, and study God’s word reached levels of beauty matching the natural backdrop.
When we come across examples where adversity is no match for a commitment to the Gospel truth, when it, in fact, firms up that commitment and makes it clearer than ever that there are no alternatives, then we know we have found the spirit of Peter:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68