We’ve been in La Paz three weeks now. Yearly Meeting has passed, and Friends are back to work. For me that means hours of going through INELA documents for the 1980s, deciding what might have relevance for that chapter of the history, scanning, transferring to my computer, filing. I’m preparing for the work of analysis and writing I’ll be doing back in the US for the rest of 2016. I hope to bring the project up to 2010 by the end of the year, and I’m beginning to wonder if my goal may be too ambitious. The amount of paper to paddle through is daunting. And that’s even before I get to the archives back home in Newberg.
One of my ways to rest and play is reading, and my iPad is loaded with good books for this trip. One of the best, so far (and probably for the rest of the year), is Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, a book of historical fiction that takes place in France during World War II. The protagonists are two children, a blind French girl and a poor German orphan boy, on opposite sides of the war, both struggling through tragic circumstances, yet with minds-alive, eager to learn. They both manage to find good, the light hidden in this awful time in history.
The title sticks with me and is helping me find my way through the history of Friends in Bolivia. Much of the INELA’s story takes place in a background of oppression and struggle, and some of the internal patterns that emerge are dark. The human side of the church has to be acknowledged. I’m continually asking myself, “Where is Jesus in all of this?” I’m seeking the footprints of the Spirit, the grace that, however hidden, was there at every turn of events.
It helps to identify the evidence of God’s Spirit, alive and well today. Grace sightings. Here are a few that have popped up in these few weeks we’ve been here:
--The faithful, dedicated work of members of our history team, especially Humberto, Felix and Victoria. All the investigative trips out to interview old Friends have borne fruit, but have required sacrifice and hard work. Victoria’s patient work in the yearly meeting archives is finally bringing order out of chaos. (Victoria, above)
--The camaraderie and fellowship our team enjoys. It brings to life the concept that “The joy of the Lord is our strength,” and that this joy is often found in relationships as God’s children work together on a certain task.
--Sharing a meal with Palermo and Olivia, learning how God is helping them overcome economic hardships and build a life for themselves as young professionals.
--Sharing another meal with Tim and Elise, rejoicing in their new home and how it has opened up for them possibilities of ministry and hospitality. Tim is yearly meeting superintendent and represents a new generation of professional Aymara Quaker leadership. I sense in him the humility to relate to his past with gratitude, even as he moves forward.
--The joy of worshipping in the Aymara language, another vehicle of grace.
--The doves that coo above our door in the early morning. The sound of the hard rains that pound the roof at night.
--Fresh bread, fried country cheese, mangos and papayas any time we want them.
--Sun light illuminating the sides of the city that climbs the walls of this canyon called La Paz. The buildings shine. The distant Andes Mountains rise above them.