The view from Felix and Clemi’s fifth-floor guest apartment looks out over La Paz and to the mountains beyond. Not only is the view spectacular, sun floods the room with warmth every afternoon, as we’ve had the privilege to experience on two occasions since our return to Bolivia.
We’ve known Felix Huarina and his wife, Clementina, since 1972 when we first came to Bolivia as young inexperienced missionaries. Felix was part of the youth group at the big New Jerusalem Friends Church in La Paz. When he found out I had been involved in theater, he invited me to work with him in writing and directing dramas with the young people. That began a long friendship.
We attended the wedding of Felix and Clemi during our first term in Bolivia, and later, when Orpha and Iber joined the family, their parents asked us to be the childrens’ padrinos (god-parents). As part of our duties, we performed the rutuchi ceremony when the kids were still little. This is when the god-parents cut the kids’ hair and shave their heads, indicating that these are no longer infants; they have entered the next stage of life. (People believe that shaving the heads of children causes their hair to grow back thicker and more beautiful.)
It seemed to be joyful occasion for Felix and Clemi, but rather traumatic for the kids. They survived. That was a long time ago.
Now, whenever we return to La Paz, we are still made to feel part of the family. Felix and Clemi have constructed a five-story apartment building so that their kids can live with them, each with their own apartment. They tell us that the top story is for us, and they really do want us to move in. For practical reasons, we won’t be doing that, but it is a great weekend retreat.
Two weeks ago, Hal got sick enough that we called Felix to get a reference to a good clinic. He told us on the phone, “Stay there. We’ll be right over.” When he and Orpha got here, they told us to pack a bag, that we were coming home with them. Orpha’s husband, Milton, is a medical doctor, and he was able to diagnose Hal’s problem and get the necessary medication. That, plus Clemi’s chicken soup, and time in a warm sunny atmosphere got him over the hump.
Since then, we’ve been back once again to relax with the extended family and spend the night.
We see Felix frequently other times, too, as he is a member of the history commission we’re a part of. He is a film-maker by profession (and a radio broadcaster), and he is in charge of making the documentary movie to summarize the 100-year history of the Bolivian Friends Church.
Thank God for long term friendships. Thank God for our family away from home.
Dr. Milton with Orpha (whose hair grew back)
Iber, now a computer specialist, with his family
Felix (film-maker), on right, with other members of our history team