Tuesday, September 25, 2012

La Paz: city of uncertain peace

Today is our last day in La Paz. Early tomorrow morning we head down to the tropical city of Santa Cruz, adding about 40 degrees to the temperature, plus a much welcomed increased percentage of oxygen in the air. I’ve been looking forward to breathing again.
Our16 days in La Paz have been good, but as usual this lovely city has not lived up to her name. On the social and civic level, the background music for our stay has been fire crackers that recently upgraded to dynamite. We are in the middle of a civil war between two groups of Bolivian miners: those employed by the government since the nationalization of the mines and those belonging to the labor unions. Both groups are claiming rights to the Colquiri mine in the mountains south of La Paz. The government has made promises to both groups and it is finding it difficult to reconcile these promises. There have been marches and clashes, with some causalities in the center of the city. Roads to other parts of the country have been blocked. (We’re told that the road to the airport is still open. We hope it stays that way.)
This is not strange. With the radical changes to the Bolivian constitution and the increasing participation of the indigenous populations in government, this is a time of major transition. Transitions never happen smoothly, so much of this is to be expected.
Our consultation on gospel and culture officially ended on Saturday, but we are all realizing that this conversation is a beginning. Aymaras are action-oriented, and the expectations for this gathering were solid conclusions as to how Christians are to respond to the cultural pressures. Good things happened during the consultation, mainly that people with differing perspectives were willing to come together, share their experiences, search the Scriptures, and try to find a way forward. In the concluding session, several expressed dissatisfaction that they were not given ANSWERS. As those of us in the leadership team are evaluating the event, we are more and more positive about the steps taken and the plans for further conversations. The complexity of the issues demands time and serious reflection, and hopefully this will lead to principles for action and behavior. More and more we are seeing the tensions in Bolivia today as fertile ground for mission through service.
But the uneasiness of so many of the participants adds to the lack of peace surrounding us these days.
Another ingredient in our dis-ease is bad news. A few nights ago we received news of the death of Jon Holt, our pastor’s husband, and our friend.  This was unexpected. We know we are supposed to be here in La Paz right now, but we wish we could be home to help bear the burden and share the grief in person. We wonder what the church service was like yesterday. We shared in both the grief and the prayers, but doing this long distance is lonely.
So here we are, our last day in this city of uncertain peace, surrounded by situations that would normally rob us of peace. Yet we sense the presence of Jesus, hear his voice, sense his love, and his peace is with us. Who can explain it? We’re grateful.

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