Tuesday- The seven churches of Cochabamba.
Sadly we said goodbye to Mario and Helen this morning. Mario kindly commended us to The Lord in prayer just before our flight. I can honestly say I don't think I'll ever forget our 5 days in Cochabamba.
The beauty of the city, the hospitality and kindness of the people, that fact that so little of the city is known in the UK and of course the way in which Mario and Helen welcomed and looked after us are all memorable but this is not why it will stand out in my experience. It will always be remembered as a result of the way God is working in the city.
Just under 40 years ago when Helen first went to Cochabamba (then Helen Reid) there were a small number of Christians and only 1 assembly. There are now seven churches well established , going on strong, still growing and there is a desire to plant another church in the city. Compare this to most of the cities in the UK where church attendance is decreasing and many of the buildings, where the gospel used to be proclaimed are used for everything other than preaching The Word. As I write this blog on my way to Argentina I know that God hasn't changed. His church is still growing across the world. He was told us that He never changes. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. We have changed, we have become distant, distracted and taken up with things which are of no eternal value. The old and wise King Solomon called a life pursuing anything other than God meaningless
Anyway, back to our last full day in Cochabamba. In the afternoon Helen had invited some of the women she meets every week who had become christians in Prison. She has kept up contact with many of the women and provides a support to them as they move back into the community.
As you read this next section I'm sure you might think I'm exaggerating what I saw and experienced. It maybe is one of those moments in life where you had to be in the room. I have never been so humbled and compelled to give God the glory as they talked about their experiences and what they were going through. One has been told by the doctors there is nothing they can do for her heart problem- she is very unwell. Another has a tumour in her stomach which needs to be operated on. Two have served prison sentences in the prison we visited earlier this week (8 years +), for things which were outwith their control. If they lived in the UK they would never have gone to prison. One who raised her son in prison and after she was saved told Helen that she preferred prison than how she lived previously.
If there was every a group who could be justified in thinking the world was against them and be possessed by bitterness and anger it was the women we met in Mario and Helen's lounge. Instead we met woman who loved the Lord Jesus. Women who were witnessing for their Saviour and winning souls. Women who live by faith and depend on God. They ended the day by singing "Thank you Jesus for loving me" in Spanish and English. There was not a dry eye in the room. I've attached a picture of the group.
This was for me, the highlight of our time, during this trip. If many churches were seeing this kind of evidence of new life and growth in the UK some of the stuff we get hung up with would be forgotten about and put to the side. I give God thanks that He allowed me to witness this.
In the evening we spent time with an Emmaus class that Mario and Helen run. John spoke about the anointing of David and the fact that God looks on our hearts not the things we focus on. A salutary lesson for not just the class but me as well.
In the morning Mario and Helen took us to the statue of Christ which dominates the landscape of Cochabamba. I had no idea there was another statue of Christ in South America. Alan assures me there is one in Chile as well as Rio de Janeiro. He has been right with everything else and I would in no way doubt his extensive knowledge. What the figure in Cochabamba can boast is that is it the tallest of the statues and without doubt the highest at 9429 feet above see level
As we left Trinidad I provided a list of things I can pray for. I would like to do the same for Cochabamba and that you would you join with me. Please pray for;
The prison work- this has resulted in so many coming to salvation.
The women who meet with Helen each week as they seek to live for their Saviour once released. Some of them have real health needs which we can bring before The Lord.
For the continued growth of the church in Cochabamba. That the work would be preserved from attack as the churches fellowship together in the service of the gospel. They are standing as one in the furtherance of the gospel
Finally for Mario and Helen. We got a glimpse of their week when we were with them. They are working everyday for their Saviour - like Timothy they constantly are attending to the things of Jesus Christ at the expense of themselves. Specifically I would ask that you hold up Mario before God who answers prayer beyond our imagination. He has injured his foot and it is complicated by his diabetic condition. He really needs our prayer at this time.
I apologise for the length of this blog. I hope you have been able to read to the end. As I fly to Argentina I give God thanks for the opportunity to visit Cochabamba.
And now for our next leg of the trip to Buenos Aires.