I am so impressed and so blessed as I am able to spend a week to 10 days every year working with the young people in the Sunday Schools across Bolivia as they wrestle with, write, and produce age appropriate, culturally sensitive, Biblical materials for the children in their classes.
They pour their hearts and souls into preparing these materials and I believe that God blesses each of their efforts and will help renew the Bolivian Methodist Church through these young teachers and through the children.
I love Christmas at Tiu Rancho even though it never seems like it is Christmas because we don’t have snow like our home state of North Dakota. We are able to do special things for the staff and the children in the Payacollo community and surrounding communities that we don’t do at other times of the year – like having a special meal together, taking popcorn and treats to the children who have no chances to celebrate Christ’s birth to the south of our community, making bunwellos (fry bread) and api (hot corn drink) for the children who come to the library, having Vacation Bible School with them, and sharing a live Christmas program where the staff share a drama about Jesus’ birth with Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, a sheep, a rabbit and a little pig.
What a wonderful welcome back, to receive our friends from 1st UMC in Sioux Falls: Jo, Pastor Bill, Sandy, Nordell, Steve, Carol, Kira, Karen and Christina.
Thank you so much for: helping us to celebrate the lives of the elderly in our community, for all your sewing, working with the children, and of course digging the hole for the new septic tank.
All of the staff send their greetings and love.
We returned to Bolivia on June 1st, 2011 after being in the United States and visiting all of you. It was an amazing year and, as always, we were inspired and blessed and totally enjoyed our time visiting all the folks in our supporting churches.
We were able to live with Jenny and Hannah in Berkeley, California during the days that we weren’t itinerating. Those were precious moments and we will hold them close and dear.
All of the staff at the Tiu Rancho Center worked hard to continue the ministries and daily work. We arrived back in Cochabamba during a strike and road blocks, which we hadn’t known about, and tried to not feel disappointed when there was no one at the airport to greet us. We had to wait for a pick-up that was taking passengers out of the airport grounds to a street corner where we might find some kind of transportation. The driver found his way around blocked roads to get us to the parsonage. There we stayed until we could find another apartment to move into.
We are very happy to be back at the Tiu Rancho Center and are so very thankful for your support and your prayers so that we might continue in the ministries with the Bolivian Methodist Church.
Gordon and Ardell Graner are missionaries serving in Bolivia with the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.
Once a year they have a special day long service to thank God for the harvest. All the church members are farmers and all bring an offering to the church – potatoes, oka (a long sweet tuber), habas (like lima beans), etc. In front of the altar are placed the offerings, the great piles of produce. Large sacks that looked twice the size of 100 lb. bags were brought in over the shoulders of Quechua farmers. Potatoes of all sizes and shapes were unloaded tumbling out onto the pile.
The women of the church were squatted down on the ground outside the church pealing and cutting potatoes, carrots, onions, and oka. A few of the young men were roasting chicken and lamb in a large oven. Although this is a church known for prayer and fasting, this day was meant for feasting and celebration.
Pastor Gustavo led us in a two hour worship service of thanksgiving. We all gathered around the piles of produce and on our knees prayed long and fervently. And then we shared the feast of Thanksgiving – Quechua style – eating with our fingers out of our metal bowls, seated on crowded benches in the cold sanctuary.
We had to leave after the meal and it was nearly dark. Many more brethren would continue to arrive for the special meal and a second service of praise that would go until midnight at least. We drove once again up and over the mountains in pouring rain. The trip back to Cochabamba was treacherous with little visibility, a washboard road, and many large trucks to dodge. The trip back put all our nerves on full alert. We made it back home safely but emotionally spent.
We were glad to be home, very glad to get off that wickedly dangerous road and stirred deeply inside at the wonder of the day.
We were all able to meet the first week of January for our yearly national Sunday School workshop at the American Institute, a Methodist school in Cochabamba. This was an excellent place for us since it has such beautiful grounds and the school was able to equip us with seven, very needed, computers that the teachers used to write their lessons.
We were 38 persons in all including: Dr Leslie Long from the Oklahoma conference, eight young teachers who were able to work with us for the first time, 23 veteran teachers, and six national pastors who accompanied, encouraged, and assisted us.
It was an exciting week as we worshiped our Lord together during our devotional times, shared experiences, and applied critical knowledge of the culture and our own faith experiences to the materials produced. These new lessons will be taught and shared with the children in our churches throughout Bolivia.
Many of the young teachers shared their excitement as they know they have materials that they have written and are culturally appropriate for the spiritual growth of the children in their churches. They also shared testimonies during the workshop of how many more children are coming to their Sunday School classes.
Many of the teachers also told us how much they grow in their own faith during these times and are thankful to have times for fellowship and problem solving with other teachers.