A few years back I took a team of volunteers (mostly young people) to the area of Mizque, Bolivia to work on a chagas project. We plastered an adobe dwelling, put in a cement floor and raised a tin roof to replace the thatched one. This process was to prevent the vinchuca bug from coming out of the adobe at night and biting the children living there, frequently ending in their death. It was hard work. It involved carrying materials up hills, mixing cement, and laying the plaster on the adobe with our bare hands. Nothing was pleasant about the actual work but it did lead to communal bonding and the making of new friends.
Fast forward to my present team in Bolivia based not on manual labour but the connecting of churches through worship, service, and dialogue. During our time we passed through Mizque once again, and I enjoyed visiting the town square with its lovely old church standing proud and well kept.
Unfortunately, we arrived at the city gates with a hastily fixed vehicle which had suddenly stopped in the 35-degree Celsius temperatures in the Bolivian outback—jerry-rigged by removing the temperature gauge, reconnecting the wires and taping the whole thing together with some medical tape brought by one of our smart thinking team members! In spite of the best efforts of our clever mechanics, we still had to hire a van to take the group home and leave one vehicle (and driver) to cool down and several hours later slowly pass over the high mountainous terrain to Cochabamba.
Looking at the aesthetically pleasing (but simply designed) church, I began to think of the looming Advent season. Maybe it was all of the “waiting” that cast my mind in this direction—as Advent is in truth a season of waiting. It’s a time to slow down. To be intentional. To listen for God’s voice who speaks to us in “kairos time” and not our own “chronos time.” It’s a time of littleness in spite of our shopping, rushing about, throwing parties, and exchanging of gifts. It’s a time to renew the seed of faith that came to life with the birth of Jesus and the simplicity of Bethlehem.
Poetry seems to catch the power of Advent best, so I offer a piece by Antonio Machado for your reflection:
I love Jesus, who said to us:
Heaven and earth will pass away.
When heaven and earth have passed away,
My word will remain.
What was your word, Jesus?
Love? Affection? Forgiveness?
All your words were one word:
Yes, the stillness of Mizque reminds me to “Wake-up!” Jesus never gives up on either you or me but always nudges us forward: Stay on the path of integration. Don’t give in to the easy road of disintegration. Wake-up.
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