For almost two-and-a-half years Funcación Proyecto de Esperanza (also know as the House of Hope) in Cochabamba, Bolivia, has been actively looking for a bus. After searching in multiple departments (states) of Bolivia and even a few other countries, we found the bus and were able to buy it with generous donations of people all over the US. We are currently in the process of painting this bus and getting to using the bus soon, but something interesting happened with our chapero last week. First, here is a picture of the bus in it’s final stages of painting.
Last week, while preparing for our Leadership training meeting later that night, one of our directors, Ricardo Achu, asked if I wanted to go see the bus. With that, we were off to the painters house. His name is Carlos. We were excited to find him painting the bus and getting all of the exterior finished so we could use the bus this week for ministry. After we thanked him we got out the customary 2-liter bottle of peach juice to share with him and chat a bit. This is a part of Bolivian culture meant to honor those who do work for you. During the chat, Ricardo began asking about his family, which is a customary thing in much of Latin America, and the discussion quickly turned to the foundation and what we do. He wanted to hear our story. After, he said that he was very thankful to be working on the bus knowing what it was going to be used for
Then he took off his hat and began to tell me some of his story.
(I’m going to pause here and Fast-Forward to the Epilogue, but we will return)
Afterward, we got back into the car to head back to the house and I asked Ricardo how we got to this place with Carlos. He told me that when he first brought the bus, he noticed that Carlos was singing along to some beautiful traditional Peruvian music. During that first day, he asked Ricardo if he had any good music to share (also a very Bolivian thing to do) and the answer was yes. He promised to bring it back in the morning and then headed off. At home, Ricardo found some worship music in the Peruvian style he knew Carlos liked and brought it back the next morning with a “here, try this out” gesture and headed on his way. Two weeks later when he returned to check on the bus, Carlos was listening to and singing along with “gusto” to Ricardo’s music. Carlos was smiling and said that the music was great.
He then began to tell of his younger life which was marked by alcoholism, a broken relationship with his wife, and ultimately a broken relationship with the church. He said that he was longing to come back, but didn’t know how to make things right any more. For now, the music was going to be a good start, he thought. Over the coming weeks they continued in their discussion and Ricardo began to tell him about how he developed his relationship with Christ and the church and that all Carlos needed to do was to turn back toward the God that loved him. He said he might some day.
(Epilogue over: Now we return to the story)
As Carlos told me his story briefly, you could see that he was broken-hearted and all he wanted was the opportunity to return to God, but he had assumed that it would never be a possibility again because of his mountain of his sins. He asked me if I would pray for him that God would open that door so he could return to the church. I asked him, “Who told you that you couldn’t come back?” He didn’t remember their name, but that it was a member of the church that kicked him out so long ago. I told him that Christ welcomes all of us to his grace if we only repent and believe. It didn’t matter what we had done, because Christ provided grace for us all. Then we prayed. I led him through a prayer and he asked God’s forgiveness for his walking away and to renew his relationship. I followed up with my own prayer asking the Holy Spirit to point him in the direction of a church and to give him to courage to walk through it. We closed out the prayer, finished our juice and we made our way out the door. He picked up his respirator and paint gun and went back to singing the songs, but this time there was just a little bit more hope in his voice and a new gleam in his eye. Who knew that simply painting a bus could change a life.
Then as we walked to the car, Ricardo said with a smile on his face, “I know where I will be on Sunday!
Thanks be to God for his immeasurable gift to us, no matter where we are!