International Ministries

It’s A Wet Carnival and an Evangelistic Opportunit

February 8, 2005 Journal
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Yes, this is how things have been going these last two weeks. Since Carnival celebrations started, we cannot go out in peace, you have to be careful otherwise you will get hit by water balloons flying out of nowhere. During the month of February in Bolivia, there is a custom to celebrate Carnival. The meaning of this ancestral fiesta is actually defined by most people as "Una ceremonia a la Pachamama" meaning a ceremony to the mother earth asking for a year blessing.

Before the two special days, which are the days of the ceremonies, people go to the streets, buy water balloons, and throw it to the people that are walking down the street. They do not care what age the people are; all they want is to have fun, especially young people. Unfortunately this can be also a dangerous game since sometimes people could get hit in the face, or in other part of the body producing some kind of serious damage such as in an eye. A year ago, a young girl was coming back from work driving a motorcycle and she was hit in the face. That made her loose her balance and she crashed with a car and killed herself. Therefore, even though this is supposed to be a fun time of celebration, it can also be a sad time for some people. At the same time, this water spread has an indigenous religious meaning of cleansing people from bad deeds.

This old tradition is celebrated among the families, for two days people get together with their relatives in different houses, and decorate infrastructures, cars, and anything that they think need to be dedicated or blessed by the Pachamama with balloons and color paper strings. Then, they burn incense and herbs around the house, which creates a very strong odor, and according to Indian beliefs, this smoke will clean the environment from bad spirits. After this cleansing event, they now can offer to the "Pachamama" all their possessions. This will make them receive the blessings for the whole year.

After this ceremony, they then spread water and alcohol and herbs on the infrastructures, walls, cars and anything dedicated to Pachamama as a symbol of a seal meaning it is being blessed and safe for one year. It is very interesting to see how they spray their house with incense water and throw wet confetti in the air. While they are doing this, they ask the Pachamama for health, for fortune and for anything that they will like to have that year. When the head of the household is doing this, the others are burning firecrackers during the ceremony and have a band playing their native music.After they finish the ceremony, everybody starts dancing and drinking for the night in celebration of the starting anew.

Three days after, the celebration continues with what they call "La entrada" meaning the entrance. This is a parade where Bolivian people dance their native music around main parts of the city dedicating it to the "Pachamama." They wear beautiful clothes of different colors and different styles that represent the nine departments of Bolivia. There is a dance that is called "La Diablada" or the devil dance. The meaning of this dance is the war between good and evil and of course good always wins and that is the reason to celebrate and dance. The parade ends with a lot of people getting drunk and going into parties all night long. The statistics indicate that the amount of girls getting pregnant increase dramatically during the carnival season. Another concern publicized by the health department is the tremendous amount of people being infected with HIV in Bolivia including in hospitals and clinics.

For the Christian Community, this is a big challenge since no one in the church wants to reach out to people during this time. This has always been defined as a pagan and sinful fest that Christians should flee away from and from the people involved in it. Instead, now we need to become more active in educating Christians for this is in reality a great opportunity to reach out with the light of Jesus. New evangelistic strategies need to be developed in order to have a meaningful presence in Bolivia during this time of the year. The Name of Jesus needs to be glorified in the middle of all this deceiving celebration. We as evangelicals need to do something to help these people see that God is the only one that blessed them and keeps them healthy for not only one year but forever. They need to realize that He is the one that supplies all what we need, and that He is the one who deserves to be honored with everything that we have.