Teacher Carolyn Makus’ Experience in Bolivia

Carolyn Makus volunteered in the school here from March to July 2009. She gave a brief report about her experiences to her home church in Edmonton and kindly agreed for us to post it here…

When I think back to the 4 months I spent in Bolivia I am just filled with gratefulness. I am thankful that God allowed me this opportunity and for the way He always provided. I absolutely loved my time down there and developed a deep love for the country and its people. All though I went down to teach,this proved to be a great learning and growing experience for me and I’m sure I probably even learned more than my students. If I were to tell you about everything I learned and experienced this would take all evening so I’ve picked two.

The first is to be more thankful for the seemingly little things which we take for granted in the western world. We’ve got it so good. Shortly after I arrived they began to work on our well. Up until this time the mission property had been purchasing water from a neighbouring town that was charging an enormous amount of money for water. In order to begin drilling they needed to fill up a huge reservoir of water to run the drill. As a result our water supply was depleted and the church building and any off the other houses “up hill” had no water. This began our major water shortage time. One doesn’t realize really how important water is until you don’t have it. We all quickly came to the conclusion that we would rather live without electricity. The inability to properly cook and clean was very difficult at times and one could never be guaranteed whether you’d be able to have a shower or not. At school hygiene also became an issue as the student’s could no longer wash their hands and toilets wouldn’t flush. When we did have water, we filled up containers for the next shortage which we knew would be coming up. Sometimes we would have water for an hour or so before it was off again. At one point I started to collect rain water so we could wash dishes, rinse our hands. In total we had water shortages and problems for over a month. During this time I often had to think…if water is so vital in our daily living how much more is Jesus who is the Living Water. Do we recognize our desperate need for him as well??

The second event I wish to share with you happened one Thursday morning in my classroom. The morning started relatively normal and I’m not even sure how the following conversations started but somehow one of my students, Jakob, began to tell me about his experiences in the Old Colony system. One would think that a boy of 9 who has been living out of the system for over two years shouldn’t have much to tell but unfortunately that was not the case. Jakob, has been living with his aunt and uncle since he was one and they adopted him in the past year. Jakob is half Mennonite, half Colya or Bolivian . He began old colony school in Tres Cruzes where they lived. Probably for multiple reasons but mostly because he was darker skinned he was bullied by both students and teacher. If he did any little thing wrong he would be punished, however, if other students did things to him, the teacher would turn a blind eye. Remember that the punishment is often whipping. Jakob has severe learning disabilities and as you can imagine the old colony schools are not set up for dealing with learning disabilities. Instead he was told that he was stupid and punished even more. His mom told me that he didn’t want to go to school, he cried in the morning before he went and when he came home and I think we can all understand that. At this point in Jakob’s story I was tearing up and trying to keep my composure; not quite believing that a child could be treated this way. But then his story started to change direction. He remembers when Thiessen’s first started visiting his family and sharing the gospel and how they told him bible stories. He also remembers leaving the colony and how his life began to change. The depth of his spiritual knowledge was phenomenal. He basically started to explain to me (and the class who were all listening by now) the differences between our church and the Old Colony. How it’s not about following man-made rules like not having rubber tires but rather about giving your heart to Jesus and loving him. Then he began to express his concern for his relatives. Around Mother’s Day he spent several weeks back in the Colony. He described this time as ‘schrecklich’ or horrible. He was called the devil by people. I’m wasn’t sure if that is because of his family leaving and his parent’s being placed in the ban or because he’s part Bolivian. What surprised me even more is that he told how he was evangelizing telling his relatives that they need to believe in Jesus and that Jesus died for them. That’s how they could get to heaven. Here is a young boy trying to bring others to Christ, he cares about them so much that he is willing to endure mockery to tell them the about Christ. By now, my eyes were definitely filled with tears. Our whole class gathered in our circle area and we continued to talk about how the people around us in the colonies and especially the relatives of the students’ need to find the Lord. In the end I asked the class how they could help, two suggestions arose, number one tell people and number two pray. We ended the discussion with us all kneeling down and each student praying in someway for lost souls in the colonies or for their relatives. Wow! I thanked God for this allowing me to experience this conversation, for Jakob and the light God has given him and for the rest of my students. Somehow I now understood the following verses much better:

Math.18: 3-5
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.”

I want to thank all of you who were praying for me during my time in Bolivia and for the mission in general. The work there is dependent on your prayers and I personally shudder to think of how things would be without the prayers. Jeanette and I often talked about how it just had to be the prayers that kept us going and gave us the strength to carry on. Please continue to pray for the mission and especially the children that they would see their need for Christ and to accept Him at an early age and also become ‘missionaries’ right where God has placed them.

Carolyn Makus