Andres Segovia, whose family ran a small bakery out of their home in Mexico, attended Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa. He helped to offset his college expenses working for Dean Dover/Wazican, their Director of Food Service. Wazi held the same position at DL, and encouraged Andres to come with him to Deerfoot. Andres became a favorite Woodsman counselor, and after his third summer, DL made it possible for Andres, and several other DL staff, to go to Venezuela to help with the development of a camp begun by Deerfooter Peter McMillan. Andres’ job: translate needed sections of the DL staff manual into Spanish. During the next summer Andres told me about a school in Camiri, Bolivia that needed a grade school teacher. I could tell this was heavy on his mind, and said that if he wanted to go check out the place for a couple months, Deerfoot would pay his transportation costs. Andres’ response: “The Lord opened my eyes and heart ot this ministry…it has been a joy.” After Andres has been teaching at this isolated Christian school for a year, DL began giving the offering from one Sunday morning each summer for Andres’ support. After his second year, he repeatedly invited me to come to Camiri so he could show me his school and a 200 acre farm/camp/adult Bible school – his new world. Andres has now been teaching at the school for fifteen years.
Four years after Andres went to Camiri, Bolivia, our son, Dirk began working for Food for the Hungry in Cochabamba, Bolivia. We would be visiting Dirk and Jennifer – a visit to Andres seemed possible. I began to realize how isolated Camiri was when Dirk told me that Camiri was on the only unpaved section of the Pan American highway: travel time by bus from Santa Cruz, the nearest city, was about 15 hours, if it did not rain. Travel time by bus from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz- over 6 hours. Ouch, but we could do it!
When Sally Jo and I arrived in Bolivia, the country was in a general strike. I think it was about teacher’s pay. These strikes were seldom violent…but real. Main roads were blocked with overturned buses, trucks, and cars – and deep trenches were dug through the roads. Cancel the road trip to Andres, or anywhere else. .
Fortunately Sally Jo and I were able to buy plane tickets to take Dirk, Jennifer, and baby Jashton to an incredible resort just opening near Tarija. Every morning we would see the sunrise through the arch on our veranda, look down about 300’ to the river where people would be washing their clothes, loading a truck with rocks by hand – and then there was the man who brought his cows down to drink. Every morning we would hear him sing, his baritone voice filled the valley. We have a picture of the scene on our family room wall, and we can still hear him singing.
In Tarija we were about 150 miles from Camiri, but the strike and the mountains prevented any possibility of a road trip. On a whim, Dirk and I went to the small airport in town. Could we lease a plane to take us to Camiri? Not a chance – general strike. Every plane was in use every daylight hour. As we walked away, a man walked up and asked why we wanted to go to Camiri. I told how my friend, Andres, was teaching at a Christian school there and that I wanted to go visit him. He told us to meet him the next morning at 9:00. When we arrived, he unlocked a gate, took us out to a plane and introduced us to the pilot. While flying, the pilot told us that the man who arranged our flight was responsible for inspecting all of the airplanes at the airport.
We flew over dry areas and mountains…jungles…occasionally seeing a river and a few “houses”. It was beautiful, but the isolation of Camiri became very real. If we crashed in those mountains…forget it! With mountains all around us, in the distance we could see an open, flat area next to a river…and then a very spread out city of about 30,000 people. The pilot buzzed the grass landing strip to clear it of animals, made a circle, and landed. As we got out of the plane, he encouraged us to take as much time as we wanted. He would take a nap, eat lunch, and be in the area when we returned to the plane.
After several hours with Andres, we were flown back to Tarija where the inspector greeted us. He told us he was a Christian, and invited us to worship at his church in the morning – Sunday. Together we praised God for His faithfulness. Later in the week he and his wife joined us for dinner at the resort, and they brought picture scrap books through which they shared their lives with us.
You decide: Was it chance that this Christian overheard Dirk’s request in the very busy little airport? How did he know we were Christians? Neither Dirk nor I remember saying this in our initial request to hire a plane.
Those who live In Partnership With God often experience the hand of God in undeniable ways. “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8