We had a fantastic week with a huge (28 people) Crossroads Christian Church mission team in July. If felt like the whole church had come to help with our ministry here in Bolivia. I just want to thank them again for coming and to thank all of our Crossroads family for supporting us so much in our ministry here. And while I am at it—thanks to everyone who prays for us and supports us. We have been overwhelmed this year with the interest in and support of work by our partners all over North and South America. The Crossroads team worked on three different fronts while they were here. One group finished the interior work on a Bakery/Café at the Cristo Viene girls home here in Santa Cruz, a second group of two doctors and assistants held five days of health clinics in churches and orphanages around Santa Cruz. They attended several hundred patients per day. And finally, a third group built a storage room and some shelving and work benches at our water well drilling workshop here in town. You can see pictures of the team’s visit at: www.pbase.com/beamsclan/ccc0708.
During the medical clinic we met a New Tribes missionary from Santa Cruz, Steve Parker, who came to Bolivia in 1982 to share Christ with the Yuquí, a group of indigenous hunters-gatherers who live in the tropical forests of eastern Bolivia and who have had little contact with the outside world. He shared with us that in 1985 he and two other missionaries attempted to befriend a group of previously uncontacted Yuquí on the Rio Víbora. He thought things were going well. They spent the night near their jungle camp and where invited to go on a hunting excursion early the next morning. While on the trail, the Yuquí shot a six foot arrow through his back, which punctured his lung and came out the front of his chest. I don’t have the space to recount the whole story, but he did survive the attack and went on to work with the Yuquí Indians for many years afterwards. The man who shot him also came to know the Lord before he died of tuberculosis several years later. Through our conversations with Steve, I found out that all the Yuquí now live in a community founded by the New Tribes mission called Bía Recuaté.
In Bía Recuaté, they do not have any clean drinking water. They drink from the river, collect rain water, or drink from a contaminated shallow well. Since we are in the business of drilling wells, I and three friends traveled to Bía Recuaté to meet, Mariano and Leonarda, Bolivian national missionaries living and working among the Yuquí, and to see if we could drill a well or two. It would be an understatement to say we were shocked to see the conditions in which the Yuquí are living in Bía Recuaté. The poverty and their social and political context within larger Bolivia is complicated and difficult to sort out. As well as sharing the Gospel, New Tribes and other Christian and secular organizations have tried for decades to help the Yuquí adjust to living as citizens within a connected Bolivia—to protect them as a culture and people group, to educate them, to address health issues, and to help them earn a living within economic reality of Bolivia today. If you take a look at my photos from the trip (http://www.pbase.com/beamsclan/yuqui), you may question the effectiveness of any contact or intervention over the past 40 years. Many of them live in houses without walls, or just under plastic tarps. They cook fish or an occasionally monkey over wood fires. Their yards are littered with discarded tattered clothes and toys that have been given to them by many well meaning mission teams. With the money they earn from selling bows and arrows, or hand woven bags to tourists, they buy cookies and soda for their kids.
The Yuquis may be on the verge of extinction. In the last two years the number of families has fallen from 70 to 52. There are currently only about 215 people who still speak their language, a dialect of Guarani. In the last year alone 20 people have died from pulmonary mycosis, a fungal lung infection. 115 people are currently receiving treatment for this disease.
We are going back in September to drill a well with a mission team from our Bolivian church, Trinity Union. We hope to establish a working relationship with the local missionaries and with the Yuqui people that will share God’s love and help them overcome their social and economic struggles.
We also visited two other indigenous communities of Yuracaré on the Chimoré River that need clean drinking water as well.