By Brandon HENSLEY
Brick by brick, both literally and figuratively, Montrose Church is building international relationships.
In August, an 18-member team from the church spent two weeks in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and Peru to continue the work they did last summer.
They teamed up with La Luz Divina (The Divine Light) Church and its congregation by helping to build a parsonage and Sunday school classrooms. The parsonage provides a new residence for their pastor and his family who did not have a permanent residence.
Montrose Church has been to parts of Bolivia before, but took some years off before coming back in 2010. Cory Marquez, assistant pastor of Montrose Church, said the church plans on coming back annually over the next five years.
La Luz Divina and Montrose have created quite the relationship, said Marquez.
“Every Tuesday, that church prays for Montrose Church, twice a day,” he said. “What a powerful statement about the partnership.”
Some team members, like Marquez who has done missionary work in Africa, didn’t experience any culture shock. Still, Bolivia can be an eye-opening experience.
All at once, it is a place where kids run around with cellphones, and yet there is sewage draining on the streets, Marquez said. A different experience than what Crescenta Valley residents are used to, to be sure.
“If you want to grab your skateboard and head to Chipotle, it’s a not a big deal, but that’s not life in Bolivia,” Marquez said,
Justin Morris, one of the team members, had only been outside the U.S. to an orphanage in Mexico, and said he was surprised at how run-down the buildings looked.
“It was pretty shocking,” he said.
Morris didn’t know any Spanish, and is still learning, but said, “As you start to get to know the people that’s when your attitude starts to change.”
The Montrose team spent weeks getting to know one another before they left, making their experience in South America a little easier.
Their interactions with the La Luz Divina was fulfilling. They took part in Vacation Bible School with the children, and engaged in soccer and volleyball games.
August in Bolivia is winter; not that it gets cold. Morris said the average temperature was in the 80s, which meant the team’s main work would still have to be sweated out.
They started the two-story parsonage last summer, and finished the top floor this time in what Morris said was his most enjoyable experience.
A three-level scaffolding was set up next to the house. There were workers loading up the materials for the cement, some mixing the cement and others on the 30-feet-by-90-feet top floor.
Morris said there were probably 20 buckets that were handed up one at a time to pour the concrete slab. All of this happened from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“It was just amazing to watch,” Morris said of the workers. “They never said I can’t, they didn’t say they were getting tired. They were there to work and we were all there together. I couldn’t believe it got done. It was amazing.”
What was the attitude of the team after the trip?
“I would say hopeful,” said Marquez. “Hopeful about what can be done, in the world and hopeful about what we can do in our own backyard. And I think one of the things I told the group the whole time is you don’t have to go 10,000 miles away to make a difference. You can make a difference here.”
Team member Stephanie Villa Davis blogged about the experience in South America. To read about it, go to www.lavidaboliviana.wordpress.com.