Bolivia 2006

Bolivia Report March 2006
 
Potosi , Bolivia once rivaled London and Paris in size and prominence fueled by the largest silver mine in the history of the world. Spain financed and built its global empire from the wealth derived from Potosi ’s Cerro Rico mine. The immeasurable wealth was, however, paid for with the blood of the indigenous Quechua and Aymara peoples of the region and later with the blood of slaves stolen from African tribes to work the mine. Over several hundred years, more than four million people were enslaved and literally worked to death in that “hell hole” that gave rise to some of the most horrific and inhumane treatment ever experienced by human beings at the hands of their fellow man. The most appalling aspect of this reality is the fact that the Spanish leaders of the Roman Catholic Church “blessed” and oversaw the work of the mine, seeing it as the extension of “God’s Holy Empire.”  This was the people’s introduction to the good news of the gospel and Christianity.
 
Last month, a team of eight of us entered into this reality when we traveled to Potosi for a national reconciliation gathering. Billy Joe Speaks Thunder and I were the First Nations members who did most of the sharing at the various events. Tom Fitzgerald, a friend and brother from Vancouver , helped initiate this gathering several years ago, while meeting with local leaders in Potosi . Once the Holy Spirit confirmed it in the hearts of local and national Bolivian leaders, they ran with it and God blessed and used it to launch a hunger for unity, reconciliation and spiritual regeneration in the land that was truly historic.  
 
Because we were stepping into centuries of horrific injustice, bloodshed and ongoing oppression, the spiritual climate was thick and the warfare heavy. As I wrote earlier, Potosi is situated at 14,000 elevation, making it pretty tough acclimating to the lack of oxygen as well as the oppression of the land. Potosi sits at the base of the mountain, which, in a Goliath-like way spews out fear, hatred and rulership into the hearts and living memory of the people in the city.
 
After Tom’s visit, Jurgen Shultz, along with his wife,Wendy, local pastors, the mayor, YWAM, tribal leaders and many others began to meet, spearheading the initiative. The Shultzs’ are from British Columbia and have been working in Bolivia since 1988 with their five children. 
 
 Those of us who were invited to participate in the main reconciliation gathering in the Plaza del came from very diverse backgrounds to collectively address the injustices of the past and move towards resolving the colonial oppression, assumed privilege of the dominant culture and the resulting bitterness of the Native people. Several hundred people sat in one of the oldest structures in the Americas, many dressed in their beautiful Quechua and Aymara traditional clothing; all were filled with anticipation of this historic event.
 
A large crowd cam e to witness this event from across Bolivia and South America as they wanted to see what God would do, with hopes that something like this could occur in their city and country. Surrounded by the media, they watched as representatives of these different groups came together to enact a ceremony with a view of healing the painful wounds of the past.
 
I felt a remarkable weight of privilege to be invited by tribal leaders to share in their journey by bringing words of healing. As I began to speak, I brought greetings from their relatives, the indigenous peoples of North America . I told them that we too, have suffered as Europeans assumed they coul d take our land and use it for their purposes. We were once many millions of people in the United States and Canada , and now we are only a few million.
 
I said reconciliation is a step for healing our land so that it can become a place of peace for its entire people. Because of so much injustice, religious oppression, and the curse of innocent blood that had been poured out in the area, it must be cleansed from these dark and evil things. I addressed my Quechua relatives saying I knew they could understand these things knowing their pain and anger. I shared how reconciliation is, in part, recognizing the sins in our history an d with the Spaniards. And then from the offending to the offended it is asking genuine forgiveness for the past wrongs committed.  I was keeping in mind that a Catholic priest and mine official were sitting there. 
 
I reflected briefly on the legacy of the great South American liberator, Simon Bolivar, mentioning how, as a great visionary, he had stirred the hearts of the people to rise up and fight for liberty in the pursuit of a free and better Bolivia and South America against the rule of Spain .  Then I compared the new Bolivian President, Juan Evo Morales Ayma, the first elected Indigenous president in the 450-year history of Bolivia . I commented how he is also a great leader of similar vision for a better Bolivia for all its citizens. I challenged them, saying that as a Native man from the Aymara tribe, President Ayma needed the support and prayers of the people to succeed in his historic quest.
 
With only a few minutes to speak because my words were translated first in Spanish, then Quechua, I concluded by saying that Billy Joe and I came to tell them that we have forgiven the white man who came and took our lands, because we know that we have been forgiven by the Creator through Jesus Christ, for the wrong things and sin that we carried in our hearts. It is because we have been forgiven that we can forgive. I then sang a song in Lakota that says, “someone up above is sacred, therefore we pray.”  Then I said how Billy Joe and I know He is Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
 
A Quechua leader spoke from the platform to cheers from the audience that the Spanish must recognize the anger of Quechua people about the killings of the past.  An Aymara leader told the Spanish representatives that his people were “tortured and killed—treated as animals and beats. We feel very hurt,” he said. “If we talk about reconciliation, Spain and our authorities have to engage in restoration of our culture and world view.”
 
A representative of the African-Bolivian community told about her ancestors surviving physical abuse and exploitation. “They were slaves of persons who acted without conscience, and their children and grandchildren still hold resentment,” she said. “On behalf of my people and ancestors who were slaves at one time, I give you our sincere forgiveness at this time.”
 
Speaking on behalf of Spain , Juan Diego Ruiz Cumplido, a representative from the Embassy of Spain, stressed “an attitude of going forward” and announced its commitment to continued cooperation with Bolivia , including several development projects. Though I felt he was playing the part of the consummate politician, the fact he was there, for the Bolivian people, was huge.
 
At the conclusion, gifts were exchanged and Quechuas, Blacks, Spaniards, and Bolivians embraced and afterwards sat down to enjoy a banquet together. It was a remarkable moment!
 
Not all the wounds have been healed nor have all the issues been resolved. But this was a major step towards closing a long, painful chapter of history.  It dealt a “blow to the deadly grip of bitterness upon the Native peoples of Bolivia ,” said Schulz. Jurgen expressed the heart of all the committee, saying, “It was remarkable!  A major secular event built upon the values of God’s Kingdom had taken place,” Schulz continued. “A handful of Christian leaders had brought about a meeting of two countries! This was obviously God’s doing!” 
 
 Jurgen commented later that day that on several occasions it looked like the event wasn’t going to come together. “We ran into obstacles of every description. We faced criticism and discouragement from pastors. There were misunderstandings among tribal leaders. ” 
 
 One example came during the actual ceremony, when the mayor of Potosi failed to show up and the delegates from the Spanish embassy were insulted by this and walked out. “Intercessors inside and outside the courtyard cried out to God,” said Schulz. “Others were praying on a nearby mountain. It was obvious that the enemy was going to do everything in his power to sabotage the event.”
 
An hour later, the mayor made his appearance and the Spanish delegates joined him. We could all feel the tension in the air as we sat, waiting the plaza. There was a huge sigh of relief as they arrived. Jurgen said, “God gave us a promise that He had opened a door that no one would shut, and He proved again His Word to be true.”
 
A fterward, Jurgen said, “We rejoice in all that God has done and look expectantly to what He continues to do. We believe that as the dust settles many further results of this event will become apparent.”
 
The next day Billy Joe and several others drove several others out into the countryside to a traditional Quechua village for a time of protocol. Billy Joe and I had brought numbers of gifts (special thanks to all of you who made and sent gifts for us to take) and he was able to honor the traditional elders and community leaders. They welcomed his with great regard as their relative, giving him many gifts. They sang songs, shared a very traditional meal and listened attentively to his words. Billy is a gifted and anointed singer in the traditional L onghouse tradition of the Warm Springs People. He shared the appropriate songs with them. All who attended said it was a remarkable time—it was ancient, living history, tribal, close to the earth and truly indigenous.
 
Lastly, I think perhaps the whole reason I went, as amazing as everything else was, was to meet Dr. Umberto Flores. Umberto is a great man and leader in the land. Quechua and Mestizo, he was raised by his Quechua father in their tribal ways and his mother tongue is Quechua. Jesus called Umberto as a young Marxist to follow him, which he did, enlivening an exciting sixty-two year old adventure. Umberto is fluent in Spanish and English. He attended and received a BA and MA from Biola University in Los Angeles , and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Western Seminary in Portland , OR . He has an extensive teaching and leadership experience in Bolivia and his heart has remained firmly and unwaveringly committed to helping his Quechua people.
 
He did all of our Quechua translating as we spoke at all the various gatherings. It was during these times that the Father began to knit our hearts together. We both felt a kinship toward each other and have begun working toward a more formal ministry relationship. To begin with, he has agreed to t ranslate all my teaching materials into both Spanish and Quechua. Secondly, we are praying and discussing how Wiconi can create some partnership opportunities with Quechua Christian leaders. There are five million Quechuas, descendants of the Incas, living in Bolivia , Peru , Ecuador and Argentina . We are discussing sponsoring and conducting indigenous leadership training seminars and schools, especially with the goal of imparting the Father’s vision for reaching the nations out of the context of their Quechua culture and history. Lord willing, Umberto will become Wiconi International’s national Bolivian and regional Quechua Representative.
 
Katherine and I thank you so much for your prayers and support. We believe it is because of your partnership we are able to accomplish the things we do.
 
Richard & Katherine Twiss
360-546-1867

 
 
 



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