A Cry in the Darkness in Bolivia

1 Sep 2005

‘Nothing exciting ever happens to me,’ I grumbled, as the ancient, rattling bus carried me toward the Quechua farming centre of Quilla Collo.  Later, I figured I must have been dreaming to have made that remark, for I returned from that very bus ride with a premature, one-month old baby in my arms to care for indefinitely.

That tiny Aymara baby boy had been left to smother under heavy woollen blankets on a wet, cold dirt floor.  He was rescued by his great aunt Marta, who named him Moses.  Let me tell you his story.

The baby’s 15 year-old mother, Emma, comes from a family of six brothers and sisters. Six years ago the mother abandoned the family. The father, Sinforiano, stayed with the kids, but he showed them no concern or love. Year by year, the six children became more and more mistreated by their father.  Some of the older boys began drinking and getting involved in street gangs.

Thirteen months ago, the oldest son, as had become his custom, got very drunk on a weekend night. He stumbled out into a busy street and was run over by a truck and killed. A few relatives attended the funeral. Marta, his aunt, was there, along with her daughter, Rosa, from Quilla Collo. They are the only two Christians in all of the clan – the extended family.

It was noticed that the children’s mother did not show up for her son’s tragic burial. It was also whispered about that the younger sister, Emma, had given birth to a baby girl, but that the newborn had mysteriously disappeared! At least one relative suspected and feared the infant had been killed, but when questioned, Emma only repeated that she couldn’t remember, and sobbed uncontrollably.

Six months ago, Marta heard a knock on her door in the middle of the night. It was Emma’s 7 year-old sister! ‘Please come right now, Aunt Marta. My big sister Emma has a REAL bad stomachache and I don’t know what to do!’

Marta donned her voluminous, ankle-length, pleated skirt, and wrapped her woollen shawl around shivering shoulders. It was cold in early winter at almost 3 o’clock in the morning.

Arriving 45 minutes later at the adobe house, Marta walked in to find Emma, moaning, on a dirty bed, in the last stage of childbirth. Except for the children’s long lost mother, who had somehow shown up that very day and found her way to Emma’s side, the whole place was deserted.

Emma’s mother was drunk, and continuing to drink, she screamed bitter imprecations against her ex-husband. He had apparently also recently abandoned the family. The inebriated woman pushed Marta out of the room and locked the door in her face!

Marta prayed for strength and wisdom! She pressed her ear against the door, trying to hear what was happening inside. After a bit, Marta thought she heard an extra loud groan from Emma and then a muffled thump!

‘Hey! What’s going on in there?’ she demanded, rattling the rickety knob on the locked door. Silence. Feeling frightened in the face of such evil and sadness, Marta closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against the door in the darkness. ‘Lord Jesus’, she whispered, ‘please take control of this situation. Shine Your light in this darkness, Lord!’

The door swung open so violently that Marta tipped forward into the room, stumbling to her knees on the cold floor! Standing to the side, still holding the door with one hand and gripping her weeping, unsteady daughter with her other hand, stood Emma’s drunken mother.

‘We are OUT of here!’ the woman screamed at Marta. ‘Don’t look for us; don’t send anyone after us. You will NEVER see us again!’ Dragging her sobbing daughter behind her, the woman grabbed a dingy bundle of belongings from the floor behind the door and pushed past Marta, out of the house.

‘What have you done with the baby?’ shouted Marta.

‘The cursed baby died anyway’, muttered Emma’s mom. ‘Put it out by the dumpster for the dogs to fight over! We never plan to see any of you again, understood!’ Their shuffling footsteps and Emma’s sobs faded into the pitch-black night.

Weeping, Marta looked around the shabby room. She saw a heavy pile of dirty old ‘phallus’ (llama wool striped blankets). Lifting their bulk, she gazed on the still, waxen form of a baby boy attached to his placenta. Unable to suppress her sobs of sorrow and pity for the child Emma and for this infant, she reached out a forefinger and stroked the baby’s cheek. He grimaced, and gave a weak cry!

Marta stood up. Crying out to God for help, she looked wildly around the room and, finding nothing, ran into the other room and grasped a potato-paring knife, with which she cut the cord. From under her woollen skirt she removed her petticoat and tore it into strips. Wrapping the motionless infant in the strips and putting him down the front of her blouse, she hugged her shawl more securely about them both and trudged off toward home.

For the next two weeks Marta kept the baby alive on raw sheep’s milk, feeding him with a teaspoon. But wintertime at 4,000 metres in the Andes is too cold for a motherless premature infant, so Marta’s daughter Rosa travelled on the bus and brought the baby home with her to Quilla Collo a more favourable climate at 2,300 meters.

Rosa and her husband, living in one windowless small room of the church he serves as pastor, and with three young children of their own to care for, could not take on a fourth. They passed baby Moses on to us, for care.

Baby Moses lived with us for several weeks, and then God marvellously provided a young Christian Bolivian couple, 10 years married and longing to adopt as they were unable to have children of their own. Today, Moses’ father carries his chubby, 6-month-old son’s photo with him in his wallet everywhere he goes. Whipping it out, he proudly shows the photo to his friends. ‘This is my son!’ he says.’See how handsome and fat he is!’

God fantastically provided for baby Moses through His church, but we still think of and pray for young Emma, deeply scarred and only a child herself, lost in darkness somewhere out in the muddy marketplaces and dusty streets of Bolivia. Sadly, stories like hers are typical every day in many areas of Latin America. The needs are myriad. Opportunities abound for those who will live, teach and reflect the Good News of God’s Salvation in Jesus in the midst of spiritual hunger and physical need.

Pioneers Latin America teams are seeking to meet needs through varied outreaches – evangelism and church planting among indigenous, tribal, Arab and other unreached groups; children at risk ministries; youth discipleship; leadership development; literacy work; radio and teaching. Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Belize. The list is not complete, as many needs remain to be met. Perhaps God is calling you to help meet one of them.

Prayer Points for Latin America

  • for additional teams to form for outreach to many needy indigenous people groups
  • for strong marriages and families for the PI team members. The challenges in outreach add many pressures on marriage and family, and God’s strength is required
  • for more to be involved in youth outreaches and leadership development, which represent tremendous needs in Latin America
  • for wisdom as to how to respond and use resources in the face of enormous physical need

by LB – Pioneers team member in Bolivia

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