Radical Hospitality and Encounter with Jesus in the High Andes of Bolivia

Date Posted: 7/16/2010

As the cold July winds enveloped the eleven thousand foot high rural community of Cotani in the high mountains above Cochabamba, Bolivia, the warmth of radical hospitality and passionate Gospel celebration nurtured more than 600 hundred women, men and children from Cotani and neighboring communities in a 2 day “encounter with Jesus.” event.

 

The Cotani Methodist Church has been blessed by a partnership in mission connection with the Texas Conference through the ministry of the Lakewood United Methodist Church that last year sent a mission team to assist with the construction of the new Cotani church building.   The Cotani congregation is a dynamic Methodist faith community with a vital relationship with the larger Cotani community, ministering through a health clinic, primary health care, sanitation, and education, as well a through evangelization and pastoral care.

 

Several of us from other congregations who were guests were deeply impacted by this extraordinary event.  Elisa Quiroga, congregational president and community nurse, and her large extended family provided abundantly generous, indeed radical hospitality, in sharing complimentary meals for all of the participants during the 2 days of Gospel celebration, that included a large number of youth and young adults.   The preaching, singing of hymns, and the witness of a number of Christian bands and musical groups, with youth dancing  before of the large congregation, continued during the days and quite late into the nights, with compelling messages calling for repentence and renewed faith commitments to live out with faithfulness our redemption and new life in Christ.

 

A large banner across the entrance to the building carried these words: “ENCOUNTER with JESUS”

“I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

 

For countless years, in this very place of Gospel celebration, there had been traditional fiestas for a local mountain deity, later incorporated into adoration for the image of a folk saint brought by the early Spanish conquerers, activities marked by the excessive abuse of alcohol and considerable anti-social behaviour.   The total absence of alcohol in this faith fiesta, given the widespread abuse characterizing other fiestas in the culture, is in itself a powerful witness to the transforming power of the Gospel.

 

As we drove down the dark, narrow, winding mountain road on our return to the city, we reflected with deep gratitude on our Wesleyan heritage of personal and social redemption;  indeed, Oh for a thousand tongues to sing our great Redeemer’s praise.