- The name Bolivia comes from the Venezuelan military and political leader Simon Bolivar who led Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia to independence from Spain in 1825.
- At 11,975 feet above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world.
- The Camino de las Yungas road is known as the “world’s most dangerous road.” There are an estimated 200 to 300 fatalities every year on this stretch of road less than 50 miles long.
- Dead animals including dried llama fetuses are sold on the streets of Bolivia to citizens so they can offer them up to Pachamama (Mother Nature) in return for blessings.
- Bolivia is one of two landlocked South American countries, the other being Paraguay. Bolivia lost 420 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline to Chile in The War of the Pacific in the 1880s.
- Lake Titicaca, which straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia, is the world’s highest navigable lake. It sits 12,507 feet above sea level and is also South America’s largest lake by volume.
- Bolivia has 37 official languages! The main languages are Spanish, Quechua, Aymara and Guaraní with an additional 33 recognized languages.
- Guinea pig is used and eaten as a traditional meat. It continues to be a major part of the diet in Bolivia, particularly in the Andes highlands.
* Source: Atlas & Boots. For more interesting facts, visit the Atlas & Boots blog.
In Mark 9, Jesus’ disciples encounter a man whose son is seized by an unclean spirit that convulses the boy, throws him to the ground and causes him to foam and grind his teeth. The boy’s father testifies that the spirit often casts his son into fire and water with the aim of destroying him. The disciples try to cast out the spirit and are unable, prompting Jesus to say: “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” After Jesus rebukes and casts out the spirit, his disciples ask him privately why they were not able to do the same. Jesus replies: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
I wonder if Jesus’ words stung the souls of his disciples. After all, he had already given them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases (Luke 9:1). But, here they are helpless to conquer this foe. Perhaps the disciples were used to so much of their own demon casting success that they began to rely on their own human strength or perhaps this spirit was so violent that they felt that it was too great a task to accomplish. Scripture does not say, but we absolutely are left to conclude that the disciples did have the power to cast out this demon. But, for whatever reason, they didn’t pray! What a punch in the gut.
Taking this story in conjunction with Jesus’ words in Mark 11:24: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours,” I know that I oftentimes underestimate the power of prayer and don’t do it as often as I should. What foolishness. If I really believed in the power of prayer, I would pray without ceasing as Paul instructs.
Nevertheless, what grace and power and love Jesus extends to us when we repent and ask for his help. What is the proper response? The key is the words exclaimed by the father of the boy crippled by the spirit. The father cries out to Jesus: “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Recently I’ve decided to read through the earliest gospel account of Jesus as though I had never heard of him before. It has been a rewarding exercise because it helps me to understand not only how people likely viewed him while he walked on earth, but also how people today might view him at first blush. After reading Mark chapters 1-8, here is the list of unfiltered observations I came up with:
Son of God; message is repentance; speaks with bold authority; casts out unclean spirits; sometimes a loner, but sometimes seeks out large crowds; teller of mysterious parables, iconoclast; claims that the status quo is upside-down; angers Jewish authorities; perplexes his disciples; forgiver of sins; calls the sick, not the well; redefines the family; holds radical, extreme views; communes with God in prayer all the while indirectly claiming to be God; preaches of an unseen kingdom; commands no fear; rewards faith; commands belief; marvels over faith and lack of faith; man of few words; always on the move unless he’s praying; miraculously feeds people; demands secrecy over his messiah status; rattles, beats, casts out, engages in warfare against the unseen, dark, spiritual world; commands obedience to the point of death.
What strikes me as being one of the craziest paradigm shifts is the emphasis on the invisible, rather than the visible. The unseen is the atomic level of all reality and truth, while the visible is the outgrowth of what cannot be seen. That is, one’s physical makeup is insignificant compared to one’s unseen heart; the miracles of the multiplication of food are a result of Jesus’s relationship with the unseen Father; unseen faith heals, not outward acts of behavior; the “kingdom” of the Pharisees is infinitely insignificant compared to the unseen kingdom of God; the mysterious association of people who do God’s will defines family, not the physical blood running through one’s veins; the kingdom of God begins as a hidden, unseen seed in the ground and no one knows how it grows; evil is not the visible, foodstuffs that go into man, but rather the invisible that emanates from the heart.
When I reflect upon these observations I am reminded of a couple of verses worth putting into practice daily: 1) Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” 2) Colossians 3:2: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
Today I sent out my first batch of support letters to friends and family. Each person received a few generic paragraphs of what I will be doing in Bolivia, why I am going and how I can use prayer, but each person also received a hand written note from me. I unexpectedly enjoyed the process of writing these notes more than I could have foretold. Gratitude was awakened in me as I thanked people for their friendship, the way that they spoke into my life, or just stating the joy that I had seeing them over Thanksgiving. I reflected upon all of the various ways that God enriched my life through each person–oftentimes through sacrifice on their behalf.
Paul writes that “as grace extends to more and more people it increases thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15). I give thanks to God for the grace that He has extended to me through others.
Two days ago I announced via Facebook that I am beginning the process of seeking prayer and financial partners. I am feeling grateful to God that the response was warm and encouraging. It is exciting to know that so many people are supportive.
I am also excited to report that I received my first couple of donations last night. I am humbled by these donors’ trust in me to put this money toward kingdom work in Bolivia.
Please pray for me as I seek out prayer warriors who will stand by me through the mountain top experiences and the valleys of life. I am convinced that the financial aspect, although important, is of tangential value compared to power of prayer. As one friend recently said to me: “without prayer, what are we doing?” It reminds me of the words of Jesus: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Amen.