Dear Family and Friends,
I think it has been a tough month for everyone in North and South America. We are closely watching the news about hurricanes and financial crises up north and are praying for all of you that are affected in one way or another. If you have watched the international news lately you may also be aware that Bolivia, and specifically Santa Cruz, has been suffering through a good bit of political tension and turmoil over the past month.
I don’t want to delve too deeply into the details, but for a number of years now the department of Santa Cruz and three other eastern departments have wanted greater autonomy from the central government in La Paz. Since the election of Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, many non-indigenous Bolivians in eastern Bolivia have rebelled against MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo – Socialist Movement) government reforms and attempts to redistribute wealth in Bolivia through agrarian reforms and nationalization of the oil and gas industry. The politics are not at all transparent, nor is there much honestly or good will on either side. Add to that, strained relations with the U.S. government, and it all adds up to daily tension, turmoil and occasional violence in the streets of Santa Cruz. Several weeks ago the Autonomista provincial government in Santa Cruz took control over several dozen federal institutions in the city of Santa Cruz. A number offices and pro-indigenous institutions were looted and burned. We certainly did not venture down town from a couple of weeks, but from what we saw on the local news it looked like a regular war zone. Pro-government indigenous supporters came down from Cochabamba and La Paz and surrounded the city for several weeks. As many as 20,000 people blocked off all the highways leading into and out of Santa Cruz. They threatened to march on the city if the government offices were not returned. Food prices soared and fuel cars and buses became scarce. Several dozen people were killed in clashes between opposing groups.
To shorten the story, the occupied offices were returned to the government, the blockades have been lifted and life has returned pretty much to normal. The MAS government and the eastern provinces seeking autonomy are now in talks, and are trying to make compromises in the new constitution that will be agreeable to all parties. The president wants to bring the new constitution before the people for a national vote on December 7th. In the mist of all this, Evo Morales accused the U.S. Ambassador of collaborating with the opposition in an attempt to overthrow the government, so he kicked him out of the country. During all of this turmoil, the U.S. embassy and consulates were closed, and international flights cancelled.
While life in Santa Cruz is a bit stressful, and a few mission organizations have decided to pull out their missionaries, we are staying for now and hoping that everyone calms down and thinks about the true devastation that civil war could bring to Bolivia. Our water well drilling project was pretty much shut down during the blockades and protests, but now that the highways are clear again, we are leaving tomorrow morning (Oct 2nd) on a mission trip with our local church, Trinity International, to drill water wells in a Yuqui Indian village on the Chimore River. Please pray for our success and safety on this trip. Pray also for a mission team from Crossroads Christian, our home church in Kentucky, scheduled to come down on a well drilling trip at the end of October. I think everyone involved would be awfully disappointed if we had to cancel this trip. But above all, pray for peace and unity in Bolivia. The racial tension between the indigenous western half (the Collas) and “white” eastern half of Bolivia (the Cambas) is centuries old and deeply entrenched, thus making political conflict extremely difficult to resolve.
Thank you for your continued support of our ministry here in Bolivia. It is so exciting to see how God is working in our lives and in the lives of Bolivians around us. I don’t think spiritual transformation happens to a country overnight, but rather it happens in individuals lives one at a time. We pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to transform people here from the inside out and that we can be a part of that.
As you may have noticed, we are changing how we collect support for our ministry. If you are still sending support through Owingsville Baptist in Kentucky, we are now asking you to please send your support either through the EFCA (Evangelical Free Church of America) or directly through the EFCCM (Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission). The details of this transition are outlined below. If you would like your gift to go specifically to the water well drilling project or the girl’s halfway house, please let us know.
Daniel and Vanessa Beams
EFCCM -- Casilla 3740 -- Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Bolivia Telephone: 011-591-3351-1087
Blogs: www.beamsclan.blogspot.com, www.simplewatersolutions.blogspot.com
Photo Gallery: www.pbase.com/beamsclan