Yesterday was July 24. In Utah Pioneer day is celebrated by huge parades, but here in Bolivia I got to have my very own Pioneer day.
We awoke early in Tupiza to make the drive out to Quiriza for their branch conference. Bolivia is a land of contrasts and while there are modern cities with tall multi-story apartment and office buildings, there are also awesome pueblos like Quiriza.
We drove the dirt roads, past beautiful red rock mountains. Sometimes the road ducks under an overhanging cliff of sandstone. We drove past farmland, plowed and ready. We stopped for goats crossing the road, and smiled at the clothes drying on the bushes and fences. We picked up three beautiful women from one family, walking to the chapel. They walk over an hour just to get to church and then another hour home.
Shortly after we arrived the bell on the chapel was rung, calling all to come to church. I sat in that beautiful adobe chapel with the white plastered walls, and looked around the room. In the corner stands an old piano, ornate and slightly out of tune. The long wooden benches glistened with their new coat of polish. Sun streamed through the windows and a long wooden beam (tree) stretched across the eaves providing support for the roof.
The saints gathered to worship, huddled under blankets and shawls as the chapel has no heat. The children stroked my hair, and remark “claro, y suave” while I gazed at their beautiful thick shiny black hair. These two girls only have hair about 3 inches long as it had to be shaved off because of an outbreak of lice.
These are pioneers too. People who work the soil, planting garlic and corn. People who know how to read the weather, care for their herds of animals, use herbs for medicine. People with deep trust in God. I love sitting beside them and feeling their love. It is a gift that I cherish. It was a perfect pioneer day.