Two months earlier Bolivian news flashed images of flames engulfing a campesino (peasant) market in Yacuiba, a city in the southern department of Tarija. The fire was attributed to faulty electrical wiring which had quickly consumed the makeshift structure spanning a number of blocks, leaving charred rubble and serval hundred people without inventory or a place of business.
Those working in this market are particularly vulnerable as they generally live without long-term savings. Many face significant financial strain as they seek to pay rent, buy food, and establish a new
Talk of this event circulated within many Bolivian circles and at the request of a number of churches, CBM and OBADES (Baptist Development Org.) soon began brainstorming around how they could collaborate to provide relief. After consultation with a number of local church members and the market’s workers association, a general response plan began to come together. A list of those who had lost their entire livelihood to the fire was provided by the association and it was decided that aid packages comprised of essential groceries would be distributed.
Naturally, this aid cannot resolve the larger struggle facing these families but it can afford modest alleviation by covering essential needs and enabling individuals to invest their funds into other areas of need such as rent, school fees, and costs associated with restarting their businesses.
Two weeks ago, Kallie met up with some of those who distributed the aid as well as a few recipients during a women’s conference. Sonia had a small business selling children’s clothes and lost everything in the fire. She expressed what a difficult time it’s been for her family and how they’re struggling to get back on their feet after such a huge blow. “All that food just before Christmas was a miracle!” shared Sonia. “For all of us who lost our businesses, it has been a terrible few months. Many who worked in the stalls around me were not Christians. I was so proud to see my church caring for them anyway. What a way to show Christ’s love!”
This is a more tangible example of how Canadian Baptist Churches enable CBM to partner with groups like OBADES to empower local churches to share Christ in their communities. The relief recipients are unlikely to know who OBADES is (and certainly don’t know CBM) but they’ve seen the church in the faces of neighbours and friends as they've shown they care with both word and deed. They’ve witnessed the compassionate character of God.