Okay, blog is working again. Figured out and fixed the problem.
So the past week spent in Santa Cruz was marvelous. The city itself did not necessarily blow me away as far as the touristy-stuff, but out of all the cities I've visited, here, more than anywhere else in South America, I have formed the most meaningful relationships and had the most fruitful conversations.
The people, the friendships I've made here, the way I've got to experience Latin American "life" better here than anywhere else...this has made my time here incredibly special. The pictures below are of many of the people who've made my time here what it is.
This was a blast. One of the pastors I talked to, Jorge, runs a care center for children, most of whom have rough family situations. I had the chance to spend some time here, playing with the kids and offering encouragement to them in different ways. So much fun...it's amazing how welcoming and warm they are, how enthused they are to have someone like me join them. This was after our an "intense" soccer game.
This is Sergio, the night his family and I went out for dinner. He is the dean of a grad school here, a huge help and a great friend to me in my time in Santa Cruz. Very insightful and compassionate man.
Here I am with Felix and Joel...Felix (left) is a pastor, director at the local Christian university, and wears a number of other hats and is very connected to the Christian Church here. Joel (right) was a stud. He volunteered for me all week (save the occasional meal and coffee I provided him) doing translation work. He did a superb job, was very available, and also offered a good perspective from the youth side of things here. We developed a good friendship over the week.
Here I am with another wonderful person, Maria. She is a worship leader and youth worker at one of the churches I visited. Here we are enjoying some ice cream downtown. Very kind and caring person, seems to be the "big sister" as Joel put it, of their group of friends. Also laughs a lot, at the most random things. Gosh...now I know how obnoxious yet endearing it is for my friends when I do that.
My wonderful family. They were so good to me. David especially (center, in blue), the father of the family, was amazing. First of all, they did not really speak any English, so my Spanish improved greatly during the week...we really had little trouble communicating. But David, a pastor and director of several different ministries in Santa Cruz, was so supportive of me, frequently adjusting his schedule so he could be with me, or help me find my way around to my various interviews. A great godly man...patient, generous, selfless. I can't say enough great things about him.
And some traditional Bolivian dancing. This was at a YWAM send-off for David's daughter, Ani, before she left on a mission trip to China.
So...now I am in Argentina, currently in Buenos Aires for a few days before I head west toward another part of the country. Whole different world here, for sure. Been strange and interesting so far in a day and a half, but positive. More explanation on that in a few days.