Debbie Rissing's blog

Thanksgiving 2016 Newsletter

Greetings, All:

It's Thanksgiving Day in Copacabana, and we’re feeling reflective.

We send our thanks to all of you who have supported us and the communities we serve here, over all these years. This past year has been no exception.

Here and Loving It

Dear Friends and Family,

Sorry for the long absence of newsletters. Now that our restaurant, Pan America, is thriving, we burn about 70 hours a week just running the shop - it's just the two of us plus a helper. On slow days and "free" days, we clean and restock, dash to La Paz - a five-hour ride - for ingredients we can't get in Copa, tend to mission projects, squeeze in music classes and practice time, attend mandatory neighborhood work days, as well as mandatory meetings, parades and soccer games.

2014 - Ahh, What a Year

Happy New Year!

We hope 2015 is off to a good start for you!

10830901_392249617593481_6965819002290535189_oFor us, 2014 was a whirl of productivity - and fun. Here's a quick review of what the mission, with support from donors and volunteers, did last year:

  • Provided first aid training for local church and community leaders, and gave free, stocked first aid kits;
  • Painted the interiors and exteriors of two churches and the interior of a third;
  • Provided leadership training for church leaders;
  • 10830709_392247550927021_452972975829355370_oSeven greenhouses in production - four annual harvests help improve nutrition for poor, rural students who also work in the greenhouses. Schools sell produce to help cover operating costs.
  • The cuy (guinea pig) farm sold about 200 cuys, generating about 10.000 Bolivianos, or about $1,500 USD, to help sustain the Sub District. In this area that's a LOT of money. Even more importantly, it teaches and reinforces the notion that INVESTMENT + WORK = INCOME;
  • To help make high-protein quinoa accessible again for poor families (price has tripled due to developed nations' demand for the super food), in 2013 the mission gave a kilo of certified quinoa seeds to 120 families who pledged to save 10% of their new seed heads for replanting in 2014, and give 10% to their local churches to help cover the cost of human services they provide for the poor. Families could eat or sell the remaining 80%. Some families sold their new seed heads for planting, meaning that beyond boosting their own protein intake, they also shared the wealth with their extended family, friends and neighbors.
  • With donor support, the mission built a church kitchen and community latrine in the village of Chani. By sharing a common wall and water and drainage system, the mission, the congregation, and the community conserved costs.
  • A team of adult volunteers from the Northern Illinois Conference brought well over 1,000 pairs of used prescription glasses and new or used readers. In July an NIC youth team distributed the lenses at four community fairs. We matched glasses to an estimated 300 people. Ahhh: the joy of watching someone see the world clearly for the first time in years, maybe decades! We came to call it the Hallelujah Moment.
  • 10547795_338052993013144_6114459406248297348_oThe mission and a lot of volunteer workers installed new windows in Iglesia Nueva Esperanza (New Hope Church) in Huacuyo Valley.
  • In August, we opened Pan America, a bakery and pizzeria, whose proceeds help support the mission's projects. Our 60- to 70-hour work weeks are tiring but rewarding and delightful. We meet people from all over the world, and continue to marvel at how kind, generous, and good-hearted most people are. Volunteers from the U.S., Uruguay, France and Germany are working with us both at the shop and various construction sites. We'd originally hoped they'd cover for us while we visited the U.S. for Christmas through the end of January. Alas, document problems and money problems obviated our international travel plans. (The recent election of a new Bolivian bishop meant the outgoing one could no longer release our funds to us; the incoming bishop couldn't do so until the second week of January.) Though again postponing a trip home was a big disappointment to us, it seemed impractical to travel to the States for just two or three weeks. In May and June we will attend a stateside training program, and will have some time to see friends and family then. Meanwhile, our January volunteer coverage allows us a chance to enjoy a little free time.
  • We and a crowd of volunteers recently trenched for and began pouring concrete for the foundation of a new church in Santa Ana.

Stuffed with Gratitude

Day of (Doubled) Giving

On Dec. 2, the United Methodist Church's General Board of Global Ministries will sponsor its second annual Day of Giving and will match the first $1 million donated to missions.

In the first few minutes of Tuesday, Dec. 2, Eastern time (Monday, Dec. 1, 11pm Central), gifts made to Mision Fronteras, Advance Site #3021288, are pretty likely to be doubled. You may recall that last year donors to Mision Fronteras gave a staggering $26,000, but only one $500 gift was doubled by GBGM. This year, GBGM is trying to ensure a more equitable distribution of matching funds.

If you are thinking of making an end-of-year gift to help support the valuable work of this home-grown mission, please try to do so as soon as possible after 11pm on Monday.

Making a donation involves three easy steps:

  1. Give NowGo to our mission's Advance page at this link 
    (or click the button on the right).
  2. Click on the big red "GIVE NOW" button.
  3. Complete and submit the form.

Please read their latest newsletter by clicking on the "Read More" link.


Pan America, Week 8

We Are Cooking! 6.10.14

For the first time in our lives, we wake up in the earliest hours of a day and think, "How soon 'til we can get up and dive into the next (12 – 15-hour) work day?"

If we were any happier, we'd burst.

I love making up recipes inspired by customers' feedback, my whims, and available, fresh ingredients. We both love talking with visitors from around the world.

The Holy Week That "Is"

Bricks, Mortar and Sweat

Remember a little over two weeks ago we and leaders of the Chañi church came to an agreement to build a kitchen and latrines that would share a wall and septic system, and thereby cost the church and the mission less money?

Bandage, Stone Age, Garbage

First aid trainingThe moment she hit the floor, everyone in the back row leapt to their feet to see what would happen next.

Sue Albright, a volunteer in mission and a virtual patient for the mission's recent First Aid training class, moaned in pretend agony feigning a sprained ankle. Her daughter, Jessica Workman, walked the 20 avid listeners through the Spanish equivalents of RICE -- Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevate. She showed them how to splint with a piece of tree bark, sticks and a shredded T-shirt, all readily available in remote rural areas.

Roofing and Blessing the Huacuyo Church

Huacuyo Church

Last week more than 50 volunteers built 17 colossal roof trusses and put a metal roof on the new Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) Church in nearby Huacuyo Valley. This is a momentous event: it’s the first new church in this region in more than 20 years! Now that it’s roofed, it can be used. The “floor” of dirt and grass, the absence of doors and windows, and the occasional bird flying through don’t concern the members. Now that the roof is on, they consider everything else “obra fina,” fine work, minor details.

Youth Olympiad and Retreat

Youth Olympiad

In this Thanksgiving season we are awash with gratitude. We are grateful to have the good fortune to serve here, and honored to ensure that donors’ gifts are maximally stretched and wisely invested.

Trench, Drench, Quench

Thirteen pairs of fresh hands from Grace Church in North Augusta, South Carolina, worked with us July 22 through 25. Along with about 50 local folks, the team’s construction crew trenched and laid a new 400-meter water line connecting a mountain springhead to a church construction site in Huacuyo Valley. Others in the SC team taught vacation bible study classes to kids in Huacuyo, Copacabana, and Santa Ana, which is so remote none of the kids knew any Spanish – a local church leader translated to Aymara. They offered a sticker-art project, and a host of fun animal- based play, followed by a snack: animal crackers from the States!

One team member left us cash to replace bent, uncushioned crutches used by Paulina, a woman who’d lost one of her legs 30 years ago to a post-accident infection. After a circuitous search in La Paz last week, Jeff found a new pair of sturdy, US-made aluminum crutches; he bought extra tips and grip pads. Although we’ve never heard her complain, judging from Paulina’s blistered hands, she’ll be overjoyed to have more comfortable, workable crutches to help her get around.

Bolivia, the Lonely Planet travel guide, lists Bolivian Independence Day as one of the top ten festivals in Bolivia, and specifies it’s “best in Copacabana” and is “characterized by pilgrimages, round-the- clock music, parades, brass bands, fireworks and amazing alcohol consumption.” Copa’s 8,000 residents made room for about 30,000 visitors, mostly from elsewhere in Bolivia, or Peru. Streets were so clogged with vendors, shoppers and drinkers that taxi drivers worked only the outskirts or not at all, and tourist buses loaded and unloaded at the edge of town. Jeff caught this (below) of one of the quirkier street hawkers selling horse fat. Our middle-aged friends told us it’s meant to treat skin conditions. Their young adult offspring snickered and told us in English, presumably so their parents couldn’t track, it’s “for make hot man.”


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