Stories from 3 places

The first is Konani, my first project site. There are two water wells: one is almost 20 years old, built by my boss’s family and the Methodist church, and still works pretty well. Ironically, the other is about 5 years old and has major problems. This project will repair the existing systems and possibly add a third well for the quickly growing town.

There is incredible support for this project within Bolivia, from the government and the church. This is a dream for development work! The funding will probably come mostly from within Bolivia; we may actually have to slow down the proposed incoming funding. Why? Because it’s so important to take the time to analyze and design correctly and carefully, as evidenced by the difference in the two existing systems in Konani. You can see photos here.

Image

Here, the small community medical clinic has a water storage tank, but rarely any incoming water. They often have to carry water to the clinic from other places. Through this project, the clinic will have the clean water they need to care for their patients!

 

 

 

The second place I visited was a community at the end of a long dirt road, where the church has a medical clinic in mid-construction. Right now, the community has medicine supply and a nurse but only an old classroom to set up camp.

 On the four hour drive there, we got stopped by a group of llamas. There was a family in the car teaching their son the names of animals, so he and I learned together how to differentiate a llama and alpaca.

The trip was multipurpose; we also went to a celebration to say thank you the local lay pastors for their year of service. In this new culture to me, there were uncomfortable moments like not knowing the “table” manners (though we we ate sitting in the grass), or when my new friends debated in Aymara (the main language) the cost of my glasses, or when I sat in a very wet patch of grass 🙂 However by the end we must have overcome some cultural differences; they told me how to say in Aymara “I don’t want to leave”.

The final place to tell of was a peña, a place of local music and dancing. I went on Saturday with two co-workers; I didn’t have my camera but here’s a picture that captures dress of the musicians (center back) and the atmosphere.

With coca leaves on every table, egg cartons on the ceiling to spread out the sound and keep the temperature moderate, and constant dancing by young and old alike, it certainly was a fascinating place.

Thanks for venturing to these places with me through the stories! If you are a praying person please pray for the health of friends and family, and someone here named Hyro who is in a coma. More on the prayer page.

El Presidente

I got started on work right away this week, specifically on a water supply project I’ll be managing in a community called Konani. I met people who I’ll be working with, learned about the project and community history, and jumped right in to reading documents (all in Spanish!) that will help with the project design.

On Friday I was invited to an event between the Bolivian government and the Methodist church where they signed an agreement that will facilitate work in areas where the two groups have common goals, like in education, sanitation, development, etc. The Bolivian president, Evo Morales, talked about the work of the Bolivian Methodist church, the importance of clean water, and specifically used the Konani project as an example.

I had known the project was on the President’s radar, but to have him talk about it at this momentous event and publicly invite us to submit it to him for additional funding is another thing entirely. To be honest, it makes me really nervous. It feels like the stakes have been raised to have a very successful project.

However, I have to remember that the most important stakeholders are the people of Konani (and subsequent communities for which this project/partnership will serve as a model) not whatever eyes happen to be watching.

I’ve seen God’s hand already guiding my work this week, easily finding important information I didn’t know if I’d ever find. I know that with Him in charge, this project and collaboration can result in even more than we are even hoping for right now.

Spontaneously this weekend I joined a Methodist group from Oklahoma City on their end-of-trip excursion to some historical sights. It was a great crash course in Aymaran history! For more pictures, see the Facebook album at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151089666012831.436601.516732830&type=1&l=c8b127a0a5

Apartment tour

I’m starting to feel adjusted to the altitude and feel settled in a bit. Here’s a video (less than two minutes) of my apartment and its view overlooking La Paz. Though usually 2-3 people live here, right now it’s just me. This is the company apartment, in the same building as the Engineers In Action office.

Sound by Grupo Aymara and a neighborhood dog.

Here we go

Tomorrow I’ll be at my new office. It happens to be in La Paz, Bolivia.

Image [With the purse from Bolivia I’ve been using for 7 years and the lunch my dad made me. It’s been a while since my parents made me a brown bag lunch. It must be a special day.]

Th goodbyes have been hard. A sweet card from this young lady, Courtney, had me wrecked- in a good way- tears as a tribute to all the goodness. She encouraged me greatly, as have other friends and family.

[Courtney and me at summer camp.]

I’ve been living in intentional community in Minneapolis where we’re learning not to be too independent or dependent, but interdependent. I’m not just going away on an adventure- it’s part of a global movement of brothers and sisters learning to live out their callings. There are people I will never be able to repay: incredibly supportive parents, good friends, even a few financial supporters who I’ve not seen in years or not met. But interdependence is not about “paying back”; It’s about freely giving, receiving, sharing.

An update on support & a story of trusting:

1) At first I had to spend money on training and a flight before I had raised anything. But I trusted that since God clearly had this next step for me, he would provide.

2) Then for a time, my preparation expenses very closely matched what came in, literally day by day. I wondered if it would be like that the whole year. It’s not the margin I’ve been taught to maintain by my financially-minded family, but still I trusted that if it continued, that would be sufficient.

3) I’m happy to report that in recent weeks, generous individuals have gotten me to the halfway point- I’m fully funded for the first half of the year!

[The water supply version of the fundraising thermometer. To help fill the glass, visit laurenbutler.org/support, click “Donate”, and select my name from the drop-down list.]

Now is when ideas become realities. Some will be hard: the privilege of a new job may be accompanied by a long workday, or the thrill of a new culture and language temporarily deflated by not knowing the word for what I’m seeking in the store. Yet more so, I anticipate the positive realities: the idea of working with Bolivian churches and communities transforms into faces, and friends. I’ll meet my co-workers who already have been supportive. I’ll learn from a wealth of knowledge on engineering development projects and put to good use what I’ve been learning over the years. And I’ll discover more about Bolivia.

As I left Minneapolis, I noticed some little things I love- like edgy identities and bicyclists that rule the road. I don’t know those little things that I will love about La Paz, like maybe a cafe around the corner or a good friend down the street. But an email from a co-worker helped remind me that I will find them. He shared that one thing that cannot be captured in books or websites about Bolivia is the “human warmth of the Bolivian people” and that though he is biased because he was born there, “in my opinion La Paz is the best city in the world.”

For prayer requests, please visit laurenbutler.org/support/pray. Here we go!

Introduction

Welcome! Please come along on this next adventure of my life where I will work with communities in Bolivia to improve water supply, sanitation, and medical facilities.

I’ll be working with Engineers In Action; an incredible non-profit committed to sustainable engineering development with the poorest communities throughout Bolivia, achieved through partnership. Read more about me and this position on EIA’s News Flash: EIA Welcomes New Staff Member!

Joining this team as the liaison between EIA and the Methodist Church in Bolivia means that EIA will now be able to partner with local churches that want to amplify their impact on their communities. We will also be able to partner with church groups in the U.S. for engineering design, instead of only secular organizations.

Because EIA’s current funds cannot be used for projects with partnering organizations that are religious, I am seeking donations so that I can be fully funded for one year. Please consider supporting me as a way of partnering with this work in Bolivia. To donate online, follow the link and select my name from the drop-down list. You can choose to make a one-time or a monthly gift. If you are comfortable with it, please let me know you donated so I can track that it ends up in the right place and track progress. I can be reached at lauren.butler@engineersinaction.org for any questions, suggestions, or just to stay in touch.