An Adventurous Trip

Obed and Rebecca Hanisch, Bolivia

Life is full of surprises. We aren’t writing this letter from our mission station in Riberalta, but from Switzerland. How it came about.

On April 19, 2020, we were asked the question that started it all. Rebecca was pregnant, and at that point, I (Obed) was already doing very limited work due to bilateral tendonitis in my arms. Additionally, my Achilles tendons on both sides had become inflamed, and I was hardly able to leave the house for three weeks.

During this time, the situation in Bolivia also changed: military curfews were imposed, schools were closed, travel was prohibited, and only members of selected professions were permitted to work. So, our employees and boarding school children had to stay at home. Traveling to Cochabamba for the birth was also unthinkable at the time.

That Sunday, due to these changes, the mission leadership in Riberalta asked us if we wanted to try to travel to Switzerland for the birth and my medical evaluations.

After a lot of prayer and reflection, we decided to try. However, it turned out to be much more complicated and time-consuming than expected! We went through three very turbulent weeks, with lots of ups and downs, sleepless nights, over 100 phone calls, countless emails, tons of paperwork (along with booking confirmations), medical certificates, long wait times—and above all, prayer. The following passage from Psalm 42 often comforted us during this time: 

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Ps 42:5-6).

We often felt the Lord continually calming us, and were supported by many people’s prayers.

Impossible for Us—But Not for God
From a human perspective, it was utterly impossible to leave Riberalta. We had bought our tickets to Santa Cruz (Bolivia) the day before, as it was the departure point for the last repatriation flight from Bolivia. There we sat with our suitcases at the Riberalta airport, after learning that our flight was canceled…only a miracle could bring us to Santa Cruz, and from there to Switzerland.

Yes, and God helped wonderfully! We got two seats on another flight at the last minute, although we’d had to wait an hour and a half to buy them the night before. The plane was quite full. The next day, via Cochabamba, we landed in Santa Cruz in an almost empty plane, with just five other passengers. It was a wonder that this flight hadn’t been canceled! After a five-day trip, we finally arrived in Zurich. We can only marvel at God’s work and can hardly believe that we’re here now.

Current Situation in Bolivia
While the coronavirus pandemic is subsiding in Europe, the situation in Bolivia is only getting worse. Recently, there have been situations similar to Italy’s in Trinidad (Bolivia): the only doctor in the ICU gave notice because of overwork; face masks were sold out; the hospital hopelessly overcrowded; and many doctors were working despite being infected themselves. Pastor Alex, who lived with us on the premises for a long time, informed us of the dire situation: his father lives in Trinidad and is suffering from pneumonia, fever, and diabetes. The drugs he needs were sold out in the pharmacies; there wasn’t even any aspirin left. The government has since brought in some medications and hospital beds by plane.

In Riberalta, the mission team has shrunk quite a bit, and the city now has its first coronavirus cases. Please pray that Riberalta won’t degenerate like Trinidad, where the district has declared a state of medical emergency.

It’s unknown how and when the boarding school will continue. While our employees aren’t legally permitted to come to work, we’re still obligated to continue paying their wages. Of course, there’s still lots of work to be done on the site. We’re grateful that two of our employees live on-site and support us through maintenance work. The new boarding school is also currently at a standstill.

For the Time Being…
We don’t know how the future will develop. Many of our plans were very different not too long ago. But we know that God will lead wonderfully. 

We hope to take care of various office tasks from here until the baby is born (so far as health allows). God willing, we will return to Riberalta as soon as possible.

Midnight Call - 09/2020

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