Bill and Holly Richardson have been team mentors for Team Arequipa from TA 1.0 to today. They live, work, and serve in Searcy, AR, while they have also been instrumental in the formation and dispatch of mission teams to South America.
Since 2002, Holly and I have had the privilege of accompanying Harding University students to Peru and Bolivia. That first summer we were in Arequipa for the very first time! It is encouraging to see all that God has done in Arequipa since then! We have taken the occasional summer off from travels to do other things (we were in Greece in 2008) but I believe we’ve traveled to these South American nations ten times, accompanied by students on all but one occasion. In 2014, we faced our greatest logistical challenge, traveling with up to sixteen other individuals to Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile.
This past summer we confined our travels to Bolivia. Ten interns joined us. Our theme for our summer work was: “Teaching Faithful Men and Women to Teach Others” from 2 Timothy 2:2. We worked with six congregations in five cities: Cochabamba, Trinidad, La Paz, El Alto, and Viacha. Interns also researched a city near Cochabamba called Sacaba. In Cochabamba, I taught a workshop to Bolivian evangelists on the topic: “Studying the Bible with Limited Resources.”
Some of our interns spent time at Conexiones, a language institute in Cochabamba prior to our arrival to polish their Spanish. Four Central Americans were among our interns and proved to be a great help. This became the summer of Lectio Divina as we shared this ancient spiritual discipline as an approach to learn and share Scripture in a meaningful way. Some may recognize Lectio Divina as the inspiration for “Discovery Bible Studies.” It served us well as we shared with the churches.
This was also the summer for illness, unfortunately. One of the interns fell ill with dengue fever in Trinidad, a city in the Amazon basin of Bolivia. She was very sick and Holly and I stayed with her for an additional six days as she was hospitalized in a private clinic as the other interns went to research Sacaba. The Lord blessed us with a skilled physician who cared for her in amazing ways. Then, during our last week in La Paz, several fell ill with salmonella. One young man’s case was complicated by bronchitis and altitude sickness (we were at 14,500 feet!) and he was hospitalized for three days. All are recovered and, surprisingly, still grateful for their experience. The quote of the summer for me came from the young lady struggling with dengue: “You can’t follow the man of the cross without acquiring a few scars!”
We missed our time in Arequipa this summer even though we had been with Team Arequipa (1.0 and 2.0!) back in January. We are so proud of our missionaries—for the work that has been accomplished and the ongoing efforts at present. Holly and I are hoping that God will be gracious and allow us to return to the “white city” sometime during 2016. We are facing new challenges and anticipating new opportunities but ever ready for the adventure to continue!