The war went on for about 4 years and both sides lost thousands of men. Today the Chaco desert is almost completely uninhabited, the arid ground is useless for farming and no one really wants it.
One thing I've been learning on this trip is to trust God. I thought I'd learned this lesson, but I guess it's one that has to be continually relearned throughout life. I now have a verse for the trip: Psalm 37:5 "Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will do it." (roughly translated from Spanish) It's a well known verse, but it became what I could meditate on and depend on for this leg of the trip especially after being told horror stories of the drive we were about to take through the Chaco desert--hitchhikers who died in mysterious circumstances, 6 flat tires, hundreds of kilometers of dust, bags stolen while sleeping and, to top it off, a sign in the bus saying to not carry large sums of money or jewelry in case of an armed robbery for which the company was not responsible!
I ruminated on what it means to trust the Lord. I went back over what I know about Him, His power, His Sovereignty, His love and His purposes and leaned back in that. God gave me peace on the bus ride and brought us through without incident. Thanks for praying.
We were on our way about 9:30 p.m. and hunkered down in our seats (about the size of an economy airline seat) and slept. At 3 a.m. we woke up as we stopped at the last outpost of the Paraguayan government (3 hours from the border!) to have our passports stamped that we were leaving the country. Everyone filed off the bus into the cold and fog except the kids and I who had Jim to do our paperwork. (What a great guy!)
We bundled up in all we had and my shawl became my blanket as we braved the penetrating cold. As soon as the bus started we slept again until 6 when we stopped at the Bolivian border where a soldier came on board and gave a cursory inspection of the bus.
Up ahead in the pre-dawn light we could see a post that marked the official boundary between nations. On our way again, we huddled down once more until we reached the Bolivian government buildings. Here the bus stopped for about an hour while we all trundled off and did our paperwork. At a wooden shack we got a cup of hot coffee for 2 Bolivianos each (about 25c). We had to walk about 100 feet down the dusty road to where they checked our passports and names against the bus manifest and we reloaded.
The first two hours on Bolivian soil we drove on dirt roads from which dust billowed up.
Finally we were on pavement again. Before we had left Asuncion there had been a stop at a grocery store where people bought munchies for the trip. The last to buy were the bus drivers who got a case of beer or perhaps whiskey. It was placed in the front row in front of us. That was concerning. At some point on Monday I noticed the spare driver get a bottle out and I thought, "Oh my." But then we stopped at yet another police check (there had been several) and I saw the Sergent put the bottle under his counter and stamp our papers. Then Jim and I remembered seeing the army men receive newspapers in the middle of the night. Perhaps that explained the cursory inspections and our arrival 1.5 hours ahead of time at 5 p.m. in Santa Cruz!
We are staying at the New Tribes guest house in 80F and sunshine. We've already done 4 loads of laundry and had a good night's sleep in the best place we've stayed so far--apart from homes. I think the sunshine and warmth add to it. This is the first time we've used our short sleeves (well, at least me) and sandals.
We are to spend today and tomorrow with the Brad and Karen Hallock, our co-workers from Lima days. Tomorrow we're having a 4th of July cookout! Tonight and tomorrow night are ECS Meetings. Jim had hoped for an general invitation for tonight and a specific invite back for those more interested tomorrow, but they gave an general invitation for both nights. Brad is planning to start a new Emmaus office here in Santa Cruz and has already begun ordering courses from Argentina. Pray that the people would be enthused to study the Word of God and that God would show Brad to what level he should become involved in this ministry.
From here we fly to La Paz on Thursday (due to the unpredictable roadblocks by constant strikes in Bolivia) for more ECS meetings over the weekend. Jim will also be preaching in the assembly on Sunday morning.
They fought a war over it, killing a generation of Paraguayan men, but now no one wants it--the Chaco desert of northern Paraguay. In the 1930s Bolivia attacked Paraguay about the the top third of the territory of Paraguay--a scrub brush desert--to gain access to the Parana River which would give it access to the Atlantic Ocean eventually.