Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Rescue in The Chaco

Email received January 5, 2014

Hola familia!

So this last week was actually pretty crazy all around, but the craziest part was the chaco. So let me start from the beginning of this. So as I'm sure you've read there was a whole tribe of Nivacle Indians that all got baptized in the 80's. They are deep in the chaco (about 15 hours away from Asunción) up almost to Bolivia. In our mission there are about 250 missionaries. Of those missionaries probably about 200 of them are here in Asunción or in cities nearby. About 40 of them are in areas in between Asunción and Brazil, but there are only 6 in the chaco. This place where the nivacle live is way out in the chaco so they don't even have missionaries out there (the closest ones are about 6 or so hours away) and once in a blue moon a companionship from the chaco will get to go out there, the assistants haven't been there since I believe they were baptized (that could be an exaggeration but like my father always says never let the details get in the way of a good story). So Friday we were doing zone capacitations while President McMullin was in interviews with the missionaries in Luque when I got a call from a missionary in the chaco letting me know that the Nivacles were nervous about the river picomayo flooding and blocking off the roads and they wouldn't be able to get anything in or out of the community (called Mistolar) for a few months. So anyways I told him I would talk with President, but the elder called me about 6 more times before President came out, so I felt like it was a little urgent. Eventually President finished everything and I told him to call the Elder. The next morning we had a staff meeting and President said that he was thinking and the only thing he can think to do is go out ourselves and get them the supplies they need before Wednesday when the roads close for 2 to 3 months. So that day we bought all of the supplies and borrowed some brand new little trucks from PVO (the distribution center) and loaded them all up.

The next morning we went to church in Trinidad and it was really nice. Then we ate lunch with some members and packed up some things and headed out. Our plan was to go pick up some missionaries that are in the chaco then stay the night in filadelfia then make the 6 hour drive out to mistolar and deliver the supplies and help them sandbag and prepare. Then we were going to camp that night right there in mistolar with them and leave at 4 in the morning and make the 15 hour drive back to Asunción. So we got to filadelfia and stayed the night in a hotel. Then the next morning we got up and started driving. We got to this little german town called Neuland and it's pretty much the last of anything until you just hit the dirt road and get to Mistolar. So we got through the little town there was a check point and we asked the guy how the roads were looking and he told us everything was perfect. he also told us that the roads getting to mistolar would ever only be closed 2-3 days max! So we were getting a little nervous that maybe the nivacle had exaggerated a little bit and we had come out here for nothing. but we decided to carry on anyways. After a few hours we got to a little military stop and we got out of the car to talk to some of the men over there. Their report was very different from the first one we got. They said that the rains had been coming in from bolivia and that the roads would be shutting down real soon so we needed to hurry but that we shouldn't have too many problems. So we kept driving a while longer and we the guy that accompanied us told us that the water was higher than usual and that there was water where there hadn't been a few weeks ago. So we kept going and then out of nowhere we saw a little dispensa on the side of the road. we stopped there to see what they knew and the man there was named leguizamón. he told us very clearly that he didn't reccomend that we spend the night in mistolar. He told us that we should be able to get in just fine but get out by the evening. His wife was telling us that we should be fine if we spent the night and we were kinda just hoping that this leguizamón guy was a little crazy. So we went on our way again and stopped and had lunch by this little bridge. After lunch we started going and realized that the nivacle hadn't just called wolf. We got to this giant mud puddle as wide as the road and about 30 meters long. I got out with this other Elder from the chaco named Elder Zilm (he's exactly like Boo Boo) and we started poking the mud to see how firm it was and to try and figure out the best way through it. Elder Zilm and I concluded that the best way would just be to gun it on through there and push it hard until we got out. President McMullin though had to varify that one for himself, but he also arrived at the conclusion that that was our best option. So we backed up and high tailed it on through. We kept going and then there was another mud puddle even trickier. President McMullin got out and told us to hit this one slowly. Elder Dickson and President were in the back truck at this point and I was in the front truck with a member of the stake presidency in asunción and two other Elders. We went first and went nice and slow but eventually Elder zilm, Elder maidana (elder zilm´s comp) and I had to actually get out and push the truck to get out. We had got all dirty doing this so we had the stake presidency guy (gustavo marmol) pull forward and we were going to help push president´s truck out, but all of the sudden we heard president´s truck and he had decided to hit this one super fast! So we ran out of the way and hopped in our truck and just hightailed it through for another while coming in and out of these mud piles (not many people get to go mudding with their mission president for a p-day activity haha).

So we got within about 8 kilometers from mistolar and we were facing a giant river. The water had already blocked off these last 8 kilometers and there was absolutely no way our trucks were going to make it. President McMullin started thinking of the options realized there was only one. He threw a couple of liters of water on our backs and in a very Brigham Young-like way told us to go bring in those nivacle. He sent us hiking through this water to go and find the nivacle and have them come out as far as they can with their tractor and to have all of them that could come with us to unload the trucks and get them their supplies. So the 4 of us missionaries started walking down this river picamayo. It was pretty slippery(Elder Zilm fell twice) and about up to our knees at some points. Eventually we ran into some of the nivacle on the trail. They had been expecting us to come and had been waiting there for us for a few hours but eventually figured that the water was too high and that we weren´t going to come. They had turned around and started walking back but after a few kilometers they saw some clouds of dust and tiny specs and turned around and started coming back in hopes that we had come with their provisions. We turned around once we met up with them and walked back to the trucks. We backed the trucks up about 30 meters and started to unload everything. We got everything out of the truck and on the ground and the nivacle started bringing it to their tractor. After about 15 minutes the water had risen up to where the food was, they got the last bag of flour up right in the nik of time. We then said by to the tribe and high tailed it out of there. Basically the Lord was taking such great care of us. Had we have gotten there a little earlier we may have tried to enter and gotten stuck with the nivacle for a few months and had we have gotten there any later we probably wouldn´t have been able to get them their supplies. There were a lot more details to the trip but that will have to wait until otro dia no mas. It was really cool because driving home I got to ride with President McMullin (about a 7 hour interview) and it was super cool. Being with the indians really got me thinking and it really softned my heart. They came out without shoes walking on these paths to come get their supplies. My heart really goes out to them and I really want to help them however I can. President McMullin and I were talking and he told me what they need to do is keep the commandments. Last year a general authority went out there and told them that if they would pay their tithing then mistolar would never flood. We were talking about that and about how they really need testimonies of the Book of Mormon. It´s tough because they don´t really speak spanish (they speak nivacle) but President has a plan, and God has a bigger and more perfect one and I know that this truley is a special land I´m in. I´m super glad for this oppertunity that I have to serve the Lord and I´m loving it so much. I hope you have a wonderful week. I´m not sure when I will be able to write next because next week is changes so that could mean I don´t write on Monday. But I love you and see you later.

Con amor,
Elder Zachary J. Hulsey