Isaiah 43:1-3, 7, 10-13

But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior... Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.... “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?”
Isaiah 43:1-3, 7, 10-13

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Heavy Hearts, Thankful Hearts

It is 12:00am... I am trying to sit here to compose my thoughts, knowing that there are so many praying and waiting for information. I just returned from a all night candle vigil for the 3 girls who died and their families. It was heart-breaking. This may be a bit disjointed, bear with me...

12 of our jovenes (youth) and 4 chaperones left yesterday morning for a 3 day trip to a camp about a 7 hour drive from Cochabamba. They are all on winter break and wanted to take advantage of the holiday. They contracted a bus from a local bus company that makes the trip regularly rather than taking the usual night time bus. After driving the road on our vacation last week, Josh felt it was safer to travel in the day. Yesterday about 4pm, we started recieving disjointed calls and information about a serious accident that had occured. Things were pretty sketchy until I recieved a call from Josh. He confirmed that the bus had rolled about 100 meters down a steep mountain. The top came off, it rolled over and over several times, some were thrown from the bus, others rolled down with the bus. Miraculously, one of the jovenes who wasn't badly injured was able to climb up to the road and hailed a taxi that was passing by. The taxi driver had a cell phone and reception (extremely unusual where they were at.) Within minutes people from a nearby village had arrived to help evacuate the injured. Half the group was taken to a nearby local clinic. The rest were loaded into pickups and ambulances and started back to Cochabamba. A Christian couple who was passing by took charge of collecting all the personal items and safe guarding them.

The last 48 hours have been crazy: little sleep, going from one clinic to another to check on the injured, back and forth from the house to check on the kids. The first group of injured arrived here around 8 pm last night; another group arrived around midnight, and the rest came in several hours later. My teammate, Katie, has been here with the kids, which has been a life-saver. I want to give you all status updates on how everyone stands at this moment, at least from what I know.

Joshua- He's got 3 cracked ribs and some heavy brusing and contusions. Should be released tomorrow. He's pretty heavy-hearted about everything.
Jonathan Sandoval (son of our teammates)- Lots of contusions and brusing. A compressed vertebrae in his spinal column. They were talking about doing surgery tomorrow, but are now thinking it might be unnecessary and are going to run more tests. Please pray that surgery will not be necessary and that if it is, he will be in capable hands.
Rachel Sandoval (wife of Jonathan)- cuts on the face and some bruising. She was a trooper through it all! Sat with 3 of the girls after the accident and sang "Jesu Cristo conmigo va" to help calm them down.
Miguel Vargas (father of one of our jovenes who died) - in a coma in intensive care due to head injuries, but stable. Postive outlook on his condition. Does not yet know about his daughter who passed away.
Belen - Passed away. Daughter of Miguel, one of our church members. She was 14. She was caught under the wheel of the bus. Joshua was able to scoot down the mountain and sit with her until help came. She had such a servant heart and will be greatly missed by her family and all the jovenes.
Diana - Passed away. Belen's cousin. She was 17, a beautiful, talented young lady. Her family has been coming to church for the last few months.
Ariel - Diana's brother. He had surgery today on his hips/legs, but is in stable condition and recovering nicely.
Ariana - Passsed away. Daugther of Wendy and Gonzalo, church members. Lovely young lady, wonderful big sister.
Bruno Vargas - Broken collar bone, and other fractures. Recovering nicely.
Freddy Vargas - Broken arm. Was one of the last group to be brought in and is pretty shook up, but is recovering.
Bruno Pol - Minor bruising/contusions. He's the one who climbed up to the road for help. Joshua said he was so mature and brave - helped so much in all the rescue operations.
Kevin - cousin of Bruno and Freddy. Some broken bones, but recovering nicely.
Rebeca Chavez - was critically injured. A broken femur bone in several places. The leg was operated on today successfully. Broken hand as well and a broken rib that punctured her thorax. She'll have a couple more operations in the following days. She is in intensive care, but stable and with hopes of a full recovery.
Camilla - Daugther of a church member who is working in Virginia. Facial injuries and contusions. She was operated on today and pulled through nicely. Her mom is flying in from the US.
Alejandra Moscoso - injured neck/collar bone, gash in her arm. Recovering nicely.
Rosa - daughter of a family that has been coming to church for the last few weeks. Minor injuries/contusiones. Recovering nicely.

We are heavy hearted over our losses - many of our families are discouraged, worried, and grieving. But it was heart-warming to see the overwhelming support from the rest of our church. Many waited last night in the cold night air outside the hospital until past 4 am. Others manned the contact center and answered the many phone calls. Still others made the long drive out to the crash site with blankets to help bring back injured. Today every hospital waiting room was filled with our church members, there to encourage and pray.

And more than anything, we feel the encouragement of the many prayers from a far. Thank you - please continue to lift up our church, our youth, their families before the throne. The memorial service and burial for the girls is tomorrow at 3pm. And after that there will be weeks and years of trauma and grief to deal with. But God is with us. And we are thankful for the lives of those who survived and give thanks to God for the way He is taking care of them. Those who were involved in the rescue attempt were amazed that there were not more serious injuries. And I for one am so grateful to have my husband safe and well.

As far as the crash goes.... They were on a flat stretch of road with no oncoming traffic. Observers from the little village nearby said the bus was going too fast. Some reporters from our local newspaer discovered today that the driver, contracted by the bus company, did not have the necessary license to drive a commercial vehicle, and due to driving the course the day before, may not have had enough sleep. Both the driver and the assistant survived. We don't have any more information on them at this time. Keep them in your prayers as well.

Again, we are thankful for the many prayers and support. Roland and Carol Bowen, memeber of our sponsoring congregation, are flying in tomorrow to be of help and support. Jeff Forbess, who was in the US for his sister's wedding, is cutting his visit short and coming back tomorrow as well. Erik Reyes, our brother-in-law in Sucre, is bringing a group from the church tonight to help out. The Bulls have set up a website if you should wish to help in a finacial way. Many of our familes don't have the means to pay for medical/funeral expenses. Your help would be greatly appreciated in this way as well.

It is time for this tired body running on a little less than 4 hours of sleep since yesterday and a cup of coffee to retire. We love and appreciate all of you!


Anonymous said...

"Dios es nuestro amparo, nuestra fortaleza en la tribulacion."

Estoy orando por ustedes desde Venezuela. Que Dios les de consuelo y paz en este tiempo dificil.

darla leehans said...

thank-you for updating us of the situation. i have had you all on my mind since hearing of this last night. i'm full of emotion for the team and all it will take to handle this loss. i love you and are praying for your efforts.

Kendra said...

Our hearts ache for you all. We are lifting this up in prayer often. May God bring healing, comfort, and peace.

Cheryl said...

Oh Julie. We are so sorry to hear of this accident. So thankful Josh is safe. So burdened for your church. We are praying for God's glory in the midst of the grief. God's presence and mercy to be evident and pervasive during the days and weeks to come.
We love you so much. Cheryl and Jeff

Campbell Family said...

Thank you for taking the time to post the details in the midst of everything that has been going on. We are praying for you guys and for the church and wishing we could be there to help in some way. May you know an extra measure of God's peace and comfort in the days and weeks to come. -- Laura, Rusty, and the boys

Patti said...

Julie! For such a time as this you are once again letting God use you to serve so many. We join you with heavy and thankful hearts. We beg God for much wisdom and strength for you, Josh, your team, the church family in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. I love you, Patti

Harrold Family said...

We are praying for you along with many in our church.

Diane said...

Julie, Josh and girls,
Our hearts are so heavy for you. The reality of it all is just beginning to sink in, especially after you filled us in with more details. My heart breaks to think of Josh sitting there with Belen while she was trapped under the wheel of the bus. Thank you, God, for giving her that comfort. We are so far away, but lifting you all up in constant prayer. We love you, Mom

Ken said...


I'm so sorry for such a tragedy and the loss of such promising young people. It's good that Josh is going to be OK, and that you are getting support from those who care about you. The Sillo family in La Paz has been through a similar experience and may be a help and encouragement to some of the Bolivian Christians. May God grant you and the Cochabamba church his peace in this terrible loss.

Laura@HeavenlyHomemakers said...

We are praying for all of you. For full recovery for all of the injured. For comfort as you all grieve. For peace as you all grow through this.

By God's grace,
Matt and Laura Coppinger

Anonymous said...

I am praying for you, your family, and your christian family. I can't imagine what you all are going through, but I know our Lord is with you. I pray that you remain strong for Him and may He comfort you through this dark time.

Matthew McBride

Anonymous said...

My mom, Janice Horton sent me an email telling me about it. I have been praying and we sent out an email to our email update list to pray as well.

This is a tragedy and very sad, but in the midst of it I pray that God is glorified, and many come to know Jesus through this ordeal.

Thank you for giving such a great update.

--in the Middle East
Melissa Wilson

Carisse said...

Thank you for posting the update, Julie. I'm so sorry this happened. May God's loving presence sustain all of you.


I am Reyna McDonald from Lubbock, Texas. I just read the tragic news about the youth group. I am praying for all of you and all those who are suffering for the loss of their loved ones.
I will inform Sunset to pray for all of you and the congregation their in Bolivia. I went to visit Ecuador in March and seen your parents in the Hacienda of Hope. We meet with the church and Abraham my brother had the opportunity to share God's word with the congregation there.
Our prayers are with all of you!!
In Christian love,
Steve, Reyna and Rebecca McDonald
Lubbock, Texas USA

Amanda said...

You are all in my prayers and will continue to be in my prayers.....

Denise Rinks said...

Enoch,my son, sent us the message about the accident. We are praying for all the families at the church there who are in the hospital, all of the church members who have suffered losses and those of you who are comforting and caring for them. Savannah Church will be praying for you daily.
Love, Denise and Buddy Rinks

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Julie. I am the daughter of Tim Ramsey, the director of LATCOM (mission that owns Monte Blanco). I was so saddened to hear about this tragedy, and my prayers are with you and all of the families touched by this. I'll be praying that God would do something wonderful in the midst of all this pain.
Julie Ruhlman

Kristi said...

Julie, our hearts are so heavy for the grief and loss you, your church, and the community is experiencing. We are in prayer for the great Spirit of Peace to descend upon all.

- Allan, Kristi, & kids

Anonymous said...

Josh and Julie, Our hearts are grieving with you at this tragedy. You have our love and the love of all the LST staff.

Mark and Sherrylee Woodward