Once, during our first term in Bolivia, we were living in a tiny, jungle village of about 150 people (I am a city girl!). We had no running water, no electricity, an outhouse that was an awesome experience to use (especially at night when we had to fight off the snakes and spiders!), no stove or oven, and only rice and cheese to eat three times a day. Revolutions and government takeovers were common (we went through 10 in the 11 years we were in Bolivia). Tear gas floated all around and the cities were strafed by aircraft. Our lives were constantly threatened and our children were nearly kidnapped.
But, at this particular moment, my greatest pain was that I wanted and could not have, CHOCOLATE! Forget the bullets and revolutions, the killings, kidnappings and threats on our lives. I wanted a package of M & M’s, a Snickers candy bar, and a Tootsie Roll!
My husband, Tom, eager to help out, proudly announced that he was going to take me to the English Chocolate Shoppe, an elegant, tiny specialty shop of imported English chocolates, next time we flew to the city. When he told me that, I tore up the letter of resignation that I was writing to the Home Office, and had a reason for living!
We flew into Santa Cruz, a one-hour flight by small plane, rented two bicycles and, as Tom balanced our 2-year-old son on the front of his bike, we headed for the English Chocolate Shoppe, i.e. Paradise!
This was the big moment! I hadn’t slept for days, as I tossed and turned, trying to decide whether to get the chocolate covered cherries, or the truffles or maybe, the turtles, or the…as we entered the shop, I reeled and nearly fainted at the wonderful fragrance of chocolate. Tom reeled and nearly fainted when he looked at the prices for just a few ounces of the black gold. In my limited Spanish, I ordered a quarter of a pound of some wonderful, fudgy-looking chocolates. “Heaven, I’m in heaven…” I sang softly to myself as the British shopkeeper looked at me in wonder, then took out a huge bag and began to fill it, almost to the top! This was a quarter of a pound? Tom whispered, “How much candy did you ask for?” as he noticed the price of this particular candy was the most expensive in the shop (I’ve always had great taste!). I answered, “A quarter of a kilo – cuatro kilos.” He turned ashen and said, “That’s FOUR KILOS, Jean – you know – EIGHT POUNDS! A quarter of a kilo is ‘cuarto kilo,’ not ‘cuatro kilos’!”
I was so shocked I couldn’t say anything to the lady waiting on us (had she hit pay dirt or what!). We didn’t know enough Spanish anyway. She handed the huge bag to me as Tom handed over a month’s salary. As we mounted our bikes, the shock quickly passed as I anticipated the chocolate orgy I was going to experience. At that moment, without warning, a taxi in front of me came to a dead stop and I crashed into it. The precious bag of chocolates slipped from my fingers and went spilling into the street. As I stood there, frozen in disbelief, Bolivians by the dozens ran into the street, laughing and shouting excitedly as they partook of the unexpected fiesta. Within seconds, all of my priceless chocolates were gone. Dazed, and in deep shock, I pedaled to where we were staying and wrote another letter of resignation.**
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay….we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed….therefore, we do not lose heart….for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all….” (2 Cor. 4)
**The Eckblads stayed for another 10 years in Bolivia and grew to love and even PREFER the local, Bolivian chocolate. Grace, grace, marvelous grace!
Jean, Tom and their three children were missionaries with The South America Mission for over 20 years (1968-1991).