CEC-What is it?
The CEC, Centro de Entrenamiento Cristiano, or in English, Christian Training Center, is a place founded by missionaries from Holland set apart to train Christian leaders. Throughout the course of a year, there are two CEC courses, one from January to March, and another from June to July. In between those times, from what I have seen, the CEC is used as a retreat center of sorts for groups from La Paz, Caranavi, etc, or groups passing through on mission trips. It is located on a hill about 3 km above Caranavi by way of windy, bumpy, switchback, dirt roads. Caranavi is a town of about 10-20,000 people located in the Yungas, which are the beautiful entrance to the jungle, though they tell me Caranavi is not quite jungle.
During the CEC course, there are between 10 and 30 students studying many things. In the mornings we have breakfast of something hot to drink and bread, and then the students have a devotion. After that, they spend an hour with God by themselves, which we call hora quieta, or, Quiet Hour. In English I have heard this referred to as Hour of Power. This is probably the most important time of the day, as it is time to read the Bible, pray, and write about what they are learning, thinking, questioning, etc. After hora quieta, the students have classes from 9-12. These classes are theology classes led by pastors from the La Paz area, the directors of CEC, etc. They learn all kinds of things relating to God, church, Christian worldview, etc.
Lunch is fixed each day by an incredible cook, my friend Keilan, and other helpers. We sometimes eat soup followed by “Segundo”, or some kind of main dish with noodles or rice and a meat and/or vegetable mixture. My two favorite dishes are plato cubano, which has rice, fried egg, and fried plaintains, and aji de postre, which is some kind of banana and meat mixture over rice.
After lunch the students have a bit of free time followed by trabajo practico on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday(including cleaning, cooking, and working with machetes in the “yard”) or practice for the mission trip on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The students truly came to view the work as a blessing from God. It was neat to watch that transformation, and also a testimony to me as my life now also includes less machines and more work by hand. During the workshops on the other days, the students learn how to do puppets, skits, mimes, dances, and clowning. Then they split into groups and prepare at least five dances, five puppet shows, etc for the mission trip. Thus, they enter the mission trip during the last two weeks of the course quite prepared for programs and evangelism.
The students take turns cooking dinner, which was often soup or a rice dish. After dinner they have more classes, time for worship, time in small groups, and on Fridays, a test over the week’s material.
The CEC is founded by members of the family that founded the Casa de Esperanza, a thriving orphanage located just above CEC on the same hill. On Saturdays, the CEC students spend time in a family setting with the kids at Casa. It was an incredible time for me, as I got to know 12 kids in their home setting much better.
How was I involved in CEC?
I live with Nick and Shannon and the kids in a separate house that is connected to the kitchen and dining hall. I ate all my meals with the students, had my hora quieta, and then began my classes with the Kraft kids. We had classes in the dining hall until lunch time, and then moved our school stuff into the house. I put two desks in my room to accommodate the kids better. After classes, grading, and planning, it was usually just about time for dinner. After dinner I was involved in a small group on Mondays with a group of girls. I also joined the students for some night classes and most of the praise and worship times. I enjoyed joining the students in the weekend activities as well.
The CEC course ended on March 14 with a small graduation that was broadcast on the local television station because one of the students’ fathers works in the television station. I got to know some of the students and leaders pretty well, especially during the mission trip, and I have really missed them, as most of them returned to their lives in La Paz. (Other students were from Potosí, the Beni, and Coroico).