Thursday, August 27, 2009
My trip to Bolivia!
It has been awhile since my last post, and I have a LOT to write about. The end of my summer was amazing! I went to Bolivia with a team of 10 other students and myself to serve for two weeks. God used me and taught me a lot while we were there. I probably won't be able to express everything that happened, but I'll do my best. The trip started on my birthday, July 30th, around 4:30 in the morning. We headed out of the Kansas City airport with some layovers in Dallas and Miami, with final destination of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It was a long day, but we made there around 11:30p.m. and then had to wait to get our visas which took like 2 hours! Victor, the missionary we worked with that is from there, picked us up with his wife and daughter. Now let me just say now how much I (and I know the rest of my team) came to love Victor and his family very much. They took us in like we were their own children and were wonderful blessings to us. They took us to a seminary where we stayed most of the trip. It was very nice...a lot nicer than sleeping in an orphanage on cots (which is what we all imagined). Knowing very little details of what we were actually going to be doing, we met the next afternoon with Victor and Andrew (who moved to Bolivia from the US about a year ago). Andrew works with Nacer Ministries, which has four different children's homes. I was very excited to hear that we would be visiting all four homes, and also working on a land they purchased to build a new girls home. We were being blessed in our time there from the very minute we arrived. I immediately saw the suffering that the people go through in this country. Driving around Santa Cruz, it is very common to see people trying to sell you something on the streets or washing your windows because they need money to make a living. Though the country is dominantly Catholic and some protestant, you can definitely see the need for Christ.
Our first weekend, we helped with an Awana ministry in a nearby neighborhood. The children have families and homes, but it was definitely not a well developed area. We played relay games with them, and I worked with some kids and their weekly memory verses. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to understand them, but I actually could. The only real difficulty I had was communicating effectively with them because my Spanish speaking skills are a little rusty...but I managed!
We started out our week going to the Niñas (girls) home, which is the only home of the four that is in the city. The girls there were so adorable and all of them just wanted and needed to be loved. They would all hug on you, and sit with you. Even though we couldn't communicate very well, we could still show them the love of Christ through our actions. The girls make crafts like metal crosses with beads, scarves, jewelry, and cards to help raise support...so I definitely bought a lot! A great thing we got to do was go to the market one day and split up to buy vegetables and fruit for the four homes. The money exchange rate is 7 Bolivianos to 1 American dollar. We only spent like $150 for all four orphanages! I felt so convicted after hearing this considering that here people (myself included) spend that much on meaningless stuff that we don't need!
Probably the most challenging and most rewarding experiences of the trip for me was our journey out of Santa Cruz to visit the other homes. We went to Nacer(an older boys home that's for street boys) and the niños home. Both are very close to each other and about an hour away. We had a lot of fun with all the boys. 5 hour trek up a mountain... in the rain ... in a bus ... with like 17 people. We were warned that it could be dangerous because rain could cause mudslides and we would risk getting stuck. Well, we did get stuck once and we had to get out and walk a ways up the mountain to get out of the way. It wasn't looking too good so our leaders were coming up with alternatives to what we could do (one option was walking like 25 miles up the mountain in the dark!). One of the girls on our team, Jessica, prayed a really dramatic prayer that apparently worked because the bus tried one more time and was successful! We got to the little town of Postrervalle, and met the kids at the home. This home is for brothers and sisters that they don't want to separate. It was freezing up there! We knew that it was winter there, but none of us were prepared for like 40 degree weather! Another great opportunity that we were able to do after praying about it a lot was to provide Bibles and a coloring packet for every child in each home. When we got to Postrervalle, the couple who direct there told us the children had been praying for Bibles for months! What a blessing to see God answer prayer! It filled my heart with joy to see the faces of the children as we called out their names and gave them their own personalized Bible. They immediately opened them and started to read. We had one night that weekend that gave us quite a scare that I'm sure I will never forget. God persevered and protected us though so we definitely are grateful that nothing serious happened. It's a very long story and maybe I'll write about that sometime, but not now. On our way back to Santa Cruz, we stopped at Samaipata to see the Incan Ruins there. It was breathtaking to see all the mountains and the amazing scenery!
We got to spend some more time at the girls home our last week and also worked a couple more days on the land as well. I hauled a LOT of rocks those 2 days. It was fun though because my friend Anna and I are good at keeping ourselves entertained. Our last days there were a lot of fun. One night, we drove back to the Nacer home (it was definitely an adventure for a lot of my team)...and 3 homes were there to have a farewell party for us. Raina, a one of the little girls, stayed with me most of the time. She even sat on my lap while we ate. It was so sad to say goodbye to all of those kids.
SO overall, this trip changed my life. I have been called to missions and am so thrilled that I got the privelege of spending a couple of weeks in Bolivia. I hope that I will get to return there someday...maybe even as a nurse! I know they told me healthcare is slim there and not very good. I would love to be able to help them in that way. Anyway, please keep Bolivia in your prayers...specifically Victor and his family, Andrew, and Nacer Ministries.