Monday, December 15, 2014

More Than We Ask Or Imagine

When I think of missionaries, the first things that come to mind are normally huts in the jungle, dirt roads, strange animals, poverty, and white people in outdated clothes. While these are not all untrue, most of them are stereotypes. MOST missionaries I know live in relatively modern cities, have access to internet, and wear fairly normal clothes.  (Fairly)

This year, working at Carachipampa, an international school in Cochabamba, I have often had to remind myself that I was not in the U.S, North America, or even the Northern Hemisphere.  As much as I love Bolivia, my life here is not extraordinary. I have good days and bad days. I have weeks that I am reminded of my need for the Lord, and weeks when I try to do things on my own. There are days when I see God’s hand working, and days when I try my best to trust that He is.

But, God HAS been so faithful to work and answer prayers, even when I can’t see it in the moment.
Several weeks ago, the seniors at Caracipampa decided to do a toy drive to provide Christmas presents for children living in poverty. The original plan was to take the gifts to the jail, where many children live with their mothers.

The kids in my class were so excited to be able to give, and were very generous in giving of their own toys, as well as buying new ones. (Or their parents were very generous. ;) ) Almost 120 gifts in all were donated!! Then, because of logistics, it was decided that taking the gifts to the jail was not the best option. However, there was not a backup plan for the donated gifts.

Then, one of the teachers at the school, that also happens to host the Bible club/ Happy Hour I am involved in got a visit from a man he barely knew.  He told Richard that he lived in a very poverty stricken area outside of the city, right outside of the garbage dump. They wanted to know if there was any way Richard could help with Christmas gifts for the children of his neighborhood. Richard asked the man about how many gifts they would need, and he said about 120! The exact amount of gifts the school had collected. Is God not faithful to provide?!?

The man was not a Christian, but he also asked Richard if we could put on a Christmas program of some kind to teach the kids about Christmas. What an amazing invitation to share the good news of  Jesus’ birth, and the gospel. Saturday afternoon after the Happy Hour/ Bible Club’s Christmas program, Richard and his wife Gladys asked the group of teachers if we would be willing to do the same Christmas program again for the neighborhood of Kara Kara on the outskirts of the city dump.
Kids from Casa de Amor at Happy Hour!

Saturday I learned how to make buñuelos, and then helped make 300 of them!

Around 300 kids and mothers came to the Happy Hour last Saturday for the Christmas program!
Sunday afternoon I got the chance to go with Richard and Gladys to the neighborhood to meet with some of the leadership of the neighborhood, and plan for the event. As opposed to my everyday life here, I felt like a stereotyped missionary. We traveled on rough dirt roads, avoided the sheep on the side of the road, passed by makeshift houses, and I won’t  even bother trying to defend my wardrobe. When we arrived, everyone came out of their “houses” to greet us, and the kids looked like it was Christmas morning. (Which it almost was.) The man that invited us took us through the neighborhood, and called all of the women to come out of their houses to meet on the “soccer field”.

The field was littered with broken bricks and rocks, and marked off by old tires. One little girl hid behind her mother’s skirt and looked at me like I was an alien. I smiled at her as our host spoke to the mothers in Quechua, and her face lit up. After the introductions were made, the little girl came up and told me her name was Noelia. I asked her what she liked to do, and she told me she had a doll that looked like me… which I assume just means she is blonde.:) As I talked with Noelia and several of the other girls, I was reminded of what a great God we serve. Here in this forgotten neighborhood outside of Cochabamba, the Lord is at work. He loves these kids, and has not only provided toys for Christmas, but He is the reason for giving toys at all. He came to earth, and gave us the gift of His son. He made a way through Jesus to be forgiven and loved, and made right before God. And now, He has opened the doors so that the entire neighborhood of Kara Kara might come to know Him.

Please praise God for the crazy ways He has worked everything out to be able to go to Kara Kara this Saturday. Please pray for good weather, and more importantly, that God would begin to soften the hearts of the kids and mothers, and even fathers that will be there. Please pray for relationships to be built, and for people to come to know the goodness, love, and mercy of the Lord.

*** Although God has provided for gifts for the children, we would love to be able to buy sugar and possibly other household staples for the mothers that come as well. If you feel led to donate to help meet this need, I would love to talk with you more! **

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fin de Semana! Weekends in Bolivia!

For the last few weeks I have planned on sharing about what a normal weekend in Cochabamba looks like. However, the last three weeks have been so busy…. that hasn't happened. This weekend was equally packed, but oddly refreshing as well.

Friday afternoon one of the girls in my 1st grade class had a birthday party. The theme was unicorns, and we had possibly the most beautiful jello the world has ever seen.  In Bolivia, as far as I can tell, the prettier the food is – the better!

After the birthday party, I went with my friend Anita to look for a wedding gift for a couple from church. I am SO thankful for her friendship, and her sweet serving spirit. After finding a wedding gift, we made our way to the church to help get everything ready for the wedding.

We were not able to stay for very long though, because I had to get to the orphanage to stay with the girls overnight. At the girls house, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The Christmas tree went up last week, and there is a general sense of excitement in the air. Because school is out, the atmosphere is much more relaxed at the girls house. We had a bracelet making party, and a beauty salon for the girls.  I thought they would be thrilled to get pedicures and put their feet in bowls of warm water, but they looked at me like I was crazy. Lesson learned.

In the morning, the girls slept until almost 7:00. It was a miracle! We made pancakes, the girls were excited to have something besides bread for breakfast. :) As we were getting the girls ready for the day, we found that one of the girls, Raquel, had had an accident the night before. That meant she needed to have a bath, so she proceeded to walk around the house sreaming and crying. One of the other little girls Jhosi took this opportunity to remind us all of some biblical truth from a song that the girls sing at a Bible Club every Saturday.
“Allá en cielo, no habrá más llanto, ni más tristeza, ni más dolor.” Or in English, “In heaven there will be no more crying, no more sadness, no more pain.”
To see both of them together was ironic and made me laugh about a crazy morning.
Why would you ride a tricycle WITHOUT high heels??
After breakfast I headed to the wedding at the church. This is only my second wedding to attend in Bolivia, but it was much different from the first. It started about 40 minutes late, and almost no one was there.  By the end of the service there were almost twice as many people. It was a beautiful ceremony with lots of music and surprises for both the bride and groom!

After the wedding it was time for Horita Feliz (the Bible club). Next week will be the last week before we take “summer vacation”. We will have almost 300 kids and their mothers. We will be giving out Christmas gifts, but more importantly , we will have the opportunity to share the gospel, and the good news of Christmas.   Please pray for the Lord to prepare and soften the hearts of everyone who will be there on Saturday!
The 2-5 year old class at Happy Hour!

Learning the Christmas story
 After Horita Feliz, some friends that used to work with Casa de Amor and are now in the process of adopting children in Bolivia had asked if I could babysit for a little while at their house. They have a beautiful house up in the country, and were also planning on having some friends for church over for pedestrian day the next day. On Pedestrian day there are no automobiles of any kinds allowed on the road. The plan was for me to take the kids back to the house, Rudi and Carla got to go on a date without their 6 kids, and then they would pick everyone up from the church to come back to the house.

Getting all of the kids back to the house was an adventure in itself. There were 7 of us, and we had to take two different trufi’s to get back. At one point a kind Quechua woman stopped me, and wanted to tell me something.. surely about the fact that I had 6 white children with me…. but she couldn’t speak Spanish, and I couldn’t speak Quechua, so I am not sure what she said.

As we were heading back to the house, I mentioned to the kids that we should play a prank on the people that were coming from church. They loved this idea, but their ideas were a little over the top. Think acid in their cookies. I quickly nixed that idea, and suggested we short- sheet the beds instead. They had fun (and so did I), although I’m not completely sure how well it worked since no one really complained in the morning!

In the morning we had cinnamon rolls…. a huge treat! Since there was no church, several of the guys from church played guitar, and several of the people in the Booher family played violin, and ukulele.  We sang songs mostly from the hymn book, and it was so nice to be able to worship together. After “church”, it was time to eat and play! We had a barbeque, and I got to spend some time playing with the girls. We played hide and seek outside in the fields of flowers, and attempted to play leap frog. (It’s not as fun as I remember it being.)
View from the house!
After lunch I let one of the girls "fix" my hair. She was happy with it....  
When lunch was ready, I ate WAY more than I should have. But it was all just so good! It was so peaceful looking out over the city, and with no cars on the roads, the smog of the city was almost gone. It was a much needed day of rest, and remembering why I am here in Bolivia. I am so thankful for the hospitality of the Booher family, and the example they are for so many of what it looks like to love Jesus and love others. Please pray for favor in their adoption process, as well as peace for them as they wait!