Monday, December 14, 2015

Discovering the Christmas Tree

Last weekend was Pedestrian day in Cochabamba! Pedestrian day comes three times a year, and is an effort to reduce pollution in the city. On this day, no cars are allowed on the roads, which can make it
difficult for the women who work at the orphanage to get to work.

When it is possible, the volunteers like to help the tias by taking children home for the weekend. This past weekend, 7 of the volunteers took children home, and we were able to spend some much needed one-on one time with the kids!

I got to spend the weekend with “A”, a little girl who is relatively new to Casa de Amor. You can read her story here.

Although A has a heartbreaking story, she is one of the sweetest (and sassiest) little girls I know.
Friday night we got to my house about dinner time, and she was amazed by my Christmas tree. She had never seen a Christmas tree before, and wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. By the end of the weekend she was much more comfortable with the idea of a tree with lights, and it was a great opportunity to explain why we celebrate Christmas!

"Tia, it glows!"
She needed a closer look.


"What are these balls for, Tia?"

We also got to spend time learning valuable life skills, like hanging clothes on a hanger. As I caught up on laundry, A watched me and wanted to learn as well. It always surprises me that things I don’t remember learning, I was taught at one point.  It makes me extra thankful for my parents, and more mindful of the fact that so many children don’t have parents to teach them simple things.
Thank you mom and dad! :)


Monday, November 30, 2015

ENGAGED!!!

When I was preparing to come to Bolivia, many people asked me about marriage. Don’t you want to get married first? Would you ever get married to a Bolivian? Aren’t you afraid you’ll never get married? I usually responded with a joke of some kind. My sister often joked about how there are a lot of “fish in the sea”, but because Bolivia is a land-locked country, there’s not a lot of sea. I have always wanted to get married someday, but I also knew that God was clearly leading to Bolivia. I didn’t know what that meant for my marital status, but I knew that God was good, and in His time and His will, he would provide. Or not. And that was okay.

When I arrived in July of last year to serve at the orphanage and school, I also had the opportunity to be involved in a neighborhood Bible club (Happy Hour) that meets every Saturday. The Happy Hour is run by members of my church in Bolivia, and the kids from the orphanage have gone every Saturday for the last 4 years. As I began to get more involved, I began to get to know better the other people that helped every week. From the beginning, one of the guys, Franco, caught my attention in the way he interacted with the kids with love, and humbly served in whatever ways he could find. His love for the Lord and desire to serve caught my attention, but I never thought he would be interested in me. Through mutual friends we began to spend time together at other church events. We became friends slowly, and then he left for two months to visit family in another part of Bolivia.

During that time I remember praying for wisdom and guidance in our friendship, but still thought that anything other than friendship was unrealistic. When he returned in February, it seemed like God answered my prayer in the opposite way of what I had prayed. Instead of maintaining a distant friendship, it seemed like the Lord constantly put us in ministry situations where we worked closely together. I began to see more and more of His fear of the Lord, and commitment to following Him. A missionary family that knows us both well began to ask me what I thought of Franco, and others asked him as well.

The “dating culture” in Bolivia is much different than in the U.S, so I tried to be very careful to observe and not initiate anything. From February to August we spent lots of time together in group settings and in ministry, and ocassionally time with just the two of us going from one place to another. When I came back from the United States, Franco was waiting at the airport, but didn’t say anything about why he was there. I didn’t want to be the one to initiate, so I (impatiently) waited. About two weeks after I arrived in Bolivia again, I prayed again, asking the Lord for a clear answer about whether or not God was leading towards a relationship with Franco. I prayed that it would be that week, and that God would convict him clearly of the need to have a conversation.

God quickly answered my prayer, and Franco invited me to go to lunch the next day. After lunch was over, he told me he had been praying about our friendship for the last year, and that he felt like the Lord was leading him to tell me. In the church here, “praying” means that you are praying about the idea of marriage, to see if that is where God is leading. It is similar to courting or very traditional dating. He asked me if I would consider praying also about how God might lead, and I told him that I would be happy to continue praying, since I already had been as well. He was sursprised, and said he had no idea how I had been feeling. Because I was not sure exactly how “praying” works, I asked. “So we pray, and then what happens?”

His answer was surprising and not at the same time. “I wouldn’t be asking you to consider it if I didn’t know that I want to marry you.” I don’t rememeber what my response to that was, but at that point I felt the kind of peace that can only come from the Lord. I told him that I would pray and talk with my mission organization, parents, church, and a few other people. At that point, I felt like I knew my answer, but I wanted to know what the “authorities” in my life had to say. I talked with my parents who were not as surprised as I thought, and then the mission organization, my home church, and my church in Bolivia. To my surprise, everyone I talked to was surprised, but completely supportive, encouraging, and affirming of God’s leading. After much prayer, and counsel, I am confident in the Lord’s leading, and have told Franco yes!!!!

 Our desire is to continue to serve in whatever way the Lord allows. He is currently serving in the local church and Bible club, and our prayer is to be able to assist with a church plant in the place that Happy Hour currently takes place. My work with the orphanage will stay the same, but the children will gain a new Tio (uncle)….and he will gain 27 neices and nephews ! I will keep you all posted as decisions are made, but I wanted you all to hear it from me! I am so thankful for the ways the Lord is working in Bolivia, in the orphanage, and in the ministry of the Bolivian local church. I am so thankful for you, and for the ways you generously and sacrificially give and spend time in prayer for not only the Lord’s work, but also me personally. Our God is faithful, and I am overwhelmed by that faithfulness in you all!

Group picture outside of the church with kids from Casa de Amor!
Thank you so much Sarah and Hannah for bringing SO MANY kids! :)

So much personality in this picture! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Renovations!

As many of you know, the last few months have been very busy for Casa de Amor. We have moved all of the children into two homes closer to each other, and it has been a time of transition for everyone. The kids and tias are adjusting very well, but there have been many logisitical repairs and changes that needed to be made.
Thank you so much to all of you that have prayed during this time of transition, and also to those of you have given SO generously. I am especially thankful for Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church, and The Village Church Denton for your consistency in prayer, encouragement, and generosity.
We have been able to paint a few rooms in the volunteer home, replace the cement floor in the baby room, and make other general repairs to the homes. Thank you again for your love for the children at Casa de Amor! Here are a few pictures:

Sorting hundreds of shoes after the move!

Painting the volunteer house!

Friends from church came to help!

A newly planted garden!

Goodbye cement floor!



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Orphan Day!

One of my favorite places in Bolivia is called Globo’s (Balloons). While I am not a huge fan of the food, the ice cream is delicious! (And half price every Tuesday!) Every year, the restaurant invites all of the orphanages of the city for a special day of free food and fun.

The line started to form early this morning, about 7:30. The kids from orphanages around the city lined up to be greeted by Polar Bears, and other unidentifiable creatures in costumes. The animals made the line bearable for the kids, and soon we were at the front of the line. For breakfast we were served cake and ice cream – this is why I love Bolivia. The kids also thought it was a good idea.





After “breakfast”, we were served Coca-Cola, and released to play on the playground. Students from Carachipampa, the school I taught at last year, came to paint faces, and were a huge hit! The kids were also allowed to play in the arcade, and volunteers walked around inserting money into the machines. More than 500 children ran around the restaurant for several hours, and I kept telling myself it would be over soon, and we would somehow find all of our children before it was over. :)





For lunch, we were generously given French fries and hamburgers, some of the best I have had in Bolivia! Most of the kids were still full from “breakfast”, but they were excited nonetheless.
By the end of the day, the decorations in the restaurant had fallen down, and the balloons were given to the children. The kids at Casa de Amor ended up with more balloons than they could fit into the car to take home!




It was a crazy day (and my purse was stolen :( ), but it was a great day for the kids to escape from the routine of everyday life. We are currently in the process of moving the babies into the girls home, so there has been a lot of transition in everyone’s lives. I am thankful for the generosity of Globo’s, and thankful for you all and your continual care, support, and prayer of the children.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Latest News at Casa de Amor

He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah17:8


In June, a wonderful team of volunteers from Orphan World Relief came to Bolivia and painted the dining room of our Boy’s Home. The bright yellow color has given life to the dining room, and makes the room feel like a home. Several of our current volunteers are very artistic, and worked together to paint a tree with hundreds of leaves. The children watched as the volunteers painted, and begged to join in painting.

As the leaves were painted, we spent time praying, and thinking about all of the people that have been involved in the children’s lives. Between mission teams, previous volunteers, child sponsors, and the many people that have prayed for the children – hundreds of people play a role in the children’s lives. An analogy began to form about the leaves on the trees, and the people the Lord has put in the life of Casa de Amor.

Over the last few months, due to surgeries, hospitalization, government mandated pay increases/ bonuses, Casa de Amor has experienced a time of trusting the Lord in our finances like never before. He has always been faithful to provide, and He has used many of YOU to do that.
We would like this mural to be a tree of remembering the Lord’s faithfulness in a tangible way. During the month of September, we  would like to memorialize the Lord’s provision by “selling” the leaves, branches, and trunk of the tree. We are so thankful for your generosity to Casa de Amor, and we would love for the children to tangibly see how many people love them.

By “buying” a leaf, branch, or trunk, you will be providing for the operating costs of Casa de Amor such as rent for the children’s homes, staff salaries, and daily necessities.  Leaves will be sold for $100, branches will be sold for $500, and the tree trunk will be sold for $5,000. Donations can be made on PayPal or by check, and we will then paint the name of the donor in the leaf, branch, or trunk. If you would like to make a donation on behalf of someone else, or as a church group, that is also a possibility. Mail a check to GOAL PO Box 357 Collierville, TN 38027.  Or click here for the link to PayPal https://casadeamor.publishpath.com/supporting.

Our goal is to raise $20,000 in the next 20 days. We know that the Lord is faithful to provide, and are excited to see how He will work. Each day for the next 20 days, we will post a photo and update on one of our children with a link to donate. Please feel free to share these updates with friends and family, and check back here often for the latest updates! We will also be using the hashtag #20k20days !



We serve a great, powerful, and loving God, and are so thankful for everyone of you – your generosity, prayer, and love for the children of Casa de Amor. Please join us in praying and sharing about how God is at work in Bolivia!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer.... AKA Winter

When school ended the beginning of June, I had high hopes for how often I was going to blog. However, with friends visiting, teams coming to serve in the orphanage, new volunteers arriving, moving across town, Vacation Bible School at church, and babies in the hospital, there hasn't been nearly as much time as I planned. 
I would love to update you on the past two months, but instead I will post pictures from the last two months with a summary of what has been going on! :)

Courtney and Elizabeth Visit
Two good friends Elizabeth and Courtney came to visit for the month of June. This picture was taken on a rickety bridge, and these smiles are hiding real fear of the bridge falling down. Thank you Courtney and Elizabeth for coming to visit! I miss you! 
Visiting Orphans Team
In Mid- June, Casa de Amor hosted an amazingly generous team from the United States. They lovingly served the children and staff, and were an encouragement to all of us. This picture was taken on a trip to Pairumani National Park with the team and some of the older children from the orphanage.
Tourists
While Elizabeth and Courtney were visiting, they were kept busy entertaining the kids, painting rooms, and various other jobs. One day we became "tourists" to visit the statue of Christ. It is actually larger than the statue in Brazil, but no one knows it. :)
Gina and Michelle
Gina and Michelle are two of our wonderful short-term volunteers. They are both living at the boys home, and have been welcomed with open arms. Their joy and love for the Lord has been an encouragement to me personally, and also to the children and staff. Please pray for health and energy for them as they serve!  
Isabelle
Another good friend and roommate, Isabelle, arrived last Saturday, just as Courtney was leaving. The young people group threw a going away party for Courtney, that doubled as a Welcome Party for Isabelle. I am so thankful to have visitors this summer and to see how God is working in Bolivia through new eyes.
Vacation Bible School
The last two weeks have been "winter vacation" in Cochabamba. My church hosted a VBS for about 200 children, and I was able to help teach the 7-9 year old class. The theme was Genesis, so we talked about creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah's ark, Please continue to pray for all of the children that came, that the Lord would work in their hearts.
 Hospital Duty
In the last two weeks, two of the babies at Casa de Amor have been admitted to the hospital. When this happens, the orphanage is responsible for having someone stay with the baby. Thanks to a wonderful team of volunteers, we have been able to rotate this responsibility, but it has made for a few interesting days and long nights. Please pray for baby M and baby B as they recover.

As always, I am so thankful for your prayers and encouragement. If you would like to read more about what has been going on in Bolivia, several other volunteers also have blogs! 


You can also stay updated by liking the facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/casadeamorbolivia?fref=ts


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

GOOD NEWS!!!!!

It has been too long since I have blogged! Since starting to teach 1st grade again, I keep thinking – "Oh, that would make a good blog...." and then never writing the blog.

I had to write this one though, because it is such good news!!!!!

Some of you may have read a blog from March about a little girl named “B”. If not you can read that blog here. From the day I arrived in Cochabamba July 5, 2012 – B has been one of the more difficult children for me. She can be one of the sweetest and most fun girls, but when she is angry or feeling rebellious she feels those things very strongly. There have been more than a few situations this year where physical harm to others or myself was a real concern. There have been days I’ve walked home from the orphanage in tears because I just didn’t know what else to do.

In my prayer journal on October 16, I wrote, asking the Lord to draw B to himself, and to give all those around her wisdom. This has been my prayer since then. I have been at a loss often, and definitely at the end of my patience many times, but the Lord has been faithful.

April 12th is Children’s Day in Bolivia, and the Horita Feliz (Bible Club) that the kids from Casa de Amor go to had a special event. A missionary from the Netherlands came to talk, and shared about obedience, and the good news that Jesus took the place of our sins on the cross. I was teaching the youngest class – so I didn’t get to hear the message.
Playground of the Horita Feliz
The next day, I went to the girls house to pick up two girls for church. I didn’t’ have specific girls in mind, so I just asked who wanted to come. As it turned out, B wanted to come! We got out of the house and started walking down the street and she says, “Tia, I wanted to accept Jesus’ forgiveness yesterday, but it was too late.” Surprised, I looked at her and asked what she meant. She explained that after hearing the message, she knew she needed Jesus’ love and forgiveness, and wanted to follow him. After talking with her for a little while, I assured her that it was not too late, and that we could pray right then if she wanted to. She agreed, and so we stopped to pray. It was not a huge ordeal, but it was genuine.

I am so excited for the way God has worked, and humbled by the ability to see firsthand how the Lord is working in her life. Later in the week, as I was heading out from the orphanage, B came running after me and says, “Tia, I have to tell you something.” I was ready to hear something ridiculous about her cat, Blanco, but instead she says,” Tia, today at school I could feel God in my heart. It was like something was moving in my heart!” I could hardly contain my excitement! Not only has God begun a good work in her life – he is faithful and will see it through!
B and her sister S at Christmas time!
Please join me in praising the Lord for the work He has done in B’s heart. Thank you for joining in praying for her! Our God is faithful! :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Father's Day! Feliz dia del padre!!

Father’s Day!
This post is about two weeks late – I had it all typed up and ready to go, but my computer charger died, and this blog was tucked away until I had time to go buy a charger.

Father’s day in Bolivia is always the 19th of March. This year that happened to fall on a Thursday. On Wednesday afternoon. I was at the girls house ironing uniforms, and one of the girls, S, asked me if I could come to a special program at her school as her dad. All of the kids go to the same school this year, so all of the volunteers and staff were invited to go as “honorary dads”.

It worked out that I had a three hour break in-between teaching classes at Carachipampa, so in between substituting for 2nd grade and teaching PE I got on a trufi (bus), and went to the school. All of the littlest kids were dressed up in their father’s oversized clothes, and did a little dance performance. Two of our youngest kids were in this class, and had rented men’s clothes from a costume shop down the street.
K is one of the youngest boys in the black suit jacket.

Waiting for a snack after their performance!

After the dances, all of the volunteers and staff split up to have lunch with the kids. Each class had prepared something different! S’ class had made delicious chicken, salad, fried banana, and of course… potatoes. Each child also made a card for their father – so I received my first father’s day card!!
The potatoes are hidden, but I promise they're there! 

S with her cute card!

Translation: Mom, you are so pretty. (This might not have originally been intended for me since she has NEVER seen me in a dress or heels. hahahah(

It was a fun, but also emotional afternoon. As honored as I was to be able to attend, I am not a father. Although Casa de Amor took the time to find “honorary fathers” for the children, there were other children that were left to eat lunch alone. In S’ class there was one little girl that had brought two plates from home, but no one ever came to eat the extra plate of food. On the way home from the event, one of the girls told me that she still had her Father’s Day card, because she didn’t know who to give it to.

We started to talk about how God has promised to be our Father, and how He is always with us. I am so thankful for God’s promises to us, and the fact that He has shown us what it means to be a good father. Please continue to pray for the children of Casa de Amor – that they would not only know the love of their Father God, but they would also be able to see and experience the love of a father here on earth.


Thank you guys! Happy late Father’s Day! Feliz dia del padre! J

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pijamada! (Sleepover!)

Last Saturday, I was invited to a Quinceanera (The birthday party girls have when they turn 15) by one of the women who works at the orphanage.  Tia Anita has worked with Casa de Amor for over 5 years, and has become like a mother to the girls that she works with (and often to me!). The oldest girls got to spend Friday night with Tia Anita to help prepare for the party a day in advance and they were thrilled!
On Saturday morning I went to the girls house and found “B” dutifully washing her clothes. At seven years old she falls right in between the older girls and the little girls. Although she is very smart and capable for her age, her desire for attention often leads her to behave in a way that puts her in the “little girl” group.
As soon as she heard me talking with the other Tia on duty about the Quineanera, she lit up and asked if she could come with me. Usually the girls earn outings with good behavior, and sadly, “B” normally doesn’t earn an outing. I told B that I would have to ask the administrator for permission because she has been perpetually punished for the last few weeks. I called to ask for permission, and was surprised when I was told to talk with the tia in charge, but that it was fine with her!
B was ecstatic when we told her she could come and started running back and forth from her room to the kitchen to tell us what she was going to wear. That night as I was getting ready to pick her up, I got a phone call from the orphanage “just making sure” that I hadn’t forgotten about B.  I assured her I would be there in 30 minutes.
When another volunteer, Hannah, and I got to the house, B was dressed in her nicest dress, and arctic coat, and beaming. I really don’t think I have ever seen her so excited since I met her almost three years ago. She did very well at the Quinceanera, and even got to be one of the damitas ( kind of like a bridesmaid).
All of the damitas! B is the second in line.

B, Tia Benita, Tia Sarin, and I

B is in the purple arctic coat - it might not seem that big, but it was 70 degrees.
Because the party ended very late, B got to spend the night at my house after. As we walked into the house at 11:30, she asked if she could watch TV before bed. That was an easy answer – because I don’t have a TV. I got her bed ready for her, turned around to get her pajamas, and she was already asleep.
The next morning was Sunday so we got up early and went to church. The young people group at my church was having a special lunch, and so I had told B I could take her home, or if she wanted to come with me she would need to help and be on her best behavior.  She of course wanted to come. She was thrilled to get to “help” with the tasks we found for her and helped assemble tables (backwards), place table decorations on the tables (upside down), and rinse dishes (maybe 3 of them). It reminded me of the way God has invited us to join in what He is doing, even though we often make things harder than they have to be.
One of my favorite things about the time with B was seeing the way she thrived with attention. People from my church really took time to ask her questions. To entertain her, to look at the pictures from the Quinceanera on my phone over and over again and to give her the attention she seeks so desperately in all the wrong ways. I am thankful for the community at the church that the Lord has provided – not only for me – but also for the children that I have the privilege of working with.
Please pray for B ( I can send you her real name if you want, I just can’t post it online!). Please pray for the Lord to soften her heart. For B to come to know the Lord, and to know the love of her Father. Please also pray for the staff and volunteers at the orphanage, that we would have wisdom in working with her, and the rest of the children. Lastly, please praise God for the work that He has done.  He has promised in John 14:18, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  Praise Him, for He who promised is faithful!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

FRESH FRUIT!


If you know me well, you know I’m a cheapskate. I nicer word might be frugal, but regardless of how you word it – I don’t like to spend money. 

In college (and lets be honest, after as well), my goal when going to the grocery store was always to see how little I could spend on groceries. That usually meant buying Great Value brand at Wal-Mart. Fruits and vegetables (unless they were in a Great Value can) were too expensive, so I didn’t buy them.

In Bolivia, the tables have turned. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the cheapest things you can buy!

Now, as summer comes to an end in Bolivia, I have made an exciting discovery. The girls house has a grape vine, an orange tree, and two fig trees! I knew about the orange tree, but almost every day for 7 months I have walked past these trees without really looking at them. (And to be honest, even if I had looked at them I don’t know anything about trees.)
Oranges, but right now they are greens....

Grapes!

The girls have spent hours climbing up into the trees to find the ripest fruit. Every time they find a good fig, or a bunch of grapes they gather around excitedly and calmly discuss [fight over] who will get to eat it. I don’t know if I had ever eaten a fig in my life before this week, but I have grown to like them as well!
The inside of a fig - just in case you haven't eaten one either

Yesterday afternoon as I picked fruit with the girls and learned to tell the difference between good figs and bad figs, I was reminded of the verse in Matthew 7:16 that says, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” And the verses in John 15:5 that says, “ I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

As I saw the rotting grapes and figs that had fallen on the ground I was reminded of my own helplessness apart from Jesus. There is great need, but apart from Him I can do nothing. Please pray with me that the Lord would bear fruit in the lives of the girls at Casa de Amor just as He has grown the fruit in their front yard!
A.M enjoying her fig!
I love this picture of J looking for good fruit! 




Monday, January 19, 2015

There's a first time for everything!

When I first came to Bolivia, everything was new.  Every food I ate was new. Every place I went was new. Every cultural experience was new. Everything was new.

Over time, the newness of Bolivia has worn off. It is still exciting, and there is still a TON to learn and experience, but everything is not new anymore. In some ways this is comforting. While I enjoy the adventure of new things, I also enjoy the feeling of being “at home”.

That being said, this week has been full of “firsts”. I held my first baby in an Aguayo ( a tablecloth type fabric that Bolivian women use to carry their babies. )
I thought people stared at me before. With a Bolivian Baby in an aguayo I was like a walking freak show. 
I took a baby on his first escalator ride. And then, several weeks ago I realized I haven’t had my hair cut since I left the U.S. Since that was almost six months ago, I decided I should probably at least get a trim. It took 3 weeks, but finally yesterday afternoon I went with two friends to find a hair dresser.

In Bolivia, most shops are located together. On one street there might be 15 eye doctors, on the next 25 mattress store (and coffin stores. I find it a little ironic that the mattress stores and coffin stores have grouped themselves together.) And so on. So we went to the beauty salon street and looked for one that looked reliable. When we found one named Q’ Look, with pictures of Selena Gomez all over the walls, we knew we were in the right place. When we asked how much it would cost, and the lady told me 15 BS ($2), I was even more excited.

I watched the young girls sweep the floor, and realized how out of place my blonde hair was going to look on this floor. When it was my turn, I sat in the chair, and the lady cutting my hair exclaimed, “Wow, you have so little hair.” When there are no tips, there is no flattery.  As she cut my hair,I felt like I was dreaming. Here I was in Quillacollo, Bolivia, making small talk with my hair dresser in Spanish.

Although this was a “first” to have my hair cut in Bolivia, it also made me feel at home. Tourists don’t get their hair cut in foreign countries, but I really LIVE here now.

Then, as I was finishing, another young girl came up behind me and asked, “Is that you’re real hair color??” I assured her that it was, and she stood there watching and commenting every now and then about the color of my hair and eyes. As I sat trapped in the chair, it occurred to me (The Lord convicted me), and I started to ask her questions. As I asked about her work, she told me that she is here in Cochabamba from La Paz to study at the university. Then she asked if I was a Christian! I told her that I was, and asked if she already has a church here. She didn’t, so I got her number and gave her mine.

By the time I left, I had a new haircut, and a new friend. Next time maybe I won’t wait 6 months to get  my hair cut. Please pray for my new friend L as she settles into life in Cochabamba!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year, New Job!


On New Year’s Eve, I normally try to take some time, and look over the last year. I try to keep a prayer journal, and so it is always encouraging to see how God has answered prayers…. Usually in a very different way than I expected.

As I looked back over this year, I was so encouraged to see God’s faithfulness. And sense of humor.

When I was looking back over a prayer from January, I found this, “So one of the options was  to just send Bolivia my application/ resume, and let them say what they would like me to do. And on one hand, that sounds great. It takes the decision making off of me, and allows them to say where they think I would fit, and also allows me to fill the need they have. BUT, it also terrifies me, in that they can say what they want me to do. If they give me a job and I cant do it, then what?”

I was so afraid I would be given a job I wasn’t qualified for/ able to do. So I sent my application in for the Librarian position, and God worked how he wanted anyway. :)

Last semester I got the opportunity to teach 1st grade. There were things about it that I loved, but at the same time, I often felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I was so thankful for the ways God provided, but when I found out there was a 1st grade teacher who would be starting in January, I was very relieved.

Then, a few days before the semester began, the PE teacher had a stroke. I read the email with the prayer request, and prayed. Did I think about the implications for me? Not at all. Then we get to in-service, and my supervisor asked me how I felt about teaching PE. I laughed. And then I quit laughing when I realized she was serious. And then I started laughing again.
If you know me at all, you know how ridiculous that idea is. I avoided PE like the plague in middles school. One of my best friends and I met in PE because we both hated it.  And know, here I am. 

I am amazed at how God heard my prayer last January. He let me “decide” which job I would like in Bolivia. But at the same time, He knew I was relying on my own strength – not His. And so, once again, I am back to trusting Him. I am back to relying on who God is, rather than who I am. And it is so much better this way! Please pray for creativity and energy as I begin to teach PE. But more importantly, please pray for a dependence on the Lord, and not myself.
Love you guys!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 1:9

Christmas with the Graves


When I was in middle school, my family watched the movie “Christmas with the Kranks”. If you haven’t seen it, the family decides to not have Christmas, and instead go on a cruise. For the last ten years, my dad has joked about doing “Christmas with the Graves”, and just not celebrating Christmas.

This year was as close as he is going to get. J My family was in Bolivia for almost two weeks, and it was so neat to be able to show them this place that has become my home. They were able to spend time at the orphanage with the kids, meet the kids in my class at Carachipampa, meet friends from church, and explore the city.

As I thought about Christmas this year, I began to realize how crazy it is that Jesus came to earth. My parents came to Bolivia, and it was a big deal. They traveled over 4,000 miles. They sacrificed their comfort and their health. They basically became like children in a new country… not knowing how to do basic tasks. (My mom said that she had heard roles reversed from parents to children, but she hadn’t thought it would be so soon.) :)

My family probably wouldn’t SAY that they suffered to come to Bolivia, but it was definitely a sacrifice on their part to come to me. As I thought about the sacrifice they made to come to Bolivia, I was overwhelmed thinking about the way Jesus sacrificed in coming to earth. He left his comfort, He became a child, and he lived on earth WITH us. He understands, because He entered into life as a human.


Thank you all for making it possible for my parents to come! There are tons of pictures here on Facebook! If you would like to come visit for a week, a month, or a year, let me know! There are tons of volunteer opportunities, and I would love to introduce you to my home away from home. J

Christmas in Kara Kara

Several weeks ago I wrote about the opportunity I had to go visit a neighborhood close to the city dump in order to give out Christmas gifts, as well as share the Gospel.

Thank you so much to those of you who prayed and gave generously!!

My parents arrived on a Wednesday, and I almost immediately put them to work. We went over to the chapel were Horita Feliz (The Bible Club) is held every Saturday, and started to prepare the gift bags to take with us. Thanks to your donations, we were also able to purchase sugar to give to the mothers!!

On Saturday morning around 8:00, we met at the chapel to pray, load up the cars, and head to Kara Kara. Of course, we were running on Bolivian time, so we arrived about an hour after the scheduled time. As we pulled into the neighborhood, I could see that they had set up a tent, and made little wooden benches . There were already close to 100 children ready and waiting for us! I found Noelia and Lucero, some of the girls I had already met, and was thankful for some familiar faces in the crowd.

To start, we sang some of the songs that we normally sing on Saturdays, and the kids learned very quickly! Here is a link! In the middle of one of the songs, a dog fight broke out in the back of the tent, but we just kept going while the men broke it up. :)
The children and mothers learning new songs!

Before the dog fight broke out.....

After singing, we broke off into groups depending on age. My friend Anita and I had the smallest kids, from 0-3 years old. The kids were very shy, but it was a great opportunity to share with their mothers as well. Please continue to pray that the Lord would soften their hearts, and that they would come to know him!

When we had finished, everyone went back outside to line up to receive gifts. I was helping to hand out shoes, but every time I looked up, the line got longer and longer. I was unsure that we would have enough, but God provided, and everyone received a gift, shoes, and a little basket for the mothers.
The ever-growing line up the hill

Handing out gifts

Twin girls receiving gifts

My mom and Autumn hard at work!

Some of the boys with their new toys

The generous women gave us traditional Bolivian hats to wear

Everyone was so thankful, and so hospitable. After handing out gifts, some of the people that had invited us to come prepared a delicious lunch. It was very humbling to see how God had orchestrated every little detail, and opened doors to share about His coming to earth because of His great love and grace! I am excited to see how God continues to work in the neighborhood of Kara Kara!!

Overlooking Cochabamba