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