Equipo Bolivia Vuelve

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We are home.

Hey Restoration!  Our Bolivia Team arrived home around 9pm on Sunday night.  Thank you for reading our emails and blogs, for praying, and for generously helping with our trip costs.  Some of you came to the Bowlivia Dinner, others of you dropped your kids with us for a Date Night, lots of you gave specific gifts to help with flights, visas, and thousands of Perler Beads (more on that, soon).  Restoration gives so generously of its time, prayers, and money.  I am always grateful and humbled by your participation when the opportunity presents itself.  Thank you.

I get the honor of offering some initial thoughts as we re-enter to North American life and culture.  You will hear from other members of our team over the next couple of weeks.

Resto People are Incredible People.

Our team started meeting as a small group during the spring trimester.  This is the way we have been prepping for mission trips for about 5 years.  It gives us a great opportunity to get to know each other, to pray for each other, and to prepare to serve together.  Over and over, I said thanks to God for the incredible people He put on this team.  We were lead by the dynamic trio of Endel Liias, Kate Liias, and Eva-Elizabeth Chisholm.  They were extraordinary:  calm, attentive to details, and compassionate towards the rest of us.  At least half the team was fluent in Spanish and another 1/4 could function well on their own in Spanish conversation.  That left a few people like me with LOTS of help when we got stuck tripping over our limited vocabulary.  We loved living in a guest house together and doing compline each night.  We worked hard leading a retreat and serving lots of kids.  We laughed, mourned, and were touched by the things God is doing in Bolivia.

We have this thing called RestoGoes (look for the yellow flyer in the narthex).  We try to get teams to our partners in Cambodia (Jan2017), West Asia (Nov2017), and Bolivia (Aug2017) each year.  One of the best parts of RestoGoes are the people who go with you.  The next opportunity is West Asia in November.  Want to join an incredible team?

La Trinidad Anglican Church

Most of us left Dulles at 11:30am on Thur, Aug 3.  We arrived in Cochabamba around 8am on Fri, Aug 4.  It’s a long way.

Our first task was to lead a retreat (Sat-Mon) for La Trinidad Anglican Church.  The format was familiar to us–  it’s just like our Restoration Fall Retreat (10/14-15, registration is open, last year we maxed out, don’t miss it!).

For 4 months, our team had worked on stories in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus has a meal with a group of people (there are over half a dozen of them).  Our retreat theme was:  En la mesa con Jesus.
Over the course of the weekend, we had six sessions where one team member taught the passage and a second team member gave a testimony for how that story impacted their life.  The combo was so good.  Our team had prepared with excellence.  Many of the team taught and shared in Spanish.  Some of us were translated by other members of the team.

Before we went, we discussed cultural differences we would encounter.  We used the phrase–  it’s not right or wrong, it’s just different.  One of those differences was how we view vulnerability.  Restoration is a church that views vulnerability as a strength.  In our small groups and friendships, we want to be known, to be sincere, to not hide.  Vulnerability as a strength came out in the way our team courageously shared their testimonies and it was very attractive.

La Trinidad in particular and perhaps Bolivian culture in general views vulnerability as a weakness (again, not right or wrong, just different).  During the retreat, the people of La Trinidad greatly appreciated the vulnerability of our team and their appreciation lead to long discussions of how their church might become more transparent with each other–  for the sake of the Gospel and the healing work that Jesus wants to do in us.

Our team was grateful to be able to bring the gift of our stories and grateful to see how the Holy Spirit used them to bless our friends at La Trinidad during the retreat.

I hope you will be quick to sign up for a fall small group where you can be known and build friendships with other folks at Restoration.

Niños Con Valor

From Tuesday to Saturday we volunteered with the organization, Niños Con Valor.  It was a rewarding combination of affection, hard work, crafts, conversation, prayer, and learning.

There was a narrative that became very real to me that week.  We had a presentation on the history of Bolivia that taught us the economic and political fragility of that country (the presentation was entitled, ‘Bolivia Exists!’).  Bolivia is not a powerful economy compared with its neighbors.  In addition,  we were working with children who had been orphaned or abandoned.  Many of them had special needs and almost half had HIV.  These children became so precious to us.  Yet, according to the currency and value assessment of most of the world, they could be dismissed as ‘the least of these.’  The staff and volunteers of NCV are truly standing in the gap for about 40 kids that might not have any other place to turn.  It was our deep, profound privilege to get to serve alongside them and to experience the expansion of our hearts in exuberant affection for these children.

Now…

I loved our time in Bolivia.  I believe we did some good.  I know we built relational partnerships that will continue to strengthen.  As we grow our work with RILA, and dream about a future Spanish service, and partner with our good friends at Casa Chirilagua, and wonder about how God will materialize our hopes for Incarnation Anglican Church in South Arlington, I know that this companionship in Bolivia is a part of our Restoration story.  I love trusting that God is leading us and coordinating us.  It is such an adventure!

Good to be home.  See you on Sunday.

-David

He has taken my little, and given me much

#RestoBolivia2 – Team reflections #1

Tu fe ha salvado; ve te en paz.

RestorationMission 2These are the words of Jesus as he blesses the woman who washed his feet with her tears. A simple sentence:

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

These are the words of Jesus that have been on repeat (in Spanish and in English) since Sunday morning, after Laurel and Desiree shared testimonies and teaching with members of La Trinidad, the church here in Cochabamba. Words that carry blessing and hope.

I wasn’t ready for this trip. We’d put months of preparation in to it – some of us had literally been talking about this trip since we left Cochabamba last July. Plans were set – we knew who would be speaking – we knew who would be leading kids time – hours of prayer and encouragement and listening and learning were put into this trip. And still my heart was not quite ready. I was tired, struggling with some familiar voices of shame and the question of “has it been enough?”

Late Friday night I sent around an update for our prayer partners. I was exhausted after a full day of travel and little sleep, and in all honesty struggling to find words. But last night my words were re-read to me, and I realized that the prayer I’d written for our friends at La Trinidad was in many ways a prayer for myself: “that they will be able to enter into the next few days with ready hearts.”

Now, on the other side of the retreat, I am grateful for the ways God took my little and reminded me that he is enough. Our plans were used and changed and shared in ways that we didn’t always understand, but they did not return empty. So many of us were privileged to see many at La Trinidad share their stories in new and vulnerable ways. There was weeping and rejoicing, celebration and struggle.

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We also discovered that the Hanke family knows a thing or two about llamas

As we reflected on the story of the woman weeping at Jesus’ feet, I shared with our small group that as I imagined myself in her place, there was an overwhelming sense that the need for healing was greater than the weight of shame that could leave her (me) isolated and alone – that risking the judgment of the people watching was worth the relief that would come from Jesus’ grace.

 

This is my benediction: Your faith has saved you; go in peace

~Eva-Elizabeth

RestoBolivia: a message from our hosts!

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There are moments in life when you get a glimpse of God’s love, HIS heart and HIS hands by watching others. I was privileged to have a whole photo album of these moments when the 2016 RestoBolivia team came to Cochabamba in July. I am a volunteer at Niños con Valor and spent a significant amount of time with this group who clearly wanted to share that God knows you! He’s crazy about you! He goes with you!

unnamed-2The images that fill my mind when I reflect back on the jam-packed week are ones of play, connection and devotion. I can see the smiles and hear the laughter during activities like face painting, playing at the park, drawing on frisbees, swimming at El Poncho and watching the performances at the 10th Anniversary Celebration of Niños con Valor. The too numerous to count hugs and the non-existent personal space bubble are the natural result of sincere caring. I witnessed eyes lighting up when the team would ring the doorbell and the proverbial “ahhh” when it was time to leave for the day. It was a cycle of high-octane VBS mornings at La Trinidad, activity filled afternoons at Corazón del Pastor and Pedacito de Cielo and evenings to prepare for doing it all over again the next day. What struck me most about this RestoBolivia team was how each day was approached by trying to do their best and make the best of out situations that didn’t go as planned. (A common occurrence with children and in Bolivia.)

unnamedA common question I hear, is how can a bond be so deep after only a week together? In my opinion, the answer is what all mission trips should leave room for… God! He bridges intentions and actions, Spanish and English, difficult pasts and hopeful futures and everything else. When you come with a heart to serve and willingness to allow God to lead, change and challenge you, you are left with what the RestoBolivia team experienced. The team,community, church and children and staff at Niños con Valor are different because of how God works.

Thank you to the RestoBolivia team for giving of yourself selflessly and for being SO fun!!!

~Marianne Wong

(Ed:Marianne was the MOST wonderful hostess – unfailingly cheerful, helpful and wise. So grateful for her part in making it a really good 10 days!)

RestoBolivia: Hard things

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Craft time with Tia Susie and Tia Graciella!

On Wednesday, April 20th, thirteen strange people sat in my living room and entertained the idea of going to Bolivia. Every Wednesday, we met in the same place at the same time, and planned our week in Cochabamba. We met various people on Skype, and we threw around different words and names such as “Tammy,” “The Cancha,” “La Paz” and “Ninos Con Valor.” Lauren came up with the entire VBS schedule from top to bottom. Gloria and I thought of craft ideas for the afternoons. We all prayed for each other every moment that we could. Andrew brought his guitar. Endel and Kate taught us some Spanish words. We were part of each other’s lives every week. We made each other excited for the adventure that we were about to be going on together.

Before going to Cochabamba, I was not prepared for the hard things that I was going to see, experience and be a part of. Different thoughts ran through my head prior to our departure. It will all be fine and fun and exciting, I thought to myself as I was running errands for crafts that would be going in my suitcase. I am a daughter of the One True King. He won’t let anything stop me from having a good trip. My mind said as I sat in church, hearing our trip being announced to the congregation. My mom will be there. She won’t make me do anything hard or uncomfortable, I thought as I walked alongside my mother, talking about our trip together. Nothing bad will happen. I won’t have to do anything hard. It’s just being with people and hanging out with kids, right? What’s so hard about that?13606719_10154404024381424_7336581970209569256_n

As it turns out, I was very, very wrong. On our trip, we had to do many things that weren’t easy. God put my teammates and me in situations that were tough and hard to comprehend, and as a result, I became more open to different things, more resistant to different things, and able to handle myself in different ways. On top of that, out of every hard thing that we did, something good came, too.

Since returning from the sweet city of Cochabamba, Bolivia, I have been waking up every day with a new feeling of bravery and confidence. I’m able to communicate with people much better now than before our trip. I am better at corralling children and making them behave after being a tia to the ninos and ninas of Ninos Con Valor for hours at a time. I’m more open to learning a new language, and I believe that my capacity for it has gotten bigger and better. This feeling of bravery has definitely come from a big theme of our trip: doing difficult things.

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VBS skit!

First of all, communication was a very hard thing. I’m entering my sixth year of French in the fall, and I know approximately fourteen Spanish vocabulary words. Obviously, in Bolivia, English is not a language that is spoken. I love people, and I love getting to know their stories. In the US, the way I get to know other people is by talking to them and by using words. In Bolivia, I wasn’t able to do this because my words were limited. The most I could do was say things like mi nombre es Graciela and muchos gracias. I like to talk, and I like to know others through talking. It made me uncomfortable and feel so unequipped to be in the country that I would be calling home for the next 11 days. The first day that we were there, we went to both of the homes that we were going to be working with during our trip. My favorite thing to do is mentor to younger girls, and I was especially looking forward to hanging out with the middle and high school aged girls at the Girls Home, just like I love to do at home in Virginia. When we left the home that first day, I felt sad and angry. I can’t communicate with these girls, I thought to myself. How will I ever get to know their stories and get to laugh with them if I don’t even know or understand what they’re saying? The next time we came to the home, I was ready to learn. I tried my best to communicate. I danced with the girls, ran around and chased them, did crafts with them, and laughed with them. Even small actions went a long way. Although communication was hard, there was lots and lots of good that came out of my experience with Spanish. Now I know the full power of a hug or a smile rather than words. I am able to say “I love you!” to the girls just by hugging, pointing to things, holding their hands or linking their arms, and giving and receiving smiles. These actions, for me, are much better than speaking, much more powerful, and much more like Jesus loves us.

Second, our “Reality Tour” was really hard for me. We left on the Friday morning of our trip, and traveled to three different homes in Cochabamba. First, we toured a large, state-run home that was the place for children just like the kids of Ninos Con Valor. It was very spacious, with individual houses on the property, housing 10 boys or girls per house. There was a tia living in each house with the children who fed them, helped them with their homework, dried their tears, and tucked them in at night. Each house had large, high ceilings, artwork, and comfy seating. The people there were very welcoming. As I was boarding the bus to leave, one of the tios stopped me. “When are you coming back?” he asked in accented English. “As soon as possible!” I said, smiling and taking one last look at the property, the children, and their caretakers. “Good,” he said, smiling and tapping his cane on the ground. “Your house is my house. You are always welcome here!”

The second home we visited was very open with us about the things they were struggling with. The very day that we toured, they had found out that they needed to close their home down. When we arrived, one of the tios talked with us about the home, its history and its future. As he told us the news about closing, which was recent news for us and for him, he was clearly very moved and concerned about the future of the children in his care.  After meeting him, we met some of the children. We met lots of babies and toddlers, and got to spend time with them in their room, complete with cribs, artwork, and happy music. For me, being with them after hearing hard news was refreshing, and like a bright spot in the middle of a broken place. Then, we headed over to the boys’ area, and got to hang out with them. As I walked into their house, I didn’t know what to expect. Would they be loud and rowdy? Did they know what their future was going to be like? What activities did they like to do? One of the boys greeted me by running up to me and giving me a giant hug. “Tia, tia, vamos!” He said excitedly, and dragged me over to one of the couches. He handed me a book and settled into my lap. Wiping happy tears from my eyes, I began to read to him, completely in awe of his love for me, a stranger from America who he hadn’t even known for a minute.

The third home we visited was a home for children with special needs. This was the hardest home to see, and as we were walking through and seeing the place where these children were cared for, I tried to keep an open mind and a heart of love. It was in a quieter area of the city, and it was a large, comfortable property with lots of bedrooms, classrooms, and areas for the kids to live and be. The home was operated by nuns, and the staff was kind and generous to us. We met lots of children, and we saw their bedrooms, classrooms, playgrounds and other things that they get to see and be with every day. In one of the rooms for older children, I met a sweet, joyful girl who loved to dance, laugh, and be with others. She invited me to sit and eat her lunch with her, and she giggled and smiled the whole time. She introduced to her friends by bringing my hand to theirs, and she left me with a feeling of joy and peace about all that I had seen and experienced. As we were leaving, I looked around at the children who were in such tough situations, and I began to cry. It made me upset that their families were not involved with them just because of the special care that they needed. I knew that Jesus loved them more than anything, and I tried to remind myself that He would welcome them into his kingdom someday.

This tour was one of the hardest parts of the trip for me. It was hard to comprehend why these children are in these situations, and it was hard to see them and not be able to do anything about it. Although it was so hard, it was so necessary to see. I gained a better understanding of the struggles of Bolivia, and I felt deeper pain for the people there. Through the tour, I also got to see the beautiful things that had come out of these children’s homes, such as loving, caring tias and tios, beautiful space, and children who are in a safe home with people who love them.

Lastly, returning home and saying goodbye was so hard. In Bolivia, I had felt such a sense of peace from everyone around me. Working with the kids and feeling their love and affection had filled me up with joy. Meeting new friends and being with them had been refreshing to me. I didn’t want to go home and leave all of that behind. On the plane, I wrote down my experiences. I wanted to carry them with me, even though I wasn’t in that special place anymore. I was so afraid of losing the relationships I had formed. I didn’t want to lose all of the memories and friendships that I had formed during my time in Cochabamba. After returning home, I realized quickly that none of that was true. These experiences that I had would always be with me. I would always remember stories about people, conversations that I had had with people we met, the kids’ beautiful faces, the games we played, the meals we had shared, and everything else about my experience in Bolivia. My relationship with Jesus is different because of my experiences. Even if I’m not physically in the country now, I would have the memories from the trip and the opportunity to experience it again someday.

Even though parts of our trip were challenging, it was one of the best and most fulfilling experiences I have ever had. This year, I’m beyond excited to take the knowledge that I gained from my trip and use it with those around me. Additionally, I am excited to return to Bolivia one day to see the sweet faces of the children, the beautiful mountains, the barking dogs, the kind people, and the love of Jesus Christ all around me.

~Grace Brooks

RestoBolivia: the final party ….

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I enjoyed Bolivia  a lot and I loved having time with the kids playing and having fun.  I enjoyed spending time with God and hope that some of the kids will get a family.  And God will make that happen.  I was so happy to come and stay with them and hope we can go again.Photo Jul 07, 11 25 29 AM (1)

I had fun with D (note: the child we sponsor), and I did lots of cool things with him.  We were having the best time at the party in the end.  My favorite part was the pool even when I got sunburn.  I also really liked the swings and the zip line and the playground equipment.  I thank God for this wonderful  trip.

In summary:  I really had a great time at Vacation Bible School and I also had really fun with my friend D.  The thing I liked most about the trip was the party because I got to have a great lunch with everybody and I got to play with my best friend.

~ Carson Wallin

Editor’s note: The final Saturday we joined all the NCV kids, tias, tios, board members of the foundation, and other friends for a wonderful 10 year celebration. It was, indeed, a fabulous party in a little park with pool, zipline, playground and a delicious lunch. Carson is quite right – it was a great day. 

RestoBolivia: a gift

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It’s been 10 days since Equipo Bolivia returned to Arlington,  and you’d think I’d have tidied my room by now. My suitcase still holds gifts from the market in Cochabamba, waiting to be sent to friends and family. My bright orange t-shirt from Equipo Naranja (I like that there are two words for orange in Spanish….one for the color, one for the fruit) is folded but I can see sharpied signatures peeking through, of kids young and old. Group text messages from my fellow travelers that in some ways rival those between me and my siblings, complete with inside jokes, photos, and prayers. There are photos in colorful frames, from the kids at Ninos con Valor and the congregation of La Trinidad, faces that accompany my ever-widening understanding of family.

And there is my trip journal, ready to join its counterparts from Women’s retreats and Fall retreats.  I picked it up this afternoon while tidying and flipped through the pages, reflecting on the fact that the markings in this book could very well tell the story of our time:

13668730_10154412824841424_5818283949311902620_oThere are brightly colored scribbles of orange and blue and green and pink, gifted by *Tomas and *Fabian in the few minutes that they sat still before leading me on another chase around the park. Spanish and English vocabulary covering the back, the remnants of my translation session with *Natalia as we listened to Sunday’s sermon. Passages of scripture underlined with squiggly lines, reminders of our devotions during morning bus rides. Lyrics to the song “Yo tengo un amigo que me ama” which is undoubtedly now playing on repeat in the minds of my fellow teammates.

I cannot look at those pages without smiling. They are a small but tangible reminders to me of God’s goodness….of his faithfulness. I told a friend as we were leaving that the trip didn’t feel like a “mountain top/emotional high” experience, but was instead a time of being daily aware of God’s sustaining presence – from take-off at Dulles to altitude sickness in La Paz, through conversations in broken Spanish and songs sung with little voices, in times of great celebration and in times of questioning the brokenness in our world, in the saying goodbye and coming home. It was not an easy time, but it was a gift.

~Eva-Elizabeth Chisholm

RestoBolivia: Trusting God

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I’m not typically the one to be a “worry wart.” Most would say I am “muy tranquilo.” But leading up to our departure for the 2016 RestoBolivia Trip, I found myself immersed in a perpetual cycle of questions and doubts:

  • Are we really going to be able to make a difference during a one-week trip to Bolivia?
  • Will the language barrier pose a bigger problem than we are anticipating?
  • Will enough kids show up to our Vacation Bible School?
  • Will our team be flexible and adapt to a different culture?
  • Will we be able to build a genuine partnership with La Trinidad Anglican Church?
  • Are they excited that we are coming or are we going to be more of a burden to them?
  • Will we have trouble getting through customs with all of the supplies and bibles we are bringing?
  • Will our team remain healthy or will they be the victims of parasites or altitude sickness?
  • Will we be able to connect with the children of Niños con Valor in such a short period of time?
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Liz and Tammy

I won’t bore you with ALL of the questions that were running through my head. Those are just a sampling. As you can see, these questions ranged from the insignificant to the profound.  Everything from “Do we have enough beads for the friendship bracelets we will be making?” to “What does God have in store for the future relationship between Restoration and Bolivia?”

Once we were firmly planted on terra firma in Bolivia, I felt an overwhelming peace. We did what we could to prepare for the trip in a wise and thoughtful manner, but now it was simply up to God as to what would happen in the following days. And what DID happen was extraordinary.

In reference to my earlier questions, here is how God responded:

  • God affirmed that, indeed, we could make a difference by simply showing up.

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    Andrew and Endel…

  • God reminded us that the language of His LOVE could overcome any language barrier.
  • God blessed us with the perfect number of children for our Vacation Bible School.
  • God orchestrated the formation of a team in which every individual was willing to put the needs of others before their own.
  • God formed fruitful relationships between the members and leaders of Restoration and those of La Trinidad Anglican Church.
  • God gave us the wisdom we needed to be helpful, not hurtful, towards our Bolivian brothers and sisters.
  • God protected our travels and we had no issues navigating customs.
  • God shielded us from any severe illness or injuries (though many from our team did come home with some new, uninvited amoeba amigos! )
  • God created beautiful connections between our team and the children of Niños con Valor.

Each evening during compline, we reflected on what God taught us about himself that day. And almost every evening, my thoughts turned to the same conclusion, one that I clearly need to be reminded of daily.

TRUST HIM.

As you can see, all of the responses to those previous worries and questions did not resolve through what I did but instead through what He did.

We taught the children about the story of Daniel during our Vacation Bible School week.  Going forth, I pray that I can have the kind of faith that Daniel had:

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” – Daniel 6:23

~ Kate Liias

 

RestoBolivia: Dependencia

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I am pretty sure I have a problem with the idea of dependence, especially when it slams into those areas where I think I should be competent.  Let’s be frank.  I have some serious pride issues.  Wouldn’t you know that our trip to Bolivia would put me smack dab in a place of God’s grace so that he might continue his good work of refining — just a bit more — this stubborn child of his?

As one who loves and works with kids (and one who barely gets outside of Arlington County), I knew a trip to Cochobamba to play with the kids of Ninos con Valor and to encourage the children’s ministry leaders of La Trinidad Anglican Church would be just my thing.  I knew that my few years of French wouldn’t exactly sub in for having taken no Spanish, but these were KIDS we were talking about!  I speak kid!  And teachers?  I’ve loved teachers forever and being with them and sharing ideas is what gets me really excited.  This was going to be a piece of cake!

Except that it wasn’t.  Always.

Prior to our trip, I began to get those butterflies, a sure sign to me that all is not well in my spirit.  I began to loosen my grip and reach out to friends to ask them to pray.  My anxiety decreased.  As we waited to board our flight at Dulles, I asked Eva-Elizabeth to create this for me, a reminder that I am God’s child and he most certainly speaks my language:

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Throughout our trip, I found myself being less and less “sufficient” and more and more in need.  I needed help knowing where to go in airports.  I needed help translating handouts for the teacher training.  I needed help understanding what others were trying to tell me.  I needed help telling others how much I appreciated them.  I needed help with the Colombian “TSA” as they pulled me aside for a pre-board check of my person and my bags.

I needed.

And with every need, God provided.*

There are – I have learned – tremendous gifts in being dependent.  Doing so forces me to deny self, to give up control, to acknowledge my own weaknesses; and to learn to receive.  Even more, dependence allows me to see others’ strengths and to nestle in and see God at work through them.

As I hustle back in to my daily life in Arlington, may I continue to rest in his grace and proclaim ¡Señor! ¡Oh, cómo te necesito!

-Louise Brooks-

*Thanks, Equipo Bolivia for loving me well!

RestoBolivia: Partners in Christ

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There’s something unsettling about reading a persuasive article on reasons to cancel one’s short-term mission trip while in the middle of such a trip.  Pitfalls associated with short-term missions were clearly spelled out in the article, including imposing one’s vision and ideas on a community or church without their input or participation.  Should Restoration’s mission trip to Cochabamba, Bolivia, in which we ran a Vacation Bible School at La Trinidad Anglican Church, have been cancelled? 

Photo Jul 03, 3 52 32 PMAs I reflect on this question, I return to a core belief of Restoration that we are all broken people in some way or form.  I believe that in recognizing this truth (or having it thrust upon us!), we had the opportunity to experience our time in Bolivia with humility and open hands.  Although our approach to VBS at La Trinidad was in no way without flaw in terms of classic shortcomings of mission trips, I do celebrate and give thanks for how God orchestrated a solid partnership among La Trinidad, our Restoration team, and the residential group homes of Ninos con Valor (NCV).  More than mere platitudes, I can say without these three groups working together, VBS would not have been possible.  We came as an imperfect team, with two members unable to join us, many not knowing Spanish, others suffering from altitude sickness, and limited time to understand the space and needs of the kids who would be attending.  La Trinidad graciously welcomed more than 40 children into their sanctuary and grounds and provided staff and delicious refrescos for the kids.  NCV sent eight teenage girls from their home for girls to serve as assistants, and they cared for and supported the children in ways we couldn’t have.  We were also hungry recipients of all the chatter, giggles, small presents, and attention we could soak up from the kids.

 As we and our partners spent the Olympic-themed week learning about God our coach, running the race of life as a Christian, and sharing “the gold” with others, we trust that God did a good work in the lives of the children we came to love.  We also believe that our neediness, despite the relative abundance of our Western resources, allowed us to authentically enter into a gospel partnership with our dear hermanos y hermanas in Christ.  We’re thankful for the family of God that knows no boundaries.

~Susie Wallin

RestoBolivia: Breaking yokes

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On the morning of the first full day spent in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the Bible verse Isaiah 58:6 stood out to me during a time of devotions on the way to our first day of Vacation Bible School on our team’s “trufi” bus. It states:

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

This verse along with a short time reflecting with Rev Liz Gray led to a time of contemplation regarding what I would be giving up, or fasting from, while spending the upcoming week in Bolivia as well as what “yokes” may need to be broken in my own life as well as in those that we would interact with in Bolivia.

In my typical life at home, I have quite a bit of control over my daily schedule and how I spend my time. Often times this leads to patterns and habits, both good and bad. For the time in Bolivia, these would be abandoned. During this trip I would give up time with my wife, television, and constant access to internet to name a few biggies. In order to make efficient use of our short time in Bolivia, we needed to stick to a daily schedule that included time for Vacation Bible School at the church, activities with children from Niños Con Valor, a workshop with members of La Trinidad Anglican Church, meals as a group with hosts, devotional time as a team, and rest at night to rejuvenate us. Every night, Tyson Malo, the coordinator in Bolivia of our trip  and director of Niños Con Valor, would send our schedule for the next day to the group we created on WhatsApp, a group messaging  application for smart phones. Each schedule was full with activities that ultimately strengthened my relationship with the people at La Trinidad Anglican Church, Niños Con Valor, and as a group. I left feeling connected and for that I am grateful.

logo_ncv_Divi3During multiple conversations with Tyson, he mentioned difficulties that the children at Niños Con Valor were having in their lives. He indicated that especially the pre-teens and teenagers are more likely to listen and receive the words coming from a team like ours than from him and the tias who are in their lives on a regular basis. Could this be a way that God would use us to break “yokes”? The fact is, these pre-teens and teens displayed so many strengths during our time together it was nearly impossible to believe they were actually struggling. Speaking words of encouragement to these youth was easy. I was reminded that despite their apparent challenges, each of these individuals has God given gifts and talents to contribute to the world. It was a privilege and honor to be welcomed and accepted by them. My hope is that as the children at Niños Con Valor come to know and understand themselves that they recognize these gifts and talents which will ultimately offer resiliency in overcoming the challenges they have and will face. I trust God is at work.

Walking alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ at La Trinidad Anglican Church was a blessing. A relatively small church with a large population of children due to the attendance of the children from Niños Con Valor, it is apparent that those who attend are very committed to being disciples of Christ and serving the children in the church well. We were lucky to attend their worship service twice as well as have an afternoon to pray with and encourage those that work with the children in the church. It was especially neat having the opportunity to learn some worship songs in Spanish during my interactions with the worship team. Spending time together and encouraging each other reinforced the importance and power of prayer and communication in caring for ourselves and others in the church.

~Andrew Intagliata

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