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.
During 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.