As children grow toward middle school, they begin to peck at the shell of dependence that served them well in childhood, breaking through in fits and starts to greater independence. Last summer, we could see the emerging teen in our twelve-year-old son as he would vacillate between thoughtful and charitable to surly and selfish, sometimes in a matter of moments. While I enjoyed his deepening maturity, refined laughter and beginning wisdom, surges of impulsivity and occasional emotional squalls were trying, and arguments took on a new edge.
So it was a gift to do something together, father and son, far away from the well-worn paths of our relationship at home, where we experienced service and selflessness both individually and alongside each other as part of a gifted Restoration team in a place new to us both, centered on care for children with a very special place in God’s heart. “O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more.” Ps 10.17-18
I could talk about how God led me to a deeper experience of intimacy and immediacy in prayer or about how he broke my heart engaging children afflicted with chronic mental and physical challenges while also surviving neglect, abondonment and even abuse from parents — those who should care for them the most. I haven’t known tears to flow so freely for a long time.
But what I cherish most about that trip is that I shared it with my son. We saw the same things together. I saw him lift up and play with little Ninos, joy beaming from his face and theirs. He saw me engage Bolivian adult Christians in prayer for the retreat we led. We learned together, experiencing a new culture and country we knew little about. He saw me simple and uncomprehending when faced with linguistic challenges. I saw him take things in stride and adjust to the unexpected, as schedules and the need to serve sometimes changed from what we anticipated. We tried new foods together and made new friends independently. We joined the whole team for daily worship and prayer together, and sometimes youth and adults divided for their own reflection. And that was perfect for us both. He could see me let him have his own experience, and I could see him take risks, serve Niños kids, laugh with peers and grow in faith. I appreciate and admire the young man he’s becoming in all kinds of new ways.
And now we can’t wait to go back — to love the kids of Niños con Valor, embrace the people of La Trinidad and engage the city of Cochabamaba. We want to experience more of the beauty of God’s children in Bolivia.
Application Deadline: This Friday, Feb. 1st