This weekend Heather and I drove over bumpy roads to the campo, or into the country, to work at a youth camp. There were lots of new experiences, some fun and many stretching, and I thought that I better share them before I forget.

Let's start with the program. I got there, and there was a schedule, like, written out! This may sound normal, but you have to remember that we were in Bolivia. This, along with the fact that the kids were all playing soccer and volleyball, reminded me of my camp. For the first two or three hours out at the camp I had to hold back tears because I missed Arrowhead, the camp that I worked at last summer, so much.

The kids at this camp were just great. They were between maybe 8 and 20 something. I fit right in as a camper and went with the flow. God blessed me with begin able to understand almost all of the Spanish that I heard this weekend, so it was pretty easy for me to connect with them. However, once in a while I didn't quite get what was going on, and I would ask one of the girls what we were doing, and then I had a friend for the next two hours. They were so willing to help explain things to me! I loved it! I gave them some English words and expanded my Quechua vocabulary by two phrases.

The kids in the city that I work with are used to having missionaries in and out and have a pretty good idea of what life is like for us in their heads. The kids out in the campo may not have seen more than five gringos in their lives. They kept asking me questions, like, "How many days did it take you to get to Bolivia? (this boy thought that we drove)" "The US is a country, right?" Some of the questions were the same, though, "What is food like in your country?" "What is the climate like there?" I loved getting to see their lives, too. They are all very hard workers and know way more about walking around at night without electricity and taking advantage of running water when you have it than I am.

The food was such a challenge for me. Three out of our four meals there were lamb meat and potato soup. One of them was with noodles, the other two were with rice. The other meal, our breakfast, was bread and corn drink. These may sound good, and the bread and api (corn drink) were, but that soup was hard to stomach. They pile it on your plate, no crackers or sides, and culturally you have to eat it all. The hardest part? They eat almost EVERY part of the animal. My one normal piece of lamb all weekend had hair still attached to it; the rest were pieces of the back with the nerve cords still in it or a chunk of fat with bones and a little meat somewhere in it. Speaking of fat, the soups are just dark yellow with all the grease in them, and that just isn't easy to stomach when you already don't want to eat the food in front of you. God gave me some grace in being able to just eat without thinking about it, but I also did a little feeding of the dogs that hung around.

worship at camp
The speakers at this camp were pretty good, although our full day there, Saturday, we had five meetings! We sat on backless benches, and sometimes I was counting the hours until I could go home. I know that Heather had a hard time too, but I was impressed with how she thought it was worth it to go without comfort for a few days to help the kids. Also, the worship was sooo enthusiastic; I loved it!

Now that I have my feeling down, I have to say that there was more to this camp than hard experiences for me. I was really impressed with the kids' faith and spiritual knowledge and how they were genuinely excited about getting to learn about God for three days. The program did a great job of educating them about things that they just don't hear about, and also the leaders were great at leveling with the kids. I am glad that God had me there at that time, and that He taught me more about serving joyfully even when I don't want to.


Birthday Party!

Tonight was a really fun night for me! I got to go to a birthday party for the Talita Cumi kids who have had birthdays since August (like 9 kids). It was so much fun! I was paired up one of the boys so I could hang out with him for the night, and I was given Jose David. However, when we got to the party, Tiburcio (another boy) had been kicked out of the party because no one had been assigned to hang out with him during the night. I agreed to be his buddy, so he got back in, and I had two little rambuctious boys to entertain. It was great, because they were both turning 11 and their birthdays are 4 days apart, so everyone called them twins and they got matching gifts and they just loved it. I don't even think that they minded having the same madrina (or godmother, the name they use for the hanger-outer person).

We had a yummy supper together and they played lots of fun games and we had cake-- it was everything a birthday party should be. For Tiburcio, it was his first birthday party in the home, and maybe his first birthday party. I was so glad that I could be a part of it.

Here the boys are in their matching jerseys.

Also, today marks my first month in Bolivia. What things God has been doing in my heart! I wish that I could put them all into words, so I'll try, but words will not be enough. God is teaching me about compassion, about trusting in Him to care for my needs, about repairing conflicts quickly, about the dependent independence that I have in Him, and so much more.

My Spanish has also improved a LOT! It is very encouraging to me to have days where I come home and have to retrain my brain to think in English while I read my Bible or check my email. It still lacks a lot, but everyday I am learning more. Thank you to those who have prayed for my Spanish!

Praise God with me for His faithfulness to me and for kids who get birthdays!


Learing Lessons

Remember Rodrigo, the one who was so cute at the park less than a week ago? Tonight when I went to the home just to spend an hour with the boys, Eliana, the "mom" of the boys told me that he and his younger, adorable brother Eliseo went home with their mom today. They probably will never come back, so it's good that they can be with their mom, but my heart just was so sad that I never even got to say goodbye.
I know that God knows best, but I had to ask what lesson He was trying to teach me through this. That I shouldn't love these kids so deeply? Nope, that doesn't sound like a God thing. I think maybe it's more like I have to love them with His love and trust His love to cover me when I'm saddened by things that go on in the homes.
God is good ALL the time.


Heavy Heart

Sometimes I leave the homes with my heart just full of wondering.

Since I've gotten to Bolivia, it's been really hard for me to get to sleep at night. I usually lay in bed for at least a few hours before I finally get to sleep. Most people have at least a few minutes after the light goes out before their brain stops processing like crazy. I started to think about what the kids in the homes think about before they go to sleep. Do they wonder what it would be like to have their mom and dad sleeping in the next room? Do they wish that someone would have tucked them in, that someone would be excited to see them when they wake up in the morning? So many of them have parents who just can't take care of them, do they wonder when they will come to get them? If the kids are adoptable, do they wonder if they loveable enough to be adopted? My heart just breaks when I think of this. The kids are just so open to love, they crave it so much. When I go to Talita Cumi boys and they're watching a movie, if I walk in and sit down on the couch I'm guaranteed to have a mob of 5-11 year-old boys wanting to cuddle with me.

Often I cry out to God in my heart saying, "God, who loves these kids?" and everytime I do, He reminds me that He loves them with a perfect love that no parent could ever hope to measure up to. His sovereign plan for their lives has brought them to where they are today, and it will sustain them as they walk through life. He reminds me that He sent me to Bolivia for this time to be with these kids. He has His body on this earth to care for the poor and suffering in many different ways.

"The harvest is plentiful, the workers are few." Would you pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would send more workers?


A few hours in the life

Today I had a great experience! I went to a park with the boys of Talita Cumi, and God worked in my heart through the boys in a way that couldn't have been done through reading anything (except His Word) or talking.

Juan Carlos on the playground
Going to a park is not something totally out of the ordinary for the boys, but today was, because of the way it came about. Due to a nice high school kid, they got to go to a beautiful park in the city with playgrounds (more than one!) and lots of space to run and lots of beautiful trees. I want to give you this experience through the eyes of one of the boys, Rodrigo, who I think is six years old.

First, of all, we went by taxi, which the boys don't get to do very often, and the whole car ride Rodrigo kept talking about all the big trucks we were passing and other taxis that he say and gas stations. He was super excited about it all! For a six year-old who only ever stays at home or goes to school and church, the ride in itself was quite an experience.

When we got to the park, he was just amazed. He loved walking by the sand field, running up the little hill that had bleachers on it, and seeing the playgrounds. We started playing tag, and he played for awhile, but then he came to me and said, "Look, there's my boat!" Suddenly, the swingset-type-thing was his boat. :) He started running away from the sharks that might be around. Then, he became a shark and we had to run from him. Once, he caught me and was preparing to cut off my head before he ate me (as all non-barbaric sharks do), which I escaped! He instantly morphed into a dinosaur and recaptured me. He cut off my hand to punish me, which made me cry a lot. He was preparing to kill me again when, very seriously, as only a six-year old could do, he slowly raised his arms above his head and became...an angel that saved me! How cute! I had to try pretty hard not to laugh while I thanked him for being so gentlemanly.

Rodrigo's dinosaur face. :)

We played soccer for a long time after the shark/dinosaur/angel game, and he got pretty thirsty, so I took him to get some water. On the way he was delighted when he found two matching old empty pop bottles that he could use to store his own drinking water (also only a six-year old could do this) and loved sharing his water with us (we washed our hands with it instead of drinking it). He also played some great futbol and swang on the swings for at least 45 minutes.

When it was finally time to go home, I was looking forward to seeing his reaction on the return taxi. He was curious to see animals in a big truck, but mostly I think he was exhausted. He just sat on Tio Toni's lap and was content to be there.

I wish I could tell you the ways that God blessed me through these boys today, but words will not do it justice. I learned about having enthusiam for whatever you're doing. I learned from the people who work/help with the boys about being a servant and how that sometimes looks like serving coca-cola when you could be eating, or sometimes looks like playing soccer even when you're exhausted from a long week at college. I learned from the boys about being content with what you have. I learned that some of these boys have horrible stories, but God has a plan for this and still allows them to enjoy life in ways that are harder for me. I learned about generosity from the tios and the high school helper, and I learned how great it is just to spend time with these boys.

Praise God for His faithfulness to His children!



I'm a Wisconsin girl, so I guess mosquitoes shouldn't phase me, but that doesn't mean I have to like them! They are having a hayday here! It rained a few days ago and the little buggers sprang up like weeds. They aren't as bad as they were at camp this summer, but the one that's buzzing my ear right now is pretty annoying. I'm not very allergic to mosquito bites, so thankfully I'm not itching a lot or anything, but I have lots of little red spots all over my legs right now. Bolivian mosquito bites look different from Wisconsin ones, so that's interesting for me.

Mosquitoes are nothing new, but I did have one very new experience today. I was the encargada (in charge person) at one of the homes! I cooked lunch at Cristo Viene girls' home today for one of my sister's friends who couldn't do it, and fifteen minutes after I arrived all of the staff told me they were leaving and would be back in a few hours!!!!!

Now, my Spanish is improving, it really is, but it is not good enough to be in charge of a bunch of girls who love getting away with things for two hours. I prayed that it would be a quiet time without major issues. Maybe God had other plans for me, because while I was cooking and answering the phone and wondering if the girls were still punished from TV as they were watching soaps, a girl's mother showed up! These girls are in the home because their parents signed papers to put them there, so I didn't know what the rules were for visits. Thankfully the older girls knew what to do and helped me, but man! I was a little stressed.

Thankfully, lunch turned out very well, and in the end everything went fine. When the staff returned all the girls were in one piece. I made shepherd's pie, which is the girls' favorite meal, and it was on the table only ten minutes late, which is still early in Bolivian time. Here are a few pictures.

Here is one of the pies. yum!

This is Dora eating the pie. What a cutie!


Laundry- Bolivian Style!

Yesterday (Sat.), we cooked for Mi Gumi, a home with 11 girls. We made pizza burgers, salad, rice and snickerdoodles, and they went over great. Then, we got to hang out with the girls for awhile. This is where the fun began...

Many of the girls were still doing their chores, which included washing their clothes. Most people in Bolivia don't have a washing machine, so they wash by hand. The girls decided to wash by foot, which I have never seen before. It was hilarious! They invited me to join them, so I jumped in too! Thankfully Heather got some pictures, so I will put those up here.

What really struck me about the whole situation is that before we started foot washing, we were just doing it by hand, and I was helping, and these girls who were 12 years old were way better at washing than I was! I was almost embarrassed to tell them that at my house we have machines that wash and dry our clothes for us. The only time I've every hand-washed entire loads of clothes is in Bolivia. These girls have so little, but in some ways they have way more skills than I do. I guess it has given me a lot to think about.