Bolivia after four trips…

We have just returned from our fourth trip to Cochabamba, Bolivia, working alongside the House of Hope. I’m not sure that I’ve laughed more on any mission trip than I did on this last one and that’s a really good thing! It doesn’t mean we didn’t work really hard or keep busy, but it does speak to the level of comfort that we felt with our partners on the ground, and I believe, that they feel with us.

Some really important things were said to me during our visit that I would like to share in this posting. I share these things because I want to affirm for all who have continued to support the work in Bolivia that we are doing a good thing and we are doing it well! In fact, it was said to me multiple times that there are no other teams like ours! Now, the caution is to make sure that it doesn’t go to our heads and we continue to do the things that build relationships and focus our efforts on people instead of work.

One thing that was said to us was that we help Carmen in the kitchen without being asked. We pick up dishes after meals, wash dishes, help prepare food and do this at every meal. Other teams don’t do this. They simply sit and wait to be served. Let me stress that Carmen is happy to serve. She loves making people feel welcome and at home in her house. The reality, though, is that making meals and cleaning up for upwards of 20 people three times a day is a daunting task, especially when you have lots of random people dropping in and are also trying to be a mother, wife and foundation coordinator! When we simply step in, we reduce her workload and her stress and she has learned to trust us because we still let her be in charge. We just simply add an extra hand.

Another difference with our team is on the worksite. We are not pushing Richard or our partner community to “hurry up” so that we can work harder and faster. We have no agenda but to be helpful. We let them tell us what we need to do, even if it is waiting around for a truckload of bricks that should have arrived the day before or letting the foreman make a decision that we could make on our own. We realize it is empowering to give up our control and allow the community to own, manage and decide how the project advances. We continue to work with the values we learned in, When Helping Hurts, and we are seeing the fruit in strengthened relationships and trust that has been built over these last four years. Our partners see in our words and our actions that we truly want the best for their community and we are willing to let go of our agendas. It is not always easy but it is making us stand out from other teams.

Finally, when we leave Bolivia, the House of Hope always does a couple of things for us. They invite the leaders of the different ministries to come to the house we stay in and say goodbye, they give us a gift and they take us to the airport and stay with us until we go through security, usually in tears and not wanting to say goodbye! The many different leaders call us family as we call them our Bolivian family. It is sincere and not just something to say. Most of us stay in touch throughout the year and you will often hear us lifting them in prayer for specific needs on Wednesday nights. I learned, only on this last trip, that no other team brings gifts to the House of Hope (like we do), and no one else receives gifts from them. It may be because I learned during my time in the Dominican Republic that it’s just what you do to say thank you in Latin America and it’s an important part of family when you travel. You always bring a gift when you return after being away. In any case, it makes us unique and held close to the House of Hope family because we have learned what is normal and are trying to live into their ”normal,” and they so appreciate that we’ve taken the time to learn it.

So, church family…we are doing really well at building relationships, helping without hurting and focusing our efforts on empowering the local community instead of making it about us. I am so proud of what we are doing in Cochabamba and very excited to continue to bring new people each year to introduce them to our Bolivian family. If you have not visited, please begin praying about the possibility of joining us in 2019. I have no idea what the project will be but really, it’s not about what we are doing but HOW we do the work and WHO we are working alongside. It is about our attitude and our willingness to do whatever we are asked to do, letting go of our control. Not always easy, but always best for those we have been led to serve.