Hi friends, family, and supporters,
We are indeed here in Bolivia! In fact, we have been here for about a full month now! It has flown by as we have been busily adjusting to our new routines. We will be better about updating you on this page in the next month, but if you want more frequent Bolivia updates you can check Juliana’s blog, http://jugetobolivia.blogspot.com
We are happily situated in Trinidad, in the Bení region of Bolivia. We live in an apartment in the upper level of Fundación Totái, an ear, nose, and throat clinic that also partners with La Iglesia Jireh to offer more outreach. This includes sports ministry, church services, OANSA, youth group and community classes that provide a Christian message while letting us play with the kids. Mostly we just love on the kids and staff we encounter, especially as the family structure here is hierarchical, meaning kids don’t get all the attention they desire. We have regular Bible studies and prayer meetings, and we do our best to encourage each other in Christ. Ok, in the morning we go through the foundations filing system and are slowly but surely making it more organized. We have been able to bond with some of the staff members through this which has been awesome. It’s also very humbling. Soon we will begin painting walls once we finish filing. Then we go to lunch in the cafeteria where we see the lovely cook and her family whom we all adore because they’re the bees knees. Then we take our siesta time which does wonders. Then we usually split up between the three of us for the afternoon activities. We either go to community class, basketball practice, or fútbol practice. Once a week we go to the local orphanage which we are also split up for. Brittany goes to the younger kids home, Juliana goes to the teenage girls home and Haley goes to the teenage boys home. Saturday’s we have OANSA and youth group which is an awesome way to have fun with the kids we’ve been able to hang with. All in all, it’s been great so far. There are obviously challenges but God is surely with us. Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. Our specific prayer request would be encouragement when we feel discouraged. Which may sound silly but sometimes you just need a little pull to get out of the muddy puddle. Also that we would turn to God during those times of struggle. Thanks guys!! Rock and roll.
(We wrote this blog 14 days ago, but internet wasn’t good enough to post it. Welcome to life in rural Bolivia.)
Here in Bolivia, we’re getting comfortable with the unexpected. Your order of coffee came with forty live ants? An alligator showed up at your front door? Nothing quite makes sense here, but you get used to it. From the frog in our shower to bleaching our vegetables to getting stuck in a rural town for an extra night because of a washed out dirt road—we’ve learned to laugh and take it all in stride. Accidentally stepping in one of the open sewers that line Trinidad’s streets can still catch us off guard, though.
Last weekend, we got to practice more Bolivian fishing, but this time for piranhas. I (Emily) think I found my calling in life—I caught thirteen. Angela and Katlyn weren’t quite so lucky. (It’s still a sore subject.) In keeping with tradition, another tire popped on the way home—but we’ve gotten pretty good at changing tires now. Our friend Donna Blanca fried up the piranhas for us that night and we ate them straight off the bones. They’re delicious with lime. Alligator is, too.
We’ve been keeping ourselves busy here working at Fundacion Totai, coaching football, helping with Oansa and youth group, and volunteering at the local pediatric hospital. Two weeks ago, we helped run a week-long VBS, where we taught kids Bible verses, led small group discussions, and played a lot of games. It was really encouraging to see the way the kids opened up to the Gospel, and to be greeted by smiles and hugs and our mispronounced names every morning. Katlyn is especially hard—she’s gotten everything from Kat-leen to Kitty. It’s been fun to build relationships with not only the kids here, but the adults too. Fundacion Totai is kind of its own little community within the town of Trinidad, and it feels like we’ve been welcomed into one big family. A lot of different families have invited us over for lunch, and it’s been sweet (and humbling) to see what everyday life is like for the locals here.
It’s been incredible to see glimpses of what God is teaching us already. We have been learning a lot about what it means to live and serve selflessly. It can be exhausting living and working in a foreign culture—sometimes nothing makes sense and you’re frustrated and it’s hard to see the point of organizing every single medical record since 1918. But in those moments, God has spoken one phrase distinctly—and repeatedly—to the three of us. “THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.” It’s been insane to see how that idea has changed our attitudes and humbled us, showing what it means to actually put others before ourselves. Although if we see another manila folder, we might puke.
We’ve also been learning a lot about patience (…posting this blog). Bolivian time is stretchier than it is at home. If a birthday party starts at 8, showing up at 9:30 means you’ll be the first ones there. If a concert starts at 8, the main act probably won’t show up until 12:30. A lot of patience comes with the language barrier, too. It was struggle for all of us at first, but we’ve learned to let go of what we don’t understand, and to embrace what we do. Friendships are deeper than language, and it’s amazing how far you can get with only a handful of nouns and verbs.
We’ve loved being more independent and learning how to take“taxis” around town. Basically, you just wave your arms at any random man in a hat on a motorcycle and hope that he’s a taxi driver. If he’s not, he still might offer to take you (yikes). Trinidad is the motorcycle capital of Bolivia—it’s not uncommon to see a family of five all piled onto one motorcycle, babies in arms and all. We’re contemplating ditching our plane tickets and just taking motos back to the States.
I can’t believe how fast time has gone by. The fact that we have less than three weeks left (now less than one week) is blowing my mind—but at the same time, so much has happened and it feels like we’ve been here forever. We’re looking forward to seeing what new adventures and lessons God still has in store for us here. Pray that He will keep speaking to us, teaching us, and protecting us. And pray for health—Katlyn & Angela are currently down for the count with stomach problems. (They got better.)
Sending our love and some of the golden pink Bolivian sunshine to all of you back home. Nos cheque!
Emily, Angela, & Katlyn
Things are done a little differently here in Trinidad, Bolivia. Toilet paper doesn’t go in the toilet, soda is served in bags, and it’s not uncommon to see a stray horse, cow, or dog wandering through the street (or through your classroom). Also, there’s nothing quite like an electric shock in your cold shower to wake you up in the morning. For Team Bolivia—Emily, Angela, and Katlyn—all of this has become a normal part of everyday life. Okay, maybe not normal yet. We’ll get back to you in two months.
To give you a picture of where we are, Trinidad, Bolivia is where you might end up after 24 hours of flights, and a ten-hour bus ride into rural South America. We are here serving with Fundacion Totai, which is a Christian organization that focuses on health, community, kids, and faith. It’s essentially a combination of a hospital and a church, and we live within it. On an everyday level, we’ve been doing a lot of shadowing doctors, watching surgeries, helping with community classes of English and Bible study, playing football (soccer) and basketball with kids, leading Oansa (Awana), and doing all the odds-and-ends tasks Fundacion Totai needs to run. We’ve gotten really good at peeling oranges, folding gauze, and finding dead people in medical records.
On the second day here in Trinidad, we went out into the countryside to learn how to fish Bolivian style. It’s surprisingly simple—feel free to try it at home. All you need is a piece of string, a hook, and a chunk of raw meat. Together the three of us caught six fish with sharp teeth. Angela wants me to note that her fish was the biggest one. (Side note: the power has been flickering on & off for the past five minutes. You get used to it.) After fishing, we went to the house of a church member’s relatives’, which was our first eye-opening look into life here. Despite being in a shack of wood slats and a dirt floor, we were treated with the most radical generosity. We ate until we were full—rice, meat, yucca, fritos (delicious fried cheesy dough), and grapefruit juice straight from the source.
That kind of radical generosity has been a theme of our time here, and God’s already been teaching us through it. I (Emily) think I can speak for all of us when I say that we’ve been learning to appreciate what we have. Watching kids eagerly retrieve their soccer ball from the sewer water next to the field has made us realize how much we take for granted. People here seem to have a greater appreciation for the sweetness of life. Yes, this means they put five spoonfuls of sugar in their coffee—but it also means they slow down to notice what matters, and to laugh about what doesn’t.
On the way home from the countryside that day, we found ourselves laughing when our tire exploded. We ended up waiting two hours until we could wave someone down to help. But don’t worry—we had a herd of cows, mosquitoes, and a whole sky full of stars to accompany us. There’s no shortage of adventure here.
A few other highlights have been learning to make proper empanadas with Ana (a lady from church who embodies the word lovely), getting ice cream wearing shorts while everyone else in town is wearing down jackets because of the cold, and making fun of ourselves in Spanish. Don’t ever say you’re excited about having bread. We’ve learned this the hard way.
Speaking of the language barrier, we would love it if you could be praying for patience, and for connecting with locals. We’ve been realizing how exhausting it is to constantly be surrounded with Spanish. That being said, it’s been incredible to see how God transcends cultural and language barriers. Worshipping alongside believers here has shown us that whether we’re singing or praying in English or Spanish, we’re all praising the same God.
Until next time, we’re sending our love to everyone back home—we would kiss you on the cheek if you were here!
Emily, Angela, & Katlyn