Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reflections on Bolivia that I shared in church this Sunday

Some of you know that joining this missions team to Bolivia was not my idea. In fact, the truth is, I was so full of anxiety about the potential dangers of this trip that I really didn’t want to go. People kept asking if I was excited, and honestly, I really wasn’t. I was just terrified. But, then one day, God spoke to me through my 11-year-old daughter, Alayna, as I was watching a YouTube video of the “Road of Death.” This was the road I knew we would be traveling to an orphanage…a single-lane dirt road chiseled out of the side of the mountain with no guard rail to keep the bus from plummeting thousands of feet to the valley below. As I began to panic, Alayna calmly said, “Mommy, I think you NEED to take this trip. I think it’s going to be faith-building for you.” And, you know, she was right. Fear has been one of my greatest obstacles in life, and I believe that God used this trip to bolster my faith in His sustaining power.

Obviously, I did survive the Road of Death (or at least 3 hours of it, since the worst of it has been replaced with a bypass now…but believe me, the rest of the road is

still plenty dangerous). And I also survived the bug bites and whatever diseases were lurking and the pollutants I breathed in and crossing streets full of crazy taxi cab drivers. And it was all worth it. I could tell you of the skits, the testimonies, the 3-night youth conference, the Children’s Church lessons, the care group meetings, the powerful times of Praise & Worship, the fellowship with Bolivian brothers & sisters in Christ, the street evangelism and the people who prayed to receive Christ. But more than anything, I want to tell you about 3 moments that stood out to me.

On our very first day in La Paz, I taught a large Children´s Ministry class outside and the kids were amazing. Despite the altitude of 13,000 ft., by the grace of God, I was able to think clearly and lead the kids in Spanish through a craft called the "Colors of Christ." They all managed to make the bead crosses, but the amazing part was that they knew before I ever told them what most of the colors stood for. In Spanish, they were yelling out answers like, "The red bead stands for the blood of Chist" and "The white bead stands for how His blood purifies our hearts from sin" (and, yes, they said "purifies"!) and "The gold bead stands for the streets of gold in heaven"!!! And, they had never done that craft before! I was blown away. They were also SO respectful and attentive, just precious.

Then, the following week, while we were at the orphanage in Caranavi, loving on the 85 children there, a few of the preteen girls brought me a little 16-month old girl who was the size of an 8-month-old . She had arrived there last year in a bad state of malnutrition and was still catching up. But, as they handed her to me, not knowing that she wasn’t available for adoption, the girls started saying, “Adoptar. Adoptar. Adios, Bella. Vas a los Estados Unidos. Vas a aprender ingles,” which meant, “To adopt. To adopt. Goodbye, Bella. You’re going to the United States. You’re going to learn English.” It was heartbreaking, but it also showed me the power of the Gospel in those girls’ lives. The children of that orphanage have memorized many large passages of Scripture, and in that moment, I saw them living out their faith. They weren’t thinking of their own needs. They asked for nothing for themselves. Their only concern was for this little baby…hoping to send her off to a better life. They truly lived out the words of John 15:13, that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

But the most profound moment for me came one day as I was serving in a ministry center in the Red Light District just outside of La Paz (where we heard the heartwrenching testimony of a woman who, by the grace of God, had gotten out of the trade.) On my hands and knees, cleaning filthy nursery items for the children of prostitutes who come there with their kids for lunch, it occurred to me that some folks might say, "Well, scrubbing all those foam mats and alphabet letters isn´t exactly the best use of missionary time...esp. considering the fact that they´re just going to get filthy again." And yet, I had just had a devotional time in the morning, purposefully reading the passage in Luke where the prostitute washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and

anointed them with perfume. Of course, the Pharisees maligned her for that. But, even if she hadn´t been who she was, it is still true that his feet were going to get dirty again. And yet, that act of service was so precious to Christ that he had it recorded for all time in the Gospel. So, it hit me that, as I was scrubbing little letters, I was scrubbing little letters for Jesus. I was truly washing his feet because I was doing it to the VERY least of these, and he counts that as precious. At the same time, though, I was also slammed with the thought that Jesus is just as

pleased when I scrub my girls´ bathroom, or when I coach one of my children as they struggle to read, or when I cook my family a meal instead of sitting at the computer.

So, I went all the way to Bolivia to witness the fact that God WILL take care of me, and that the Word of God has the power to make us Christ-like and other-centered, and that Jesus counts my daily grind in Canton, GA as precious in His sight. I’ve returned with a fresh new zeal to raise my own 5 children in the admonition of the Lord, to teach them chunks of Scripture and to instill in them a passion for the Gospel that will make the things of this world fade away to insignificance.

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