At the beginning of August, Susie and I went to Cochabamba,
Bolivia to work with Amistad, a
ministry that we have supported for over 15 years. (See my previous blogs from 2013 and 2012 for more details.) For me, visiting Amistad and the children in its orphanage is an
invigorating time that I look forward to each year. This year’s trip was
especially enjoyable, both because of some of the activities I got to
participate in and because I went with Susie for the first time. (Since 1998, I'd been four times before and Susie two times, often with our children, but never together.)
|The mountains around Cochabamba|
As always, it is obvious from the moment you approach Cochabamba
in the airplane that it is a different place from what you are used to. The city of over one million is at an altitude of 8,000 or so feet and ringed by
mountains. We were there in winter,
but the weather was in the 70s every day, though cooler in the evenings. It is called the City of Eternal Spring for good reason!
Amistad’s orphanage (called La Villa) is organized into
families of 8 to 10 children in individual houses with a mamá. Most of the week,
we spent time with the children playing and just hanging out. My Spanish is not
very good and most of them speak little, if any, English. However, that really didn’t matter. We
played everything from dodgeball to “ice” skating to baseball.I even helped with some English homework where we had to guess at the meaning of some English phrases I had never heard of!
|Susie ready to catch the ball outside one of the houses|
The big event of the week was a quinceañera for 10 of
the girls from La Villa. A quinceañera is a coming of age event in Latin
American countries that celebrates a girl passage into womanhood. I usually describe it as sort of a bat mitzphah or a sweet
|Bárbara all grown up and dressed up|
It was a wonderful evening where we all got dressed up, especially the 10 girls who wore custom dresses, makeup, and fancy hair with tiaras. Everyone from La Villa was there, from the littlest
ones on through those in college as well as the staff and their spouses. It was
like a family reunion for the extended Amistad family. The evening was a great time to
catch up with some people I had not seen in years, renew friendships, and meet
new people who shared a common love for the children of La Villa.
At one point during the evening I had to make a little
speech to the girls. (Fortunately, I had our faithful friend and translator,
Sarah, to translate for me.) I talked about Esther 2:7, “The girl was beautiful in
form and face.” I quoted the verse and noted that the 10 girls that evening
were all very beautiful as well. I then pointed out that Esther was not famous or in the Bible because of her beauty. Instead, it was
because of her faith and courage which allowed her to save her people. I
encouraged them to rely on their faith and courage rather than their looks. I
have no idea what the translated version of that turned out to be, but everyone
smiled very nicely!
|Ten beautiful girls with their cakes and candles|
The evening, however, was not just about those 10 beautiful
young women. It was about all of the Amistad family who participated; from the
little children dressed in their best clothes dozing off in their chairs, to the
college students complimenting the quinceañera girls, to the boys trying to
sneak into the candy before it was time, to the younger girls obviously thinking
about when it will be their turns.
|Susie and I with one of the quinceañera girls|
And, it was about Alison. She is a younger girl who when she
came to La Villa as a small child was not supposed to be able to walk. Instead,
through a combination of miracles and years of loving care, she spent the night
dancing. She was in her own world dancing alone to the music. At the same time,
she was an integral part of the community, the family that is Amistad.
I think that is why I love going to Bolivia. Whatever my failings and limitations, while I'm there, I feel part of
the loving, extended Amistad family.
|Alison dancing to her heart's content|
Unfortunately, the trip ended with both of us getting sick.
So, the transition back to normal life in the States was harder than it usually
is. Regardless, the memories will sustain me for quite some time. I’m already
trying to figure out when my next trip will be.
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