My recent trip to Bolivia was such an experience that it will take several posts to cover the entire trip. But I thought I would start with a post about the big issue – what city in Bolivia is God calling me to and what ministry is He calling me to partner with. So here goes...
You know, sometimes I just try to put God in a box.
I tried it on this recent placement trip to Bolivia and I found out once again that God’s plans are not always my plans. I was reminded that He sees a much bigger picture than I could ever see. He knows what’s best for me better than I could ever know what’s best for me and, during this trip, He opened my eyes to a vision that I could have never possibly dreamed of.
It is not a question of what city has the most need. They all have need. There is no shortage of opportunities. Especially with high-risk kids. It became very clear to me during the trip that God would call me to the city where I would have the best chance to grow closer to Him spiritually and also to the city where I could most effectively serve His kingdom.
Ever since my first mission trip to Bolivia last summer I thought I had it all figured out. I was going to live in Cochabamba and most likely volunteer for a foundation there called Ninos con Valor (Children with Value). An amazing foundation with a vision that I truly admire and support. And even after visiting with them during my placement trip I felt a great peace about working alongside them. Great people. They gave us some truly wonderful experiences and we had the privilege of getting some “up close and personal” looks at various ministries. I was way out of my comfort zone. And it was great.
I had SUCH a peace about Cochabamba that we tried really hard to skip our final city, La Paz, altogether. We had spent one day in La Paz the previous summer and we all suffered from altitude sickness. (La Paz is around 12,000 feet) It’s funny because for a good amount of the time leading up to this placement trip I actually told people “I hope God does not call me to La Paz. I hate La Paz. I definitely don’t want to be there.”
I think you see where this is going.
So, needless to say, we reluctantly went to La Paz. The Bishop wanted me to check out a Saturday morning outreach ministry to kids at one of the churches there (Cristo Redentor). There are two Anglican churches in La Paz and we were going to also attend Sunday services at one of the churches.
From the moment that we began to descend the 2,000 ft from the airport to the city I began to sense something special about this city – maybe it was the fact that I was NOT suffering from altitude sickness this time or maybe just maybe God was sending a lightning bolt my way. We checked out the ministry to kids on Saturday morning at the church and it was great. I also decided to play a game of soccer with the kids and I almost passed out. (I somehow forgot that I was at 12,000 ft)
God continued to work on my heart.
Also, the fact that there are currently no long-term missionaries from SAMS (My sending agency) in La Paz right now began to work on me as well. It seems a large number of missionaries choose Cochabamba and Santa Cruz over La Paz because the climates are more pleasant in those cities.
When we attended church on Sunday at the second Anglican Church (Cristo Salvador) I absolutely knew that I needed to be in La Paz. The service was amazing and the worship music lasted for an hour. Anyone who knows my tendency to always want to worship for “20 more minutes” knows that this extended praise and worship in La Paz was right up my alley.
To top it all off I met with the La Paz director for an international network called Viva. In Latin America and the Caribbean the network is known as Red Viva. Check out the international Viva site at www.viva.org or if you can read Spanish check out the Red Viva site at www.redviva.org. Basically, this is a Christian network of individuals and churches who have a heart for children in high-risk situations. The goal of the network in each city is to help the various Christian groups that support high-risk children in the city better collaborate by sharing info, resources, best practices and training and by helping the groups to create a combined powerful voice to the government.
So this Red Viva network is “just getting off the ground” in La Paz. They are currently mapping the city to identify the various Christian organizations working with high-risk kids and then after that the work to bring the groups together gains momentum. They were very excited about the possibility of me bringing my marketing/promotion skills to the table. Part of the deal is to launch a public awareness campaign in La Paz about the situation of high-risk kids there. Amazing.
This project is what I calling a “body of Christ” project. Denominations are not a factor. I look at it as God calling me to work to unify the body of Christ in La Paz, Bolivia. Of course I will be working with the Anglican churches there and enjoying plenty of hands-on volunteering with children and street kids.
As I am sure you can tell I am very excited to get back to La Paz and join this team. This lighting bolt from God was just a reminder that sometimes we have our little visions all figured out and then God says “How about THIS vision?” and we are like Joey from Blossom “Whoa.” Through this opportunity with Red Viva, God has taken my little vision and made it bigger than I could have ever imagined. And I think that was the point.
He knew I was against La Paz and He opened my eyes to the city so He could get maximum glory. I love that. And I love Him FOR that. It is such a stronger testimony due to the fact that I did NOT want to go to La Paz. It is totally a God thing.
There is so much more to share from the trip…more later.