Wow! It’s amazing how fast a week can go by!
After breakfast Rob had a chance to meet Isaias, his Compassion Child. God has a sense of humor because this kid was so much like Rob! Rob said, “He’s a nerd, just like me!” This kid LOVES to study. He’s a huge geography whiz and really is quite amazing as you sit and listen to him spout Bolivian history and see his dedication to school and becoming the best student he could be. He lives with his grandmother – an amazing lady. He’s been with her since he was 3. His life had been so traumatic, parents abandoning him, and something happened which caused him to have delayed development. He didn’t speak until he was almost 5. The doctors told his grandma that he would never speak. Grandma is feisty and she refused to take that news. She told me that she prayed and told God, “Well, God, I think you’d want this boy to speak so I am trusting you to make it happen.” She went on to say that finally in Kindergarten he started talking and hasn’t stopped! Isaias was EXTREMELY nervous to meet us. We invited him to go to Lake Titicaca with us on Saturday and he burst into tears, it was too overwhelming. We reassured him that we understood and that we loved him no matter what. We left things by saying if he changed his mind, he could certainly come and Grandma could come too. He promptly told me, “Madrina, sabes que, no voy a tener las ganas de ir con ustedes. Tal vez cuando soy mas grande.,..” which basically means, “Just so you know I won’t have the desire to come with you. Maybe when I’m older…” Again, we told him that was fine and said our goodbyes. He was supposed to meet us Monday, but didn’t want to miss an exam at school. He was supposed to go with us for the whole day on Friday to hang out with us but didn’t want to miss school. This kid is dedicated!!!! His favorite read is the Encyclopedia. We busted out my laptop and gave him a crash course on maneuvering and in no time flat he was Wickipedia-ing Bolivia and giving us a short version history, and geography lesson.
Day 7 was an extremely tough day. Not necessarily in a physical sense, but very much emotionally. All of us had the opportunity to go on a home visit of one of the Compassion Project’s kiddos. For some it was their sponsored child. Devastating poverty is always something that will impact a person, changing their perspective forever. This day was no different. I don’t want to share all the stories, because each team member will have a story to share when they return. The visit I went on was really tough. The family lived in a one bedroom upper floor adobe structure. Wobbly and extremely steep and primitive wooden stairs were your entry into the “home”. Inside were 2 beds. Wooden floors, an extremely small table, closet and cooking stove much like a camp stove. Mom had been bed-ridden for 3 months with a spinal injury. Her daughter was there with her and all of us thought she was maybe the Compassion child living in the home. She looked like she was about 5 years old – all of us had to restrain ourselves from registering shock on our faces when she told us she was 15 years old. There were 2 other little sisters who also lived there who were at school at that time. Mom let us know that though she has tried to take care of her family, her husband usually knows when any money is made from selling her chickens and rabbits she raises and he takes her money, gets drunk and then usually beats her. This happens on a fairly regular basis. She wept as she unburdened her heart to us. We spent time praying with her, reading scripture and doing our best to encourage her. We also were able to give her a wheelbarrow full of food. This is not an unusually circumstance for many, many families here in El Alto. As you reflect on this terrible situation and the fact that it plays out over and over, you are left feeling hopeless and you realize that our only option is to help them understand the hope they can have in Jesus. We aren’t big enough to make a dent into this heartache, but God is.
Another HUGE heartache happened this same day. A nearby neighbor to the project came to us about 3 in the afternoon. He and teenaged son were frantic. The teenager had fallen asleep during his watch over his little 2 year old brother and woke up to find the little brother gone. Somehow the front gate had been left open and the baby brother had wandered away. They had been searching since noon. We helped them look but were not able to locate this precious little guy. As of 6 pm they still hadn’t found him. Today we asked if he had been found and he still hadn’t. I don’t even know what to say – our minds wander as we have seen the danger of these streets and we wonder if this little guy will ever be reunited with his family. We have continued to pray for a miracle.
The day ended with a very energetic goodbye program. Person after person got up to thank us for our work. Children gathered around each of us and prayed blessings over us. And, each one of us were gifted with the typical alpaca knit hat (Chullo) and awesome handmade gloves. These will come in handy in snowy Colorado!
Goodbyes are always terrible to me. I’d rather always just say, “See you soon!” So I did, because I plan to return! Crocodile tears were shed and many grimly little hands with dirty little faces that we loved with all our hearts clung to us and wept with us. Ouch! We leave Bolivia with pieces of our hearts left behind! My feeble attempts to describe these days don’t do justice to all we experienced, but hopefully you can see that God is good, He has changed us for His purposes and we know that He will continue the work He began through us here in El Alto.
Rob and I were very surprised…we had a knock on our door after breakfast, Maria let us know that Isaias and his grandmother were at the hotel and were planning to go with all of us to Lake Titicaca. Wow! We couldn’t believe it.
We had an awesome day. The team loved Lake Titicaca. Amazingly beautiful. We had fresh trout for lunch, seriously the best I’ve ever had. Isaias was a new boy! No longer timid he talked our ears off. He LOVED playing games on Rob’s iPhone. Rob often has a funny way of saying “Hello!” as he’s reacting to things and by the end of the day, Isaias was saying “Hello!” as close to the way Rob said it as he could get. It was hilarious. We went out on the lake on some not so very sturdy looking sailboats. Always an adventure! His funniest question was “Is the United States democratic? Rob told me to explain to him that it is republic. Trying to explain the electoral college, etc…yeah, not so much. There are limits to my Spanish abilities!
On our return to the hotel we had the privilege of experiencing a genuine, El Alto, Bolivian traffic jam. Craziness! I don’t even think I can describe it! After finally arriving at the hotel, a quick “pit stop”, we jumped back into the vans and headed to LaPaz for some shopping. Let the bargaining begin! We had loads of fun looking at all the shops and enjoyed bartering for the best precio and asking for a “yapa” where appropriate when we bought in a large quantity. Yapa (not sure of the spelling) is the word for “just a little more” that you can ask for when you buy in a larger quantity.
Returning to the hotel, we went up to our 6th floor dinner room for dinner. We were greeted by a drunk cook (poor guy had been cooking for a wedding that afternoon and it is customary at weddings for people to give the cook shots of alcohol.) He staggered out with our food and we were all astonished it didn’t end up on the floor. The hotel staff sent reinforcements and finally sent the cook home. We also had the fun of the wedding DJ who stayed behind and played all kinds of songs (at least 3 decades old) for us to dine by. We got a kick out of some of the selections – Village People, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross…I’m not saying who, but several team members did the Electric Slide to one of the songs. We were definitely a spectacle to anyone who could see us through the upper story windows!
Now everyone is tucked away in their beds – at least I hope they are. They all leave at 4 am from the hotel tomorrow morning. Rob and I will have the blessing of sleeping in a bit and then we head for Cochabamba later in the day. I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am to truly be going to my hometown and having the opportunity for Rob to experience it with me! It’s been 28 years since I left. I know I’m in for some surprises. I can’t wait!
Not sure if I’ll have anymore internet options until we return. If I do I’ll keep posting, if not, I’ll post more when I get home.
Viva mi patria Bolivia!