Santa Cruz is Bolivia’s largest city. In one of its poorest neighbourhoods, we partnered with an initiative that cares for children and their mothers. Kids can come every Saturday and receive food (physical and spiritual), while their moms attend different workshops; such as sewing, personal care and how to make the most of the little income they earn.
Our contact, Vanesa, told us that her mother started this ministry more than 10 years ago but when she passed away, Vanessa didn’t know how to continue it. “It was really difficult, not just taking care of these children, but teaching the mothers,” she said. “I didn’t feel prepared because I am not a mom yet, so I thought that they wouldn’t accept my advice.” With the help of her sister and some other members of their church, these ladies continued the outreach and as we helped out, we could see that the kids are blessed by it.
We also spent time with Kairos Church, working in indigenous communities where children are suffering in many ways: their fathers may be in the grip of drugs and alcohol, mothers can send their children to beg in the street, or their parents may be in jail. Eleven-year-old girls are having babies of their own. These are some of the circumstances the girls we met had faced before they were rescued and brought to a safe house.
The church houses them in groups of no more than twelve people and is developing a scheme of adoption for the girls when they turn 18. Christian families will take in a girl at that stage, so she doesn’t have to worry about paying rent and buying food, but can focus on studying and getting a job. It’s also an opportunity to live with a real family.
We spent afternoons with these beautiful girls; helping them with their homework and English classes. We played games, they showed us some of their traditional dances. Our time encouraging them with the love of Jesus blessed us so much and we unexpectedly received so much love back from them.
In another city, we joined a project that was started by a British missionary twenty years ago. It relies on donations to take care of children whose parents are in prison. Some of the kids even live with their mothers inside the jail, which is permitted until the child is seven years old.
Volunteers pick the kids up from school and bring them to a centre where they have lunch and then help them with their homework. Most importantly, the volunteers teach the children about God and read them Bible stories. Our team was impressed that the kids are learning about different countries and missionaries around the world, and when we introduced ourselves with our flags, the older ones knew each of the countries we come from. We taught them how to share about Jesus’ sacrifice for us by folding and tearing a piece of paper to make the shape of a cross.
During this month away from the ship, I celebrated my 22nd birthday. My birthdate was also my 100th day since I left home to volunteer with Logos Hope. I shed some tears the day before, as I realised I would spend the occasion far from Argentina and away from not only my natural family, but also from my new family – the community on board the ship.
I worried about how the day would unfold, because back home, I’m the one who decides what to do, where to go, what to eat... but this year everything was out of my control. I was nervous that my day would be boring, that no one would notice it was my birthday, that I wouldn’t like the food… But in reality, it was so different!
I received video greetings from so many people: my family and friends in Argentina and my ship family, spread out all around the world. The people on my team here in Bolivia bought snacks and treats and I had a special lunch with the pastor’s whole family. My birthday cake was the biggest I’ve ever had. Everyone sang happy birthday in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, German and Quechua! A group of kids appeared suddenly in a square, giving free hugs. We visited children in a hospital; in a burns unit and a cancer centre. It was so humbling and rewarding to share Christ with them in their situation and to witness one young boy accept Jesus into his heart.
I realised that I have had 21 years trying to plan the best birthday ever – and I just needed to leave everything in God’s hands to have it!
Published: Friday, 24 May 2019
Credit: Mica di Florio / Julie Knox