Shoe polish, vegetables, and a revelation
Have you ever wondered what your purpose is? Since we arrived in Bolivia, I have.
Part of my dilemma lies in the fact that I feel less passionate about college ministry than I have in the past and I was wondering why God wanted me here. But He was listening to my questions, and He gave me an answer when we were helping our co-workers with a short-termer a few weeks ago…
Hannah (the short-termer) came to Bolivia for two weeks to work with Proyecto Jireh (definition), a ministry that works with children who must work to help their families. The project provides the students with their first shoe-shine kit or box of gum, and then they work in the city’s main plaza earning money that they can use to buy more shoe polish or gum and have a profit. There are also volunteers who help the students with their homework and hang out with them afterward.
While we were with Hannah at Jireh, I had the opportunity to get to know some of the students and to visit the school of one of the boys. It was an eye-opening experience for me – I saw the neighborhood where the boy lived and how far it is from the city. (It is far away – it took us 45 minutes or so to get there in our vehicle and public transportation takes much much longer.)
One of the boys told the director of Jireh that when he grows up he wants to own a shoe-shine stand, like his father. It broke my heart to hear this, because although I think the boy’s dream is sweet, it would always leave him working hard and struggling to survive. He has much more potential than that.
The goal of Proyecto Jireh is to show children the love of God by helping them live better lives, and a main way they are accomplishing their goal is through education. Several students have scholarships to trade schools where they learn how to be mechanics or seamstresses. (These kids work before school, leaving home at 4:30am, attend school, and then go to trade school in the afternoon. Talk about a busy schedule!)
The project has Saturday workshops for the students as well. (Hannah gave a gardening workshop while she was at Jireh. Check our flickr account for more pictures.)
Walking home alone from Jireh one afternoon, I had a revelation. Perhaps my education degree is not “useless” while I am a missionary in Bolivia. Maybe God placed a desire in my heart to see people uplifted by education because He knew I would be a missionary.
I’m not sure what lies in my future. But I do know I want to go back to Jireh. And I know I want to work in education while I’m here. So, we’ll see what’s next!