“Is it bad that I haven’t thought about Bolivia lately?” is a question that we’ve asked ourselves lately. We have been back in the States almost six weeks now, and with such a busy travel schedule we haven’t really had much time to miss our lives in South America yet.
The three years overseas already feel like a distant memory because of how busy we’ve been since we returned. I feel so far removed from Cochabamba, our church, and our friends there – it feels like we’ve been gone for six months, not just six weeks – and I think I’m now starting to grieve the loss. We knew it was coming – it’s a part of re-entry – but I think the busyness of my sister’s wedding and a two-week road trip (spending two nights per city) has prevented it from really sinking in.
But when something triggers a memory, we really start to miss Bolivia. We remember the delicious, large mangos from Bolivia when we see the tiny, green ones in the supermarket, or are reminded of the chaotic Bolivian traffic when driving on the highway through Detroit.
We’ll get an email from a friend in Cochabamba and recall good memories with them, wishing that they weren’t just memories.
At church on Sunday, when the pastor was speaking from Acts 9, another memory came to me.
We taught the college students (jovenes) at our church how to do an inductive Bible study, and then passed off the responsibility to our friend Noelia before we left. The last study before we left was the beginning of Acts 8, and I knew that they would have started Acts 9 by now.
I found myself longing to study this passage with the group of jovenes – our group of jovenes. What observations would they have about the passage? What applications would Noelia come up with for the group? How far have they made it through Acts? How is the study going?
We studied the book of Jonah and the first part of Acts with them. We hosted them in our apartment countless times, taught them how to make pancakes, and learned how to make humintas. They loved Caleb so much. They were our family in Bolivia.
We’re excited that God has called us to work with MTU students through InterVarsity, but are still struggling with some of what we’ve had to leave behind to follow Him. Please pray for us as we grieve the loss of what we had in Bolivia, and begin to focus on students in Houghton.
Today is our last full day in Cochabamba. It’s hard to believe that we are leaving after three years. Sure, we’ve had two official goodbye parties (one of them being an early 1st birthday party for Caleb), gotten together with friends almost every night in the past week, packed our suitcases, and moved out of our apartment, but it still doesn’t quite feel real.
We’re excited for what’s coming, but we’re sad to leave Bolivia behind. And so it makes for a bittersweet time in our lives right now.
Here are some photos from the past week.
On June 4, 2009, we stepped off of a plane in Santa Cruz and started our adventure in Bolivia. A lot has changed since then – our attitudes, our outlooks, our family… even our language skills!
I remember thinking that 2012 was a long way in the future back in 2008 when God directed us here, but on this side of our commitment, it really hasn’t been that long at all. And as we look ahead to the future, I have a feeling these three years will feel very short indeed.
As we’re wrapping up our time in Bolivia (we have less than 3 weeks now.. and it’s going fast!), we’ve been spending a lot of time with friends, especially from church. This weekend was no exception – every day was spent with people from church.
On Friday night, we hosted the roving prayer meeting. It was our first time hosting, and they decided to use the time a little differently than normal and spent the evening blessing us with Bible verses and affirming words. Plus we got to sing a lot of hymns we like to the tune of a charango. After the meeting the group of thirty enjoyed the snacks we prepared. I think they like what we make in the kitchen almost as much as they like us for who we are!
On Saturday we enjoyed a lunch at with our friends Miqui and Noelia. It’s the first time they’ve cooked for us and like good Cochabambinos, we enjoyed the food! They experimented with “mashed yuca” – which was a first for all of us – and well worth the experiment. If you’ve never had yuca (which is usually fried), you’re missing out. And who knew it was so good mashed!
And to round out the weekend, we spent all day at church on Sunday. It was a great service, although bittersweet, since it was the last time we get to celebrate communion with our church family here. Afterward there was a meal to raise money to build a metal roof over the volleyball court. Not only will it protect athletes from the strong sun, but we’re outgrowing the sanctuary, and services will be held under the roof as well.
We planned to go home after the meal, but decided to stay and watch the Bless Kids volleyball tournament our church is hosting. It was a long day, but we loved spending the day with friends and watching the volleyball games.
It’s hard to believe all that has happened in three years, and even with the hard times I wouldn’t change a thing. We have been blessed in Bolivia and I am thankful that God led us here.
Two weeks ago we invited the jovenes (college students) from church over to play games. We’ve had them over several times before, but not for the specific reason of playing games. (Although, they do ask to play Dutch Blitz every time they come over, so we’ve played games with them before.)
This time, I was able to play Dutch Blitz with a bunch of students because Caleb was happily walking around the apartment in his walker. While we were playing, Hans introduced the rest of the group to Bohnanza, a card game that involves planting beans and harvesting them for gold coins. He later told me that he thinks it is easier to lead Bible study in Spanish than it was to teach the group to play the game in Spanish!
One of the girls in the group celebrated her birthday earlier in the week, so the jovenes surprised her with a birthday cake. She took the traditional “bite” of the cake, but the group was nice to her and didn’t smash it in her face. (Yep, it’s a real tradition here. We’ve both had birthday cake smashed in our faces!)
I know I’ve said it before, but we are thankful for our friendships at church and for the ability to host the jovenes in our apartment! We’re going to miss them a lot.