I don’t know exactly what I was expecting from my trip to La Paz, Bolivia. I suppose I went down with a few different expectations for the project and with the hope of somehow leaving a mark on the lives of the people I met – encouraging their walk with the Lord and the ways they could develop community with the people around them. And although I hope that is true in some way, these people and this place have left a lasting impression on my life – teaching me lessons more valuable than I could ever have imagined.
There were so many lessons that I learned while I was down there and one of them was on love.
So what is love actually? What does it mean to love another? We find silly books on how to love others and we see it in the way our parents and peers show love as we grow. We have theories on how to love others efficiently – showing love through our words and actions. Love is something that can be shown by a simple smile across the room, through preparing lunch together or sitting silently around a table coloring pictures. Showing love is so simple, yet so immeasurable – it doesn’t even require people to speak the same language.
Stepping off the plane and walking out of the exit doors, I was immediately embraced by the love of Rodo and Alexis’ families. It was the start of a lesson on love that I was to learn over the next two weeks. Over the following days, I was taken care of continually in the way they served delicious meals, hosted coffee times and bible studies and made sure that I was comfortable in every way. When I was sick after a bad saltena (traditional Bolivian snacktime treat), they cared for me as if I was one of their own sisters or daughters and looked after my health and safety when I was feeling well. I wanted so much to express my gratitude for everything and at times, all I could say was “Gracias”, “Muchas gracias.”
It is not only amazing to me how quickly they were to show me love, but how quickly I came to love this country and these people as family without being able to really communicate with them. Just by spending time with them, allowing them to show me their life and being a part of it, I was able to see how much love they were filled with. So many times I thought to myself, “Who am I to be loved by these people? “ Yet, they loved me anyway and called me their American daughter, planning my next trip and filling my plate with quinoa soup and chuno. It is in this way, I recognized, that God loves us all.
To see and experience God’s love through each of these beautiful people is something I will never forget. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to experience that love during my time in La Paz and pray for my return again soon. What an incredible blessing to serve alongside each of them and come together in the name of God – taking the time to really listen to their stories, play, laugh, and learn from them.
Even though we come from different places, I think many times we fail to recognize that we are all loved by the same God with a love that cannot be shaken. This love doesn’t care about the color of your skin or how much money you have. Instead, it is a love that envelops us and provides us with far more than we could ever hope for. It is a love that should fill us, encourage us and motivate us to share that love with those around us.