Update of the past five days… Pre-apology for the lack of structure… I just want to tell you as much as I can without making this too long.
On the first day, after a six hour flight we landed in El Alto. Rodo and Ali´s family welcomed us with open arms and tears. They welcomed me as one of their family members, asking about the flight and greeting me with hugs and kisses.
Still in a fog from the flight ( I didn´t sleep a wink) we packed up the car after I completely wiped out on the sidewalk walking towards Ali´s dad´s jeep. “Estoy bien. Todo bien”
Driving through El Alto woke me up right away. I became hyper-aware of everything going on around me. It is incredible, sad, heart-wrenching and an entirely different place than I have ever seen. I have seen pictures, but it is nothing that pictures can capture.
5:30 in the morning and people are walking along dirt and stone roads. Every wall is covered in graffiti. Road rules don’t exist, other than to be cautious of the stray dogs that are scattered throughout the streets. Looking out of the window, trying to take everything in without crying, I’m mainly in shock. It is not only sad, not entirely. I don’t think sad is the best word to describe it. It is so incredibly different than anything I have ever seen.
Ali’s family lives in the Southern part and El Alto is far North with an altitude of 13,300 feet. We made our way down the mountain and the view literally took my breath away. I was looking at the entire city of La Paz and the surrounding neighborhoods. The jeep circled its way down the winding, bumpy streets of the mountain. I stared out the window completely speechless. It is so beautiful.
We went to Rodo’s home for breakfast. The spread of humintas, breads, and postres was magnificent and only an introduction to what food was to come. I prayed for the meal and was so thankful in that moment for everything. Over coffee and sweet humintas, I realized my Spanish has room for improvement. They realized it also as I looked to Ali and Rodo to answer every question.
After breakfast, we drove the bumpy roads to Ali´s house. Golden yellow with blue trimming, the sweet stucco house was such a nice welcoming. Ali´s mom, Ira and her father Ramiro led me around the house and told me it was now my home too. They showed me the room and the bathroom and the living space. Then Ali led me to the porch overlooking the whole cityscape. Incredible.
We took a walk later in the afternoon. Even in a nice area of the city, you can see the poverty. Children working, walking around by themselves, stray dogs digging through the trash. It is so different and out of my comfort zone but at the same time I have peace in knowing that I am safe and God has a purpose for me being here.
Well I could go on forever about everything that has happened the last five days, but I need to tell you the most incredible part!
On Sunday, Ali, Ira, and Lucia (her sister) and Lucia´s baby Franko went to church in Centro – part of downtown La Paz. I wish I could put into words the entire experience. I know God was there and I know that I was in the right place. There has been so much confirmation for this project as we´ve moved forward, but when we walked through those doors and I heard the people singing to God and I felt God´s presence, I just knew. He led me here.
I couldn´t hold back the tears as the pastor spoke about helping the people of this city. They need God. I couldn´t understand everything he said but I could see the emotion in his face, the sadness and the reality of brokenness throughout this city. They need God, and God is there. When they pray, they cry out to God. They cry out His name and they praise him for all that he has blessed them with. They cry out for Him to help the poor and to redeem those who are lost. Although I can´t understand everything they say, I understand that their lives are much different from mine.
I know that I can only find true contentment in Christ, however I still have so much that keeps me comfortable and safe in the US. I don´t cry out to God like they do. At times, I become prideful and don´t feel like I need God. But every day, they know they need him.
Last night the pastor Alejandro and his wife Eunice came over for coffee time to talk about the project. I mainly listened while Ali spoke to them. They are so happy to have help and it is needed, everywhere. The shelter will come, but for now it is about loving these people and their children. They need to know love and compassion because they don´t.
On Thursday, we will go to buy clothing in El Alto and bring it to the children in Caranavi. It is an extremely poor area and the need is so great, These are the children we will be working for.
Please be praying for this city… for the people and for their children. The need is so great but there is no need that our God can´t satisfy. Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers. We are so incredibly thankful for all of you. You are each playing a part in this plan.
Yes, it is sad. It is a third world country and there is sadness when you walk out the door. But God is here. His creation, the people, the awe-inspiring mountains, beauty is present in all of the brokenness.