The Bolivia Team

Hey everyone! It’s been quite an adventure since last year and God continues to provide as we move forward with our project in Bolivia. We have been so blessed by the community and support we have in Pittsburgh and are continually encouraged by the people in La Paz who are standing up to pursue this mission.

Today, I want to introduce you to a person who has been such a strong leader for the project since the beginning. Omar Sanchez Alvarez has and continues to work hard on gathering information about the communities we will help in La Paz. He recently retired from World Vision in Bolivia, attaining invaluable skills and knowledge over a 20-year career dedicated to helping others in the communities surrounding him.

I was thankful to meet with him over my time in La Paz. He attends the same church as Alexis’ family and Alexis has known him for quite some time. We gathered over coffee, breads and cheeses and began expressing our passions and motivations for the project. Where Alexis and I began a sentence, Omar would finish it. God truly brings the right people at the right time.

Well, enough from me. Here is a little bit from Omar, a note that he wanted to share with you as we continue to grow as a ChildLight family.

My name is Omar and I am Bolivian.

For the last 15 years, the Lord has taken me on a wonderful adventure of service to help children in poverty and neglected in unfair conditions.

What my eyes saw while working on countless projects of development and protection for children and adolescents, was a world without God’s love. I have had the privilege to intercede for them carrying the mercy and love of God to their hands, feeling His presence in each child’s smile.

“Let my heart be broken by the things that break yours Lord” is the motto that continues to fill my eyes with emotion and make me forever committed to these vulnerable children. I will seek to bring justice to their situations of violence in the family and in the streets of their communities, of alcoholism or of drugs, but all primarily rooted from the cycles of poverty.

 In recent years I have come to know many people with the same motivation such as Pastor Alejandro Villegas , Mariela , Rebeca and Mayra working in Bolivia for Foundation Paraiso de Fe and Alexis and Rebecca leading ChildLight from Pittsburgh, Pa in the United States.

I am sure that the fruits of our work and passion will become a reality this 2015 and 2018. God willing, with hard work and with a lot of prayer, we see these visions come true.

~ Omar Sanchez Alvarez

Introducing Yami

My name is Yamile and I’m from Bolivia. I’ve been living in Canada for more than 3 years now. I was blessed with an amazing husband and our first baby is on the way. When people ask me about Bolivia words like “fascinating”, “unique”, “beautiful” come to my mind.

When I was in Bolivia (that was the majority part of my life) I thought I was connected to the reality of my country, but realized I was totally blind to the poverty that surrounded me. Poverty was and might always be part of Bolivia.

Nowadays, when I think about the children in my country, the same ones who approach your car on the streets to clean your windshields, children who are screaming outside the “minibus” (public transportation) windows to get more passengers, or the ones who spend their whole day asking if you want to get your shoes shine… my heart breaks thinking that this wasn’t a choice for them.

I realize there are a lot of terrible things happening around us, but children who are the future of every nation are the most vulnerable in every situation. In Bolivia thousands of these children live in the streets and some of them in jails with their parents, exposed to other kind of dangers and abuses. The sad thing is that most of these children think that these situations are normal and even think that is how life was meant to be.

Today I see many organizations taking care of these needs and working hard to identify areas where they can help make their life better. Most of us think this is enough and that they have everything under control but this is not the case. It was one day that God call my attention through a Bible passage in Matthew 9:37-38 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” And it was through this passage that God spoke to me and ChildLight was the first thing that crossed my heart.

Alexis is a friend from University, not only a friend but also like a sister to me. In the last years of University I noticed her love and faith for our Lord Jesus Christ was growing, but it wasn’t until she moved with her husband to Pittsburgh that she started to become more in touch about her faith and plans for her life. One day she introduced me to this project and the desire of serving God and helping children in Bolivia. I now see clearly that God had a purpose in our friendship, a purpose that He is still working through this day.

Today God spoke into my heart again and it was through a missionary named George Grip who mentioned Isaiah 6:8 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” ….So I learned: You just need to be available for God…and for the rest… you and I will be amazed!!

The Intersection of Our Hearts

Bettina, Alexis and I after our first ChildLight meeting together.

Bettina, Alexis and I after our first ChildLight meeting together.

Hello everyone,

My name is Bettina and I have just recently joined the ChildLight Team! I am a Master’s student in Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. It’s my first year and it’s pretty daunting, but the passion I have for people in rough conditions (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) is getting me through the coursework.

Becoming a member of ChildLight could not have happened at a better time for me, because I can take what I learn in class and directly apply it to a project that will make a difference. I can also use the resources and network that Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) offers to build up ChildLight. Becca, Alexis and I have talked about it and ChildLight could not have happened at a better time for them, either. Becca is working alongside several Pittsburgh non-profits and is able to use them as a network base and Alexis has connections to the Bolivian government.  Together we can use our talents and connections to lay the foundations of the work God has called us to.

Isn’t it cool that God caused us to have the passions and positions that we have, have Pittsburgh as a commonality, and that He selected poverty in La Paz, Bolivia as the current work He wants us to undertake? None of us one day had a huge revelation from God saying “I want you to help at this food distribution center in La Paz.” God just led us each to it by our own passions for people, our connections and talents, and our positions in life. One of my favorite verses, my “life” verse if you will, is Colossians 3:17. It says, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” We don’t have to worry about missing out on what God wants us to do! We just need to submit all we do to Him, listen for the Holy Spirit, and follow His ways. To do these things is to love God.

To all our lovely readers, be encouraged that when you do these things, God will redeem and bless your work for His purposes. He will lead you to the intersection of your heart with His, and with the hearts of others.

For His Glory,
Bettina

Se` Fiel.

Sunday mornings coffee shop meetings have become tradition for me and a group of fab girls over the past year. We treat ourselves to a cupa and share what is going on in our lives. We gather to talk about God and learn about how to glorify Him in the way that we live.

20130915-175018.jpg{Some of the great girls who meet with me on Sundays}

In Bolivia, the women in Alexis’ family and a few of her close friends asked if we would host a Bible study for each night over the two weeks that we were there. And so, every night we set the table for a late night meal of bread, cheese and yerba mate. It was a piece of home away from home with Alexis and I opening up in prayer before diving into the Word and discussion.

All of the women are so beautiful, so strong yet gentle and vulnerable. They opened up to one another about their blessings and also, their daily struggles. Their struggles don’t overwhelm them. They are at peace and know that God will provide. Their faith was not only visible in the way that they spoke and prayed, I could feel it by simply being around them.  I have to admit, after the first few nights I began to question my own faith. I wondered if I really understood what faith meant in my own life.

Sitting at the round kitchen table, we gathered for another night of fellowship with these women. I was exhausted from the week after having been sick for a few days. It was late. Each of us took turns reading the Bible. Like every night before, we were speaking in Spanish. Well, they were. I was so tired and I was having a difficult time understanding.

I closed my eyes, frustrated with the fact that my practiced Spanish was failing me. All I wanted was to be able to talk to them. I began to pray. God can do anything… maybe he can magically help me to understand and speak Spanish, right?

Please…please help me to understand what they are saying.

Nothing.

I couldn’t understand. Why didn’t I practice my Spanish more before I came? On top of that, I was upset with myself because I was beginning to realize how little faith I have. How can this be? These women, the children we have seen, these people… they have so little yet their faith is stronger than mine. I began to realize the truth that in my life, the way I live leaves only a little bit of room for faith. Many of those I encountered in La Paz, their whole lives rely on faith. They have to.

I sat there and this word came to me. Fiel.

I opened my eyes, completely awake and alert. The girls were passing the Bible around. They continued to read. I wasn’t sure what the word meant and I didn’t ask. We finished our Bible study and went to bed. Fiel, fiel, fiel. It was all I could think of the rest of the night.

The next morning, I asked Alexis what it meant.

Fiel means faithful.

I didn’t need to speak their language or understand all of what the women were saying to see that they were faithful. I could be present and surround myself in their fellowship and that was enough. I think so often, people go to a foreign country for a mission trip with the expectation that they will change another’s life for the better. Somehow we believe we have the answers and can bring the solutions that they need. But that is not necessarily true. I heard this concept before going to Bolivia but didn’t recognize its authenticity until I saw their strength and their faith and their desire to follow God.

Yes, I believe that in being there I was able to help the project as we move forward. But truly, the trip taught me what I believe to be one of the most important lessons I will learn on this journey.

That I must remain and hold on tightly to being faithful.

Alexis and I have felt the push to slow down and at the same time, to accelerate forward. We have faced challenges that seem like mountains and then later are amazed with the blessings that lead to taking steps closer to our goals with ChildLight. This project has been one of the greatest tests of my faith and has only pushed me to strive for a faith stronger than what I find I have.

Back in Pittsburgh, I am challenged to get uncomfortable. Life in Bolivia presents challenges and discomfort which lead to dependence on faith. My biggest challenge.. in Pittsburgh.. is dealing with the tenuous cloudy days and Squirrel Hill tunnel traffic. The question I face here is how do I get uncomfortable? This is a challenge. But, there are ways and I am on a mission to continuously find myself in situations that make me exercise a greater faith. Serve others, reach out in the community, find yourself speaking with the people who are sitting on the street instead of slipping them a few dollars or ignoring them as if they are not even human.

These situations, although they may feel uncomfortable in the beginning become the most beautiful and precious moments that you can experience. In faith, all things become in their own way beautiful. In faith, you find a lasting indescribable fullness that the temporary comforts of this world will never provide.

The women that I meet with every Sunday morning have a growing desire to find this kind of faith by serving others in Pittsburgh. One woman in particular is preparing to start a ministry in the community she grew up in in India. Together we have encouraged and pushed each other to find ways to share God’s love – serving at a community kitchen, helping out at fundraisers, providing meals and care for others.

So… I want to challenge you. Se` fiel. Be faithful. Find something that breaks your heart and go after it with all of your heart, mind and soul. Know that God has the power to create change in hard situations and expect to see how a simple act of faith can transform the community, the world around you.

20130915-175144.jpg20130915-180824.jpg

{Preparing dinner for East End Cooperative Ministry Men’s Shelter}

Back in Pittsburgh – By Alexis

I feel so blessed by this trip.

From the beginning to the end – God was guiding me to learn more about what he wants me to do and my faith continues to grow for this project.  During our time in Bolivia, God guided us to many places where we could see the effects extreme poverty has on beautiful children growing up in these environments. Beccita and I visited many places, but one place left the greatest impression – a womens’ prison where children live with their parents.  When I first saw their faces, I wondered if any of them have even a hug from anybody in the entire lives? The lack of love is evident in how they respond to both Becca and I. They avoided eye contact and pulled away from us when we acknowledged or spoke to them.

The children that we saw are 3 to 5 years old. When their parents are imprisoned, children are either placed into orphanages or shelters.  Because many shelters are overflowing with children, they must live with their parents in the jail or live on the streets. Some of the children who live outside of the prison beg for food and water on the streets waiting for when their parents will be free. Before entering the prison, we saw a child come to the prison entrance to ask if his mother could give him money or food from inside.

This month, the Bolivian government made a law to prohibit children from living with their parents in the prisons because of the issues they were having (you can imagine).  This can solve many problems, but brings another. Where do these children go? There are not enough shelters to house them.

It just makes our goal for this shelter even more important.

But, these children need more than a place to stay.  They need a home. First, they need love and then, so much more. God calls us to love as He loves.  He loves all. We are all his children and as followers of Jesus we are committed to bring love where it is needed. God has revealed His love for these children in His Word and in our hearts.  He is revealing his heart for these people to both Becca and I and we can not forget it and continue our lives as nothing has happened? We cannot continue just listening to and watching the problem of these people and respond by saying  “I am sorry.”

We see the problem and desire to fine solutions with God as our guide, saying YES to everything he calls us to.

These children need to know that they can be loved; they need a place where they see that they deserve love; This is the mission of “ChildlightUS”. We are not afraid of anything and we will continue working towards the goal that God has called us to. We want to see these children redeemed and God glorified in their lives.

A Lesson on Love

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.

image

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.”

image

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.

image

image

Detours + Smiles

On our way to the infamous Lake Titicaca, Rodolfo decided to take a little detour to get a better view of the lake.  He took a quick turn off of the main road as Ali, Sabrina and I laughed.  It is always an adventure with Rodolfo leading the way.

Driving down the narrow dirt road, the lake and mountain view widening, little children began peeking out through a gate on our right hand side.  At first it was one little head, than two, than three.  Rodolfo stopped the car and the curious children began streaming out of the gateway and surrounding the jeep.

With Rodolfo’s clever detour, we journeyed across Escuela Soncachi Chico-Tarjara, a school for children in the area.

Before leaving for our journey, Ali brought a package of clothing and toys just in case we saw any children in the Altiplano on the way to the lake.  We saw this as the perfect opportunity and had the children line up as we passed out toys.

It was such a beautiful moment.  The children were so excited and Ali and I saw their smiles as another motivation to creating this shelter.

 

Iphone 227 Iphone 228 Iphone 229