[Bolivia bloggers] Back at home, but haunted by their faces

The following post was written on Day 1, back at home from Bolivia, from Elizabeth Esther.

I did 26 hours of travel on two hours of sleep. I don’t recommend this. My body and mind feel sundered–torn apart. This afternoon I started shaking. I’m so tired–physically, emotionally, mentally–that my body started freaking out on me without sending a warning note first. And Mariela’s face haunts my emotions:

Haunted by their faces | World Vision Blog

Mariela poured confetti on my head--the traditional Bolivian form of blessing and rejoicing

I met Mariela at the special-needs center in Colomi. Her uncle, in the words of Mariela’s mother, “es muy malo.” Very bad–meaning, his special needs are severe, overwhelming for a family already entrenched in deep poverty. Mariela wouldn’t let go of me. She held my hand, asked me to draw pictures for her, kissed my cheek repeatedly. Mariela has no father. Her mother is a single parent, recently returned from Argentina where she tried to find work. Mariela was too skinny for her age. But she knew how to love. She caressed my hand and stared into my eyes.

After she poured confetti on my head (the traditional Bolivian way of bestowing blessing upon someone), she finally smiled for me:

Haunted by their faces | World Vision BlogMariela doesn’t have a sponsor, her mother hasn’t even registered her yet for sponsorship. I begged her mother to register her–because I will be her sponsor. Most of the children in the Colomi ADP do not have sponsors. In the video that Matthew Paul Turner and I made, Mariela is sitting on my lap. I’ll never forget how light she felt. Too light. Too thin. I didn’t want to squeeze her too tightly because she felt breakable.

And now sitting so many thousands of miles away, I can only pray for her, hoping against hope that her mother will register her soon.

My hands are trembling as I type this. It’s my first day back and although the love, joy, kisses and embraces of my family help make this transition easier, I am filled with a deep, penetrating grief. I didn’t do enough.

Haunted by their faces | World Vision Blog

This is how the poor cook. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision

This is how the poor cook: a beat-up old pot over an open fire. So many children are malnourished that 10 year olds look like they are only 5. Lord Jesus, forgive me, it has taken me 34 years to finally care about the poor of this world.

Haunted by their faces | World Vision Blog

Without kitchens, rural Bolivians cook their food over makeshift stoves: small fires built between bricks. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision

Anne Lamott writes that nobody gets into Heaven without a letter of recommendation from the poor. I have a lot of work to do–and I’m thankful that I now know exactly how to do it: sponsoring a child doesn’t just save one life, it saves an entire community.

Haunted by their faces | World Vision Blog

Poor Bolivians wash their clothing in buckets and hang it to dry on a line. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision

And so, for the sake of children who do not have running water and must bathe in buckets outside their homes:

Haunted by their faces | World Vision Blog

Most families do not have indoor plumbing and must bathe and do laundry in buckets outside their homes. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision

And for the children with battered shoes and dirty feet:

Haunted by their faces | World Vision Blog

Arminda--the girl whose parents adopted her after she was abandoned on the street. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision

And for the mothers who take in abandoned children–despite their own impoverished conditions:

Haunted by their faces | World Vision Blog

I gave Elena my necklace as a sign of gratitude for taking in an abandoned baby girl. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision

I will speak, I will write, I will love.

To earn YOUR letter of recommendation from the poor, please sponsor a child. (And when you sponsor a child, leave a comment to this post so I can thank you personally).

And now…..

My wrecked, ragged body must rest for awhile. Will you carry on the work?


Sponsor a child in Bolivia

Read more posts from the Bolivia bloggers team.

Comments

Rest up, Esther! I'm sure this experience will impact you for the rest of your life...and countless others because of your story.

Upon reading Rich Stearn's book A Hole In Our Gospel, I knew I had to help somehow. I made a new budget and now sponsor 4 children. I too hope to visit each of them some day. Thank you for giving hope to those you took time to visit.Each of you are a blessing to the other. Blesings, Sonnie

I have to tell you, Sonnie, that when I first read your comment, I was immediately taken back by the obvious faith and trust in God for your finances that you've expressed. Because of that, four beautiful children are blessed to have you as a sponsor. Thanks for blessing me with your comment this morning.

Leave a Comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)

Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.