I saw this tweet from Rachel Held Evans yesterday morning: “Been back from Bolivia for a week now, and I'm just now unpacking. Anyone else out there an unpacker-slacker?" I'm the worst kind of unpacker... I let the task of unpacking intimidate me in a really silly way.
I also think there's something sort of nostalgic about an unpacked suitcase -- it brings back memories of where you've just returned from. In this case, it brings back bittersweet memories of the seven days I spent in Bolivia with some of the most insightful and endearing people I'll ever know -- Elizabeth, Andrea, Joy, Nish, Matthew, Carla, Rachel, Amy, Michael, Jana and Deb -- and all of the moments we experienced together. Moments that have changed our hearts forever.
Now, each time I look at the photos, read the blog posts, or trip over my unpacked suitcase in the morning, every moment and every child’s face floods back into my memory and fills my heart with more love and joy than I sometimes know how to process. Those are the moments I never, ever want to forget.
Home for one week and still unpacking our bags, these are our unforgettable moments from our time in Bolivia. We hope pieces of our experiences bless you as they've blessed us.
Elizabeth Esther, ElizabethEsther.com
Meeting the special needs kids in Colomi ADP touched my heart in such a deep way. The parents’ unflagging dedication in spite of insurmountable odds truly inspired me to be a better parent myself. It was amazing to see the value World Vision places on each individual child—especially those with special needs. It was a great honor to join this trip. Thank you, World Vision.
Andrea Rodriguez, trip host, communications officer at the World Vision Bolivia National Office
The moment Arturo, a child at the Colomi special needs center, got his hearing device, his eyes became like the Sora Sora lake with the sunset – bright and beautiful – a moment I’ll never forget.
My first favorite moment was meeting Maria, my sponsored child. Seeing the delight on her face, hugging her mother, greeting her father, and knowing that I became a part of their family just as much as they have become part of mine… it was a moment that was branded into the deepest parts of my heart. Another moment was meeting the empowered youth in Viloma ADP. To see their hope, listen to their dreams, hear them articulate their vision for their country made me buoyant with that same hope - that all children in World Vision will grow up with the same passion and integrity.
Nish meets Maria. ©2011 Matthew Paul Turner for World Vision
We sat in a courtyard, on the dusty weedy ground, a circle of at least 30 women strong. Children wandered back and forth, sniffling, giggling, crying, and looking for attention as all children do. A physician who helps lead workshops with the women explained a bit about what they do in the group, topics they've discussed, and the activities they and the kids participate in during their monthly gatherings.
We asked them questions about breast-feeding, about what they worry about for their families, and then we asked how long it took them to get to the little place we were meeting. Around the circle women called out numbers like "1 hour" and "2 hours." Then one, with a wry grin, said, "I could get here in 15 minutes if I didn't have to bring all my kids with me."
All of us, Bolivian and American, laughed out loud. In a flash, we were a sisterhood, women recognizing the common ground in each of us, despite the thousands of miles, thousands of dollars, and language differences between us. We are women, and we are sisters. That's what I will remember most.
©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision
Matthew Paul Turner, Jesusneedsnewpr.net
The moment that sticks out for me happened while we were visiting World Vision’s center for children with special needs. There, two young boys received hearing aids. Upon hearing the news, the smiles that appeared across their young faces revealed to me how tangible hope can be. I think sometimes it’s easy for many of us to become so overwhelmed by the suffering and the need that we become blind to the simplicity of hope. Hope doesn’t always feed entire villages or bring clean water to entire communities, sometimes hope simply helps a child hear better.
That’s how Jesus often brought hope into the situations that he encountered, by filling one person’s need. Sure, Jesus would have probably healed the boys’ ears rather than offering them hearing aids. But to those boys, even though the hope they experienced that morning didn’t cure their hearing loss, it was no less miraculous.
Carla Swanson Gawthrop, web communications, World Vision U.S.
I have been guilty of seeing people in poverty and reacting with sympathy, but then appreciative that I could return to my comfortable home. Not this time. When Celestina explained how grateful she is that World Vision helped her 5-year-old son to receive heart surgery, her eyes filled with tears. So did mine. I saw a mother just like me who desperately loves her son and wants him to live a full life.
“I am thankful to God because they gave my child his life back,” she said. I would like to think I would be as courageous under persecution as she was. “People used to come and tell me I drank something and that’s why the child is like this,” she said. She never doubted that her child would be healed. “Thank you World Vision because if they didn’t realize he was sick, he would be dead.” I realized that the passion she has for her children is the same as mine. And now that I know, I cannot turn away.
Celestina talks about her son's surgery and disability. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision
Rachel Held Evans, RachelHeldEvans.com
Hearing the stories of women who have overcome incredible odds to provide for their families: Marta’s sewing shop was turning a profit and providing a safe, happy working environment for the mothers of sponsored children. I will never forget the pride in Marta’s eyes as we admired her beautiful handmade purses and blankets.
Lindsey Talerico-Hedren, World Vision Blog
Painting my beautiful sponsored child’s fingernails with her mom and dad sitting beside me – Noelia was so sweetly shy and precious in every way possible. Having her arms wrapped around me reminded me of my own nephew and I knew at that moment Noelia and I were family forever. She is the face I see every time I think of Bolivia and her hug is the warmth I feel in my heart every time another child is sponsored.
Lindsey meets Noelia. ©2011 Matthew Paul Turner for World Vision
Jana Melpolder, Discoveries of a Wanderer on Beliefnet.com
We traveled to one center that helped special needs children. It was incredible to see two children receive hearing aids for the first time in their lives. There was such a sense of excitement and gratitude in the room from the childrens’ family members. It was a truly powerful moment to see the happiness in the faces of the children.
Michael Bianchi, trip leader, World Vision U.S.
The moment when our newest sponsored child told me he wished someone like me would sponsor him was unforgettable for me. Looking into Carlitos' eyes, I saw promise, innocent ambition and a yearning to be worthy enough, valid enough, special enough to be sponsored by someone from across the world. Carlitos, like so many other children we met in Bolivia, holds the future of his own family, his community and perhaps his entire country in the palm of his little 7 year-old hand. He - THEY - are worth our small contributions to the development of their communities and worthy of a special, permanent place in our hearts.
Amy Conner, photographer, amyconner.com
One memory I have that will stay with me a very long time, one that made me smile and cry, a young boy named Arturo was heavily, but not fully deaf, in both ears. Through funding of World Vision, Arturo received a hearing aid and had it put in while we were there visiting the special needs school he attended. The smile and expression on his face as he heard well for the first time was priceless. I am forever grateful that I got to be there for his life changing moment!
Arturo receiving a hearing aid for the first time at World Vision's center for children with special needs. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision
Meeting Abigail, our sponsored child, is a moment that will stay in my heart forever. Her mom and little brother were so kind. I was able to encourage her love of drawing and gave her a copy of my book that was illustrated by a 12-year-old artist. I will never forget her smile when I told her to keep drawing and someday her art just might be featured in a book, too. It felt like we joined families by heart.
Read more from our trip to Bolivia.
The Bolivia bloggers team