I had never been able to experience the joy of “true religion” as James says of caring for orphans in their distress as I have here in Bolivia. Many times we had the blessing of visiting and helping out at a few orphanages around the city. One organization is called Casa de Amor and was started about 6 years ago by a 22-year-old MK, and it has grown to 4 different houses with about a dozen children in each. At the first house (0-4 yr-olds), we held, played, fed, and just loved on those precious babies and toddlers. It was shocking how much horror some of those tiny kids have already been through. One little baby was wearing a stretchy ski-mask type thing over his head to cover burns he received when a gas stove exploded and killed his mom. Another baby girl was beaten so badly by her father that she would have deformed legs and likely brain damage as well. A humbling and priceless experience was to play with and tenderly guide a 4-year-old girl blind from birth and most likely autistic. It broke my heart to think of how her parents must have abandoned her. The woman who started the orphanage visits the hospitals in the city every week to rescue babies abandoned at the hospital. The kids at Casa de Amor may not have parents, but they are loved dearly by the staff (which consists of both American volunteers and Bolivian women). Praise God that those children are there and not living on the streets or already dead.
Another orphanage (probably my favorite) that we were able to visit twice in my time here was called Casa de Alegría (joy) and was home to 11 girls over the age 13. The first time we made butterfly crafts with tissue paper and decorated fabric butterflies lovingly put together and left by a volunteer – Thank you so much Misty! I shared a brief message about how our faith as Christians is like the life of a mariposa (butterfly), especially referring to our rebirth. Despite varying levels of Spanish ability among our group, we all got to know more about the girls and just show them how loved they are by the greatest, most faithful Father ever. This past Wednesday, I kind of impromptu shared a message from a devotional that Misty (again) graciously left for those girls about the alegría that God promises us as His children, which is independent of our circumstances or feelings—different from felicidad (happiness). God definitely empowered me to do that and then pray in Spanish, as He has blessed my Spanish ability throughout this entire trip. We played all sorts of games, even “2 Truths and a Lie” in Spanish, that helped us to get to know each other and break down their timidity. Again, I was struck by how similar we all were, yet burdened to realize that they probably would never know the love and protection of an earthly parent. I am so thankful, though, that these girls are getting an education at high school and are safe in that home, with each other for family, and not pregnant like so many other 14- and 15-year-olds in Bolivia. I will dearly miss them. Please pray for their faiths to be bolstered, and for them to know that they have a Father whose love never fails.
Another beautiful opportunity I’ve had here in Cochabamba was to wash street kids for an hour on Saturdays. A group of missionaries came together to start doing this a while ago on their own, and it just keeps growing. We set up a couple tents and fill tubs with water to bathe little children and wash the older kids’ hair. Anna, a volunteer with me at HOH, brought lots of clothes and beautiful dresses made out of pillow cases that were donated to her to give to the kids after the bath. It’s amazing how the people who regularly do the kid washing rely on God to provide everything: the kids, the water, the clothes… and He always comes through! It was such a blessing to be a part of that.