I remember saying to a few people as I was leaving Cochabamba, ‘I am not on mission from California to Bolivia, I am going to be on mission from Bolivia to California.’ My time in Bolivia ended up being mission training for me–offering me practice with solidarity and accompaniment, and a revelation in terms of possibilities for church and community…
julia volunteer progam bigBefore I left, I was really pretty certain that God was calling me strongly into the Mission Immersion program, but I had very little idea WHY. Once I settled into Cochabamba, it all started becoming clear. In fact, my own vocation became clearer to me than it has ever been in my entire life. I am not sure why I had to go to Bolivia to realize that God is calling me to my life and work in California, but that is what happened. And at the same time, back in California, I find God transforming my life here through my experience with Maryknoll in Bolivia.
I could keep going, but you probably get the idea that the Mission Immersion program helped me see more clearly how to live the kingdom of God.
My participation in The Maryknoll Immersion Program was an incredible experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The program opened my eyes to the power of mission service and the Bolivian spirit. I was able to meet and share this experience with volunteers from all over the United States, who had supported me throughout my service.
I worked primarily with the children of Zona Sur and I will always remember the unforgettable and fun times that we shared such as, teaching each other English and Spanish, showing them how to draw jungle animals, accompanying the children to their homes from ‘apoyo’ (an after-school program), and gaining insight about their everyday lives. I hope that people, who are interested in participating, will join the Bolivian Mission Immersion Program and open their hearts to serving such an extraordinary country and its people.
On the outside, there is so little love about an uncomfortable place – dust and unpaved sidewalks, no running hot water, and unreliable Internet. Yet, the way people opened up their hearts to me showed me what an authentic relationship is. People invited me into the chambers of their hearts, which were lavishly furnished.
Willa volunteer progam bigBeing in Bolivia has made me more aware than ever how difficult it is to overcome poverty – how intricately linked the economy is to politics and how vicious is the cycle of poverty that keeps the wealthy happy in the Zona Sur of La Paz, while the poor child miners toil away, sacrificing decades of their lives to eke out an existence in Oruro. Still, it is one thing to know about all this, but quite another to enter into dialogue with the people.
Jesus’ instruction to St. Matthew (10:27) left a deep impression on me before departure. He said, “What I have told you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” Bolivia helped to begin to understand what Christ was telling me and how to proclaim it. Being with the poor reveals the meaning of Christ’s coming to be among us and his message of love and peace. The noise of the “busy first-world” is hushed by the humility and generosity of the poor.
I felt I had found home. It was great to meet so many people who had the same perspective, enthusiasm for life, and eagerness to share and facilitates happiness for others. The Volunteer program gave me a focus in my retirement that I had been seeking. It was a natural fit with my eagerness to learn and live with a broader world. The people and children each were loving, kind, and kept me wondering why I ever complain and marveling at how lucky we are here in the US. It is a privilege to be able to share with the people I have met. It is an often heard comment from returning missioners- How much more I feel I received by being in their presence. My job is now to work as a reverse missioner and help build the bridges of understanding, tolerance and patience.