An Unexpected Encounter with a Bolivian Grandmother

I could hear children’s voices drifting down from a second-floor building at Hosanna Church in Oruro, Bolivia. We were about to start a video interview with a woman who lived across the street, but I knew these children were here as a part of our children’s care center program and it was a great opportunity to get some fresh, new pictures of the kiddos to share with you all.

I had a plan, knew what to expect: pop up to see the kids, take some fun pics, and hop back across the street to join my team working on the video interview—but what I wasn’t expecting was an impromptu encounter with a little grandmother that became one of the most impacting moments of my trip. Sometimes the unexpected moments are the most profound ones…

Almost two weeks ago to the day, I went up to see the kids who were drawing, finishing up their homework and playing with bright balloons. We had a lively, noisy, goofy time, and then they headed downstairs to eat a snack. I was standing outside for a moment with my translator, about to take more pics of the kids, when a little, elderly woman, sitting on a step in the shade, started talking to us.

She was waiting for her grandson to finish up with the afternoon program and tearfully told us that the food these children receive is the most important aspect of the children’s care center.

She shared with us that her grandson, 7-year-old Juan Carlos, is an orphan. His mother died five years ago in childbirth, and his father died in a car accident. Maxima, his grandmother, has been caring for him ever since.

He’s the most important part of her life, she said. He is her everything.

Maxima said her husband works, but it’s not enough, so it helps her that Juan Carlos eats here three days a week. And he gets help with his homework too.

And when Juan Carlos is at the center she tries to earn extra money by cooking, cleaning, or washing clothes.

Juan Carlos heard about the program from his school friends and has only been coming for about a month, and Maxima said she’s been attending Hosanna Church for a month now too. It makes me smile—here it is again: yet another sweet testimony of Bright Hope and a local church partnering to meet the needs of children in the community, and through that relationship, the parents—or in this case grandparents—build a relationship with the church too. I don’t know where Maxima is in her faith journey, but I love seeing this pattern: by serving the children, we open the door to reaching the adults in their lives too.

I asked Maxima if I could pray with her, and I asked her if I could share her story. Because although this may have seemed like just a brief, spontaneous conversation in the middle of busy day with a detailed schedule, it stuck with me.
I recall her face, the tears in her eyes as she spoke, and I’m deeply reminded of just how important these children’s care centers are, and just how much we are impacting people’s lives—not just numbers, but real people with faces and names and tears, stories of hardship and persevering, and words of gratefulness.

Thank You, Jesus, for letting us be a part of this work, serving Your people.

Sarah Marchmont
Sarah Marchmont

Sarah has a passion to share stories and photos of lives being transformed. With a background in journalism, a heart for “the least of these,” and a love for traveling and experiencing other cultures, she’s thrilled to be part of the Bright Hope Marketing & Communications team where she has the opportunity to hear and experience firsthand the incredible stories of God working in the nations.