When you visit a country for the first time, there are always a lot of “firsts”—like your first time eating llama meat on pizza, or your first time seeing the Andes Mountains, or your first time experiencing the vibrantly colored, welcoming culture of the Bolivian people.
These were a few of my “firsts” on a recent trip to Bolivia, one of the nations where Bright Hope works and the poorest country in South America.
But of all the fun, exotic “firsts,” there was one beautiful, profound moment that touched me deeply.
Adonai Church was the first Bright Hope partner we visited in Oruro, a city way up in the Bolivian Highlands (12,254 ft., to be exact). Oruro is beautiful. And Oruro now has a special place in my heart. The phenomenal blue sky was almost other-worldly in color, the mountains were stunning beyond description, and though the cool, dry climate and soil conditions yield little vegetation or produce, the beauty of the land and people can’t help but make a very positive first impression.
Oruro is a mining town, and while it is the main source of employment for adults, there are children who work there as well. There’s much hardship in this city, and a heartbreaking amount of breakdown in family relationships. Some parents are gone for long periods of time while their children are left at home alone.
At Adonai Church, we were introduced to a woman surrounded by several children; they were described to us as one of the poorest families who attend the church.
The woman told us her story there in the sunny, but narrow and crowded church courtyard. It is the story of a hard life, but one which has some hope woven into it. The details of what she shared with us we’ll share with you at a later date, but it’s what happened after the interview that has stayed with me as one of the most important moments of the trip.
Since I don’t speak Spanish, Gaby, Bright Hope’s Projects and Communications Coordinator in Bolivia, graciously—and tirelessly—translated for me for hours and days on end.
Once we were formally done with our interview I believe I started snapping some photos of the cute kids hanging out in the courtyard with us, while Gaby continued speaking with the mother and her daughter, Guadalupe, a girl who appeared to be in her teens, and who had some special needs.
The three of them talked together for a while, and then I saw them praying. I could decipher only a few words—just enough to excitedly guess that they were praying the most important prayer of a person’s life.
“Gaby,” I said quietly and excitedly when they were done, “did she just pray to receive salvation?”
“Yes,” Gaby confirmed. Guadalupe had just asked Jesus Christ to be her Savior.
I was moved deep inside my spirit—I was rejoicing, I was thrilled! Oh, thank You, Jesus.
This. Moments like this, this is what it’s all about. Of everything we do at Bright Hope to reach those living in extreme poverty—to meet their physical needs, to help equip them to break the cycle of poverty, and to show them the love of Christ—it’s moments like this that offer the highest reward and the greatest privilege for us. What an honor that we, Bright Hope, get to be a part of ushering one of Jesus’ precious children into the Kingdom!
Programs are important, and programs are changing lives, but fueled by the Holy Spirit, we equally care about attending to the spiritual needs of the people we reach out to.
And so when one of these “little ones” makes the decision to respond to an invitation to receive Christ, well, we know that nothing this side of heaven can bring about a greater transformation than that!