Mission Trip to Bolivia 2016

Friendship and Forever

Amistad – the friendship mission. A friendship with Christ, their forever family and with their North American Amigos. When people ask Amistad USA Executive Director if they should donate money or visit, he tells them they should always visit because it goes back to the mission – friendship. This week St. Martin’s is developing a continued friendship as a collective with Amistad and Casa San Martín started many years ago, as well as developing strong spiritual and unconditional love bonds with the members of this Casa. Our tribe of play and prayer warriors has done many activities: been to the park, colored with crayons, competed at dance dance revolution, shared in worship, and cheered on the children as they competed in athletic events at the Olympics, but we’ve also hugged, held hands, prayed, meaningful conversed, and held them close. These active and emotional connections may not make the children remember our name forever but they will remember the impact of this week forever. They will know when we leave that they are loved, liked, cared for, enjoyed, treasured, wanted, prayed for, praised, thought of, and precious. The value of that is priceless.

On the other side this tribe of play and prayer warriors has been effected, affected, molded, and changed. The joy and appreciation we see amongst these children is overwhelming. They trust and love us automatically, they put their safety in us, and gain motivation from us – without question. They trust on God that this relationship is pure. How often do we trust in God that new relationships or situations will be pure? We know that he knows the plans of our life and that he is all knowing – so why can’t we just trust and enjoy?

Another life lesson the children of Amistad and Casa San MartÍn taught us with gusto is the practice of finding spiritual gifts. We did a prayer rock creation activity with the children’s this morning and the minute we explained that these rocks were precious and special they carefully selected them and the words that they were going to write on them and wanted them to be prefect. An activity that could take 5 minutes took easily 45. Each rock, found from a playground became a new piece of their daily spiritual practice that is lovingly treasured. Taking away this ability to find the spiritual significance in the small things in life is a valuable lesson modeled by some of the youngest children at Amistad.

We can learn so many things from these children, these are simply two take aways.

This experience of friendship through fellowship is humbling, honoring and everlasting.

I hope that these words describing our experience in Cochabamba will touch and inspire you to trust more easily in life, find spiritual gifts in the smallest of places, and always pray for the children and staff of Amistad.

With blessings and a greatful heart,

Courtney Reynolds

The Gift of Each Other

Wow ~ what an incredible experience this St. Martin’s mission trip to Bolivia has been for my family and me. It is ironic that our intention was to travel to this third world country to try to help others in need, and, in the end, we are the ones who received such a gift from these young orphans and their caretakers at Villa Amistad. THEY gifted US with the true meaning of Christ’s love in this fallen world.

We have witnessed firsthand, through these children, God’s miracles. There are many individual stories, but they share the same history. These children have suffered unfathomable trauma, abuse and abandonment in infancy and early childhood. Through Amistad, however, they have been nurtured and valued. They have come to know God’s love and that they are, indeed, His children. In turn, they have shared with us their overflowing joy, generosity of spirit and affection. They jump into our arms and give bear hugs; they take our hands and lead us to play; they smile and laugh; they share with us their food; and they give us handwritten cards of thanks.

We met one 7 year old little boy who, three months ago, was catatonic lying in a crib with contractures, unable to speak or walk. Through the work of Amistad for Families, he is now communicating, running, jumping, laughing and playing with us. I sat down with him outside to play a card game when he suddenly jumped up and ran inside the house. He quickly returned with a foam pad for me to sit on while we played. I have truly seen the work of the Good Shepherd.

We have, also, been so fortunate this trip to have the U.S. Executive Director of Amistad Chris King join our group. He generously gifted each of us with a book by Valerie Henry- Amistad – Stories of Service through Friendship. She concludes the story writing, “He brought the pilgrims to Bolivia not to supply something it lacked or to solve a problem. He brought them to be present among the children and to share in their suffering, disappointment and joy. It was not to give of their knowledge or wealth, but to receive.”

Dr. Gracia Duncan