We’re home now. We spent eighteen days in Bolivia. We spent two days acclimating in La Paz, resting, venturing out to buy food at the local market with our gringo Spanish, and watching a lot of futbol out of the apartment window. Then, we traveled higher into the Andes and reached our destination of a small town called Collana at around 14,000 feet.
In Collana, there was baking and selling bread for the town bakery, learning more hopefully-less-gringo Spanish, and arranging our little room several times over to feel somewhat like a home. There was cooking on a tiny gas stove, hanging laundry on the line to dry, and little girls giving Leland horsey rides on their backs.
I’d been waiting so long for it. I was so ready. Despite knowing the challenges you often face when living in a third-world country, I was excited and hopeful for the things I would see. I was ready to learn, ready to invest, ready to be a part of something bigger than myself.
But to be honest. It felt a bit underwhelming.
It felt like it could be anywhere. Why did it have to be there? There are millions of people that speak Spanish, millions of people that live in small mountain towns, millions of people that live in third-world countries and like rice and beans, brightly-colored clothing, and soccer. And God could have sent any young, white American woman to them.
It didn’t feel monumental. It didn’t feel significant. There weren’t any doors opening in the heavens. And it didn’t feel special.
There were taxi rides and buying apples, sitting through church services all in Spanish and trips on the minibus, cooking simple meals and putting my baby down for naps.
None of it seemed very extraordinary.
And then on top of that, we had to come home a month early due to my heart rate escalating and the possibility of another blood clot. Talk about a bit of a let down.
But, friends. God uses the little things. The disappointing things. The anticlimactic things. He uses us and our small acts of faithfulness to do big things and impact people.
In Bolivia I met Maritza. A woman who gives of herself every day to cook all day long and feed a school full of children. I met Franz. A 19-year-old who loves himself a fancy haircut, plays the trumpet in the school band, and enjoyed the English lessons we had over dinner. And I met Karen. A girl who is friendly, loves babies, and leaves her jacket on the basketball hoop to dry after the rain.
Those are my people. It didn’t have to be them. It still doesn’t have to be them. But those are the ones God called me to, to know, to care about, and to love.
It doesn’t have to feel special. God can make it special.
God has called us to invest in those He sends us to. Those He places in front of us. No matter how special or insignificant it feels. Whether that be our spouse, our next-door-neighbor, our colleague, our struggling best friend, our growing-older parents, or people living in a small mountain town in Bolivia. They are to be blessed by us. Because these are the ones that God has called us to, saying, “I am sending you.”
So take heart, weary mama. Take heart, forgotten encourager. Take heart, discouraged neighbor. Because you are called to love. Even when things don’t go as planned. Even when things are disappointing. Even when it doesn’t feel special.
You are needed. You are important. Your faithfulness matters in the lives of those who will be missing it if you choose to think your part to play is too small.
Believe that God takes your not-special piece and makes something beautiful of it.
So, go. Here I am, Lord. Send me.