In June, I had the wonderful opportunity of going to Bolivia for a humanitarian trip. There were 16 youth in our group and three leaders. We stayed for three weeks with only two, two-minute emails home and no other communication with our family or the world. It was pretty much a mini mission. Our main focus was to serve the people in a small village. We began work on a daycare. Many mothers in the town must work and they have very few options for childcare. Our goal was to give them a place for the children to go so that the mothers could trade off days working and watching the kids. Three more groups would follow us throughout the summer, but our little company literally started from the ground up. Not only did I have the experience of a lifetime, but I learned a lot of lessons I will never forget.
Our starting point.
- Prayer and fasting are powerful
I’m not the type of person who enjoys being away from home. If I could choose, I would prefer spending time with my family over a lot of other activities. So being away from my family for three weeks with little communication was not easy. The first couple of days I had complete culture shock. I went from sleeping in a nice, comfy bed, to sleeping on a hard, uncomfortable bed on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca. I’m not going to lie, I wanted to go home. I was scared and unsure about where I was. I was definitely homesick. The first Sunday we were there was Fast Sunday. Fast Sundays are already not easy, especially when in a foreign country. However, there was no way I could manage the rest of my trip without depending on the Lord. I found myself crying to my Heavenly Father that if I put my heart and soul into this trip, I wouldn’t be homesick. Immediately, I found peace and ended up not getting homesick once after that.
- Being spiritually rich
Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America. The people live in little huts made of brick and metal roofs. Money is tight and material possessions are limited. However, if you ask them, they will say that they are rich because they have everything they need. They don’t depend on cell phones for entertainment. Instead they play outside, meet new people, and look for any opportunity to serve someone. They are not people of the world. Their hearts are full of love and compassion for the children of God. They love with complete Christlike love. It made me want to reevaluate and spend my time in the most meaningful ways.
The Bolivian kids trying to teach us how to dance.
Our crew digging and laying the foundation.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true no matter where you are
I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the Cochabamba temple. We went near the end of the trip when we were all exhausted, home sick, and annoyed with each other. However, the second we walked into the temple, everything seemed to dissolve. No worries. No problems or sicknesses or irritation. It felt like home. Although I was in a completely different country and the ordinances performed were in a different language, it was all familiar. I could feel the Spirit just as strong, if not stronger. I felt and saw a little glimpse of heaven that day. The temple is a place where heaven is close. My heart was so full. It’s amazing what the temple can do for you when you’re at some of your lowest points.
As we worked hard and watched our little structure start to grow brick by brick, it was an amazing feeling. I realized that changes were also happening to me personally, little by little. My love for others increased, the priorities in my life realigned, my gratitude for my home, family and country was magnified.
Bolivia taught me a lot of lessons, however the one that overcame me was the love I felt. I love this gospel, and I love my Savior.