Pass it on…

We recently had the honor of hosting Dr. Don Ellis from Duke University Medical Center and his teenage Emily.  Don has shared some of his thoughts below regarding his time in La Paz. 

Don and EmilyI recently returned from my third visit to La Paz, Bolivia serving with HOPE worldwide. What made this time a most memorable and treasured experience was the ability to share these moments with my eldest daughter, Emily. It was her first time to venture out of the United States.  I will never forget the look of utter joy in Emily’s face as we took off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport toward our destination!

We spent our 10 days in La Paz immersed in various opportunities which allowed us to interact with the poor on a very personal level. The majority of my time involved providing “consultation” as a visiting pediatrician, facilitating medical lectures and clinical workshops. Emily, on the other hand, functioned as a jack-of-all-trades—meeting with families, organizing donations, and serving within hospitals and community programs.workshop.jpg

While we were grateful to use our time to serve and our resources to provide donations, a sober reality remained in the back of our minds. There would be nearly as much deprivation when we left as when we arrived. There are still overwhelming needs in Bolivia.  Children are still being abandoned, abused, and neglected; women still experience domestic violence; people cannot access vital resources like healthcare, education, and nutrition. Hopelessness prevails in many hearts and homes.

So we asked ourselves, what is the solution?

Do we allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by all that we cannot do?

Or do we focus on what we can do? If that latter is our decision….then the question becomes “How can I use my talents, gifts, and energy to love one person at a time?”

I realize that not many of us in history are called to impact the entire world, but every follower of Christ has been given a specific calling: to love the person right next to us, giving to others what we have been freely given. One MORE person who chooses to serve may result in one LESS person feeling alone and hopeless.

And I can do one more thing. I can take the hand of someone younger than myself, the next generation and teach them how to love, to serve and how to not give into discouragement when the needs seem overwhelming.  As I (we) do this, loving the one in front of us and teaching others to do the same, maybe, however gradually, we will start to see a difference.  Maybe the world will begin to shift every so slightly towards something better. Something that looks much more like God intended: a world of mercy, justice, equality and love.

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
― Edward Everett Hale

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”
Micah 6:8 

Thank you, Don, for your, and your daughter Emily’s, selfless service to the people of La Paz. Thank you also for sharing some of your thoughts with us.  Thank you for seeing “the one” and being determined to demonstrate the love of Jesus however possible!  

If you would like to learn more about how you can volunteer or provide support to our programs here in La Paz, please contact us!

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Short-term Missions: Thoughts to Ponder

Recently, there have been a number of books published discussing the effectiveness of short term mission trips. In his book, Toxic Charity, Robert Lupton says, “Contrary to popular belief, most missions trips and service projects do not: empower those being served, engender [foster] healthy cross-cultural relationships, improve quality of live, relieve poverty, change the lives of participants [or] increase support for long-term missions work.”

IMG_2094After hosting nearly 100+ international volunteers per year, we feel the need to ask ourselves, “If we are going to continue to support short term missions, how can we make sure these trips are having an impact worth the resources they require?”.  Fortunately, Steven Corbett (coauthor of “When Helping Hurts”) writes, “Short-term [mission] trips… can be done in a way that blesses the communities they visit, avoids doing unintended harm, and leads to lasting change in team members’ lives. But doing so involves reframing the purpose of our trips, shifting away from an emphasis on directly engaging in poverty alleviation.”

In other words, there might be a need to redefine what “success” looks like for short-term mission trips. While long-term, sustainable programs are able to foster lasting, positive development, we believe (and have witnessed) that positive results are possible in short periods of time “on the ground”.

However, the question remains: How can we make sure that we are supporting productive short-term missions that address the areas of concern Lupton mentions above? After collaborating with La Paz community members for over 6 years, here are a few principles we have gathered.

1. Empower those being served
Lupton encourages us to not “do for others what they can do for themselves”. When we plan an activity to serve the materially poor, we remind ourselves of this principle. A good first step is to ask the community what they feel they need, and what are they able to offer? If a school needs painted, are there local painters who could be hired? If a wall needs built, are there local builders? If we are creating a library, are there local reading specialists that can be hired to support the program? Materially poor communities often lack resources, not labor.  How can we provide the resources needed, and then support the laborers in their work? Often times, short-term mission members are able to raise funds and/or bring the items necessary to complete these long-standing projects. The short-term volunteers are also able to supplement necessary labor, acting under the guidance of local expertise.

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2. [Foster] healthy cross-cultural relationships
There is only one way to cultivate a relationship: spend time together. However, even time spent together must be intentional. It is helpful to teach volunteers from the beginning to be culturally sensitive, to ask questions which encourage connection and openness and to examine themselves for biases and predispositions.

Those receiving resources can, and should, be asked frequently for their feedback. Do they feel respected and valued by the volunteers? Are there ways volunteers can increase in their cultural sensitivity? Is there something that they would like the volunteers to know about their culture? The responses to these questions are able to help further guide these cross-cultural relationships.

3. Change the lives of participants [or] increase support for long-term missions work
In the words of Corbett, “What happens after participants return home is typically the biggest factor in whether a trip was “worth it.” The short-term mission trip will hopefully be the beginning of life-long commitment to community involvement and social responsibility. Each day spent on the mission field is an opportunity to teach and deepen the participants’ understanding of global poverty. At the end of their time here in La Paz, we discuss with our groups how they might continue to serve within their own community, while remaining an ambassador for the programs in La Paz. Upon returning home, they are given tools to present the needs of La Paz to their local communities and churches. Our programs are dependent upon this global support. We have seen firsthand how each participant’s trip here is “worth it” because our Social programs have received ongoing, generous support in the months and years following their time here.

f1616eac2c23389d919fdb6273307062--be-humble-nice-thingsWithin each of these three areas, it is obvious that relationships are key. Without ongoing, honest and humble communication among all involved, mission trips will prove themselves ineffective. Those seeking to serve should be conscious of not looking to gain an experience merely for themselves, but to adapt their goals for whatever best empowers those being served. For example, this could mean passing up the hands-on, emotionally-rewarding experience of playing with orphans and instead organizing closets of donations for overworked staff. Though this can be difficult to understand for some, often the best help short-term volunteers can provide is in terms of relief to those living in the mission field, supporting staff who are able to build long-term relationships with those being served.

Truthfully, it is up to each individual whether or not these short-term trips will result in long-term impacts. Kent Annon says it well in his article, “Poverty Tourism Can Make Us So Thankful”:untitled-document-e1504203193718.pngFurther reading on this topic:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kent-annan/poverty-tourism-can-make-_b_803872.html
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/toward-better-short-term-missions https://www.challies.com/sponsored/short-term-missions-redefining-success/

If you have thoughts on this topic, we would love to hear them! Please feel free to comment below.

And, if you would like to learn more about our short-term AND long-term volunteer opportunities here in La Paz, please contact us!

 

 

Giving Honor to Whom Honor is Due

VEmbling_150807_2066Perhaps many of you have not heard much about Gwen Ellis, our Nursing Director and Assistant Medical Director of the CMI HOPE clinic.

And there is a reason for that. You see, Gwen does not seek recognition or glory for all the things she does, rather she lives and serves from a heart of deep compassion and conviction.

One of her favorite Bible verses is 1 Peter 4:10-11… “God’s gifts of grace come in many forms. Each of you has received a gift in order to serve others. You should use it faithfully…If anyone serves, they should do it with the strength God provides. Then in all things God will be praised”.

So we think it’s time for you to know more about this amazing woman who God is using to change thousands of lives in Bolivia…

Gwen is a single professional superwoman! She gave up her lucrative nursing and leadership career in the USA in order to devote her heart, time, life, and many talents to serve within a developing country.

There are so many rich words that describe Gwen:

  • Deeply spiritual, possessing a genuine love for God and others (particularly the poor and hurting)
  • Multi-Talented…an experienced nursing leader, a wedding/event planner, a children’s ministry coordinator, and bilingual
  • Wise and mature
  • Devoted, dedicated, and determined
  • Disciplined…she runs marathons UP mountains and leads hiking/climbing adventures up to the highest peaks!
  • Compassionate and nurturing servant and friend…you should see the children surround her!
  • Intelligent and hardworking…the CMI clinic reflects her devotion to beauty and excellence
  • Tireless teacher…she created a Nursing Assistant program in La Paz for impoverished youth.
  • Beautiful, elegant, and gentle…yet also, fiercely passionate, strong, and steadfast.

VEmbling_151026_4305There are many “faces” to HOPE worldwide Bolivia and often Gwen’s face remains unseen. Yet all of us here in Bolivia know without a doubt that HOPE worldwide Bolivia and the Centro Medicó International HOPE clinic would not exist without her.

You see, Gwen is not only the face of HOPE worldwide Bolivia…she is the very heart of all we do!

Please come visit, serve within, and support HOPE’s many health and social program initiatives here in La Paz! And while you’re at it, enjoy walking alongside of Gwen, learning from her.

We think you’ll be more like Jesus because of it!

How Service Rekindled a Professional Perspective

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HYC – Bolivia 2017 was a group full of energy, laughter and love! Thank you for serving with us!

Thank you to ALL of the HOPE Youth Corps for sharing their hearts and time with the people in La Paz! Guest post by HYC participant and Social Worker, Shelby Derissaint.

Serving with HOPEww – Bolivia was an amazing experience. I learned many valuable lessons about loving deeply, being vulnerable, imitating Christ, and recharging my own spiritual fire.  I was reminded how to love people from the heart. Most importantly , I was reminded to stop relying on my own strength to love others, but rather to rely on God’s love.

Every day, in my  job as a school social worker, I  serve others.  I give advice and counseling, provide resources, visit homes and so much more.  After many years of doing these things, I realize I have gotten into a routine. Even though I love supporting others, I have found myself forgetting about the individual person and focusing more on the action.

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During a morning devotional, the story of Elijah was shared.  He did a lot of godly things, but then became weary.  I realized that I have also become weary.   I have allowed my career to overwhelm me because I have been relying on myself. The devotional reminded me that I need to get my energy from Christ and He will provide me with all I need to love others.

HOPEww –  Bolivia emphasizes how important it is to deeply love the individual and to connect with the people you serve. This is the way Jesus loved others and he commands us to do the same (John 15:9-17). While in Bolivia, I  met a family with a child who has a medical condition. I felt compassion for this child so I went to  her and hugged her.  Through my hug, I wanted her to feel my love.  I realized this was all I needed to do: just love.   At this moment, I was not worried about providing a service, but just about being present.

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This experience helped me remember why I chose my career path.  I needed to be reminded about the compassion that motivated me to a life of service. Giving to others helps break down the walls of pride, and opens up the real you.  My time serving helped me to identify my self-reliance. Focusing on imitating Christ, being vulnerable, and recharging my spiritual fire will help me to love others deeply.  I learned from HOPE that the people of Bolivia do not need me, but they do need to see Christ through me. 

“Never look at the numbers, always help one person at a time and start with the person nearest you.”  Mother Theresa

– Shelby Derissaint

If you would like to learn more about how you can further support, and/or volunteer with our programs in La Paz, contact us!

Ring of Honor…and Zebras.

by guest author Fenton Gardner
As someone who has been to La Paz twice before, I knew what to expect in certain situations. However, there were two new experiences on this trip that surprised and impacted my heart.

I was deeply moved by our visit to a temporary shelter for children. These children are brought, often in the middle of the night, to be protected from severely abusive situations. We were able to spend some time with an amazing group of boys.  We read them a book about the inspirational life of Wilma Rudolph, emphasizing how challenges and setbacks in life don’t have to be permanent.  I was sincerely encouraged to hear their answers to my questions and their insights into the story.

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Afterwards, we created a “Ring of Honor”, which is a time for everyone to share and receive compliments from each other.  This is a valued tradition at The Swamp Summer Camp that my daughter attends every summer. It was very moving to see these boys, who are enduring tough situations, thoughtfully compliment one another.  Comments ranged from “he helps me make my bed”, “he helps me do my laundry” to “he’s really friendly” and “he’s like a big brother to me”.  Watching each boy’s face light up when his peers described his most admirable qualities is a memory that will remain in my heart for a very long time.

The other event that I will always treasure is being a “Zebra for a Day”.  To be a part of something that is an international phenomenon, and yet is something unique to Bolivia, was an unequaled delight.  We were given the priceless opportunity to bring joy and smiles to the children, adults and elderly of La Paz.  When we put on the Zebra suit, we spread joy, cheer and kindness. It is a perfect metaphor for being a disciple of Christ.  When we are clothed with Christ, we have the incredible honor of doing the exact same thing everyday.  This experience was a truly remarkable and memorable lesson.

zebra FentonMy time in La Paz always leaves a lasting impression on my heart. Thank you, once again,  for the opportunity to serve like Jesus in very real and practical ways.

Reflecting…with HOPE.

Enjoy this post by our guest author, and recent volunteer, Halie Clark.  

copy-of-img_5873.jpgEarlier this month, I had the privilege to serve in Bolivia for 9 days. To say that I was impacted would be an understatement. My time in Bolivia was rich in serving the poor, loving the lonely, and walking with those that Jesus would have walked with. One of my most favorite days was the park day that we had on Saturday. Once a month, the HOPE team hosts a park day for vulnerable families to come play, eat and fellowship together. It is a special time together as these families travel quite a ways from intense home lives to enjoy an afternoon at the park.

During our four hour park time, we played with kids on the playground, jumped rope, played with bubbles (which are a BIG HIT!) and spent time together. Speaking Spanish gave me the ability to talk with several of the mothers who were seated around the park with younger children. As I sat down during lunch with one of the “Mamis”, she shared with me her gratitude for HOPE. She told me how the HOPE team checks up on her and her kids regularly, how they give a helping hand, how they’re providing her with the medicine she needs, and the difference HOPE is making in her life. “WOW!” I thought to myself. In my first world mind, HOPE is a program that we hear about and support, and we are always encouraged when we hear about their work. But to this Bolivian momma, HOPE saved her life, and she sat in front of me at a loss for words for their help and encouragement. I sat there under the shade of the trees in the park and let that sink in. With tears in her eyes she could barely form the words of gratitude she had for all that HOPE meant to her and her family.img_2196.jpg

I saw HOPE in action that day. I saw real life disciples being the hands and feet of Jesus- loving the less fortunate, playing the same games for hours, listening to and keeping company with the poor, feeding the hungry, and healing the sick. This is what being a disciple is supposed to look like – simply loving people without hesitation or reservation. That Saturday in the park I learned something about myself. I do not walk as Jesus did; I do not keep company often enough with those that he did; I do not love those he came to love…and by that I am convicted and challenged. HOPE is helping to change lives in Bolivia by being the hands and feet of Jesus.

So as I sit here in my air conditioned living room, I am reminded to take time to sit with the hungry, and listen to the cries of the poor, for they have much to teach me if I should grant them a moment or two of my time and heart.

“True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it.” Daniel Goleman

 

Offering kindness…and HOPE.

When serving the poor, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the immense amount of needs and heartache associated with poverty.  However, even as we struggle to best meet the needs around us, we should never forget the power of a smile, a kind touch or an encouraging word.

IMG_4344Emma Fridley, an aspiring PA student, is currently volunteering in LaPaz for 6 months. She serves as a nursing assistant in the HOPE clinic and also spends time with many of the families in our Family Empowerment program. Emma recently shared a story that taught her the value of simple gestures done in love.

One day, while spending time with a particular family, she noticed a young child who was reserved and kept to herself most of time.

It was cold and so I asked her ‘are you cold?’ She said ‘yeah.’ So I put my arm around her and pulled her close to me and we sat like that for maybe 45 minutes. Just sitting and not really talking.  You could tell as we sat that she desired that closeness so much. As time went on, she sat closer and closer to me. You could tell that she needed that so badly, even without words, she needed that expression of love.

It made me think about the scripture in 1 John where it says ‘let us not love with words or speech but in actions and in truth.’ She just needed a hug. She needed to be close to somebody and to feel safe. I felt very helpless to do anything. I knew I couldn’t really do much to change her situation. I couldn’t take her away from her family or anything. But what I could do is sit with her and put my arm around her and hug her.

That was what she needed in that moment and sometimes that is what we all need. We need somebody to go out of their way to sit with us for a little longer than normal. It’s amazing because the next time we went there, she knew me. She was really excited to see me. I sat with her again and she assumed her position. She sat right next to me. We stayed like that again for the rest of the time. It was amazing because she knew that I would be there next time to sit with her.

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It can be really overwhelming to think about all the needs, especially as you get to build these relationships. It can make you wonder ‘what am I doing?’. Seeing all of these needs makes me realize more and more that I can’t fix the world. I can give love and that makes a difference. And I know that I can pray to a God who can fix and who can heal.  He can make a difference long after I am gone. That makes service so much more of a joy because I can trust that God is going to do so much more with what I have to give.

Emma will be leaving LaPaz soon to continue her education in the United States.  We have no doubts, however, that her impact here will be felt long after she leaves. Thank you, Emma, for reminding us that everyone is able to help, to love and to make a difference in the lives around us.

If you would like to learn more about our volunteer opportunities, or offer financial support to our programs in LaPaz, please contact us!