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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

An Example of Service…and Hope.

Sometimes, even as adults, we are still asking ourselves who we want to be when we “grow up”.

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Eugenia teaching a captive audience.

For many of us in HOPEww – Bolivia, we can think of no better role model than Eugenia Durán Chuquimia Bolivar.

Eugenia is a member of the local church, Iglesia Discípulos De Cristo La Paz.  For years before HOPE began its work in LaPaz, Eugenia and a group of other older women, (they call themselves “La Señoras”), have been seeking help the impoverished.  The group would gather clothes to distribute and sell chocolates to raise money for those in need.


“I admire Eugenia a lot because she is an example for all of us. I love her so much because she encourages me to continue helping,” said Susana Siles, a member of the La Señoras group.

When HOPEww – Bolivia began 6 years ago, Eugenia immediately began to offer her time and energy to the efforts of serving the poor.  Since that time, she has helped families clean their homes, connected them with clothing, furniture, local resources, given wise counsel, began a donation center within her home and provided hours of support and friendship to adults and children within HOPE’s programs.

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Helping Julia write her business plan.

There are many obstacles in Eugenia’s own life.  In some ways, her life reflects those she serves. However, if you ever have the precious opportunity to spend time with this woman, it’s likely you won’t hear about her challenges.  Rather, you will hear her of her constant desire to discover ways she can relieve the suffering of others.

“My heart is big for service. I know that I want to give thanks to God, that is why I want to take care of those who need it the most. My heart is prepared to help everyone. I see things and I want to help. Wherever it takes me… I always go. I am called and I go. I do not say ‘no’. It encourages me…I want to work.”

If you would like to support our programs, or learn more about the work being done here in LaPaz, Bolivia, please contact us!


Clothed in Love…and Hope.

img_4120.jpegRodrigo Carrasco is 21 years old.  He is a Philosophy student at the local University, and a National Racquetball Champion in Bolivia. You can also see him at many of our HOPE events, giving his time and his heart to serve those in need.

Rodri confesses that he did not always have the desire to give in this way. He states, “I did not care much for people…I felt pity but not mercy.”

This all changed when, in July of 2016, Rodri met a 12 year old boy named Cristofer. Cristofer had a debilitating lung infection.  He was a long-term patient on the pediatric floor of Hospital Arco Iris, where HOPE offers games and reading activities to encourage and entertain the young patients.

“I remember one day, I had bad back pain and I wanted to go home and sleep. That day Cristofer did not want to eat alone. I rarely like to eat with people, maybe with a dog or my mom. I started feeding him and he had me pick out the little things he did not want to eat. I felt happy. I hurt in my back but I was happy.”

IMG_2528-XLTogether, the pair read Ironman comics and Cristofer recounted his own dreams of being a fantastic, flying superhero to Rodrigo. Rodri in turn shared his fascination with the stars and universe. One Sunday, before he was planning to visit Cristofer the following week, Rodrigo received stunning news about Cristofer’s death.

“I felt bad. He impacted me a lot…I didn’t know how to think. I went to a corner and I remember…tears started falling. I was crushed because I saw him…I knew him…he was here.”

Rodrigo’s relationship with Cristofer continues to impact him. When he is tired and cannot find the strength to serve, he is motivated by his desire to be clothed in love and give of himself to others. He explains,

“I remember a beautiful quote that says ‘My heart carries my body when my feet no longer can.’ This quote reminds me that Jesus did not carry his cross with his muscles but with love. He was clothed in love and I want to be clothed in love.”

Thank you, Rodri, for the example you set for others, and for your service to Foundation HOPE worldwide – Bolivia!


Rodri happily helping one of our families carry home their monthly food stipend 

If you would like to know how you can volunteer with Foundation HOPE worldwide – Bolivia, or how you can support our programs, contact us here.