I traveled to Bolivia with 19 teenagers this summer. As a group we built a school for the children in Santa Cruz.
Fourteen years ago, I served as a missionary for a year and a half in Bolivia. I spent about 10 months of that time in the city of Cochabamba. Last summer, we traveled to Cochabamba to see the Christus and to go to the temple. We only had 2 partial days and one night in Cochabamba.
I was so excited to return to the area where I truly learned how to love and how to trust my Savior. I knew I wouldn't have time to visit all the people I grew to love because my time was to be spent with the youth, but I planned a meeting at a restaurant with a special family that had touched my heart deeply during my time as a missionary. The father, (Osvaldo) the mother (Mary) and 2 of their children (Fabricio and Danielito) would be coming.
My heart was pounding all day. Was this real? I pondered about our relationship: I remembered as a missionary, I was walking through a big outdoor market with thousands of people everywhere in the streets when Mary came running to me. She told me she had a special feeling run through her body, and she knew I was somewhere nearby. She turned around, and there I was. (Our hearts were deeply connected.)
I sat at the restaurant waiting anxiously for our reunion. I walked around the restaurant looking into people's faces trying to see if they were my friends from so long ago. I hadn't seen them for 14 years, so I wondered if I would recognize them right away. I took several deep breaths, decided to go back to my seat and prayed for the Spirit to be with me.
I walked around the corner and burst into tears. Osvaldo was sitting at our table. Mary came next and I cried even harder as I wrapped my arms around her. Mary was never baptized, but Osvaldo was. However, Mary stood and told the teenagers of the special bond that we held and how the teachings of Jesus had influenced their lives greatly and saved their marriage… I continued to sob.
We took lots of pictures and made plans to meet on the temple grounds the following morning.
That night I sat in my bed and cried uncontrollably for a couple of hours. I just couldn't stop!! I didn't know why I was crying so hard! I think it was just so real to me. My time as a missionary was in such a different place and with such a different way of living that at times it felt like a dream… but here they were… real people… living beautiful lives… and every bit of our love for each other was just as strong. What a blessing. The emotions ran so deeply that, physically, I didn't know how to handle them.
As I met the following morning with Osvaldo and Mary, I discovered that their oldest son, Kchito, was in Orlando working for the summer. He would need a place to stay for a few weeks when he finished. I excitedly told him how close we live to Orlando, and we made plans to have him in our home. Wow!
What are the chances that I would see Osvaldo and Mary in Bolivia after 14 years and then return to the US and have their son in my home less than a week later? Well… it absolutely had nothing to do with chance. It was all completely in the Lord's planning.
Our time with Kchito was inspiring and moving! Our children fell in love with him. He went EVERYWHERE with us. He even participated in the girls' tea parties. :-)
He too was never baptized, but he learned so much more about Jesus while he was here in our home. In fact, the day before he left, he was giving beautiful devotionals to the family on Jesus. As we said goodbye to him at the airport, he stood in the parking lot and asked if he could offer a prayer.
As a missionary, having taught him as a small boy so many years ago, I sobbed again seeing that he had turned into such a kind, loving man. My heart was so full of love and every good emotion you could imagine! The Spirit was there in full force!
My Miracle Last Night
Last night, I was thinking about some opportunities I had been given. I began to pray about them, and all of a sudden I felt the Lord tell me to follow my heart more.
As I age, I fall into the trap of using my brain too much; and in the name of being responsible, I cut out the experiences that are the most life-changing. Recognizing this, I began to think about the most amazing experiences we have had as a family… hmmm… those were the times that I followed my heart without hesitation.
I began to ponder and pray about the things that made my heart pound with excitement. Very strongly, thoughts of Bolivia and this sweet family came to me. Those thoughts came so strongly that I even looked up flight information to go there! I didn't know how we would pay for it, but the thought came… so I took steps in that direction.
After assessing the cost of making a trip to Bolivia as a family, I prayed again about what it was that the Lord wanted for our family… and how to do it!
I was just about to go to sleep, and I decided to go onto Facebook to check my messages. I hadn't been on for a few days. The first thing I saw was a message from Mary!!! I hadn't heard from her in several months. She had been so moved by her oldest son's experience in our home, that she wanted to feel and experience the same thing. She asked if she could come to our home at the end of March and stay until the middle of June!! She would be coming with her own money… etc, etc. She merely wanted the experience.
She had tried to come here before, but Visa, money and work problems held her back. I figured it wouldn't happen for several years, so I was completely shocked at this message!
I immediately wrote her back and told her how the Spirit had just spoken to me about them. I knew this was inspired of God, and we gladly welcomed her into our home!
Wow!! That is all I can say!!! Wow!! When we are willing to listen to the Lord's direction, amazing experiences truly do come our way! The Lord is constantly working in our lives and speaking to us. He wants us to feel joy within our souls and to feed those righteous passions and desires. HE is the one who put those righteous passions and desires into our hearts!!
Where will this experience lead us? I don't know, but I'm willing to find out. :-) It just feels so good to have divine communication… I want to make more efforts to listen with my heart.
The Mission CallThe other miracle… My nephew, not the one who went with me on the trip, but a nephew from another family, received his mission call to Santa Cruz, Bolivia and is leaving in about a week! He did not request or choose this location, but he's just as thrilled as we are!
My heart is just so full I can't even stand it! :-)
I know that it is no coincidence that my nephew, Nathan, would be called to serve in the exact same city, out of all the places in the world, where my other nephew, Cade, and I served this summer. I can't wait to see what miracles unfold. Again, I'm sooo willing to trust God and find out!