La Paz, Bolivia. 11,811 feet. Imagine a city built on a mountain 3x the size of New York and you have La Paz. Joana (my host sister) is taking a trip to London for a month. They asked if I would like to go with them to the airport in La Paz. I was more than excited to visit the capital.
It’s a 7 hour bus ride to get to La Paz. My bus ticket cost around $3.00, which was the same amount I paid for my Bolivian chocolate bar. We left at around 10 o clock at night and tried to get some sleep on the bus, and then stayed with their Uncle for the next day.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but these pictures don’t even do the city justice. It’s enormous, crowded, beautiful, and freezing! I think it stayed around 30 degrees most of the time I was there!
We walked down this alley to a small corner where there was a lady who did nails. It was pretty dark, but there was some light so it wasn’t dangerous or anything. I am obviously foreign. I don’t think I’ve seen a single tourist in Cochabamba, and in La Paz there are still only few. The lady doing her nails asked what I was doing here. Joana began to explain about the center and how I traveled her to help disadvantaged kids. She started to explain about Ruth. All of the sudden, the women became really interested. She started to explain about how she has a son with special needs. In Bolivia there is not much hope with kids who have a special need. The schools are too expensive and the public schools do not know how to handle it. She started to explain how she was trying her best but it was hard.
Then my host mom started to talk about God. She told her that we can trust him with this situation, trust him with our worries, and trust him for strength. The lady nodded her head politely, but my mom wouldn’t stop. Even though Joana’s nails were done, my host mom sat down and started telling her more about the gospel. She told her about how God can heal her son, give him life, and give him everlasting life. Because with God, “Nada será imposible” Nothing will be impossible.
Slowly, as we talked to this women, she started opening up more. Her eyes started to light up. I think that for the first time in her life she saw hope. She asked how she could know God and my host mom prayed with her. We prayed healing over her son, and encouraged her. It was the most beautiful thing to see her smile light up. I had a Spanish gospel in my pocket and asked if she wanted it. She was so grateful for everything. It was so genuine. It wasn’t us forcing her to say a prayer, but a women desperately needing love, desperately needing the strength to continue, and desperately needing hope.
As we left that alley, I realized that that’s what this whole thing is about. That’s what Jesus is about. Hope.
50% of marriages end in divorce. In this world love seems to be hopeless. 795 million people do not have food to eat. Everything in this world seems hopeless. But then something out of this world came down and gave us love that we couldn’t find anywhere else. He gave us a new start if we want one, he gave us hope.
On the way home from La Paz we stopped at some villages in the mountains. It hit me for the first time that this is reality. Grass huts are real, 50% of people live under the poverty line in Bolivia, and kids don’t get toys. It’s reality. I saw a dead guy on the side of the road most likely mugged, people begging for just one boliviano, tin roofs only being held on by rocks. Yet these people are joyful, grateful, content. Some don’t even seem to want more wealth. Why is it that in America we have everything yet want more? More and more I just see that nothing in this world will give us what we are searching for, nothing in this world will show us what we have been crying for, but there’s something outside this world. Something supernatural. Something unexplainable. Is the American dream just setting us up for failure? We think that once we get the house, kids, and job that we will be happy, but we never are.
I think today we can choose joy, despite our circumstance, despite what we do or don’t have. We can choose to have joy in the one who created us. Really that’s the only way. We can learn a lot from these people. I don’t know about you, but I’m done searching for my happiness in things of the world. It always seems to let me down. But there is someone out of this world who never lets me down.
After this whole experience, I began to understand why they named the capital La Paz. After seeing poverty, seeing all these heart-breaking things, I know he’s got it in his hands. Despite all this there’s something about that city that gave me tranquility. La Paz. Translation: Peace.