The depth of my experience in Bolivia, however, apart from the crazy adventures of everyday life in a developing country and a poorly organized hogar, was the interior struggle to find my mission and to live it out each day. I didn´t come to the hogar expecting to accomplish great things. And I found that I did not go to Bolivia to be the Missionary, but I was rather, the Mission Field. The girls evangelized me, enlightened me to myself and the love of God simply by living their lives while I was privileged to live amongst them. Through their constant rebellion, resistance and disobedience, I discovered those same sentiments buried deep in my heart directed towards life in general and God especially. Through their constant, oftentimes overwhelming affection of wet kisses, powerful hugs, overly inquisitive questions, and simply their daily presence, I discovered what it means to love unconditionally. Good moods or bad, they loved on me beyond my comfortable limits and reminded me that love is the true driving force behind all of our actions and we seek it out in whoever we can in whatever way we find possible. Through their constant joy, laughter and energy to play and have fun, in spite of their histories and their sufferings, they taught me what it means to forgive, to let go of the past and to let our wounds heal simply by living life fully, always moving forward and not looking back.
I had an important revelation several months ago when Sor Magdalena, the Japanese nun we were sometimes sure grew “special plants” in her room, invited me to do origami with her in order to break up the monotony of life at the hogar with disobedient girls. Origami was a childhood hobby so I was delighted to learn a new creation from a true Japanese master. She led me through all the intricate steps of bending and folding and creasing and it looked like we were almost done. “Now, undo everything”, she told me. “Really?”, I thought, “I just worked hard on getting the bends and the folds perfect only to un-do the whole thing?” But I followed her obediently and unfolded the whole piece of paper only to fold it in nearly the exact same way just in the opposite direction to reveal the final creation. And it occurred to me that sometimes we are asked to fold in one direction, not because that is the way we are supposed to go, simply because it makes us easily bend-able towards our true path, and sharper creases one way make for easier folds in the opposite direction. As Fulton Sheen so clearly states, “We always make the mistake of thinking that it is what we do that matters, when really what matters is what we let God do to us.”
So I am home again, after a few days of vacationing on the beach in Miami, evaluating the ways I was asked to bend in Bolivia and looking to see what direction to fold myself into next. After the constant noise and rebellion of 120 girls at my side 24 hours a day for a year, there is a tangible emptiness to my days. I feel the loss of not being poked and prodded and hugged and laughed at and kissed and loved by all my girls, girls that became like my own children, like my sisters and my true friends. My first day back in the states, I was out in the ocean fighting with the waves, feeling the powerful rhthym of the force of the water, feeling intensely the loss of leaving all their beautiful faces behind, and wondering, in the end, what it was all for. I could hear echoes of their voices whining and laughing and asking me for something and telling me their scores on their tests as they came home from school and I realized how deeply I had come to love them. And I realized that’s just the point: love is what it’s all about (how many times in our lives we have to re-learn that simple lesson!). I have nothing to show for my year abroad, nothing, that is, apart from a wrist full of mangy friendship bracelets, and a pile of beautiful cards and letters written on crumpled and wrinkled notebook paper, given to me by an hogar of girls that I will always love.
Thank you to all of you for following along on this journey with me this year and most of all for holding me in your thoughts and your prayers, it truly gave me strength to face the most difficult of days. I look forward to seeing you and filling you in on the rest of the stories.
Blessings and Prayers,
PS – I am lice free now!