Friday, April 28, 2017 – Joanna Peters
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said,‘Here I am, Send me!’”-Isaiah 6:8
Hello from Bolivia,
As I set out for Bolivia, I was both nervous and excited. My anxiety stemmed from the fact that this was my first mission trip and that I was traveling with no family no friends, just me. Also, the fact that I would not be ‘at home’ for almost a year. I was scared of missing out on things. I realize now that I am not ‘missing out’, but gaining so much! I was so excited because this was an opportunity for me to foster and confirm my desire to pursue missionary work and more specifically, this trip was an opportunity to experience teaching mennonite children, a passion that God has put into my heart.
Needless to say, so far, it is everything I hoped for with so many great surprises along the way. I have already made some great memories and even better relationships, with both the local Bolivians, but also with the fellow missionaries. I want to describe just a few of the highlights and areas of personal growth from my time here thus far, and to thank all of those who helped make this trip possible for me through donations, prayer, and encouragement!
One of the things I was most excited about on this trip was the fact that it was school/teaching based. For the last few years, I have been feeling a call from God to pursue teaching as a means to impact people’s lives back at home in La Crete, and also to be best prepared to participate in whatever version of teaching missions that the Lord has planned for me in the future. For all of these reasons, this trip has been important to me because of the opportunity to gain more teaching experience.
I work Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 7:30am-12:30pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays 7:30am-2:30pm. On the longer days I have conversation classes. These classes are a bit of a challenge for me. Trying to explain and teach to students who look at me blankly no matter how often I try gets to be a bit discouraging at times. But I am slowly learning how to communicate with these students in other ways. I also work with other missionaries, who are teachers as well. Overall, so far, I am able to teach more independently than I ever have before, which will not only boost my confidence going forward, but will also make me a better teacher, and person as a whole!
Having never before gone on a mission trip, I think I expected there to be more of a “formal” process to sharing the gospel and evangelizing. I even became a little discouraged a few weeks in when I realized I hadn’t really “shared The Gospel” in the exact sense of the phrase. However, after some conversations with others and God working in my heart, I started to realize that evangelism is less about a short explanation of the gospel and more about building a relationship and being a picture of God’s love to others.
While difficult with the language barrier, I really enjoy praying with several of my students. Although it goes against my personality, I also tried to slow down and be intentional with simply “hanging out” with and loving on the students and families in the community. This includes talking & praying with them, sitting with them to have terere, and just being there for them.
There are a few ministries on the mission that I tried to participate in. I have gone to yugant shtun (youth group) one time since being here, also went to a youth place La Roca, which is sort of like The Centre back home in La Crete. On one particular occasion, I met a girl who had just left the colony that previous week. I played a few games with her and some other girls a little younger than myself. Seeing the pain, the longing for something more than the life she had been living up to that point, was something that I will never be able to forget.
Growing in my own walk with God:
“you will receive even more than what you give”. That was something people kept telling me before I left. I didn’t quite understand what it meant at the time, but now looking back, I realize that I have, and am gaining so much in my own walk with the Lord.
A highlight for me was being able to share in the weekly devotionals. My first one I chose to speak on Daniel 10, and how there is a heavenly battle going on, and we should always be praying, I did this in English and I don’t think many students comprehended what I was saying. The second time (I need to do it every 4 weeks) I chose to share my testimony (in Plautdeich), it was so unreal hard. My voice was shaking the whole time. I was nervous that I would not know all the German words, but God helped me. I gave my testimony of how I have really struggled with fear of man, I said that there are two reasons that we no longer need to be filled with fear – God’s love and God’s grace. I concluded with Ephesians 2: 1-10, it says “…But God, being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…”.
All in all, these past few months have been amazing. I have got to serve so many people– I was able to serve in a way that provided spiritual nourishment. I have been surprised, though, in how much I personally came away with. Not only am I learning and experiencing so much from a teaching standpoint that will make me a better teacher, but I also gained encouragement and growth in my walk with the Lord.
To all of those who have donated to my trip, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I truly believe that your donations were multiplied as more disciples are being made. I also want to thank all of you who are supporting my trip through constant prayer and encouragement—I couldn’t have done this without you! Lastly, I want to thank and give Glory to God for using a lowly sinner like me to serve His beloved people in Bolivia.