Counting the Cost | Weeks 42 and 43

On Friday, June 12, my grandpa died, and by every earthly estimation, I was trapped in Bolivia, with no way to be home with my family as we mourned his loss. Guys, this was hard. This was so hard.

It was sudden, but it wasn’t necessarily a complete surprise. Because of how he was doing before I’d left for Bolivia, I had considered the fact that I might never see him again. I surrendered that into Jesus’ hands. For me, it was part of counting the cost of choosing to follow Him to Bolivia.

Sunset in the city

That day I spent a lot of time thinking and processing. I lay in the grass at the mission base, staring at the clouds, thinking about counting the cost. Thinking about how any time the Lord leads us to a place away from home, there is the chance we will never see loved ones again. Thinking about how counting the cost was going to entail a lot more surrender than I had once imagined. Thinking about what Paul says in Philippians 3:

…I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.

Philippians 3:8, NASB, emphasis mine

Suffered the loss of all things. Sure, there were a few people I’d surrendered to Jesus in my heart before I left for Bolivia. People I’d left in His hands. But… all? Olivia, if it literally cost you every person you loved, would you still go after Jesus?

I wrote a song last year. The chorus to it became a real challenge to me.

“Yes, Jesus! Oh Jesus, I choose
To follow You, no matter what I lose
‘Cause I have everything when I gain You
So though it cost me everything I’ll sing anew
Yes, Jesus!”

I don’t know what it’s going to cost me. But as far as I am able, I surrender all. Only let me have Jesus.

My grandpa

That I may gain Christ. Among us single people, there’s a common temptation to decide to do things God’s way so that He’ll give us a spouse, and if we stay pure and walk in His ways and “make Him our focus,” we get disappointed when no special someone comes our way. Something similar can happen here; surrendering all so that God will give us some grand adventure, so that we’ll become the heroes the next generations look to. I’ve felt this pull.

But all of that? It’s loss compared to knowing Christ. May knowing Him always be my motive and my goal. May I seek Him for Himself, not for what I’ll get out of Him.


I write these words from my home in Indiana. Monday, June 15 I was told there would be no seats available in the plane. Tuesday, June 16, I was flying home. The Lord truly gave me a miracle that day, and I was able to be home for my grandpa’s funeral.

Our God is always good.

As I spend time with friends and family, this will be my last (relatively) normal update for a while! Though I may write some about culture shock and things that have stood out to me in adjusting back to life in the United States.

I can’t thank you all enough for how you have prayed for me and supported me in other ways! I was truly prayed home. Now pray me back to Bolivia! Haha. 🙂 Pray…

  • For God’s continued provision and protection for the children’s home and those caring for it
  • That I would live my “vacation time” to its fullness and God would accomplish everything He desires to work in me during this time
  • That I’d be able to go back to Bolivia as planned!

Sweet blessings in Jesus!

Following Him,

Olivia

Weeks 21-23 Update

These last few weeks have been full! My apologies for the lack of my regular update; hopefully no one was concerned, haha.

Week 21

I started spending more time with the staff at the children’s home (*coughFINALLYcoughcough* haha…)! Admittedly, a part of it probably had to do with the fact that Susanna is here! But in any case, it’s been great to spend time with them in the evening, talking and singing to Jesus together.

This week, I got to drive into town and get groceries! Haha sounds pretty mundane BUT keep in mind I’m in Bolivia. XD It’s amazing how good and freeing it feels to drive when you haven’t done so in a while! And it was very encouraging that I understood and was understood by the people I interacted with. I’m definitely still far from fluent, but thanking Jesus for the progress that’s there.

Driving! The dim lighting and bumpy roads made a clear picture nigh-well impossible. (Note I’m driving and not using my phone like the responsible young lady I am. 😜)

My highlight this week was the precious love of my dad. The Yoders had a friend, Rachel, come visit, and my parents had sent her a couple of things to give to me. One of them was an amaryllis bulb. (Not entirely sure how that one made it through customs, other than Jesus loves me. XD)

At first I was a little confused. I thought it was really sweet that they had sent that to me, but I could quite figure out why they had. THEN… I found a Valentine’s Day card.

See, every year, my dad gives me flowers for Valentine’s Day. When I lived states away from home, I could always expect a call from a confused grocery store employee trying to figure out where to drop them off for me. (I had odd living arrangements haha.)

I figured this would be the first year I didn’t get my flowers from my daddy. But he wasn’t about to give up so easily! So now Mavis is growing and reminding me every day of my father’s love.

Mavis shortly after she was planted. 🌺

Which reminds me every day of my heavenly Father’s love. He gave me a dad who loves me, and He made sure that flower got to me safely. But just like my daddy, He delights to give good gifts, He delights to remind His children of His love, and He won’t let anything stop Him from getting those tokens of His love to you. He thinks about you more often than my dad thinks about me – which, believe me, is a lot!

Dear saints, never forget: God LOVES you!

Week 22

The before mentioned Rachel was a lot of fun to get to know! And was she a blessing to us. Joyce had just come down with dengue (which is what necessitated my getting the groceries the week before) and the timing of Rachel’s visit was perfect.

Also that week, a new volunteer came to the children’s home! Her name is Mey. She went to culinary school and is now the full-time cook for the children’s home! This was a HUGE blessing, so if you’ve been praying for staff, take a moment to praise the Lord for His provision through Mey!

Tuesday, Maria came (she visited us around Thanksgiving) with her boyfriend, and later in the week they were joined by others from a worship team they were a part of. It was so precious to have these believers (and especially Maria!) around.

They had visited to lead worship at a electricity party at the children’s home! The home has had electricity since mid-last year, but the civil unrest caused the original celebration to be cancelled. But finally it came! The party itself was edifying; getting a chance to see so many of the people God has used to do provide various things to the home, getting to hear the Gospel preached in truth and power by a Bolivian believer, getting to worship Jesus in song and in action alongside other believers. It was everything a celebration should be. 😊

The electricity party!

Yet I think my highlight this week was when the worship team prayed for us before they left. Jesus did a powerful work of encouragement in my heart through their prayers and their words of encouragement. And it challenges me to remember the power that can come from the prayers we pray and the words we speak! Brothers and sisters, let us not fail to take every opportunity to build up the beautiful bride of Christ!

Week 23

This week was a mix of very normal and very different in very good ways. 🙂 School was pretty routine (other than compensating for a water pump that isn’t working… but that accomplished feeling of cleaning bathrooms without any running water is pretty cool 😂). I got another new scorpion (fourth time’s the to charm? I promise animals in my care don’t normally die on me like this 😅). Still enjoying and taking lots of pictures of the kittens. 😸

A picture of the kittens. 😂

Last Wednesday was one of those different days in the best of ways. Jesus gave me a special gift of grace, an unusually strong sense of joy in His presence. While I don’t want to ever base my faith on feelings rather than on truth, I intend to always embrace to the full those moments when I feel to my core that Jesus is ALIVE and worthy of all my adoration.

Because… Jesus IS alive and worthy of all my adoration. Whether I feel it or not. So I’ll ride the waves of His grace when it opens heaven wide and makes the spiritual feel real, and I’ll ride those same waves when it gives me the courage to continue to live according to what I know is real, whether I feel it or not.

This weekend was also different. The Yoder family was away, so everything was so quiet! It’s been incredibly refreshing. But it also included several opportunities to communicate in Spanish, so the practice was great and again, understanding and being understood is very encouraging!

Here are some prayer requests! Please let me know if there are specific things I can be praying for you all. 🙂

  • For details to come together for the children’s home school as the time to start approaches!
  • For a smooth transition when their school starts up again.
  • For staff for the children’s home.
  • Spiritual protection and refreshment of soul for all the staff and kiddos out here.

May Jesus Christ Himself encouraging and refresh your soul today! Always, He is enough.

With love in Him,

Olivia

Week 20 Update

This last week marched by pretty normally for me, but this last weekend was delightfully different! One fun event that took place during the week was a group from YWAM in Chile coming by the orphanage to bless the kiddos. I missed it, but by the stories I’ve heard and pictures and videos I’ve seen, I can tell it was a great visit.

Another fun little thing is that I’ve been able to teach everyone a tune for Juan 3:16 that I learned from a Spanish teacher at the last school I taught with! It’s fun to think of God storing up little things like that in each of His children, ready to be pulled out and bless those around them.

Now, Friday this week was a BIG day! The first thing I got to do was help pick up a friend of mine who came to volunteer at the children’s home! Susanna loves Jesus very much, and she will be here for the next three months. Keep her in your prayers as she pours out to see the Kingdom of God advanced in these precious kids!

Susanna and me!

I almost had the chance to donate blood for a very sick little girl, Valentina, on Friday. Long story short, the donation ended up not being needed, and she passed away that afternoon. It was a heavy thing, and it felt odd to be carrying the emotions of that along with the joy of having received Susanna. One thing I kept thinking about all afternoon was that creation is groaning. Things are not as they are meant to be. The world is messed up. But one day, Jesus will return and fix it all. Come, Lord Jesus!

Our last stop on Friday was Ventura mall to pick up my carnet (ID card)!!! So I’m officially officially a Bolivian resident now!!! (Again, not a citizen, just a resident. 🙂)

Maracuyá – aka Passion Fruit flower. This stunning flower is just growing in the Yoder’s front yard!

I got to enjoy the bus ride home with Susanna. It was a joy to be able to talk to her about mutual friends and hear about how things are in familiar places. As I was thinking about the comfort and security that comes with familiarity, I wondered what it would look like for Jesus to be all the familiarity I needed. What would it look like to go into the most unfamiliar place, but still feel at home because I knew Jesus was right there with me? Because I felt the familiarity of His presence and guidance, recalled the familiarity of His Word?

Always, Jesus is enough!

Three-week-old kittens cuddling with each other. You’re welcome. 😏😸

Please be praying…

  • For a good transition for Susanna and unity among the staff at the children’s home
  • For those who loved Valentina as they grieve her loss
  • For continued wisdom and inspiration for me as I teach
  • That God would bring staff and teachers for the children’s home

God bless you all abundantly!

In Christ,

Olivia

The Sunshine Blogger Award

I was nominated for this by TR Noble over at Inside Cup! I thought these questions sounded like a lot of fun to answer, so I decided to play. 😊 Thanks for the nomination, TR!

TR’s heart behind her blog is to strengthen the bride of Christ. Her posts cover a wide range of topics, but it all ultimately points back to making Jesus the absolute center of our lives!

The Sunshine Blogger Award is a way for readers to get to know the blogger better, as the blogger answers a series of 11 questions asked by the nominator. Here are the questions TR had for me!

1. What led you to become a blogger?

When I first began blogging, it was to be able to share with others what the Lord was working in me. I’m also naturally wired as a writer, so blogging gave me the opportunity to write out my thoughts on something, which in turn helped to make whatever I wrote about more real to me. I suppose it could be summed up as one way I could bless others with what God was blessing me with.

2. What is the story behind the name of your blog?

When I told one of my friends back in Colorado about coming to Bolivia, she told me I should write a children’s book, “Olivia in Bolivia.” I have lots of little fans now expecting to receive the first printing. 😂 It stuck and became what I called my future Bolivian adventure in my head. Seemed fitting to use it as the name of a blog of my adventures here!

3. What is the purpose of your blog, i.e. what is it about?

The purpose of Olivia in Bolivia is to share with the world what God is up to in my corner of Bolivia, to bless friends and family with stories from my adventures here, and to share my life with others in general. God has given me new life in Christ Jesus, and that life is meant to be poured out!

4. Who are you? How would you describe yourself?

I’m a Christian, and that in some way affects and defines everything else about me. Jesus has penetrated every part of my life and my decisions reflect that. I’m naturally introverted and wired like a writer. Those two together make written communication my favorite, haha. I’m a daughter and a sister. I’m a teacher and a friend. I communicate more easily with kids than with adults. I love being intellectually challenged and stimulated. My head has to be convinced before my heart can be, which is sometimes a good thing and sometimes not. I’m walking every day with Jesus and watching how He weaves my little daily steps of obedience into a grand adventure.

5. What is your belief system? Do you believe in God? Why?

I love apologetics, so I’m excited to answer this question! There are several reasons I believe in God. Some of them are personal; that is to say, I wouldn’t expect someone else to take that reason and believe in God because of it. Others are more universal; those are the reasons I would give to an atheist if they ever asked me to prove to them there was a God. I’m going to just give personal reasons here. So these are reasons why I am convinced, but I don’t necessarily expect them to convince someone else. 😉

I was raised in a Christian home, and honestly the first reason I ever believed in God was because my parents told me He existed. As I got older, my relationship with God shifted from being parental to being personal. I began to decide for myself to obey and follow God, and as I did I saw Him at work in my life. My relationship with Him is very much alive. He guides me and speaks to me. So nowadays I don’t believe in God because of what someone else told me; I believe in God because I’ve experienced Him myself.

Another reason I can’t help but believe in God is because of the work I’ve seen Him do, the lives I’ve seen Him change, the multitude of testimonies from others who know Him. He is at work in this world, and you won’t be able to convince me otherwise! 😉

6. Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? If so, tell what that means to you.

Indeed I am! To me, being a follower of Jesus Christ means knowing Jesus. Everything ultimately boils down to that. Because I know Him I love Him. Because I know Him I trust Him. Because I love and trust Him, I want to obey Him. To follow Jesus means to journey through life with Him. Sometimes where He leads is scary. But it is always wonderful.

7. What do you do? Do you have a career outside the home, or are you a stay-at-home mom or wife, or are you a volunteer or a retiree, etc.?

I am a volunteer teacher to missionary kids – which I guess kind of makes me a missionary, too! At least I can say I live on a foreign mission field, anyway, haha.

8. What fulfills you the most? The least?

I am the most fulfilled when I’m able to see my life impacting someone else’s. I suppose that’s part of why I love teaching; I get to see students grow and learn as a direct result of what I’m pouring into them.

I’m the least fulfilled when something confuses or frustrates me. Moments when my students don’t understand something and I can’t figure out why they don’t understand or how to help them are the worst thing ever. But what’s neat is that being confused or frustrated often causes me to determine to figure the thing out, and when I’m able to push through and not give up, that unfulfillment will turn into incredible fulfillment in the breakthrough that follows.

9. What motivates you the most? The least?

The most? Discovering or understanding new things. The least? Normalcy.

10. What is the most important message you wish to communicate?

I’ve touched on this a bit already, but knowing Jesus is EVERYTHING! If you think you need more faith, then you need to know more of Jesus. Faith just makes sense when you know who He is. If you think you need more joy, knowing Him will give infinite fuel to fire your joy. If you need peace, love, patience, seek to know Jesus and these things will be the natural result! There is no treasure greater than knowing Jesus. I’d argue that the point of life even is knowing Him. Seek Jesus, dear friends! He has promised you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart!

11. If you were to die tonight, do you have the assurance that you will spend eternity with God in heaven?

Yep, absolutely, 100%! 😁


My Nominees Are:

Honestly this is my least favorite part of these awards, having to pick people to nominate. 😆 But I shall sorta play by the rules and nominate just three. 😜

Sunshine Blogger Award Rules

  1. Thank blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  3. Nominate 11 (or however many) new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

My Questions For You:

I loved Sue’s questions, so I’m mostly going to stick to them, though I changed a few things. 🙂

  1. What led you to become a blogger?
  2. What is the story behind the name of your blog?
  3. What is the purpose of your blog, i.e. what is it about?
  4. Who are you? How would you describe yourself?
  5. Why do you believe in God?
  6. What does it mean to you to be a follower of Jesus Christ?
  7. What do you do? Do you have a career, or are you a stay-at-home mom or wife, or are you a volunteer or a retiree, etc.?
  8. What fulfills you the most? The least?
  9. What motivates you the most? The least?
  10. What is the most important message you wish to communicate?
  11. What about Jesus do you treasure the most, and why?

Thanks again, TR; this was fun! Blessing in Jesus, everyone – and happy Thanksgiving! 🍽🦃🍁

Behold My God!

“Olivia, I think it’s just so great that you’re doing this!”

Over the last few months, I’ve had several people say things along those lines. It’s really sweet and really encouraging. They want to build me up by pointing out what they see God doing in me. Or sometimes, they’re just blown away by the fact that I’m doing what I’m doing and feel the need to express that.

There is a secret as to how I’m able to give up so much and do potentially scary/uncomfortable things for God. But it actually has nothing to do with who I am. It has nothing to do with what a great or amazing or faithful person I am.

Knowing Jesus

In one of my favorite sermons, Knowing Jesus, Major Ian Thomas describes two cars. The first car is the ultimate rust bucket. It’s probably fifty years old. You can just see this thing driving down the highway and slowly disintegrating as it goes. In fact, when you open the door, it falls off.

If I told you that I was going to drive that car from California to Maine, you would have reason to be impressed with the level of my faith. You’d have reason to be concerned about the level of my faith, even.

But what if it were a new car? One with 650 HP. Fifty MPG. New tires, new everything. A squeaky-clean accident record and no history of mechanical problems.

Would you be so impressed with my faith in this car if I told you I was going to drive from California to Maine in this?

And what was the difference? The car. Because you knew what the car was like, you knew that me thinking it would make it cross-country wasn’t that impressive.

Guys, if we KNEW our God, we wouldn’t be impressed by the faith of men. When we heard about the trust and confidence that others have in Him, our response would be, “Well, DUH.”

Be Impressed with My Jesus

The reason I’m able to do things that seem impressive to others is not because of who I am, but because of who God is. It’s because I know Him.

He is my Provider (Phil. 4:19). He is always with me, and He, the Almighty Creator of the universe, is my Helper (Heb. 13:5-6)! He is constant and unchanging (James 1:17), and He will use everything for my good (Rom. 8:28). He delights to give good gifts (Matt. 7:11), and nothing will ever separate me from His love (Rom. 8:38-39).

And that’s just the beginning! With a God like that, and who is so much more than that even, is it really so impressive for me to take any risk for Him? To do anything uncomfortable for Him? To give up anything for Him?

When you see me, or anyone, do “impressive” things for God, don’t be impressed with us. Be impressed with our God.

And you know what else? That is your secret, too. Your secret to living a life of full surrender to Jesus. Of doing risky or impressive things for God. Of venturing you all for Christ and changing this world for His glory. Know Jesus.

…the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.

Daniel 11:32b, NKJV

Chase after Jesus, friends!

His and yours,
Olivia

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