School Starts Again! | Week 2 Update

A new school year has begun!

First day of school!

We had to start a day later than originally planned because I wasn’t ready. 🙈 Though at the same time, we originally weren’t even expecting me to be able to get to Concepción until September 2nd or 3rd… so maybe we started early. 🤷‍♀️😂

It was a great first three days back! I’d been a bit nervous about trying to balance four students all studying four different grades, but so far things have gone really well! Pray that God continues to give me inspiration and energy to juggle these students with excellence.

PE 😁

One fun moment this week was when a student tried to trick me into chewing half a jalapeño. I escaped that one unscathed thankfully. 😂 Another moment I found amusing was when one of my students asked, “Miss Olivia, how do you spell ‘the’?” I answered her question, and immediately another student asked me how to spell “binomial nomenclature.” The quirks of teaching grades 1-7! Haha!

One blessing has been the mildness of this dry season. Last week we had a downpour, something unheard of in August! The annual forest fires are here, though. We await the summer rains with a confidence that they will come. It’s a profound thing. Let us anticipate the promises of our God with the same confidence!

The view from my casita. Mostly bare trees with a few flowering to remind that spring is coming, and that even in the midst of difficulty there is reason to rejoice! The haze is from forest fires.
  • Pray for another good week of school! That I would have the energy, inspiration, and grace that I so need to teach well!
  • The children’s home will soon have two new tías working there! Pray for a good transition for them and for those at the home, and for spiritual protection and fortification for them!

May God bless you abundantly and faithfully guide you into all truth!

Because He lives,

Olivia

Back in Bolivia! 🇧🇴 | Update

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Two of my students and me! 😊

What a blessing it has been to be once again with the people in Bolivia that I have grown to love so much. There have been several times when I’ve just paused in my soul and rejoiced in the fact that I’m here. Thank You, Jesus!

These feelings are probably stronger due to the battle I had to fight to get back. About a week before my flight I called the airline to make sure I had all the information I needed, and the first thing I learned was that the date of the flight had been changed. 🥴 That was the beginning of a long string of stressful events.

Things aren’t nearly as brown this year as they were when I arrived last year! The schoolhouse as seen from my casita 🏠

The worst was trying to get my Coronavirus test results. I tested as soon as I could and got a negative result, but the documents I got back didn’t have all the information I needed, and there was literally nothing anyone could do about it. With four days left before my flight, I had to find a different place to get tested and pray that the results came back in time!

God provided, but when my results did come back (two days before the flight), the website wouldn’t load them. I had to wait until the next day (the day before my flight) to call the clinic, and the phones to the clinic were down. 😳

Finally I was able to call another office within the same company, and the man I spoke with was able to download and email me my labs (negative again!). But goodness, it seems like something really didn’t want me to come to Bolivia. And honestly, I find that thought rather exciting. 😏

This guy showed up my first night back. A little gift from Jesus. I’m home! Haha

I didn’t always handle stress well in the week leading up to my flight. There were many times I gave way to anxiety and bad attitudes. 😬 I knew at the start that I wasn’t walking in victory, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. Then a friend sent me Proverbs 16:3.

Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.

NASB

As I meditated on that verse, I realized I had been acting as if everything depended on me. Which also meant it was all my fault if it went wrong. I was adhering strictly to what I thought success and victory would mean, instead of walking in obedience to Jesus and leaving the results with Him. I wasn’t committing my works to the Lord.

It took a few hours of repenting and choosing again and again to let things rest in His hands, choosing to trust Him no matter the outcome, choosing to truly expect that He would work all things together for good, whether “good” was what I wanted it to be or not. But as I chose obedience, my emotions began to follow suit. I had peace and rest where there had been stress.

We enjoyed a day at the lake on Friday. So beautiful and such a refreshment to the soul!

It became clear to me again something I already knew: I can always choose to obey Jesus, no matter how strongly I feel like I can’t. And obedience is a CHOICE. It’s determined by what I will to do, not by what I feel like doing.

It wasn’t fun to go through all that stress, but I am thankful to God for that trial and all that He worked in me through it. There was this moment in the airport, as I finally had all the paperwork in order, that this spiritual feeling of rest overwhelmed me. It was as if God was letting me know the battle had been won. No problems from here on out (as far as getting to Bolivia, haha…) I was home.

And so it was.

The fires aren’t nearly as bad this year as they were last year, but they are there. The sky is constantly hazy from smoke.

Here are some specifics you can be praying for me!

  • A good start to the school year. I have four students this year, which means teaching four grades instead of three! I expect the first few weeks to be a challenge, though I also expect to find a good rhythm soon by God’s grace. 🙂
  • God’s direction, and that I would have confidence in God’s direction, throughout this next year. That I would know what opportunities and responsibilities to pursue and which ones to turn down.
  • Continued improvement in my Spanish (and encouragement as I pursue this 😅). Praise God it’s a looooot better than a year ago, but I still have a lot to learn.
  • That my focus would be fixed on Christ and my driving motivation would be love for Him and then love for those around me.
  • For God’s grace as I continue working through the ins and outs of raising financial support this year!

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!

Olivia

Week 40 Update

Well, this week was definitely unique! One thing that made it unique was how unstructured my days were. Not that they were empty – though they certainly were less full than what is normal. I had the opportunity to continuing to tutor and love in general one specific girl, and though I’d never really seen that coming or expected it to turn out as it did, it was a privilege and a joy to my soul. I was reminded over and over that in my human eyes it sometimes seems like I’m accomplishing less if I’m giving my time to serving fewer people. But when we faithfully love those God has put in front of us, whether it’s many or just one, we impact eternity.

There was a bridge here. Then it rained. A lot. In other words, flooding washed it out. 🌊

On Memorial Day we had a wonderful American flag cake. We also visited the site of a washed-out bridge! We played in the forest nearby for a bit, and I actually felt like I was in a South American jungle! Surprise 😂

It’s blooming season for some of the trees! Here’s my schoolhouse, and the sign for the orphanage!

Sunday (the 31st) we had church and lunch in the mountain. We recognized Gina and Jesse, two volunteers who have been here for a few years now and are leaving on Tuesday.

And speaking of leaving on Tuesday… I’m gong with them!!! We have permission to travel from the US Embassy. We’re going to stay in Santa Cruz until Saturday, and then finally fly home! For them it’s an “adios,” but for me it’s a “nos vemos”! I’m coming back to Bolivia in August 26th! Lord willing. 😁

Had a kitten date with this sweet girl. It was everything my soul needed 🐱

Please pray for me and the others as we travel! You can also pray…

  • For a good transition home for us all (culture shock is a possibility haha…)
  • That I would stay sane for my first two weeks home when I’m supposed to quarantine. That’s gunna be rough haha.
  • That volunteers would come to HERO soon!

One week left! Still expectant for what the Lord will do, in this week and all the weeks to come, in Bolivia and in the United States.

Blessings in Jesus,

Olivia

Week 39 Update

School is pretty much wrapped up now! Final grades are put together and my classroom is all cleaned up. All that’s left are parent-teacher conferences! Er… conference. Haha.

My cleaned-up classroom ❤️

It wasn’t until I was staring at my clean and empty corner that I felt all the end of school feels. It’s always bittersweet for me. The joy and fulfillment of a completed year. The sorrow of saying goodbye to the way things were. The excitement for the year to come and all the good God is going to do in it.

So with all that finished, last week was very laid back for me! I was able to spend time tutoring one of the girls from the home, which gladdened my teacher’s heart. I’ve been able to read more (it’s really standing out to me how much the NAME of Jesus is emphasized in Acts! This feels so significant but I haven’t yet studied this out thoroughly). I’ve also been able to continue managing the media for the children’s home.

Took some pictures of the new pig pen this week for HERO’s Facebook. Couldn’t leave without a shot of me with my new friends. 🐷

We had a south wind come through on Friday and Saturday, and that meant chilly weather! Which also meant I got invited to have a movie afternoon with the girls at the children’s home! That was a blessing to my soul. I don’t see them as often with school being out, so I was very glad for the chance to spend time over there!

Still no clear indication of when I’ll be able to go home. I’m doing well despite that. I feel very safe and at rest where I am. I long to see my family, so that hurts. But God has been giving me His peace and patience. He has used friends and family to remind me that He loves me and He remembers me. And just as I expected, He is doing a lot in me with the extra time I’ve been given. And knowing Him, it’s only going to get better!

We visited a GORGEOUS spot on Wednesday night! A rocky cliff that overlooks the children’s home and more. We watched the stars and talked about the love of God and finding our identity in Him. It was everything my soul needed.

Here are some specific ways you can be praying for me and the ministry here!

  • That I’d be able to get home soon!
  • That I would be open for everything God wants to do in and through me in the week-ish that I have before leaving Bolivia
  • For continued safety of health for the orphanage and everyone involved
  • That new volunteers would be able to come soon! And that travel would open for the teachers to be able to come and continue their work.

Jesus’ sweetest blessings,

Olivia

Weeks 36-38 Update

Wow! So much has happened these last few weeks!

For one, Bolivia’s quarantine was extended, and at this point I’ll be staying in Bolivia until the start of June. My original flight was for May 19th, but due to current travel restrictions, trying to make that happen feels like a bunch of extra stress I’d like to avoid.

Bouquet my student gave me 🌸 Love the reminder of God’s bounty that the flowers of the field are!

It was hard at first to think of having to wait longer to see my family again. But Jesus ministered to my soul in that time, from friends encouraging me and praying for me, to highlighting Scripture for me, like Colossians 1:11. But He’s also given me this sense of excitement for these extra weeks in Bolivia. It’s like a holy anticipation for what He will do. I’m not sure what He has in mind, but I know it can’t be anything short of wondrous!

We had lots and lots of rain this last week, which resulted in a few bridges being completely washed out! It also resulted in some fun during recess. Nothing like a raging creek to play in! 😃 Made me think, what if we carried that attitude when floods hit our lives? What if we played in the waters?

Playing in the creek!

Last week was our last week of school! We celebrated Friday night with a very homeschool style closing program. It was a sweet night and a ton of fun. Now all that’s left for me is to finalize grading and get organized and cleaned up!

After that? Who knows! I certainly will have no excuse to be bored. I’ve been praying that Jesus will direct my steps and my heart and help me see what it is He is wanting to accomplish day by day. Maybe that will mean I spend a day alone with Him, maybe it will mean tutoring kids who are still in school, maybe it’ll mean something completely off my radar.

Some of the flood damage. And yes we drove over this thing 👍🏼

These last three weeks have had some intense moments. I’ve learned much about relationships, walking in unity and love, embracing difficulties as tools for good in the hands of God, and engaging in spiritual battle. There are chapters of my adventures here that can’t be shared yet. But believe me, God has shown Himself mighty and jealous on behalf of those He loves, and I have been basking in the glory of who He is and how He protects, provides for, and loves His own. He is so, so good, y’all!

Here’s how you can be praying for me:

  • Continued patience and long suffering with all joy as I wait for my chance to fly home
  • That God would continue to provide as quarantine restrictions can make getting necessities tricky sometimes
  • That God would prepare and bring the needed volunteers to the children’s home
  • That I would be able to live life to the fullest in the time I have remaining in Bolivia, and be sensitive to what God wants to do in and through me
  • That I would finally catch up on lost sleep 😜
Some pretty white flowers! I’m pretty sure these open at night and close in the morning… if anyone knows what they are, let me know! 😁

Jesus is good! May you know His goodness to a deeper level than ever before!

Because He lives,

Olivia

Weeks 33-35

The quarantine continues!

Originally the quarantine in Bolivia was supposed to go until April 15; it’s currently set to lift on April 30. We’ll see what happens!

This extension has prevented volunteers from leaving the children’s home, who had planned to leave in April. They’re handling it really well, but please pray that God will open the way for them to go home!

Recess in the rain ☔️

My own flight home is scheduled for May 19th. Originally I’d wondered if elections would prevent me from flying on time, but now I’m wondering if the Coronavirus will instead! Please pray that borders will open up and travel within Bolivia will open again so that I can give my Dad and Mama a hug in May!

Meanwhile, God has worked a miracle in the midst of this nationwide lockdown – He brought house parents to the children’s home!!! Just like Him to put things together when it’s supposed to be the most impossible for it to happen! We are all rejoicing in what He is doing. But do keep the home in your prayers; a transition like this isn’t easy. There are good and beautiful things happening at HERO, but all the change isn’t easy on the kiddos. Pray for the wisdom of Heaven for the leadership of the home, that the peace and presence of Christ would rest there, and that the kids would adjust well and learn to love well through this.

Our Easter service on a mountain ⛰

As for me, things continue on relatively normally. A blessing this last week was that the kiddos from the home were able to come to the schoolhouse again! That made for a lot more fun at recesses, and my heart is always so happy to have more time with those precious kids. 😊

Sleep still isn’t great, but it was a little better this last week! Keep praying for me in that area; it would be great to be able to sleep well again haha. 😅

Exciting news though: I HAVE AN ELECTRIC SHOWER HEAD. 💃💃💃 In case you don’t know, that means that I now Can taken WARM SHOWERS. PRAISE JESUS. Haha seriously the only fear I had about coming to Bolivia that was realized was that I’d have to take cold showers. I’m grateful to have learned that I can survive such a trial… but I’m also glad that I don’t have to now haha! Haha I am genuinely grateful for the refining work Jesus did in my soul through that. But now I’m going to enjoy – and be forever grateful for – warm water coming out of a shower head. 🚿

What is the meaning and purpose of life? JESUS. Something I was pondering one day. This board often is the first to know when something is stirring in my heart. 😂

Two weeks ago a small tarantula showed up in my room… so I named it Creep and caught it in a jar! ‘Cause that’s what you do with those, right? 😜 (Everyone says that I at least gave it an appropriate name. 😂) I then discovered that tarántulas are actually a mess to take care of so I left it go after a few days. Haha. But Creep was a lot of fun, and I’m glad for that gift from Jesus. 😁

Three weeks of school left! Which means three weeks left of my original commitment in Bolivia. So crazy to think about. Please pray that I can finish these last few weeks strong! It can be easy to lose steam as the end nears, but ours is a God who can make these last days the best we’ve had yet. I’m excited to watch what He will do!

Climbed a tree. Because I could. 😁 🌳

And He wants to work wonders in your soul, too. May you know every day more and more of His love!

Blessings in Jesus,

Olivia

Weeks 30-32 Update

My, has it been an eventful three weeks!

Bolivia is currently one of the countries with the strictest quarantine laws in place. Only people 18-65 may leave their homes, and only one per household, and only on certain days, and only on weekdays, and only between 8am and 12pm. Anything else requires a permit… or jail time and a fine. Exciting times! Haha…

The number of confirmed cases and deaths are growing in Bolivia, though it’s hard to know with great accuracy what the stats are. Still, we remain safe out in the campo. It’s such a blessing that when so many are cooped up in small houses, we are able to continue our work and to have something of fellowship with one another.

I keep hearing tales of those who are enjoying the forced time at home and away from busyness… but that hasn’t changed much for me. Though I’m kind of glad for that, to be honest. 😁 I’ll have plenty of time to do nothing when I visit home in May!

Quarantine isn’t so bad when you’re still surrounded by some of your favorite people. And you have a guitar. 🎸

And it was recently decided that it will be just a visit… I’ll be flying back to Bolivia for round two in August, Lord willing! This has been my desire for quite a while now and I’m so excited for what the Lord will continue to do in and through my life as I love Him and love others in Bolivia.

Recently one of the older girls from the children’s home has needed some extra help with algebra, and it has been my great delight to be able to tutor her! I’m praising God for the ways He is using my life, even to meet practical needs like those. Surely if there is a reward for all those who give a child a cup of cool water in the name of Jesus, there is a reward for those who tutor in algebra and babysit and listen to kiddo stories! 😁

Lots of recent rainfall has made for lots of recess fun! 😁

I got to add “Get chased by a swarm of bees” to my list of things I never expected to happen while I was in Bolivia. (It’s a constantly growing list. 😂) I went to investigate a fallen tree and found out there was a bees nest in it when I saw the little soldiers flying at me. I ran for it, but because I was giggling the whole time (might as well enjoy being chased by bees, right?) my students thought I was playing. I never got stung, but one of them did. Lesson learned; when being chased by bees, for the sake of those around you, it’s a good idea to show a healthy amount of panic. 🤷‍♀️😂

A new precious little girl recently came to the children’s home, somewhat of a George Mueller move with the current staff situation. Please keep praying that Jesus will call out those He is preparing!

And also pray…

  • That I’ll actually be able to fly home on May 19! Sometimes the current global situation makes that seem unlikely… Pray me home, guys. And then pray me back again, haha!
  • For protection from fear as the fight against Coronavirus continues.
  • That God would enable me to speak His life-giving truth into the lives of those around me, especially the kids I’m surrounded by.
  • That God would teach me what it means to truly take delight in my students and the other kiddos I interact with!

Dear believer, our God delights in you. Seek Him, and you will find Him.

His and yours,

Olivia

Week 29 Update

Since this is the hot topic right now, yep, coronavirus is in Bolivia. From what I hear, things aren’t as crazy here as they are in the States, but schools and large gatherings are cancelled. We’re waiting to see if the hoarding starts up here… But for now the biggest way I’m feeling the impact is that the kiddos at the children’s home are doing school at home for now. Which means it’s just me and my three students at the schoolhouse again…

Wednesday last week was a very special night. The church we attend locally came out to the children’s home for a night of worship! It was such a sweet thing to come together as the body of Christ and remember that church isn’t a building, but a body.

Worshipping Jesus

Immediately after the worship night, I headed to Santa Cruz! Several errands were run, visits with friends were made, and I got my back adjusted by a skilled chiropractor. 😁 (I had a lot of pain because one of my ribs had shifted. It is now where it belongs again haha.) I also got to sit in Starbucks for hours and work on the newsletter for the children’s home. That was a welcome luxury. Anytime y’all wanna become more thankful for ordinary stuff, spend seven months in a country less developed than your own. It works wonders for your sense of gratitude. 😅

Mocha blanca frappuccino 😋

What else has worked wonders for my sense of gratitude has been my inability to sleep well for the last two months. Please pray for me. I’m feeling hindered because I’m so tired, like I cannot live to the fullest the life God has for me. Yet I am confident that He will not waste a moment of this trial. Still, please pray with me that this trial will come to an end soon. Pray that throughout it, I will grab hold of the grace I need to comport myself as the twice-born, royal daughter of the Lord of the cosmos that I am. The attitude of Heaven can be harder to carry when you’re tired. 😅

Also pray…

  • For inspiration for me to know how to make recesses enjoyable for my students when the other kids aren’t around
  • For staff for the children’s home!
  • For sanity and justice to reign as Bolivia handles CoronaVirus

May the peace of Christ dwell in your hearts! He loves you, and He is worthy.

Jesus makes such beautiful things ❤️ A flower in Santa Cruz

His and yours,

Olivia

Drawn to You | Week 28 Update

Last weekend was beautiful.

I got to tag along with the Yoders on a trip to a city called Camiri! They went to drop off a young man named Juan Luis at the Facultad Bíblica de Camiri (a discipleship school) and make connections with the missionaries that run the institution.

The Camiri crew

Last year, I had joined the Yoders on a different trip, one where we accidentally ran into the Facultad Bíblica while they were on their end-of-semester tour. There was this overwhelming sense of foreshadowing, like God was going to do something significant with this connection. It was such a fun thing for me to be able to be a part of that trip and this one, being able to experience the foreshadowing and then the coming to pass!

The missionaries that we stayed with over the weekend treated us on Sunday to a trip to a creek and waterfall! It was absolutely gorgeous and right up my alley. Made me homesick; it was exactly the kind of adventure my brothers and I enjoy the most together. At the same time, I was enchanted by the fact that I was skipping through a sandy creek in the jungles of South America. Dreams do come true. 😁

River sunrise in Camiri

During the weekend, God really highlighted Audrey Assad’s song, “Drawn to You.” On weekends like this last one, it’s pretty easy to feel drawn to Jesus. At the same time, He sweetly reminded me that no matter what has happened to me in the past, I’ve always been drawn to Him. And He seemed to promise me that no matter what, He will always draw me to Himself. And on my part, it was a chance to say to Him again, “Whatever comes next, Jesus, I choose You.”

The rest of this week was a bit of a blur, in part because of how tired I’ve been all week. I’ve been struggling with sleep for quite a while now but it seemed even worse this week. Friday morning I wondered how I’d be able to make it through school. I had to really grab hold of God – yet His grace was sufficient. This trial is not at all a fun thing to go through, but I am so grateful to God for what He is doing in my soul through this.

Playing soccer at school!

One fun thing I’m praising God for is my Spanish has improved a lot in the last week! It was like something clicked last weekend on the trip we took with Juan Luis. Learning a new language can be a discouraging thing at times. Most of the time, progress is slow. But I’m going to enjoy this gift God has given me and try to use it to the full! When you think of it, do keep praying for my Spanish learning. It’s getting better, but there’s still a looooooobg way to go. 😅

Please also pray…

  • That I would begin sleeping well again
  • For staff for the children’s home

May your hearts be ever drawn to Jesus!

In Him,

Olivia

Weeks 25-27 Update

Here I go again, not posting for three weeks. 😅 One of these days I’ll get back into the habit…

Week 25: Feb. 9-15

The second full week of February was full of water! I got to experience the REAL rainy season downpours. Ponds were overflowing, which resulted in the road being washed out in one place. But thanks to local men and the guys working at the children’s home, a beautiful bridge now graces that spot. It did make going home from school interesting, though; there wasn’t a way across yet. So one of my students lead me through the brush, around a pond, and back to the road again. It was quite fun. 😁

Less fun was saying goodbye to my casita mate, Tania. I miss her a lot, but I’m also so excited for everything God has next for her!

Tania and me outside our casita 🏡

We had our 100th day of school this week, so we had ice cream and brownies to celebrate. It was wild to think that a year before, the Yoders and I were just barely getting to know each other. It’s always fun to look back and remember where God has lead me!

And then came Valentine’s Day… remember the flowers my dad had sent me? They peaked at just the right time! It felt so much like my Heavenly Father decided to make it a gift from Him as well. 😊

The flowers my dad sent me as they appeared on Valentine’s Day!

Week 26: Feb. 16-22

This week, school started up again for the children at HERO! Recess is a lot more fun for my students now that they have friends around to enjoy it with, haha. 🙂 God so beautifully provided teachers. One is the pastor from the church the home attends. I love so much the thought of these kids’ pastor being able to invest so much in them!

Praying before the first day of school

The other teacher is my new casita mate! She speaks only Spanish, so I’m excited to have many more opportunities to practice as I get to know her more.

We had an unseasonal south wind (called a sur) come through! Imagine a cold front bringing 60 degrees in the middle of a midwestern summer in the United States and that was close to the equivalent. It was nice to enjoy the cooler weather for a few days!

Week 27: Feb. 22-28

This week began with Carnaval, which can be compared to Mardi Gras, though much more widespread. It’s a weekend of constant partying, throwing paint and water balloons at people, getting drunk, and over all making sure you get all of your sinning out of your system before Lent. Many churches will have camping trips that weekend to get away from all of that.

After three days of this, many of the children of those partying are suffering from lack of care. I was able to go with the children’s home to give soup and water to whoever would come for it. Things like this always remind me of Jesus’ words – “And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42 (CSB) What a promise!

The children from HERO didn’t have school on Monday or Tuesday, so for recess one day my students and I made a bonfire! Moments like that always make me feel like a successful teacher. 😂

I wanted to share a picture of the bonfire but apparently iCloud is holding it captive or something. 🤷‍♀️ So here’s a really cool picture of the children’s home as seen from the barn instead! 😜

We had a really significant weekend this week, but I think I’ll save those stories for my next update. 😉 In the meantime, please be praying…

  • For staff for the children’s home.
  • I lost a lot of sleep this last month, and I’m pretty tired for it. Pray not only that I would sleep well, but that I’d be able to catch up on what I lost!
  • Soon will come the time to make decisions about what I’m going to do next year. Pray for me and others involved in that!

May your hearts find rest in the unwavering faithfulness of Christ.

Blessings!

Olivia

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