All Over the World...

Hola!  Well, I’m back in the US, in front of my computer screen again after a 10-day break from cell phones, text messages, and internet access.  I really do think we should all have at least 10 days a year where we are away from technology and its vast and, so often, intruding grasp.  While I do love that we are now able to stay in touch so easily with friends & family around the world, the lack of it really does make you focus on what’s in front of you.  Such a beautiful thing! 

For those of you who haven’t heard, I just returned from Bolivia, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity I had to go and help lead worship in song with my friend Jason at the Spiritual Life Conference there and serve alongside the wonderful team from Parkside Church.  It was such a blessing to be able to join people from so many different parts of the world in song each morning to open chapel.  My teammates were fabulous, and we truly felt like a family on this journey – many of us on our first missions trip to a foreign country and most of us didn’t know each other before signing up to go on this trip.  (BTW, there are a few pics from the trip posted in the gallery under 2012 Photos!)

From Cleveland, we flew into La Paz and straight to busy Santa Cruz where we headed on a 5 or 6 hour ride in two Land Rovers through the mountains to camp Monte Blanco.  The ride was incredibly rough, winding on narrow mountain roads, but stunningly beautiful.  It’s hard to describe seeing scenery like that for the first time, so raw and untouched in many ways, especially when directly contrasted with riding through the streets of Santa Cruz with its many people (so many in poverty), crazy traffic, honking cars, and rambling city structure that seems to go on endlessly.

In a word, Monte Blanco was wonderful – their hospitality was exceptional.  We met so many lovely people throughout this journey and have many new friends that will last a lifetime!   Jason and I had the privilege of leading the teen group when we weren’t leading music, and, even when we were, they were a tremendous help to us, adding bongos, another guitar, and their beautiful singing voices to our time of worship.  They even led one song in Spanish for us!

And speaking of Spanish, my Spanish dictionary and charts finally got some major use!  I’ve packed those things for the last number of times I’ve been on a trip anywhere near a Spanish-speaking country, but they’ve never been used.  This trip, however, they were the bridge between us and our Bolivian roommate and a bridge in the youngest children’s group between children, helpers, and teachers (my teammates Lydia & Jen).  So neat to see language barriers broken with new words we learned and, when we couldn’t find the words, the barriers were still broken with smiles & hugs.

To be sure, there were many adventures along the way, as you can imagine – too many to list here: dangerous roads, new foods, getting lost in the market square, dogs running wild everywhere, bug bites, large spiders, cold showers, and sudden winter winds.  And there were equally lovely things: beautiful flowers & mountains, viewing the stars and getting to see the Southern Cross hanging so close in the sky, new friends and laughter, spiritual fellowship and new lessons learned…. I could go on and on….but the thing they all had in common, scary or heart-warming, is that each experience and encounter grabbed you and made you remember that you are alive – that each moment we get to breathe, live, and experience is a gift.

Well, as you can see, there’s no way to capture everything in a short journal entry (or a long one for that matter :o) ).  But I, at least, wanted to give you a little summary and let you know that I am back, safe and sound, having received so many blessings from this experience of serving.  Thank you for your prayers and support!!

Abrazos, mi amigos y amigas, ~Tara