She’s a native/national missionary in large part on the “tentmaker” model for her own and her ministry’s sustenance and to know her humbles and inspires me.
She grew up in a poor family in the outskirts of Cochabamba and attended a large, poverty-stricken public high school (that happens to be located right across from my apartment and is still going on all these many years later). In her senior year of high school she joined a competition for best high school graduating student and WON! Her prize was to be sent to Russia for her university degree. The year was 1989.
When she graduated from university in Russia with an engineering degree she looked around for someplace she could do a graduate school-level chemical engineering program, without much money, and was accepted in Germany, where she completed her graduate level work and then was given a chemical engineering job in a large dairy plant in Germany, all in all living and working in Russia and Europe for 20 years.
She wondered what the meaning of life was? What was her existence all about? One day in Germany she met some German Christians and they invited her to go to their church with them. On accepting their invitation, she met Jesus Christ, as personal Lord and Savior in Germany, in a tiny neighborhood group of believers, and she began to grow in her walk with Christ.
During the 20 years she returned to Bolivia to visit her family only 2 or 3 brief times because of the expense. During one of those visits she took a walk one evening, outside the house lot in Barrio Chavo where her extended family was building their family home. She noticed dozens and dozens, even hundreds, of children, playing in the streets, unsupervised. Then she began noticing the brothels behind many of the flimsy run-down gates and fences. Her heart was broken for the needs of the hundreds of children; she cried out to her God to show her how she could help the children, what she could do to shine Jesus’ light among the children, in those dark and terrible streets and corners all around her family’s house in the edge of Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Jesus led my friend to return to Bolivia in 2006 in order to begin outreach among these hundreds of children in that neighborhood, and she has never looked back since. Some of the (presently) 57 children in the project live right in the brothels with their mothers; others live in tiny dark rented rooms nearby. Many young girls and women these days are brought, on false promises of glowing high work opportunities and new lives, from rural areas of Beni and Pando – this whole thing is a growing situation of child and human sex trafficking. These girls and women become the mothers of the children in our project and of countless other children not yet in the project.
Until very recently, many of the children the project found were not signed up in any school at all ; one of the first things we do for a child is get them signed up for school if they’re not already. About half our kids, when they first start in the program, are hungry and malnourished. The children receive simple breakfast, morning snack, noontime main meal, afternoon juice drink and a very light evening meal (just a “small bread” and a hot drink) as part of the program. They get to hear about Jesus, they learn what the Bible is and they recieive help and encouragement with their schoolwork.
My friend works long all day in the ministry, then goes out every evening to earn money for the ministry and to support herself through teaching German lessons for pay to people out in this city.