Friday, January 16, 2009

To Bolivia with Love

To Bolivia, With Love
(A Bolivia, Con Amor)
by Virginia Knowles

To Bolivia:
Out of my ten, Julia is just one
But a full one she is
One full of life and love and laughter
One for you, from me

With bubbles and balloons for your little ones
And a Bible in her language and yours, side by side
(It speaks love in any language)
How beautiful are the feet that bring Good News:
She will walk in your mountains
(Lord, have mercy! Snakes, be still!)

And she will give hugs in your villages
Speak words of grace, too
And so she will love and listen and learn
Just a short while
Though it seems so long to a mother far away

And even if she leaves a part of her heart in you
Even if she empties herself for you
This is the paradox:
I know you will send her back full
From Bolivia, with love

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Isaiah 52:7

Vaya con Dios!


My second daughter, Julia Grace Knowles, left today for three months in Entre Rios, Bolivia. It is her third trip there, but by far her longest. The other two times (in 2005 and 2007) she went for just a couple of weeks with the Mission:X construction and medical teams from our church. Her suitcases are totally stuffed, not just with her clothes and bedding and personal items, but with gifts for the children there: bubbles, balloons for making animal shapes, candy, Spanish language books, and more. There are also some Spanish language Christian books for the adults at the mission, who are mostly native Bolivians.

Many people have asked me if I am frightened about sending my 19 year old daughter to a poverty stricken socialist country where the mountain roads are horrible, there is rampant crime and disease, health care is substandard or non-existent in the rural areas, and rebels occasionally stage coups and take over airports. No, I am not frightened. The safest place to be is in the center of God's will, no matter where that may take you or whatever terrible thing may happen to you. She knows the risks and she's glad for the opportunity to take them (again) for the Gospel's sake. We took a walk this morning, just the two of us, and she thanked me for not freaking out about her going. I told her, as I have many times before, that I am so excited for her. This is what we have raised our children to do. Reaching the nations and generations is where my heartbeat is. So I send her to Bolivia with love and joy and faith.

I started thinking about writing the "To Bolivia, With Love" poem last night as I was drifting off to sleep, and got up a little early this morning to finish it. I read it to the family after lunch. (We fixed a large Latin American buffet with tortillas, black beans, rice, mojo seasoned meat, sauteed onions and green peppers, sour cream, shredded cheese, etc. For dessert, we had our traditional
volcano cake made of a brownie "mountain", cherry pie filling "lava" and whipped cream "smoke", though I forgot the chocolate chips "debris" this time.)

Anyway, back to the poem. Originally, one of the lines read "and give hugs in your villages," but I realized it came directly after the one "Snakes, be still!" I changed it to "and she will give hugs in your villages" because I didn't think anyone would welcome the snakes giving hugs in the villages. As I was reading it aloud, I remembered it and started laughing hysterically. We all laughed! By the time I regained my composure from that, I started crying. My baby is leaving me! So my oldest daughter Mary, who came for lunch with her husband Ryan, finished reading it for me. And I reminded Julia, as she left, not to go hugging any snakes, please! She assured me that she won't.

My husband Thad is driving Julia down to Miami as I type this. She will fly from there to La Paz late tonight, then after a brief layover, go on to Santa Cruz in the morning. Andreas, a German missionary, plans to pick her up in the mission's Land Rover (see picture at left) which he drove up to Santa Cruz for repair. So instead of taking a 10 hour bus trip down with Angela (who would have had to take one up to get her), she'll be in a car with just a few other people, including some kids. They should arrive in Entre Rios sometime tomorrow night. On Monday morning, a Vacation Bible School starts (it is summer there) with around 100 children coming to the mission for several days from many of the surrounding mountain villages. Some of the kids are walking a few hours to get there. Much of the rest of her three months there will be spent hiking out to the villages, such as Las Abras, with Angela, the only other American. They will minister to the children and train some of the older children to teach Sunday School. You can read about Angela in a blog post called "A is for Angela."

Julia has been working for a year and a half to be able to go back to Bolivia, but there is something that really spurred her on even more a few months ago. In October, Dave Harvey, a guest speaker at Metro Life Church, spoke on "The Audacious Claim of the Unstoppable Gospel." That message affected Julia so much that she listened to the CD of it at least 10 times. You can listen to it here if you scroll down to October 19. (Windows users, right click on the CD-shaped icon there to download.) When I asked her a week or so ago what she wanted me to load onto an MP3 player for her trip, she replied that she wanted sermons! I downloaded about 30 of them, mostly by John Piper, at her request. This will give her some English language encouragement in a Spanish speaking world! If you have a heart for the Gospel, I think you'll be blessed by listening to these, too. There is nothing in life that compares to wholeheartedly following Jesus Christ.

Julia is going to attempt to keep up her own brand new blog this summer, since there is Internet access in Entre Rios. You can check it out at She has already put up two posts, one with pictures, and the other explaining her trip in her own words.

Virginia Knowles

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