Bolivian culture is an interesting experience.
Driving through town is comical. Red lights are not required and road lanes are just a suggestion. You have to have a sticker on your car (like our insurance and inspections stickers) to buy gas. Boys wash windows when you are stopped at stoplights and old women will "watch your car" for a tip while you are in a building so it doesn't get broken into. There are trees in the middle of the road... you just drive around them.
The food is heavily meat and starched based. We had the opportunity to try several authentic Bolivian dishes, empanadas are the way to go!
There are bright colors and people everywhere you look. All of the buildings in this city of 1 million people have large tall cement walls around them. Many of these walls have graffiti on the outside and then you walk into what looks like very expensive buildings on the inside. Courtyards are very common.
There is no AC, you sleep with your windows open and sit/play outside often. It is very different from American culture, but I found it to be refreshing and was curious about many of their customs.
Bolivia is a special place. God is moving there. I think it is the people that make is such a special place.
The missionaries were very gracious (I mean very, very gracious) in answering all of my questions. Every where I looked, I couldn't help but ask whatever came to mind. We talked often about the culture and specifically what is leading to the orphan crisis in the city. In this culture, when a man and woman divorce/split, the woman is often given custody of the children. Often times whenever the woman meets and becomes serious with a new man, she is put in the situation of having to choose between her children from her past marriage and the new man/new family. They socially do not handle blended families well. Therefore there is an estimated 5000 abandoned/orphaned children in the city. I heard the missionaries say multiple times that working with a child who has been abandoned is psychologically different (and harder) than a child who is orphaned.
This society has taken precious children and told them that they are worthless and their value is little. Their parents for whatever reasons have made choices that tell these little ones they are no longer wanted. There is a stigma against adopting orphans because of something that is not the child's fault or within their control. These children are told they are not needed and just take up space.
As Christians, how do we respond to this? We create an environment like Fundacion Esperanza. We tell these children that they are wanted, that they have a place they belong, and that their value in the eyes of God is irreplaceable. We meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs to the the best of our ability. We tell them they were created for a specific purpose and that there is a Jesus that will never leave them. We tell "the least of these" that they are loved and cherished and that they have been adopted into the family of God.