Planning and preparing for an outreach isn't easy. I think we've all learned that lesson over the past year as we've sent numerous emails back and forth, sat down to work out budgets and problem-solved when complications arose. Now coming into our last week here in Bolivia, we've been looking back over our three months of student lead/solo outreach and feeling accomplished. Although this is just my opinion, I am fairly certain that I speak on behalf of the whole team when I say that our outreaches have felt successful.
South Africa was wonderful in many ways – we did fun things as a team, produced our first team video project, learned a lot about the refugee situation in Cape Town areas and enjoyed the chance to catch up with a couple of friends. Individual outreaches in four separate countries were completed with no-one coming across unmanageable complications, creating a sense of independence and many photos having been taken. South America has been a wonderful mix of spontaneous and last minute decisions, learning to be even more flexible than we have been previously, catching up after a month apart and capturing daily life in two different environments – one in Paraguay, the other here in Bolivia.
In contrast to living on the outskirts of a village, a long drive from the closest main road in Paraguay, Bolivia has involved living in a city and travelling back and forth each day to group homes for teenagers who have made the choice to leave the streets. We've been spending time getting to know the teens as they go throughout their normal routine under the eye of the staff of Operation Restoration. These kids all have a troubled background – all including abuse in one form or another – yet have been able to gain back some joy in the safe environment of the homes where they are given support and encouragement.
It's another of those times when we come with the aim of blessing a ministry, of blessing individuals, yet receive more that we give – the welcoming friendship of teens who have gone through much more than I could ever imagine, the hugs and smiles of the girls who put up with cameras pointed at them for days at a time and the conversations in broken Spanish and English that bring joy to both parties.