Chau Bolivia

A Goodbye Bolivia, Hello United States Note:

I wrote a different version of this two months ago. It read exactly as it should have: as if it were written by a grieving, anxious, quietly angry person. And as I write this today, it’s true that those parts of me are still voicing themselves, but I seem to have found a peace and clarity in this past month that leaves me less overwhelmed by grief and sadness, and instead dominated by a hope and a trust in what comes next.

Today, I write in thanksgiving that I was given these two-plus years. I know I am grieving because I am leaving behind a beautiful time in my life, because I am leaving family, because I am leaving a chapter that was full to the brim with struggle, tears, and suffering, but all held in the palms of a loving Father who used those things to bring to bear peace and trust within me.

My perspective on life has certainly been shaken up a bit, and some crucial truths have finally truly moved from head to my heart.

Like the fact that my happiness and peace is not determined by ticking off the boxes I’ve convinced myself I must tick. I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to figure out any big plans awaiting me. This is it. This is the big plan. I’m living it, right now. It will not suddenly become the plan when I enter my vocation, or land on a career track, or live in a perfectly decorated home. This is it. Now.

My life in Cochabamba is simple. The plumbing rarely functions. I don’t know the last time I had a hot shower. My digestive system may never quite be the same. I’m not in a long term relationship, I have no job lined up, heck I don’t own a couch or pots and pans. But I have been full to the brim every single minute of life here. And the only way I can explain that, given the suffering I’ve lived and seen, is that I’ve known that this is where God has willed me to be.

This truth has finally settled:  Big things take time. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “Trust in the slow work of God.” I remember hearing that phrase when I was at orientation with the Salesians, and found myself push back against it. I’d always lived by a timeline, the requisite milestones easily measured, and I sincerely believed that life just might end if I didn’t nail down every achievement I imagined for my future. Now as I look out into the unknown future, I feel less as if I’m about to fall off a cliff, and more like I’m between Platforms 9 and 10, running full force at what appears to be a brick wall because I have an irrational trust that it’s not a wall but a door, with more miraculous-ness awaiting me on the other side.

I’ve come to accept that struggling, inching ones way along, feeling oneself fighting against pride and plans and expectations, isn’t such a bad thing. As Brother Isaiah sings: “Every good thing is born of a struggle.” My fellow missioner and friend Sarah Jane quipped: the phrase is not “Every good thing is born of my perfectly executed plans”, or  “Every good thing is born of my color coded to-do list.” I realized a couple months back as I started to “plan” my time for back home, that my planning had turned into an attempt to manage things to the nth degree in the hope that if I orchestrated everything perfectly, it would mitigate the pain of leaving here. Which just ain’t how it works!   

It’s been a blessed two years, and yet, I trust that what comes next will be just as beautiful, even if it will feel a bit like wandering through the desert in search of the promised land. And when I have left the desert, I will look back fondly on that time, knowing it was necessary and willed by my loving Father.

I ask for your prayers for the girls and the sisters. I have every confidence that He will be taking care of them, as He always has.

I ask for your prayers for my family.

I ask for your prayers for me, especially that I may maintain my peace as I navigate the challenges of the transition ahead.

And I give thanks to God for you all, who have walked beside me in so many ways during the past two plus years.

Que te vaya con Dios,



*Reflection from 20th of October*

This afternoon sisters were over at church with the girls preparing the decorations for tomorrow’s First Communion.

I was stationed there finishing up the entrance mural, while the girls left in the house pecked away at their ropa and limpieza and verdura so they could go join the little girls watching TV.

And I thought about the peace that has come over me in this past month preparing to leave. I’ve felt oddly calm leaving my responsibilities in other hands, while my own are busy painting and painting away the murals in the playroom and out front.

I ran up to the house this afternoon a few times, in search of sweets. And remembered again in the middle of it all why it will be so hard to leave–because here, I have found another family. I don’t know when it happened, but I know well that I am more than just a “volunteer” here. I have found friendship in the sisters, loving, trusting relationships with the girls. Last night as I picked up Cristabel, a new little one, I realized a deepening affection I had for her too. And there was that moment yesterday after dinner, as Roxana looked up with big eyes, “Lave me plato, puedo ver tele?” (I washed my plate, can I go watch TV?) And then her excited smile, zipping off like a cartoon figure, squealing with delight to go watch whatever those little ones were into.

It still catches me by surprise, again and again, how very much I am in love with this place, with my family here, with these girls.

That peace, I know it comes from the simple things, the moments when I witness the girls taking care of so much, so excited to help around the house. In competition to go ring the bell, to help me serve dinner, to supervise the little ones’ limpiezas, help with the other girls’ homework, get their younger counterparts showered up. Even 6 year old Jharlet is there tucking 4 year old Cristabel into bed.

Last night Hermana Leti ran in with a big bag of anticucho, what a gran invitacion that was. And tonight, returning from church decorating, Luli brought back the remainder of a big bottle of CocaCola, which she handed over to me, three little plastic cups perched on top. I don’t know why, but that will always be so delightful to me, the sharing of everything that happens–three cups, surely used by at least ten people.

And I simply felt loved. Because yes, they do love me so well.

The fear, the pain of it, the feeling of my heart being squeezed, has begun to set in. And it all feels impossible, impossible that this could end. But I know it will. I’ll be the same Megan I am today, in the airport back at O’Hare, hugging Dad and lugging my suitcases into the November air.

And I will be oh so very glad for all that has come to pass in-between.