Current Child Count

  • HOGAR DE AMOR I: 11 babies
  • HOGAR DE AMOR II: 6 boys
  • HOGAR DE AMOR III: 8 girls

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Week That Changed Everything

In the days leading up to Jake’s arrival in mid-March, I pondered on life as it was, and on how quickly that life could change.
Jake called from Potosi (another city in Bolivia) on March 13 to say he had a bus ticket to Cochabamba and would be here early the next morning. Later I found out that when I answered the phone he wondered why I sounded out of breath, as if I was flustered because it was him calling. I could indeed tell the number was from outside Cochabamba, and although I was just at my desk working, he was right about the flustered part! This was the first time he had called and his comment attests to the fact that I didn’t quite pull off sounding “normal”!

That night at 1am, I was still doing first aid on a line of street kids in the Coronilla. I was sleepy, recalled that my car was on gas fumes, and that within 6 hours Jake would be arriving to our bus station—clearly visible and just down the hill from this street group. So….. I stayed! Everyone was SO excited. A little too much maybe, as very little sleeping was done. A wind and rain struck up, and there were fights, and visitors from other groups, and lots of chatting with the three girls I shared a tiny mattress with on top of rocks. I might have dozed from 5 till 6am.

Early in the morning, just as I wondered where Jake might be, he called. Assuming he had arrived the bus station a stone’s throw from us, it was with a strange mixture of disappoint and relief I heard him say that he was still outside the city, wondering where exactly, and if he should get off and start walking with the other bus passengers. Blockades again! (Read Jake’s blog post for the whole story of his adventure getting to Cochabamba.)

I finally went home and tried to stay focused on what else I needed to do that day. Jake, however, had quite the trek ahead of him. He had no choice but to hike and hitchhike the last 30 miles of the trip due to one of our infamous Bolivian blockades.

(My Mom’s first comment: “Oh, how ROMANTIC!!” My first thought: “Well, if this doesn’t run him off, we have a chance!”)

After several calls throughout the morning, a bit after 1pm he announced that he was in the city! I admit I thought it was pretty great that he had arrived to a seedy area in the south part of town, definitely street kid territory.  What a place to meet!

On the way there, my favorite Hillsongs United CD refused to play in my not-so-great CD player. Instead I discovered a WOW Hits CD I hadn’t listened to in a long time. By the time I pulled up to the airplane rotunda in the south of town, the second song was playing and making the moment feel even more auspicious: “There Will Be a Day”. As if I needed to be more nervous! My Mom had written me, “Can’t wait for you two to meet – hope there are fireworks visible in the whole southern hemisphere :)” Yeah, no pressure!! Then we’d barely said hi and he was thrusting flowers into my hands. I think I was repeating to myself, “Don’t faint, stay calm, don't faint…”

Within minutes of getting in the car, Jake was telling a story that sent chills up my spine and made me realize again how much God appeared to be right in the middle of this unfolding story. A pastor had accompanied Jake, providing company and help with luggage even though it meant going out of his way to do so. The pastor ran into a friend upon arrival to the city and after they chatted a bit, the man on the bike turned to Jake and confidently stated, “God has a new work for you here in Cochabamba”. What a cool thing to be told!! (Similarly, on my first trip in August 2002, a Christian doctor gave me a note saying I would be part of blessing his people.) Could I be part of his new work in Cochabamba, or could it be that Jake would be part of mine?! My mind was spinning!

In another strange (God ordained?) twist of events, Jake’s Compassion child’s birthday was wrong in the system. Jake got all the way to Potosi, Bolivia, only to find out that his little guy’s birthday was MAY 12, not MARCH 12.

Before taking Jake to New Tribe Mission’s guesthouse, we went to eat. That’s how within our first hour of meeting, Jake listened to my order and asked if I’m vegetarian. Something in his tone made me add that I’m not the sort of annoying vegetarian that judges others. This theme would come up a few days later in our most memorable conversation of the week.

The six days that Jake was here were packed! I pushed office work to the side as I showed him around my adopted city and took care of things on his list, too. We visited Compassion International’s beautiful Cochabamba offices, ate dinner with Brandon’s new adoptive family from Italy, had a newsletter stuffing night with all the CDA volunteers, enjoyed a dinner of zomerstamppot” made by our Dutch volunteer Iris, a street food dinner with all the Baby Home staff, visited a men's and women's jail, dealt with a tire blow-out on the way to hike a mountain (which then didn’t happen, but lots of laughs with the volunteers on the side of the road did!), and went to Cochabamba International Church.

Every evening and some days too, there were visits to my “wild kids”—those who live on the street. You could call that the real test of fire! I have taken several people to the street with me by this point, so have seen all different reactions. It’s really where the rubber hits the road as far as showing love to those who can be, well, hard to love. I so appreciate and enjoy going with those who take a genuine interest in my group, showing respect and kindness and doing their best to communicate—even when it’s a challenge with those who are high and/or drunk.

Jake witnessed fist fights and anti-riot police trouble and nasty first aid and super tight car rides and twisting his ankle playing soccer and even fights where knives were pulled, and he was calm and a help through it all. Let’s just say that if it were a test, he passed with flying colors! EVEN with food that had chicken feet in it, prepared under very questionable hygienic circumstances. I wrote my family that night “Who else would eat soup with me in the Coronilla??? If that’s not a test, I don’t know what is. And he loved it and was given seconds, which he also lapped up, all eyes on him.”
Absolutely everywhere we went, it was assumed we were married or fast on the way to being so. I had never experienced anything like it—doubt that Jake has, either! The childcare staff had barely met him the first evening and was stage whispering to me “Is he married? What do you think? Is HE the father of our kids??” I shrugged my shoulders and pointed out I didn’t even know his age yet! When he admitted he was a bit afraid of babies, of course my kind, understanding staff thrust a baby into his arms. Baby Alex fell asleep contentedly, giving Jake the tia’s stamp of approval.

The street kids were just certain my imminent marriage was now a done deal, never mind that I’d only just met him. The very first night, barely seven hours after Jake had arrived, I was both amused and embarrassed to hear them use EVERY single word that has anything to do with boyfriend, fiancé, or husband, in both regular Spanish and street slang. Even more entertaining was when Jake joined in the fun and bellowed in Spanish, when no one else could hear me over the din, “My novia [fiancé/bride] says to give Cesar a seat back there!” And when they noticed the flowers (how did I forget to take them out of the car?!), that was the end of it!!

Before the end of his first night on the street, the kids were promising everything from extravagant wedding gifts to building us a shack on the Coronilla right next to theirs. Imagine that!

We went to a men’s jail and Jake was promptly asked “When is the wedding?”

Volunteers peppered Jake with questions, and kept asking if he couldn't just...stay?  
I also laughed harder than I had in a really long time. There was one particularly fun afternoon when we accompanied one of my street friends to visit her baby and family in a run down part of town. I felt like we were the neighborhood freak show as Jake got into an exchange in Quechua with an impertinent little boy, and the local women came out to just stare at Jake, working up the courage to ask (giggling) if they could come with us. It was awesome! 

In between and all mixed in were lots of conversations that left me floored at Jake’s maturity, responsibility, and most of all, his heart for the fatherless and to be a good father himself someday—both to his own biological children, and others God might bring along his path. His actions showed it wasn’t just a bunch of words or empty talk: In Washington, he looked out for a widow and her four sons, and he’d even had a stint volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center! Then his commitment to his six sponsored Compassion kids was obvious. And in spite of getting thrown up on during prayer time by one of the babies we took to church, a first as he wryly informed me (with a sparkle in his eyes), he did very well with our little ones.

Neither one of us is especially young - I would turn 30 in May and ten days after that, he would turn 34 - so I appreciated that we had all sorts of comfortable, stimulating conversation on all different topics. I already knew from our email correspondence that Jake had worked at sea for ten years, rising to the rank of captain. Since I’ve never really known a sailor, that provided plenty of discussion as I learned about this whole other world….and that in fact, Jake has been all OVER the world! As another volunteer put it, his single years have been anything but boring, and just as interesting as mine in their own unique way.

In yet ANOTHER series of events that seemed to have God's fingerprints all over it, on Day 6 of 6 of this Cochabamba trip, a door was unexpectedly thrown open for Jake.

Now some questions would have to be asked, and some decisions made...

More soon in Part III!
For Part I of our story, click here.
March 16, 2012
Visiting "El Cristo", the statue that overlooks Cochabamba from a hill, with the Coronilla street kids.


Iris said...

Wow what a story! It's so funny to read everything that was going on those days. I had no single clue that there was so much more going on between you two, but now everything falls into place haha!

Heather (lil sis!) said...

My comment about the street blockades was that it was dramatic. I told Mom, "Can anyone get him a white horse?!!"

I think the translation in English is "Papa of the Baby Home". We kept saying we were looking for a papa for your kids. When you say "the father of..." it sounds like they are all biologically his! Poor Jake, already 35 kids!! ;-)