The Humility of Living in Bolivia

Editor’s Note:  Daniel and Naomi Elliott moved to Bolivia in January to work with orphans in a new ministry called “Everlasting Hope.”  The first year of mission service is one of learning and adapting to the new culture and language.  The Elliott’s are just settling into their new home, language training school, and all the things of life such as meeting people, shopping, driving, doctors, etc.  This season is usually a difficult one even though newer missionaries are told that it is normal to be overwhelmed.  However, missionaries will tell you that this is a necessary phase that God brings them through to prepare them to be His servants.  Naomi shares her struggles with us in this article.  She will be just fine but it would be great to remember her and the Elliott family in prayer as they prepare for their ministry.  You can send them a note through Facebook… “Everlasting Hope Children's Ministries (Daniel and Naomi Elliott)”.


On my first morning in Bolivia I tried to buy a bottle of water. I succeeded in asking for the water but failed in understanding how much it cost. After attempting to answer me once the vendor simply held up 10 fingers without smiling. I apologized, and left as soon as I could. I was so embarrassed and slightly offended at what I perceived as a lack of patience. There have been several more embarrassing and frustrating moments since then and I'm sure there are more to come. I never realized what learning a new language, a new culture, a new city, and meeting new people really looked like. It’s frustrating to be an adult but to have to relearn things that you have known how to do for years! It's so humbling.  It's humbling to have to ask for help all the time. I need help to call the pediatrician, to drive places, to buy things, to call a repairman. I get nervous answering the door because I'm afraid I won't understand the person standing there. And baking in high elevation? It’s hard! I've ruined things I've never ruined in my life! It’s humbling. I recently had a misunderstanding with someone that I couldn't correct on my own because I didn't know the words to fix it. I had to have a friend come with me to translate. I can't manage my own affairs.  Very humbling.


My dependence on others has increased dramatically, as has my dependence on God to sustain me. I am thankful for my dear husband who I depend on to help me with running our household more than I did in the States. I also depend on our fellow missionaries who are constantly helping with errands, or translating, or just checking in on us. It's hard to be so dependent on others; it’s a new feeling for me. I come from a pretty individualistic culture, and while I don't consider myself a very independent person, this level of dependency is hard for me to handle sometimes. But I need to humble myself, ask for help, and learn from those who are wiser than me. If I try to do things here the way I always did them in the States I won't be very successful. God has placed other missionaries and Bolivians in my life to help me learn and to support me emotionally. There have been many times I have been overwhelmed with frustration, homesickness, and inadequacy and all I can say is " Father, Help!"  I think that God is trying to teach me more dependence on Him and on the team of people He has placed around me to be my support system.


So my frustrations about the humility of living in Bolivia have turned my thoughts to Jesus. Jesus was fully God and fully man but he did not come to earth as an adult, he came as a baby. He had to grow, develop, and mature. He humbled himself when he came to earth. Please don't think I am equating coming to Bolivia from the States the same as Christ coming to earth from heaven; that’s not it. I can't help but wonder though if the process of learning and growing ever frustrated the God Man, and maybe He understands exactly what I am going through right now.


I also started reading a book called Cross Cultural Servanthood. The book begins by emphasizing the need for the cross-cultural servant to be humble.  I must be on guard for an attitude of superiority. I am not superior to these dear people who are different from me, and the last thing I want to do is negate the impact of the Gospel because people are offended by me. I need to follow the example of my humble, Savior Servant. Which brings my thoughts back around to the wondrous example of Christ. I realized one could give an air of superiority unintentionally. And I wonder if God is at work in me, revealing those areas of my heart where I am harboring pride. Through all of my frustrations, challenges, and joys about learning how to live here, my God continues to mold me and shape me so I can reflect Him ever more clearly, and be successful in the work He has called me to in Bolivia.


It's been a challenging two months so far in Bolivia. I am truly thankful to be here. This is a beautiful country filled with precious people who need the hope of Jesus Christ.  These are just some of my thoughts on my transition from the States, and transition is not over yet. But God meets me every day in this journey and gives me what I need for each new challenge.  I have met some wonderful, encouraging people, and have had several neat experiences. But most importantly I think my heart has continued to change in a beautiful way toward my God and the dear people of Bolivia.



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