“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8
Without a doubt, I came to Bolivia with a fixed vision of how everything would look. I was rigidly idealistic, and believed I knew what God wanted…for our community, the ministry, my own life. So you may imagine my surprise when circumstances and people changed, making me wonder if what I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt as God’s will was actually my own plans molded in my own closed fists.
Am I willing to adjust my own plans as God’s plan unfolds?
For one thing, I thought our community would always live in El Alto, the beautiful, frigid flatland cradled by mountains, where our ministry centers and most of the women live. But a few years ago Andrea Baker’s pregnancy with twins made it risky to continue her pregnancy in such a high altitude, and the Bakers moved down the hill to La Paz, the capital city of Bolivia, which lies about 2,500 feet lower in altitude.
This was quite a jolt to the rest of the community still living in El Alto (almost an hour away in public transport). But earlier this year, another North American couple got pregnant, and the pregnancy was debilitating in El Alto. So they also moved down to La Paz. This was a new direction for our community, but one that wasn’t simply a temporary detour anymore.
In the midst of all these changes, Mache and I began to evaluate our own future. We had been living in El Alto, but it was taking a toll on Mache to travel down to La Paz every day to work at our church. Even more difficult was that we lived too far away to host the youth group and other church activities in our home, and Mache as youth pastor felt the loss of ministry opportunities poignantly. Though I had no plans of stopping ministry in El Alto, we knew we wanted to start a family at some point and pregnancy would probably be easier in La Paz.
Just as we were discussing this, a missionary family in La Paz offered us the opportunity to house-sit for a year while they were on furlough. Their house is within walking distance of our church, and has a huge living room perfect for hosting youth group activities. In fact, these missionaries used to be Mache’s youth group leaders!
After a lot of prayer and discussion with our communities, we decided to move down to La Paz and house-sit until next January. It’s been quite an adjustment to drive up to work every day in our lime-green VW Bug instead of riding my bike 10 minutes through side streets. It’s also been humbling to let go of my dream of living on the extreme of simplicity in our grimy El Alto apartment.
But it’s more humbling to realize that God isn’t surprised by this apparent change of plans. In fact, in numerous ways, I’ve felt assured of this new path by His gentle touch, which differs so greatly from my own rigid vision of how things should be.
Cara Strauss Contreras (and Mache)