Madison Green's decision to go on the youth mission trip to Bolivia to work with the children of Amistd orphanage turned into a life-changing experience for three gnerations of her family. Madison, her ,other, Raven Green, and her grandmother, Sylvia Mackenzie, spent a week in Bolivia in June.
“I was kind of reluctant to send her,” recalled Madison’s Raven. “It’s a long way. The good thing is that since it was a middle school trip, they were looking for a guardian to go. They were looking for other adults as well, and I thought my mom would be a great addition to the team. My mom’s heart is with kids.”
For Sylvia, the trip was a wish fulfilled. “Ever since I accompanied the children’s choir on pilgrimage I thought I would like to go on a mission trip,” said Sylvia. “Bolivia had been in the back of my mind for several years, so when the opportunity presented itself I thought maybe God was fulfilling something that I’d wanted to do for a while.”
Madison was excited to be going outside North America. She went online to learn more about the children at Amistad. “I learned that these kids had gone through a lot. They weren’t just kids who got in trouble. Some of them were getting beaten and starving.” On arrival at Amistad, she was surprised by the welcome. “Since it’s an orphanage I wasn’t expecting anything big. But when we were coming into where we were going to park this little boy started running along beside us. I thought they probably hadn’t had someone visit them in a long time.”
“He had no idea who we were or who we were there for,” Raven adds. “It was just joy and excitement, like it was his best friend on that bus!"
The children of Amistad Mission live in casas (houses). Each casa has a primary caregiver (mamá). St. John the Divine has supported Casa Amanacer for many years
Sylvia was impressed by the love and joy of the kids. “These children, for having had their backgrounds, being where they are, experiencing what they have, are the most joyful I have run into in years. They call each other ‘family’ and they call their caregiver ‘mamá’ and her assistants ‘tias’ (aunts). That’s the nucleus of the family. You see a lot of heartfelt love between the groups.”
The group spent the week getting to know the children. “I think we were there to bring them joy and show them ‘Hey, someone loves you’,” Madison said. “We took the kids from our casa out and did stuff at the park. They were happy as could be. We did crafts. We took them up to the Christ statue. This one little girl was about 5 or 6. Right away I could tell that she was going to be a really good leader in life. One of her sisters had chicken pox and wasn’t supposed to go outside. We were in the park, and I was pushing her sister and she started saying, ‘You shouldn’t be out here – you’re supposed to be inside.’ I thought, ‘She’s going to be a leader.’”
“We wanted them to know we’re your friends, we’re praying for you, we think about you,” Raven added. “We’re building these relationships from thousands of miles away. We spent quality time with them and brought a little bit of our lives to them. In return, we received way more than we brought. We brought sprinkles and cookie dough to them, but they filled us to the brim. You could totally see the Lord’s hand in all of it, how he had orchestrated each one to be there and to be with the mama, in that house. The God of order certainly is there. The God of peace is there. Joy is given to each one of these kids. You can see the seed he has planted in each child.”
The orphans of Amistad have prayer partners at St. John the Divine who pray for them and write cards and letters. “My prayer partner lives in the girl’s youth house,” Madison explained. “I pray that she studies hard, that she makes good grades, and that she keeps doing what she does! After the trip to Bolivia I was looking at the world with a whole different perspective. After we came back I thought we need to be thankful because I feel like we get everything, but they don’t get as much as we do in this country.”
“There was a bond built within our family,” Sylvia added. “It opened my eyes and reminded me to be very grateful for the kind of life that God affords us. There was so much that we wanted to share and we all left wanting to return.”
The Amistad Mission has established a Prayer Friends Program that facilitates the relationship between Amistad in Bolivia and supporters in the States. Prayer friends send cards, letters, and pictures to their counterparts in Bolivia several times a year. This correspondence is a treasured and lasting reminder of the bond shared between prayer friends. The children of the Villa keep albums of all the letters, cards, and pictures they receive and are proud to show them off to visitors. In turn, correspondence from the children and others is sent back to the States, so that you too may feel connected to your prayer friend’s life. If you are interested in being a prayer partner for a child at Amistad, please contact the Amistad Mission's Executive Director, Chris King, at firstname.lastname@example.org.