New missioner Michael Redell is in the middle of language school in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He shares today the lesson nature taught him about facing challenges, such as learning Spanish.


I remember last week being quite frustrated with what seemed to me slow progress in learning Spanish. So, I decided to take some time and sit outside to relax and enjoy the beauty surrounding me.

As I sat, I stared up at the enormity of the blue sky with the sun shining through the clouds. I saw the beauty of the hills and mountains that surround the city of Cochabamba. I felt the wind blowing against my skin. I allowed myself to let all thoughts and worries subside and to take in the wonders of the nature all around me.

Photo by Yontatun Munk, flickr

As I became in-tuned with the present moment, I noticed the many leafcutter ants that were busy at work throughout the yard. There were lots of little pieces of leafs being taken in the same direction for their unified final destination. I started to become interested in these ants and what they were doing. I watched the long process from the beginning until they left my sight.

First the ants would find one of the plants/leaves in the yard and go to work cutting off a piece they could carry. After the piece had been removed, they started walking towards their destination. They, just like us, had their own obstacles they had to overcome.

The two biggest challenges were the big rock/gravel pile that they had to go over and the constant wind. Both of these obstacles knocked down the ants numerous times throughout their journey, but they just popped back up and continued down their path working and doing their part in completing the whole.

I know it may seem ridiculous, but after watching for awhile I realized these ants had brought to my mind and reminded me of some simple truths on how to achieve success: What I saw was consistent effort through easy and difficult times. I saw a persistent attitude when met with disappointment (being knocked down). I saw the sacrifice of the individual for the good of the group. It brought a smile across my face to realize I had been given the answer to my struggle with learning Spanish, but also a great guide to being successful in any worthy pursuit.

I would think these simple truths that I have experienced many times throughout my life would be engrained with every new activity I pursue but that hasn’t been the case. I am no exception. I want things the easy way without putting in the time and effort…without building the character of discipline and persistence that takes doing what is contrary and uncomfortable to the body at times…without sacrificing my own desires and wants for the greater good of something bigger than myself.

I still need reminders of these things and if they happen to come from watching a group of ants, well, I’ll take it wherever I can get it.

To read more about Michael’s mission in Bolivia, visit his blog We Are Called To Be Lights of Hope, Peace and Love.