Continuing our daily Advent reflection series, returned missioner Nora Pfeiffer writes about the simple gift of a child’s love.

While in mission with FMS in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the place I lived was not exactly a private place. People always knew when I went from one room to the next, when I washed my clothes, and when I entered and left the building. This is because I lived in a Franciscan social center and in the same building lived a group of kids recovering from serious burn wounds.

One of the babies was Marcelo (name changed) and as he grew into a toddler, he became much more confident. His language skills improved as did his comfort level with living in this big building with all these different people in it every day.
At meal time, the kids always took out tables and chairs in the walkway near the entrance so they could eat with more space. Usually

Nora with two young friends in Bolivia

I came home for lunch right around the time they were already part-way through theirs. Whether I was in a rush to get to the apartment or passing by calmly, Marcelo always seemed to spot me and start the chant, “Mo-wa, Mo-wa, Mo-wa!” and the other little ones would join in with him as if I were a sports star walking out onto the field for a champion game.

To this day, I don’t know how that little lunchtime tradition got started, nor anything I could have done to deserve such overflowing joyful love from that small boy. You wouldn’t think he could be capable of such joy seeing the horrendous scars on his head and body as a reminder of the immense pain he has suffered, but he IS!

As the wise men walked away changed from their encounter with the baby Jesus, I have come away a changed person after befriending Marcelo . He taught me that no obstacle or suffering can keep out love and joy so strong it bursts out in echoes; that recovery is possible; that I should never give up hope; and that I will always be surprised to encounter God in the least expected ways.

Coming up tomorrow: “Mi Abuelito” by Kitzi Hendricks!

Nora Pfeiffer is a returned missioner who served in Cochabamba, Bolivia. She currently works at Franciscans International – Bolivia. 

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