On December 4, Franciscan Mission Service Director Kim Smolik and Associate Director Mariam Kaldas traveled to Bolivia for twelve days to visit the current missioners and provide a retreat for them. Annemarie Barrett, Kitzi Hendricks, and Jeff Sved are the current missioners serving in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Annemarie works in a parish garden with local women and men. She has helped the women of Santa Rosa create their own gardens for their homes.

Kitzi works with trauma survivors and lately has been working on the organizational end. Kim and Mariam met with her supervising colleagues, a psychologist and a nurse, and learned how Kitzi helped develop and translate an intake form that the organization uses to better categorize specific types of trauma in order to provide better care to patients.

Jeff had just returned from a fair in La Paz where he had been selling the crafts of the prisoners from his jail ministry.  Jeff’s primary ministry has been developing relationships with those in prison and helping them sell crafts outside the prison system to raise money. Kim and Mariam learned how inmates in Bolivia elect representative delegates in order to internally govern themselves. They also learned how inmates are required to rent their cells, sometimes for an extended period of time while they await trial, and are not generally compensated for their time spent there.

“Our ministries are built on relationships,” Kim said, “As much as we appreciate the aid of today’s technology, spending time with our missioners physically is the best way for us to provide them support.”

They met with Hugh Smeltekop, Director of Academic Affairs at University of Carmen Pampa, taking a tour of the university as they investigated community engagement activities and accommodations.

Annemarie in the garden

They now have an itinerary for the Short-term Mission and Global Awareness Trip to Bolivia from May 2-11!

Kim and Mariam then spent the remainder of the trip in Cochabamba where they conducted a retreat for the current missioners at a Franciscan retreat center an hour’s distance outside of Cochabamba.

Kitzi hard at work

“I witnessed a ‘release’ in our missioners once they were in that quiet, serene space. Living in Cochabamba is physically challenging — high pollution levels, high altitude, loud congested traffic. Our retreat allowed the missioners to step away from all of this,” Kim said.

The retreat involved a reflection written by James Martin, S.J. called “Advent Is About Desire”.

“The piece inspired each of them to reflect on their call to mission and the talents that they were being called to put into practice,” Mariam said.

Happy Birthday, Jeff!

After morning prayer on Friday morning, each missioner drew their own Tavola and presented it in conclusion of the retreat.

Inspired by their face-to-face visits with the current missioners and the witness of their Franciscan ministries, Kim and Mariam returned to Washington D.C. on December 16.