Since they arrived in January early this year, the missioners have been living with host families while engaging language study. In this post, missioner Mary Mortenson describes the joys and graces she has received while living with her host family in Cochabamba, the Mustafa family. 

Nate and I have been here for a little under two months now. Hard to believe. The time has gone very fast. I’ve been trying to take in all the changes, the elevated emotions, and the overload of sensory experiences. Talk about being uprooted.

(L to R) Mary, Fayez, Elba, and Omar Pablo (photo by Nate Mortenson)

What has kept us grounded has been living with the beautiful Mustafa family. The Mustafa family consists of Elba and Fayez, their three children and their spouses, their grandchildren, and great grandson, and all the uncles, aunts, and cousins. We live with Elba, Fayez, their daughter, Nur, and her son, Omar Paulo. Since Nate and I have both come from big families, without knowing it, we have welcomed the chaos that naturally comes from living with multiple people.

They waited no time at all to fully welcome us into the the family. We’ve been joined for lunch by just about every member of the extended family, we’ve tagged along to wedding anniversaries, birthday parties, family gatherings, Carnaval festivities, and family outings. We’ve helped Elba as she has shopped at the market, helped clean the house to prepare for a party, and relaxed at the end of the night playing cards. This may seem a little exhausting to you, but I must tell you being invited into a home no questions asked has been our biggest blessing in this time of transition.

In so many ways, they have held our hands by cooking our food, doing our shopping, boiling our water, showing us how to use public transport, giving us free reign to explore, but always welcoming us home, making sure we had something to eat and a place to rest.

We have been blessed by the gift of hospitality. The Mustafa family has been warm and welcoming as we have shared life, home, and conversations together in the past few months. I can not speak for all Bolivians, because I know so few, but we have been learning about the importance of sharing in life with one another.

Nate and I have found ourselves reverting back to more “American” ways at times, as we haven’t wanted to intrude or step on toes, but that is a concept that doesn’t compute with our family and others that we have met down here. Family, friends, and neighbors in your life are meant to intrude and ask for favors; it’s what makes life rich.

Omar Pablo and Nate washing the family dog (photo by Mary Mortenson)

As we prepare to move out this week, Nate and I hope to follow in the example of the Mustafa family. That we will open the literal doors of our home, open our schedules, and our hearts for others to come in and intrude. So that who we are can bless others and whom others are can be a blessing to us.

The two months have flown by and yet we know that we have so much more to learn from the Mustafa family and all the others we will meet on the way.

May God continue to work in our lives so that we continue to have space for others to come in.