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“In giving, we receive” – Selfless Sharing in Boliva


Today’s mission story reminds us of the contagion of charity. One person’s giving prompts other people to give, as Emily Ward witnessed while working with poor women in Bolivia (2006-2009).

And whenever we give, we receive more in return. While our missioners give two years in service abroad, they receive in abundance from their community the blessings of friendship, faith, patience, humility, wisdom, understanding and more.

“One amazing thing about Bolivia is the sense of unity which people here carry with them. I learned quickly, for example, that the proper etiquette for eating in a group is first to offer some to those around you. If you have a bag of potato chips, for example, you should open the bag and make a general offer before eating any yourself.

I thought at first that maybe this was just a way to get free food from a foreigner, but then I noticed Bolivians doing it themselves. One would think that those who have less would be more likely to horde what they have; but it is quite the opposite.

 There is an unspoken expectation that you share what you have today with those who are without because tomorrow you might have to rely on those very same people.

Emily Ward and the Tantakuna women’s group which empowers the impoverished women through direct employment, training, education, social support and counseling. 

When we took women on a day trip into the city of Cochabamba, my favorite moment was lunch time.

Some scholars say that Jesus’ miracle of feeding the multitudes was not that he was able to make five pieces of bread and two fish suffice for thousands of people. Rather, it was the fact that everyone pooled what little they had brought for themselves and it was in the sharing that everyone got fed.

On our trips we had neither the bread or fish that Jesus had, but when lunch time rolled around someone laid out a blanket on the sidewalk and opened the plate of food she had brought. All the others followed suit and the result was quite a smorgasbord laid before us. There was more than enough for everyone, even though some hadn’t brought anything.

I really admire this trait in the Bolivian people and I think there is a lesson we can learn from their selflessness and strong sense of community as opposed to the individualism we see so prevalent in the U.S.”

In this last week of Lent, how can I be more giving?

Emily served on mission in Bolivia with FMS from 2006 to 2009.