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Mission Monday: Patience in Solidarity


To kick off week three of our Lenten Walking in Solidarity series with its theme of”Living Solidarity: Work, Family and Citizenship,” new missioner Jeff Sved writes about his experiences so far in Bolivia.
With time and practice I’ll be able to communicate adequately in a new language.
With time I’ll get used to the many changes that come with living in a new country.
Two more weeks and hopefully my background check will have cleared and I can continue with the immigration process.

I’d heard the word many times. It was a common thread running through almost every story I heard last year while teaching ESL classes and working among different communities of migrant workers. Transitioning to a new place takes patience.

It was true in each story I heard last year, and now is an integral part of my story of transition. Though there are many differences, their stories have in many ways become my story as well.

New lay missioner Jeff Sved sits on San Pedro Hill looking at the view of Cochabamba from the Cristo de la Concordia (Christ of Peace) statue. 

As I began my life in Cochabamba, I had many ideas of how solidarity would look and of the people with whom I’d be experiencing solidarity. Somehow though, I failed to realize that I’d also be finding solidarity with my friends back in the US who have experienced this process.

I knew of their struggles in learning a new language while adjusting to a new life. I knew of their struggles with the immigration process. But now they have taken on new meaning as I experience them firsthand.

Thankfully, I am also experiencing firsthand the joy of transitioning to a new place as well. New friends. Great food. The opportunities. One example of this joy comes from the fun of learning a new language with children who are also still learning the language.

While at language school, I lived with a host family which included two incredibly fun little girls. The older of the girls (she’s three) definitely enjoyed the role of “profesita”. I’ve learned many new words from the two of them: Atace (attack), poo-poo (belly button) and gane! ( I won!), but my favorite word has to be ña. You can look it up in the dictionary… but it doesn’t help.

For the first three days in Bolivia I heard “ña” more than almost any other the word. I just shook my head and gave in to the fact that I had no clue what they meant, until finally their grandmother corrected their pronunciation.

Mi-ra,” or “look” was what they were trying to say each time. Not only did this bring meaning to the word, but it also explained the emphatic pointing that always accompanied it. Now every time I hear the ña it is accompanied by a bit of laughter!

It has been a surprising walk of solidarity in the joys, the confusion, and the need for patience.

Jeff Sved served in Cochabamba, Bolivia, from 2013-2016. His main ministry was working with inmates in seven prisons throughout Cochabamba.

Prior to joining FMS he served in Wilmington, Del., with Franciscan Volunteer Ministry teaching math in a prison and teaching English to members of the Latino community. Originally from Pittsburgh, Penn., and a graduate of Villanova University.