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Mission Monday: “Living Simplicity”


In today’s post, Nate Mortenson reflects on the freedom he has found in Bolivia to live simply by incorporating a mentality and lifestyle that values recycling. This intentional living has affected his own faith-life to draw closer to Franciscan spirituality.

Photo of Cochabamba by Nate Mortenson

Recycling came up in class the other day. It was a vocabulary word at the end of the chapter. In case you’re wondering, it’s an easy one to remember: “recilclar”. Anyway, I was thankful for the opportunity to talk about the topic of recycling because it gave me a chance to award my Spanish teacher, along with the rest of the Bolivians here, a gold medal for being great recyclers. But that surprised my teacher: “Surely your country does a great job. People have recycling bins, factories can reproduce plastic bottles and tin cans out of old used ones…”

Photo of Cochabamba by Nate Mortenson

“You’re right about that,” I told her. But what I’ve noticed here is that even though you may not have factories to reproduce plastic bottles, Bolivians (from what I’ve noticed thus far) know how to really re-use and recycle. For example, in our host family’s house, there are six people living here. The week’s garbage fits into one small five gallon bucket, from the entire house. That’s possible because everything, products, packaging, and our life styles here are done with purpose and intention.

Photo of Cochabamba by Nate Mortenson

When everything in my life is done with intention and I try to live with meaning, I feel and experience very little waste. I don’t feel that my down-time is time wasted, I don’t tend to waste money on pointless things, and I feel much more in touch with reality.

To me, this is a very important element to living simply. Franciscan spirituality has a lot of incredible teachings on living simply, and for me, living with purpose will help me to achieve living simplicity and and experience oneness with God this Lent.

Mary and Nate recently returned from two years of mission at the rural Carmen Pampa University in Bolivia.

Nate, the youngest son of nine, hails from La Cross, Wisconsin. Mary grew up picking strawberries in small-town Minnesota. The couple met at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, where Mary studied sociology and outdoor leadership and Nate studied Spanish and geology. They share a passion for food and bicycling, and a desire to set their marriage on a foundation of service, simplicity, and a deeper global understanding.