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Time Well Spent


Editor’s Note: The following is part of our daily holiday series celebrating “The Shared World” through Nate’s thoughts and experiences. 

Last week a faculty member from the Unidad Académica Campesina-Carmen Pampa came into my office and asked if I could go through the filing cabinets to clean out old papers and documents left behind from previous English teachers.

At first I was annoyed; the stuff didn’t belong to me, nor was it really my problem. But then I stumbled across a long-forgotten jackpot of old photographs from the early days of the university.

Dusting them off, I spent the next several hours pouring over these old photos, studying the faces of students, community members, old building structures— it was a university much younger than the one I’m familiar with today.

I noticed that the presence of volunteers like Mary and I have always had a presence at the University of Carmen Pampa. I enjoyed imagining the work and projects they got themselves involved in, and if they would be happy with the work that volunteers since then have done.

A group of Xaverian brothers started this University many years ago and religious sisters have also always been present. Seeing other foreigners in these photos reminded me that Mary and I aren’t the only ones that have ever lived here accompanying the students and faculty of the UAC-CP.

After pouring over these pictures, I realized something else. We are just passing through a brief moment of the history of this place.

One of the most important reminders I have had during our time here is that our work is temporary, mostly insignificant, and nothing special. We’re here for just a blip of time during the students’ five-year university career. In fact, all of us are only here in this world for only a moment in history.

I realize this may seem bleak, but it really isn’t for one simple reason: Opportunity.

The important thing to remember, however, is that in the time we do have, we are given few opportunities to learn and grow from the collaborations we undertake in daily life living alongside the Bolivian students and others in this Shared World.

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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.