I remember the moment well. It was April of last year. I was on a Skype call with Kim, the director of FMS. I was telling her about how, with language school behind me, I was just starting to settle into my new ministry sites. We had just moved into the Centro Social, so that part of the transition was over too.

That’s when she asked me – “Do you have a Bolivan friend?”

A Bolivian friend? Geez. I just moved to another country. I’m learning to speak another language all day every day. I’m washing my clothes by hand, trying to figure out what I can eat here, and now I have to worry about making friends too?

YES.

At first I thought about the people I worked with, but technically they were not friends (at the time). I only saw them at work and I didn’t know very much about their personal lives. They didn’t count.

Then, I remembered this really sweet, kind woman I met in my Cristoforos course. Her name was Mary Cruz and she was super friendly. She had given me a ride home a few times and introduced me to her daughter. We even talked about a few personal things. I thought, She might actually be someone who I could be friends with….

Looking back, one year later, I laugh because she has turned out to be so much more than a friend to me. She has been a lifeline to me in so many ways. I love Mary Cruz for so many reasons.

For starters, Mary Cruz is religious. I love that about her. She lives her faith. She’s not afraid to put it first. One of the ways she’s shared her faith with me is by inviting me to attend her “Casita”. It’s a small group of people that get together every other week to pray the rosary, reflect on the Gospel reading of the week, and then break bread together. It’s a lovely group of people that have made me feel very welcome.   After attending the Casita since the middle of last year, I feel very much at home and grateful to be part of such an amazing group of people.

Mary Cruz is also a direct communicator (like me) and not afraid to give me a little tough love from time to time. This is a rare quality in Bolivian people. They are (if I can make a generalization) a culture that will not say anything disappointing or not nice for fear of offending you. That’s not the case with Mary Cruz. On more than one occasion, she has forced me to reflect on my situation or on my thoughts about a situation.

She has made me look from God’s perspective. She has made me think about why God might be asking me to do a certain thing or go through a certain situation. She is not afraid to say, “Hady, I think you’re wrong and you need to look at the situation differently”. I don’t know about you, but I value a friend who can be honest with me. I value it a lot.

Mary Cruz has brought me home to her family. I have had the opportunity to get to know her beautiful daughter (who I hope one day will come live in NYC!). I also have gotten to know her brother who makes me laugh so hard every time I see him. I know her parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and her good friends.

Mary Cruz has been so good to me – she basically has made all her family and friends my friends and family. When I wasn’t sure where I would go for Christmas, Mary Cruz insisted I come spend it with her. When I am sad or homesick, guess who’s calling me on the phone telling me to come over or meet her out somewhere.

Mary Cruz gave me a beautiful present for Christmas. It’s a box with a picture of Jesus on the outside. The note that came with the box says that I should give my worries, my sufferings, and all my pain to God.

Mary's gift to Hady

Mary Cruz’s gift to Hady

The box is meant to be filled with the things that I am handing over to God. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used the box already. It’s filled with an array of problems and issues that I no longer want to carry. It’s one of the most life-giving presents I’ve ever received.

I’m grateful that God sent me an angel to look over me and take care of me during my time here. I don’t know what I would do without Mary Cruz’s friendship.

My dream? That one day Mary Cruz will come visit me in the States, and that I would have the opportunity to introduce her to all my family and friends and be as gracious and as kind to her as she has been to me!

Hady with Mary and her family

Hady with Mary Cruz and her family