Editor’s Note: As part of our “Comfort and Joy” Advent/Christmas blog series, missioner Tom Little shares how he’s found joy through integrating more into the community where he lives and serves in Carmen Pampa, Bolivia.
When I first arrived to Bolivia in January I was lost in a cloud of culture shock. Everywhere I turned I saw something that was different than what I was used to and it made me feel disconnected to my surroundings.
Thankfully, in the past 10 months, I have become much more comfortable in where I am and what I am doing here. It is interesting to take a step back and realize that some of the things that were a total shock when I arrived have become so commonplace that I barely recognize them.
The comfort that I now feel in Bolivia allows me to better experience my full range of emotions, including joy.
During my second semester at the university I started attending the Pastoral group meetings. When I first arrived on campus I was still sorting out what I was doing and felt like I was too busy to get involved with the group. Pastoral is a group that meets weekly to play games, pray, and do service projects within the community.
The first event of the new semester was a lunch and party for the elderly members of the Nor Yungas community. I am so glad that I was able to be a part of this event- there was so much joy in the air.
The morning of the event was spent preparing the lunch and decorating the cafeteria. I was put on barbecue duty with several other students. We were in a very popular spot; other people were constantly stopping by to say hi, crack some jokes, and grab a small piece of chicken.
During the actual celebration I was seated with a group of older men in their 70s from a town over. The men spent the meal joking with each other, eating a lot and teaching us words in Aymara, the local indigenous language. I imagine that these men have been friends their entire lives; I saw a lot of the same joy in them as I did in the students.
Events like this are not required of the volunteers at the university, and sometimes after a long week it’s easy to talk myself out of going to them in favor of having more personal time. Luckily, I am now comfortable enough in what I am doing to break out of my comfort zone more and more, because that is where the true joy is found on mission.
Question for reflection: How can you get more involved with your community and the people in it?