Editor’s Note: FMS returned missioner and board member Lee Lechtenberg reflects on how a time of great trust while on mission in Bolivia led to a time of great freedom.
I lay in bed – falling. In a few days we would be boarding an 11 pm Miami flight south into the darkness. We had sold the house, stored our belongings in basements and barns, given the cars to the kids. What in the world were we doing? We were over 60 years old. I had the sensation of falling – falling out of a plane with no parachute.
After completing our training with FMS, my wife and I were about to begin mission and it was clear we could no longer control what would happen. I had to somehow let go – and simply trust. But how can anyone let go when there is no net below? A little girl climbs too high in the orchard. She is frightened. Clinging, she hears a reassuring voice, “Let go, Honey, I’ll catch you!” Her father is there calling up to her.”Let go.” Let go. So those nights when I lay awake on my back I would take a breath and exhale, trying to relax my shoulders and whole body, and let myself fall. I whispered, “I’m in your hands. I can’t do it. You have to catch me.”
It was not the last night I prayed that prayer. We made the airline flight and before long found ourselves in a tiny cloud-forest mountain village of Bolivia. In a land of strange words, new ways of greeting, eating, and praying – we were clearly not in control. Like children in a big new world we had to let go of our pride – let go every day and venture out.
But letting go became strangely easier. We became more confident as we experienced landing on our feet. And we found ourselves in a new world indeed – what an adventure! The people we met and the beauty we saw! We were changing and liking it. We felt our hearts expanding which was’t always comfortable, but was good.
Lovely, laughing, often suffering Bolivians young and old allowed us into their lives and let us share their pain and their delight. It was a soul-changing adventure. One that we would never have embarked upon had we not let go of our secure life. Letting go left us free to dare, to adventure into new places and faces where God is.
Reflection: As a way of practicing letting go, perhaps you can step outside your comfort zone today. You might change your routine so that you enter an unfamiliar situation or talk to someone very unlike you. Reflect on how that requires some letting go of security yet results in broadening your embrace of people and the world.
Lee Lechtenberg is a returned FMS missioner and a current board member. After seeing their sons through college, Lee and his wife, Jean, took a leap of faith, sold their house, and joined Franciscan Mission Service Class 23 (2007-09). Since returning, Lee has shared his mission experience through his art, especially portraits celebrating the beauty and presence of Bolivia and its people.
Featured image: adaptation of photo by Pixabay user gabicuz – labeled for reuse