Editor’s note: Missioner Becky Kriedler adjusts to her new life in Bolivia where she will be serving for the next two years. In this piece, Becky reflects on the ways God continues to show her light, love and support amidst such a new and unpredictable journey.
One of the things that made me so excited about our FMS mission site here in Cochabamba, Bolivia, was that there is a large collection of books gathered from missioners over the years. One of the first things I did upon moving into our apartment was look through the bookshelf to find a couple of good reads to dive into. My heart leaped a little upon stumbling upon a small book of meditations on the life of St. Francis. I have the same book sitting on a little side table in my bedroom at home in Illinois, but ultimately decided against bringing it to conserve some luggage space. The copy here now sits on my nightstand and has renewed a deep desire in me to start each day with Francis. Not only do I feel a nudge to be rooted daily in my “yes” to mission, but I also desire to more deeply know this man who unexpectedly caught my attention and drew me into mission with Franciscan Mission Service a few years ago.
A few days later, I was looking out my bedroom window at the towering Andes that surround the city and realized that I was starting to feel settled for the first time since arriving in Bolivia almost a month ago. Transitions always take quite a bit of time for me, as I rarely feel at home in a new place quickly. This transition to life in Cochabamba has also been unfolding slowly, with altitude sickness hitting me hard in the first week here, living with a host family for only three weeks before moving into the apartment with my fellow missioners, adjusting to Bolivian customs and norms, and struggling with my knee pain acting up.
As I tried to lean into these realities, rather than judge them or be frustrated with them, the Spirit placed the realization on my heart that, at every step of the way over this path month, I have been consistently and divenly provided for.
This realization continued to grow in my heart as the following morning’s reflection from the meditation book recounted the story of St. Francis and some of his companions as they were walking back to Assisi from Rome. They had visited the Vatican, where they had been seeking the approval of the rules of their order from Pope Innocent III. While walking, they talked for hours about how they might actually practice their desires to live the Gospel. It was here where, “at last they found themselves, wearied with the length of their toilsome way, and hungered, in a certain lonely place. Then verily, when there was no means whereby they might provide them with the needful food, the providence of God came speedily unto their aid. For, on a sudden, there appeared a man carrying bread in his hand, the which he gave unto the little poor ones of Christ, and, also on a sudden, vanished, without any man knowing whence he came or whither he went. (Bonaventure, The Life of St. Francis 4.1)”
With how dynamic Francis’ personality is and how romanticized he has become in both the Catholic Church and popular culture, I can often forget about these small stories of simple trust that are the foundation of the Franciscan charism. Despite the long trip they would make by foot, Francis did not pack any food. He understood that living the Gospel meant unconsciously and inherently believing what Jesus spoke to His disciples. He appreciated that if God used him as an instrument of peace, he certainly would use others, too–like the man who so simply offered them their daily bread. He learned that he no longer needed to worry and be anxious about his needs because He had a Father who knew what he needed before he even asked him (Matthew 6:8).
I can’t help but imagine that, if I was walking with Francis and his followers in this story, I would be equipped with a backpack full of snacks, water, band aids, sunscreen, and other items I would deem necessary. As a Westerner, I am trained to think of what is coming next, plan ahead, be prepared, and–perhaps most heavily emphasized in American culture–watch out for myself and my interests. And yet, during this chapter of my life, even with all my preparation for entering into mission and life in Bolivia, God has gone out of His way to show me that He desires and delights in providing for me in ways I cannot anticipate.
For example, I was gifted a companion in my fellow missioner, Anna, as we traveled safely from Miami to Cochabamba together. Upon arrival, I was taken in by a loving host family who constantly invited me into their lives, including attending a family wedding on my second day in Bolivia. In language school, I was classmates with a Korean sister in whose joyful, loving presence I saw the face of Christ everyday for my first three weeks here. I have also felt profound surprise in the generosity of new financial supporters whom I have never met before but who have donated to my time on mission. And, most recently, I am reminded of how God has provided for me and a long line of Franciscan missioners through a local Franciscan Social Center providing us a comfortable apartment, that we might feel safe and at home here while we walk the road of mission to which God has called each of us..
As I continue to step into simple, daily life here in Bolivia, I’m learning that the American culture of individualism is steeped in my thoughts and habits more deeply than I realized. To trust in the provision of the Lord in the same way that Francis did will take much patience, courage, and surrender. But, in this first month, the Lord has so clearly shown me that it is not a chore or a burden; He delights in providing for me. And, as He slowly transforms my heart in all His love and patience, I am starting to notice His simple, divine provision everywhere I go.
Reflection: Where do you notice God’s simple, divine provisions in your life?