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Franciscan Values and Blessing In Cochabamba

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Editor’s Note: Overseas Lay Missioner Victor Artaiz reflects on Franciscan values and blessings he is experiencing while serving in Cochabamba, Bolivia. 

Heading into my third month of mission here in the beautiful city of Cochabamba, I am overwhelmed, delighted, and reminded daily of the various Franciscan values and blessings I encounter along this journey. A continuing transition and conversion towards the values lived out by Saints Francis and Clare in following the Way of Christ are encountered here in my daily walk. 

Value in the form of humility, where I struggle to both hear and speak the local language of Spanish. A language that I “thought” I had a pretty good grasp of but in truth, and in the bustle of the day and speed of the language, I lose much of the dialogue that is in front of me. This also happens in the stillness of the various churches here, (St. Ann, St. Rafael, St. Clare, St. Francis) while attending Mass. The priest’s voice is either too low to discern his words, or the echo of his voice reverberates into the vastness of these beautiful and massive godly structures. It took some time not to get frustrated and to eventually find peace and a smile in just being with others in worship together; in being blessed to just be and experience the details in the architecture and solemnity of the liturgy. 

Value in the form of simplicity where my ministerial opportunities are just now being formed and my schedule is not yet firmly in place. Living differently in a former convent in my room which has 16-foot ceilings and a door that leads to a beautiful courtyard of flowering and fruitful trees that open to the magnificent everchanging Bolivian skies. This simplicity provides time for much prayer and reading, thickening my foundational faith and conversion in this Lenten season. I continue to discern ministries to accompany men in prison, fellow brothers struggling with alcoholism, and sharing time preparing and providing meals for the hungry and homeless here at the Centro Social Franciscano.

Value in the form of accompaniment and vulnerability during my time with men I meet at a local group of Alcoholics Anonymous. A blessing to be reacquainted with friends living in difficulties with an addiction I know all too well.

Value in the form of community here at the Centro with my FMS apartment-mates Nora and Domo who have both welcomed and guided me here in the bustle of the city teaching me so many things about Cochabamba. We shop for food together at the Mercado de 25 de Mayo (my Granddaughter’s birth date … more blessings and smiles) and hold prayer and reflection time in the evenings.

In this time of Lent and season of reflection and repentance, God runs towards me with open arms by providing me with an ongoing experience of Franciscan values. He continues to smooth my path here in my early stages on mission. I am grateful for the continued support and guidance of my family and friends back at home and within the FMS organization.

What Franciscan values and blessings do you witness in your daily walk?

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After a 30 year career in international business and serving communities in Kenya and locally in New Haven, CT, Victor Artaiz is grateful for the opportunity to serve and accompany individuals living on the margins in mutuality and simplicity through FMS’ Overseas Lay Missioner program. Victor's ministries in Cochabamba, Bolivia, include addiction recovery services, accompanying men who are incarcerated, and serving meals to people experiencing hunger.