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Living Out Franciscan Values on Mission in Bolivia

Living Out Franciscan Values on Mission in Bolivia

Editor’s note: Missioner Victor Artaiz was welcomed to the home of a large family in the countryside of Bolivia.  During his stay with them, he witnessed Franciscan values come to life.

I am no longer surprised by the levels of Franciscan values I experience on mission here in Bolivia!  Case in point are my experiences in ministry over the last several weeks.

During my time over this past Christmas into the new year, I was blessed to accompany a large family of 13 with 8 siblings, 2 grandchildren, and a grandmother. This family lives in the countryside of Santa Cruz in the pueblo of Mora Mora set deep in the steep mountains of the local community Potrerillos. I had accepted their invitation to visit their home and way of life not knowing exactly what to expect. My time there over two weeks was a blend of accompaniment, being present, leaning in, and being vulnerable within the family dynamics, culture, language and topography of this beautiful home and geography.  

I experienced true simplicity through long days of living outdoors in the “campo” of hundreds of mountain acres and a home of 3 small buildings made of mud and straw, no electricity, one solar panel, one spicket for water, and one outhouse for the bathroom. 

I spent my days learning to collect leña (branches for firewood), start and attend to fires for cooking, learning to prepare and cook new recipes/meals, hiking to pick peaches, helping to collect the cattle from the mountainside…all within a surrounding of God’s spectacular naturaleza.  I can honestly say my ability to hike the steep mountainside was limited and treacherous. Watching the various family members navigate their way on the mountain with ease was quite impressive! In leather sandals no less! Being out in the midst of creation for two plus weeks was a far cry from the city of Cochabamba. The vistas were spectacular and the daily experience of being amongst chickens, sheep, cows, bulls, and the five family farm dogs was something out of a Louis L’Amour novel.

Communicating in a completely different dialect of Spanish was not easy but we learned to exchange ideas through eye contact and hand gestures, head motions and a lot of smiling and laughter! I was certainly out of my element but nevertheless felt so at home and welcomed amongst this loving family. We even spent time each evening saying the Rosary together in candlelight. I never experienced such a close knit family literally living off the land and their own tremendously skilled labor. The communication and teamwork was calm and efficient. 

It was a joy to see the smiles during delicious meals after long days of mountain farming. We would huddle around small tables eating with our hands mostly enjoying meals made from the recent Christmas pig that was prepared right in front of me. Another meal I really enjoyed was homemade api, a hot drink or soup of ground purple maize and spices cooked with freshly picked peaches. It was a nourishing and delicious treat in the cool evenings after sundown. The family grows wheat, corn, potatoes, and peaches. They raise dairy cows, chickens, and sheep. Other food supplies are brought in on occasion from Vallegrande, 2 hours away.

I could and probably will write a book one day about this wonderful experience. My Franciscan formation at FMS certainly provided me a blueprint of what to expect here on mission as the various Franciscan values came to fruition here in ministry.

Question for reflection: How have you experienced Franciscan values in your daily walk?

Click on the slideshow below for a closer look at Victor’s time in the countryside!

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.