Tiwanaku and Calauma

Yesterday was our last day visiting the boys of the Kaya family. We had two different activities planned for the day. Most of the group (13) went with almost 100 kids to Tiwanaku (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiwanaku). The other four of us, myself, Scott, Lynn, Lee went to Calauma, a juvenile prision here where two children (Carlos and Adolfo) Kaya has worked with in the past are living. The plan was to go there and then meet the rest of the group in Tiwanaku. The inturruption of plans began as we arrived in Viacha, the city where the jail is situated. As we arrived just minutes from our final desitination we quickly saw the road blockade and the 3 military takes ahead of us. We asked for passage, while denied we happened to meet someone going to the same jail who could take us through another route. Definately a God moment. We began to cross through this barren landscape, partly following a road and partially making our own path. With the jail in sight our passage was no blocked by a Toyota Corolla veered off a narrow passage over the train tracks. What followed must have been nothing short of amazing and surprising for the Bolivian driver as two big Americans came out of nowhere to join a handfull of Bolivians and pick the car up off the tracks.

We were blessed to be able to spend about two hours with Adolfo and Carlos in Calauma. They asked for forgiveness for the mistakes they made, shared how much being in the homes meant to them. Three times they asked to be forgiven for the "grave mistake" they made. I assured them, they are forgiven and that we were there to encourage them and to remind them how many people love them, care for them and are standing behind them to help and support them. They shared remembering even the first time they came to the Renacer home and what living in the homes meant to them. They said that without Kaya and the love in the homes they would not have known God or God's love. It was something they had never experienced prior to coming to live in the Kaya homes and clearly made a mark on their life. Our visit was to encourage, support and to remind them that when the time comes to leave not to look for problems, but to look for help and support. Carlos was afraid it was too late for him, but we assured him that it is never to late to change your life. We encoruaged him not to focus on regrets of the past but to look forward to the future. We shared time playing games and brought lunch for Adolfo and Carlos. Part of our long visit and the special permission to bring a camera may have been that Carlos is well liked by the staff because he is an excellent soccer player. Regardless, we were able to take in our camera and take the pictures you see below. We know Kaya has made a mark on their lives and they will forever be a part of the Kaya family. We don't now what that will end up looking like, but pray they experience grace and live out of faith, hope and trust.

Our return back to La Paz was about as adventurous as the path there. Our route we found in was no blockaded too. Amazingly though it was Google Maps, with a little cell phone coverage that helped us navigate our way out and back to the main road after nearly an hour on dusty dirt roads. We all made it back safe and shared bittersweet moments of saying goodbyes. If I'm able I'll add another post later from someone who went to Tiwanaku and can share more about their trip.

It's 5:40am now. Most of us have been up since 3:00am and are ready to board our flights back to the states any moment. We are blessed for a smooth trip, relative safety (ask Scott about moving cars) and great time with the kids. Thank you to everyone for all your prayers and support. If all goes well the team will be back in Omaha at about 11:30 tonight. Please excuse any typos, the blog is being written after about 2.5 hours of sleep early in the morning as we wait to board the flight.

Blessings,
John

Here is some thoughts and reflections from Sherri Harnisch about the trip to Tiwanaku.
Our team arose early and made the brisk walk over to the Kaya Center. Three large busses could be seen from a distance. As we got closer we could see several little heads peering through the gate that stands in front of the Kaya Center. Before we knew it, a few of the kiddos had escaped and rushed over to greet us with smiles, giant hugs and happy giggles. You could sense the excited anticipation in the air. As we walked through the gate, into the enclosed courtyard, there stood close to 100 children, wall-to-wall, waiting, all bundled in their winter gear, coats, hats and scarfs. Some, as the staff had anticipated, arrived without proper attire, but no worries, they had plenty of gear on hand to loan out to everyone. As a result, some kids' coats were a bit oversized, but they didn't seem to mind one bit! I was especially fond of Rauel, who donned a husker hat & husker sweatshirt. "Go Big Red" is what we chanted as I snapped his picture. :)

Once the announcement was finally made to board the busses, I, along with the children, could not run fast enough to claim our seats. I was excited to be sitting across from Cindy, who speaks Spanish fluently. :) Our bus happened to be full of the younger kiddos primarily...so, while our two-hour trip was a tad-bit crazy, it was fun and PRICELESS at the same time! We started off singing songs and the majority of our (Cindy & my) time was spent ensuring equal time between various electronic devices of ours (iPhones & iPad) that the children were eager to get their hands on. "cinco minutos...dos minutos...TIEMPO"! "Sienta-te" (sit down) was a frequent phrase heard out of Cindy's mouth. The kids also enjoyed wearing our sunglasses, we had packed several and passed them around. We took photos and called them "super estrella's". They just LOVED seeing their faces in photo form on our cameras.

As we were en-route, getting caught up in the fun commotion inside the moving bus, taking in the gorgeous view of the Andes outside the bus...it was easy to lose sight of who these children are, where they come from, how they live and WHY the Kaya Center plays such an integral part of allowing them to be "children" if even just for a few hours each day. I paused for a moment, stole my iPhone back, turned a special song "Gratitude" waay up. I think I needed that five minutes to sit back and truly absorb this moment. Silent tears were streaming down my cheeks and neck. A familiar tightness grabbed ahold of my neck, ached my heart. I wanted to make time stand still. At that moment I wanted to grab the steering wheel and turn it into the direction of Elkhorn, NE. They could live with me. I have room. But no. That's not the point. They love La Paz. This is where they call home. No, they do not have it easy. Yes, they have been forced to grow up too early. Some begin work to support their families as early as six years old. This seems unfair. But I have to remind myself, this is all they know. I am proud and my heart is at peace knowing they have the fine staff and volunteers at the Kaya Center who love and care for them. And ALWAYS WILL!!

Okay. Unfreeze time. Back to our field trip. After a couple hours we arrived at Tiwanaku, which is an archeological ruins. I have learned that this was one of two "large group" trips they have the opportunity of taking each year. What BLESSING that we could accompany them on this special outing. Our time at Tiwanaku was enjoyable. The kids had the freedom to run and check everything out. All-in-all, I was impressed (amazed might be a better word) at the organization and over-all controls we had over the kids. As you could imagine the children significantly outnumbered the adults. We toured, played, shopped and picnicked for many hours without incident. Our two-hour journey and descent home was much the same as our prior ascent into the mountain. Albeit, slightly less energetic.

An eerie silence overcame us as our busses approached the Kaya Center. Just knowing these special little people would be returning to their "not-quite-like-we-have-it" homes, made for a somber departure from the bus.

I think having to say goodbye/Chau/Adios to all those incredible Kaya kids tonight will rank pretty high as the "hardest thing I've ever had to do". A million hugs and kisses by all. Our drawn out "Goodbye" in front of the Kaya Center seemed to last an excruciatingly long time.

We were all just so sad to be leaving Bolivia, leaving these amazing people, we will miss their sweet smiles, kind hearts & tender souls...but so glad to be returning home to our families.

Sherri Harnisch

Pictures from Day 6
I've updated the album to include photos from Tiwanaku, however you may need to go directly to the web album to view them.
Direct Album Link - https://picasaweb.google.com/113596982964623615822/Kaya2012Day6TiwanakuA...

Video of singing on the bus to Tiwanaku

Visiting Tiwanaku

Puerta del la Luna