Familia Feliz Trip – January 2023


Familia Feliz Church Roof Project

October 2022 a Canadian group of 18 enthusiastic young people joined together, under the leadership of Sara Ross, to begin fundraising for various much-needed maintenance projects at Familia Feliz, an orphanage/boarding school in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia.  Their plan was to travel to Bolivia the beginning of January 2023 to work on these projects.

Unknown to them, just a couple of weeks prior to Sara contacting Familia Feliz to see how they could help, a group in Bolivia was praying for God to send manpower and funds to help do some renovations at Familia Feliz.  

They stepped out in faith to raise the funds needed for the supplies to do these maintenance projects and miseJe (missionaries in the service of Jesús) joined in with providing support to the donors requiring tax receipts.  God blessed immensely by surpassing in leaps and bounds our financial goal for the projects!

3:30 am on January 6, 2023 the entire group found themselves at the Santa Cruz airport in Bolivia ready to fly to Rurrenabque via La Paz.  As the 5:40 am flight to La Paz was delayed, they missed the connecting flight that would take them half an hour to reach Rurrenabaque!  What were they to do?!  At a 14,000-foot altitude, dressed for the jungle with shortness of breath and nausea, the group waited as their contacts in Bolivia arranged for taxi vans to drive them from the highlands to the orphanage in the low lands.  Ten hours later they were thankful to be safe and sound at their new home and workplace for the next three weeks.

The list of projects that awaited the group seemed daunting!  First and foremost, the roof of the church building was sagging and needed replacement.  But also …

  • The classrooms of the school needed new screen in the windows, painting, and new cement pillars to replace rotten wooden ones.
  • Septic systems needed to be to repaired and redone for the toilets to flush properly and the water to drain from the houses.
  • The student housing required wall prep, scraping, cleaning, painting, and slat application to transform them into bright clean houses with privacy and better protection from bugs and the elements.
  • Plumbing in most of the buildings had to be fixed.
  • A lot of the electrical work in the homes needed to be replaced.

And so the work began on January 8th with work groups at each of the work sites.  It was amazing to see so many people come together to work on the projects at Familia Feliz!  Not only were there the Canadian volunteers, but also former students had come together.  These former students sacrificed their time and energy to give back to the projects and people that have been a part of their formation into the beautiful and loving young people they are today.  Then there were also volunteers from other projects in the country who shared their talents and skills in project management, building septic tanks, cooking, electrical work, and carpentry.  What a blessing to join together in this experience at Familia Feliz!

By the end of the first week great progress had been made on all the projects.  The young digging crew for the septic project even got up at 6:00 am one morning, blisters and all, to finish digging the septic trenches to avoid the heat of midday.   A backhoe was rented to dig the septic holes and the septic tank for one house was well on its way.  The house painting, slatting, and cleaning were making it look like new.  The crew at the school was prepping the classrooms for new screen in the windows, painting, and removing the rotten wooden pillars.  The plumbing and electrical work accomplished meant that toilets no longer leaked, showers drained, sinks worked, and lights were working where needed!  And fine progress was made on the church roof!  Taking down the rafters was dangerous, hot and hard work for the crew!  They also had the dirty job of having to clean up the accumulation of years of bat and rat feces, along with the piles of broken plaster, wire and rafters.

In spite of all the work accomplished, the group still had time to take a short trip down the road to experience a tiny taste of the Garden of Eden.  Bananas, coconuts, papayas, starfruit, mangos, chocolate fruit, breadfruit, achachairú, noni, and all sorts of other amazing things grow very happily there!

Everyone even managed to take off an afternoon from working and headed to a nearby swimming hole to enjoy cooling off, playing in the water, and enjoying fresh coconut flesh and water.  The group returned to Familia Feliz tired, but refreshed!

Even though many of the kids who study and board at Familia Feliz had gone to their homes for vacation, there were still plenty of little ones without safe homes to go to around to brighten the group’s days.  There were lots of cuddles and so many special moments to share together.

Through the next two weeks the work continued, interrupted only by taking a couple of days off to travel three hours to visit the Eben-Ezer School in Ixiamas, where many of the volunteers came from to help out Familia Feliz.

Group Photo

January 27 the group left Familia Feliz and behind them:

  • The school had freshly painted classrooms and doors along with new window frames, bars and screens.
  • Two new septic tanks had overflow runways lined with gravel to prevent sewage back up.  This meant that the laundry sinks, toilets and showers that had been backing up, and the sewage tanks near the houses that had been overflowing and causing wet, smelly swamps to walk through and live with were now gone!
  • The student housing was newly painted inside and out, had new window frames with bars and screens, slats on all the walls, and upgraded plumbing and electrical systems.
  • The roofing crew on the church had not only secured the new rafters to the walls, placed the tin on the top and added a drop ceiling, but they were joined by other group members to give the whole inside of the church a fresh coat of paint!

Even amongst the challenges of heat, humidity, bugs, sickness, awful smells, grime and experiencing a new culture, everyone remained cheerful, diligent and hard working as they persevered to accomplish the projects they had initially set out to do.

Sara Ross summed up her experience by saying, “It was exciting and reassuring to be reminded that God has plans to use anyone willing to give Him their time and effort.  He truly worked harder than anyone on this trip –  and we worked hard!  I couldn’t have picked a better team, or planned anything better than what He did.”

Rosie H. shared, “I am very grateful for this experience!  This trip really changed me.  The group was amazing, and very encouraging and entertaining! They were great to travel and work with!  I’ve never had that much fun before!  Bolivia is a beautiful place.  I experienced so many things – a beautiful waterfall, fresh fruit, enjoying a quaint town, amazing food, wonderful and friendly people, and sharing God’s love through meetings and singing.  There was lots of hard work, but many hands make light work.”

Sarah M. said, “For my first ever mission trip, it was such an incredible experience. I had always wanted to go on one, but in a way it frightened me as I had no idea what to expect. But God really paved the way for this trip, and seeing him work that entire month made me realize the amazing and loving God I serve. My relationship with the friends I went with was strengthened, and I also made new friendships. I met some people there that I feel was God’s divine leading as they had helped me through some difficult things and helped me to grow. There was especially this one girl who became like a little sister to me. She brought me on so many adventures, she held my hand, painted with me, and would lay in my lap when we travelled in the back of the truck. She really brightened that trip for me too and was the hardest goodbye I ever had. I will never forget everything that had happened in such a short time.”

“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”  (Ecclesiastes 12:1, NKJV).

For ongoing support of needs at Familia Feliz, you may donate online through an e-transfer to info@miseje.org.  Please indicate that your donation is for Familia Feliz.  Thank you for your continued support of miseJe and its projects!

To learn more about the ministry of Familia Feliz, visit their website at www.familia-feliz.org/.

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