By Sarah Jane Cauzillo, Franciscan Mission Service
I moved to Cochabamba, the fourth largest city in Bolivia, early in 2018. We are in something of a fish bowl, surrounded by the mountains, and with all the emissions from cars, trucks, and buses… sometimes I get caught in a bit of a foggy haze. As I walk through the streets, the music of an unfamiliar language pours into my ears, and I am twirled and spun into the crowds of people on the sidewalk. On any given day, I am probably lost – even just a little bit – on often unfamiliar or unmarked streets.
In all transparency, not much is “clear” to me these days. In a moment of raw humility recently, I finally admitted the truth aloud: “I do not even know what I do not know.” The clarity and sureness I once had in my neatly organized life in the States, before mission, seems like a clouded memory to me now. These past two months have been this tumultuous roller coaster ride of incredible highs and desolating lows.
Every day, I am honestly thankful that I am here, and I have not lost touch with the deep-rooted conviction within me that I am exactly where I am meant to be. However, as I walk through the bustling streets in a foreign land, still wary of my Spanish communication abilities, still in the dark 90% of the time when it comes to cultural norms, and still adjusting to the work at my ministry site, it is all too easy to get lost in: what exactly is God’s purpose for me here???
But then, something beautiful and simple happens. I look up. I see the Andes Mountains. Above the overwhelming sights, sounds, and smells of Cochabamba clogging my senses are these sprawling green peaks that throw me backwards in awe. The cascading hills, stretching miles and miles, hugging the city that is now my home, reach to places I have not visited yet or even dreamed of. The majesty, might, and holy grandeur of these rolling green slopes, reaching up to the clouds, simply cannot be ignored. They uphold a sheer force simply by being.
The revelation of size hits me in a new way, and I am reminded of the true magnitude of this Earth; and, more importantly — of the infinite and immeasurable size of Our God. The Holy Spirit glides over these mountains, and I am gifted with a fresh perspective. Looking at their magnificence, I do not feel swallowed whole, as I do when my nose is so closely pressed to the ground — so intently focused on me, myself, and how lost I am in these new streets. When I look up, I feel liberated, realizing the breadth of The God, Designer, and Sculptor. I experience peace as these truths become clear:
1. The size of these mountains point to the power of the Almighty Father. My doubts and fears — that God could be present with me, working in my life; feeling lost in a big city; that I have a true calling here — are crushed under the Truth of His Power.
2. The same Artist of the Andes Mountains is the same Creator of me. He sculpted and designed me too…
3. And so, if He is continuously shaping and changing these mountains through the evolution of time, how can I not trust Him to continue to shape and change my life too?
By zooming out from the menial and temperamental fears and failures of my day to day in the early life of mission, I find a stable and concrete peace. God is present, whether I feel Him or see Him. God is working in my life, whether I see the changes or feel the same from one day to the next. In the timetable of an Infinite God, the months I have been here are hardly a dot on the timeline. He is a God that works in slow and unpredictable ways — and actually, more often than not, working in the fog.
Looking at the mountains helps me see above this fog; helps me look up to God; and helps me hear Him clearly when He whispers gently to my heart in prayer: “Like the mountains, you are being slowly and delicately crafted for My Purpose. Trust in the process. Keep looking up! Take your eyes off yourself, and retrain your focus on the grand majesty happening all around you. Remember, I am here, always here, always working. Whether you can see me or not, I am here.”
In my outward and tangible appearance, I am still walking in a fog. I cannot see far down the road I am walking on — and, I am probably still “lost” on a street I do not know the name of. I’m still learning what my role is at my ministry site and how God intends to use me. But, I know that when I take my gaze off of myself — off of my own fears — I can see the grandeur of God. I see Him in my community mates, in the market, in the strangers I meet on the bus, in the girls I work with at the orphanage, and in the mountains. I see the progress I have made in my time so far, and I can see the hope I have in the future He is preparing for me. He is present; the same Holy Spirit that is sailing through the mountains is also guiding me on my path, slowly, but surely through the fog.