September 2021 newsletter
Joe Loney and Filo Siles, Bolivia
“If you hear his voice, harden not your heart (Ps 95:7-8).
I am tired. It is a long way to go to just to see one person. Can’t it wait?
I am not a saint, and too often I want to put off the difficult task to tomorrow. Psalm 95 and those thoughts were on my mind as our team and I reviewed logistics. Getting to the home of Juan Carlos would not be easy.
Driving up the one-lane, narrow-switch-back dirt road I thought about my initial reaction to see Juan Carlos. We would be driving up, up and up for nearly an hour. We wanted to keep the windows open to let the circulation of the air reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure, but the two inches of August dust on the road made that unwise. The air inside our 4 x 4 vehicle would soon become filled with dust. I repeatedly jostled up and down in the seat and held onto the hand grip on the ceiling to steady myself during the frequent 90 degree turns and ruts. After we parked at an altitude of about 12,500 meters, we hiked up and down a narrow path for another 50 minutes or so to reach his adobe home. The path is filled with rocks and loose soil, ravines were crossed and my ankles were wobbled back and forth as I stumbled upon the rocks strewn all along the trail.
At the end of the trail we met Juan Carlos’ grandmother Doña Rosenda. She is a saint, raising her grandson who suffers from a complete hearing loss and intellectual challenges by herself. Their small fields of potatoes, corn and wheat terraced on the sides of steep mountain valleys sustain them. They raise sheep to obtain cash income.
Among the activities of our program is an economic sustenance component, where we sit down with the persons with disabilities, their families and local community leaders to analyze the interests and talents of the person with a disability and opportunities in their communities. This is a key step in the Bolivia where 80% of the population works in the informal economy.
Juan Carlos and his grandmother know sheep grazing very well. After many consultations, everyone agreed we should help them improve the breed of their sheep herd. Our program provides 80% of the cost, with the remainder paid by the family. Today we would be seeing if the pure-bred sheep we purchased for them produced any offspring.
Juan Carlos greeted us with frequent smiles and enthusiastic jumps up and down. He immediately showed us the baby sheep in his corral. The new breed will survive better the harsh climate, grow quicker and will produce more wool. I was heartened to see the smiles, baby sheep and Doña Rosenda, who expressed her deep gratitude with a traditional Bolivian meal for all.
We do our best to “hear His voice” through our program to bring human dignity to persons living with disabilities. You too can hear His voice by partnering with us to sponsor our works to make each person with a disability reach their maximum level of human development and to become economically self-sufficient. On average, the person with disability and/or their family receives $400 dollars’ worth of material to start up or improve a small business. We work with over 250 persons with disabilities.
Joe and Filo Loney and their team ARE saints. Don’t let him fool you. They are doing outstanding work, God’s work, in the Andes and other places in Bolivia. Children and adults with disabilities, who otherwise would not be receiving services, are the beneficiaries of Filo and Joe’s kindness and wisdom. I was grateful to witness their work in 2018 and 2019. May you continue to be safe and receive many blessings from above as well as from the grateful children, adults with disabilities and families with whom you work.