“a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,”

Matthew 12:20

This verse speaks to me about how Jesus views those with depression. A smoldering candle is definitely an analogy that fits well with what it feels like to live with depression. Not quite burning, but not quite extinguished either. You are probably wondering what this has to do with my trip to Bolivia. I promise, that in the end it will all make sense.

When I first felt Jesus call to me, I was 18 and getting ready to start my freshman year at the Ohio State University. In those first years, I was literally on fire for Jesus- smolder wasn’t even in my vocabulary. I decided to major in Spanish so that I could move to Mexico and spread the gospel to the people there. I had no plan, no clear path but that was my intention.

However, many things contributed to the failure of this coming to pass. I isolated myself. I suspect it was the shame of my failures that drove that initial wedge between me and Jesus. I still loved God, but I honestly believed after 15 years of hiding from Him, that there was no redemption.

When you live with depression, normal daily tasks can be a challenge. Sometimes it can take every ounce of energy to even get out of bed. You can lose your sense of worth. I lived in a fog of depression and hopelessness when Jesus called to me again when 3.5 years ago my best friend, who was visiting from Ohio, literally dragged me through the doors of Gulf Coast

The smolder has flickered and has been set ablaze on many occasions in the last 3.5 years. Through the community here, including several friendships, God has truly enabled me to start to see my worth and to delight in Him. He freed me from anxiety about my past, my present and my future. I justgo into each day, knowing that he has promised to give me what I need each day if I willjust faithfully trust him.

I was teaching in NCK during 1stservice when I felt like I should go on a mission trip. At the 2ndservice, information was shared about summer. One of those trips was to Bolivia. I knew exactly 3 things about Bolivia at that time. 1. It was in South America. 2. They spoke Spanish there. 3. God wanted me to go.

In early March I committed to go to Bolivia. Everything moved very quickly. By May, all of the needed funds were there. In June I met the rest of the team and In July, it was time to go.

I was a smolder again at this point. That is really how depression works. It sneaks up on you. I didn’t want to go. because I just didn’t feel like in my current state, I would be of much use. But God did use the talents and skills that he gifted me with in a big way! I honestly didn’t even really know what to expect on this trip. I did know that I was going to be working with children and youth in many different facets while in Bolivia.  The day I was leaving for Bolivia, I felt really strongly that I needed to take craft supplies. I filled an entire suitcase with beads, pipe cleaners, foam crafts, paper, markers and a variety of other supplies. Children are children know matter what part of the world they live in and as long as I had supplies I knew that I could connect with the children of Bolivia. We spent time in Coroico.  I worked with some of the Bolivians on our team to show them how to make bracelets for an outreach event and we were able to have many conversations with the people of Coroico and teenagers alike were drawn in and we were able to connect them with the church in Coroico. We also performed a Gospel skit in several places to help break the language barrier. Later in the week we went to El Alto. There we met Fineke, an amazing lady from Holland who ran a program, Adulan, for teenage boys and girls who had previously been on the streets. My time spent with the girls and boys there was impacting. God used my ability in organizing children’s files along with my knowledge of how names work in Latin America, to help the social worker at Adulan, to organize 10 years’ worth of files. On our last day in La Paz, I was blessed to hear several testimonies from the inmates and to share my own testimony as well. Through all of this, my fluency in the Spanish language came back to me, After 18 years of not speaking, it took a few days, but I was able to communicate with many of the Bolivians there without needing to rely on a translator.

I know that many of you feel like I do at times. A smolder. It might be hard to function. Maybe you feel like you are too far gone and that there is no way that God could use you for His good purpose or even that Jesus could love you. Guess what?  You aren’t, he can and he does! I will close out with a few verses that I have always loved, but never truly understood until I spent time processing my time in Bolivia. 2 Corinthians 4:6-10:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.