Monday, August 21, 2017

Mending Smiles and Hearts in Bolivia

Jennifer Bender spent a week in Bolivia helping with cleft lip and palate operations and sharing God's love.

Jennifer Bender spent a week in Bolivia helping with cleft lip and palate operations and sharing God's love.

A nurse is grateful to see God at work.

Being part of the cleft lip and palate medical team has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. This recent mission to Bolivia was my sixth trip, with the first five being to South Sudan. I’ve worked in pre-op as well as recovery. Getting to see people both young and old transformed in a surgery that takes less than two hours is truly remarkable.

Jennifer Bender and one of her youngest patients.

Jennifer and one of her youngest patients.

After returning to the United States, people often ask about my favorite part of the trip. For me, it’s in the moments. The moment just before surgery as patients sit nervously and wonder how their life is about to change. The moment they see themselves for the first time. The moment their family member comes in and starts crying because they are overwhelmed with how different they look. The moment the rain stops in time to walk outside without getting soaked, and all the other moments when God shows up and shows us His love abounds. Those are my favorite.

What I love most is the first look in the mirror. It’s the look in their eyes that almost moves me to tears. I like to think about what is running through their minds, such as how different life will be and the opportunities they will now have.

I’m so blessed to even catch a glimpse of some of these moments throughout the week. I believe they are soft whispers from the Lord reminding me of His goodness.

The theme for the week was, “Por un acto de amor volvemos a sonreír,” which translates, “For an act of love we smile again.” As I look back on my time in Bolivia, I’m reminded of why I keep returning again and again to serve with Samaritan’s Purse. It’s the simple act of Jesus dying on a cross for me as an act of love, and I want to share that love with everyone I meet.

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