Andres is getting married!
I remember very clearly when the picture below was taken. It was my first visit to Bolivia and I was asked to help out at a boys' home (with my five words of Spanish).
If you've heard the story, you know it was a very intimidating experience for me, that I didn't enjoy much the first day or so. But eventually I became good friends with a number of the boys in this picture and God gave me a life changing experience that week.
The kid on the far left, in the burgundy t-shirt is not one of the guys I got to know.
He was just a random boy there and ended up in the picture. For years (even after moving to Bolivia) I had no idea who he was. If you had told me then and there, that he would one day be one of my best friends and I'd be performing his wedding ceremony a couple of decades later...well, we would have had a good laugh together!
I do actually remember the first time (second time?) that I met Andres. I'd been working at the home for a few months, and one night I was with the director and his wife, getting groceries in the city. I saw a young guy sitting in the back of the truck who I didn't recognize, so I leaned over to the director's wife and whispered, "Is that a new kid?"
She looked at me in surprise and said, "No...that's Andres." I asked, "Who's Andres? How long has he been at the home?" "Four years probably."
I was like, "Four years!?" How was it possible that I hadn't met him yet?
Turns out Andres didn't really like the gringos much, so he had kind of avoided me. =) But after our ride back out to the home in the back of the truck, we started getting to know each other (a little...very little...). I made it my mission after that to find him and chat with him.
Eventually we started a discipleship time together, once a week. We'd read a chapter in a book I'd brought, and then get together to talk about it. In the early days, I'd roam the American aisle in the grocery story, looking for pop or chips or cookies he hadn't tried before. Something I could use to bribe him to keep going. =)
But eventually he really got into it, and when we finished the study, he proudly commented that this was the first book he'd ever read from start to finish!
Life has changed a lot over they years. From those days in the boys' home...to studying in the ministry...to becoming my co-worker and trusted friend...it's been amazing to see Andres grow and become the man he is. His ministry and relationship with God have deepened and strengthened (he's read many more books over the years!) and it's been a blessing to see how his life is encouraging and touching others.
A week from Saturday is the big day! (September 10th) We love his fiancé and are all very excited to continue to get to know her. She loves God and loves ministry and she loves Andres! I'm sure God has amazing things planned for the two of them. This week we met with the wedding planner at the event place. It felt very surreal to watch Andres and Cayita do a walk through of what will happen on Saturday! I'm very excited to be able to perform their ceremony. And yes. It will be in Spanish...lol...
As the woman was going through the program, she talked about the toasts to the bridal couple. Cayita's father is doing hers and right then Andres leaned over and said, "Oh, you're doing mine." I started laughing and he was like, "You've got nine days!"
True enough. Although, technically, now I have seven. But it's all good.
As I wrap this up, I want you to take a moment and scroll up to that first picture and look at that little guy in the burgundy t-shirt. This was just weeks after he arrived from the streets. He was likely sad and lonely and very unsure of his future. Now look at the smiling young man in the last picture. What an amazing example of the love and grace and healing of God. It has truly been an honour to walk with Andres through the ups and downs of life and see him reach this milestone. I know Andres and Cayita wish that everyone could be there to celebrate with them and they'll be pleased to know that so many people are thinking about them and praying for them on this special day! Please pray for the coming week as well. Things are good, but you know how it is with nerves and whatnot. =) I know they'd appreciate your prayers! Some of you have asked how you can get a wedding gift to Andres. If you're thinking about that, please contact me privately. Those gifts won't go through the ministry, so I'll be happy to help you!