I have one more night of sleep and we are off to Bolivia! There is a snowstorm brewing here in Chicago, but our American Airlines pilot to Miami just happens to be a close friend of our Trip Co-Coordinator and Board Chair, Kurt Florian, and our pilot assures us he doesn’t see any problems.

That uncanny connection got me to thinking about all the others who come together to form that bridge we talk so much about here. For this Mission, we are blessed with another amazing group: 8 women and 8 men, forming 3 medical teams who will work in 3 hospitals in 2 cities, Cochabamba and Aiquile. The surgeries, equipment, and training to be provided in Aiquile are part of a shiny new bridge we are all beaming about: a partnership with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to provide medical treatment, including pacemaker implants and colon surgeries, to acute-case Chagas disease patients identified by MSF.

Less than a year ago, our Executive Director, Juan Lorenzo, shared the news of a promising meeting in Paraguay with the head of a new MSF outreach program. MSF has longstanding education and prevention work around Chagas disease in Bolivia, but was less equipped to treat advanced cases.  Juan Lorenzo knew we could complement their work with that missing service. You can read more about this history and Chagas disease in Juan Lorenzo’s blog post of April 18, 2011. How quickly that connection has come together! Our videographer is already in Bolivia working on a documentary on this SB-MSF collaboration in the struggle against this devastating disease in Bolivia, so watch for it later this year.

My hat on this mission trip is that of Assistant Trip Coordinator. I have been with Solidarity Bridge for only a few weeks now as Coordinator of Latin American Programs, and this will be my trial by fire! At this moment I confess a mixture of terror and humility in light of the awesome responsibility entrusted to me and all those on this mission trip team. As I try to clear my head in hopes of getting some rest, I remember the blessing my sister shared with me about two months ago when I was interviewing for this job. While I was confident of my skills and experience to handle the logistical and organizational aspects, I was humbled by the emotional and spiritual journey I was embarking upon. The blessing was made famous in a song by the Jewish-American Folk singer, Debbie Friedman, and it reminds me that we are constantly drawing from a greater power than ourselves and building upon the work of all those who precede, surround and support us. And that means all of you reading this, including our many donors, who make all of this possible. I share the blessing with you, and thank you for your faith and confidence in what we are about to undertake.

May the source of strength

Who blessed the ones before us

Help us find the courage

To make our lives a blessing.

And let us say, Amen

I’ll be back in touch soon!