I was born on January 25, 1958, in LaPaz, Bolivia. Just a few years before my birth, my parents decided to devote themselves to missionary work. During that time they also decided to start a family. My mom thought she was en cinta but her doctor said otherwise, so Mom and Dad concluded this was the time for them to go. They set out for LaPaz, Bolivia, with World Mission Prayer League, an independent Lutheran mission prayer society. Dad stopped in Costa Rica for nine months of language study and Mom went on ahead to teach at a missionary children's school. (The new raging debate is whether these children should be called "MK's" -- missionary's kids -- or third culture kids.) Even though the doctor had declared my mom "not pregnant," I was born five months after their departure for Bolivia. I was four months old when I finally met my dad--though this I learned from hearsay as I have no recollection of the occasion. I was baptized shortly there after. My family and I spent the next fifteen years (with two and a half in the US for "furlough") in Bolivia.
I lived with my mom on Coaba Farm, down hill from the town of Cheje on the way to Sorata, until my dad came to Bolivia from Costa Rica. We then moved to La Paz where Dad pastored a church. My earliest memories come from two events in these early La Paz years. The first is a quite vivid picture of the mission home living room on Christmas morning a month before I turned three. It is a mental snapshot of the Christmas tree. The second is a quadrad of mental images just a few months later. On our way back to the U.S. on what was then called furlough (the new terminology is home asignment) we traveled via steam ship accross Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake. Dad had built a Noah's Ark for me for the previous Chritmas. I vividly remember standing on the shore before boarding looking up at this massive ship. The image of the toy ark and the image of the ship are forever mixed in my mind's eye. Three other pictures of that trip that remaim as clear as though they happened yesterday are a view of the water once we had "set sail" accompanied with the memory of shear panic of falling overboard, the red crushed velvet bedspreads on dark wooden bunks in our room, and the black-suited waitor in the chandeliered dining room.
I have no memory of the year we spent Stateside.
Shortly after returning to Bolivia, Dad and I took a trip to the north of La Paz to the town of Apolo. Since we later made the trip often in a DC-3, I'm guessing that trip, too, was an hour DC-3 flight. We were called back to the U.S. just after that for a family emergency. I began my school career during those six months. When we went back to Bolivia it was back to Apolo, this time with the whole family which them included Mom, Dad, a sister, and a brother. A second sister would follow not long after. Mom and Dad spent that entire four year term in Apolo. By later accounting, they figured that Dad was only home about one third of the time we were there. The rest of the time he was doing itinerant evangelism in the outlying towns and villages. Those were challenging years for our family as we dealt with heppatitis, whopping cough, and near deadly infections. We have often been greatful for the invention of penecillin. My youngest sister was born during these years, so then we were five. My oldest sister and I spent the last of those four years at a missionary boarding school at Carachipampa outside the city of Cochabamba. The memories of that year could themselves fill a book.
The next year found us back in northern Minnesota.
Upon our return to Bolivia, Mom and Dad were assigned to the pastorage of a large Lutheran congregation in LaPaz. The four oldest of us returned to Carachipampa Boarding School for one year. I have trouble keeping the memories of that year and the previous one at the same school apart. About that time the American Cooperative School in LaPaz hired a new superintendent who believed no missionary parents should be separated from their children because they could not afford the tuition at this prestigious school. To solve this problem he offered full scholarships for missionary children, and we began attending school close to home. It was about an hour city bus ride (and back then riding a city bus was often a squeeze in and maybe a toe in the door adventure) from home to school. I was reluctant to go at first. I had been very sheltered. Now I was being exposed to U.S. Marines' kids who spoke and acted like their dads and it scared me. Eventually I got used to the new environment and now can boast that my class included the U.S. ambassador's daughter, the U.S. vice-ambassador's son, the United Kingdom ambassador's daughter, the Chinese ambassador's son, the Jordanian ambassador's daughter, some doctors' kids, and a few other MK's .
With the exception of one other MK, with whom I was very close, my friends during that time where members of the church where Dad pastored and other MK's who were part of our mission. We had a very active youth group. We would get together every Saturday evening for volleyball or indoor group games and a time of Bible study. I have many good memories of those three years in LaPaz.
When we left Bolivia at the end of those four years, it was for the last time. I was fifteen. I left my teenage sweetheart, but more than that I left part of my heart.