The Harnisch Family

The Harnisch Family

Jun 24, 2012

We arrived in Bolivia!!

We arrived in Bolivia yesterday morning at 6:00am!  Our travels, albeit long, from Omaha, to Chicago, to Miami and finally to La Paz were smooth and without incident.  Meaning, without major delays, no sickness, all luggage was intact, each of us checked through customs and immigrations without hassle. 
Our plane actually landed up in El Alto, so we had to drive down the mountainous terrain, through some very poor villages, towards La Paz.  Due to it being so early, it was calm and quiet.  We could not help but notice that the dogs outnumbered the people on the street 178 to 1.  No, sersiously.  The girls in our van were literally COUNTING all the wild dogs roaming around.  There were literally 178 spotted just during that short 30 minute drive from the airport to our hotel.  Ha!
Upon arriving to our hotel (Hotel Calacoto, which is really nice and settled into the upscal downtown district of La Paz), we ate, or should I say MOWED DOWN, a scrumptious buffet breakfast then went up to our rooms for a couple hours of rest.  I learned that my roomies are Christina and Teri.  EXCELENTE!  After that much needed down time we met back up with our group downstairs to really BEGIN our journey!
First we stopped at a bank to exchange our American dollars to Boliviano's (b's).  Funny, I feel RICH, as their money goes seven times further than theirs.  By about 70% or so.
for example...100 B's is the equivalent to about $13.00.
Then, we drove a few minutes back up the mountain, over some "God-awful" cobblestone roads (beautiful...until you drive on them) until we arrived to the gorgeous residences of Kaya.  Bethany House & Renacer House. This three story stucco style home, which houses the two, is settled on a large property that is surrounded by a 10ft+ brick wall. There are endless, stunning views of the Andes Mountains all around. Beautifully breath-taking.  Simply stunning.  This is GOD´s country!
Our van was greeted with excited, smiling and full of energy kiddos, who couldn´t wait for us to step down and greet them all with BIG hugs & kisses.  We exchanged names, they grabbed our hands, and invited us into their home where they were proud to show us around.  Each kid was excited to give us a personal tour of their own rooms, beds and cabinets.  It´s nice to see that they each have their own space.  They introduced us to their special stuffed animals and toys.  very tidy!
All of the kids were so polite, kind, gratious & hospitable.
We had an absolutely WONDERFUL day!  The weather could not have been any more perfect as well...Just hanging out, eating lunch & playing soccer (Fut-ball) with all the kids.  Each one has their own unique personality, but EVERY single one was sweet, polite, silly, gracious and hospitable.  They just seemed so genuinely excited to see us.  The gal, I can´t recall her name, but she is a physchologist over at the Kaya Center, told us that our presence has brought much energy (the good and positive kind) out of them  :)  I told her "and visa-versa" for sure. 
I'm just SOO grateful for their beautiful smiles, zest for life and unending ENERGY!

As you could imagine, I was somewhat intimidated, nervous and anxious about this trip, knowing that there would be a language barrier between myself and these kids...but it´s funny, that despite the langauge barrier, smiles, love, hugs, high-fives, skateboarding, thumbs up and ANGRY BIRDS is seeminlgly universal in all languages. Yes, Angry Birds.  There were several apps on my iPhone that the kids were immediately familiar with.  After a few months of them huddled around it, I came to the realization that they´d be fine.  So, I walked away and just let them GO with it.  I could trust them,  Heck, I trust my 4 year old with it all the time at home!  Lots of the kids enjoyed playing games on it (Skateboarding and Angry Birds were among their favoritos).

Oh, and they enjoyed snapping pics with my "Grande"camera as well.
They especially loved the long zoom & out, in & out, over & over again.  Hehe    I already KNOW that some of my favorites are going to be the ones that they took of each other with my camera.  :)  They were able to bring such genuine and curious smiles out of each other.  They also loved taking a pic and quickly looking at the image they just captured.  Always impressed with their fine photography skils.  "Muy Bien" I´d say.  :)
Here are just a few of the names of the kids I was able to recall so far:
Alberto - cute little, petite guy in a yellow shirt.  he sat by me at lunch.  He knew some english and teased me for spilling my soda.  But then he proceeded to make me feel better by spilling his own next.   hehe
Carlo - This little guy sat by me while watching the big kids play soccer.  He was very intrigued by my fancy "insulated" water bottle.  captivated by it actually, opening and closing it, turning over and around, trying to figure it all out.  :-)
Adrien - sat near me on the ledge.  Funny kid!  He extended his hand and helped me climb up.  What a gentlemen.  He and his buddy were using their phones to communicate and ask me questions.  A couple were "What´s your age?"  "Are you coming back next year"  "what´s your favorito sport". etc... They are learning english in school, so I was proud with their resourcefulness and desire to speak my language.
Ebahn - AKA Rosie/tomatoe, all the kids in the house call him these names because of his red rosie cheeks.  it was enduring  :-)
Karla - very nice gal who walks the streets and ministers to these homeless kids.  She´s the one who trys and trys and trys and get through to them, build their trust and encourages them to COME TO THE KAYA CENTER, food, shelter, couseling, medical needs, and anything else they might need.
Xemena - Kaya House director
Andrew (Andres) - a handsome 4th year from Texas A&M.  He is studying to be a doctor (specifically infectious disease).  He is in La Paz for a few months as part of a medical mission trip.  He is working primarily at the Kaya Center as a "pediatrics intern".  For us, he is serving as our fearless and awesome TRANSLATOR.  Along with Cindy, John and now Andrew, it´s so NICE to have some fluent Spanish speakers in our midst.  PRICELESS! 
I am so grateful for them.  I know and have picked up on a lot of the basics, so I am getting by.  But, sometimes, their questions get kinda tricky. :-)
Israel - is a handsome and very special young man who has been at the Kaya Center for 7+ years.  He hopes to be a cullinary chef some day lunch and was excited to prepare a traditional Bavilion Cuisine "Pique Macho" for us all.  It was DELICIOSO! 

A couple things that have taken some getting used to are (besides the language and culture) are:  not being aloud to flush the the toilet paper down the toilet and having to learn to brush my teeth using water from my water bottle.  I´m starting to get the hang of it!  :-)

Below is Pastor John´s account of the trip so far...he has such an eloquent way with words, so I wanted to share them on here (so they print later in my blog book) his words late last night:

Our Day at the Kaya Homes

"It's been a long day today, some might even feel like it was two! After our arrival and rest we headed up to the Kaya residential homes for lunch and activities this afternoon. The first surprise of the trip was that our lunch was prepared by Isreal. Isreal is a young man living in our independence program who has been with us for about 7 years and is studying to be a chef. He cooked Pique Macho for us today, which is a traditional Bolivian dish and it was fantastic! (Pique Macho is steak strips, hot dogs (yes, hot dogs), and sliced onions that are seasoned and cooked and then served on fried potatos with rice to the side.)
After lunch we spent the afternoon playing canchitas (foosball) and soccer outside. At 12,500 feet soccer can be a challenge but those who played from our group did fantastic. In just about all of Latin America soccer isn't just a sport, it's a social and gathering time and that was certainly the case today. As we rotated teams in and out the rest of the group talked, played, watched and just enjoyed the afternoon together.
By the time we were back to our hotel at 6 everyone was exhuasted. We shared in our devotional about our attitude of service for the week and spent time in prayer sharing our prayers of thanks. I think everyone today was struck with the "normality" of life at Kaya. What's most amazing is despite their past struggles and failures of ther families how quickly children can blossom in an atmosphere of love and care. Today what everyone witnessed was joy and hope coming out of struggles (check out what Paul says about this in Romans 5:3-5.) What we saw were children filled with hope, joy and trust. It's what happens when we return children to their childhood and give them a safe loving place to grow up.
Tomorrow we are off to church in the morning. Church here is 2 and half hours long, so no complaining if Larry's sermon is a little long tomorrow! (Although we have to confess, we won't be there full the full 2+ hours of church.) After church we will do some hiking and more time with the Kaya residential program boys.
Please continue to pray for the safety and health of our team. Acclimating to 12,000 feet with a bunch of activity and limited sleep isn't easy on the body. Pray that everyone acclimates well, stays healthy and stays safe.
Here are some pictures and videos for today. Even though it took forever to upload I had to include the soccer video so you could see our team at work. One note on pictures and videos. "Broadband" in Bolivia is much, much slower than in the US so I have to upload things at lower resolution. Sharing full resolution stuff would mean I'd probably be still waiting for the upload to finish when it was time to come home!
Pictures from Kaya Residential Homes (If you have trouble viewing the pictures by clicking on the thumbnails go to"

here are some pics...I pulled out of the above mentioned web album :-)  All of John,s photos are GREAT!  I can´t wait till I get home and am able to share mine (but I do not have the means to while I´m here)   
arriving at the home...that´s me in the corner getting a big hug.
Israel, the CHEF, posing with some little ones...
sweet eBahn...AKA Rosie or Tomato as the kids call him  :-)
watching soccer!
Alberto  :-)
havin a chat.
yep, that´s my TIRED BUTT while playing a FIERCE game of soccer.  These Bolivian´s sure do take this game seriously...but I´d say us Americano´s held our own quite well thank you very much.  :-)
Scott (or as the kids call him "giant" protects the goal.  There´s Hannah running in to play some defense...I think John´s got that kids in an illegal choke hold...I´m just sayin...
view from the best seat in the house!
ALL OF US!  Posing with the kids of the Bethany House
 I had a pic of us with the little ones from the Renecer House...but it appears I lost it.  :-(  so sad...I´m sure I´ll have PLENTY more of them to post later...

Israel holds a VERY special place in Christina´s heart...she has known and has kept in touch with him ever since her first visit to La Paz 7 years was such a special moment when she could finally introduce her son Anthony (on the right) to him in person. 
here are the kids of the Reancer house

more to come...

Jun 22, 2012

"The Journey Begins". By John Eggen

Gotta love it! Our group is chillin' at our gate...waiting to board & John's already published his first blog post. Ha! I thought he was being a little "uncharacteristically" quiet over there. :) LOVE IT!
Check out what he has to say about the START of our trip here on HIS BLOG
June 22, 2012 - 1:54pm - jeggen
The Kaya team journey has officially begun. 
We are checked in, through security and waiting at the airport for our 2:35 flight out of Omaha headed to La Paz tomorrow and will arrive at about 4:30 Central Time via Chicago and Miami. Please continue to pray for safe and smooth travel for our team there. Thanks to everyone for your support for our team. We know you are praying for us and can feel your prayers. Two prayers that have already been answered... Scott Gray and I both have exit row seating from Omaha to La Paz! I'm so excited at the possibility of having more than 0.01" of leg room and avoiding the inevitable person in front of you who thinks their seat won't recline because it is broken, not because my knees are in its way. Tomorrow morning we will get into Hotel Calacoto and get about 4 hours of time to rest. After that we are headed up to the homes to visit the boys in the permanent homes. Certainly a little time playing soccer. It promises to be a fun start to a great trip. The kids have the week off school so we have some extra time together and a chance to do some special activities... more about that later. Some may be a surprise, even to our team. I'm excited to reconnect with our kids, meet some new ones, share the story of Kaya and introduce them to Bolivia. One of the scriptures we will focus on during our time in Bolivia is Philippians 2:1-11. It's where we read in a dense form what the incarnation means and our challenge to replicate that in our lives. As you join us in prayer for the week take time and engage in the scripture. Listen to how God might be leading you to follow some of these same things in your own life. Pray for us as we do our best to live it out. Blessings -John

Kaya Team Commissioning & we're OFF!!

Only 18 hours of travel time separates us from those amazing kiddos in La Paz, Bolivia!!!

Last Sunday our Kaya Vision Trip team was blessed, prayed for and commissioned by our church family.  :-)
It was touching, moving and emotional.

Here's a link to the video that I had the pleasure of making.  It played during a special song that was sung by the beautiful Lauren Sveum.  The song "Gratitude" is perfect and very much fits what our trip is about.  It was awesome!

The video below is a compilation of several photographs taken by other Bethany friends (John, Christina, Lynn, Michelle & others) who have visited the children of La Paz over the last few years. 

And we're off...
feel free to follow along Pastor John's blog to stay in the loop with our happenings as we are in La Paz.
here's what he had to say yesterday...

2012 Kaya Trip - Prayer Requests!

Our 2012 Kaya Trip is just a day away. In about 24 hours we will be leaving for Bolivia and enjoying the pleasure of about 18 hours worth of travel. So pray for our travel. Our trip will have highs and lows and some joys and challenges. As 17 people come together to share life and spend our days together in a foreign country there are sure to be moments that strengthen and test relationships. So pray for patience, grace, generosity and trust. Many will meet for the first time children who have lived very different lives than most of us would even imagine. Pray for open hearts for open relationships. Most of the team doesn't speak Spanish. Pray for our team to speak through the language of play and love. We will eat new foods. Pray for health. We will be serving as the body of Christ. Pray for the Spirit to guide and empower us. Mostly pray that the Spirit opens our hearts to new things and enables us to live and relate in ways that honor each other and glorify God.
I've asked our team to pray to live as servants in the following way and ask you join in praying with and for our team.
-Pray for a servant's eyes to see the best in others.
-Pray for a servant's heart bring compassion and dignity to relationships.
-Pray for a servant's mind to overlook the negative and discover the positive.
-Pray for a servant's mouth to say things that honor others.
-Pray for a servant's hands to do God's work through you.
-Pray for a servant's feet that walk slow enough to see God at work and let others be first.
Every trip is different and every year in Kaya's history is different. Just to help you visualize where we are going and what we are doing here are some pictures from last year's trip. This year we will enjoy time with the kids during their winter break, we will celebrate Daniel Mamani graduating from the Kaya program and will build relationships that changes lives. Follow us here, be with us in prayer and ask questions of the team when they return. They will have stories to share!

2012 1st Annual Buddy Run!!

On the morning of McKenzie's B-Day Party, me and a couple hundred of our closest friends, ventured down to Zorinsky Lake to participate in the first annual DSA 5K - BUDDY RUN!!  It was a gorgeous (slightly cool) morning, perfect for a 3.2 mile run (or in my case JOG) :-)
I've been training with our "Run for God" group for a few months & all I wanted to do was finish the MY race...not walk...and try to keep close to a 10 minute mile pace.
Mission accomplished  :-)
I have a couple more 5K's I'll be setting out on this summer...woot woot.
Our whole group  :-)  Lauren, Lisa, Chad, Heather, Joe, Me, Jessica, Ja & Bethany
A BIG thanks to ALL you guys for coming out and showing your support for our local Down Syndrome Community.  It is very much appreciated  :-)
me & my sistas  :-)
Lauren - thanks SOO much coming for coming to race with us.  She was actually registered for the race long before I was!  btw - I love what you've done with your Buddy Walk shirt.  It was "pinterest" inspired  :-)
just got up a HUGE hill just past the 2 mile mark...almost done! 
Joe giving his buddy Vollen a high five...thanks Casie for these pics  :-)
I love Roberta's Superman SOCKS!!!  see the capes.  hehe  she's running in support of her cutie-pie Brooklyn
Stephanie and Brayden just getting up that same hill.
My dear friend Stephanie was a champ.  She ran the whole way pushing her 5-yr old (and not so small anymore) Brayden.  I was inspired by her strength and courage to even show up for the race.
She lost her baby girl (who was just shy of turning 1 year old) a few months ago, and came out to run
In Memory of sweet Sophie
I was so glad to see that they had a great show of support  :-)
Go Andrew Go!  He did an awesome job and ran the whole race  :-)

JA finishing strong - or as Buffy captioned her pic "J. Harnisch #1"
Another one of Buffy's pics...this is Joe, but she labeled it "J. Harnisch #2".  love it!
Casie (who I stole most of these pics from) and her little stud Vollen!
Me and Andrew at the end of the race.  I am so proud of him.  He truly is a SUPER STAR!!
What a fun time...we are already excited and looking forward to next years' race  :)
Little Miss Macy Lee...
Love you forever and ever and ever.
We are all SOOO blessed to have you in our lives.  You make every day just a shade brighter. 
I could not be any prouder of the beautiful, sweet, smart & funny lady you are becoming.  
Keep it up!
Bloom baby bloom  :-) 

Dance recital PICTURE Day

There's a first time for this case, Anna & Kenzie get all dolled up for dance recital picture day...but the hardest part (for me) was MAKE-UP. eeeek! my baby girl is wearing make-up?!...tear. 

The girls were posing DIVA's!   and I loved it  :-)
her momma snapping a quick pic on her iPhone.
They choreographed quite the routine during that 5 minute front porch photo session.
whoa.  this one leaves me speechless.
At the dance studio...I was off to side, while the "real" photo took his pics.
This was the "Whistle While you Work" ensemble.  A tap number
 I didn't get pics of her just yet in her other "ballet" costume.  Those will come later...some time after my Bolivia trip.  :-)

 Cousin Ally stopped over on her Dance Recital day...and of course I HAD to snap a couple quick pics of her too  :-)  AAAAWWWWW!
 There I think I piled enough OLD pics to the blog.  I'm now ready to board my plane :-)