Life-Changing Surgeries in Bolivia

February 15, 2018 • Bolivia
Bolivia cleft lip

An intern sees God work during the Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery Project.

Abimael Rivera is a Samaritan’s Purse intern in Bolivia.

It is amazing how God plans things out and cares about the small moments that we sometimes feel are insignificant. It’s in those moments when God sees the hearts of those in need and provides comfort.

I experienced such a moment when I visited the Samaritan’s Purse Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery Project held at a local clinic in La Paz, Bolivia. I photographed some of the doctors and children. I also met families that had traveled from far away, including one family that traveled 18 hours.

Paola, one of the translators, and I talked with three of the mothers. One mother, Maria Sol, shared how her 6-year-old son Isaías had a speech impediment. He was waiting his turn for surgery. The impediment affects his performance in school and other students sometimes bully him because of his speech.

Abimael and Isaías bonded during the Cleft Lift Project.

Paola told me that Isaías had a unique condition. He didn’t have problems with cleft lip or cleft palate, but with his tongue. His condition is called ankyloglossia, also known as tongue-tie.

Tongue-tie happens when a membrane connects skin under the tongue and limits the tongue’s motion. This information caught my attention as I also had tongue-tie as a kid.

This surprised both Paola and Maria Sol. Maria Sol had never met anyone else with the condition and thought that her son was the only one.

I described my experience as a child of talking and not being able to pronounce words correctly. I couldn’t stick my tongue out or touch the roof of my mouth. I couldn’t whistle or blow bubbles with my gum, all things that little Isaías was also unable to do.

I walked Maria Sol through the post-surgery recovery process that I had experienced after my operation. She was relieved and comforted to meet someone who had struggled with the same condition as her son and whose speech was now very good. She even had me pronounce certain words to see how well I could say them. She felt peace!

I talked with Isaías and he asked me questions: “You had this before? You were 9? What will I be able to eat after surgery?” I encouraged him by saying that he was a brave boy and that he would speak better after the surgery. If I was able to do it, so could he!

In addition to having lived through the same problem, we also connected because we both have Biblical names. Isaías had a Bible with him and together we searched for our names in the Scripture. During these moments at the clinic I saw God’s care for a worried mother and her son.

Who knew that I would meet a child going through what I went through? I’d never met another person with that condition. Now Maria Sol and little Isaías can go through this process with a little more peace than they had before. Cherish the small moments!

God wants us to experience His comfort, peace, and care: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

This verse is for every day and at all times!