Learning How To Tend Your Garden
La Paz, Bolivia, is a vibrant city full of colorful textiles, bustling streets, craggy mountainsides, and a rich culture. A city contrasted by high rises and shanty towns. A city pulsing with light and darkness.
There is a dark underbelly to life in La Paz: the plague of sexual violence that runs rampant throughout this beautiful city. Sadly, a man is more likely to slip and die in the shower than be convicted of a crime of sexual violence.
Something is terribly wrong, and International Justice Mission is trying to do something about it. That’s why I’m here. I am spending a year working for IJM, a nonprofit organization that seeks to free the poor from injustice.
I serve as the assistant to the investigations and church mobilization teams, so I am exposed to the light and the darkness of our work every day. It is the job of the investigations teams to know the perpetrators whom we are pursuing. We must know their names, their faces, their jobs—every detail about them. Unfortunately, that means knowing the nature of their crimes too.
On the other hand, my work with the church mobilization department shows me the hope that’s nestled into this city. The body of Christ is here and thriving. There are people who deeply care for this broken city and want to be part of God’s kingdom coming.
There is not one way to fix this problem of sexual violence—change must come from a holistic, patient, and dedicated approach. Like a gardener tending to a plot of land, we must walk with tenderness, remove weeds with discernment, and plant new life with purpose.
As gardeners, we are called to see the potential of a dry, barren plot and nurture it back to life. We are called to cultivate, to nourish, to harvest.
Here in La Paz, new life springs up from what was once dead ground. Cases of sexual violence are heard, convictions are reached, and perpetrators are brought to justice. But, there is work still.
We must be fearless when it comes to getting down on our knees and sinking our hands into the soil to find that which is most fruitful. And yet, it is not our job to demand that the plants grow in our own strict timeframe. It is not our job to fuss about every curvature of its branches or to critique the placement of new buds.
Instead, our job is to watch tentatively, to wait expectantly, and to offer a gentle and caring hand.
As a part of the body of Christ, there are many roles to fill in the garden. You may find yourself on a college campus right now, far away from shanty towns and corrupt justice systems. But you still have a part to play in this collective mission. So dig deep into what is right in front of you.
Whatever you are studying will prove to be invaluable to the garden. Soak in the knowledge. Lean into the relationships or community you find yourself in. Learn from gardeners who have gone before you— the tips and tricks and wisdom that comes only from being in the dirt. Most of all, sink deep into the Scriptures, for this is the best instruction manual of all for the garden.
Gardening, like redemption, is a messy process.
The beautiful thing is, the one who created this place has been redeeming it since before we arrived, and he will continue redeeming it long after we walk away. For a time, he has invited me into this mission of bringing life to the garden here in La Paz.
What a beautiful thing to witness a city and its people choose to face the darkest corners, to refine it, to make the garden a safe and peaceful place for their children and for generations to come.
There are plenty of gardens that need to be tended to. There are plenty of cities that need to be nurtured into their fullest potential. For me, right now, that’s La Paz, Bolivia.
Find your corner of the garden, wherever that may be. Then get to work cultivating, nourishing and harvesting. There is much work to be done.
Katy Broesche hails from the great state of Texas, but also considers California home after spending four years at Pepperdine University. She currently lives in La Paz, Bolivia, serving with International Justice Mission as the investigations and church mobilization intern. Jesus has put a fire in her bones for social justice, human rights, and clean water in Latin America. She sees God as the author of life, because His are the best stories. And so to make His name known, she writes.