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Business + Missions: Serving Women in Bolivia

Rachel Hendrick standing in La Paz, Bolivia, sharing about her missions trip.

PART 1: A business-focused missions to Bolivia with a dual purpose of loving people and bringing awareness to the problem of sexual exploitation.

May 19, 2023

We often find ourselves stretched thin—trying to balance soccer games, grocery trips, emails, doctor visits, coffee with friends, washing our hair… The list goes on and on. 

Amid this never-ending to-do list, our hearts yearn for more: to grow in our faith, to follow the teachings of the Bible, and to make a real difference in the world. 

It’s a hard decision when we’re faced with doing something “necessary” and something “world-changing.” And I totally get it—when I hear about “Time Blocking” my schedule, I often think “Right… Let’s fit those 10 life-giving and productive activities into the 4 free hours I have before I need to sleep.” 

So when the opportunity of a missions trip to Bolivia became available, I had these thoughts:

Could I step away from my schedule to do this?

Would the house fall apart if I went?

I want to give my best, but I have few hours to do it… Will that be enough?

Fast forward to May 2023, and five courageous women, including myself, from Carmel Baptist Church were sent to La Paz, Bolivia. Our purpose? To support SutiSana, a noble business that provides dignified employment to women who have escaped the darkness of sexual exploitation, gender-based violence, and human trafficking.

In this mini-series, I share how this trip to Bolivia encouraged me that God uses what time we have to create generational impact.


Stepping into Bolivia’s Reality

According to the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report, Bolivia ranked as a Tier 2 country, indicating a challenging environment where sexual exploitation and forced labor persist as major issues. 

In Proverbs 31:8–9, we read, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” 

Our team was firmly convicted in showing honor and respect to image-bearers of God, and we wanted to use our skills in business, marketing, operations, and design to encourage these women that dignified employment exists. 

Part of the trip was in El Alto, north of La Paz. The SutiSana and Project Suma headquarters are located in that city and within walking distance of the Red Light District. The brothels lined several blocks of one street, and that is just a small fragment of the larger problem of sexual exploitation in Bolivia.

A growing brothel in El Alto, Bolivia, that stands across the street from Project Suma.

This building is a well-known (and growing) brothel. It’s across the street from Project Suma, the sister organization to Sutisana. Project Suma will visit and encourage women inside the brothels and help them pursue a different career and lifestyle. If the women are interested, they can go to Project Suma for workshops, therapy, meals, and childcare. 

This building is a heavy reminder of the darkness that happens on that street every night for 364 days of the year. 


Living the Scriptures in Bolivia

Our trip to Bolivia was twofold: to support the business operations of SutiSana and to uplift the spirits of the resilient women who have overcome tremendous challenges. 

While at SutiSana, we learned about the machinery and operations, conducted focus groups for future product lines, and offered support in their product manufacturing. More importantly, we created a space for these incredible women to feel valued, loved, and seen—not as commodities but as image-bearers of God.

The SutiSana work stations where Artisans produce leather and cloth handbags.

The other part of this trip was to pamper these women, offer them spiritual encouragement, and just have fun doing something they wouldn’t normally choose to do for themselves—creating a watercolor painting or new jewelry. 

Rachel Hendrick teaching "Watercolor 101" at a Women's Retreat

We supported SutiSana in their women’s retreat and created a safe space for the Artisans to share their burdens, testimonies, and prayer requests. 

This journey embodied the marriage of two of my passions: business and anti-trafficking efforts. As we leaned on each other and God, the journey became an opportunity for us to serve and learn simultaneously.


Living the Scriptures in Bolivia

It was difficult to leave my home, schedule, and responsibilities for 10 days. 

And it was difficult to come back to those messy rooms, laundry, unopened emails, and late projects after those 10 days in Bolivia. 

But God is faithful—

In the months of preparation, He multiplied the time and resources, and 

In the weeks of planning, He the finances and items, and

In the days of doing, He multiplied the conversations and relationships.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 was the verse chosen for the retreat, and it was a megaphone to our team as well:

Though we leave a lot behind to serve, God is attentive and consistent to bless our obedience as we serve His purpose.  

In the next article, I’m excited to share more about the first half of our mission trip: how we partnered with the business and used our “non-traditional” skills to serve.

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