How can one sum up 10 amazing days in Colombia in a few paragraphs? By the end of our trip we were all exhausted. Some were suffering from severe colds. We were pushed out of our comfort zones many times, yet everyone would have loved to stay longer.
The country, Colombia is beautiful and Bogota is a modern city with a wonderful climate. The houses there need neither heat or a/c. The traffic is definitely crazy and I'm sure glad I didn't have to drive.
The team - it was wonderful to watch these 11 young people respond to each situation, seeing their gifts being used and each one learning so much about themselves. The first day there we hit the ground running, visiting an orphanage for handicapped kids. I was very impressed with the facility and the care these kids received. At first we all looked at each other, wondering what to do. Soon everyone was at the side of a child. We were able to feed and spend an hour or two just hugging and loving these little ones. I think we all left with tears in our eyes.
Our support team - I can't say enough about the people who were there to help us. From Clarita, who lined up all the events, transportation, etc...her husband Carlos, and Ruben and Joshua (Machi) - who were with us whenever they could - even skipping classes to be with the team to translate. Our cooks, Berta and Laura, and Daniel - our bus driver...every one just went out of their way to make the trip a success. There was an immediate bond with them all and they are family. I don't think these people know the word, "no".
The people - it's no wonder that we didn't want to leave. Where else are you loved everywhere you go? The schools and orphanages we visited were so happy to have us and genuinely sad to say goodbye.
The projects - Pastor Elias runs a kind of daycare in a tough barrio (neighborhood) for school kids to come to as schools are typically finished at noon and parents aren't home until late. Steve Bartell works in the worst area of the inner city, running a care facility, and also opens up his home outside of Bogota, raising and adopting as many kids as possible who otherwise wouldn't have much hope. Both of these men put their lives on the line daily, and are examples of God's love in action. I am humbled. One thing I will never forget - Steve gave us a tour of the area where he runs his mission. The area called, "The Bronx" is the drug den of the city. The sidewalks were littered with men spaced out on drugs. Some were rooting through piles of garbage looking for food. I felt as if I was looking into hell - a place of pure evil, devoid of God. And to know that Steve works here and has gained the respect of this community...WOW!
The legacy - some will probably wonder about the value of these trips. What good are they, other than a school supported vacation? If even one member of all the teams that have gone out feel called to this kind of service, it will be worth it. If even one of the ones involved in the projects we helped at were encouraged to keep going, it will be worth it. The kids at the schools we were at so wanted to learn English and if we inspired some to keep learning and thereby gaining a better life - it will have been worth it. For me, on the first day at the orphanage for handicapped kids, I was able to coax smiles out of an unresponsive, tube fed little girl and that was enough to make my trip worth it.
I feel so privileged to have been able to go on this trip and for the opportunity of getting to know the team members and Sheila and Denise better. I was able to make new friends and have experiences that I will never forget.
Thanks to all who prayed for and supported us.