Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The ministries in Brisas del Mar

In my previous two trips, I have written about the clinic and about the feeding program, and I could honestly expand on those, but much of the information will be repetitive to those who have followed me through these journeys.
 So, i will give a few recap highlights of both programs.

 The feeding program has grown and it is such a humbling experience to be a part of seeing this. It's more organized and it is expanding. These little children, without this program, would not have food. Barb Benson, one of the previous team members, has taken her love for these children and helped fundraise thousands of dollars along with her church, Amelia United Methodist Church, to keep the program going.
 She even was so touched on her last visit by the need for the kitchen supplies to be updated that we got to go with Bishop to buy supplies in June for the kitchen and when we were there in February, we saw the delivery of a brand new stove that she purchased for the Brisas village to have.

  Pastor Javier has helped organize the program a little better, and as the kids line up, I got to take their "attendance". They are all assigned a number (or they can say their name) and they check in and Pastor keeps track of who comes each day. When they don't come for a few days, he goes to visit them and their families. The program has expanded to include some of the handicapped in the village in great need as well as some of the elderly who cannot get out of their homes.
  I am humbled each time as I watch these little children come to be fed, to see their joy as they get a meal. They bring a bowl and a spoon and their chatter and banter is a heavenly noise. To think that some days they may not have food without this program is heartbreaking. But, for now, they are fed and growing and full of laughter.

The clinic is close to my heart. I am not a nurse or a doctor, nor is medicine my passion. Maybe due to the years I spent caring for my mom, but I understand the importance of medical care and what goes on. My mom did not have insurance, so I understand the loving hands that touch patients with lack of funding.
  The clinic is a free clinic to the patients. They see 700-800 patients a month. The clinic is funded by the church and the government will not help them at all financially. We take in medical supplies each time we go and every time I am humbled by their response in receiving them. Every day items we need they are so grateful to get. Oh, the things we take for granted.

  If the clinic did not exist, the patients would have to go to the nearest hospital, a 45 minute drive (if a vehicle can be found) or up to a two or more hour walk. And then, the patients may even be turned away due to lack of money to pay for the care. So the clinic in Brisas del Mar serves as a huge ministry to Brisas and the surrounding villages of Vista Hermosa and Alto de Julio.
 The clinic administrator, Yuleida, has become one of my very dear friends in life. She fights to keep the clinic running and open, with no government support, she is always looking for creative ways to sustain it. She has a heart for their ministry and is working so hard to keep it going. She has become my sister. We laugh and we cry and we share.

  The doctor I already wrote about, but Yolima is new to the village and the clinic. She is a great addition to the village. Her heart is big and her desire to help is even bigger. She and I became fast friends.

    The clinic is working hard on ways to sustain themselves so they can stay open. This is a month by month battle. If you would have an interest in reading more about them, their ministry or how to help, you can find information on the Colombian church website.
  These people are changing the future of the villages around them with these programs.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

New Friends. Part 2. My Colombian Family

If you don't know by now... I love people :)
 I built some new beautiful relationships with my American team, and I was able to build just as strong of relationships with my Colombian friends. I met some new friends and deepened friendships with the "old" friends.
 There used to be this song my mom would sing " Make new friends, but keep the old, some are silver and the other gold.." I kind of think all of these people are gold. Each person made an imprint on me I'll never forget. Whether they are there the next time I go back or not.... they all play a role  in my life and my growth in this leg of my journey. Let me introduce you, or share with you about my new friends, how they taught me, made me laugh, held my hand while I cried and prayed with me.

  New Friend...

   Yolima is the new doctor in the village and she and I connected immediately. Oh, how we laughed so hard so many times. Sometimes you just connect with someone. Yolima and I were like that. She's young and beautiful and talented, with a heart for the Lord, and a faith that goes deep. She's a great addition to the team in Brisas.
   Yolima and I tended to sit at the same end of the table and I would often translate the conversations going on for her. She would help me when I would make mistakes or she would teach me new words. Just like there are catch phrases in English, there are in Spanish, too. I had fun learning phrases "costeña". Yolima tried her best to teach me to dance, but it was quite the lost cause. She'd make me start with my shoulders but as soon as she tried to add my hips or my knees, I lost the shoulders. At one point we were all laughing so hard we could not talk or hardly breathe. We settled on the Chicken Dance finally... one I could do! (Thanks to Paula for saving me on that one. Paula, who could by the way dance it out well.)  Yolima and I laughed over nothing, really. And we shared tears, too. and many hugs. She didn't give up on my dancing, but perhaps the next trip we can get a better lesson in. Sunday night she and Paula and Miguel and Yuleida and I were sitting outside talking, having been told to "quiet down". But the laughter was just too much and so eventually Mike, team leader, brought us snacks and said if he couldn't get us to be quiet, maybe the food would. We all laughed very hard at that (and welcomed the snack) and then Mike joined in the dancing fun with us. Laughter is so good for the soul. The tears we shared were, too. Parting was not easy. But thankfully we can stay in touch.

Old Friend....

   Miguel is special. He used to be one of the youth and he grew up in the neighbor village of Alto de Julio. On this trip, when we went into Alto de Julio, we got to meet his family and see the home where he grew up. The second trip I was there, Miguel was studying to become a pastor. Miguel has become my brother. Miguel is always laughing, always finding the fun in every situation. You can hear his laugh across the street, it's contagious. He is also studying to be a nurse. He is persevering through difficulty and pursuing his dreams. He leads the youth and they look up to him.  He has become a very dear friend to me. I look forward every time to seeing him and talking with him. My brother.

New Friend....

   Estefania works for the church is the city. She is the secretary to the Bishop. We did not get to spend a lot of time together, but I really enjoyed being around her. We had some fun conversations and she is a hard worker. She has a sweet spirit and is full of beauty. I look forward to getting to know her more.

 Old friend....

  Pastor Javier.
   Javier has been in the village now for a little over the year and works hard to grow the program through loving on the community. He has done a great job of that. he has helped the food program improve greatly, and visits the families on a regular basis. Pastor Javier is always telling jokes, even learning them in English to share with our group, where we would all laugh harder because he was the one telling them. He laughed with us, loved us, cried with us, and cared for us. He has become my  friend, my brother, and a treasured family member in Colombia.

 New Friend....

  Milena is a beautiful woman, inside and out. Every year I've been, there has been a different in-country translator. This year, Milena was our new hostess. She was new to the job and new to us, but she did an amazing job! Milena and I spent a lot of time together, conversing in Spanish at times, and at times English. She was laid back and easy going, but also none of us ever were concerned if the job would get done. She always was making it happen. We laughed hard and made up jokes that if I tried to tell them here it would make no sense (Pero, Milena, para ti... "Porque soy blanca!") We laughed hard together, and on a few occasions, shed small tears (well, hers were small mine were like waterfalls.) She listened well to me, stayed quiet when needed but offered an opinion when asked. She has become my sister.  I love her to death. We tag teamed well translating. She let me be me, loved me for me, and encouraged me to keep growing and being me. And I so look forward to seeing her again very soon.

 On this trip I grew closer to my Colombian family. I am so thankful for them.  Often times they are my support system, even though miles away. I lean on them, we pray for one another, we share life stories, hurts, dreams and fears. I am thankful that I can speak the language and grow these relationships over time. It makes going all the sweeter..... and leaving all the harder. I love these Colombians.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

New Friends. Part 1. My American Family

My trips to Colombia are a part of who I am, help reshape me and grow me, teach me and challenge me. The people in these journeys are a huge part of this! The team I travel with and I share a week together, experiences together, that is a rare bond. So each trip has brought new friendships. Some that are trip only, some that remain in my daily life, and others that are there when I need them.

 I also get to meet more and more native Colombians each time I go. I am a people person and this is part of what I love about these trips. Being immersed with the people- my team and the locals.
 Since I speak the language, I get to know the community a little deeper every time. I fall a little bit more in love with this place each time. But even more so than that, the people teach me about God, about life, about love, and about me.

 Today, I talk a little about the team, a little about the Colombians. Really, the people of the trip could take many blogs. But I try to condense. Today, Part 1, my Team, my American Family.

On this team, it was a little different. Each of us, except Diana, had been there before. Some of us had traveled together, some of us had not. Due to my life schedule, I'd not had the opportunity to meet about half of them yet, so I was not certain what to expect. There were only 3 of us women, and we meshed well together. We laughed a lot, we worked well as a team and both of the ladies - Diana and Paula- taught me about God through our times of sharing.

 The men on the team were Mike, Mark, Ed, Jay, Steve and Keith. Keith and Diana are married.

 With this team, no one competed, every one worked together so well. Everyone was so encouraging. We laughed a lot and we shared tears. We shared ideas and we pushed each other. We became family.

Steve, the brother of Paula, and who I had as a prayer partner, became my big brother as well. Jokes just like my own brothers became a part of the routine conversations. Stories of life and experiences.  It didn't take long for me to become adopted as one of his sisters.

Pastor Ed of course I have traveled with on each trip.  Pastor Ed has taken me as one of his own flock. He helped me in my fundraising efforts and I know he prayed for me steadfastly. His corny jokes remain a part of his reputation, but part of why we love him. I had the opportunity to translate many times for him, and enjoyed that partnership. His teaching is from the heart and I won't forget his opening devotion to us, which spoke of the journey to the Jordan River, which didn't part before the people stood into it, but parted once their faith told them to go, so they did, and once they did God worked His miraculous ways. God went before them. That lesson was powerful to me.

Mike and I work well together. Mike organizes details we will never realize. If it were not for his work behind the scenes every day, these trips would not unfold. He gets tickets, organizes with Colombia, plans the itinerary, hounds (in a very loving, responsible way) us with email reminders (which are so needed!) and loves the Colombian people more than even he himself can express. I am thankful for Mike.
One of my favorite photos of Mike on this trip, in a spontaneous dance evening, where he and this lady became the center
 Keith and Diana are a special couple. I want to be them when I get older. They both love the Lord, both so dedicated to missions, having taken many trips solo as well as some together. The Dominican Republic, Colombia, Romania, just to name a few. This was Diana's first time in Colombia, but how cool to watch them work together. Keith works so hard and honestly, I doubt he ever has a negative word to say about anyone or anything. He is so positive, so much finding the joy. Keith shared some words with me that he doesn't know will have a lifetime impact on my heart. He is every other minute singing the praises of his wife. It's beautiful.

Diana is an incredible woman. She's battled cancer and depression. She has a heart for women and children. She never ever complained about the heat or the exhaustion. She worked hard and she laughed a lot. Learning her story in life challenges me to be a better mom, a better woman. She prays and loves and gives of herself. She is a beautiful woman.
Jay and Mark.... these guys... in part some of the humor and love I felt from these 2 can only be understood if you were a part of the team. Jay liked to play musical chairs at the meals and every time he sat someplace different. Normally I would not have made a deal out of this, but once it was pointed out to me, it became a meal conversation every time. Mark tended to migrate with Jay at times, though I think unintentionally. Then it became a joke to try to get me in between them. We laughed a lot together. Both Jay and Mark are incredibly hard workers. Neither wants attention. Neither is a center of the room kind of guy. Both humble in nature taught me about love.
 Mark's devotion to the scriptures and his heart for prayer humbled me. His love for these people and his ideas for helping them and his huge heart are inspiring.

  Jay said I was the age of one his children, but he became a big brother to me as well. Probably an unexpected, quiet friendship. He taught me more than he might know.

Paula. Paula and I met through our trip in 2016 and have been best friends since. We hang out once a month as much as possible and we laugh a lot. We cry together. We share. On this trip we danced. We sang. We taught. And we grew together once again. Paula is there for me anytime I need her and she is a beautiful woman of God. She does a great job being a team leader.
 We shared a room in the city and we gabbed for a long time. (of course!) Really, words don't do justice to the friend she is to me. And the incredible value she brings as a team leader as well.

 This team blessed me in more ways than they will ever know. Sometimes I stayed quiet in the group sharing, but mostly because to share I usually cried and so I just took in a lot of what they were sharing. In one on one conversations I developed new brothers and sisters and grew a new family. My life has changed yet again and grown even deeper because of these people.
I LOVE this photo!Candid... caught between Jay and Mark in the photo, just like the game at the tables

 Tomorrow I will tell you about my Colombian family.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


When we wake up in the morning, typically we go to the bathroom and we flush the toilet. We might get a drink of water from the faucet. At some point most of us enjoy a hot shower.
 To us, these are every day routine items that we don't even realize we have..... because we have always had them. We don't know otherwise.

 To the people of Brisas del Mar, water is a luxury. But for what we have had every day of our lives, they now have FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!

 I was fortunate enough to be able to go see the well that now is functioning for the first time ever for this beautiful community. It is still a precious commodity to them and not something that will be taken for granted. But now they don't have to walk miles with buckets on their heads. Or bring a tractor in to haul water for the clinic's functions. They don't have to have water that is dirty from debris, dust or bugs. They can have clean water now.

 There were some key players in the raising of funds for the well to come to fruition and because one person had a dream and another began talking about it and then began doing something about it... now Brisas del Mar has fresh, clean water.

 Here's a little recap of what I learned about the well.

 The afternoon was very hot and we'd already worked hard at the construction site for the morning. Around 3, Bishop gathered us for the walk to the well. It is about 1K from the clinic site. The roads were dry and dusty as  we made the short journey. along the way, Pastor Javier pointed out some of the pipes that were in the process of being fixed . (some of the pipes that had been laid had some minor damages and needed fixed.) We met some people along the way. We got to the place where we needed to turn off the dusty road and walk through a field. A pathway of sorts had been cut through the grass, no doubt from those who man the well making the journey daily. The land where the well is placed is owned by the church, bought from an honorable man in the community.

 When we arrived at the well, it was explained to us. There is a small cement building erected around the pump, with an iron gate and a lock on it. That had to be put on there because of people who wanted to or tried to damage it. Or to keep it from happening in the future. Inside the structure is the pump. Every day someone turns the pump on for 3 hours, which pushes the water out to the village. After the 3 hours, it is turned off.  The water is pumped to the holding tanks- which we passed on our way to the well, about halfway between the village and the well itself. The holding tanks holds roughly 44,000 liters of water. The water then gets pumped to the water tower in the village. And from there water is pumped to the homes.

 The electric lines that were needed to run the pump for the well and tank were installed by the Brisas villagers, at a fraction of the price of what the government would have charged. At one point the transformer did blow during a storm, due to lines touching and creating the explosion.  The missionaries from Great Britain working in the city with the church funded the fixation of that. And spacers have now been placed between the wires so that does not happen again.

 Really, so much more could be said about this beautiful project. Feel free to leave comments if you have a question about the system. Honestly, it's a well-designed system and surpasses what I imagined for this community. I was not in on the start of the project, but I have come to know the people well enough to know what this gift means to them.
 I have been fortunate to have running water my whole life, so watching the joy on their faces when they talk about this teaches me to be grateful. What I have taken for granted forever they have for the first time.

 Like most of my experiences there, no words do the event justice. But, we praise God that they have clean water now. And for generations to come, because one person began the dream and spread that dream to others... hundreds for years to come will be impacted.

 We never know what can happen when we dream. Or where God will guide that.

 Fresh Water. Our every day luxury.... Their every day beauty.

Bishop inside the well, telling us excitedly how it works and benefits the community

The pipe that runs from the well and begins the journey to carry the water to the community

Here you can see the iron door used to protect the well once it's shut and left unmanned

The land on which the well is, owned by the church

The land has been fenced in as well

The electric lines 

Showing off the clean water

This pump is the one that is in the holding tank area and pumps it to the city "tank" 

John turning it on

The walk to the well, me, Pastor Javier and Paula

Juan, the owner of the land the where the well now is

The village water tower