Saturday, February 20, 2016

Journey of Colombia-Post Trip #2- Flexibility is Key

Going into the trip, the one statement which was reiterated time and again in the meetings was that flexibility is key. I concur with this statement, but I had no idea just how much flexibility would come into play on our trip.

 The day of traveling to Colombia went well- we really did not have too many hang-ups in the route of planes and layovers or connections. And our first night after landing in Cartegena went quite smoothly.
 But once we arrived in our home for the week- Brisas del Mar- the reality of flexibility began.
When we first arrived, within the hour we learned there had been a death in the community, which meant a funeral was now on the agenda, which meant anything else we had planned needed to be shifted. Pastor Ed has traveled to Brisas on other teams and has performed funerals on other occasions (unfortunately). But little did we know we'd walk right into that scenario.
 Where to us in the USA, it would seem odd to include strangers in on a funeral, to them there wasn't even a hesitation to ask Pastor Ed to be part of it. And to Pastor Ed, there wasn't a hesitation to say yes to offering some scripture and words of love and condolences to the family. And so the schedule shifted. A handful of us joined in on attending the funeral, which also would seem a weird thing to do in the USA, but to us, we were there to offer love, and while every person needs love, those experiencing grief need it even more so. We may not have known the young man (28 years old, leaving behind a wife and a daughter, son of the captain of the village) but we could offer hugs and love. And so our schedule shifted.
 (Side note: in the experience, I learned that there the funeral/grieving process goes on for days, and literally the whole community is involved. This experience was not one that I would wish anyone to have, but it was a hefty start to the learning process of all God was preparing to teach me.) 

And just as the day 1 schedule shifted, so did day 2. We moved day 2 events to be on day 3 instead, which meant day 3 shifted..... you get the point here.  The team did an amazing job just going with the flow. I must tell you (and if you have known me a long time, you will know this) that I am a planner. It's built in me. I plan out my days, what needs done, etc. And quite literally, my job focuses around planning. But somehow, when I was in Colombia, it didn't even phase me.
 I went to Colombia without a watch because I just wanted to be in the moment. On the bus ride to Brisas, I even had a long conversation with my teammate about not keeping track of time. Well, I was provided many opportunities to do this. In fact, when people would say "what's going on tomorrow?" I had no idea. I simply went with the flow. And I loved it. I want to carry that back with me a little bit, allow myself to be a bit less rigid in what is going on when. Don't get me wrong, having schedule and structure is good. But there is something so free about just going with the flow and living life.
More examples of flexibility:
 For the first youth event, we planned for roughly 45-50 youth. There were 90 that showed up! We had to get flexible really quickly. We didn't have enough craft for that many.... nor the space for all them to do the craft. What a great problem to have! It was awesome.  James, Paula and Paola and I worked together on a solution and executed it, while the other half of the team entertained the younger ones. Everyone flexed pretty quickly.

One day the schedule changed so much that we had back to back events, packing in every single age group. Dinner was served that night at 9 pm because we were busy up till then!

Along with flexibility was the fact that we all had to step out of our comfort zones at some point in order to fill gaps. James was asked to pray countless times in front of the groups (I had no idea until about 3 times into it that that was out of his comfort zone.)
  I did some translating in front of the adult group, impromptu. While Paola was there, her voice was exhausted, so I was called upon to give her a little break. This made me very scared. I loved speaking with them, but I did not love being the center of attention or in the middle of the group- and for whatever reason, with the adults it intimidated me a little more. If it was one on one, no problem. In the group, a bit more dramatic for me .
 Eric also prayed out loud in front of others, breaking out of his normal zone.
 Angie and Barb picked up shovels and helped with moving dirt.
  Gil, completely in his zone with construction knowledge, had to push a little outside of his zone to adjust to the Colombian ways of construction (to be fair, their ways are quite different from ours... which will be a whole different blog).
  Paula Lou battles with heat, but she came on the trip knowing how hot it would be, and she did amazing.
 The list goes on. Each person had ways they had to step out of their normal zone. Flexibility was like our middle name. You wouldn't have even known these people were stepping outside of their zones because they were so very willing. They taught me a lot. As I said, I tend to be one to get a little bent out of shape here at home when things don't go according to plan. This time away of having to be flexible, and it really being OK, taught me how to do it better.

 Sometimes what job we were doing shifted, or when we would sit and put together the school bags changed. Pretty much, while we accomplished all of what was on our original schedule, none of it happened in quite the plan in which it was fashioned. And that was OK. Flexibility was key.

 As Paola would say to us - "You're on Colombian time this week...."

I was told going into the trip that Colombians have no watches but all the time in the world. And I found that to be true.
 I don't have pictures that completely capture flexibility, so here are just a few pictures in general.
Michael, Pastor Luis and some village children

The craft the youth did
Me teaching the 90 youth that showed up

VBS with the children

Bus Ride-Paola, Paula, Eric and James

Eric hanging with his buddy Sebastian

Paola, Paula and myself 

 (Stay tuned for the next post of stories about the comforts we left behind in the US and how that looked for us in Brisas. )


  1. I love the photo of you teaching. Adaptability is such a God-given strength!

    1. I learned much about it on this trip. I am a planner, so this taught me many lessons about letting go of that a little bit (there's that let go theme once again!) It was amazing.