Wednesday, March 30, 2016


 I am not a photographer, and anyone who knows me knows I certainly do not need another hobby taking up my time. I do, however, enjoy capturing moments in time on my camera. Whether a person is in it or just scenery of a beach (one of my favorite places to be), I have become known for taking a ton of pictures!
 Thanks to Shutterfly, I can tell you I now enjoy ordering those photos in various fashions to have displayed. Sometimes I order a print. Other times, I'll order fun stuff, like a magnet or a wall collage. I really enjoy doing this not only for myself, but for others in my life, too.
 I recently received in the mail 50 photos from Shutterfly. Of course this time around, I chose photos from Colombia. In picking up this small orange package, I smiled immediately. As I tore it open, I said to my friend, "I could not choose what pictures to get,I  had too many favorites!"
 That statement was returned with a laugh, "How many pictures did you take in Colombia?"
  Me, thinking with a very serious face,  "Ummm.. I don't know. Like 600 or so."
That brought on an analytical discussion as to how many photos were taken a day and how that would break down into how many I took in an hour. Now, the truth of the matter is, I'd snap many in a short time period, capturing an activity or a group of people. I didn't even think a thing of it. I just was capturing moments the whole time I was there.
 This applies to more than just Colombia. I take ridiculous photos at all of my races to document what I'm doing. I don't need to put them out there for everyone to see, but I really enjoy having them to look back at on a semi-regular basis.
 I would take more pictures of my kids, but they are in the "pictures are not cool" phase, so it's a losing battle I choose not to fight. I just take ridiculous selfies to fill in that gap.

 I was not being criticized for the amount of photos I took, but as it goes with many conversations in my life, I have a tendancy to ponder statements that are made to me, wanting to understand myself a little more. This morning as I was on my run, I thought about this crazy conversation about the amount of photos I took (Okay, take, not took !) . And I realized something new about myself:

I take photos to document what I am doing because typically they represent happy moments in time in life. Most people's photos do, right? No one takes photos at funerals or when they are lost in a pool of tears over hurtful words said or actions done. Photos represent happy.
 And I take a ridiculous amount because when I am struggling, when I am having a worse bout of depression, looking at those photos represents my furiously happy self. The one that exists in me, but at times depression covers.
 Those photos make me smile, even on the worst of days.
 Those photos help me remember who I am at the core. Yes, I am a woman who struggles with depression and that is a part of me, but I also am joyful and full of laughter. And the photos help me remember that. They give me an enjoyable moment on which to reflect, as well as help keep me going.
 Those photos often represent dreams that live in me that I am allowing myself to explore.
 I do not like the way I look in all my race gear- I am not out on a half marathon course to be winning a beauty contest. I just put on my running clothes and go. But I take photos of all of the races because they represent the determined side of me- the one that fights, the one that pushes through the bad days and keeps going, the one who really believes in herself.

 As much as I tell my kids that one day they will be glad I have taken all these photos, in my  heart I am learning that I am glad I take all these photos. I do not love my selfies- I'm not a fan of how I look in photos. But it's the moments that matter, and therefore, that is what I see.  I see the smile. And I remember what the moment meant. And the bad hair day or the zit or whatever... that's not what I see...
While some may view it as crazy, for me, it represents happy.
  Here are a few silly selfies from Colombia and from running.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Where Easter and Colombia Collide

Today is Good Friday and this weekend we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord!
  In my church growing up, we would say "The Lord is Risen!" and it would be responded to with "The Lord is Risen Indeed!"

  Easter is the reason we have hope. Jesus was put on a cross and suffered for my sins and died. He did that out of pure love for me. For you. For everyone. But He did not stay dead; He rose on the third day! That is reason to have hope every single day.

 But, I think we don't often embrace the full meaning of all of that. It can become very routine to live our daily lives day in and day out and what Jesus did becomes a thing in the back of our minds we know, but we don't let shape our lives. We do not let that event, that love, that incredible forgiveness shape our every day actions.

 I am guilty of this. While I may do my best to love others or to be strong in my faith, I have not always let that shape my behavior. I have not always let that shape my belief of God viewing me the same way I am trying to tell others He views them. But I want to share a story with you that became a moment in time that shifted my heart, and I hope and pray to hold on to that for a lifetime.

 This story is about how Easter and Colombia collide in my life. I wrote for nearly 20 days in a row about my trip to Colombia. I am still processing events from that time, and I will continue to write about them. This one is probably one of the stories I would hold closest to my heart because it was that personal. However, as I read this morning in Matthew, and then flipped to Mark and even read in the book of John about the last supper and about Jesus breaking bread with his disciples before that day He would change history forever on the cross, I felt it would be important to share this part of my journey to Colombia as well.

  About 10 days before leaving, we held our last team meeting. Now, remember that I had to drive an hour and a half to go to the meetings. I was hesitant to go because I knew it would likely be a time consuming meeting, meaning most of my Sunday would be spent away from the family, and so close to my trip. However, I sensed the importance of this meeting, so I chose to drive down.
  Little did I know how life-changing that day would be for me.

 We had our regular meeting and you could feel the excitement and anticipation in the room. But as the meeting piece wrapped up, we were asked to gather in a more intimate circle, rather than around the tables. There were many significant markers in that meeting. But, I am going to just share the most powerful one for me.
 As we gathered in a circle, Pastor Ed read scripture to us and talked about Jesus and the disciples. My tears began to quietly fall. I was trying to hold them in, trying not to look at the others. Not because I was embarassed, but more because the moment was one no one else in the room was going to understand.For the first time in a very long time, the story of Easter was connecting with my heart. Easter was colliding with Colombia.
   I have had communion countless times in my life, but our church does it a little less regularly, and so the experience has come to mean so much more to me. And in that moment, in that room with my team, I was about to experience the most intimate communion I have ever taken.
 We were gathered in our circle, and as my quiet tears were falling, Pastor Ed turned to Paula Lou, broke bread and handed her the cup of juice and said "His body broken for you. His blood was shed for you."  Then Paula Lou turned to the next person and passed the bread and the cup. And so on. I was so immersed in the moment of what God was speaking to me that I can't even tell you who passed the bread and juice to me. But when they said to me He died for you. His body broken for you. His blood shed for you, I broke that bread and dipped it in the cup and cried. The moment was so intimate and powerful for me, that the words are difficult to share. In that moment, God connected some missing dots for me.
 I could no longer say I was forgiven and not embrace it. In that moment, it became real. In that moment, the tears that fell were healing tears. Because what Christ did for me was always real, but in that moment, the months of preparation, the different layers God had been peeling away, gave way to an opening of truth and reality I had been unable to process.
 I am forgiven.
   I am loved.
    I am worthy.
     I am chosen.
      I am His.
I tried to hold it together as best as I could as I passed the bread and the juice to Gil. Once I shared that with him, I silently let the tears continue. In that moment, while I felt so unworthy, God told me I was indeed worthy. He died for me. The sins that have gripped me or the lies that Satan holds over my head are no longer my chains. I am free. He wanted to use me. He called me. He redeemed me. And He wanted me to take that, embrace it, and share it with those in Colombia.
 In that little room in Cherry Grove Church, that reality sank in to my heart.
  That night and that intimate communion experience will forever be a marker in time for me. As the disciples sat with Jesus in the last supper, they had no idea what was about to unfold.
 As I sat in that room, I had no idea what was about to unfold in my life in Colombia. I had no idea how that trip, those beautiful people in the forgotten village of Brisas del Mar, my team mates, and the days upcoming would change my perspective forever.

 Easter and Colombia collided.

 As we got to Colombia, we were one day ahead of the Lent season. Which, although that is not something significant celebrated in my church, it was a piece of the trip because of Ash Wednesday. I had never really learned much about that, so it was (and is) a learning and growth experience for me.  That first night in Cartegena, Pastor Luis came to our hotel and presented communion once again.
 That was another beautiful experience. Not only were we under the warm open sky and palm trees of Cartegena, but our team had begun to form a strong bond through our travel that day. And as he said the Lord's prayer in Spanish and we said it in English, it was a beautiful moment as we passed the bread and the cup. God was in our presence, and you could feel Him surrounding us in that moment.
2 languages, worshiping the same God in the same moment. Powerful.
 12 of us on a rooftop, taking in communion. Much like 12 disciples having communion with Jesus.
Easter and Colombia collide.

  I am forgiven and free. Forever. Not by any reason except for the fact that He loved me enough to do that for me. I accepted that years ago as a child, I learned it as I grew up, but I have truly found news ways to embrace that through the experiences the Lord has given me through the last few months that have brought a new healing to life.

The Rooftop in Cartegena where we had communion

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Colombia # 20- Now What?

It was just a month ago today that we came home from Colombia. I can't believe it's been a month!
I haven't blogged so much in all my years of writing as I have post trip. That goes to show how much this trip meant to me.
 Writing has helped keep the people and the lessons fresh in my heart and mind. I am not through with writing about it, but the posts will likely slow down a little bit now. I will take a break for the next few days, as I have a race to run this weekend in Michigan, but the stories will still unfold through the next weeks, no doubt. 
 The lessons I learned are still being processed. The people are sitting very close to my heart. And the burdens of what they face every day cause humility and gratitude for me. 
 I miss my team members very much and "talk" with them (via text or email mostly) on a regular basis. I have been blessed with beautiful friendships through this team, answering prayer for for friends I have longed for since living here in Ohio. I wish they weren't an hour away, but I am thankful that they aren't states away! (Or a country away!) 
I miss the people of Colombia. They taught me about myself, they brought life to perspective, and they helped me see that life is so much bigger than what our small vision often is here in the USA. I am still very connected to them. 
This trip has borne new dreams in my heart, ones I have begun working towards, but they won't be out on the blog for a while, so you'll have to check back in periodically to see when I reveal those. I had sort of forgotten how to dream, or perhaps I just put my dreams on a shelf for a while, but Brisas brought the dreams back to life again, and I love that. 
 So, now what, you might ask? Does life just fall back into a normal pace or does life find some changes? Well, I will share with you that it's taken me nearly this whole month to find routine again. As much as I knew I needed to get back to the day to day life upon my return, I didn't want to. While I certainly wanted to be with my family and plug back into their lives, I also wanted to hold onto those lessons learned, those new truths embraced. Figuring out how to combine those together has proved to be a challenge. Hence, so much writing. Writing about Brisas is not only for you to understand a little piece of what we experienced, but it's also been able to help me digest all I saw and felt and experienced.
 A trip to a third world village should be life changing - and it was. But now what? When I experience something so grand without my family with me, it's a challenge to implement those eye-opening changes now being home with them. But, we do a lot of talking and although they are  tired of listening to my Colombian music (so I just put my headphones in now), they are taking in what I've shared, and they are interested in this little known way of life. I  think twice about what I'm spending or if I need it. It doesn't mean special purchases are never in order; I just evaluate much more if it's worthwhile.
 I can't stand throwing out food, after living in a place that struggles to have enough on a daily basis. My family has never been great about eating leftovers, but we are trying to adjust this. The kids and I are searching out projects in this area of people who have needs where we can contribute (like a homeless shelter or something along those lines.) And when we decide there is an item we no longer need, we are finding places to donate that where it can serve a purpose (like here). And, as the village in Brisas needs help with the feeding program and the clinic, as they are funded through the church and funds are not plentiful, we are trying to find ways to contribute towards that. I don't say all this to say Yay, me! I share this to say that this experience, my time in Brisas del Mar, was not simply a once a year moment and that's it. Going there has truly transformed the way I look at life. The way I see myself. And the depth of my relationship with God. He has shown me Himself in all new ways and the truth is, perhaps a lesson I'll share in a future post, He gave me genuine healing on this trip. And I simply cannot turn away from that. He's placed those lessons and these people in my path for a reason. And I am excited to see what He wants to do from here on out with this new found healing and excitement.
 I have been striving to give you a glimpse of the village, of the people, and of the life in Brisas, this little forgotten village that has taught me more than they will ever know. It's very hard to put into words at times, the depth of the experience. As I continue to process, continue to learn, I'll continue to blog and share stories.
 I thought maybe in this blog I would share a few of my favorite photos. Some of these you've already seen, some of them you have not. When browsing through photos, it's actually hard to pick favorites, because I love them all. Each and every one holds a moment captured in time that will forever serve as a picturesque memory for me. As  I continue to grow and learn and try to find a new normal of sorts here, I'll have more stories in the future. In the meantime, here are a few more snapshots of Colombia.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Colombia #19- Fun Fest

On one of the days we were there, we hosted a fun fest for the village. It would be similar to a carnival we would host here.
 We planned all kinds of games for this event. We had face painting, temporary tattoos, ring toss, pin the tail on the donkey, and a few other games that don't have particular names, but involve ping pong or bouncy balls and cups. Each game was set up as a small station under the cabana, and when it was time to start, the kids would line up and go from game to game.
 Each game tended to have one child who wanted to become the helper. I was in charge of ring toss. I had one little girl who wanted to pick up every ring every time one was thrown. Eventually, she and I found a rhythm to how she could be my little helper. She was precious. I loved watching the kids float from game to game, proudly displaying their face paint and tattoos.
 The kids had a blast. There were no prizes for them, like you would find at our carnivals here, but they didn't care. They laughed and they played and they took turns and they soaked it all in. I soaked it all in. It was so much fun to watch the joy on their faces.It was busy and somewhat exhausting, but so very fun.
 It's the little things that matter. We forget that often times. Watching the children play the games was a reminder of that. Occasionally there would be the typical spat between kids fighting over whose turn it was or who was in line in front of the other, but for the most part, they really did well taking turns. I enjoyed the kids who would come back, trying so hard to get all the rings hooked. Every team member was busy with their task. Time flew by.
 When the fun fest came to an end, it was time for our team to give away the school bags we had put together. Our team project going into Brisas was to put together backpacks for the kids full of school supplies. We raised the money ahead of time and got it to the church in Colombia, and they were able to purchase school supplies in their country. Money goes a lot further in Colombia than in in the US. We were able to fill roughly 300 backpacks full of notebooks, pencil, pen, folders, and erasers. The younger kids got a coloring book and colored pencils in their backpacks. We also included a goodie bag in each of the backpacks, which had candy and things of that sort. I was amazed how far our dollars stretched to fill those bags. To bless those kids.
  The pastors and Paola came up with a system that worked so smoothly in each kid getting a bag. While it took a little bit of time, what a beautiful experience to give those away. When all was said and done, Pastora sat and shared gratitude for what we were able to do. Her gratitude brought me (and many others) to tears, because again, we take so much for granted here. We were able to be a small piece of blessing this little community, hopefully leaving the fingerprints of God on all we were doing.
 The next day, as we were out at the construction site, the kids walked by on their way to school, proudly holding up their folders to show us as they walked by. More moments in time that will forever be imprinted on my heart, with words difficult to describe the beautiful lessons I brought home with me.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Colombia #18- Less is More

While preparing to go on this trip, I knew that we were going into an area that had nothing. We were going into a third world village, a place that struggles to have clean water or showers or even to have food. But knowing that in my mind and experiencing it are two very different things.
  I want to put it into words for you, but it's just as hard to explain to other people as it was for others to explain to me. The people of Brisas taught me that less is more.

 They have nothing- Juan worked out on the construction project every day with us, picking away at the dirt, and all he had on his feet were thin flip flops. People comment to me when they look at my photos "oh, they have nice clothes!" But the reality is, they would dress in their best for us, eager to "show off", but they really wore those same clothes almost every day.  The village puts on a feeding program for the kids during the school week, similar to what a free lunch program would be for our kids here in the US. However, the reality is that the kids in Brisas would likely have no food if they did not have that program available. And that being said, the program itself is funded through the church, and they have had to cut back what they can serve due to lack of funding. When is the last time you had to think about not having food? Probably never, right? They wonder often days. However, they never complain, never verbalize this.
 We have fresh water every where we turn; they have never known clean water. We have showers every day, and hot ones at that; they do not have enough water for that luxury, and they certainly do not have water heaters. We have beds, they do not. We have carpeted or laminated floors; they have dirt for their floors.
 We may not always get paid what we'd like in our jobs; most of them do not even have a job. We have watches and accessories, they are grateful for a craft of a beaded necklace, wearing it like it's gold.
 The list goes on as to what we have but they do not.

 They have experienced devastation in their village, we have not seen that in our cities. They worry about their next meal, most of us do not ever face that. When supplies or funds do run low for us, we have programs all around us to help; they are left to figure it out on their own. They have mass graves in their area, evidence of the destruction that has taken place; some of us have lost loved ones, but  nothing compares to that. In all honesty, while I don't talk about it much because I don't have the full knowledge behind it, there is a whole generation missing from the village of Brisas because of the destruction and wars that have taken place there. But, while we have these facts of the tiny forgotten village and we learned these pieces, if you didn't know about this, you would never learn of it from being around them.

 Because they love like no one I have ever met.

And they taught me less is more.

 They have nothing, but I have never felt so loved and accepted as I did in their village.

  They don't have jobs, but they have community camaraderie that I have not seen in years. The church services were filled with people in the village singing praise to God. One of my favorite experiences was on the last night there. They put on a little impromptu service for us. We sang one of our songs for them, but then they sang their song for us. They stood up and shared one by one, what our being there meant to them. And when the service ended, they lingered, hugging each one of us. I cried. I have tears now in recalling the experience. The people in the village of Brisas have nothing in the way the world views things, but the gratitude and love they hold and bestowed upon us spoke volumes to me far more than any gift or possession ever could. They resurrected a part of my heart that I thought may have died a little upon losing my  mom 5 years ago. They taught me to believe in me again. The people of Brisas embraced me for who I was. It didn't matter that my hair was never fixed and always a mess (truly, it was!). It didn't matter that I was sweaty or caked in dirt from the work. It didn't matter to them what kind of house I lived in. None of them cared about what my job was or how much I weighed or the fact that I was wearing mens shorts (yes, I was wearing mens shorts on a couple occasions .. and confession on my part would be that I worried about that going into the trip. I bought shorts from Salvation Army that would work for me for construction, and some of them happened to be found in the men's section.)  None of that mattered.

They simply loved. They didn't need things to do this. They didn't need stuff to prove their status. They simply hugged and said "God bless you." because that is how they felt. It wasn't fake, because you simply cannot fake that kind of acceptance.
 So, they taught me that less is more. That is a difficult experience and lesson to convey to you as my readers. It's a struggle to put it into words. It was a moment in time that has forever changed my perspective, and one I long to hold onto for all of time. Teaching less is more here in the states is not easy.  Most of us have not only what we need, but things we want as well. I'm not saying that is bad. I am just saying that they capture an old truth long forgotten in our world at times. Love speaks more than any possession ever could. I'm not sure how else to verbalize this. Experiences that are that monumental are not ones words can describe. You have to feel them. But, I hope you can hear my heart through this blog. I hope that if you talk to me, you can see the difference it has made in me, the changes I brought back with me. The people in Brisas, those who have suffered loss and devastation, the people who have needs far outweighing our wants, the people who are tucked away in a corner of the world unknown to many.... those people... have taught me that less is more.
  They have taught me about love.
    They brought back hope to my heart in ways I forgot existed.
       They  showed me what matters in life.
They have left their print on me forever.

 Below are a few photos of homes in the village. Dirt roads, huts for homes, lines for hanging laundry, but hearts full of love and arms open to embrace us.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Colombia #17-Taxis, Tattoos and Random Colombian Experiences

The Team in Cartegena
Fanta de Manzana- Apple Soda. So delicious! I wanted to keep this glass bottle, but was informed I couldn't because they make their living in part by recycling their bottles. Makes sense. So, a picture sufficed! 

Beautiful Old Town Cartegena, Colombian flag waving. 
Old Town Cartegena at night

Paola and Paula Lou- I love this photo of them! 
Bus Ride with the gang. 
While there are still plenty of collective thought posts I can write, today I decided to just share a few of my random thoughts about the trip, as well as some random photos. And for some reason, it only wanted me to include these photos at the top of the blog, so, that is why it is laid out this way today.  These are things I learned, saw, experienced, felt or discovered that may not take up an entire blog, but still feel worthy to share. Even if I'm just sharing for my own remembrance's sake.
 So, here are a few of the random thoughts I have had:

- The people in Brisas del Mar were fascinated by my tattoos. I have one on my wrist, another on my calve, and one on my back. They would frequently hold my wrist, study it and ask me about it. I explained on numerous occasions, that the tattoo was a reminder to me for one of my favorite Bible verses from Psalm 103 that says our sins are as far as the East is from the West. But tattoos are not something they see every day, so that was interesting to me, and kind of fun.

- I always use cream in my coffee. I knew going there, there likely would not be much of an option for cream, and there wasn't. I drank it black. I told myself if I could do it there, I would do it upon coming home... let's just say old habits die hard. It's one of the few things I have fallen easily back into. It was good while it lasted!

- Not only do you not flush the toilet there unless necessary, I forgot to mention that the toilet paper used goes into a trash can, not the toilet. They just don't have a plumbing system to handle that type of deal.

- Livestock roams freely. They know who it belongs to, but the pigs, chickens, dogs, etc. roam freely. One late night that a few of us were up, a stampede of cattle came through the village. Often times that happens during the day, but this time it was late at night, and we happened to be awake for it. Also, while cleaning out the trenches to prepare for the septic tank, there was a hen laying eggs. She was protective, so I didn't get too close to her. I left the egg alone, per the instruction of Paola. But, not too much later in the day, Juan found the egg and picked it up and grinned like a child finding treasure, sticking it in his pocket. However, he was then called over to help and in the process broke the egg in his pocket. Oh, he laughed and laughed about it, but I imagine it was actually a disappointment, even if funny.
And in case you are wondering... the rooster does crow at dawn... and for hours afterwards!

- I loved it during the church services we held when we would say a section of scripture, or maybe be singing a song, how we'd be doing it in English and they in Spanish but we were saying the same thing. To me, that was a beautiful picture of how God is. He is understands everyone, all the time. All the languages, all the time. It was beautiful. We are all worshipping Him, even if in different languages. Language barriers aside, we were united in hearts and desires. That's poor way of trying to communicate what it was like in the moment, but it's one of those experiences hard to put into the right wording.

- When we were doing all that digging, I kept thinking we would run into worms. The ground was dry, but typically the further down you go, the wetter it gets, and you find worms. However, I was surprised that we didn't really see any. I believe maybe 2 were seen. Very different from here. However, we did find an armadillo tail. That was kind of cool.
Holding the Armadillo Tail

- Taxis : So, when we were in Cartegena our first night and then our last night, we had to take a taxi to get where we needed to be, as our destination was too far for walking. Let me start by saying first of all, I have never been in an American taxi, so this was definitely a new experience. I will follow that by saying it's for sure a crazy experience in another country. The driving is ridiculous!
  Some of the team members could not watch, because they were a little afraid. The drivers weave in and out without any fear, beeping their horns and pushing their way through traffic. Anyway, we had to take 3 taxis anytime we went places because 4 could go in one taxi. So, Paola would whistle them over, and then tell them where we were to go and once they'd get us there, she would pay all 3 taxis.
 Well, this was an experience. The first taxi ride we were on our way to Crepes and Waffles. The taxi driver took us near where we needed to be, but not directly. Paula was in the taxi with me, so she knew the roundabout area we needed to go because she's been before. But I spoke the language. So I explained to the driver where we needed to be and he told us to get back in and drove us just across the way. An almost in the wrong place taxi moment . Paola, our translator, was very worried we didn't show up with the other 2 taxis, when we had been the first to leave! But, we made it.
  The second taxi experience was on our last night there. We were going into Old Town Cartegena. Again, I was in the first taxi. He was told to take us to the entrance of the Old Town. Well, he drove us inside the entrance. I didn't think we were exactly in the right place, but James, having been on the team before, knew where we were, so it was OK. However, the taxi driver hadn't been paid and he'd dropped us off in a different location than the other taxis, so we had to give him money.
 Being completely unfamiliar with what a taxi costs, We stood around for a moment. I communicated with him, but knew he was charging too much. In the end, we paid him 20,000 pesos (which was like $7 American dollars) We well overpaid him, but we were safe and not far from where the team was, so we weren't overly concerned. Paola was not happy about it. But, it made for a good experience! And a fun memory.

 I didn't have photos of most of these "random thoughts", so here are just some "random photos" I had to go with a bunch of random thoughts.

Very involved in conversation.
Ready to get to Colombia!
The School
Beautiful girl, dressed in her best

The girls dancing

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Colombia #16- Alto de Julio

While we were in Brisas del Mar, we had the chance to visit the neighboring village of Alto de Julio. This village was even more poor than Brisas.
 I'm not sure what the milage was from Brisas to Alto de Julio, but the ride there was one I"ll never forget. The main mode of transportation around there is a dirt bike. In years past, when team members have gone to Alto de Julio, people from the village drove them there on dirt bikes. However, for our journey there, we took a trip in the back of a truck. It had a covering on it, and benches in the back. We loaded into it, and hung onto the bars of the "roof" of the covering with all our strength.
Pastor Ed climbing into the truck
Everyone hanging on while we drive
 To say the ride was bumpy would be an understatement. The roads are dirt, full of ruts, and many steep hills along the way. The ride was jostling, but made for a fun experience.
  About half way there, we were plugging up a hill- a very steep hill-  and the driver knew from the bottom of the incline that he was going to have to really gun it to get up that hill with all of us in the back. We were a fairly heavy load.
 Well, we did not make it up that hill. The truck stalled before making it to the top. I am pretty confident his engine overheated in the process of it as well. So, we all crawled out of the back and stood off to the side. The driver, along with the help of Pastor Luis and the other driver accompanying him, put rocks under the wheels, and tried to get it going, while we stood off to the side, cautiously watching. Well, when that didn't work, we all walked our way up the hill and waited. Meanwhile, they pushed the truck up and got it going again. It made for a little mini-adventure. Those who have traveled that road before said they preferred the dirt bike, but the truck made for a good experience.
The truck stuck

All of us walking up the hill, and yes, this is truly what the roads are all like there! 
 When we arrived at Alto de Julio, we had to re-gear our plan a little. The original idea was to put on a program and be there for a little bit with the people of the village. However, something had transpired at the school that day, and a village meeting was taking place. So, we made our way out to the beach for a bit and took in the absolutely stunning view, walking through the warm water, taking tons of photos and combing the beach for the beautiful shells that wash up regularly.  I could have sat there all day, taking in the beauty and recognizing how this little cove of paradise is tucked away as an unknown to most of the world. But eventually, Paola said it was ok to go into the village, so we made the short walk back to the main school building.
The Beautiful Alto de Julio

Village Hut

Slice of Paradise

If you look, you can see a hut and fishing boats in the back

One of my favorite photos. Notice the pigs behind the kids. The livestock just wanders

 The children were gathered inside, and we taught them a song and did the Joseph skit with them, from the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. Then team leader Michael spoke to them and we said our goodbyes. We climbed back into the truck for the ride home. Thankfully, on the way back, we (and by we, I mean Pastor Luis) did not ever have to push the truck up a hill!

 Alto de Julio was a short visit, a short drive, but a small moment in time that will stick with me as part of the journey in Colombia for sure. The joy on those kids' faces when we were there is a snapshot in time that is imprinted deeply on my heart. We saw the poverty there, but we saw great beauty as well. Alto de Julio, a little unknown paradise.
   One story I want to share before today's blog finishes up, was not my experience, but when I learned of this, I cried. So, I want to share it.
 Of course the beach was sandy and dirty. Barb and Angie, 2 of the older women on our team browsed the beach and enjoyed the water for a bit, but then sat down in the shade. When it was time to get up and go to the school, one of the women who had come with us from Brisas to Alto de Julio, motioned for Barb and Angie to stay seated for a moment. Remember, she couldn't speak English and they didn't speak Spanish. But none of that mattered, because what took place in the next few moments spoke volumes that words could never do justice. Elvira, a descendant from the founders of Brisas, kept Barb and Angie sitting because she wanted to wash their feet. She wiped down their feet and helped them place their shoes back on and then helped them up to make the short walk to the school. She did not need to do that, she chose to. Barb and Angie didn't expect that in any way, but Elvira wanted to show them love and serve them. So she did this in one of the most humbling ways, by washing their feet. Angie tells the story far better than I do, but I hope that in some small sliver of a way, you can understand the depth of meaning in that moment.

 In Bible times, the roads were dusty and dirty, like Alto de Julio and Brisas are today. The people wore sandals, much like we were wearing that day. And the feet get so dirty. Who wants to touch feet? But Jesus sat and washed his disciples feet... Jesus served his disciples. Elvira served Barb and Angie. In that moment, she put herself last and showed a true act of love. No words were spoken, no words were needed. No one really even witnessed this happening. But, as Angie shared that with us in the evening, that act of service will forever sit with me of the example of "Anyone who wants to be first must be last, and the servant of all." (Mark 9: 35).