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).

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