Saturday, June 24, 2017

Colombia 2017. Brisas del Mar Day 1

Buenas Días. Voy a empezar hoy escribiendo en español porque pienso que eso es parte de que está en mi corazón, pero aquí en Ohio, es mas difícil hablar el idioma. Parte de mi experiencia en Colombia es hablando español, porque eso es una passión en mi corazón. Una cosa que Dios me dio. Entonces, se parece mejor que empiezo el blog con eso.

 (Good Morning! I am going to begin today writing in Spanish because I think that is part of what is in my heart, but in Ohio, it is more difficult to speak the language. Part of my experience in Colombia is speaking the language, because it is a passion of mine in my heart. It is something God has given me. So, it seemed right to begin the blog with this....)

 I just returned from another incredible trip to Brisas del Mar, Colombia. And so you will bear with me over the next couple of weeks as I share pieces of the time we experienced as a team, what I felt as an individual, how God used the time to reshape me once again.
 Heading into the trip, as you know, I was not certain what it would hold, since I had been once before. I knew God would do amazing things, as He always does, but I wasn't sure what it was that He had in store for me this time. I am still processing and digesting everything, but I want to share over the next few weeks about the people, about my experiences, about my heart. Because let me tell you, the last time I visited there, I left a piece of my heart with that country, those people. This time, I believe they took an even bigger chunk of it. I am in love with that little village. Completely enamored.
 Today, as I sit down to write, I don't even really know where to begin, as is the case when an event so grandiose occurs. Words can't really describe the emotions floating through my soul. But I want to share, I want to explain to you about the trip and I want to digest through my writing the lessons I am bringing home with me. I will tell you about the construction and the teenagers and the kids and the staff. I want to share with you about the climate and the bugs and the conditions. I will pour my heart out until you can feel what I experienced a little bit through my words. The depth of such an experience never escapes me. So, I will do my best to invite you into this with me for a couple of weeks.

 Today I will simply share about Day 1 of our trip.
First of all, as I said in my last blog, I went into this event not really knowing the team. I have come out with stronger bonds than I ever thought possible once again. An experience like this as a unit does that for you. I will talk more about the team in a later blog, but they were an incredible group of people. We met at the airport at 5 am, and it was raining hard as we drove our way there. But it let up fine for our plane to take off on time. We flew to Atlanta and I enjoyed my chats with the team members along the way.

 As we landed in Atlanta, we hurried to our connecting flight just in time to make it in line to board. We then had an almost 4 hour flight to Cartagena, Colombia. I spent the flight talking.... imagine that ;)
    As we landed, the blanket of humidity swept over us and it was clear we were not in Ohio any more. We passed our way through customs quite easily and I earned a new stamp in my passport. After moving through customs, we met our in country host, our translator - Juan.
 I'd had a little contact with Juan over the months, but minimal. He knew some of the others, so I wasn't in direct interaction with him immediately in the airport. But who was there to greet me was a girl who grew very special in my heart during my 2016 trip, Mileth.
  Mileth was one of the teenagers in the village. She graduated in December (Their school year only goes to 11th grade, and they graduate in December rather than June like us.) When she graduated, she moved to the city. She'd asked if she could come to Brisas on the bus with us. That doesn't always happen, but in this circumstance, it became possible.
  And so we embraced. Somehow, although a year and almost 5 months have passed since I was there, it felt like just yesterday I'd said goodbye to her. I think that's what strong bonds are. I feel sad or distant when we are apart, even though we stay in touch, but when we meet again, it's like no time has passed. It's a beautiful thing and the fact that I have that in 2 countries is even more beautiful to me.
   We did just minimal money exchanges and then we loaded the bus to head out to Brisas.

 Now, it is the rainy season in Colombia, and therefore, we were unsure if we'd be able to travel out there on our arrival day or not. Remember, roads there are not like here. In the city, yes, they are paved. But as you get half way into the trip, it's dirt and dust. So, our translator (I will just say Juan from now on out) had been concerned, but he'd heard from the village and it was ok to go on out.
To give you an idea of the roads there during this time of year, here is a photo. I will write more on this later, but this is a glimpse of the experience. Now... imagine taking a bus full of suitcases and people through roads like this!! I have to say hats off to our driver, who did a wonderful job navigating through this mess. We didn't get stuck once! Almost... but we did not. Total God thing!

 That being said, I sat with Mileth on the bus. As she often times would have her hand on my leg or my hand (don't forget, Colombian culture is so much more touchy/loving that what we can be here in the States... and it's beautiful) we would converse. She would tell me about the plants as we drove by them or we would talk about our families. I was warming up to speaking the language full time again, since she doesn't speak English. I felt a little rusty, but little by little, it was all rolling off my tongue again. Along with learning new words along the way.

 Now let me tell you about when we arrived in that village. As our bus pulled into view of the clinic, my heart swelled. And as i sit here and write it, the memory is as fresh as if I am stepping off the bus now.


 Yes, sounds strange. But it's how I feel there in that little village.
I stepped off the bus, and Yuleida was one of the first to say my name and come to embrace me hard.
 Then came John, the contractor.
 Then Miguel, one of the (former) youth, now studying to be a pastor.
Then Pastor Javier, whom I'd not yet met but who welcomed me as though we'd been friends for life. (He is a new pastor there since I was last in the village, and there is much to share on him in blogs to come as well.)

 Truly, I wept. Happy tears. This village is my family as much as my village at home. And as it was with Mileth, I felt like it was yesterday I was there in how they welcomed me "home".

 We proceeded to unload and do greetings and get settled. The people of Brisas del Mar go to wonderful extents to make us feel comfortable in their village.

 After we'd settled a bit and eaten and chatted, the village had a special program prepared for us. Everyone comes, they circle around the cabana in the chairs or sit on the edges of the cabana to be a part of the welcoming program for us. I cannot even begin to share with you how special that moment was.

 Pastor Javier and the staff had worked hard to prepare a time to make us feel at home. And wow... it was beautiful. They did a welcome (Juan translating) and then they began. First, they started with singing their national anthem. I had never heard it before, and to see them sing was heart-warming. They belted out the words with pride. I watched their faces, as they sometimes closed their eyes and sang, sometimes pushed words out with more expression. I could not understand much of it, and I came to learn a little later that it was written a long time ago, so much of the words are in "old Spanish" meaning, spoken in such a way I probably haven't learned that aspect of it.
 But surprisingly as theirs ended, ours began. And so we all put hands over our heart and sang proudly, too.
                               Two culture were blending as one.

 Lastly, the teens gathered in the center of the cabana with a tall pole with long strips of cloth tied to the top. They were red, white, blue, yellow, blue, red. The colors of the American Flag and the Colombian Flag. The two cultures blending as one, as the girls weaved around one another, essentially braiding the colors together.

 What a beautiful act of love.
    What a special sense of welcoming.

Brisas del Mar was telling us Ohioans that while we may live in two countries, two cultures, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are one in faith and in love.


 Then, as they finished, everyone walked around hugging us, welcoming us, loving us.

 So. Much. Love. 

 Words cannot describe how the people of Brisas welcome us. Words cannot describe what this does for my heart. But over the next few days, I will share about our experiences and about our week in the village that passed like the blink of an eye. I began by telling you that I'd left a piece of my heart there last year. Well, they held onto it well because my heart swelled with fullness upon my return.
  I tell you now that as I left their village on our last day, I left more of my heart there this time.
Brisas del Mar, Colombia is a special place, tucked away in a forgotten corner of the country, and I am blessed to be a part of the teams that have "found" it and get to work alongside them to help them grow and learn. Except the truth is, I think they teach me more than we go in teaching them.

  Day 1 of Brisas del Mar trip just begins to scratch the surface of the beauty in which I was engulfed for a week's time. More stories to come....

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Journey to Colombia 2017

At this time tomorrow, I will be sitting on a plane on my way to Colombia for the second time!
 It is almost surreal. I have been thinking about ways this experience has been different from the first time of going, as much as I can see similarities, too.
  This time of preparation to go has flown by, I think in part because of how busy my spring was. The last time I went, I went in February, which is a much slower season of life for me. So it has made some of these details a little fuzzier.
 But God is in the details. Every one of them. Whether I see them yet or not, I am certain that in weeks to come, I will see more of those details.

 Getting away from home, from the every day, from work and routines, tends to open the eyes on many levels, and it is my prayer that my eyes will be opened once again, however the Lord would like me to see. Getting out of my comfort zone has a way of reshaping me and growing me yet again.

 What do I most look forward to? I think right now, as I sit and write this, I most look forward to reconnecting with the people in the little village of Brisas del Mar, who have become an extension of my heart. I can't wait to sit face to face with them again and converse and share. (I hope that my Spanish hasn't gotten rusty.... although it is my major in school, I have to get all these basics out of the way, and haven't had the opportunity to immerse myself in it yet) . I look forward to getting to know my team more. When I went last year, I didn't much know my team, since I lived an hour away from them. I don't know my team much this time, either. A few of them, yes. But not the full team. So I look forward to seeing how we work together and how God uses them in my life.

 What am I most nervous about? Well.... probably giving the youth lessons. Teaching is not my gift, really. Getting up in front of all the kids isn't really, either. But I will be giving youth lessons twice. I pray that my words would not be mine, but God's through me. that it would touch the youth. I think I am nervous as I leave my family this time. Strange... I didn't feel that way last time. But this time around the kids have so many activities going on and our family is awaiting some answers on a few things as well, so parting ways with them this time is harder for me.

 What will I learn?  Who knows... only God does. But you know I will come back and blog all about it.
  I will dance with the kids and not care how white American I seem.
    I will speak the language and learn new words and probably make mistakes but I will laugh at myself in the process.
      I will get dirty on the construction site and be grateful for the little bit of water available to shower myself.
    I will have an open heart and mind to what God wants to do.

 The rain there has been very bad, which may or may not affect our construction. But I am anxious to see what is there this time compared to last time I was there.

  This journey to this trip has been similar and yet so different. And in about 10 days I will sit here and share with you all about it. In the meantime, I will take in lessons and moments one day at a time....

Thursday, June 1, 2017

What I Learned this Spring

I'm linking up today with Emily and talking about what we learned not just in May, but the last few months, since we do this post once a quarter.
 The Spring has been full, I can honestly say I have learned many lessons. If I had to pick one word to sum up Spring it would be Busy. So, here are a few things I learned- some simple, some deep.

1. I have completed one year of college!!
 Seriously, this is a happy dance statement! It's not really something I "learned" per say (that I finished a year of school), but what I have learned along the way has been monumental. Educationally and about myself, too. And the fact that I am finally on this journey is some days still a little unrealistic. But, one year down... so many more to go. Because one year is really like half of a year in regular terms because I can only take a couple of classes at a time. However, One Year Down! :)

2. Gladiolus is my new favorite flower.
 A gladiolus is the flower of the gladiator. It represents strength and integrity and passion. It also represents Never Giving Up. The flower has many shades and it's beautiful. It stands tall, with spear like stems, also why it is known as the gladiator's flower, representing a sword. It feels like a flower meant for me.... and I totally love these flowers!

 3. I like trail running. It's pure and beautiful and fun. I may not get to do it too often, but I love it.

 4. I will eliminate the word slow from my vocabulary, when it comes to running. I'm working on it. You can read why  here if you want to catch up on that.

 5. I really like LuLaRoe clothing
 It has taken me a year to finally jump on board this train of  the fashion of leggings. I still am not quite confident 100% in how I look in them but they are so soft and comfy it doesn't really matter.

 6. Bed and Breakfasts are quaint and special. They aren't made for every day life, but that's what makes them unique.

7. God is in every Detail, Even When We Can't See.
  Sometimes it is hard to see the evidence of God. But that is one reason I write. I spent some time the last few days going through some of my old writings from the last year (since my last travels to Colombia). Many times I have prayed about something important to me. There are some things that do not have answers. But there are more things that do. But I forget this many days.
 God is in every detail, whether I recognize it or not. And when I read back over prayers and desires and events, His hand is written in the pieces I miss all too often.
 Let me give one small example. When I came back from Colombia a year ago, I desperately wanted to return there. As time passed, I accepted the idea I probably would not see that happen. My family had a hard time with it and finances were a piece and it just seemed out of reach. But God had other plans. Sometimes I have to let go of my ways in order to accept His. I pursued one trip, which didn't work out. Then another, which also did not work  out. And guess what happened? The team leader for the Colombia team for June gave me a call and asked me if I would attend with their team. Everything fell into place. God is in the details. And here I am going back in just 2 short weeks. Wow. when a year passes, I forget sometimes that I've prayed about something or how it all plays out. When I read back my own words, it's like God's voice speaking out loud saying.... "See... I was here all along. You just have to be patient."
 Not every request or desire works out that way. But let me just share with you that one thing He has taught me this spring is that even if I don't see an answer as I want to see it every time or even right away, when I look at how He has answered many things in my life, I know He is with me in every detail, whether I recognize it or not. Those answers He does choose to give me give me a glimpse of His listening ear and His love and His presence. He really is in every detail of life.

 I am confident that I have learned many more things along the last few months, but for now those are the immediate ideas in my mind. As I am about to step into a new Colombia adventure and as I take a speech class this summer, I am sure that I will have many more cool things to learn the next few months.
 Keep on growing and day at at time!