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.
I WAS HOME.
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....