Wednesday, February 21, 2018

To the 2018 Colombia Team

Since I administrate this blog, it gives me the right to have the last word....so here it is...

My Dear 2018 Team,

So, we're back.  I don't know about you, but I woke up at 3:45 am this morning (5:45 in Bogota) and was immediately disappointed to not smell coffee brewing and eggs cooking.  Oh if only we could bring sweet Berta home with us! 

I know that all of you will be saying "I miss Colombia!!"  multiple times in the next few days.  That thought really crossed my mind as I took Lucy outside first thing this morning and the minus 20 air hit me in the face. 

However - THIS - is our reality.  Embracing the place that God has put us and figuring out what to do with that is going to be the most important part of being a member of the Colombia team. 

I read 1 Peter while we were in Bogota and it was so great how much was so relevant to what we did and experienced there.  This morning I moved onto 2 Peter and this is what I read...

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a GODLY life through our knowledge of HIM who called us by His own glory and goodness.  Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate  in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

(Here is the good part...)  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self control; and to self control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual effection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore my brothers and sisters...(Chloe, Ethan, Carter, Morgan, Michael, Noah, Mariah, Ellie, Rachel, Allie, Denise and Dave)...make EVERY EFFORT to CONFIRM your calling and election.  For if you do these things you will never stumble and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!!"

Do you get that??  THIS is how we can take the things that God has shown us and spoke to us about in Colombia and put them into our reality!  It's building blocks! 
FAITH
GOODNESS
KNOWLEDGE
SELF CONTROL
PERSEVERANCE
GODLINESS
MUTUAL AFFECTION
LOVE

We want to take FAITH and turn it into the LOVE that we received, gave and saw in Bogota.  This is our challenge and I think from the sounds of our conversations, the challenge has been accepted by all of us.  THAT is exactly the ultimate goal of why 10 years ago teams like ours were put into existence.  

I want this final blog post to be one of encouragement for each one on this team.  Being with all of you has been an incredible blessing and encouragement to me.  Every one of you has impacted my life and I thank you for that...



Chloe - I have appreciated your heart for kids.  You are able to get down on their level and play with them and they gravitate to you, and you to them.  You show true love even to strangers.  I hope that your love for others continues to grow and you draw others to Him with that love!





Ethan - Your sensitive nature is rare for a lot of guys.  But you are comfortable with being vulnerable and allowing God to speak directly to your soul.  I pray that you never lose that quality as the world doesn't understand the value of that.  





Carter - Sincerity and Fun...  what a great combination that is and you possess both in abundance.  You have a great capacity to entertain others with your wit and humor, but you also have a great capacity to be relative with people.  May you never change, but only grow those qualities and use them for Jesus sake! 
Boogie boogie you!



Morgan - you have beauty inside and out.  People are attracted to you instantly but the depth of the beauty within you will win them over to Jesus every single time.  I pray that you will confidently shine your love for Him for the rest of your days.




Michael - Although I think I have known you the longest of anyone on this team, you are not the little boy I once knew.  You have grown into a young man with talent and vision and a desire to serve.  I believe that God will do incredible things through you.  Thanks for adding music to this team...both singing as well as the retro flashbacks to my youth in your play list  ;)  







Noah - You stepped MILES out of your comfort zone every single day but you NEVER hesitated once.  I was blown away by your attitude of "I'm up for anything" - whether it was food, people, places or things.  You acknowledged your fears but you conquered them head on and came out on the other side fearless.  That was inspirational for me and encouraged me many times on this trip to do the same.  KEEP ON ADVENTURING!!  God is going to take you places that you can't even imagine!



Mariah - I don't think I ever had an anxious moment with you through out this trip.  Even with your medical challenges, I knew that you would not only just be okay, but you would be awesome.  I was right.  Watching you teach in the classroom with confidence and such a positive attitude was so great.  Hearing you share with others about your walk with Jesus (yes, I was eavesdropping at times) lifted my heart.   I'm excited to see where He takes you in life!






Ellie - And here I thought you would be the quiet one on the team.  Well I was wrong.  I remember the first time I heard you laugh out loud and I turned around to see who it was, and there you were.  And you never really stopped being joyful.  You served with joy.  You taught with joy.  You interacted with others with joy.  Your overflowing joy will get you through anything...because the source of your joy is HIM!




Rachel - In this day and age it's actually kind of hard to find someone that possesses true humility.  You do.  You are the one that thinks of others much quicker than you think of yourself.  This is a rare gift dear friend.  Humility paired with confidence in Jesus is a powerful tool that you are starting to use in the way that you serve and love people.  What an amazing thing to be able to see!





Allie - You are a friend to all.  It's so easy to form authentic bonds with you.  Whether it was in our team or with the Colombians that joined us, it's you that had the ability to break down walls and form true relationships.  I love that about you.  You have no maximum capacity on your friend quota.  I'm really really glad that I am one of them!







Dave - I know it's not easy being the "guy" leader on this team, as it is the one position that is never the same year to year.  There is no real job description other than to look after the guys and carry the first aid kit.  For someone with a bent to lead - that can be a little challenging.  But I have loved having you on the team this year.  From the first Wednesday morning that we started to meet you took on the role of Encourager and you carried that through to this day.  Whether it was to the team members, me, or anyone that crossed our paths - you blessed us all by your warm words, gentle hugs and genuine prayers.  Thank you for sacrificing 10 days from your family to come along with us.  Thank you Mary and kids for loaning your Dad to us! 



Denise - mi companero...mi amiga... mi hermana... I have discovered that I can't do this trip without you.  Not only because of the necessity for the Spanish element, but mostly because of the sanity element.  You are the stability factor that this team needs every year.  Your knowledge of the culture, people and language is invaluable but your rational and calm presence is even more so.  I'm so thankful for someone that I can rant to when I'm frustrated, talk to when I'm clueless, and laugh with when it's the only thing left to do.  I look forward to many more trips si Dios quiere.


It has been a fabulous journey.  It's one that I hope has not ended at the arrival into YYC.  I pray that ALL of us continue to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  To HIM be glory both now and forever!"


Day 10 The Last Day!

Hello from Dave!

We are about to board our final flight in Houston - soon to be home.   Our days have been full, overflowing with new friends and experiences that have impacted us forever.  Our last day in Colombia began in a new neighbourhood called Barrio Egipto.  It has a deep history in Bogota as one of it's founding communities.  It was originally named by the priests as "Run from Egypt" but was shortened to "Egypt" and like it's present name, it has become a place of slavery.  Slavery to violence, abuse and pain.  As we arrived, we were met by a beacon of light.  Elias with his amazing smile, welcomed us and explained to us how God has given him love for these people.  For over 20 years, he has poured his life into helping these people live like they are out of Egypt.
He runs a daily program with committed staff giving kids a safe place and teaching them physical and spiritual things.  He told us that our visit was God's divine timing, since the night before many of the homes from which these kids come, were forcibly entered by the authorities because a gang had previously attacked the guards.  Yes, the parents of these kids are gang members.  Our visit would bring joy and love after their difficult night.  Our job was to love and do that by painting faces, playing games, telling a Biblical story and simply giving of ourselves to get to know them.  Many had hard exteriors, but connections were made.


One 16 year old boy named Harvey, appeared to be a leader in the group.  His soccer skill made us look like snowmen.  But what stood out to me was his spirit.  He did all he could to connect with very little English ability  He welcomed us as one of his own, and we did the same.  As we were leaving, he walked us out and with all sincerity he said to us, "God Bless you!"   God has blessed us though Harvey and many others.  We trust that others have been blessed though us as well.

That evening we enjoyed a farewell meal with all the incredible people who served us as hosts and guides throughout our time.  As I reflect on the new friendships, I am amazed at how strangers a few days earlier can love each other so much.  I know it is the love of Christ poured out that produces this.  We pray that because of our time here in Colombia, many people were blessed by Christ through us.  I also pray that we would remember and desire to live out the love of Christ as we return home.




Thank you all so much for your prayers. God has and will continue to do great things as we keep our eyes fixed on Him!  We are excited to see you all in a few short hours and share the wonderful things that the Lord has done!


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Day 9 - ...How can we be almost done?!

This is Ellie!

(editor's note:  Due to security reasons we were unable to take photos today of our time in Luz y Vida - the handicapped orphanage.  However, we want you to see Ellie's beautiful face on this blog posting, so this photo is from a few days ago)

This morning was a sleep in morning! Breakfast was set at eight o'clock this morning and Berta made us wonderful pancakes with fruit faces to start the day off. Church was amazing as it was a very new church which held maximum 50 people but felt very alive and is growing fast. Those of us who were not sitting beside a translating Colombian, this includes me, did not catch all of the message because it was hard to hear the translation, but it was a good time to pray and spend time with God. The church was very contemporary and filled with artistic features which was awesome. After the service, we got treated to pizza for the first time since leaving Canada! It reminded all of us of home and I'm sure made a few homesick.


The next place was the hardest to go to in our time in Colombia because it was a handicap orphanage where handicapped kids go after their parents abandon them. The age range there went from newborn to adulthood and most of them have no family but the staff and no attention but the limited love the staff members can give. They had a small amount of staff and around 200 kids but it was awesome to see how much the staff loved those kids. One girl in particular stood out to me as she was one of the few who could respond. I played with her hair for a while as she watched the TV and then moved onto the next kid but she kept looking and smiling at me.

This was certainly an emotionally packed day as we also had to pack our suitcases tonight to prepare for our trip home. I am excited to go home but I will also miss this country so much and will remember and cherish this experience for the rest of my life.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Day 8 - SATURDAY is a walk in the park! (well - a run - after some very active kids)

Hello from Rachel!

       Today was a day that everyone was a bit unsure about from the beginning of the week. We knew from the start of the week that today would be unpredictable and long. In the end I would say that it was an amazing success. Each of us from the team along with Claritta and her family each took one or two kids to take care of from a day care that came to spend the day at the park with us. A lot of the kids were coming from a rough backround and so can be really tough to deal with, yet at the same time it was amazing to see the joy that was in each one of them. Going to the park today was a an oppertunity that comes rarely if ever for this group of kids.

        I got to spend the day with a little girl named Kelli. Kelli is a chatterer. While I only understood about a fourth of what she said to me, I loved spending the   day getting to know her. Granted it was terrifying at moments, she loves climbing things for the sole purpose of jumping off, It was a learning experience for most of us. It is amazing how many kids we have spent time with this week, and yet the capacity God has given  us to love each one.

Day 7 - FRIDAY - I can't believe we've been here a week!!!

Hey.. this is Ethan!

Today was a great, but long, day! We started off with an early morning of teaching at Golden Rule. Today was our second day there and we had a great time teaching the kids English and getting to know them better. After teaching a couple classes we went out for break and had a baskeball game with the students and teachers. There was six of us Canadians that played against some of the students and teachers. It was really tiring playing out in the heat and high altitude. The game was lots of fun and we had some great plays even though we were very tired. We ended up winning by a lot in a really fun game.  After teaching a few more really good classes we said our goodbyes and ended our last day of teaching.

Right after leaving the school we headed to a nursing home called San Rafael, where we sang a few songs for the people and talked with them for a little bit. Shortly after we headed to the Salt Cathedral and went on a tour of the place. It was really neat to see the elaborate sculptures and tunnels. We sang another song in the Cathedral's chapel and it sounded great.

After the tour was over we headed over for a late supper with teachers from ECA. We had a really great meal and made it back to the guest house really late.



It was a great day, now its time to sleep.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Day 6 - Thursday... What a GREAT day!!

Hello from Chloe!

Today was a good day! It was our first day at Golden Rule and it was pretty incredible. I have known since we have arrived here that the people of Colombia were a people of unbound less love, but today it was more real than ever! As soon as we got off the bus and walked about 20 steps towards the school there were kids yelling and screaming hello to us when they did not even know who we were. Little did we know the kids and staff at that school had so much more in store for us.

We entered the doors of the school and were just welcomed. The moment we got inside I know we felt loved. We ended up splitting into our teaching groups thinking we were just going to get a hello from every class, but no, they welcomed us with banners, presentations about their culture, and SO MUCH FOOD.

It was amazing to see how much that they poured out on us when we had not even done anything for them yet. Everyone just had such a loving spirit and knowing that this school is in such a rough neighbourhood is hard to comprehend. As you walk to the school you can see pairs upon pairs of shoes on the power lines, which is a sign for where you can get drugs. This is all around the kids' playground and during recess and break you can just see all the people standing around waiting till the kids are gone. This was definitely hard to see.

Prayers are definitely needed for the area around this school, but the school seems to be such a bright light in this very dark neighbourhood. Thanks for your prayers! We will be home soon.poured

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Day Cinco! - Wednesday and half way through!

This is Carter...

After yet another early rise at 6:00, we traveled by bus to the school: Camino a la Cima. During our time at the school we split up into seven groups and all had opportunity to teach different grades. I had to see grades nine, ten, and eleven. All three grades were incredibly fun to hang with, but one of my favourite classes was the grade eleven class.

They spoke decent english which made it more enjoyable. The grade elevens had a activity planned for us in which each student had to bring a food that is traditional in Colombia. They also recorded our reactions which was rather hilarious when it came to some foods. Some of the more bizarre foods were pig head, as well as I ate the eye of a fish. That eye was certainly interesting I will say! During lunch at the school I had the opportunity to place soccer with some Colombians. It was a humbling experience but I certainly held my own.


After finishing an incredibly fun day at the school, we took our bus to Nuevo Nacimiento which was a teen moms home. The girls got to do crafts and activities with the moms, while us guys had the opportunity to look after the moms babies. I held a very young baby, maybe one or two months old and the fact that her mother was probably sixteen or even youger was so sad. This baby was so sweet and all of us guys prayed for the babies we were holding. My prayer for the baby was that there would be opportunity to make the best of life despite terrible conditions. I prayed that the baby would be a light for Christ and that someone would be there for the child.

Today was a wonderful day and I had tons of fun. I felt very blessed in the way that we wanted to bless the kids at the school but instead the students blessed us with their love and hospitality.

Hi! This is Mariah.

For me today was yet another day to see God working through our weaknesses and uncertainties to show us that He has eveything under His control. Although we had no idea what to expect coming into Camino a la Cima because PCA teams haven't taught at it before, I think it's safe to say it exceeded all our expectations. The enthusiasm and joy of both the teachers and the students the moment we got to the school was amazing to see. All the teachers were so happy to have us come and share in their classrooms, and the joy and patience they had in their roles really struck me. The students were so excited to hear all about us and our lives in Canada. For lunch, I sat at a table with five grade 5 kids and answered question after question asked in broken English about Canada and how I liked Colombia. Probably the thing that was the most inspirational and challenging to me was the crazy generosity of everyone at the school. These kids are poor in comparison to how most people like in Canada, but they were all anxious to give us whatever they had from stickers and Valentine's candy to cards and endless hugs. It was super humbling. When we left, the school gave us all gift bags to thank us for coming. I know we were supposed to come here to encourage and teach these people, but to be honest, I feel like they are teaching me far more about what it means to love selflessly than I am ever teaching them about English.

After visiting the teen mom's home, we came back to our guesthouse for the evening. Berta made us yet another amazing meal and then we had a great time sharing stories and reflections from the day and praying together. Today was an incredible day and I think seeing the love of the people of Colombia has inspired us all to be more faithful in sharing the love of Christ with those around us everyday, whether that be here in Colombia or back in Three Hills.