Monday, February 20, 2017

Day 10 - Good bye Bogota

I say it every year...  it went just too too fast.

I am sitting at the airport, somewhat  extremely exhausted, waiting for our flight on our first leg home.  Team members are flopped out on hard chairs here at the gate - sad to be leaving but also glad to be getting back to Three Hills.

To say that this has been a great trip just doesn't do justice to the incredible 10 days that we have had. We have laughed, cried, sang, hugged, and loved through our moments here in this beautiful country of Colombia. 

We are asked all the time down here what is our favorite part of Colombia.  Without question we answer... THE PEOPLE!  We have not come across one single Colombian that we haven't fallen in love with.  They have been warm and accepting - not just polite - but truly embracing us as family.  

I want to take some time to thank certain people.  First of all - ECA staff.  Beth, Judith,  Ericka, Marci, Sol, and so many others that work so hard to make sure that all of our needs and wishes are granted on a daily basis.  What you do is so appreciated!  We love you so much!!

To the schools - Acoinprev and Golden Rule - especially Andrea, Jeannette, Omaida, Martha, Chef Rene, and all the other teachers and staff and students that welcome us with love, posters, hugs, gifts, candy etc...  we are humbled by your love toward us.  Thank you for your love!!

To the Suarez family...  I can't even begin to tell you how much you mean to us.  You are like our family here in Colombia and it hurts so much to say goodbye.  We love you soooo much and thank you for all that you sacrifice for us every year.  

To Bertha and Luz Angela... our angels in aprons.  You feed us so very well and we are blessed by the gracious way that you do that.  You model Jesus to us as a team.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

So... we board in just a few minutes now.  Tears are still burning my eyes as I write this.  My heart is full.  I am so thankful for this opportunity to do this year after year.  I am excited to see our kids' hearts be touched and sometimes broken as we move from ministry to ministry.  I am excited when they fall in love with this wonderful country and these incredible people that I too love deeply.  

I thank God for these days in Bogota.  Time to start planning for next year!

Thank you for praying for us these past days.  If you are on line tonight please pray for our long night of travelling, immigration, and waiting.  Emily is really not well tonight so an extra word of your prayers would be very appreciated.  

Dios te bendiga!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Day 9 - Almost at the finish line!

Bueno, its Gabby

Well this is the very first year that no one has gotten sick to the point of throwing up! Although no one has thrown up, I have such a sore throat that I can't say a word and Emily and John are pretty much in the same spot. Something that was very encouraging for me was when we went out to into the mountains with some kids for a day away from the city.  I was paired with a 13 year old boy named Bryan. Even though he was 13, he still wanted to hold my hand the whole time and he would tell me things in Spanish even though I had no idea what he was saying. I was able to ask him some questions in Spanish but by noon my voice was gone so I couldn't talk to him anymore which was disappointing. Bryan was such a sweet guy. On our way home I was exhausted so I was leaning forward with my elbows on my knees and he started massaging my shoulders. I have to beg my parents to give me a massage but this little 13 years old boy just did it without a second thought. 
All the Colombians I have met have the same kindness in their hearts as Bryan and it has been a pleasure to experience their warm and welcoming culture.

Hello peoples, this is John

So today is our final day, looking back I would have to say that this trip is one of a kind. There are highs and lows, as with every trip.  I think that it is safe to say that a low for me is coming down with a heat stroke (because sun screen is silly) and then the next day coming down with a cold and a bad sore throat.  So unfortunately I will most likely be ending this trip on a low note, but anything can happen tomorrow.  It would be very hard to pinpoint my favorite thing, but if I had to say, it would have to be our very first day.  On our first day we were at the Jungle, the Jungle as some of you may remember is a place for street kids to come play have learn about Jesus.  After going on a tour of the red light district and just seeing what this kids have to endure day in and day out, it warms my heart to know that there are people who truly care and are doing all they can to try and help them.  For two hours you could see these kids run around and just have fun, and just from watching them you would not be able to guess what they go through.  This is something that we just take for granted back home. There were so many highlights, too many list and I wouldn't be able to do them justice either.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Days 7 & 8 - Colombia 2017 Adventures Continue!

Hey everyone!  This is Evie

So yesterday was our second day of teaching at Golden Rule and it was just as amazing as the first day!  The students and the teachers are incredibly generous and kind.  I wanted so badly to spend more time there.  It was so cool to see how much the students wanted to learn English.  They give and they give and they give!  We came home with a LOT of candy.  My teaching group spent more time with the older kids which was lots of fun.  The grade 11 class even tried to teach us to dance... which was really funny.  Leaving the school was kind of hard because there was so much more that we could have talked about but it was an amazing experience.  After Golden Rule we went to the Old Folks Home.  The people there are so so so sweet!  It was kind of sad because they were trying so hard to talk to us but we could not understand.  I don't even think they were speaking in any kind of language.  We sang to them and that was really great.  After the old folks home we went to someones house for supper.  When we got back to the guest house we were all pretty tired so we went to bed right away! 

Today we went to go pick up some kids from a really poor neighbourhood and spent the whole day with them!  We went on the most beautiful hike.  The girl that I walked with was named Nicole and she was very very sweet.  Even though we couldn't communicate we still had a lot of fun.  She took a lot of pictures for me which was really helpful because I didn't really feel like it.  It was pretty heartbreaking to see where these kids live and the people that they live with.  But it felt really good to be able to bring a little bit of joy to their lives.  Some of these kids had never been out of the city, so I think they had a really good experience.  Then we had a long drive home and an early night! Today was probably one of my favourite days yet! 

Thank you all for your prayers! 

Hola! Tiana here! 

Today was filled with love, adventure, and lots of laughs! Today we spend our whole day with 15 of the sweetest children, everyone was paired up with a child from a really poor neighborhood, I'm talking about no running water, less than limited food and barely a roof over their head. I spent my day with an eight year old boy named Miguel, and boy he was a tank. When I first met him he took a seat right beside me and started talking! I explained to him at least over five times that I did not speak Spanish and did not understand what he was saying.  That sure did not mean  much to him because from that moment on he spoke a hundred miles a minute non stop for the whole day. When we arrived at the park we had a quick snack and went on a tour with a Spanish speaking tour guide, needless to say I didn't understand 97% of the words spoken today but that didn't stop me from having a real love and connection with Miguel. 

The hike was beautiful, the trees, mountains and water really captured Gods amazing handiwork, and in no way could the beauty of the view and love shared today be captured in a picture. The way home was difficultly an adventure, Miguel ended up getting bus sick and threw up (I had fallen asleep and he calmly found a bag did what he needed to do and woke me up to dispose of it) and then he proceeded to sing for most of the ride home. He belted out Spanish songs with all he had and nobody really knew what he was singing, but the joy that was in those eyes is unmistakable. When I gave him a farewell gift of a Frisbee with a Canadian flag on it he was so excited he screamed and hugged me and his face was truly unforgettable. This one Spanish speaking child has blessed me more then I ever thought possible, and I am forever thankful for these children who have made such an impact on my view of life! Thank you for your constant prayer and support, they are appreciated beyond words!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Day 6 - Golden Rule!!

Hey, this is Emily!

We spent the day today at a school called Golden Rule.  It is situated in a rather dangerous area of Bogota, though we were well taken care of.  The school was quite nice, and there were around 400 students.  When we arrived, there was a sign hanging in front that said "welcome" in English. When we stepped inside, there were Canadian streamers and other welcome signs for us hanging throughout the school.  The staff was very friendly, and it was noticeable that a lot of energy had been put into making us feel appreciated and welcome.

The first class that my group taught was kindergarten.  The little children were so cute!  Although they could not speak much English, most of them tried very hard to learn what we were teaching them.  The next class that we taught was grade 2.  This class was quite difficult to teach, because there were so many of them and they did not seem to want to stay quiet for very long.  They were super cute, though, so that made it much easier to have patience with them.  Next we went outside for a break.  I sat outside with three girls that were 7 and 8 years old.  They too, could not speak much English, but I was really encouraged to see how hard they tried to communicate with us, and how much they wanted me to understand what they were saying.

Later in the day, we went upstairs to do some activities and talked with the grade 7 students.  When we stepped into the classroom, the teacher informed us that they had prepared something for us.  One of the students had memorized a little speech in English for us, and another had created a poster with a Bible verse on it that she read for us.  Then they gave us each two handfuls of candy.  It was amazing to see their generosity, though they come from poor backgrounds.  They were so much fun to hang out with!  We played some word games with them, and after a little while we split up into groups with a Canadian in each group, so the students could practice English conversations.  Then the school day was over, and we left for the bus.

Throughout the day, the students were constantly coming over to us in groups to talk with us.  They were so polite, and very friendly.  It was amazing to see how generous they were (all of us came back to the house with handwritten notes, candy, stickers, etc from the students), and how friendly they were, even though we were strangers from basically another world.  It was inspiring to see how they can be so happy and loving, even though they come from such difficult circumstances.  I am definitely excited to be going back there tomorrow to see those kids again!

Hola, this is Denise.
Today is always one of my favorite days!  Why? Because it is one of the two days that we get to spend at my favorite school - Golden Rule! This school is one of the National Christian Schools here in Bogota.  Over the years a close relationship has developed between our school and theirs.  Shortly after we arrived this morning, word quickly spread throughout the school that the Canadians had arrived and staff and students came running over to greet us with hugs and kisses. :)  I love the Latin culture.  Scattered over the walls of all three floors of the school were posters "welcoming the Canadians".  It was so obvious that everyone was excited to have us there.

Many of them are motivated to learn English and they try their very best to practice on us both in and outside of the classroom.  It was fun to see our students scattered throughout the playground at recess time talking and playing with the students.  Every so often during that time, Colombians would run over to me and ask me how to say something in English.  They would then run back and say it to whichever one of the Canadians that they were talking to.  Learning English does not just take place in the classroom!

I personally enjoy this school because of the many people there who have become dear friends of mine.  I am always humbled by their genuine interest in my life, how Martha brings coffee to me without sugar because she remembers that I don't use any even though it has been a whole year,  and how they take the time to talk with me whenever they have time. Knowing Spanish definitely is an advantage when it comes to talking with them.  I think that it is safe to say that everyone of us enjoyed our time at Golden Rule today.  We all felt very loved and it was great to be able to say to the Golden Rule students when they asked if we were coming back tomorrow that yes we were.  I look forward to another great day there tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Day 5 Another Day in Bogota

Hey everyone, It's Julie!

We have officially been in Bogota for around five days and our experience has already been so incredibly memorable.  We started our day with a much needed eight-nine hour sleep and a wonderful breakfast prepared by our own Colombian Grandma, Bertha.  We then climbed into the bus and headed for Luz Y Vida, the handicapped orphanage.  Many of us were shoving Kleenexes into our pockets anticipating the many tears for the day ahead.  We arrived at the orphanage and took a tour of the facility and got a glimpse of where the kids lived and were taken care of.

My experience here was truly incredible.  Going into the orphanage I was nervous that I wouldn't know what to do with people that can't even speak any kind of language.  After interacting with these kids, very quickly it became known that there is a universal language- love. (Cheesy right?)  These kids were so precious, we instantly fell in love with all these kids, which made it so difficult to leave them at the end of the day.  There was a little girl I completely fell in love with today, I was sitting beside a baby, and in the corner of my eye I see this young girl with down syndrome get placed down on the mat and she instantly ran to me and threw herself onto me and wrapped her arms and legs around my neck and back and clung to me like a monkey haha.  I walked around the room singing and talking to her while she put her face on my chest and pulled on my hair.  It was one of the most rewarding experience I have ever had.  Thank you to everyone for your continual thoughts and prayers!

Hola everybody, It's Janaya!

For lunch we went to a mall for pizza . Everyone seemed to favour the Hawaiian pizza, I think everyone is getting tired of having a lot of chicken . After that we went to Nuevo Nacimiento, which is a teen mom's home.  The girls range from age 12 to 19.  To think girls the same age or younger than me are pregnant or have a child, is absolutely crazy.  There are about 100 women in the program, and they stay for 6 to 9 months before they are allowed to go.  They learn basic skills, like how to feed and take care of their baby.  

When we got there, we broke off into our groups.  Some girls went to paint nails and do colouring, the boys went to play with the babies, and my group made para cord bracelets.  The para cord bracelets may not had been the best idea.  One person only knew how to make them, two of us had no idea, and trying to describe how to make them with a translator did not go well.  In the end most of the girls got how to do it, but some look like just a bunch of knots.  Later we brought over some nail polish to paint the girls nails, but they had other plans.  Later that day they took a cosmetology class and they wanted to practise.  A girl named Yelis (pronounced jelly) painted my nails.  Even though I knew little to no Spanish, and she did not speak English, we connected immediately!  We talked about her baby and about Canada, as she painted my nails, she painted watermelon on my hands.  It was so beautiful just seeing how much she loved her baby.  When she brought her baby in and she handed her to Julie, he started crying immediately.  She told us her name was Oscar Alexander.  He was such a pretty child, and she loves him very much.  I later got to hold him and we played music and took some pictures together.  It was really hard to leave.   I wanted to spend more time with Yellis and Oscar.  This was the hardest place to leave and say goodbye to.  I will always remember Yellis and I hope one day I will see her again.  

Thanks for all the support from our family and friends.  Keep up the praying!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Day 4 - Happy Valentines Day!

Today you get to read my (Sheila's) ruminations of the day...

This was our initiation into teaching English.  Arriving at Acoinprev at 8:30 seemed pretty early for us, but they had already been in school for over an hour by that time.  We divided everyone up into their teaching groups and sent them off - like deer in the headlights - into the world of education as a teacher.   They did great!  The first few lessons were a little tentative, but walking around about an hour in they were turning into real pros.  We were all given celebrity status during every break as hundreds of beautiful ninos swarmed around us asking for our autographs in their little notebooks. Fun times!

We older folk wanted to be sure that the teaching teams were able to do their thing without thinking that we were looking over their shoulders - so we found a quiet space in the school chaplain's office. Pastor Giovanni took time out of his busy day to answer questions about the school and the neighbourhood where the school is located.  We wanted to know what ACOINPREV meant.  He told us that it was an acronym that basically translated that they were a school that was there to prevent drugs.  Pretty specific name I would say.  This is a small school - in square footage only.  The classrooms are about half of the size of one of our portable classrooms, and twice as stuffy.  The classrooms face into a central courtyard and extend 4 stories high.  Imagine a big chimney.  Now imagine the incredible noise that chimney sends straight up.  Into this put in 845 students.  Yes...845! There are 40-45 students in every one of these classes....barely enough room to turn in a circle let alone move around.  The staff earn about $360/month.  The tuition is $64/month and that is without ANY government funding.  
But the part of his story that hit me the hardest was that he was telling us about the ministry opportunities that the students of this anything but affluent school were doing.  They were collecting toys, food and clothing to give away to "poor" people.  Seriously.  These people have NOTHING and they are doing more than most of us that have EVERYTHING.  Their classes have no technology. The library is non-existant. Supplies are minimal - like notebooks and pencils.  You would think that they would be a pretty grumpy bunch, but no.  They have a spirit of joy like no one I have seen.  They love these children and daily give their all to educating and positively impacting them.  

I hung my head in shame at my own selfishness.  I think I'm pretty great stuff coming to Colombia, giving my bit in the offering plate, supporting a Compassion child, or donating a few dollars to a missions project.  I know nothing of giving.   

This is my 10th year in Colombia and every year there is something new that I learn...something that I need to change.  This is lesson number one.  

Thanks for your interest in what we are doing and for praying for us.  So far we are illness and injury free and loving every minute of this place and these people.  

Monday, February 13, 2017


Hey it's Cassie!

Let me tell you about my day, this morning we arrive at Hogar de Paz, which is a day care for kids that are in a poor neighborhood and their parents work during the day.  Most schools in Colombia only run for about 4 hours a day, so the kids that go to school there might not have anything to do in the afternoon. This day care/school brings the worst of the worst students to the top of the acedemic charts. They are so talented in reading not only Spanish, but English too.  It is so crazy how in just a couple of hours you can connect with a person.   I fell in love with those kids, and I am praying the ministry sticks around for a long time, because it makes such a huge difference in these kid's lives.

After Hogar de Paz we went to ECA, which is a Christian English speaking school.  While we were there we taught them about Canada, which was draining but still super cool!  Also something crazy that we did today was we learned Colombian dancing, which we were not very good at, but it was still super fun and they were really encouraging!

In the evening we went for supper with some ECA families, Evie and I were together with one of the nicest families I have ever met!  Their love for God was super inspiring, and my heart was full with so much joy, I am so happy to have met them.  For example when the 13 year-old boy was praying at supper he spoke with so much love for the Lord and so much love for us being there.  It really filled my heart.  It makes you realize how important it is to show love to each other, because that is what really builds us up as individuals.  I just fell in love with that family, and the amazing work they are doing for the Lord!

Hola,  (from Mr. Z)

     This is my first blog.  Ever.  I want to say, Captain's log, Starship Enterprize, but it's probably been done before.  The people here have been more than hospitable and the food is amazing.   Traffic laws are more like suggestions and all the motorcyclists seem to have a death wish.  Now that I've caught up on my sleep, things are rolling along really well.  Working with this team has been encouraging.   At this point I would recommend them for almost any adventure.  The inner city youth center that we were at on Saturday gave me the most to think about.  Many, if not most of the children that come to that center,  (The Jungle,)  come from desperate, or heartbreaking situations.  Once they have been aquainted with the staff at the center there is a chance that they can move to a ministry that sets up a somewhat permanent foster situation for them in a safe and loving place.   However, even though many, many children have been helped there are much more that do not recieve help.   Bogota apparently has a poplulation of over 8 million.   There are a lot of people with seriously troubled lives in a city that large.  

   Today we were at a daycare for at risk children.  They were a very willing and eager bunch that gave us a lot of encouragment despite their young age.   

Stay tuned for future episodes of, "Team Canada in Colombia"