So the DTS are already back, but we would like to share the last couple weeks of outreach with you guys. Enjoy!
As we continue on the last leg of our outreach we split into 2 groups on Friday. One went up to work at the farm, the other to a children’s drop in center in a very poor barrio in the hills above Bogota. We had fun playing with 2 groups of kids that came after school. Mary, who runs the center, provides various services on different days of the week. This was strictly a day for playing, so the kids can have a safe place to play for a few hours. On other days she and other volunteers provide tutoring on school subjects, teach lessons from the Bible, and provide mentoring on life skills.
On Saturday we went to a small nursing home outside Bogota to visit. It was a beautiful place out in an area of farms and more like a large family home than an institution. There were many people there who really responded to our dramas and testimonies. The staff obviously love the people living there and were very appreciative toward us for coming. Afterwards we were able to visit one of our hosts, Carlos’ home, to meet his family and enjoy some fresh brewed Colombian coffee.
On Sunday morning we went up into an area above Bogota by the name of Egipto. This is a barrio that was once a wealthy area of the city right above downtown. It is now one of the roughest barrios in the city with one of the only nice buildings being the historic Catholic church. We ended up with too many people for the small school where the church meets, so they moved us up the hill to a small park carved out of the hillside. While we shared our dramas and testimonies, there were kids running all over making noise and gang members playing soccer right behind us. Afterwards, Pastor Elias invited everyone down to the school for Coke and some treats. He was really encouraged to see so many people come. He has been working here for 18 years and says that sometimes it is very discouraging because of the slow progress, but still sees God work in people’s lives one at a time. This is another barrio where alcohol, drugs, and crime are the norm, so they try to reach the kids before they get to the age that the gangs get a hold of them.
Our next ministry day was spent on the edge of town at a ministry by the Assemblies of God. One of the things I really appreciate about serving with YWAM is that we are exposed to many different ministries from different backgrounds. This was a combination church / drop in center for kids / feeding / tutoring / life skills center. It was started by Pastor Carlos 13 years ago when he arrived to pastor a new church plant in this barrio. He started playing soccer with the kids in the street, was noticing they were hungry, and would bring snacks along. When he mentioned how much they liked soccer, they said they really came because of the food. He got the idea of a feeding center, which eventually grew into the center they operate today. They currently serve about 150 kids a week. Most of the day we worked with Leslie, a young woman from New York who spoke fluent Spanish with a great New Yorker accent. It was fun to watch both her and Pastor Carlos with the kids. They both have an obvious love for them and the kids feel the same about them.
Thursday morning took us back to Egipto. Our dramas were remembered from last Sunday and they were anxious to see them again. Many places we have served are before or after school drop in centers. Most are run by churches or para church organizations. Kids here either go to school all morning or afternoon and these ministries provide a place for the kids to go during the opposite part of the day, while their parents are working. The children mostly come from single parent families, usually the moms, as absent dads are a huge problem here. For lunch we took an incline railway up the mountain to Monseratte, a former monastery that is now a church. We had our lunch while enjoying the view of the city below and toured the church before heading back down the mountain. We then went to visit the school operated by YWAM, Luz y Vida. This school exists to serve kids that no other school will take due to behavior issues or learning disabilities. It was so great to see the kids come in and run into Steve’s arms for a hug. All of them come from the roughest barrios and are starved for attention and affection. He shared many success stories, as well as some sad stories, that have come out of this school. Our team gave their program on the second floor landing with the kids sitting all around them. It was an up close, intimate time and many of them wanted to visit and get hugs before we left.
The next day we were supposed to split into two groups again, with one group going to Mary’s ministry, the other went to the farm to work on the new house there. We all ended up going to the farm because there were large demonstrations in Mary’s barrio over bus fares and the police didn’t feel it would be wise for a bus load of gringos to come up there.
We went back to serve at the Jungle, which I wrote about two weeks ago. It was another day of playing with kids who don’t have a lot of structure or rules at home, so they are very active and loud. After the play time, the team did their dramas again, and the kids would chant “another one, another one” after each drama.
Sunday we led a worship service at a small church up near the farm where Steve lives, followed by a traditional Colombian dinner nearby. Debrief time will be through Tuesday, along with some breaks for free time. We will be leaving early Wednesday morning to fly back to Los Angeles, then be at Gleanings finishing up with the team and graduation on Friday, Feb. 28th.
This has been an incredible trip with many varied opportunities to serve. There have been many rewarding experiences, along with some challenges. Thank you for following our adventure and praying for us.