Rwanda Day 6 - July 15, 2019

Today was such an amazing day! We started off having breakfast at the hotel. Then we headed to go to the village! As we were driving, there were so many families waving to us as we drove by. Many of the kids were running behind our van to catch up with us. When we arrived at the village, many kids and women greeted us as we got out of our vehicle.

We taught the women how to keep a good hygiene by teaching them how to wash their hands and brush their teeth. Afterwards, we gave them soap, tooth brushes, and toothpaste for them to use. Josiah and Wilson played soccer with all of the older kids. Brian and Jason were teaching all of the younger kids a bunch of camp songs. Right after the sessions and soccer, we ate lunch with the church. Right after lunch, we headed out to go visit a pig co-op. It was so amazing to learn about how the pigs provides for their families. it’s a group of ten men who own the pigs. And, they are kept in the back of a family’s house.

Everyone in the village works and lives off the land. Regardless of their age. It’s amazing to see little two year olds sit with their family to harvest the corn. The corn is off of the cob and they dry out the kernels to make corn flour.

There is also bricks being made with water and clay/mud. They get the water for the bricks from the streets after the rain. It takes the people a two hour walk one way to get water for eating & drinking.

Throughout the drive we see men, women & children carrying everything from sticks, bananas, pineapples, sugar cane, water, on bikes or on their heads. these people are such hard workers and yet their souls are as happy as ever. Every place we drive, young & old wave and the young repeat “Abazungu”, which means white people. It’s the sweetest thing ever!

We headed back to the hotel and settled down for a bit. Before we ate dinner together, we all played a couple games of telephone. Then, after dinner, we all played charades with our two interpreters and our two bus drivers. Our bus drivers do not speak english but we have built such an awesome relationship with them both! It was such an amazing day & I love to see how God is working in these peoples lives.

~Never be lacking in Zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12:11

Blessings, Grace

Rwanda Day 5 - July 14, 2019

Today was an amazing day. Our first day in the village and something we will never forget. When we arrived we received an indescribable welcome from a crowd we estimated to possibly be 600 or more. They were clapping and singing and praising God that we were there. All were so friendly and joyful and we were moved by the love that flowed so freely. Each one was anxious to hug us and the children were all reaching to hold our hands. As we walked some of them threw flowers on us. Upon arriving at the church we were given seats together near the front and the building was filled to overflowing for the service. Pastor Marcel and Bishop Theo welcomed us as did the women's and children's choirs. Brian shared a message on encouragement from Romans and each team member had the opportunity to share with the church a little about themselves and the reason they felt God had led them to Rwanda. As the worship ended the adults were dismissed and the children remained and were led by Stacey in Simon Says while Jay, Will, Josiah and Grace prepared to share. They acted out the story of David and Goliath and told the story of the birth of Jesus. The children were given coloring sheets and crayons related to the stories. During this time Brian and Meg were outside showing the woman how to make popcorn. They quickly learned how and we filled bags to pass out to the children. While we had estimated about 150, there were close to 400 children there. It was a crazy, busy scene, but the children all received the popcorn they were so excited for. As the crowds left, we shared a great lunch that had been prepared for us. The love continued as we made our way back to the vans with lots more hugging and waving. As we talked about the day, we found our feelings almost impossible to describe. We agreed that Joy was the overwhelming sentiment. To be so welcomed and to share such a heartfelt worship with our new Rawandan friends was a blessing that we will never forget. We are all excited to return tomorrow to continue to share Gods love and learn more about our new friends

- Dianne Schlegel

Rwanda Day 4 - July 13, 2019

Today was our travel day. We left our hotel Iris to UTC which is a mall to get food, coffee, and supplies for the villages. We then left the UTC to go to our next hotel, it was three hours away. The whole time it was pouring rain. While driving we passed farmland and saw a lot of cows and farmers working in the fields. When we arrived at our new hotel we ate lunch. After lunch, we prepared for activities in the morning for the new village. Then we went outside and played soccer with some of the locals before dinner. Keep praying for us as we share Gods love to people here in Rwanda.

-Wilson Rose

Rwanda Day 3 - July 12, 2019

I first want to thank everyone that has been praying for us! Your prayers are important to all of us.

Yesterday after revisiting the Genocide Memorial (sobering that we can visit this land in its 25 years of healing), there is a huge prayer request in that I was made aware that in only two short years, most of the perpetrators involved in the mass murder, which have not repented will be released at the end of their sentence. Please pray for these individuals and Rwanda itself, as they discern and decide how best to handle/reintegrate these people back into the general society.

As for today, wow, what a jammed packed day. The bulk of the team went to the marketplace, where they had a true Rwandan experience in trying traditional Rwandan food and the women getting individual shirts made on the spot. As for me, I stayed at our guest house, where I was greeted by two children that Lisa and I sponsor, named Murisa and Shallon. We truly had a special time in getting to know one and other. It is so special to be able to physically hug them, have real-time conversations, play games – and yes, we played go-fish, and I have to say, I won! Also, we spent time traveling around the city of Kigali, taking in some special sites, sharing a lunch as well as praying for each of them, their families, their studies, etc.

After rejoining with the team, we continued to Josie’s church and the Child Hope Center, where we spent some quality time intermingling with ~40 students as part of their afterschool program. We assisted in feeding them, taking tons of videos and pictures and praying for them. I’m personally charged, and I’m sure that the broader team is as well, to be strong advocates for these special kids, where they can be sponsored and where the program can continue to grow and flourish. Also, we briefly chatted with the ladies (mostly mothers of these kids), which happen to be former prostitutes that are now creating/doing small businesses to support their families by selling 2 nd hand shoes/clothing, vegetables, etc.

Off to Nyagatare District tomorrow, we cannot wait!!!

Blessings!

Brian

Rwanda Day 2 - July 11, 2019

Our morning started around 8:00 a.m, as we started our first full day in Kigali. Over breakfast we had a chance to connect and talk about our journey to Rwanda. Brian shared Hebrews 12:2 with the Team. Then Josiah shared a devotional around the following verses: 1 Peter 4:10, Romams 10:13-14, Mark 15:1, Matthew 9:20-28 and 1 Samuel 12:24-28. These helped provide us the opportunity to think and reflect on the importance of sharing the Gospel with God's people before heading out for the day. We went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial and learned about the history of this tragic event in 1994 that lasted 100 days and claimed the lives of over 1 million Rwandans. We learned that in addition to this horrific event that claimed many lives, it continues to have an impact on many of the people who still relive the trauma it has caused. Rwandans are very resilient people who continue to move forward showing love and forgiveness. To wrap up our day we ended with a team debrief to discuss our day. We're excited to see how God will use us throughout the day tomorrow and the rest of our trip.

Stacey Sleweon

Rwanda Day 1 - July 10, 2019

After so much planning, our Rwanda trip is finally underway! We met up on Tuesday and headed to the airport for a long day of flying. After about six hours we landed in Amsterdam with a few hours to relax before jumping on another flight to Rwanda. Almost eight hours later, we arrived and met up with Bishop Theo.

We drove through Kigali and enjoyed seeing the night life - lots of traffic, motorcycles, and people. The lights across the hills made for a great view of the city at night. Finally, we made it to our hotel, the Iris, and settled in for the night. We were all looking forward to our first day in Rwanda, but very grateful for some much needed rest!

Thank you to everyone for your prayers on our journey to Rwanda!

-Ashley Riendeau

Days 2, 4 & 6 in Nicaragua - by Jay, Laura & Calvin

Sunday – Day 2
 
Today was our first full day, and the start of our actual ministry.  This was completely up my alley as it was sports day. So, shortly after breakfast, began the soccer matches.  Dan and Chris each gave a message before games.  They did great.  That helped me mentally prepare for my message later in the day.   

We had a break for a while so we were formally oriented by Scott and Jennifer.  To say they have vision for this place is an understatement.  Knowing all God has done here in the face of impossible odds, over the last few years, I have little doubt that he will bless those plans.  Just what I’ve ‘seen’ in the way of changes over a year would be borderline unbelievable.. But with God all things are possible… 

After a pickup game of softball with some world racers and local kiddos, the parade marched in.  Not figuratively, either. There was this awesome parade of a couple hundred female kickball players, their friends and families.  They had a full procession through a neighborhood and onto the land.  When I volunteered to give the message, i thought 20 people, not 200, but our God is BIG, so I knew i’d be fine.  That and the fact that the verse I chose to reference in my message (John 15:33…in this world you will have tribulation, but rejoice, for i have overcome the world” ) was the verse of the day on my Bible app.  Found that out after I had chosen it, so I had this extra peace, like God was confirming my topic.  It went well, and God willing seeds were planted.  

Finally, post a well needed shower, we headed to town for some good old fashioned thin crust pizza.  We are blessed as much as we are trying to bless others.  During debrief, we all agreed that we are excited to continue on and see where God will use us next. ~ by Jay Michaud
 
Tuesday – Day 4
 
Tuesday began a bit later than Monday.  Up and out by 7:00 and in the field by 8:30.  By field, I mean the field at the farm.  While the men went into town to help pour concrete, Melissa and I stayed and helped plant trees.  Something like apples, sweet oranges and nectarines.  To be more accurate, we dug holes for the trees.  This is the end of the dry season and the ground is like rock.  Melissa was a machine!   We worked alongside Erika, Jesse, Byron, Caitlin and and of course, Scott.   We’re getting better at speaking Spanish and holding conversations.   It doesn’t take long!  This was relationship-building time for Melissa and me.  Digging holes frees you up to ask and answer a lot of questions.  And oh yes.  Sweat.  Lots and lots and lots of sweat.  95 Degrees and sunny.  Melty melty.  But really, we love the hearts of these folks more every day.   The crops are a means by which this burgeoning community thrives and is one of several vehicles for building relationships and discipling the love of Jesus.  What a privilege to see it happen in front of us.
 
After lunch, a prayer walk.  We prayed for families in their homes and for more healing of diabetes than anything else.  An 85 year old woman with diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems and her caretaker/daughter.  A man with diabetes who prayed with us - he and his wife raised their arms and their voices to praise God.  They thought we were blessing them when in fact, they were blessing us.  On the lighter side, we learned that chocolate-covered frozen banana is a remedy for heat stroke.
 
Reap Granada does a pop-up store for local artisans to sell their wares to visitors.  We were able to relax a bit, speak with these amazing folks, and support their families by purchasing their wares.   Some of you may, or may not be on the receiving end of some of these….
 
Now we wait for transportation to teach at Young Life at the community center.  Stay tuned on that - we don’t know how we’re getting there and, per Nicaragua-style, nobody is worried.  
 
Honest impression this year:  Yes, there is poverty.  Yes, there is political strife that’s putting much pressure on the local people.  But this year, I’m struck with the realization that these people or no poorer than our neighbors who lives life without embracing the grace of God and the love of Jesus.  There’s alcoholism here.  There’s alcoholism at home. There’s drug trafficking and abuse here.  There’s drug trafficking and abuse at home.  There are acts of violence here. There are acts of violence at home.   There’s beauty and love here just like at home.  We’re the same, just separated by miles. ~ by Laura Varley
 
REAP Granada Day #6 – Thursday
 
There was something missing today. After a good night’s sleep, I awoke to the sun rising over the hills and made my way to the dining area for a time of personal devotion. As I read through Hebrews chapter 10, the local missionary workers started arriving one by one on their motorbikes, stopping to say “Buenos Dias.” I love the communal living and ministry that occurs each day, as we encourage one another here and continue to form bonds and friendships with brothers and sisters in Christ. We ate breakfast and then headed out for our ‘Fun/Rest Day.’ 
 
As the bus pulled up, we all loaded on (bundled on is probably more accurate) with our backpacks for the day and headed off. Our first stop was the volcano and their visitor center. It is fun for me to return to places and see how they have changed. There had been a number of upgrades at the center and it was very exciting to see them. However, we were the only group there. Scott, our host missionary, connected with the workers by hugging each of them. It is amazing to see the relationships and love of Jesus that is spreading through the work that Scott and his team here at REAP Granada.
 
We then headed to the Laguna for lunch and to relax. The drive there is incredible, and the streets are a narrow maze going down a steep hill… let’s just say sitting in the back of the bus was not the best idea! However, as soon as you get out and see the view it is all worthwhile. Again, Scott gets out and immediately greets the workers and the owner. There was only a few other visitors there.
 
It is amazing to see that every opportunity, whether it is prayer walking, buying food or having fun, that it is an opportunity for Scott and his team to build relationships. The amazing thing is to see that with many of the tourists missing, due to previous unrest, that people are so excited that Scott and REAP Granada are still here. God is at work. God is using REAP to share his love and I am so grateful that I have been able to be even just a little part of this.
 
God bless,
Calvin

Wednesday in Granada - by Dan

The day started for the second time with a 5am sunrise hour of prayer. It’s deeply moving to be here and see the day begin and to know that God is here.  He sent me here and I have work that I can’t wait to do.  

Breakfast is more than a meal.  We gather with our team and the native team.  Some speak English.  None of us speak respectable Spanish.  It really doesn’t matter - we’ve  become family and that’s a gift I didn’t expect.

We moved next to the dump to minister to the families who live and work there.  It was a joy and a blessing to have had a chance to serve them a meal.  In the most humble of places, a dump, these families are strong in the love of Jesus.  I wish I could explain this better.  We stood and served a meal and prayed with brothers and sisters while standing on a mountain of trash from the nearby city.    And it may be one of my favorite, most humbling activities ever.

Our third prayer walk.  Just phenomenal.  It was life-changing to talk to these people.  They believe God sent us a long way to pray for them and that we’re not in their homes by coincidence.  Their faith is so absolute.  I don’t have the words to express how astounded I am that God chose to send me here to these loving people.  They have nothing, and they invite us into their homes and insist on offering us their food and drink without a second thought.   I know this isn’t about me - but it’s difficult to reconcile that I get to do this and to benefit from the blinding beauty of the people of Nicaragua.  So many lessons learned - most by me.

I’ve been praying for several years that God would open my eyes to see his Kingdom, and that he would soften my heart to love him more and that he would order my steps to move towards him.  But I got it backwards.  He ordered my steps first by bringing me here and it’s opened my eyes to see his Kingdom and my heart to love His people.   What He has done in my life - and answered my prayers - is proof of His presence and His love.
One last thought.  The architecture in the City of Granada is stunning!  The colors are vivid, the old Spanish-style trim — even the peeling paint - is art.  Going back to the ice cream shop is on my agenda for the future.  Not so much the meat section of the outdoor Mercado.   Can’t wait to serve here again.

Day 3 in Nicaragua - by Chris

We started the day early by going to a 5am devotional/prayer quiet time at the pavilion. It was a great way to start of a very busy day.  At 7am we had a delicious breakfast which included fresh fruit and very good coffee. 

At 8am we left the land and piled 20+ people in Scott’s truck and drove to Jose’s new house lot.  Jose was a renting a house nearby and now is building his own house.  The basic outline of the house was there already, as the beginning stage of he walls were there.  We needed to move cement blocks from the rental house to the new place.  The distance was short and only took 5 or 6 trips with blocks loaded up in the back of Scott’s truck.  We also were cutting wire to be used with rebar, making triangle shaped pieces.  Since we had a large number of people we split off and 8 or 9 people went to Chicon’s house, fairly close by. He had a pile of sand/fill in his front yard that needed to be moved to the backyard.  The pile had at to be at least 5 yards.  We used shovels and 5 gallon plastic buckets  We had a line of 9 or so people filling the buckets and passing them down the line, emptying them and then passing them back.  It was tedious but we had a mission, I think it took us 2 or hours to finish.  We did take water breaks as it was very hot outside. During one of those breaks we found out more about Chicon.  He is a boxing coach for both the men’s and women’s national team.  Quite impressive!  He even coached his daughter to win the 2017 Central American championship!  He proudly showed of her trophies, awards, championship belt and medal!  He was so proud!  I really enjoyed seeing him tell us about everything, he was so proud!

About noonish we drove back to the land for lunch.  After lunch we drove to Pontanal community center.  It is currently being worked on, adding new trusses so a second floor can be added.  It was quite nice inside, I can’t wait until it is finished.  Prior to building the community center the lot of land was used by drug dealers, it was not safe there.  By opening a community center they are changing the neighborhood and the local culture.  Providing a safe place where people can come, they want the community to be part of the transformation and the local people to be involved in it. From the community center we split into 2 groups and went prayer walking into the local neighborhood.  The local people we encountered we were very friendly and open about their needs and invited us into their homes.  We listened and talked to them a prayed with them. These are people that will be using the community center,  it is exciting because they have a story to tell about how God has helped them with their problems and is part of their lives.

After finishing the prayer walk we drove to the hospital.  The hospital we visited was a free hospital, it was very eye opening. The conditions there are very different than our hospitals. Even though we saws things we couldn’t believe we needed to remind ourselves at least they have medical care available to them. We split into two groups and visited various patients.  We listened to them and talked with them and then prayed.  I really think they appreciated we were there listening to them and then praying over them.

After visiting the hospital we drove back to the land and had dinner.  After dinner at about 6:30pm we met at the pavilion where they were having a worship /prayer devotional time in tribute to Nathan. Nathan is a REAP employee that had an accident in the prior week.  He is still in the hospital in very serious condition.  He still needs another surgery, so everyone is praying for a successful surgery and speedy recovery.  The service ended at about 7:45pm. 

Afterwards our group met to discuss the daily events. We enjoyed some nice oreo cookies (thank you Heather).  We also to talked to Jen and Scott about our day and got an update from them about how Nathan was doing. He is making progress in the right direction but has a long way to go.  Please keep Nathan in your prayers.  About 9pm we broke up and went to our rooms to get ready for bed.  It was a long day but very rewarding! 

We made it to Nicaragua! - by Melissa

Our day began very early! We met at the Manchester Campus at 2:45am and after a quick prayer we boarded a shuttle and headed to the airport. Thanks to Lisa and Patricia for coming out to see us off and a special thanks to Amanda for driving the shuttle in the rain.
 
We arrived in Managua after two uneventful flights and met up with Amber, a REAP intern, and the shuttle driver Miguel. Since we arrived so early we were able to stop in downtown Granada and climb the bell tower of a local church. It gave us a great view of Lake Granada the Mercado. We stopped by the local bank to exchange some of our money.  
 
We arrived at the farm and began to settle in.  We had a great meal which we all devoured. It was a long day of travel and most of us didn’t have a chance to eat a real meal, so this one was appreciated. We are blessed to have our stay overlap with a team of World Racers! This was the halfway point for them and there was a large group of parents that travelled to be with their racers. It was amazing to see them interacting and worshiping together. 
 
We look forward to sharing devotionals with the sports teams that will be taking the fields on Sunday! Thanks to everyone for keeping us in their prayers!
 
Blessings,
Melissa

Columbia outreach trip blog and closure - by Lorraine

As I reflect on today's events, I find myself overwhelmed with emotions that are difficult to explain.  I am writing this last blog while waiting to depart from this special Godly place we have called home for the last 9 days.   Myself and fifteen other missionary team members have formed a lasting bond with the  Formavida family here on the hills of the Eastern Andes Mountains on the periphery of Bogota, Colombia, a bustling city that resembles many of our own cities in the U.S.A. Upon our arrival, nine days ago, we immediately became  aware of a sharp contrast as we ascended the steep, windy road heading to our destination while observing primitively built homes situated along the mountain road. We discerned homes symbolizing poverty and dependence on basic means to survive. 

The several days our team spent on this maiden visit to serve, will hopefully be the first of  many more  trips to the Formavida center.  Our days here were  filled with time spent at local schools, (public and private) and interacting in a variety of ways in the Oasis after school program at Formavida for all ages and grade levels.  In previous blogs, team members shared their experiences participating with these endearing young children and young adults.  

Some team members formed a core group working at the newly constructed home for a single mom by the name of Martha and her six children. Much work needed to be accomplished in order to complete the work intended before departing on this last day. Work  consisted of installing electricity, water, sanding walls, applying spackling, more sanding and finally painting.  Our whole team worked together on our last day of construction to reach our goal and on day 9, we were pleased to enjoy gathering together with Martha and her family, the staff of Formivida and other workers on this final day, to present the keys to the house. Beautiful sentiments and words of appreciation were shared at this time as were shared throughout the week. 

We heard stories directly from Pastors Ricardo and Lucy, the leaders of this Christian organization, about their passion to build this center and how it has grown through the years. The paths they chose were completely driven by their love for Jesus and a desire to serve in ways that would bring love and hope to families living in poverty.  Their foundation offers after school programs where students can get help with their homework, learn about Jesus, play games and have a meal. The children we interacted with were curious and welcoming of our time and attention. It wasn't unusual for a young boy or girl to display their appreciation with a hug. And the smiles on their faces brought us all so much joy.  

We were able to attend an informational meeting for parents on suicide prevention being offered at the center. In addition, some of our team members partnered with Formavida worship team and staff to present a play about suicide at the schools  that were visited.  Some of our team toured a new facility supported by Formavida called Iglesias de Filadelfia, that offers early childhood education for infants to five years old.  New moms are being taught proper child care skills.  Soccer programs for teens are  also being offered. 

Throughout the week, we heard testimonies  from both our team members and staff.  Many stories having a common theme sharing how Jesus was their foundation and the reason for their hope. We gathered together at the cross on the hill on Easter Sunday to pray as we stood together overlooking the city of Bogota. Some of our team members were invited to sing with the worship team and even lead the message in the Friday evening service.

Pastor's Lucy and Ricardo are truly exemplary examples of God's servants. Throughout the week they attended closely to our needs, providing accommodations, home made meals,  worship time, transportation logistics, translators, time to attend Lucy's fathers  80th birthday celebration,  sightseeing in historical parts of Bogota and so much more. One member of our team was provided transportation to a local home center store and purchased several construction tools to supplement Pastor Ricardo's own personal tool supply which definitely needing to be replaced. Ricardo humbly accepted, feeling blessed and filled with gratitude. Which brings me to today, Day 9.

Our day began with helping with the center's Bizarre. Students attending the Oasis after school program earn fake money that they can spend on this day to purchase food, drinks, pay a fee to participate in a game of their choice such as archery, golf, zip lining and purchase clothing items.  All the while, learning an important lesson on earning and purchasing and it's  value. When. the students departed  for their homes and we said goodbye, they left us with feelings of both joy and sadness; having formed unique relationships but at that same time, knowing that our time together had ended.  For a few of our team members, the love and partnership will continue through their Mission life child sponsorship program that was offered and they felt a calling to be a part  of. 

Later in the afternoon, our team returned to Bogota to walk around, purchase souvenirs and enjoy our last meal together with our Formavida family.  Upon returning to the center later that evening, we were surprise with  a farewell/ thank you gathering in the centers sanctuary.  We enjoyed music, singing and dancing, ate food  prepared by their chef Hector, shared highs and lows of that day, prayed and presented personal letters to the staff who had welcomed us as part of their family. There was lots of joy for what had been accomplished and many tears were shed.  

For all of us, I can imagine that this experience has taught us more than we ever expected and we leave feeling our lives may never be quite the same. We have seen first hand how God has worked in the lives of so many; our team leaders, Angel and Anita, who have worked relentlessly to put together all the necessary details, the members of our team who have given their time and funds, and especially Ricardo and Lucy and their family and friends. The work they have done over the years, the lives they've touch by providing love and hope is a testament to their obedience to God that they have no intentions of changing. There's so much more to be done and I am thankful to have been a small part of it in this moment in time. ~ Lorraine

Thoughts as we leave Colombia - by Angel

Today was the last day of our mission trip to Bogota, Colombia. As I sit at the gate waiting to board our plane, overwhelmed with emotions for what the last ten days have given me, all I can think of is how lucky I am to be used by God.

I can’t even express with words how special this trip was for me, because, when I left Colombia twenty years ago, I never imagined I would be back with a group of missionaries willing to give their time and love to the people of Colombia. This team showed an amazing obedience to what God put in their hearts and I enjoyed serving with every one of them very much. 

The last ten days went very fast, but between the children's ministry at the Oasis program of the Formavida Foundation, the schools we visited, and the construction of a home for a mother of 5 battling cancer, I bring my heart full of love, my spirit full of faith and obedience, and my body ready to rest, back home to NH. 

Together with the team we participated at the Bazaar yesterday. This is a special event where the kids get to spend fake money they earn through the quarter. They earn this money as an incentive for good behavior, learning Christian principles, scripture, participation and more. I was blown away by their generosity and lack of selfishness. These children, having little to no resources, chose to spend that money to buy clothes and other items for their siblings and parents, instead of spending it all on themselves.

Later in the afternoon, we delivered the keys of the house to Marta and her family; a house we raised funds for and helped build. A house that will be changing not only the lives of her family, but also the lives of all those who come across their testimony of faith.  God does miracles when you obey. 

I go back home full of hope and joy, ready to continue this journey with Jesus as my pilot. Thank you everyone who followed us during this journey and those who helped us make this happen. I am sure the Lord has plans to continue using us to be the bridge of His blessings.

In Him always
Angel Galvis

A day rich in blessings - by Mike & Carolyn

Today was a day rich in blessings. The team ended a busy and productive day, unanimously agreeing that the achievement of our tasks in the home project, the blue-ribbon burgers served for dinner, the interactive time spent with the children and youth here at Formavida for the afternoon, and last but not least... a time of great sharing and worship in our evening service, made this day ... amazing.
God is good, and moving in the hearts and lives of this Colombian community. It’s equally amazing to hear about young adults here who are burdened to support outreach in global missions ranging from Africa, the Middle East and Venezuela. This coming from young adults who have grown up here under the ministry of Ricardo and Lucy of the Formavida mission.

It’s safe to say we’ve all shared deep blessings while here,
Mike Arbore
______________________________
Today we focused on painting a house that we are presenting to a family in need here in Bogota. We left for the house after a yummy breakfast of scrambled eggs with mixed in corn and veggies and arepas. We walk down a bumpy, steep dirt road to get to the house. My job was painting the metal decorative bars that go over the windows (windows to be put in later). It was a little challenging to paint the outside of a window that was too high up to get from the outside with ladder. I did ok I think, just got a little paint on my arm! It was a little confusing at times- waiting to see what needed to be done and how to do it, but we worked well as a team and really pulled it together! 

Team members from the Formavida Foundation, the family, and locals helped to make it a great experience. Someone even passed out candy for us. Walking back up the hill is hard work, but I have my rest spots where I can catch my breath and the views at the same time. After we were done working on the house, I had a special time helping a 10-year old boy write a letter in English about himself to help him get a sponsor. Next will be supper and a church service. I'm sure the church service will be energizing and inspirational! This week has been amazing!

~ by Carolyn

Crybaby in Colombia - by Isaias

Day 5 here in Bogota Colombia. There is so much to say. The people here are amazing, humble and so down to earth. Everyone you talk to has such a great story to tell sometimes you start to cry instantly. I have become a big crybaby here in Colombia lol. But its so hard not to. We come from a country that consumes and waste so much. It's very simple; they don't want nothing but your time and presence. The smiles and hugs you get from them are incredible. 

One big part of my day today was able to share my testimony with the teenagers this morning at the local school. Never in my wildest dreams I thought I would be able to captivate a room full of teenagers and have them listening to what I had to say. Only God can do things like that. But meeting my 8 year old sponsor child today was unreal. At first he was like "who are you?" and did not one want a part of me until I showed him a picture of my buddy's Lamborghini, and it was a wrap after that. He was so interested to know about my family and he was so happy to know I had kids his age. He even asked me when I was bringing them to meet him. What a joyful experience. We have so much work to be done here in Colombia and I know it will happen, that's for sure. God has done so much for us in this trip and my heart is ready and willing to do whatever it takes. I miss my family like crazy. I know I will be home soon but it's going to be so hard to leave this place. I know when we leave this place I will be a totally different human being. 

The greatest in the Kingdom - by Grace & Kyle

Kyle - we worked on construction of the house. There was lots of sanding and mudding to be done. We also helped wire the house for electricity. It was amazing to watch how a house is built in Bogata.  While we were working, we saw a litter of puppies next door. We see many dogs as we work through our daily projects. Dinner was a treat with a doughnut type dessert covered with sugar sprinkles.

Grace – we went to the public school in Santa Cecilia where we made bracelets with five beads that signified what Christ has done for us. White represents the unity with God, black symbolizes sin that separates us from God, red  reflects the sacrifice God’s only son did for us on the cross, Blue represents water in the right of passage as followers of Christ and cleanses our sins. Lastly, Green is the growth in a relationship with God. Wholesome cannot even begin to describe the experience at the school. It reminded me when Jesus was talking amongst his disciples in Matthew 18:4-5, “anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me “. 

We were warmly welcomed by the students of the school. We received endless  hugs and smiles. Along with teaching the children the meaning of each bead, we also went over each color in English teaching the children the meaning of each bead, we authentic connection by embracing our differences in language. Later in the day, we attended our first day with oasis, the Christ centered afterschool program. Many of the same children of the public school attend Oasis. To see the delight in their eyes to meet our team filled me with great joy. Anita, Carolyn and I taught ages six through seven about Manchester Christian church mission and to ask God to give us one person to share his love with. Every moment of the day reminded me of the Lords infinite love for me and his mercies are from everlasting to everlasting.

The homestretch - by Dennis & Giselle

Day 6: Bogota, Colombia

It’s Wednesday and I (Deniss), can’t believe that we are in the homestretch. Today has been an amazing day full of dance, smiles, tears, and joy with students from Instituto Colombo-Sueco.

After our visit to the school we walked to Iglesias de Filadelfia, which is headed by Carolina and Fabian (Lucy’s daughter and son-in-law). The projects they are focused on are around helping pregnant women in parenting and early childhood education. Early childhood education (ECE) is the most critical development stages in a child’s life between the ages 0-5. Another wonderful project in the works is a soccer program for teenagers to get them off the street. What is the most beautiful thing is seeing the love pouring out to help the youth move away from the drugs, money, and street life here in Colombia.

The next part of my day was working with the 8-9 yrs old with Caroline. I was able to work with students on multiplication homework before doing our devotional. We read Ephesians 6:10-24, the whole armor of God. What was awesome was that the students had a song that they used to understand the armor of God. After our devotional we took the children out to the field and taught them baseball. Definitely was an exciting moment watching the children learn the game of baseball and the joy they had playing.

Overall today has been another joyous and memorable experience. I’m am truly blessed to have this moment as my life has forever been changed by the children and people of Colombia. 
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Hi Everyone,

It’s Giselle. I am having such an wonderful time here in Bogota. These past five days have been just truly life changing. Today we went to a christian school, and spoke about suicide and depression. Hearing people’s story was simply humbling. Isabelle and I were with the ten through eleven age group for OSASIS; played soccer and volleyball with the children. The goal was to learn about our physical activity alongside a devotional on spirit being our own responsibility. Judging from their attention and reaction, they truly took the words to heart. After, we had the opportunity to help two kids with their english homework. They told me it was “boring” to learn english. I thought that was so funny. Dinner was so delicious. we had a picada, which is a whole bunch of different meats piled on a platter. To end our night we had an intimate circle of worship. I know this blog is very short, but I just want you all to know that this trip has been truly breathtaking in so many ways.

Cultural tourist day - by Isabelle & Anita

Hola from Colombia!!

Buenos Dias, Mi Llamo es Anita... It's tourist day! This is one of my favorite parts of being on a mission trip, service trip, or even a discovery trip. Being able to wake up and spend the day absorbing the local culture, food, and sights outside of what we gain during our field days, is key to our fundamental growth as a missionary. Today we took the trek down the mountain on the outskirts of Bogota, and went to see the Salt Cathedral; an underground representation of the Stations of the Cross. 

Hola mi nombre es Isabelle, the Salt Cathedral was surreal. It was a little difficult to interpret visually, but I think it was meant to be more of an audio tour. Behind the different stations the caverns seem to go on forever. The place was truly fascinating. At one point I dared Anita to lick the wall... she did and then I had to as well. Guess what it tasted like? SALT! Let me just say this... The lime chips they sold in the little cafe, delicioso. 

Hey, it's Anita again. With empty bellies our rag-tag group made our way into a local spot for lunch. Coincidentally with a bazillion options for the carnivorous muncher, Isabelle and me both had empanadas, and devoured them drenched in some green sauce. It was definitely worth way too many bites, and called for a steaming cup of Java to follow. But not before we all took a turn or five in the British style phone booth creating art worthy of Instagram. 

Isabelle again. That restaurant was really cool with all it's antique decor. I can agree with Anita that we may have taken a few too many pictures. The food was sooo good too. As well as the live music being payed while we ate!:p 
As we went to search for a cup of coffee, it started to poor and we had to make a quick (and dry) stop.

We stopped in an art gallery of all places that also functioned as an art & cooking school. Anita here, BTW... I feel like this place was a definite hidden jem with coffee to make your taste buds dance! I bought a bag for 30k pesos. I think that converts to $10. Totally worth it. It was super sweet of the owner to let this bunch of Americans and Colombians hang out, drink coffee, peruse the art, and take bunches more photos for posting later. We happen to be an artsy group if you couldn't tell by now! 

Back to Isabelle:). After the art stop, we tried walking again, but it continued to rain so we headed back to Forma Vida. Other than the weather it was an awesome day! The group shared so many laughs, and stories continuing to grow closer to each other everyday. Gonna be weird going home in a few days and not sharing a small room with nine other Woman.

Easter in Bogota - by Jill & Lisa

Happy Easter!

We started our morning with a hike up to the cross overlooking Bogota and had our morning devotional up there.  We then attended an amazing church service that Grace from our team participated in worship with.  Angel preached an amazing message and Isaias gave his testimony.  

After a great lunch we broke into teams and headed down the mountain to do a scavenger hunt. Each team had a local with them to make sure we stayed safe but they didn't help us with translation or directions. We asked bus workers, police and even had locals step in to help bring some of our teams to their locations. It was a lot of fun. We ended with a team dinner and then our ride back up the hill. 

It was a great day and tomorrow we get to work!

Jill and Lisa

Day 2 in Colombia - by Anna & Dennis

Today I woke up early and cooked breakfast for the team with Dennis. We helped dry and put away dishes. We helped make arapas which was so much fun to make and they were so good. It felt nice to be able to help out with the work. We didn’t actually make the dough, but we helped form them. We had to take a bit of the dough and put a bit of cheese in the middle and folded it up and formed it into a circle. With the arapas we had and a scrambled egg with peppers. 

After breakfast we went to see the field and heard the story for our hosts. The story that was shared was beautiful and powerful. The story of how the church came to be and the influence of Jesus in their lives. Then the children came and we hung out with them and played soccer. It was so nice to meet them and just listen to them talk even though I didn’t understand all that they said. Grace and I had a group of girls and we played Duck Duck Goose for a while along with one of the team members of the church that is hosting us. I took to the children and connected with them while playing. After playing outside we had lunch and talked within our group and connected. The food was also wonderful. After lunch we took a bit of a break and then teens came and we played volleyball with them, which was fun. We talked to them and heard  their stories and shared some of ours. After, there was a Suicide Prevention seminar with the parents and some of the teens stayed around and played more volleyball. I sat with a little girl and she talked to me. She brought me a snack that was really cute. She had a good time talking to me and having me listen to her even though I couldn’t always respond. She also gave two stuffed animals to me to hold while sitting with her and watching volleyball. Then it was time for dinner and we had a great meal with the group and talked about our day and I felt closer to some of the team members. Then to end the day my mom and I participated in a play with some of the volunteers from the church. That was a cool experience because I was able to be part of something with them. I’m excited for more experiences like this. ~ by Anna
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After a much-needed rest from travel and getting settled in yesterday, day two has been amazing. I was partnered with Anna to help with breakfast. We met with Lucy and Ricardo at 7am. The first task we were assigned was to dry the dishes from last nights dinner. Lucy then invited us over and taught us how to make arepas con queso. It was a really great experience learning a traditional Colombian meal from scratch. 
Upon the completion of breakfast, we were able to exchange our money before going outside to the coliseum (area with basketball court and small field for children). Here we listened to the story and testimony of Lucy and Ricardo and how they were brought to building the church and community center here in the barrio. Their story is one built on the faith of Jesus and listening to God’s words. It was a very emotional moment for all of us. Just before being greeted by the children, a few of us went to the local bodega and bought a few items. I bought some chicharrones, Colombian kola, oreos, and a coke. I must say it all tasted great. Once we got back its was soccer time for the young kids. This was definitely a highlight for so many of the kids. It allowed us to connect with them in something they enjoyed. Some kids also played duck, duck, goose, and were jump roping. 
After lunch we met with the older teenagers (ages 14-17). One thing I noticed is that there was no difference in trying to get a teenager to talk here in Colombia as it is in the United States. It took a bit for them to open up and share their story but by the time they felt comfortable with us they were much more relaxed and willing to share. We then went out and played volleyball with them before dinner.
I would have to say that my biggest high from today was watching everyone continue to build relationships. God’s will truly is manifesting here in Colombia. I am truly blessed to be sharing this moment with a great group of amazing people. ~ by Dennis

Our arrival in Colombia

Our first day in Bogota, Colombia was truly eventful. We arrived early and made our way to the Formavida center, nestled in the hills of Santa Cecilia on the outskirts of Bogota and what would be our home for the next ten days.  I'm traveling  with a team consisting of a mother and young daughter, a father and young son, a father and young daughter, a husband and wife, men and women of various ages, and ethnic backgrounds, all coming together with a passion for serving our Lord. Our common goal being to embark on this mission where marginalized people live and work with daily challenges but together share the love for Jesus.  
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This day for me, started rough with a long overnight flight. I didn't feel very well after getting off the plane and out of the airport. Our team and all our luggage were picked up by three shuttle vans and  drove to the bottom of a steep hill and dropped off. 

The narrow, steep, hairpin turns ascending to the Formavida Center were too difficult for the shuttles to continue the drive the remainder of the distance. We were then picked up by land rovers and transported on an exciting ride to our destination. I felt better once we reached the Center.  During our assent to Formavida, we observed much poverty, homes packed close together  in disrepair, dogs running loose but yet appearing happy and well fed. The rest of the day was filled with beautiful moments; the amazing view from our mountain top, meeting the family, a mother facing a life strickened with cancer and her four, young  children who would be blessed with a new  home When our team completed this project, praying over this family, the  parade of people walking the same , steep, windy road carrying a  cross to celebrate Good Friday, sharing in a  church service with members of the Formavida center; and eating home cooked  meals  prepared by Hector and his family, a gentleman who immigrated from Venezuela with his family. ~ by Carolyn
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We arrived in Colombia on an uneventful and packed red eye flight early Friday morning, followed by a hilly, winding, narrow road to Formavida. After settling in, it was nice sitting down with the team and getting to know each other.  We were able to witness how the city observes Good Friday by carrying a cross up the same windy hill. This brought back many memories of my childhood. Meeting the family we will me building the house for and seeing the positive affects of our resources to create adequate living accommodations for this family, gave me a sense that we were helping and we would be able to see the results of our serving.  The gratitude that filled the room as we prayed for this family was evident and powerful. A circle time activity that took place at the end of the day, after a worship service,  gave me a sense of partnership between our mission team forming a strong and lasting connection with the Formavida community. ~ by Paul

115 kids who attend Oasis are sponsored by Formavida!