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