Surprise Blessings

During our 5-hour stay in Bogota between flights, we had the privilege of stopping by Compassion’s country headquarters.  We had very little time, and had been delayed by typical city traffic, unfortunately, but what a special treat it was.

The friendly faces of two men were wonderful to see, and Leo (on the right), who guides and coordinates all visits of Sponsors to Colombia, was eager to show us around and introduce us to other staff members, and to tell us stories of Compassion’s work here.

First, we met several employees in the sponsor/donor relations department.  They minister to 91,000 children in Colombia, and these are the ones that handle letters, photos, visits from sponsors, and the details of the child survival program, among others tasks.

Each sweet person here shared about their jobs and about some of the specific children involved in this ministry of “Releasing Children from Poverty in Jesus’ Name.”

We saw where the letters are sorted to go to various child development centers across their country.

I think this is the very box where my letters go, when I write to Gerlan!

Thankfully, thousands of letters stop in these bins on the way to children that are eager to hear from their sponsors, and the number is growing, as the Compassion app (on phones) and online accounts have made it so much easier to send letters.  The ones that are sent digitally from your account or phone, are printed in the partnering country, just like these were, so they can be translated and handed to the child in person.

About this time I received the first surprise of the visit.  They introduced us to Luz Ariana, Manager of Support Engagement.  She manages all the other people on this floor, including Leo, who has the job she previously held.

Luz is a formerly sponsored child!  The moment I heard that, I asked to have my photos taken with her, because she’s a beautiful example of the difference that Compassion’s ministry makes in a child’s life.  Here she is — beautifully released from poverty and giving back to the very same ministry that rescued her!

If that wasn’t enough, the next desk we stopped at was another formerly sponsored child who is responsible for Child Protection.  She works with highly vulnerable children, working out the legal matters that need to occur, protecting them, speaking up on their behalf, and finding ways to prevent more atrocious acts of endangerment.  These may be children that are being abused, involved in child slavery or trafficking, critically ill or malnourished, or any other dangers that so often afflict the weakest, most vulnerable of all.  What a huge responsibility she has, but I know that her heart is big enough to meet the task, and that her trust and confidence is in the Lord, who knows and sees all, and has power to change the direction of a child’s life for the good.

Oh, how honored I felt to meet her, too!  She said that the photos on the walls throughout the building constantly remind all the employees of the reason for their work: these little faces are what it’s all about.

If that was not enough, we had another surprise coming when we went upstairs to the financial department — a third formerly sponsored child is working in this area.  There were many other employees that we met–techs, mechanics, administrative employees, and others–but at this point I don’t think I saw much more than these three — precious, capable, formerly sponsored children!  And this sweet, young girl, had a photo of her sponsor on her desk that she was quick to show us!  She wants to remember where she came from, who supported her in her release from poverty, and why she works on behalf of so many other children facing the same struggles that she faced growing up.

Aren’t these three girls beautiful?  Oh my, this really made my day!  I’m so very thankful for this ministry of Compassion International — for the integrity, perseverance, careful attention to detail, and for the fact that it’s always about individual children–not a number, not a face–but an actual, living being who was created with worth and value, and who we have the privilege of supporting through sponsorship, and developing a relationship with along the way.  How very grateful I am to all of you who sponsor.  If you don’t sponsor a child yet, and would like to, you can contact me or choose one here and I know their life (and yours) will never be the same!

 

Abbey Road

What fun we had in Cartagena with Luis, my formerly sponsored child (he’s an alumni of the program, and of the Leadership Development Program).

All our cameras were busy throughout the wonderful day we had together.

We had a chance to take a classic “Abbey Road” pic in Colombia.

Lunch was at a typical Colombia restaurant where we could order “Bandeja Paisa” — an assortment of traditional items:  plantains, avocado, rice, chicharron, egg, fried cheese, yuca, beans, sausage and “country flag.”  Delicious!  We had a long discussion with Luis about whether astronauts really landed on the moon or not.  I’m not even sure if he agreed with the proofs Sarah shared with him from her work at NASA, but I’m glad Luis thinks deeply and carefully about all things.

All too soon it was time to say farewell again, but our fun memories will always stay with us.

Jazmin did a great job translating for us both in 2013 and again this year.  What a treat to see her again, too!

We went back to the hotel to visit a while longer and then to say our farewells.  I love you, dear friend!

 

 

Fun Times With Luis

We had a great time with Luis–chattering the whole time (through our translator), joking, taking selfies and exploring the city.

We walked all along the outer walls of the old city.  It was a beautiful day for us.

I even caught these cute boys dabbing!

Luis

I’m thrilled to say that I got to see Luis again in Colombia.  I don’t think either of us ever imagined that we would have this opportunity again.  He reminded me that he had found out from me on Valentine’s Day (via Facebook) that I would be returning to Colombia–he said he would never forget that!  Luis is a Compassion Alumni, and several years ago I attended Luis’ graduation from Compassion’s Leadership Development Program.

I was immensely impressed with him at the time, in 2013.  When he graduated, he stated that his goal was to “open a cafe some day.”  Well, this brilliant young man has just done that.  He has his own sandwich shop in Santiago de Cali, where he lives.  He has been working in a bakery for several years, but now he owns his own shop as well.  How proud I am of him!  He was excited to meet Chris and Sarah this time, as they weren’t with us in 2013.

We enjoyed giving him a few gifts and he brought us delicious pastries (almond croissants, chocolate croissants, chocolate chip rolls, cheese croissants and others)!  I regret that we didn’t get any photos of the yummy treats; we were too busy gobbling them down the next morning, than to think of getting photos of them.

He also received a NASA shirt and a Wyoming hat in his gift bag, and immediately put them on.

How wonderful to start getting acquainted again and to catch up on each other’s lives!  Then we hopped in a taxi with our translator (Jazmin) and headed to the walled, old city of Cartagena.

 

 

At the Top

With our sponsored boys, Fredy and Gerlan, we made it to the top of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas in Cartagena, Colombia.  The view was magnificent!  This 16th century fortress was taken by various countries in its long history, but the Spanish were proud to have finally protected their city from the British at a key moment in history.  Otherwise (we were told) all of South America would’ve been English-speaking!  As evidence, several batteries with multiple canons faced away from the city.

At the top a man was playing a trumpet!  It was beautiful to hear at this site!

Here you can see the old city and the new — impressive!

 

I love this photo of Gerlan with his mentor, William — a precious man changing children’s lives at the Compassion project.  I’m so grateful for people like this that serve all our sponsored children in various places around the world.

All too soon it was time to say farewell, but we will always cherish these moments together!  We will keep praying for these precious young men, their families, teachers and helpers!

 

 

 

 

 

Fort Tunnels

We toured Castillo San Felipe in Colombia with our sponsored boys, Fredy and Gerlan.  We had climbed a long way up the sloping pathways, and stopped for some photos.  Sarah with her sponsored boy, Fredy:

Here I am with my sponsored boy, Gerlan, and his mother Mariela (I’m holding the poster Gerlan gave me at his Compassion project).

There are several areas on this massive complex where you can enter the extensive tunnel system beneath the fort.  Fun!

We really could’ve become separated from our big group if we weren’t careful, but we made it out together.

In 1984 Cartagena and this fort became listed as a World Heritage Site.  It was awesome to see!

Castillo San Felipe

I shared earlier about meeting our sponsored boys in Colombia — Fredy and Gerlan.  We had a great lunch together in the old, walled city of Cartagena.  Then we headed for the fort — Castillo San Felipe de Barajas.

This fort was begun in 1536, and was built at a strategic position, protecting approaches both from land and sea.  The complex is massive, and we started up the sloping pathways.

It was a wonderful day; more photos of the fort will follow in the next couple of posts.  Amazing Cartagena!  Precious friends and family!