Conviventia Bogota Colombia Mission: Saturday

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Today was our last day on mission and the second day of community outreach. As our bus climbed the hills high into the Bogota communities, the material poverty seemed to reach up to the sky. Living in the comforts of America, I never seem to become numb to material poverty when I go on a mission trip. It’s not that I believe everyone should have equal riches, but I believe everyone should be able to earn necessities that provide for human dignity.

The destination of our climb was La Isla, Soacha, and our bus finally stopped in front of the library—one of the village’s first buildings. We set up the medical and dental units in different rooms, while the tents were erected, and musicians gathered under an awning across the street to protect their instruments from the occasional rain shower. Families started arriving, and a few local pastors, including Pastor Ramon Valbuena and his family, came to support our community day.

While Jeisson played guitar with the local band who sang out praise and worship music, Pastor Ramon’s kids line danced in the streets. A few others and I grabbed several of the children’s hands and danced them into the street. Let’s get God’s party started.

The kids also loved Heaven in the Street, where they colored their dreams onto white canvas. The team and volunteers circled the kids, touched their head/shoulders, and prayed for them while they painted. These children are the future of Colombia, and we needed to pray for them to be all that God has called them to be.

After lunch Conviventia hosted an oral hygiene demonstration, and afterwards, the kids were encouraged to take a free toothbrush/toothpaste. As the kids stood in long lines, I got to ask each of the kids their names, so Conviventia could document who got a hygiene pack.  It was an opportunity for me to exchange a few words with each child.  Families were also encouraged to sign up for locally donated clothes. They sorted through them excited at the prospect of something used yet new.

The tent was again set up for families to bring their pets for vaccinations. I assumed this free government service benefited the community by curbing disease—especially rabies. Just when I thought the medical outreach was winding down, an army of kids dressed in school uniforms descended upon the area. Where did these kids come from? I then realized how many kids didn’t go to school—seemed at least half. The sad true is that without an education, these kids won’t likely step out of poverty.

Because of the activity in the streets, I was only able to briefly touch base with the triage team to find out how they were doing with the medical issues. They had run out of several basic medicines such as antibiotics yet were managing with what they had available. Sarah, the baby nurse, who was giving eye exams all week, said she would be happy not to have to do another eye exam again.

Our flight didn’t leave until midnight. We were blessed to grab an hour nap, and then dinner, before leaving for the airport. Darin and I did get one final stop at Crepes and Waffles for an ice cream with fresh fruit dessert waffle. As I finally sat in a chair by the gate waiting for the flight to board, I was able to reflect on the entire week. Regardless of what happens, there’s no such thing as a bad mission trip, because I always learn valuable lessons and get incredible insights for the future. My mission take-aways from the field were:

  • Leaders don’t do everything. They do what they can and ask others to do what they are called to do.
  • With leadership a top 5 core value, I don’t have to lead, but if I’m not leading, I have to be led well.  If a mission is not led well, I can’t be part of it.
  • Darin and I made a friend for life in Brigitta.
  • Marriage ministry, teaching, and workshops will continue to be a major part of my mission field.  I feel like it’s time to go global in 2020 and create a 20/20 Vision for marriage ministry.

The Conviventia mission has come to a purposeful end, and now it’s time for me to focus on our next mission trip, which is to drill a water well in a youth prison in El Salvador. I thank God every day for the opportunity to serve and learn in the most interesting and inspiring ways. My prayer is that some of the words and stories shared in my journal entries will inspire you to go serve locally, nationally, or internationally. If you’re looking to find more of yourself, you’ll find it through serving others.  God bless!


My Two Life Scriptures

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” [Jeremiah 29:11, NIV]

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” [John 5:15, NIV]


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Conviventia Bogota Colombia Mission: Friday

Friday, August 3, 2018

What a fun, fun, day, because we got to be with the people! Today was the team’s first community medical outreach in La Maria, Soacha, where Darin and I had facilitated a leadership workshop for the Pastor Alvero and his staff the past Sunday. I was hoping we would bump into some familiar faces from the church service. What I didn’t know as we drove past Iglesia Christiana Lugar De Encuentro Con Dios was the back story from much earlier in the morning. The original plan was to setup the medical outreach between two warehouses, but when Diana (CDA medical leader) and her team came earlier to ensure a smooth setup, they were informed by the “community” leaders that they couldn’t have access to the warehouses as they had committed.

Praise God; His will be done. Instead of panicking, the CDA staff walked from house to house, knocking on doors, asking whether families would open their homes for medical and dental teams to set up their equipment and serve the community. Three families (non-Christian) opened their doors, pulled out their living room furniture, and invited the team to use their home to help the people. What a beautiful story of how God works through people, when the devil tries to undermine God’s work.

Our team arrived by bus and congregated on the enclosure basketball court. We did praise and worship to kick-off the day. We were instructed that we were only allowed around the sports court and down the alley road where medical treatment would be underway. While the doctors and nurses saw patients, the government set up a pet vaccination station. Not only where people in line for their needs, people brought their pets. I noticed that many of the cats were on leashes like a dog. How the Colombian people treated their pets was a far cry different than in Central America, where the condition of the dogs broke my heart.

The student hairdressers from the Conviventia vocational school set up their tent and were giving free haircuts. There was a line—especially of kids and older men. We gave everyone a thumbs up—looking good. Later we walked down the street, meeting and talking with the locals. Brigitta was an engaging translator. We recognized many people from the church service. Although I don’t speak Spanish, eye contact, a big smile, and saying, “Hola,” made a meaningful connection.

We thoroughly enjoyed talking with all the locals and learning of their struggles. We heard stories of wives leaving men, who then had to take care of their kids by themselves. Many kids weren’t in school. One boy dropped out of sixth grade and wanted to know how he could get to America to be successful. We talked about having a vision for your life, and I told the story of myself growing up poor and how education was a ticket out. I encouraged him to focus on school, so that he would have options. I believe he was more inspired after our conversation.

The medical/dental staff was overwhelmed with the need, and many people had to be turned away, because only so many patients could be seen by 3 pm. First come, first served was the rule. Everyone was happy to receive free medical treatment, except those

who were getting their teeth pulled. It pained me to see kids being held down, so rotten teeth could be pulled to prevent infection, and yes, they had Novocaine. The dental care team pulled a record number of teeth and many left the chair with pearly whites after their cleaning. A common example seen by the triage team—a woman who had suffered with a urinary infection for 2 years, because she had no resources to pay a doctor. Something so curable with an antibiotic goes untreated every day. So sad that many do not have access to basic medical care.

While the nurses and doctors were treating as many patients as possible, we were learning of Conviventia’s initiative to create a fair-trade connection with local coffee farmers in the area. Dag was leading a pilot program and buying his first 50+ pound batch of honey-roasted beans to sell in Houston area. What a wonderful success story this could be.

As we packed up our equipment and headed home, several messages resonated with me from this day on mission:

  • When plans do not work out, do not despair. Trust God. He will open doors. Turning to God gives you an opportunity for Him to show you His miracles.
  • People just want to be known and recognized. Make eye contact, smile at strangers, and say a word of welcome.
  • I don’t care how broken our medical/dental system is in the United States, you should appreciate it. At least you can walk into an ER and be treated.