After returning to Canada from my October 2015 sponsor tour to Rwanda, I spent the next seven months working very long hours at my new job until the time came to travel to Colombia, South America on a U.S. sponsor tour in May 2016; another new country for me! Although I already have my special "heart” countries, every trip is unique and memorable, and Colombia was no exception. We had a very awesome group of sponsors on this tour and I quickly bonded with many of them.
We had wonderful experiences visiting child development projects in Barranquilla and Santa Marta, which are in the very hot and humid northern Caribbean region of Colombia.
On May 10th, the day before Child Fun Day, one of my sponsored kids, 17-year-old Amaury, travelled north from Cartagena to spend the day with our group visiting one of the project centres as he was scheduled to write a university entrance exam the next day. My one-on-one time with him was so unforgettable, cementing the already strong bond between us built up through frequent letter writing over the past three years.
Then came the day we were all waiting for, Child Fun Day on May 11th held at Turipaná Water Park right on the Caribbean Ocean. For many of the sponsored children, it was their first time ever seeing the ocean! I was overjoyed to see nine of my sponsored kids lined up waiting for me – Edelis, Brayan, Andrés, Yeison, Rodrigo, Keiner, Vilanis, Erika and Mishell. Brayan really worked his way into my heart that day with his outgoing and loving nature. From soccer games to playing in the pool and on the beach, many memorable moments were created.
The U.S. sponsors returned to the States the next day and I once again stayed on for a couple of extra days as I had set up individual home visits with my two Barranquilla-area children:
17-year-old Brayan and 13-year-old Vilanis (who is my birthday twin).
Friday, May 13th saw me visiting Vilanis’s project church located in Puerto Colombia in the morning where the junior worship team put on a musical presentation just for me! We then went to her home where I met her family – grandma Luz, mom Martha, and brothers Andrés and Juan. I was saddened to find out that her father had left the family two weeks before, but thankful that Compassion is there to support her family in this time of need.
After a delicious lunch prepared by the project cooks and saying my good-byes to Vilanis, I then headed to Brayan’s project where I met his inspirational pastor Milton who gave up a lucrative legal career to dedicate his life to serve the youth of his community. I was then given another bear hug from Brayan, who stole my heart even more that day. I also met his tutor Yessenia and other project staff before heading over to his nearby home to meet his wonderful family – father Juan, mother Merlinda, sister Dayana and precious niece Bryana. After an awesome afternoon spent getting to know each other on an even deeper level, Brayan walked me back to the project where we had more time to chat before facing the tough moment when we had to say our good-byes. He told me this was the worst part of the visit, having to say good-bye. I promised him I would make my best effort to return to see him before he graduates from the sponsorship program.
These incredible experiences I have been blessed with will forever remain in my heart and mind, and I pray that God will continue to use me to fulfill His plan for my life, to reach “the least of these” wherever they may be and to release children from poverty in Jesus’ precious name!
Jesus states in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked”. Feeling so grateful for the honor and privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus in blessing and giving hope to the beautiful Colombian people in 2016, feeling so privileged and humbled that God would choose me to be His vessel to share the overabundance of blessings He has poured out upon my life!
As we head towards the end of 2016, December 30th will find me travelling to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where I have arranged individual visits with nine Compassion correspondent children. I am very excited, as I will be spending my birthday (January 9th) with my birthday twin Isaías together with three other Santo Domingo children (Udi Alexander, Ruth Esther and Jesus David) at the AguaSplash Caribe water park. During the following three days, I will be travelling to individual home visits with five other children who live outside of the capital city, which visits I am very much looking forward to!
As God continues to use me to expand His kingdom, I pray for more opportunities to bless His precious children in other parts of the world.