03 September 2014

Stories of Hope from Colombia

A team from the Ohio River Valley District traveled to Brisas del Mar, Colombia, from February 16-24, 2014. Following is an account of the trip written by Team Leader Michael Estep.

I'm back from our Mission trip to Brisas del Mar, Colombia, feeling better and stronger. Went all the way to Brisas only to get sick with flu-like symptoms. The doctor and staff at the Clinton Rabb clinic worked around the clock to help me get better, but on Thursday evening I really got bad, so the decision was made to take me to the hospital in San Onofre, some 45 bumpy, dusty minutes away. On arrival I thought…oh my!! By our standards it was old, outdated, and dirty. But it was all they had. I was sitting on a bed in the very small emergency room where across from me was a little girl, crying and in lots of pain from a gash to her arm. The parents were holding her down while the hospital nurses worked to clean and close the wound…and without any pain relief. She squirmed and cried but every so often she would look toward me, and when she did I would wave to her. I was trying to distract her from the anxiety and pain of the moment. Soon, still whimpering, she calmed down and  laid there staring at me. Time came for me to walk out, and as I did her father approached me. Without a word exchanged, he hugged me and gave me warm pat on the shoulder. He understood what I was doing and was thanking me. I wanted to share my faith with him but there was no way to communicate. But love was exchanged, and in some small way God was glorified. We did so much in Colombia, met so many people, but I will not forget the little girl and her father at old San Onofre Hospital.
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Wednesday nights in Brisas del Mar, they pray for family, students, food, health, and for water. Much like the prayers we might offer…but so, so different too. They pray for families that have been devastated by the violence of paramilitary groups and drug cartels that have all but crushed the community. They pray for their children, their students that attend a fledgling school system that has little or no resources but tries its best to educate the community children they dearly love. They pray that the small family garden plots will provide a harvest enough to sustain their families' food needs. There are no grocery stores, and even if there were, there is no money for food….they live off the land. They pray for health because medical care is limited to a small clinic that works as a first aid station. Thank God for the clinic, but serious illness cannot be treated there. And they pray for water. Water!! There is no public water source. In the rainy season big metal drums hold rain runoff, but the rest of the year water is drawn from a muddy lake. So on Wednesday nights in Brisas del Mar they pray. What do you pray for on Wednesday nights? Maybe you should pray for the people of Brisas del Mar…
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Everything was going well. Our trip from Cartagena to Brisas was right on time. Our driver knew the way, unlike the drivers on the past two trips, and the team was excited and ready to arrive in Brisas as soon as possible. We had turned off the main road onto a dirt path back into the countryside when up ahead I could see what looked like a checkpoint…with military personnel carrying semi-automatic weapons. All of a sudden the stories of a corrupt government started flying through my head. What would they want, and did I have enough money to pay if they demanded it? When the bus stopped, they ordered us off. Through our host, Paola, we discovered they wanted to see our passports and look through our luggage. Paola worked her charm and convinced the commander we were going to Brisas to work with the church and clinic and were presenting no harm to the community. It seemed they were satisfied with that, they took our passport information and we were free to leave. Garrison, a 14-year-old that was with his parents for the trip said, “Can we get a picture with them?” That’s all it took to lessen the tension…they agreed, and the picture you see here is just one of many pictures taken with our new friends. Oh, did I mention we became friends? We had adult bible study each night at 7:30pm and guess who showed up...every night that week? Our friends from the Colombian Army. They told us they were in the region patrolling the mountains at night to thwart a recent influx of drugs moving through the area. Not only were they patrolling the area, they told us they would keep an eye out to offer some protection for us also.On Sunday when we left Brisas, we had a Colombian Army motorcycle escort back to the main highway. It was one of those God things. God never ceases to surprise and amaze us.
The next Brisas del Mar team leaves Feb. 15, 2015, and a second team is being planned for late June 2015. Contact Michael Estep at michael.estep75@gmail.com for details.

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