Impacted to the Max today. I guess that's kind of a scary thing to say... it's basically an invite for God to step in and throw a little more 'crazy' into this experience... but I'm up for that.
After a lovely little sleep-in, we headed off towards Nuevo Nacimiento- the Teen Mom's Home. To give you an idea: There are 100 girls living in the facility right now. There are approximately 10 million people living in Bogota. If 10% of them are teen girls and 1 in 5 are pregnant... there could be close to 200,000 pregnant teen girls at any given time. Nuevo Nacimiento is the only shelter for pregnant teens in all of Bogota. Out of all of these girls, only 0.05% of them get to live in a place of guaranteed protection for them and their children.
Most, if not all of these girls, are victims of rape, abuse, restrictive relationships, bad choices, prostitution, and hard families. Many have families who will not accept them back, many have dangerous male figures in their lives, and many have been hurt through substance abuse.
Now that I've given you a bit of background, let me share my fears from this morning. I was scared. I was so scared to go to the teen mom's home, because I could only try to imagine what it must feel like to be those girls. I was scared that they would feel pitied. I was scared that they would feel looked down upon. I was scared that we wouldn't be able to relate. I was scared that we would be rejected. I was scared of a lack of understanding on both sides. I was scared.
Then we arrived. We stepped through the door, and it was like I was seeing my classmates. Watching these teen moms sweeping the floor of the facility... all I could think about was the girls at my school.
We painted their nails and canvases, coloured, and beaded. We taught them to dance, and we talked. I sat beside a beautiful gal. She had beautifully glossy black hair, cute makeup, a sweet smile, and the most hilarious laugh. She was fifteen. She was a mother of two, and the oldest one was three years old. And she had scars. Her arms were covered with burns. Her shoulders had long gashes. She had scars on her neck and around her jawline, and it was so hard to maintain total eye contact. We painted together, talked, and I ended up giving her my painting. Her gratitude and amazing sense of humour eventually made me forget where I was sitting, and forget about the situations of these girls. I forgot I was in Bogota. I forgot I was talking to Moms. I forgot that we spoke different languages. All of a sudden, we were just a group of teens hanging out.
I painted with another beauty- this girly was thirteen. Her precious baby was 8 months old. When I looked at her and talked with her, I saw my little sister. My sister is immature, spunky, annoying, hilarious, affectionate, maddening, and just plain loco. She exactly what a thirteen-year-old should be. My sister doesn't have to wake up at 4 in the morning to wash a baby, clean a room, and work through a list of chores. My sister doesn't have to go through counselling, therapy, parenting classes, or daily doctor checkups. She doesn't have to feed a baby. She's allowed to be a regular, immature, spunky, annoying, hilarious, affectionate, maddening, loco teenager. She's allowed to be a kid.
Today, these girls got to be kids. They got three hours of play. They got three hours where they could actually think about themselves. They got three hours where their little ones were being entertained by somebody else, so that they could get their nails done. They could paint a picture. They could bead a bracelet. They could experience their own age.
I was talking to another one of the girls there as we painted together. I had shown her photos from the plane, photos of Canada, photos of my family, and she was SO pumped to see each and every one. When I randomly mentioned that I attended a Christian school, she did a double take. "Christiano?" She confirmed. And in very broken English, she stuttered, "But... but you're not... boring!"
It made me chuckle, and it made me grin. We serve an amazing God who can be the bridge between some of the biggest gaps. He can be the stitch that sews two contrasting materials together. Where there seems to be no possible connection, He forms the route. What a privilege to be able to be the first positive Christian that she's met. I didn't give her my testimony, I didn't pray with her, I didn't preach at her. Goodness, I showed her photos of my cat hiding in a box. Not something that someone would think of as 'evangelism.' But it was. It was a seed that God put in my hand and allowed me to plant. If I was simply the one to show her that Christians aren't always boring, that's good enough for me. Who knows what that could spark next?
Two nights left. Anything could happen, and it probably will. I'm heading to bed with lots to ponder, and lots to pray about. Thank you again for trekking this path along with me. The support is tangible, and the net of prayer that this team is being covered in is unbelievable. God bless you, all my new friends and my friends back home.