Not gonna lie, I'm drawing a blank on today. It's been one gigantic joyride filled with real meaning and purpose. I've been staring at this screen for the past twenty minutes just reflecting and grinning on today's moments that are as clear as a bell in my mind.
I just keep thinking Gracias. Gracias. Gracias, because that's all that's left to say after the seemingly magical day we were blessed to be a part of. Don't get me wrong- today's been plenty hard, but it was some of the most gratuitous work I've ever done.
We started out with a wonderful breakfast of mango, cantelope, hot chocolate with cheese, (It's a Colombian thing....) and toast. Being Sunday, church began at 10. We had the privilege of participating in the service, as well. Three of our team members + one ukulele led us in worshiping with Big Daddy Weave's, Overwhelmed, a song that this trip has been following this team since Day 1. Even in the moments of silence, I find myself humming the tune, and I hear random phrases being sung as I pass by mis amigos.
Secondly, myself and two other ladies had a chance to minister with a dance that we had choreographed only a week prior to departure. Although we felt as though it was the most simple, hardly polished, quickly done piece of work, it was just enough. We used a Spanish version of Lead Me To the Cross, and even while dancing for four minutes straight in the hot, humid church building was draining, I felt like I was being ministered to, even as I was ministering to those viewing.
Thirdly, three of our teammates were asked to give their testimonies. This was both insightful and frightening. Two of the three testimonies were brand new information to me. My eyes were opened to the hurt and hardship coming from friends that I practically live with, and I was convicted.
The Pastor's sermon was both relevant and challenging, in such a unique way that our entire team couldn't help but be amazed. It's simplicity and perfect timing was so extraordinary that I felt my spirits lift to a place where they would not be able to drop from. He talked to us about the parable of the Shepherd and His Lost Sheep. He told us the parable that I've read and heard more times than I can count. He told us the story, and even as He made sure that it was simple enough for the very young children to understand, I was engrossed in the message. For the first time ever, I actually imagined the parable like a story. I pictured the shepherd. I pictured a young man- maybe He was even Colombian. I pictured His daily routine: waking up before sunrise, leading His flock out of the pen to the pastures, laying out in the grass with them all day, talking to them, singing to them, petting them, and finally herding them all to lead them back home at dusk.
For the first time ever, I actually understood for a moment the jolt of fear that must have rushed down his spine as He counted only 99 / 100 sheep. I imagined how he might have quickly gone in and counted by 2's or 3's just to make sure He hadn't only been confused. I felt my heart flutter and my stomach simply drop when I thought about the time when I couldn't find my passport, my wallet, my homework... and I imagined the horrible feeling of despair multiplied by infinity.
For the first time ever, I actually understood just a fraction of His love for Me.
For the first time ever, I actually understood His desperate hope for the salvation of His beloved children. The power in His message was undeniable, despite the fact that we had to strain our ears to hear our translator whisper in separated phrases behind us. I couldn't believe how impacted I was from what would be considered a "Childish" sermon according to our North American standards. No high theology or philosophy was needed. He preached the Gospel. He preached the Truth. He preached, and we understood, because God's Good News does not choose a language.
Under the heat of the beating sun, we took a beautiful walk around the entire property. We were introduced to brand new plants and fruits- plantain, jackfruit, and a bamboo cluster stretching at least 45 feet up. The kidlets tagged along and showed us their mango, lime, and lemon trees. I came to the conclusion that no matter where I go, it's the tropics that I fall in love with. It was the same in Southeast Asia, it was the same in Guatemala, and the same sense of sweet reminiscence hit me as we walked under the leaves of the plantain trees. Show me a palm tree and I'll show you happy.
Then... the real work began. We carted over bags full of face paint, balloons, crafts, glitter glue, and games, and began the most hyper afternoon I can remember. Si, I may have only known how to make a dog in about 4 minutes at the beginning of today, but I can now safely brag that I have learned the secret to making flowers, swords, giraffes, cats, and hearts in a matter of seconds. I was stabbed so many times by the balloon swords that I had made, I'm surprised I'm still here to write about it. I lost all my limbs about ten times each, something little Jose Luis wouldn't let me forget. The sweat was real, my friends.
I couldn't tell you how many hours we spent simply playing with the children, but it felt like a perfect eternity, while at the same time feeling like a ten minute recess. While my hands were sore from tying and pumping and I was so ready to freshen up, there was nothing more rejuvenating and energizing than the feeling of a young child grabbing my arm to hug, or clinging on to me.
The little pool they have here in La Mesa was the setting for almost all of our team's "highs" during our debrief tonight. I remember yesterday mentioning how great it is to simply dive into a new experience... and so today we decided to take that literally, I guess.
The pool was really a high for me, because I felt like I could really be somebody helpful. I'm a trained lifeguard, swim instructor, and swim coach, and so this felt like something I could truly excel at. And it was amazing. As soon as I entered the water and simply floated on my back for a moment to cool off and relax, the moment was over and I had three eager girls begging me to hold them so they could try and float. Pretty soon I was realizing how normal it felt. These Colombian kids are just like Canadian kids. I've held so many children on the top of the water, and I taught these girls exactly the same way as I have taught kids back home. I said the same things, just with more repetition and hand gestures. I did a lot of demonstrating, but the best part was simply holding them. They would close their eyes, stretch out their arms, and breathe. I felt their trust so strongly, and it was overwhelming. I dunked them, supported them, pulled them into the water, flipped them upside down, helped them somersault, and held their legs when they attempted a hand stand. Their joyous victories were just as satisfying to witness as the kids I've coached and taught back home. It's the same with every child. The moment you let go and they float... even for just one second... their face lights up and they do not stop talking about it. The moment they master the dive or the flip, it's like they never want to stop doing it. They earn a superpower, and that's something incredible to be a part of.
The late evening was spent on the steps beside the basketball court, where we were blessed to be able to connect with the kids even more. We brought out our phones, and they had a blast looking at our families, snow, school, grad dresses, friends, and hobbies. I try to be a good listener when people talk to me about the mundane, but it's hard. Not for these kids. It didn't matter what I was telling them. A picture of my cat? Sister? Teacher? Their unwavering interest was inspiring.
We met Samuel and Santiago, two incredibly musical boys. With Samuel on the uke and Santiago on the guitar and vocals, we had a royal jam session. It's unbelievable how music knows no borders. We would start humming a tune, and the local kids around us would sing along. We know the same songs, and we would sing together in two beautiful languages. It was surreal, how simply gathering around two boys with instruments can bond strangers so quickly. If music has that power here on earth, I stagger to imagine the depth and might of the music that will be happenin' up in heaven someday.
Tomorrow is a 5:30 wakeup for an early departure. The kids will be in school- we didn't even know. While it hurts to not be able to say goodbye, it's a good thing that we ended on such a high note. The love they showed us has made us so excited to visit all the other schools in the coming days, and meet more and more of these beauties. La Mesa has stolen my heart. Yes, I am repeating that for about the hundredth time today. I'm so sad to have to pack and hit the road so quickly- I would be content to just stay here for the entire ten days, but there is more work to be done, more lessons to learn, and more ways to grow. Time for me to hit the sack, send up prayers for my dear new friends, and then fall asleep to the sound of thousands of crickets just outside my window.