This morning we departed from La Mesa. That place stole our hearts, and refuses to give them back. We ended up being able to say goodbye to our friends after all. They were all suited up in their school uniforms getting ready to head to their classes, but we were fortunate enough to get the chance to book it down the path from our guesthouse and hug them all goodbye.
The bus ride down the mountains was glorious. Our destination: Funza. The actual name of the school was only a hundred syllables, but the name of the city was Funza so we'll go with that.
It turned out, it was the kids' first day of school. It was great for us- everyone was new at everything. We had an entire day of teaching ahead of us, and we were all apprehensive, to say the least. Coolest thing ever, though- as soon as we stepped off the bus, we were greeted by a fellow Gringo! He definitely had a Californian surfer vibe about him, probably because of his luscious long curls. (He put shame to our frizzy do's.) This guy's name was Phillip, or Felipe as he was referred to by the students.
This guy was a firecracker. His speech was smooth and relaxed, exactly what you would expect from a Californian dude who moved to Hawaii for a good seven years or so. He had a way about him that was so calm and collected, yet at the same time soft and firm. Felipe took us on a tour around the property of this brand new school, and presently the question of his coming to Colombia was struck. "Well, that's kind of a crazy story..." he started out, hands in his pockets, kicking the ground, "-but if you'd like to hear it, then...." I suppose our wide eyes gave it away.
I'm gonna get the details all mixed up, but here's the gist of this God-story: Felipe wanted to learn Spanish for quite some time. His Mum kept on telling him that he needed to go to Colombia to take an immersion program of some kind. He was tired and frustrated of the uncertainty in his life, and just wanted a clear answer as to what he was supposed to do, and where he was supposed to go. In fact, being homeless in his truck for a while, one night he began pounding on his dashboard and crying out to God to give him the plan, and give it to him immediately. He was tired of waiting for so many years. Living in Maui, one day he decided to visit a different church. Just out of the blue, for no apparent reason, he chose a brand new church. In between the usual announcements of bake sales and fundraisers, a short, dark man gets up and marches onto the stage. With a clearly Spanish accent, he simply greets the congregation with, "Hello, my name is (We'll call him Juan). I am from Colombia, visiting today." Then, he walked off the stage. That was it.
Recognizing the peculiar opportunity, Felipe seized it. He ran to find this random Colombian man, and they had a very interesting chat. Felipe starts by telling Juan about his frustration with the timing in his life, and feeling like everything is constantly collapsing. He knew he wanted to learn Spanish, but that was it. He had been praying just recently for a clear and coherent answer. While he's talking, Juan's face is breaking into the biggest grin. He responds by saying, "Come back and live with my wife and me in Colombia. I am an engineer, and I live in Bogota. I can find you an immersion program. I have been praying and praying and God has told me that I need to find someone to come and live in my house for free, and I came here for the first time today to see if I could find that somebody."
Yeah, whacko. So. Fast-forwarding just a little bit, Felipe needs to earn money. He gets a job as a construction subcontractor for a business, and finally gets the chance. On his second assignment ever, (His second week of employment), he is partnered with a rather exuberant guy from New York City; loud, accented, pushy, the whole meal deal. These guys are polar opposites, but end up becoming pals. Felipe ends up telling this character about his idea to go to Bogota once he has the money, but is unsure of whether it will ever actually happen. One night, as the guys are in their hotel and Felipe is searching for a moment of privacy in the washroom, this New Yorker comes banging on the door like a maniac. "Felipe! Felipe, open up and look at this!" Annoyed, Felipe opens the door and is staring at a phone screen filled with words. It takes a second before the guy blurts out, "This is your itinerary! I bought you a ticket to Bogota, and you are leaving next week!"
You don't just buy tickets for people... especially people you've known for a week. You don't send strangers to other continents on the spur of the moment. But in the words of this Godsend from New York, "If you don't go now, you never will." It's an abbreviated version of this guy's incredible testimony, but I'm sure you can see how insanely remarkable our God and His timing is.
Teaching was adventurous. Talk about spontaneity. In our groups of 3 or 4, we were sent into different classrooms for 30 minutes at a time, and were told to teach our English lesson. We under-prepared and over-prepared. We spoke too little and too much Spanish. We were scrambling to keep 16-20 kids focused on the three English-speaking gringos at the front, often without any translator in the room. Boy... it's a good thing we have God on our side.
My team taught the four seasons in Canada, complete with outfits to match and actions. We also were in charge of teaching about animals, and classroom objects. We taught such a wide variety of ages, and every lesson we did was orchestrated differently. We were forced to learn from our mistakes in the moment, otherwise we would be spiraling hardcore. Grades 6 and 7 were peachy; attentive kids with super great attitudes. Grades 10 and 11 were neat. We basically branched off into groups with 9-12 of them at a time and just talked. What an experience. The grade 1 class.... ay caramba. Note to self: Cuteness does not equal good behaviour. Regardless of the mayhem, we all were able to interact well with hundreds of kids. I met so many Sara's, Manuel's, Juan's, Jose's, Valentina's, etc. Loved them all. We rallied a volleyball with a bunch of the teens, ate lunch with the young'uns, and laughed so hard with the ones our age. Again, it's amazing how culture can span across two hemispheres and how music, sports, and movies can bring people of 2 different backgrounds and languages together.
I could go on without end, but this entry is already almost at that point, so I will end with Felipe's farewell statement to us. As we waited for the bus, we had been talking to him about how his testimony had impacted us... and that's when he opened my eyes to something so interesting. Revelation 12:11 -
"And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die."
He explained to us that there are two requirements to defeating Satan: The blood of the Lamb, and the power of our testimony. As Christians, we've got the first prerequisite covered. It's taken care of. We have the blood of the Lamb, and Satan knows it. As for the power of our testimony, that's not a guarantee. He explained how so many Christians see their testimony as boring or unimportant... and in doing so, they relinquish the ability to triumph. Satan wants us to believe that our testimonies are meaningless and of no value; that their worthless and uninteresting, because he knows that they have the power to defeat Him, along with the Blood of the Lamb.
He encouraged us to be willing to give our testimonies at every opportunity. Every little thing that God has done in our lives is valuable information. We have no way of knowing if something we say will impact someone, so we might as well say it! God speaks through the random-est things. They don't have to make sense, they don't have to polished, they just have to be of Him, and He will cultivate the beautiful results! We have the blood of the Lamb, and we each have a testimony that is 100% worth sharing. With that, we have teamed up with the Lord of Heaven's Armies, and can crush the Devil. How crazy?
Felipe. He was so real. He was just a firecracker for Jesus. He wasn't loud or pompous or majorly expressive, but the power of his testimony ALONE won us over from fear to eagerness. He didn't use fancy words or exaggerate anything. He dumbed down when he could, and told us straight up what happened. There were no embellishments, no add-ons. This guy was the realest, and the power His testimony had totally proves that.
Talk about goals.