Embraced by Jesus Colombian Children's Home - Pereira, Colombia, South America
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
I had very few expectations upon my departure for Colombia. The small number of expectations I did have tended to be unfounded: the food was not spicy; the humidity wasn't that bad; among all the individuals on the compound (adults included) there were about a dozen words in English to be heard. While my Spanish was only slightly better the first day, by the last I could almost convey a coherent idea. Although my language skills were distinctly lacking, I held a tool more powerful than the most thorough dictionary: my camera. If a picture is truly worth something in the vicinity of a thousand words, I was chatting up a storm. I did spend much of my time shooting stills and video of the facility and its surroundings, but I tried as frequently as possible to capture the fleeting moments we had as we interacted with the kids of the facility.
Not necessarily an expectation, but rather, a fear of mine was that we would arrive to the sorrowful faces and grief-stricken spirits of 60 kids. To see children whose prior life, as it were, subjected them to a world that was far from loving or caring, a world that found them to be an expendable commodity; a tool to be used. I am most pleased to note that this fear was absolutely obliterated by the joy, silliness, and compassion of scores of healthy, happy, active children. This isn't to say they are want for nothing. We often are told by friends and family that traveling to another (specifically, poorer) country changes your view on life, the universe, and everything. I, for one, have heard this adage more times than I can easily recall. However, in my case, this is quintessentially true. I am well aware of the fact that it is a great inconvenience when you fall out of 3G range and the funny cat video you were watching on your smartphone fails to buffer completely. While it may be difficult to imagine yourself in a place were electricity is intermittent (when the bill can be paid), hot water is a far-off luxury, and you sweep, mop, wash clothes, cook, and do dishes every day, they exist in a greater number than most American suppose. Though each week is filled with tasks to be completed, every day seems to be greeted with some measure of gratitude.
The impression that has remained most vibrant is just this: the Embraced by Jesus family not only cares for one-another, but they do it with gladness in their hearts. I am exceedingly grateful I had the opportunity to travel to Colombia and meet a group of people who were able, in all of about six days, to not only teach me about a culture of which I had little knowledge, but also confirm to me that through love, compassion, and, most of all, family, any wounds can be healed.