Audra and I spent Sunday July 5 and Monday the 6th in Bosa (a town in south east Bogota). This area does not have the best of reputations as reactions when we mention where we are to begin work include stuttering, incredulous gawking and some mentions of safety concerns; now it really isn´t all that. However it is a hurting population with hunger, crime, violence, delinquency and lack of family planning. You know you are only a couple blocks away from the mission when you start rocking and rolling over the dirt road (still in Bogota). The sanctuary itself is more like a MASH unit. It is constructed of a timber skeleton with green plastic construction fabric as walls. During the day as natural light filters through the green walls indiscriminately cast a sickly green hue over everything and everyone; though after a few minuets you do adjust to this Emerald Cityish experience.
Sunday was a full day event in Bosa attending all three of the services at 9am, 4pm and 7pm. I gladly participated in each service´s lecture readings. Despite the obvious delinquencies of this area the first two services were full (each with forty-something). The 7pm serves, as it was explained, is give or take.
The extraordinary part of this mission is in its leaders, Alberto Urbano and Alejandro. I had met with these gentlemen a few times before and they had shared about their mission work and I expressed my desire to work more and be more active in the community. Somehow I got the idea in my head that these guys were from some Catholic sect. I had completely convinced myself of this. My talk with Deacon Eduin helped me realize why I had resisted the idea that they might be Episcopalian. It is because their mentality is so very distinct from anyone who I had yet met. Their God-talk and God-walk are charged and refreshing. They call themselves missionaries even after having been ordained. They rely on the tithes of the communities to sustain their livelihoods. Alberto describes this as being a process of relying upon God to provide for them through the generosity and prosperity of the families they serve. Instead of praying for full offertories, they pray for the economic well being of the congregation and that they may give with generosity.
These men have devoted their lives to their ministry and faith. They hold services every day except Monday. Monday(July 6) began a program named Operation Rescue with the call to rescue the children of the community from the street and TV. It is basically the same situation in Bosa as it is in the mission in the south. Parents must leave as early as 4am to go to work and normally do not return until 6pm. This leaves children to fend for themselves in the house where the older sibling cooks and cares for the younger ones. With so much free time children are usually either glued to the television or out in the street where they are exposed to violence, drugs and alcohol. Some children go to school in the morning and others in the evening.
The Fathers have started this mission to be open from 8am to 6pm Mon – Sat. to give the children a place of safety, a hot meal, a snack and spiritual mentorship for a group that will come either in the morning before classes or in the evening after classes. Even more extraordinary is that this mission receives no outside funding for the ministry. Due to lack of economic resources the program must charge a modest free of 7,000 pesos (= $3.50) per week. This is a non inflated price to feed each child a meal and snack 6 days of the week. This might seem like small change, but in a community that may only earn one or two dollars a day it does keep some families from participating.
Monday (July 6), was the first day of Operation Rescue. Due to school being on vacation we were with 20-25 children all day. We started the day with a church service lead by Father Alberto. This was followed by English class, soccer, a snack and basketball. We also laid witness to a group brawl that included women hitting women, men hitting men and men and women yelling at each other. It was an opportunity to informally teach about a better way to conduct oneself. Audra had a conversation with a group about why at 24 she didn´t already have children. We often have to explain ourselves for this. This is reality for these children to see girls as young as 15 with their first child. It is a difficult cultural barrier to negotiate. Then we had lunch. Before calling an end to the first day Audra and I sat down with Alberto to discuss how the first day went. We expressed our concern for the anger and rage that we observed manifest in the young boys and the talk Audra had about family planning. Then I sat down with the children and helped them organize their own schedule for the following day. They included time for reading and studies, dance, art and time to play. At the end of the day Audra and I were exhausted and felt very rewarded. The difficult matter is that my travel schedule will hinder a normal work schedule, Audra leaves in September and in August she and I will be in Quibdo for a couple of weeks. Our hope and intention is to set up steady work for the incoming missionaries that will prove fulfilling.
Like the mission in the south these children are incredibly loving and in great need to be hugged and loved on. Audra and I agree that we feel as though we integrated almost immediately with this group. Perhaps it has to do with the fact they are on average a few years older than the children at the southern mission.
At this point I ask each of you to search your hearts and discern if you would like to participate in this mission by sponsoring a child. This is $3.50 a week, the equivalent (or less) of a medium Starbucks frothy something or other. This project will save lives, hopefully prevent early pregnancies and at the very least reduce under-nutrition. Take a moment to pray and ask God if you are being called to serve the poor through this program. If you would like to sponsor a child for Operation Rescue please email me and I will be happy to get you connected.
In meeting with the missionaries I became convicted of God´s call to me to be bold in my time here in Colombia. I had grown lazy and lacked motivation to press the diocese to take advantage of my energy and gifts. I now feel refreshed and ready to put forth my all to make this experience everything it can be and helping the diocese take advantage of my hands and energy.
7 months ago