God has been showing me through the lives of others how he brings hope and begins new work amidst grief and loss. He pointed this out to me again during our time at Hogar La Providencia (which houses John Calvin School) in Santa Marta, Colombia. The people there had just lost their visionary founder and leader, whom I had heard referred to as a “power house” multiple times—Jaime Leal, Pastor Enrique’s uncle. Our team traveled from Barranquilla and arrived in Santa Marta on a sultry Tuesday afternoon. The school children had already been dismissed for the day. Our goal for Tuesday was to get the lay of the land, meet with some of the leadership, and return the next morning to work on the projects we had been tasked with.
As we explored our surroundings, walked through the classrooms and the empty corridors, the sense of loss seemed evident. I was subconsciously comparing what my eyes were seeing at Hogar to what I had surmised of the operations at Los Olivos (an outreach of La Roca church, which hosts an after-school program for under-resourced children in Barranquilla). Los Olivos seemed like a well-oiled machine, whereas it seemed clear that Hogar was moving through a transitory phase. I heard Frank Esposito, who had visited Hogar several times previously, echo these observations. I was tending toward concern. But, thankfully, with the next day the Lord revealed fresh perspectives and brought new hope.
The joyful noises of children running down those same corridors and filling the classrooms drew my focus. Their adorable smiles and sincerity in wanting to get to know us was heartwarming. They lavished love upon my one-year-old son, Daniel, and one of the young boys even sang him a song in Spanish, with encouraging applause from his peers.
The hospitality of Alex and his wife Sofia (who had just moved from Barranquilla to lead Hogar) was generous and kind. Among larger undertakings, the team was tasked with a simpler job of replacing the light bulbs in the classrooms with brighter ones. As Aaron Redus and John Ward switched out the bulb in one classroom, the students clapped with excitement as the new one went on; and you would’ve thought their faces lit up brighter than the light bulbs!
Judy Ward and I had the privilege of going to many classrooms and sharing our testimonies of Christ’s work in our life with the children in various grades. Some listened intently with their attention riveted on the one speaking, and of course there were some to whom an afternoon snooze seemed more welcome! I particularly enjoyed interacting with our translator Rosa (the English teacher at Hogar) and exchanging some cross-language English-Spanish tips. Later that evening when we met at Iglesia La Puerta for the scheduled prayer dinner, Rosa shared with me how she thought the children needed to hear more of people’s salvation stories. She was encouraged at how the students absorbed what we said, and I was encouraged by her report. One of the most uplifting aspects of the day was witnessing the resolve and commitment of leaders and staff to press on in their call to serve the students at John Calvin school.
Our Tenth leaders met with the leadership at Hogar, and there was mutual encouragement emerging from that meeting as well. A path forward remains to be established as to how Tenth will continue partnership with Hogar La Providencia in Santa Marta. The process of building up must continue. It is encouraging to be reminded that God is actively present there, working all things together for good. Amidst loss, he is bringing about new vision and ideas, raising up faithful men and women to steward and water the ministry that he planted through his servant, Jaime Leal. Let’s keep our brothers and sisters in Colombia in earnest prayer and seek how the Lord would best have us at Tenth Church partner with them.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Karen Swoyer. © 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org