Buenos días! It is an early Wednesday morning in Cartagena, Colombia and the amazing coffee is calling my name so I'm going to make this brief (the Wi-Fi is also a bit spotty so I'm trying to take advantage of the small window).
Monday was a travel day and we were up at 2:45am to catch our flight from Ohio to Miami to Cartagena. We met up with the rest of our travel group (members of Compassion, Stadia and other church leaders from around the states).
Yesterday was our first opportunity to visit one of the local churches who launched one of Compassion's child development centers ten years ago. Pastor Raphael and Compassion teamed up because they both share Jesus' heart for children at risk. This man may make my 5'11" frame look gigantic, but believe me; I stand in the shadow of this man's faith and passion.
All 350+ children in the program are sponsored by individuals or families like you. As a matter of fact, two of the families on our trip (Tom and Debbie Jones & Troy and Janet McMahon) were able to meet their Compassion children for the first time. That is a very powerful moment.
Because I've been on many trips like this with different organizations around the world I had some expectations of what I would see. For instance, I knew I would see smiling children in the midst of devastating poverty that never ceases to astound me. But what I didn't see coming was the level of care and tracking every detail of each child's progress throughout the program.
Each child has a thick folder full of information of how they are progressing educationally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually. The value of these folders is priceless. This church has even developed a beauty school, a fashion design school and other technical schools to help train their kids helpful skills that will serve them well into the future. The girl with Janie below actually designed the dresses on the wall behind them.
One of the coolest stories was meeting one of the adult workers who works with the kids. She was actually a sponsored child through Compassion who grew up in the child development center in the church!
Today we leave Cartagena and take a two hour bus ride up the coast to Barranquilla but on the way we will stop and visit a church that was just started six months ago by Stadia and Compassion that has a Child Development Center with 150+ children.