I saw God work in so many ways on this trip, too many to list. So, I’ll share a couple of highlights with you.
Robin and Ismael
When I travel to Leticia, I have stayed at the Waira Hotel for the last 5 years. The hotel is managed by Ismael (picture below), a tireless worker and servant of his customers. Ismael is an amazing leader, and, over the last 5 years, he has become a great friend of mine, even though we can’t communicate effectively. My Spanish and his English are lacking. I know Ismael’s kids, his passions, and his desires, and I have come to love the way he tackles life with passion. In addition to running the hotel, he is a great chef, owning another restaurant in Leticia.
Each morning at the Waira, I go downstairs to the open-air lobby, drink great Colombian coffee, and spend time reading the Word and talking to God. These mornings are my favorite part of every trip. I feel like I leave the U.S. commotion and connect with my Father in a special way. One morning during my time with God, He specifically told me that I could not leave Leticia without clearly sharing the truth, the Gospel, with Ismael. As I thought about it, over the last 8 years, I had never stopped to share the truth with Ismael. I decided to give my Bible to Ismael and share one of my favorite stories of the Bible with him, the story of Peter.
My good friend from Memphis and partner in Leticia, Coburn, was in-country, staying at the Waira, leading a mission team. Coburn came down for breakfast with Robin (pic below). Robin is from a poor neighborhood in the jungle and was taken in by La Aljaba, the orphanage I work with. Robin’s community struggled to have clean drinking water, food, and shelter. La Aljaba saw the need and took Robin in when he was about 8 years old. Fast forward 8 years, and Robin moved to Memphis to live with Coburn and attend a Christian school. Robin is now fluent in English and flourishing in Christ. God is using him in amazing ways, and he is a great translator when we work around La Aljaba and Leticia.
I grabbed Robin to be my translator, asked Ismael for 5 minutes of his time, and found a table. Honestly, the whole scene was surreal to me. To my left was Robin, a child that God had pulled from a hopeless situation in the jungle. A child who represented why I pour myself into the La Aljaba ministry. To my right was Ismael, a successful Colombian, a happily married man, father of 2 boys, and a man that needed the love of Jesus. We sat down at the table, and I gave Ismael my Bible, with him promising to read it with his boys who speak English. With Robin translating, I shared the Gospel. As tears flowed from Ismael’s eyes, God saved him.
Without a doubt, this was one of the most special moments of my life. Around the table sat 3 guys, completely undeserving of the love of Christ. Nevertheless, He reached down to change our lives. God is good.
Since 2008, I have been visiting La Aljaba, the orphanage in Leticia, Colombia. I have fallen in love with the place since my first visit, and God has made it clear that this is where my wife and I are to work internationally.
The streets of Leticia in the jungle are tough. Children are under extreme risk of abuse. Combine this fact with the law that says children must leave La Aljaba at age 18, and we are seeing our ministry struggle. I won’t get into detail, but I know countless stories of children not being able to grow up to become flourishing Christians because of the society where they live. While I was in town this week, a man tried to take a 14 year old girl that attends the day program at La Aljaba.
In 2008, on my first visit to the orphanage, I met exceptional kids from 8 to 10 years old. Fast forward, 8 years, and these kids are now ready to exit La Aljaba with no clear direction on how to accomplish goals in life. They will inevitably be swallowed by the streets of Leticia with no voice. I am in the process of starting the “V Project,” named after Vanny, a child that my family is involved with at La Aljaba. The goal is to give the kids a voice, one child at a time.
First up is Franz, an 18 year old, who wants to be a chef. Franz is about to begin training to become a chef under Ismael. Next year, if all goes well, Franz will leave Leticia for the first time in his life to spend a year at the Bible Institute in Bogota, a new partner with La Aljaba. He’ll learn English and have a new perspective on the world.
Following are a couple of pics of the older children that are the focus of the V Project.
I am reminded how our Father cares for the poor, the destitute. We were all once that way. Praise Him for His grace.