my colombian heart (part 6)… poverty

On Friday, I had the opportunity to tour a micro-enterprising organization in Cartagena called Actuar. They give five years of business training/education to individuals, as well as the opportunity to start a business in the individual’s own community. The other amazing aspect of Actuar is that they provide an excellent education for the children of those who choose to participate in the training program. The children in this program are learning English (a rare privilege for children in the communities these kids are from) and they have excellent teachers who legitimately care about their students.

After touring the facilities on the Actuar campus, we took a bus to some of the businesses in the surrounding community.

The only words I can use to describe what I saw are completely devastating. 

I couldn’t take pictures because it would have been insensitive to the areas we were touring… I’m going to take a crack at using words to describe what I saw, smelled and heard.

We entered a market that housed meat, fruit, textiles, etc. Get this- it was a metal barn-type building with hardly any electricity and certainly no refrigeration. I kept waiting to catch a breath of fresh air.. but it never came. I have never had issues with smells affecting my stomach. I can’t say that anymore. I really struggled with the smells I experienced. It was so dark inside, and the meat/produce must have been rotting in the hot sun. That’s normal life there. Just think about that.

I want to share the second especially memorable village we visited.

In order to enter this village, our police escort felt it necessary to stop and get 2 officers for reinforcement in order to protect us. It was a very dangerous area for Americans to enter. As our bus turned off the paved road, we immediately found ourselves surrounded by swamps.

Swamps that housed homes, children, and unimaginable disease. These shacks had their foundation built in water or dirt, while all the children were nearly barefoot and barely clothed. Young girls were nursing their tiny babies, while the young men (boys, really) of the community were sizing up the girls whose innocence wasn’t yet taken. You can only imagine how many little kids were running around. In the swamp. In the trash. In the sickness.

I tell you these things you can know that this type of poverty is real. It’s devastating, and it’s just a way of life for those living in it.

I think the one thing that was really confirmed for me while touring these cities is that when God sends you into a situation or location, He has a plan for everything that happens in that time-frame. I was not the least bit fearful or anxious while visiting the more dangerous cities. Was I aware of the situation? Yes. But I knew in my heart that God had put me in those cities at those particular times for a specific reason, and I felt no fear. If something “bad” had happened, it would have been for a purpose, again, in God’s plan for my life and my time in Colombia.

I encourage you to adopt the same attitude wherever you are today. Never feel fear or intimidation when you enter a situation. Yes, be aware of what is happening around you, and adjust to those situations. However, God has guided you to that place. He has a plan for every step you take, and He won’t leave you when you are in dangerous situations. Be bold, my friends! Love on people and share God’s truth, no matter where you are.