A mission awareness trip to Colombia profoundly impacted sponsor Karen Greiber. The following is from a letter she wrote describing her experience.
The trip was amazing — I can’t begin to find the right words. It made a huge difference to me and really changed my perspective on things.
Mom and I flew to Medellin, Colombia. Everywhere was so green and gorgeous! When we arrived, I was told that Karen (my sponsored child from Cali) was already at the project. She and her family had traveled seven and a half hours just to meet me. They said Karen was so excited to meet me that she didn’t sleep at all the night before.
I had just started sponsoring Karen in December 2008. I had only received one letter and barely knew her.
When we arrived at the project, a huge crowd was waiting for us. The next thing I knew, I was being pushed toward Karen. I gave her a big hug. We walked through the crowd together with everyone cheering. Karen and I tried to communicate through my minimal Spanish. Thank goodness there were many in our group who spoke Spanish and helped translate.
Karen is 12 and filled with smiles. I grew to love her and her mom. I learned that Karen’s family lives in one room that they rent. Her mom works as a housekeeper when she can find work, usually two days a week at most. Karen has three younger siblings. I was told that her family was so grateful that Karen found a sponsor. Most people want to sponsor younger kids.
Later, I learned that only 40 percent of kids go to school in Colombia and only around 30 percent attend higher education. Karenís sponsorship means that she can stay in school. She can even consider going on to a university.
The Cali project is beginning sewing classes for mothers. They were just training instructors. A year from now, they plan to teach sewing in Karenís subproject. Then, Karenís mom can take sewing classes to learn a new trade so she can earn more for the family.
At the second subproject we visited, we entered an auditorium-like place to thunderous applause. I often fought tears while I was in Medellin. The gratitude was so overwhelming.
After the performance, everyone from the crowdóat least 100 peopleócame up to say ìthank you” and give hugs and kisses. Bob Hentzen, CFCA president and co-founder, said the crowd saw us as a representation of all sponsors, and it was their way of saying thank you to their own sponsors. So many people talked about their sponsors. They showed us their letters and told us how much they meant to them.
We flew to Cartagena from Medellin. There I met my other sponsored child, Rafael. Rafael meant a lot to me before the trip, but he is permanently a part of my heart now. I love him more than I can put into words!
Rafael has the most beautiful smile. He is all boy, but very respectful, polite and all-around a good boy. His mom is an excellent mother. In Cartagena we were allowed to spend three days with our sponsored children as we went to the different subprojects.
When we went to Rafael’s village, he really came to life. It was so awesome to see him just being a kid! I met his entire family. How I treasure the time we spent there! Susana, Rafael’s mom, welcomed me into their home and family.
People may say we saw some of the worst parts of Colombia, because we saw some of the poorest areas. I disagree: I think we saw some of the best. We spent time with everyday people who were generous, loving and genuine.
I left Colombia absolutely loving the people and the country. I hope someday to return.
Visit your friend! Check out our mission awareness trip schedule here.