Live the Word
Mayra | Staff
I have been in the foundation for two years and four months. I am originally from Ecuador, but before I came to the foundation, I had a really good friend in Colombia, who had been a volunteer at other foundations in my country. We always kept in contact, even from a distance. When she returned to Ecuador, I began to desire to also have to opportunity to do short-term missions as well. I was looking to go somewhere outside my country. First, I sent a letter to YWAM in Brazil, but they did not have any room for foreigners, so when speaking to this friend of mine over skype, she told me that through this foundation in Medellin, (City of Refuge) she had the opportunity to go to Germany. I loved the idea of this, and I asked her for more information about this foundation. When she spoke to me about the women’s program, she really captured my attention, because in my country I did not recognize those kinds of programs in operation, especially ones that are faith-based. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, so I wrote a letter, and eventually talked to Rebekah Slick, who was on staff at the foundation. She told me that it would be possible for me to come for one month, so I came. I quickly realized however, that this amount of time was too short for me. I needed to get to know the women and really live life with them. I spoke to Pastor Douglas during my first month here, and he told me about how many of the women and men in the programs are accustomed to this history of people coming in and out of their lives. He said having a continuous and committed relationship with them is important, to break that cycle of the temporary presence. This made sense to me, so I contacted my pastor from my church back home, and then made the decision to stay for three more months. In those three months I realized that it is very important to share my life with them, and I wanted more time. However, the future seemed really uncertain. Even though my heart was here, I was not thinking long term, and nothing was causing me to really commit to more time.
Then I got in a motorcycle accident. This accident caused the Colombian government to give me an extension of time spent here so that I could recover. For one month I was unable to walk. A group of friends from YWAM were taking care of me, and I was living outside of the foundation. I was going to physical therapy, and the doctors continued to extend my recovery time, allowing me to stay in Colombia even longer. This was a hard time for me though, because I was feeling very unproductive and not useful, and I missed the foundation very much. When I was reunited with the women in the program, something very special happened. When I came to the church service Wednesday night, the women asked me to stay the night with them again. So, I stayed with them and was able to share with them which was very beautiful to me. One of the women came to me and hugged me, she said “Myra, I love you” and it was with a deep sisterly love. When I saw my bed here, I kept saying, “This is my bed! This is my bed! I felt so loved by the women, I wanted to return, so I spoke to Rebekah again, to see if I could stay again. One of the directors of the women’s program, Dona Nena contacted me, and told me to stay with the women again.
Something, I had not mentioned, when I came from Ecuador, I had problems with my health, but I was not aware of this. As a result of all the activities that I was involved in the foundation, my infirmities were increasing in severity. In Ecuador, no doctors could diagnose my illness. One day the pastor’s wife, Mary Lou expressed her concern because she knew I always felt pain on my back. She helped me with getting a doctor’s appointment and paid for it. It was interesting how it worked out because I went to this appointment with a woman that prays a lot for the women in the program, she was also praying for me. She told me while we were going there, that she was praying that the doctor would be able to specifically diagnose what was wrong with me. And this is what happened, the doctor gave me my diagnosis after many times attempting to understand what my illness was here in Colombia, and in my country, that day I finally was diagnosed. I told Mary Lou my diagnosis, and it happens that she has a friend that specializes in treating this condition, so I was able to receive free treatment. One of the reasons I have been able to stay here is to continue with this treatment. Once again, my time in Colombia was extended for medical reasons. Although people say that I am staying here for my treatment, I know that that is only a pretense for me staying here with the women. All the things that I have confronted with my health, has been significant in my working in the foundation.
In every ministry the foundation has to offer, not only the women’s program, but the children’s feeding programs, the homeschool, all aspects have had significant impact on my life. I enjoy working with vulnerable people that have lived complicated lives and need restoration. This is the link that binds me to this place.
Regarding the women’s program, I can say many things, but there is one woman in particular, who will not be named, that I would like to focus on. I believe that she represents the others in some form. She comes from the streets, a frequent user of drugs who is seeking help, desiring change, restoration between herself and her family. This woman was in the program the first time for six months, and then she left. Her leaving made me cry very much, but there was also this hope in my heart, I felt like she belonged in this place, and that she would return. After a year and a half, praise God, she came back. This strengthened me, witnessing her journey, it showed me again that our fight is not against flesh. To work here, one needs to cling onto God. One needs to intercede, fight, gain strength and courage to be able to help the people in this program. Since this woman has returned, she has brought a lot of happiness to my life and has encouraged me spiritually.
There was a moment that is very important to me that I will always remember. When this woman’s children came to visit her for the first time. They came running through the hallway to greet her, saying, “Mom! Mom!” She was on her knees and she received them with open arms. This encounter that they had impacted my heart very deeply, I remember this moment with tears because I saw that this is what God wants, restored lives and restored families.
I see this and I am motivated to be here and accompany them through this process. But it is not only this, I get to have insight as to what God is doing in their lives. For example, seeing their kids being able to stay with them over the weekend. Seeing their desire to fight to restore their family and homes. I am able to see through this the value of being here. Though it hurts when they leave, and they don’t finish their program. This specific woman represents one who has come, who has left, and who has returned again. She represents to me pain and happiness. There is pain when those that we have worked for leave, and there is happiness and hope when they return, and when we are able to see fruit in their lives.
This is the paradox: there are moments that are full of sadness, when the women leave, it can be very frustrating. But when we depend on God we realize that it’s not about us, or what we can do for others, but it is about God, what He is doing in every moment. This is when we realize that we have to move forward and not be paralyzed by frustration. We continue to believe in restoration. I continue to believe that God loves, and that God rescues the lost. We have to hold onto that hope, and work with and for these people. Working with these women is one of the most impactful things that has happened to me here, but there is also the children’s feeding program in Manantiales.
I see the work that is done in Manantiales. This is not a work of rehabilitation, but rather it is a ministry of prevention, because we are working with children. Many of the children have been affected by violence. We see that violence promotes more violence. We see many children that are violent, that don’t want to pay attention. For many, they take out their conditional frustrations on other people. But we can see a child that has been injured. I love to work with them because many of them are willing to give and receive love. It is almost that one feels that one can give more where there is love lacking, where there is violence. Their arms are open to receive. We have the mission to take advantage of that, and give to them what God has ordained for them to receive.
These have been some of my experiences living in the foundation for over two years. More than I have given, I have received a lot, and I have learned so much. I can give more too. God has taught me to be more patient, and to know that I can love despite any boundary. I have learned that change is not instant, but a process, but if we can know how to wait and be patient, we will see much fruit in the lives of the people who are being rehabilitated. And we are also being rehabilitated. In living with people, you discover so much about yourself that needs to change so that we have the ability to give to others better. God has changed many things in my life here. One phrase that summarizes my experience, and means a lot to me is this: “Live the Word.” There is no other way, if you want to help others, you need to live the Word, and that opens many doors, it gives credibility, to those that are hearing from you, watching you and receiving from you, and to those who want to change.
There are two verses that God has placed in my heart. He confirmed my calling through this. Malachi 4:5-6: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet. Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” This verse the Lord gave me after my accident, He was leading me back to the foundation. There is another verse in the book of Luke. I see here in Luke the same spirit and calling as for Elijah in Malachi, restoring lives. In Luke 1: 17 it says, “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”