Krissy's report Colombia trip April 2018

I first heard of IMC in my early teens through Life Church and have very fond memories of helping out with the line of pennies at the annual Fun Day in Petersfield.

I remember being very moved hearing stories of orphaned children living on the streets of Colombia and how IMC were giving them hope and a future. At the time, I dreamt of visiting and volunteering to share in this amazing work and make some kind of difference to these vulnerable and special children.

When our travel plans allowed my husband and I to come to Colombia, I knew that I would have to get in touch with IMC and visit if we could. I didn't know what to expect because many years had passed since I first heard about their work, and I knew it had changed over the years but from the start, Nancy welcomed us in and accepted our offer of short term help with open arms.

When we arrived in Bogota on 19th April, we were warmly welcomed by Nancy and the staff in the Bogota office and instantly felt like part of the team. We have been amazed at the generosity, kindness and openness of all the staff members, and it has made our experience even more joyful and special.

Our first day was spent on a day trip to the Finkara park with the families IMC supports in Bogota. It was a lovely day seeing the joy brought to the families by all the animals and interesting sights, and great for us to meet some of the people who have been impacted by IMC.

Some of the mums we met had spent several years in prison and IMC had cared for their children during this time. Now, reunited with their children, it was very beautiful to watch them interact as they had the opportunity to visit such a fun place, and their respect for the IMC team was tangible. There was a special unity within the families too, who have been brought together by IMC and bonded by their shared struggles.

After this, we travelled to Fusagasuga with Carlos where we planned to spend the next 3 weeks volunteering at the comedor project. We knew from the website and what Nancy had told us that the comedor offered daily meals to high risk children, devotional time, and a Saturday club, but we didn't realise how much of a 'second home' atmosphere the comedor would have.

It felt like a safe place for the children to come to play, share time with other children, seek advice, do and receive help with their homework, and receive nutritious and delicious meals and refreshments! On Tuesdays, they are taught about the situations and difficulties of children around the world and take time to pray for them, learning important skills of empathy, and other days learn lots about the bible and God's love for them.

We were very moved by these times and can see the impact it has on them; these children are all so patient, kind to one another, often selfless and giving, which are all testament to the compassion, care and ministry they've received from IMC. Their curiosity and kindness towards us was also very beautiful, and we felt welcomed into their worlds more than I have ever felt working with children before, in several different countries! We imagine they will be an excellent example of God's love to their families and other children in their communities through all they've learnt and experienced at the comedor.

From day 1, it felt very natural to be at the comedor hanging out with the children. Our specific responsibilities included daily English classes for 2 groups of ability, helping to serve the lunches, and guitar lessons.

Other than this, we always felt we wanted to share more with the children and really enjoyed doing occasional craft activities, sharing a few devotional messages, and teaching them worship songs that we love, as well as playing in the park or with games or lego.

One day, we joined the team for a meeting with the mums in a different barrio, where we were privileged to share a devotional with them. Again, it was very special to meet more of the people impacted by IMC and to see the various ways they are supporting communities such as helping these mums learn to save money to start their own businesses. They were all so friendly and grateful for the help of Carlos and Luz Dari, and seem to take the savings very seriously.

We were also able to visit the house of two of the children at the comedor which really opened our eyes to the living conditions of many of these children and their needs, while also highlighting their grateful attitudes for the little they do have, their willingness to invite us into their humble homes, and the difference IMC makes.

By offering a space for them to come, play and just be with more space, a desk to do their homework, and providing their main meal of the day, it takes a lot of pressure off their often busy, single parents, or their older siblings caring for them, and allows the children to relax.

The children are really eager to learn, soaking up the English we were able to teach them and sang with such joy and passion the worship songs we shared with them. They all jump at the chance of a craft activity, football game or guitar lesson, but find most joy in just strumming tunelessly, having the freedom to make noise and feel heard.

We admire the way IMC have changed their projects to fit the needs of the people as they change, but always committed to the main goal of reaching out to vulnerable children. The comedor's mission is simple: to feed and share the gospel with these children, but included in these things is so much more and it's clear that the children love coming, feeling welcome and loved, and having a safe place to be.

It is a wonderful example of the spirit of Jesus: 'Let the children come to me'.

Posted on the 12th May 2018 at 9:00am.