Tag: colombia

Labor Day, Leonardo, and the power of words

Tonight on the street we passed a church marquee that said, “On Labor Day, we pray for those seeking jobs.”

Now, we were wizzing by on the motorcycle, but we weren’t going so quickly that I couldn’t read and process that comment. I know that Labor Day was not initially formed so that we could have a “last official weekend of summer,” a handy deadline for open beaches and white pants and the general free feeling of days when the sun shines longer. But honestly, I am a bit fuzzy on the origins of the holiday (reading up here). That said, I enjoyed the idea of praying for unemployed, felt bad that it never occurred to me, and made plans to act on that.

Just minutes before, I’d made a comment to Rod about a church sign  down the street. The sign there is one that literally changed my life 2 years ago when it advertised the moms’ group to which I belong. I have written about how that group has made me a better mom, a better wife, a better Christian. I often talk about how it brought me to women who have become dear friends, like sisters, to me, and how their children and mine love each other.

It’s a powerful sign.

Which is what I said to Rod as we passed it. That sign is in front of a big church, on a busy street, in a fairly prominent area. It had the power to draw me and several others I know inside its doors for a life-changing, God-honoring experience. But sadly, at least today, it bears a fairly unintelligible “witticism” that will certainly cause people to ponder it for a moment but really has nothing to do with honoring God or letting people know what they might find inside the church.

Too bad. It’s a powerful sign.

I am a writer. The power of words is never lost on me. I do drafts of everything I write, even Facebook statuses sometimes. I have, on several occasions, had to go back and delete something I posted in the name of social networking fun or pointedness, because I know how much words can distract OR destroy people.

Earlier in the summer, on the first morning of our blood/sweat/tears event, I posted a very simple line from an old hymn, one affirming what I wanted that day to hold more than anything. (The line, in fact, was “All to Jesus, I surrender”). Moments later, a “friend” posted her own status, clearly mocking mine, as she had done in the past. Words have the power to distract.

Later that same week, after some, ohshallwesay, drama of the southern gospel nature had taken place, I became a little obsessed with the negative words being said by some people I’d believed were our friends. It didn’t matter that what they were saying wasn’t true or fair or even that not a lot of people were listening. What mattered to me, at the time, was that those words hurt to the point of depression, discouragement, and doubt… because words have the power to destroy.

Thankfully, they also have the power to lift, to enlighten, and even to change someone’s eternity.

~~~> Enter Leo.

Leonardo is an interpreter in Bogota, Colombia for Compassion International. We met him on the first day of our recent trip. I was sitting near the front of our bus with Anhi, and he was helping me talk to her. In the midst of that discussion, I learned about how words changed Leo’s life. It went something like this:

I was translating letters for Compassion while I was in college. It was my dream to study in the United States, but I had gotten my girlfriend pregnant, and that wasn’t going to happen. I remember that in translating so many letters, I kept reading about a future and a hope. I wanted to know the Jesus those sponsors talked about. And now I do.

Leo’s smile when he talks about this story will light a city block, as it will when he speaks of his now-wife, his three year old son, and their baby girl on the way.

There is power in words… to change a life!

Among the many mind-blowing, heart-growing experiences we had in Colombia, many which encouraged us in writing as often and as intentionally to our sponsored kids as possible, Leo’s story is one I share in the first minute of talking about our journey. The people writing those letters had no idea who would be reading them, and if they were like me pre-Colombia, they’d probably never thought about the life, frame of mind, or needs of the interpreter. But I always will now…

There is power in words, a power that makes me check mine more carefully (most of the time, Italian temper being taken into account) in light of all the instances recorded here.

There is power in words.

How will you use yours?

> To learn more about Compassion International.
> Write to your sponsored child online.
> If you live in Chicagoland or NW Indiana> more information about Moms & More.

Muppets & memories

I don’t really remember the Muppet Movie so much, but when I was in junior high choir, we sang a medley of songs from the soundtrack. One of them, even then, struck me as so sad and poignant, and the last few days, it is prevalent in my mind.

“Close to my soul and yet so far away… I’m going to go back there someday.”

It’s not just Colombia.. it’s the people I met who truly found a way into my heart.. it’s the singularity of purpose and hope we shared during our time together.. it’s the openness around us that is usually so rare in our cynical everyday world.

“There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met…”

So I will settle for the pictures , the lyrics, and some sweet, forever kind of memories.

Joan Wilder’s adventure has nothing on mine

Just eight days ago, my only mental images of Colombia were from the fun & far-fetched ’80s movie, Romancing the Stone. I totally! dug this movie as a kid, mostly, I’m sure, because Michael Douglas was at the height of his hunkiness and the main character, Joan, was living my then-dream: she was a romance novelist whose imaginative adventure came TRUE!

During the last 18 months or so, my real-life adventures have far outweighed my imagination, and last week in Colombia beat them all. Since we got home Friday night, we have been blessed with captive audiences – family AND concert audiences – who wanted to hear about our experience, see our pictures, and ask us questions. Even I am a little astounded at how much I now *know* about the work of Compassion International… but I am not surprised at how excited I am to share it.

I cannot possibly sum up the events, feelings, learnings, meetings, experiences, heartbreaks, and inspirations of last week. I imagine that I will be pondering them, writing about them, reliving them for a long time. I am still waiting for that A-HA! moment when everything becomes clear… all of the changes in our lives this past year and a half. But my new friend – mi amiga nueva? – summed it up so beautifully on Wednesday night, during our unforgettable dinner with Compassion’s ‘cream of the cream of the cream of the crop’ Leadership Development students. One of ‘the Vivianas’ told us in Spanish (with such animation that she was EASY to understand!) how she tells God what she wants to do, expecting Him to answer, ‘Oh, of course! Of course!’ But our dreams are all about HIS TIMING.

God knows Rod and I – and Paige, our newly blogging champion of a daughter, FYI – are itching for the Next Chapter. It’s not just about moving to a new place (because that is such a bittersweet, complicated step)… it’s about how all this stuff we’ve been doing comes together. And the answer to that is… just wait. We’re going to have to wait on God’s timing to know what the big picture is for us. But in the mean time, we are so, so, so fortunate to have many projects, many opportunities, many spinning plates, to keep us productively occupied. And now that we have been on a Compassion trip, an international adventure… our thirst for travel has grown immensely. Indeed, Lord, enlarge our territory!

Meanwhile, as I sit here about halfway through Joan Wilder’s adventure, complete with rugged Jack T. Colton, great one-liners, and a lot of action (and such a pretty Kathleen Turner!), I have to admit: I am still entertained, but really, I am just watching this silly film to feel a little closer to Colombia tonight. A week ago right now I was just arriving, and now I am missing it terribly. There is family there who feels so far out of reach (which makes me eternally grateful that The Vivanas have found us on Facebook. YAY internet!!)… there is a city there whose chaos and colors and flavors make my home street about as boring as a pile of dirt.

My adventure did not involve gunshots (THANK GOD!), crocodiles, treasure maps, or cartels… It was all about children, young adults, servants, hope, and results. It was about showing me that one person can make a difference, so I can show as many people as I encounter. It filled my heart with humility and graditude, and it filled my life with new people to appreciate, honor, and love.

Yesterday during a visit with our son (Yes & yay!), he asked me if our trip changed my life. I said YES – for I am changed in every way–not in a dramatic “let’s throw away all our possessions and set up a 3rd world mission” kind of way, but in that my perspective of EVERYTHING has shifted. If one person can make a difference, then God, let it be me every chance I can have.