Her name is Mary. She is a 68-year-old grandmother from Australia who has been called to reach the children in one of the most dangerous barrios of Colombia. When we met Mary, we were struck with the joy that flows from her heart. She smiles easily. Mary could be living a comfortable retirement in Australia, surrounded by family. Instead, she has chosen to transform the lives of children living in abject poverty. This is an area with rampant crime and drug use. We were warned that it would be the most dangerous place that we would visit while in Colombia. This is the place that Mary calls ‘home’.
We boarded the “Beast” for our journey to this dangerous barrio. On the other side of Bogota, we began to climb up the mountain. We chugged our way up the mountain, until we came to the crest of the hill overlooking the city in the distance. The shacks are crammed on the hillside. One of these is Mary’s home.
When we arrived at Mary’s, we walked up to the second floor of her apartment and she began to show us photos of her family. Mary has three grown children, two girls and a boy. She also has 10 grandchildren that she loves very much. Mary hasn’t seen her grandchildren in five years. She longs to be able to see them, but she feels called to this difficult place and the children who live here.
We then gathered around Mary’s table. She began to talk about her love for the barrio called Santo Domingo. The children in Santo Domingo are the poorest of the poor. Many of them have parents who are drug addicts or alcoholics. Many of them have families who are involved in witchcraft. Some of the children have no immediate family members at all, but live with extended families or distant relatives.
Mary has experienced unspeakable challenges. One night she awoke with a man’s hand covering her face. Three robbers got in through a window, and tied her up, and demanded money. These men cleaned out her apartment and then beat and stabbed her before leaving. Mary spoke about the temptation to live in fear, but felt the grace of God flood her heart. God spoke these words to her “you are not to turn your back on my calling, you are to face forward”.
Mary runs the ‘Friends Club’ in Santo Domingo. She runs several of these clubs every week reaching almost 200 children with the good news of Christ. Today we had the joy of being able to visit one of those clubs. These were the 4 to 7-year-old children who love coming to this place. The children gathered around tables. They drew, they colored, and they played with Legos, toys and games. And, they were loved by the staff.
Everyone on our team was deeply impacted by this time with Mary. There were times during the day when our eyes filled with tears. There were other times when great joy flooded our hearts as we heard about transformed lives. All of us were so blessed to see another aspect of the Bogota Street Kids Ministry. What an amazing second day!!