I’ve heard it said multiple times in my life that a person can throw a dart at a map and anywhere it lands will be a place that needs help. I agree. We live in a world which sees more need than it does resolutions. The map is full of locations that could use a helping hand. So I have been asked many times- “Why Colombia?” To get to that answer, I need to take you backwards in time. Doing so will help you understand my driving desire to help these displaced communities.
Just a Young Gal
From the time I was a little girl, I was fascinated by the missionaries I met. My parents would invite them into our home for meals as they passed through our small town in Ohio sharing their story. I recall hearing conversations about people in Japan, Zambia, the Philippines, and France . As I listened to the stories, I was captivated by other cultures and how they lived their lives. I was also heartbroken hearing about the need that existed. There, I believe, the desire for touching other cultures and spreading love was born in me.
When I started studying Spanish in high school, it came naturally to me. I quickly fell in love with the language and studying various Hispanic cultures. At age 16, I recall a very specific moment saying to a friend “This is my calling- to help others in Latin American countries.” I had no idea what that meant or where it would lead, but I’ll never forget that certainty.
Fast Forward to Adulthood
In life, we make hundreds of choices a day. I married young and had my first child by the age of 20 in 2002. Therefore, I put my plans of going to college to study Spanish on hold. However, timing is always perfect in our stories, whether we see it in the moment or not. Honestly, I thought my dream of doing work in Latin American countries no longer existed.; I had accepted putting that part of me behind. But, I still had a driving passion for cultures and languages and people.
In 2013 my good friend, Kristen, made her first trip with a mission group to Colombia. When she came back so energized, I recognized the desire in myself which still existed so deeply. She returned two more times, and the timing of it was never right for me to go with her. However, in 2016, my opportunity finally arrived.
Brisas del Mar, Colombia
In February of 2016, I traveled with the mission group to Brisas del Mar, Colombia. This displaced village had lived through devastating effects of the 50 year long civil war in Colombia. This village had nothing because they had lost nearly everything in the war. I felt like a nobody there when I arrived. What could I possibly do to really help this community? However, that is where the journey to do greater things in Colombia began, and I know without a doubt the desire that was born in me at age 16 was coming to life again in that moment, in God’s timing.
I fell in love with that community and their culture. This community who had nothing gave me everything. They reminded me of my worth and capabilities. When I returned home from that trip I enrolled in college classes and began my journey to what would lead to where we are today with Footprints With Hope.
I have returned to Brisas del Mar three more times since and through those visits, I have made many friends and developed a greater understanding of the Colombian culture. Although I love that village and they will always hold a piece of my heart, I was beginning to feel led to do more in other parts of Colombia.
2019 to Today
In 2019, a friend said to me that I should open a non-profit and I laughed and said “Nope… I have no time for that.” However, never say never. Later that year, I made the journey to Colombia on my own. I wanted to explore different parts of the country and learn about the other cities and villages who also needed a helping hand. However, I wanted to be deliberate in learning their needs from them, rather than creating a vision of what I thought their needs were.
Being able to speak the language eliminated a great barrier, and I traveled with my friend, Luis Andrés, who served as my Colombia liaison in the journey. In March of 2019, we traveled to 15 different locations in Colombia: Cartagena, Barranquilla, Malambo, Ponedera, Santa Rita, Brisas del Mar, Rincón del Mar, La Isla, Sampués, Palmito, Sincelejo, Medellín, Calí, Neiva, and Bogotá.
It was during that trip learning about each community that I knew I opening the foundation was becoming part of the calling and vision in my heart. I did a lot of listening and plenty of praying. I returned to Colombia in October of 2019 on my own once again to revisit some of those communities. This time I dove deeper into their needs and the vision of what was becoming heavy on my heart: the women of Colombia. They transform me.
A Piece of My Heart
So, when I am asked “Why Colombia?” the answer to that is not a short conversation. I fell in love with their culture, their rich, even if heartbreaking, history, and their communities. They have so much to offer this world. I desire to help them fulfill their dreams and draw in others with me on the journey as team-mates, travelers, and donors to also help the rest of the world understand Colombia in a beautiful new light.
Twenty years ago the dream was born in me. I had no idea it would lead to the creation of, nor my passion for the incredible country of Colombia, but I am so glad that is where the path has led. I am so excited to see what more will unfold ahead in Colombia, my home away from home, the country where I leave a piece of my heart every time I am there.