I realized before I started writing this that when I wrote about the places we went, that encompassed a lot of ground regarding the things that we did. However, there were a few things that I didn't cover or didn't go into much detail over.
First and foremost, our main task was to volunteer our time and service to the school, El Camino Academy. Mike ended up spending all of his time painting while he was there, except for the week that he had dental issues and was told not to do anything strenuous. Painting is a lot of moving up and down, so he took a break for those few days. Over the three weeks, though, he painted several classrooms, hallways, and part of the cafeteria. David helped out with the gym classes for the first two weeks, and then there were extra volunteers helping in the third week, so he picked and chose when he would hang out in the gym or when he would hang out in my classroom. His favorite time of the day was 10:10 because that was when the whole school took a 20 minute break. He would go find his Daddy, get some change from him to get a snack, and they would sit and hang out together for those 20 minutes every day. I ended up teaching a class of 4-6 year olds. We did games, songs, Bible verses, cooking, watched movies, went to the computer, had gym class and art class every day, and worked on some Reading and Writing skills, depending on their grade level. It wasn't an easy task working with 4 year olds who didn't know their letters or how to write them versus working with six year olds who were already reading and writing quite well. But we managed. The main focus was improving their listening and speaking skills in English, so it was really just all about exposure to more English and being forced to practice. The first week's theme was the zoo, the second week was the beach, and the third week was the amusement park. They learned a lot of new words and had a lot of fun. They were a really sweet bunch of kids. I had 18 on my roster, but I had an average of 15 kids each day.
At 12:30, the bell would ring, the kids would scramble out to their designated school vans, and our family would all meet back together to have lunch in the cafeteria at a discounted rate. That was where we were able to sample more of the traditional Colombian foods (which David turned his nose up to pretty much every day). Every meal consisted of a bowl of soup, a serving of rice, a meat dish, salad, fresh fruit, fresh fruit juice made from a different fruit each day, and a piece of candy for dessert. It was our main meal of the day, so for our evening dinners we survived on sandwiches and quesadillas. Mike did almost all of the cooking, partly because he knows I'm not good in the kitchen (especially a foreign one), and also partly because my time and attention were consumed with the Spanish/English communication factor going on in our home. We all enjoyed everything he made, though. :)
We'd catch a bus to go home somewhere between 1:00 and 2:00 each day. We lived really close to the school, so it was never a long ride. Sometimes we'd take the afternoon to do a little sight-seeing, hang out with our new friends, take a nap, or just chill. Other times we'd barely make it out of there in time to make it to an appointment (like with the lawyer or with the dentist). Plus we got invited for dinner with several of the other missionaries there, so many of our evenings were full, as well. Life was busy and complicated on many occasions. In the evenings when we weren't busy, we would go across the street and buy a movie for really cheap. There was a TV screen and DVD player in Julian's room downstairs, so Mike would make popcorn for everybody, and we'd hang out on Julian's bed to watch a movie together. (Actually, David and I would take up the whole bed to curl up together, while Julian made himself comfortable with a pillow on the floor and Mike would bring in a rocker from the other room).
Three days out of the week, we didn't see Julian very much. On Wednesdays he would go to a neighbor's house (back where he lived) because one of her friends would come over and meet with him for an hour or two to study the Bible. It was a specific discipleship course that they were going through that gives him the foundations of his faith. Afterwards, he would show me his notes from everything they read and what he had learned. I had the opportunity to meet the lady and thank her for what she was doing in his life. I've learned just how much that boy craves to be loved, so I believe that's what draws him back week after week. On Fridays, he would go to a course called ManPower, which was giving him lessons on how to prepare himself for the workforce. He earned a certificate each time, and by the end of the last course, they helped him create a better resume with all of these courses listed. Unfortunately, they had to stop offering the courses due to funds, but they let him know he can continue with several of them online. Friday nights, he would come home pretty late, sometimes as late as 7:00, we'd force him to eat something, and then he and I would grab a taxi (it was dark after 6:00 every night) to head to his prayer meeting that meets in the same house where he went on Wednesdays. What an amazing group of people with such a heart to know Christ more. It was such a privilege to meet them. They spend time singing, praying (a LOT), someone gives a message or devotional, they take offering, and they have a small refreshment. I will admit, it was a bit more charismatic than I am used to, so there were moments that made me uncomfortable, but to know that Julian has faithfully attended this group for months now was such a gift. What I also loved was watching how comfortable he'd become with that little Bible that we spent a fortune to send to him at the orphanage a year and a half ago.....Well, God didn't let me off the hook for leading Bible study while I was there, because my first night there, they asked me to give the devotional the following week. So, over the next few days, in addition to making my lesson plans for school, I came up with a devotional to share with this amazing little group. Julian searched for music for the worship time, and I used Priscilla Shirer's book called Divine Interruptions (Spanish translation) to help me formulate a devotional. We talked about how sometimes life throws us curveballs that make us want to scream (or just general problems or inconveniences that throw a wrench into our plans). We have two choices every time....to complain and ask why or to accept that maybe that interruption is divine and holds a greater purpose for our lives. I then finished with my own testimony of our failed adoption of Julian's siblings, showing how what I thought was to be the greatest hardship of my life has turned into being one of the greatest blessings in my life because through it, we found Julian. Well, needless to say, the whole room was in tears when I was done. Plus it opened the door for Julian to open up on a more personal level with everyone now that they knew more of his own story. I was just getting over from being sick, so we stayed for the refreshment and then someone gave us a ride home. Our following two Fridays were busy, so we didn't make it back to the prayer meeting again during the month.
Saturdays were Julian's day to work with the kids at the foundation where he grew up. So far, this is his only form of employment, plus he enjoys it. He would leave early in the morning and wouldn't come home until at least 6:00 or later. It was good for him to have a break from us, and it was good for us to just hang out alone for the day. By the time he got home, we'd have a light dinner, make some popcorn, and watch a movie together.
Sundays we visited several different churches. The first week, we went to a Baptist Church with our new friends from the school. There was a guy from Canada there who did translation for the service, so that was good for Mike and David. However, it was a very long morning, which we personally are not used to since we go to church on Saturday nights. I did see a brochure there, though, that advertised a Bible Institute called Logos that meets in that building. I asked if they had grants available, and they said yes. I made the comment to Julian that I'd like to see him get into the Institute. He said he'd think about and told me not to push, to which my response was...."Fine. I will pray. And you know what kind of things happen when I start praying." :) Well, he's been back and forth on whether or not he wants to go, but the topic is still up for discussion.....He has told two people in the church that he would like to go, so now I leave it in their hands (and God's, of course). I think it would be amazing for him. However, you have to be very serious about your studies there, and I'm not sure they think he is ready....yet.
The second Sunday we went to the Wesleyan Church with Julian. It's the same church he went to as a child, so it's been neat to see how God drew him right back once he had the chance to go. The music and praise time was beautiful. It's a huge building and made you feel like you were back home. However, once again, it was a bit more charismatic than we were used to. I wasn't going to let him know that, though, because I was just glad that he'd found a church home and was faithfully going. The third Sunday we went on our little vacation to our Colombian paradise, so we listened to a recording of someone speaking (I don't remember who) as we sat at the round table and drank coffee together after breakfast. The last Sunday we were there, we went to another Baptist church to see the lady we'd met on our first weekend who had played such an incredible part in Julian and Juan David's life when they were very young. ( She used to take them to the Wesleyan Church, which was much smaller then, but in the last several years, she ended up switching to the Baptist Church.) We took all three boys and only stayed for the Sunday school hour, but in that time we were able to give Juan David his first Bible. :) We also got invited over to the lady's house for lunch the next day. (Her name is Mercedes). Later I will share about how that lunch went and the way God continues to reveal things to us that we never would have known or even knew we wanted to know). Anyway, she invited Julian to go to church with her the following week after we left, and he did. :) We'll just keep watching to see how God continues to open more doors in his life.
I'd like to say that this trip was just great and filled with blessing at every turn, like it was last year. However, it wasn't. On many days, it was just hard. Physically hard. Spiritually hard. Mentally hard. And emotionally hard. Julian has emotional needs that can drain you, and we spent a lot of our time trying to get him off of his computer or at least to take the headphones off, and to just come out of isolation. He said he's always been that way, that he just likes to be alone and spend time alone, but that can be very hurtful on the other side, when you know the sacrifice you've made and are making just to spend time with him. He didn't get that. He was incredibly stubborn in so many ways. In hindsight, I wish we would have taken the computer away from the start, but we can't go back and change things now. It wasn't until our last night with his brother that we broke out the UNGAME (a game that basically just makes you talk and get to know each other better) that we finally got him to start talking and coming out of his shell. Suddenly we started learning more about what goes on inside of him, and so much came spilling out. (Good game for those of you adopting older children--it's amazing what you can learn. I took the Spanish version with me, so that helped a lot). However, I'm so glad God gave me the opportunity to meet several of the Christians He's put in his life to continue to guide him and nurture him. I'm so humbled that God gave us the opportunity to watch Him orchestrate putting someone back in his life who has loved him and still loves him probably more than I have, someone who has been there since he was just a little child. It's like He is releasing me from the burden that we're the only ones who are there to guide him into this next stage of life. We left him in the arms of so many other Christians now, with more connections than he likely wanted, and we pulled the plug financially so he's forced to find his way (of course, we're not going to let him starve, but he doesn't know that).....God has given us a peace that He's got His hand on him, still, though. I miss him, but I'm excited to see what God is going to do with his life now. Now our focus is back on his little brother, but that will be for another post in the future, because I'm still trying to process it all.
- I am a wife, daughter, mother, bilingual teacher, poet, author, women's Bible study teacher, world traveler, orphan advocate, and an adoptive mother. Our adoption journey has been filled with a lot of hurt and loss, along with even more hope, grace, and healing. Through it we have experienced more of God than we ever bargained for and have watched Him miraculously redeem our story when we surrendered all the broken pieces to Him.