Before we even left the state of North Carolina for our trip to Colombia, I knew in my heart this trip would do one of two things.
- It would satisfy my heart’s desire to leave the country and immerse myself somewhere foreign, yet somewhere I had been before.
- It would cause me to hunger even more for the relationships, culture, and mission that are alive and thriving in Medellin.
The answer to my thoughts? Number 2.
I had the opportunity to serve at Ciudad Refugio in October of 2018 while on a long term missions trip. Ciudad Refugio is a multi-level, holistic rehabilitation program that restores the dignity of man. On this trip, I was flooded with memories as we stepped foot into la Panaderia. The joyous faces of men and women, who were once homeless, working on their crafts of cooking and baking all welcomed us with open arms. The teenagers who were children the last time I visited, help run the bakery with great responsibility. My heart was home, I had made my way back to a piece of myself that started growing years ago.
Our trip was only a week long, yet impact was made for a lifetime. Between teaching English classes, organizing Bible studies, packing spice boxes, and painting nails in a retirement home, one theme remained the same; we were there to lift the arms of the leaders.
What’s behind any organization that is working for the betterment of the lives of those around them? People. Not robots, superheroes, or computers, but people. People like Rebecca, who is both the mother of a beautiful child and has a heart to give home to the multitude of Venezuelan refugees that have fled to her country. People like Yason, who has made his way through the rehab program, graduated, and now lives to serve the men and others around him as they break free from addictions themselves. There are people like Miriam who left her home country years ago for a missions trip, landed in Colombia, and never looked back. There are many others who live within the walls of Ciudad Refugio that give their whole life selflessly to the men, women, and children who are looking for home in Medellin. Our role was of course to serve the existing ministry, but just as importantly, serve the leaders. Lift their arms. It’s what the body of Christ is called to do for one another, lift one another’s arms, reprieve one another in battle in order to continue the call of God to set captives free. Cups of the best coffee and an international trip are the bonus. The real reward is that we live a life where we get to step in, lift one another's arms, and be Christ to each other. That is mission, that is ministry, that is life.
Our trip came to an end, yet relationships are just beginning. We were all asked one question on our ride through the tree covered mountains back to the airport:
“What is one thing you learned this week that you are going to take home and how are you going to implement it there?”
My response was simple. In the book of Exodus, God called Aaron to lift Moses’ arms. It was a simple task, yet a necessary one for victory. In a world where a little girl is asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I now have one answer : someone who lifts other people’s arms.
My trip to Colombia was a gift to myself from God. It was a reminder that my purpose is more integrated in others’ lives than I think. There is something upside down yet beautiful about the idea that serving someone else’s dreams, you’ll end up smack in the middle of your own, but it’s true. Little did I know a prayer over 3 years ago of “can I come back here someday?” would lead me to North Carolina and back to Colombia again. While I wait on the Lord for the next trip to open up, I have been reminded that I am right where I am on purpose, I am lifting arms from little Black Mountain.