Final Colombia blog: A picture is worth more than a thousand words
If you had to choose a limited number of items to take to a desert island or to save from a fire, what would they be? ... Most, if not all of us would probably include a photograph. But why? Because a photo helps us to remember. It captures a moment in time that we can't repeat in exactly the same way. We are transported back to that place or time and we relive the memory. It celebrates what we have or had. As the saying goes, a picture is worth more than a thousand words.
As we visited the last of the families we had time for in the invasion in Santa Marta I realised the true importance of photographs. The gentleman that's sits alone in front of his home, also pictured, is 82 years old and is not well. He is living his final days and this photo will probably be his last. It is a moment captured in time. A memory for his family. It is worth more than words. A few days prior to our visit, he had become a Christian and so desperately wanted to be baptised and so we prayed with him and the local church pastor, that he would live another 10 days to make it possible for this to happen.
The three beautiful children pictured together had been left on their own for the day. Their mother had gone to visit their father in prison. We took a photo for them anyway - as a gift for their parents. These three didn't stop laughing and found the whole process completely hilarious! They were playful, radiant and joyful despite the poverty they live in. The thing that makes these people sad is not lack of possessions and money or the poverty they live in; most seem content and happy with what they have - even the family of 6 that live in 1 room, who share a small space in which to sleep, cook, eat, wash and live, showed no self pity. They carried sweet smiles and their eyes shone. Despite the fact that many would love better accommodation, it is often not this or only having 1 or 2 pairs of shoes that makes them sad. It is brokenness, severed relationships and health or illness. To Colombians, relationships are of greatest importance to them. They so desire to lead long lives in communion and service to one another. And so illness and health can be the cause of much sadness because living in poverty means they can't always do anything about their condition. The cost is far greater than they will ever be able to afford and so they can be robbed of living a full life alongside their family. Although many did want to pray about their houses, these things - relationships and health were what they asked us to pray about the most. As someone who has so much compared to them, I thought the main prayer request would be money but in the most part, it wasn't.
Seeing the faces of the families as we gave them their portrait confirmed the importance of the photographs to me. It was a mission so simple but brought so much joy. Our return to Paraiso was completely overwhelming. I sit here struggling to put it in to words and describing it will not do it justice. Many of the families had gathered in the church to see us and to collect their photo. I cried as I explained that they are so so loved. That they are not forgotten, they are a perfect creation and that we love them. I cried with them when they collected their photo and I cried as we said goodbye. I know I am a cry baby but for the record, Tom cried too! We were overwhelmed by their gratefulness and we were humbled to be able to bring joy to these people and to help them celebrate what is good in their lives.
I realise more than I ever have done before, that life is about people. It is not about how much we have or what others around us have. We can so often focus on, become obsessed with or make idols out of things that don't matter, things that are futile, things that will never make us happy. Life is about the people around us; how we choose to love them and serve them. It's about our relationships and what we spend our energy and our time doing. It's about using our gifts to give to and to bless others and in doing so we will also be blessed.
Aesthetically, Colombia is an incredible, beautiful and very diverse place. But I feel like during our month here in doing this project, we were able to look beyond it's exterior. We spent our time in the heart of this country: In the homes of the locals. What we found were beautiful, loving, uncomplaining people. People who consider family as their world. People who live in communities that depend on each other. People who put others before themselves, who say that their home will always be yours too. I know we will always be welcomed here and we hope and pray that this is not our last time visiting the heart of this beautiful country.
The expression of humility, love and grace we saw whilst here is something we will never, ever forget. Thank you to those of you who thought of us, prayed for us or sponsored a family. You helped to make it happen and the families and Tom and I are so very grateful.
A special thank you goes out to Abi Coles and Latin Link for organising the whole trip and for her continued infectious, inspiring character and constant translation, Felipe H, our host, guide and translator, Felipe Gfor his graphic designing skills and time he put into the lovely verse card we wanted to put on the back of the frames and Foto Japon for looking after us, being patient and sorting all the printing and framing out. You're all amazing!