Category Archives: Colombia Trip 2013

Day 5: Clinic and VBS in Mitu, Health Seminar

Wednesday, June 26, 2013: Contributed by Robin Johnson


Luca with Jose Rojas

It is with great joy that I come to you with the help of FREE internet service courtesy of the library next door to our hotel, and the enterprise of Craig Kindell and  Luca Contessa who built the relationship with Jose Rojas, IT guy for the Vaupes government and introduced him to the Spanish River Church website and our need to continue communications with you.  They had to take our computers over to the library and “register” them.  It took a while, but success is sweet!

We have had a very rewarding day, this being the first to actually interact with the indigenous people of the jungle of Mitu.  Our medical team, the “A (Aspirin) Team” worked all day, and the “Fiesta Team” worked with the children all day.  In addition, we were able to work with the adults in several workshops this afternoon.



Pastor Leonel commented that the indigenous people are never treated so well, and he was so pleased to offer them medical services that they did not have to wait all day long for.  Pastor Fabio Cano’s wife Diana, a nurse, was the registrar, and she had a detailed schedule for seeing patients that had been filled out for many weeks now.  All of the physicians were pleased with their work.  We have two dentists, and one set of the dental equipment we rented was not working.  Thankfully we were able to move to an actual dental office a few blocks away that had even more amenities.  The Lord provided.  We passed the dentists just returning from their days work at 7:00 PM, tired, but pleased with the work they were able to accomplish.

It was a curious start to the day as the children came in to color pictures, have their faces painted and pictures taken.  As I would introduce myself to them, they did not nod, or tell me their names.  We understood that they would understand Spanish, but for the most part, they did not. This took a while to figure out; as we talked amongst ourselves, we thought that perhaps they were just shy, or not really into having someone put paint on their faces.  I noticed that when I laughed and had fun, that they laughed and had fun.  So we had fun, and the smiles came as they saw their faces in a mirror, and had their pictures in their hands.

The crafts team has had to be quite inventive as we have unfortunately not received 6 suitcases of luggage that were to be sent by air cargo directly from Bogota.  One of the suitcases had the crafts for Mitu. (The other cases were gifts of clothes that we do not need until the last day.) Now Linda Fox ALWAYS travels with her paint and brushes, and we were able to improvise construction paper frames, and actually had some crafts left from Villavicencio, so we have managed “OK”. We have made a lot of calls from different angles, and we are assured that the cargo should arrive on tomorrow’s flight. The kids watched movies this afternoon, as we were low on crafts, but we wanted to keep them busy so we could have the parent’s attention for several educational workshops.

Several months ago, we asked Pastor Cano if there was any information we could bring to help the people of Mitu. His wife replied that they needed information about birth control (natural forms only), hygiene– especially for the women (and please send underwear), nutrition, and that many had back pain.  Today we were able to present two topics:  Hygiene and Birth Control.  We presented short Spanish videos that I found online.  Rita Ortiz, an English teacher at Boca High, presented in Spanish and came up with simple projects to reinforce the ideas. We paused often for the tribe leader’s translation into the native language of Cubeo. He was a very strong leader.  Another man (named “Billy Graham”…that’s another story) stood and reviewed the ideas in Cubeo as well.  Luca narrated much of the afternoon and offered good examples and some great illustrations that made the people… you guessed it… laugh. They were receptive and interested. I count it a total success.



Day 4: Travel to Mitu

Tuesday, June 24, 2013

Today we went to the airport early to take the flight from Villavicencio to Mitu. When we arrived at the airport we were informed that we would not be allowed to take any excess baggage. This meant we would have to leave all of our bags of medicine and supplies behind. After a series of quick negotiations, Pastor Leonel and Pastor Jacil were able to arrange to have our supplies sent to Mitu on a cargo plane that was leaving later in the day. Once again The Lord provided a way for our ministry In Mitu to continue. God is good!

photo-7When we flew over Mitu preparing to land after about an hour and a half flight, we looked down upon a city on a winding river surrounded by dense jungle.  It was an amazing site!  We were met at the airport by Pastor Fabio Cano and his wife Diana and their two sons along with a couple of leaders who had come to Mitu from their tribal villages.  Pastor Leonel informed us that some of the people coming to our clinic and VBS had to travel two days walking through the dense jungle to get to Mitu, others traveled by boat on the river.  We were taken by vehicles supplied by the local police to our hotel which had a beautiful view of the river right across the street.

We took a brief rest and them went next door to the elementary school where we will be conducting the medical, dental and eye care clinic and VBS for the rest of the week. By that time our supplies had arrived in Mitu and we were able to get set up and organized. We had a delicious dinner at a local restaurant owned by one of Pastor Fabio’s church members then went to bed early to rest up for a busy week.

Day 3: Villavicencio VBS and Clinic

Monday, June 24, 2013

Today we started out early and went again to the Christian school where we were having the_DSC0002 clinic and VBS for the people of a church plant in Villavicencio pastored by Pastor Jacil Martinez along with other people from the community.  We started off the day with a devotional time with our team and volunteers from Pastor Leonel’s church who were help with the clinic and VBS.

Robin, Susan and Linda took their turns again painting faces for all of the children,  Heather, Susan and Rita lead the craft activities where the children made “salvation” necklaces (made up of different colored beads representing the gospel message.  Heather explained each color and its meaning to the children (in English and Spanish) as a Gospel presentation.  Nancy was kept busy taking pictures and printing them so that they could be framed and decorated.

The kids had a great time playing games lead by Luca and Robin including one relay race where the children put on oversized clothes and hats and then passed them on to the next child in line.  The played soccer and other ball games, sang songs and watched a Veggie Tale video in Spanish (the story of Jonah).  Juan was in charge of showing the kids how to blow bubbles.

In the clinic, Leonel’s daughter Dr. Gigliola (an MD0 and Dr. Lida (another local doctor from Bogota) saw many patients who had made appointments throughout the day, doing an examination and creating chars and records on each one so that they could follow-up at a later time.  Patricia, the eye doctor was busy again fitting patients with the prescription  glasses that we brought with us, assisted by her son, Andreas.  Leonel’s wife Belgica and his other daughter, Claudia, organized the volunteers and served snacks and drinks for the children throughout the day.  It was truly a team effort to put it all together.

Sophia (aka Dizzy the Clown) did double duty today working in the pharmacy (assisted by Craig and David) handing out medicine and explain the dosages to the patients.  She then entertained the children in the VBS with her magic and balloon animals.

We finished the day by handing out all of the clothing that had been prepared for each child by the Lord’s Closet team and they were all very excited to receive their gifts.  We said some tearful goodbyes to the children and went back to the hotel for dinner.  After dinner we met with Pastor Leonel, Pastor Jacil and his wife and Miguel who is an elder (and potential future church planter).  We gave Pastor Jacil a gift of a wireless microphone system to used in his church plant.

photo-5We thanked them for all the work they put in to organize the mission.  Pastor Leonel’s churchhad presented us with an offering to help offset our expenses and we were very touched by the generosity of the people who are struggling to pay their own bills.  We shared our blog and pictures with Pastor Leonel and the others and then headed off to pack and rest up for our early departure for Mitu in the morning.

Day 2: Worship in Villavicencio, Clinic and VBS

Sunday, June 23, 2013:  Contributed by Robin Johnson

Sunday has passed, and we all agree that it went by so fast!

The Sunday service at pastor Leonel’s church was our first view of his warm and gracious congregation.  They had special white covered chairs with large lavender bows set specially for us, and fresh flower arrangements that had to remind us that we were in COLOMBIA—where all of the beautiful flowers are grown.

Pastor Leonel Ortiz spoke about the value of missions and his second church plant that meets in a very poor section of Villavicencio presented us with donations to take to the people of Mitu. That was very touching.  There was a church wide luncheon afterwards, and we got to meet many families.  We were especially directed to “speak in English to my son who needs practice with his English.”  Very few people speak English in this congregation.

The Vacation Bible school was on full throttle as we set up activities in an open air pavilion in a local Christian School.  “The Fiesta Team” had a story reading by Rita Garrison Ortiz that seemed to mesmerize the children. They were very receptive and well behaved, and Rita observed that they really knew the Bible!  Linda Fox had a mural prepared on canvas that the children put their hand prints and names on.  Heather Turgeon, the chief organizer of the crafts, manned a table with picture frames and Christian stickers. This was the prized craft!  Face painting was in rare form as we had Susan Hall, Rita Ortiz, Linda Fox and I all painting children around a table.  Things got exciting as we had a couple huge rain storms that made us move closer and closer to the center of the pavilion to keep dry.  There was a real feeling of camaraderie and enjoyment throughout our time this afternoon. Luca Contessa was the judge of the coloring contest, and awarded medals.  He was also the king of fun as he had the kids playing a playground game that had them shrieking with excitement…all with a huge rainstorm pounding on the tin roof above.  Nancy Brown took pictures of the kids, and families together, and best friends, and mothers and daughters, and, you name it, she always had a gang around her watching each picture emerge from the printer.

Our medical clinic was also located at the Christian School, and our “A (for Asprin) Team” worked really diligently separating and organizing the medicines for this location in Villavicencio and for Mitu.  The doctors Gigliola Ortiz, MD, Lila MD, Claudia Ortiz, DDS, and the Ophthalmologist, Patricia and her son worked tirelessly and very carefully to take time with each patient and develop a good history and a base for future visits.  The medical team including Sophia Hoyle, RN, assisted by interpreter, Juan Rodrigues,  saw patients while David Baron and Craig Kindell got the pharmacy organized and filled prescriptions.  The medical group is very pleased to have the medications that so many from Spanish River Church and others have provided.

Day 1: Safe Arrival in Bogota, Bus Ride to Villavicencio

_DSC0004We met at church this morning at 4:45am and loaded up for the airport.  Tommy said a prayer for us and we were off to the airport.  Thanks to our volunteer drivers, Karen Sump, Greg Hoffman, Sylvia Griffith, Sandy Connelly, Dana Nicewander for being there to support us and see us off.

We checked in our 22 fifty pound bags of clothing, medicine and craft supplies at Fort Lauderdale airport with no problems and took off for Bogota.  When we landed in Bogota we went through immigration, picked up our bags and went to customs.  That’s when our first adventure began.  Half of the group made it through customs with no problem but Luca, David, Heather, Sophia and Juan were all stopped and asked to put their luggage aside to be inspected (it turns out that Bogota airport has a new hi-tech x-ray machine to inspect luggage).

When the customs agents saw the clothing, medicine, eye glasses and craft supplies they threatened to confiscate all of it, citing all the customs rules we had violated.  It seems that used clothing or glasses are not allowed in at all due to health concerns and the new items were subject to import taxes.  We showed them our letter from Pastor Leonel inviting us to work with his ministry and to bring the clothing and supplies. We showed the letter from Spanish RIver offering the items as a free gift to the people of Colombia and not for re-sale.  We showed the paperwork from Blessings International certifying that the medicines we were carrying were of good quality.

_DSC0018Meanwhile the rest of the team was outside praying that our cargo would be allowed through.  Fortunately we had all three Spanish speakers among those who were detained.  After two and one-half hours of negotiating with the customs agents, gathering the names of the local health care professionals who would be working with us (including an ophthalmologist who had met us in Bogota) and then paying $195 in import taxes for the new items, the detainees were finally allowed to enter Colombia with all of the supplies except for some of the reading glasses.  Our week of ministry was allowed to continue, praise the Lord!

_DSC0047We loaded up the team in a small bus along with the ophthalmologist Patricia and her son and loaded up the rest of the luggage in another car.  We sent some of the bags ahead to Mitu via air cargo and had a delicious lunch prepared by Claudia Baron who had arrived in Bogota the day before and met us at the airport.  We finally started on the four hour bus trip to Villavicencio and arrived at our hotel at about 6:30pm where we were met by Pastor Leonel, Belgica and their two daughters, Gigliola (an MD) and Claudia (a dentist).  We were grateful to finally be at our first stop of the week and enjoyed a nice dinner with Pastor Leonel and Belgica.  We headed off to bed early to prepare for the busy week ahead.