Some of you don’t quite know my Colombia story. Colombia is the country of my heart. I love other places – I love Hawaii and Polynesia, their culture, their dance, the people… But Colombia is Colombia. It is the country I love. It’s the reason I’ve learned Spanish, it’s the reason for a lot of things. The city of Armenia is my love.
Armenia, Colombia is in the province of Quindio, in the Andes in the coffee growing regions. The province was devastated by a massive 6.4 earthquake followed by multiple aftershocks hitting 5.4, 4.2 and 3.5 on the richter scale that in January 1999. Leaving over 2000 dead, 4000 missing, 4000 injured and about 200,000 left homeless. Those are just the numbers on record. The city was completely demolished and chaos spread across the city and province.
The church we were attending, Spring Garden Church in Toronto, had supported missionaries in the city and as my mum was the missions pastor, received a phone call soon after the earthquake saying it is bad. Come. We need help. So in response the church sent 3 people. My mum, my dad and another one of the associate pastors. They gathered as much aid as they could and off they were to Armenia, of course with no airport left, they landed in a field.
They were there for almost 2 weeks supporting the missionaries, their church, the community, the city, the humanitarian aid agencies. They were just there – their presence was needed and appreciated. It was an incredible experience for all, and my parents came back changed people. They had fallen in love with the people that they met. 5 months later I was part of a team from Spring Garden Church going back to Armenia. By the first night there I asked my parents why don’t we live here? And that eventually became the plan – that I move to Colombia after finishing High School.
In my 1999 trip I really developed in my relationship with God. I understood on a new level who God was and how he loved me and for the first time in my life I had felt accepted. No where else had that occurred.
I didn’t integrate back into home very well. It was difficult. Nobody really understood what I had experienced and how I’d changed and I wanted my Colombia back. Luckily I was able to return – in March 2000 and my love continued. I made more meaningful relationships, I learned more about God, I learned more about myself. I got to help train a team of Colombians coming to Canada. I was able to do some English lessons, and teach a little bit about youth and Canadian culture. The team of Colombians were able to come to Canada in summer 2000 and I still loved Colombia. It was an incredible chance for me to show other Canadians what they were missing out on – the amazing Colombian culture… Then my family went that year on boxing day for holidays for 2 weeks – and yup, loved Colombia even more. My time in Colombia once again continued to change me. Then I went for a month the following Summer – and of course I loved it even more. It was a chance to see what everyday life looked like – it wasn’t just a missions trip or a holiday. I did life in Colombia. I even did a 3 month exchange program to Spain in high school in order to learn the Spanish. My hope and plan is that after high school I would move to Armenia and complete university there…. And continue to live there. I LOVE COLOMBIA.
As time went by things changed. There were some things happening in the church we were partnering with that didn’t uh – go well and things were going on at home… And it just was different at the time. It was then 2003, and I decided to go ahead and do some missions training with YWAM. And in that third semester of attending the University of the Nations – I met Jon.
Now Jon understood what he was signing up for when we got together. Adoption. Missions. All of me. He knew that Colombia was a part of that… No matter when it happened in 1, 5, 10, or 20 years. I would live in Colombia before I died. He didn’t quite get it – but he knew it was part of me. After our long distance relationship and then getting engaged and doing our pre-marriage counselling we decided that staying in one place was going to be necessary for us for the first bit of our marriage. I had been travelling and going from thing to thing for 2 years and we felt as though we needed 2 years together in one place to start making our own family and developing some roots. Find a church, find a community, have our family of 2.
We got married June 2006, Things were thrown off the first year with me being sick with Typhoid Fever (and almost dying) and so that didn’t really count. Then the second year we moved in with my parents in order to save up for a downpayment for a house and in order to work on us since there was SO MUCH that first year. We needed more time together to develop as a couple – in that time we also went to Colombia. It was time – I needed to share that part of me with Jon, it was our second chance at our first year of marriage.
At that time, It had been 6 years since I had been there, but for 15 days in summer 2007 I took Jon to Colombia. It was glorious. He loved it. He caught the Colombia bug! We were part of an International Teams trip partnering with a ministry called AVIVA in Armenia. I was able to introduce Jon to all my friends and Colombian family. They loved him. Even though it had been a few years since I had been in Colombia it was like no time had passed and the relationships picked up where they had left off. Jon and I had more dreams while we were there… And dreams that worked for both of us and that were the same dreams. Colombia – living in Colombia.
In 2008 we bought a house and moved to Hamilton. We had the baby itch. And our plan was always to integrate mission and living in Colombia with having our babies… Adopting our Colombian babies. That was no longer an option (you can see our adoption story to see all the details on that.) We decided it was time for adoption and kids now. And hey – surprise we have babies. Not one, but 2. Makai’o and Amaris our beautiful and wonderful children.
Now Colombia comes up about every week. When we think of it, when we talk to our friends, when we email, when we listen to my friends’ radio station ZonaJ Radio. Now this week was an awesome week my Colombian brother, Andres, is here in Canada and we were able to have dinner together. I generally stayed with his family when visiting Colombia (though he is now married with a 5 month old daughter, Violeta). He is the co-founder of an incredible movement of Christ Followers in the city of Armenia called Zona J (J standing for jovenes, jovenes meaning youth. The Youth Zone). Their ministry is now being supported by LAM (Latin America Mission) and he was here meeting with churches and different supporters to tell Canadians what amazing things are going on with this movement. Along with him came Jacob Paul who is now a missionary living in Armenia working along side Zona J and a church in Armenia. I’ve known Jacob since 2000 when his church sent a mission trip the same summer that the Colombians were here. Our families actually knew each other from way back when my family lived in London but we became friends and he ended up returning to Colombia with my family once and we always had the love of Colombia in common….
First ZonaJ and what they do – (more details to come – I just need to translate it into English)
On Tuesday when we all had dinner and the evening together, Andres, Jon and Jacob were talking technology and talking ZonaJ and then Colombia and us coming to Colombia and being part of ZonaJ and how we had a lot of the skills that were necessary. Our youth ministry experience and Jon’s media knowledge and so much more. It was crazy how useful we could be with my experience running a youth drop in centre here in Hamilton – and being a female (as most of their team is males) and Jon with his video based media knowledge.
This past Tuesday has re-sparked our interest and dream to move to Colombia. What was proposed that we would do a short term project – like Jon teaching a video editing course. So that would be a one month course… So it would have us in Armenia for probably 6 weeks. About a week getting into the swing of things, a week teaching the course, and then another week of “vacation” at the end of the time. The proposed time was January 2012. 14 months away. It would be a great trial run to see if we could be there longer term. At the time Amaris would be 28 months and Makai’o would be 3.5 years old. Then I guess we could go from there. It was one of the best evenings I have had in AGES… Just the opportunity, the invitation, the chance. It was glorious.
My love for Colombia. It’s still here. My dream to live in Colombia – more alive than ever. My planning and administrative side of me – moving a mile a minute.
That’s this week in the Williams Family.