Wednesday was an amazing day for all of us; life-changing for some of us. During the day, the team travelled up the mountainside to a public school where we delivered our presentation to the entire assembled school. In the evening, we split the team and part of us accompanied the YWAM workers on their regular Wednesday service mission to the poorest of the poor in Medellín.
The day started with a bus ride up weaving and amazingly steep roads. As you look out onto the mountains surrounding Medellín, you see thousands of red-brick buildings spread up the slopes like fingers reaching to the summit. It was among these “developments” that we were headed. The farther up we travelled, the more run down and poor the barrios became. The roads and sidewalks would, in some places, run at a 30-35 degree slope in front of the buildings. But buses regularly run these narrow streets and our driver negotiated the route with nonchalance. We arrived at the school nearly 30 minutes late and, for the first time on our trip other than at the airport, being on-time mattered. The school runs double sessions and they were going to divide the first session into two groups, the younger (grades K-5) and the older (grades 6-12). But because we were late, they chose to assemble the entire school to see our presentation. One after another, the groups of children were paraded onto the soccer court that was protected from the day’s rain by a corrugated metal roof. To these poor kids, we were like rock stars. Many of them had likely never had a group of Americans come to their school. They watch American TV shows and listen to American music all the time but actually being able to see and speak with American students (and even us adults) was a real treat for most of them. By the time they were ready for us, there were easily 500+ kids, teachers and administrators assembled. It was loud and chaotic, but somehow the teachers were able to corral the students into lines by grade level and sit them all down. We had been told that the school was only interested in us speaking to them about morals and clean living and that we should avoid any overt “religious” themes. This type of request is so difficult to interpret. In some places, this means that if you mention Jesus, you may be asked to leave and it may jeopardize the opportunity for future groups to gain access to the school. In other places, it simply means that you can say whatever you want just make sure you speak about morals and clean living because the greatest problems facing the students stem from immorality and drug abuse. Some of our adults who are on this trip have never had the opportunity to speak before large crowds. Kevin had been encouraging Dawn F., Marshall C., and Jeanna S. to work up a short speech to introduce and/or close out various parts of our presentation (we utilize three dramatic presentations and a sketch board story). Each one of them prepared for and delivered a great message. It’s great to see people step outside of their comfort zones and stand up boldly—especially on mission. Delivering the elements of our presentation proved to be a huge challenge at the morning session for a number of reasons. First, the sound system continued to cut off. Then our megaphone (plan B) ran out of battery power. We were, for much of the time, reduced to hollering while the noise level of the children would often rise such that it was nearly impossible to be heard. The second challenge was related to our initial anxiety over what exactly we could and couldn’t say. Just before we began the first drama, a woman was seated over to our right. We were told that she was the Secretary of Education for Medellín. We later found out that she was an emissary from the Secretary’s office sent specifically to hear first-hand what we had to say. We were concerned that she would report back that our presentations were to religious and that this would jeopardize the chances of YWAM ever getting into that or any other school in Medellín again. As the presentation went on, it became clear that the assembled crowd of kids from 5 – 18 was too wide a spread of ages to hold on to everyone’s attention, especially with the sound system cutting in and out. We were thinking that the entire morning was turning into one large train wreck. But we found out later in the day that this was not-at-all the case. We chose to punt on the sketch board (which turned out to be a wise decision). The final drama was “The Clincher” which is a skit that depicts one man’s struggle with sin and how the sin that beats him down is defeated once and for all by Jesus. The skit involves some pretty intense choreographed fighting that is intended to depict spiritual warfare. Our kids have this down to a science and it is always a big “hit” with the crowds. This crowd was no different.
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