-BY TOM ATWATER
The Street Child Who Turned Our Lives Upside-Down
1995 in Cartagena, Colombia
On a balmy Colombian summer night in 1995, my girlfriend Jen and I were walking along the cobblestone streets of the old city of Cartagena, Colombia where I had accepted a job teaching English as a Second Language. Suddenly, up ahead we saw what appeared to be a brown paper bag lying ahead of us on the sidewalk. Approaching it, Tom lifted his foot, ready to kick it out of our way, when we saw to our disbelief that it was actually a young child sleeping on the sidewalk!
We stood there for several moments, considering our options. Should we bring him back to our hacienda? Would that be even worse for him, knowing a soft bed for one night and then having to return to the streets? Would that possibly endanger us? Not knowing what else to do, we emptied our pockets and slipped the money underneath him. After a few moments, we walked away from that young child with our hearts forever changed, awakened to the reality of the miserable lives of street children.
So much happened over the years following that unforgettable evening: college degrees (five between the two of us!), marriage, the births of our three beautiful biological children, satisfying and successful careers in music and IT, a beautiful home, and family and friends that we loved. However, the image of that child on the streets never left us, and the seed that had been planted gradually grew roots which took a firm hold in our hearts.
Over those years God moved in incredible ways that rocked our world and strengthened our faith. He brought us to the place in our lives where we were ready to let go of everything that was familiar and comfortable, and move to Colombia to live and serve Him. As I write, we have been living in Medellin, Colombia, since 2011, serving hundreds of the city’s most vulnerable children and families as Directors of Fundación Viento Fresco (2011-2018), and now 911 Life Ministries, which we founded in July, 2018.
Only God could have known the comfort, joy, and satisfaction we would experience in giving up the ‘security’ of the American lifestyle. Also, He is the giver of the best of gifts, and from the start, arriving in Medellin felt like ‘coming home’. We are SO very thankful for our loving family and friends all over the world, who consistently uphold us so faithfully in prayer coverage. Your prayers are working!
We believe God has big plans for the children and families here in Medellin and throughout Colombia, and we are honored to join our brothers and sisters in Christ as together we watch Him break down the barriers of violence, poverty, and wickedness in the lives and families of these children, replacing them with innumerable blessings instead!