#TeamColombia 3.16.19 – Home

We flew home today! It all started around 3:30am where we all gathered downstairs at the hotel to hop on the bus and head to the airport. We got there, checked our bags, got through emigration and security and headed for the gate where some of us napped for a bit before getting on the plane and flying to Atlanta from Bogotá.

We landed in Atlanta at around 1pm Eastern Time after a nearly 5 hour flight. We had about an hour between landing and boarding of our connection back to Austin – and in that time we needed to get through customs/border patrol, get our bags, check them again and go through security again, and get to our terminal/gate. This doesn’t seem impossible but it took our bags some time to come out, but once they did everything went fine and we even had time to grab food.

We ate and boarded our flight to Austin (except for Brad and Gracie who went to a different flight to meet their families in Colorado for spring break) and flew home. It was a quick 2 hour flight home and we landed just before 4pm Central Time.

In the blink of an eye our trip is over and It feels like just yesterday we were at this airport taking our first picture with the flag. Now, a week later and we’ve come back as better people than when we’ve left. God has done incredible things this week and it’s been amazing to see our group work together and grow stronger bonds with each other as well as touch the lives of the many kids in Bogotá this week that we had the opportunity to visit.

Speaking personally, this was absolutely one of the best weeks of my life if not THE best. I can’t be more thankful for the opportunities that GOweek brings to Hyde Park students. It’s a special thing that I hope Hyde Park continues to do forever.

Thanks for reading the blog this week!

Landon Smith

#TeamColombia

#TeamColombia 3.15.19 – Nuevo Futuro + Exploring Bogotá

Today was the finale of our trip to Bogotá.

We started with breakfast and then headed out for the day.

We started by driving out to two different places – but both were part of the same program – Nuevo Futuro. These homes house girls who are going to go to the Dream Home (which we visited on Sunday) in the future. We got to see the homes and heard the story of a girl that is preparing to go to The Dream Home. (We went to a bakery in between the two NF homes. I think we all might be a little sick of empanadas at this point – we’ve had so many)

We wrapped up at Nuevo Futuro and afterward we went to eat lunch at a sandwich place nearby. After that we went to a marketplace in Bogotá that had all kinds of cool stuff – from mugs to Rubik’s Cubes to shirts to hats to keychains to masks to instruments and ALL kinds of stuff. We shopped for a while and then went to our final stop for the day.

This was awesome.

After waiting a little while to get tickets, and riding up the mountain, we got to the top of Mount Monserrate. Up here we got an incredible view of the city and took lots of pictures – check em out when you finish reading!

We then ended with dinner and for some, a quick run to the grocery store.

Our group did not know each other well when we left for Bogota but tomorrow we return to Austin a family. We fly out at 7:20am. Please pray for our safe travels!

Thanks for reading!

Landon Smith

#TeamColombia 3.14.19 – Salt Cathedral

Happy Pi day!

We began this morning with breakfast and headed for the grocery store immediately after. We then headed for the bus and headed towards our destination for the day!

After a long drive, including traffic and jamming out to Don’t Stop Believing and Livin’ On A Prayer as a group, we arrived in Zipaquirá, Colombia at the Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá (Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá). This is an underground cathedral where 3,000+ people come every Sunday! Everything is made of some kind of salt/rock (except a couple places with marble and other materials) and there are roughly 20 stations that tell stories about the life of Jesus Christ. Every station had a twist to it and when we went into the caves we were given little radio type things to hear descriptions from each station (thankfully in English).

We walked throughout the caverns and were able to buy souvenirs before leaving the Salt Cathedral. We got some cool pictures – check them out after you finish reading!

We then went to lunch at a place a few minutes away from the Salt Cathedral and had a good meal – again accompanied by music, like dinner on Tuesday night! After we were done with lunch we headed to another place to get some dessert, and then we drove back to Bogotá.

The drive back was especially fun. Almost the entire ride, almost everyone in the car was in on playing some games with each other – my personal favorite was one where you would point at someone and ask them a completely random question (along the lines of “why are you built like a cheez-it” or something completely bogus like that) but they don’t answer – instead ask someone else in the group another random question. It’s a little hard to explain, but if you got asked and didn’t have a question ready to ask someone else or if you got stuck and didn’t say anything/asked someone who was already out, then you were out. It got really funny and it was really fast paced.

Once we got back we rested at the hotel for about a half hour before heading to the Andino Centro Comercial (Andino Mall) to hang out, shop and eat. Some ate at the mall and some went out to eat at a sandwich place after we were at the mall. Eventually everyone was back at the hotel and we are now in our rooms ready to get to bed.

Tomorrow is the finale of our trip before our departure on Saturday morning. We plan to visit one more home and do a couple more touristy things. Please pray that our last day goes well and we get enough sleep tomorrow night to support getting up at 4am to fly out!

Thanks for reading!

Landon Smith

#TeamColombia 3.13.19 – La Casa de La Madre y El Niño

Day 5: It’s rewind time.

We got to sleep in today, if you count 8am or so as sleeping in. We got up and had breakfast and a student led devotional from Molly, Ryan and Nick. We then headed for the bus and drove to our first destination of the day.

Our first stop was La Casa de La Madre y El Niño (Casa 2), a home for boys and girls that have been selected for adoption – they stay there for the months ahead of their move to their new home. We got to hang out with these kids for a couple hours and tour their home. It was probably the nicest we’d seen yet – the rooms were more personalized with stuffed animals, etc, and they were colorful too! These kids told us about their families they were about to be a part of, and told us where they were headed, too – some to the United States! We played ping pong, arm wrestled, packed snacks for them, and got to know them – seeing these kids so happy and full of hope for the future was so great!

We walked the kids out to their bus so they could go to school and we headed out to a mall for lunch! We ate at a restaurant that had a large variety of different foods, from sushi to salads, and after lunch we explored the mall for an hour or so before meeting back up and heading to our next stop.

Around 3pm, we arrived at La Casa de La Madre y El Niño (Casa 1), a home for boys and girls with a high level of care. Here, we started by learning about the home and meeting the kids! We were divided into groups and we all went and did things with the kids – played with them on the playground, worked on homework with them, or held them – there was one age group that was special in particular – babies! And members of our team went in to help feed them, hold them and care for them. It was adorable.

Towards the end of our visit we got to hear the stories of five kids in particular in more detail, and hearing what they had gone through rocked our worlds. These kids that we met today are so strong and fierce. They show so much love and care and they were all over us while we were there. They loved on us as if we were family even from the first moment they saw us.

One detail we got was that these kids live the same lives every day. Not a lot of exciting things happen. Same people every day, same school, same activities. So for something so exciting to happen to them today is a real blessing – memories that will last a lifetime for these kids.

In tears and full of emotions, we departed Casa 1 and headed for dinner. We ate at El Carnal and had Mexican food. It was great – and long story short, Nutella on top of a cheese quesadilla is not as bad as you think.

We then headed back to the hotel, after hitting the ATM, debriefed, prayed, and went to our rooms.

Tomorrow we get to do some sightseeing! Please pray for our safe travels around the Bogota area! We can’t believe this trip is flying by so quickly – we are loving it.

Thanks for reading,

Landon Smith

This wall at Casa 1 shows kids who have gone through the home. Many hallways are filled with photos like this

#TeamColombia 3.12.19 – Los Pisingos

Today was Day 4 of our journey!

It began with our routine of breakfast and devotional – this time, the devotional was student led by Arianna, Cristian (who wants to be called Zach for some reason) and myself. We got to eat breakfast on the patio outside surrounded by plants – it was lovely! From there, our ride met us on the street and we headed for the destination at which we would spend our day.

From their website: “Los Pisingos was created in May 1968 by a group of 22 couples who decided to join efforts to develop social outreach activities.” The boys and girls we worked with today have families but come because many public schools are very full, or they have disabilities/are getting occupational therapy. Their families often come to support them while they’re at LP during the day and we got to meet some of the parents.

We started off learning about the place from Daniel, who has worked there for 6 years. He gave us info about how much the place has improved over the years – including the fact that they were about to shut down, but then they partnered with AGCI and were able to get everything together and go further beyond in their program than ever.

Then we started working with the kids! We started with finger paintings (this will come up again later) and then we went outside and planted some flowers with the kids.

After doing that we had lunch, again being the same “official soup of bogota” as yesterday – and again it was a big hit with the group. After lunch we went back outside and played some games with the kids – including Duck Duck Goose (which got really competitive) and Cops and Robbers! While we were playing cops and robbers, the girls were working on painting a mural on one of the walls (photo below) that ended up looking great!

Finally, we ended our time at Los Pisingos up at the field/playground area and did a variety of things, including sack racing, jumping rope, and playing baseball just to make a few! We then went and took a group photo with the kids and they ended up giving us the finger paintings that we worked with them on earlier in frames – such a nice thing for them to do because while we made memories, we now have something tangible.

We departed Los Pisingos with hugs and love from the kids, and went up a nearby mountain to explore – and this ended up blowing our minds. We got to see a look at how the people live up there – including homes that have hardly any structure, and hills and stairs that make us tired just by looking at them. It opened our eyes as to what poverty in Colombia looks like compared to what our lives back in Texas look like.

We then went to dinner at Las Acacias, where we were treated to music from four awesome musicians who were very great players and a great meal! We separated our team into four groups and got to talk about a lot of things and team build a bit!

Following dinner we went back to our hotel, went over our day and went to our rooms. We are ready to go to sleep and get ready for tomorrow! Please continue to pray for us and our ability to make the days of the kids we are blessed to meet!

(P.S. – my amazing friend Elizabeth encouraged me to try blood sausage but i didn’t know it was blood sausage until after i tried it and now i have trust issues)

(P.P.S. the girls will finally be watching the season finale of The Bachelor tonight and they can finally stop avoiding spoilers from Milan)

(P.P.P.S. Brad buried a dead bird)

Thanks for reading!!

– Landon Smith

#TeamColombia 3.11.19 – Home Visits

Day 3 of our Bogota trip has concluded. Let’s recap!

This morning we started by eating breakfast and having a devotional. We then headed out and went shopping…

…drumroll please…

…just for groceries. We got snacks and water from the store and proceeded to hang out outside the store for a bit before heading to our destination for the day.

We arrived at a home for boys aged 6-18 – an institution that holds children that aren’t in a family home. Some of boys still have families, though, and are either visited by them on Fridays, or go home with them on the weekends. They’re in the home as a way to distance themselves from a rough family relationship. These guys will stay as a part of the home for 6 months (or more, depending on the circumstances) and go back to their families. 12 orphans live there as well.

When we rolled up, still in the van, the boys led us to two courts – one we used for basketball and one we used for soccer! We played with them for a while – they were very athletic and some goals/baskets they scored made it look so easy. We had a lot of fun playing against/with them, but the altitude of Bogota had some of us more winded than others.

Following our time playing with the guys, we went into one of the two buildings we got to see, and went around and introduced one another to the boys in the home. We got to take a look at how they live – they sleep on bunk beds, which they make themselves and look perfect. The boys go to school in uniforms and, like us, have homework to do at the end of the day.

We then were led to a second building where we had lunch made for us! They prepared soup with corn/chicken in it, alongside rice and avocado. They dubbed it “the official soup of Bogota” and it was a big hit with our group. After lunch, the lady who owns the institution told us more about it, including why she became inspired to get the place together (She told us that she had worked in boy/girl institutions before but she was scared to do one with just boys!).

We then got to paint the walls of the outside area of the top floor of the building! Everyone was equipped with either a brush or a roller and we all had a wall to paint on. Some people also went downstairs to paint something else. Everyone did a great job painting – but Mrs. Messer won’t let go of the fact that her wall upstairs had the absolute best paint job.

When we were done painting we went back downstairs to surprise the kids with some things we got for them – including candy, new soccer balls and more! They were very happy – you could tell by the looks on their faces. The boys we got to meet today were so sweet and understanding of our lack of Spanish speaking – but again, like yesterday, the language barrier isn’t a problem if smiles and laughter stand in front of it.

After we were done there, we came back to the hotel, cleaned up and went to eat dinner at a sandwich place called El Corral. We wrapped up with a conversation about our day, went back to the hotel and went to our rooms.

That concludes day 3! Tomorrow we head to another institution. Please pray for us to make known God’s love to these kids, and for us to convey to them that even if they don’t have an earthly father, they’ll always have a heavenly one that has a grand plan for them!

Thanks for reading!

Landon Smith

Photo via Ryan

Photo via Gracie

Photo via Mrs. Drews

Photo via Mrs. Drews

The basketball/soccer courts!

#TeamColombia 3.10.19 – United Church of Bogota / The Dream Home

Today was the second day of our adventure in Bogota.

We got things started around 9am with a quick devotional, preparing our hearts for the events the day would bring. From there, we walked the streets for a bit (AS A GROUP, parents) before getting in the van and heading to church!

We were all pretty relieved when we pulled up and saw that it is actually an English-speaking church – that’s in the middle of a Spanish-speaking country. We got to attend the service at 10:45am and got to hear a great sermon, a Deacon’s testimony, and we got to see a baby girl get baptized! The church ran things just like a church in the U.S. would – except the music had a little bit of a latin-american spin to it. It was great!

Following the church service, we went to eat lunch at Crepes & Waffles! This place had two stories and we got to sit upstairs and enjoy our meal. The food was great, and so was the service – and we’re surprised the people who served us kept their cool because from spilling water to breaking plates, we were kind of all over the place.

Finally, after lunch, we headed to The Dream Home. This is a place in Bogota that houses 18-24 year old girls living in a home for the first time after living the vast majority if not all of their lives in orphanages and institutions. The girls are working on their college degrees in order to set themselves up for their futures. Some examples of the things they’re working to be are: being a flight attendant, teacher, and an engineer! We got to meet them, get to know them and the girls even danced with them! While the language barrier is a little bit of a wall between us, the smiles and laughter make the language barrier much smaller. Google Translate does too, I guess.

We then came back to the hotel and had dinner, and now at 10:00pm, everyone is headed to bed for an 8:45am start tomorrow!

Please continue to pray for our group as we continue to make memories and touch lives! We are enjoying Bogota and what it has to offer.

Thanks for reading!

Landon Smith

#TeamColombia 3.9.19 – Hello from Bogota!

Hello from Bogota, Colombia!

This morning we met at the airport at 10am or so in Austin, flew to Atlanta and then onwards to Bogota! We’re currently in the van to our hotel – no bags lost and everyone present! It’s 12:30am and we’re ready to get to bed.

We’ll be waking up and going to church in this morning to start our trip! Please pray for our well being as we get used to this new and different environment!

#TeamColombia has arrived!

Thanks for reading!

Landon Smith

3.8.19 – Ready to roll!

After many months of learning about where we’re going, what we’ll be doing, and getting to know each other better, our team is finally heading to Bogotá, Colombia…TOMORROW!!The wait is finally over!

We are beyond excited to see what God has in store for us – and we can’t wait to touch the lives of the people of Bogota!

I’m Landon Smith, a junior at HPHS, and I’ll be keeping you posted (literally) about what we’re up to down in Bogota throughout this week! I’ll be sharing info about our trip each night between now and Saturday, March 16!

Hyde Park is blessed to be able to go out and serve in 11 different countries (including the United States) and 8 different destinations in the United States – not to mention a bunch of different places in Austin alone! So while I encourage you to keep checking out the Colombia blog each night, I also encourage you to look at the blog posts from other teams as our community heads out to serve all over the world.

Again – we are PUMPED, and can’t wait to get started on Sunday morning – only a day of travel stands in our way!

Please pray for safe travels for our team as we prepare our hearts to serve in Bogota!

Thanks for reading!

Landon Smith