Steve Bartel and Evie Leon independently receive a clear call of God to minister among the “gamines” (street children) in Colombia. They married in 1974.
While on a short term missions trip to Colombia, Steve and Evie share their vision at the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) base in Bogotá.
The YWAM Bogotá leadership council senses from the Lord that a ministry among the street children should be initiated. Steve and Evie are invited to lead the ministry but are not released by the Lord to come. Lizbeth Buriticá begins the ministry with an intercession group composed of eight Christian women.
The prayer phase leads the group to investigate the needs and existing programs for street children. Weekly visits to the street people are begun, and the Gospel is presented to them.
Steve and Evie arrive. The group of Christians is now consistently evangelizing about eighty street people at Bogotá’s National Park on a weekly basis.
The street children’s ministry team is joined by Venetia Rumbold, founder of Project Restoration. In joint ministry the evangelization of the squatter communities above the YWAM center is begun. A small house is built for a family, and three local churches result. Street Children’s Ministry officially receives its first child in residence. Police harassment forces the street meetings indoors. A house is rented in the center city for The Other Way phase. A farm for the Restored Heritage rural phase is purchased in the neighboring village of La Calera, fifteen minutes from the outskirts of Bogotá.
Star of Hope, a Swedish charity, gives the ministry two houses. One, close to the city center, becomes the home for the transition phase The Oasis. The other is too far away to be practical, and is loaned for several years to another ministry amongst drug addicted prostitutes. The first house at The Restored Heritage is completed.
Star of Hope and the Swedish International Development Agency buy the house for The Other Way.
An alternative school for street children who are rejected by normal community schools is begun with two students in attendance. A second house at The Restored Heritage is completed. A larger house near the center city is rented for The Oasis transition phase. The first formal street children’s ministry training school is held with six students. Work with a local church is started to reach a at risk group of families near the center of the city. Several of our children are legally adopted by staff families, kicking off our emphasis on finding permanent Christian families for children who are legally declared abandoned.
The two houses donated by Star of Hope are sold to buy the current house for the school, which by now has twenty five students and is called “Escuela Luz y Vida.” (Light and Life School). All phases continue to grow and some of the staff leave to open similar ministries in the cities of Cartagena, Medellín, and Cali. More Latin American workers came to join the ministry, especially at the Light and Life school
Due to high costs of rent and the need for specialized staff, and no place to house new children long term, The Oasis phase closes. All of the children are moved to the Restored Heritage. Light and Life is reaching its peak at fifty students. A general remodeling of the house begins. Stronger ties are made with other ministries to meet the needs of children who are outside of our work parameters or because of lack of room in our program.
The YWAM work amongst the street community called El Cartucho grows rapidly under the direction of Julian Pereira. A third house for long term re-parenting at the “Heritage” is begun. Due to security problems in the country, foreign volunteer building teams cancel their visits. The construction is on hold. VIVA network is established in Colombia under the leadership of Carlos and Nancy Bernal, with YWAM being on the founding board. The Continued Education program is started through the Light and Life School. Colombian sponsorships of our children begins through the Foursquare Church.
A second formal training school of 40 hours duration over three weeks is held in Bogotá, is open to non YWAM personnel, and blesses many other ministries who are also working with children at risk. One hundred sixty people attend. Of those, forty attend an expanded program totaling 100 hours of instruction. We receive a donation for a new bus to transport children and staff.
Another training school is held, this time with 300 hours of instruction and 300 hours of practicum, over 12 weeks. Ten full time students attend, with others attending part time or to several Saturday seminars. This school is also open to non YWAM personnel. YWAM Street Children’s Ministry formally joins a working group composed of VIVA Network, Christ for the City, Compassion International, Tearfund, and World Vision to develop strategies to sensitize the nation to the plight of the children at risk.
Our first ministry youth graduate from High School. We enter into a contract to buy the three houses located on the 127th street in Bogotá over two years. The training school for Workers of Children at Risk (WWCR) is run in the 127th premises. The Oasis phase opened full time in one of the houses in the 127th premises under the supervision of Alex Peña. The remodeling of the Light and Life school including the construction of the third floor is completed.
Light and Life school is formally registered with the ministry of Education in Colombia. The ministry is extended through Steve Bartel teaching and training both nationally and internationally. The second group of youth graduates from High School. Several Colombian based businesses, some non-Christian, develop funding programs to match donations with employees who want to sponsor our children.
While maintaining its YWAM ties internally and its Christian foundations and identity, for legal reasons Street Children’s Ministry receives its own legal status under the umbrella of the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF). The new legal name is Corporación Formando Vidas, or Shaping Lives. Several of our graduates and younger staff opt to complete Discipleship Training Schools (DTS). Jessica and Lilia receive visas to attend the DTS in Fiji and Texas, respectively as their English language skills are adequate. Julian Pereira and his wife Yulexi begin a community discipleship work in the inner city slum known as San Bernardo. Several more children are legally adopted, bringing the total to fifteen.
The 127th Street properties are paid off. Attending High School graduations for former street children that have grown-up with us becomes commonplace. We informally open our Eagles phase, helping the young adult graduates ease back into society in a positive way. Steve Bartel is invited to teach on children at risk at several schools and conferences throughout the Americas, Europe, and in India. Construction is re-activated on our third large house at the Heritage.
Formando Vidas is incorporated in the United States in order to receive tax-deductible donations. Steve Mickler is our USA representative. More of our young people graduate, go to Discipleship Schools (one in the USA), or begin employment. We contract to buy the 4.3 hectares (10 acres) adjoining the Heritage.
The Friendship and Trust team make their first venture into Colombianita to build up relationships with the children there. Colombianita is a slum situated in the city center. It is about 150 yards of semi-chaotic shacks constructed out of wooden boards, scrap metal, corrugated roofing material. Most of the people who live there work as recyclers. Andy Ward becomes coordinator of the street team Friendship and Trust, and the Other Way. The 10 acres of land adjoining the Restored Heritage is purchased. A church team from Texas builds an adventure playground at the Restored Heritage.
The fifth Children At Risk (CAR) School runs bilingually. Three of the ministry children complete Discipleship Training Schools (DTS), two in Colombia and one in Uruguay. An agreement is made to purchase a new building for the Other Way and an auditorium for recreational use by the children, called The Jungle. Several volunteers come from The United States, England and Venezuela. We see the fruits of the relationships built in Colombianita as the majority of the children in the Light and Life school and the Other Way are from this area.
This was a year of babies! 3 babies were brought into the ministry in both long-term and short-term care at the Restored Heritage.
God did alot during these years! Many of our young people graduated from high school and went on either to attend a discipleship training school, university studies, technical training, or are working to save for their studies. God provided abundantly to be able to fully pay off The Other Way buildings. Alot of construction has been done at The Oaks house and is almost ready for a few staff members to live on the first floor. The Jungle Club has grown to an average of about 130 children per Saturday.