Steve & Evie Bartel

The Bartel Household

Coming from a heritage of several generations of missionaries, Steve Bartel was born in the midst of a civil war in Colombia, South America. His parents, Harry and Martha Bartel, living under constant threats of persecution and death for being Christian missionaries, named their new son Steven… thinking, perhaps, of the hundreds of Christians being martyred for their faith throughout the nation in 1953.

At the age of seven, Steve’s second grade teacher asked the class to draw a picture of what they wanted to do when they grew up. While other boys drew fire engines and police cars, Steve drew a jungle Indian village with a small helicopter overhead. He explained that he wanted to be the missionary pilot, bringing the good news of Jesus to those who didn’t know Him. Little did he know that this initial call to missions would help determine the rest of his life. During his childhood, Steve had several encounters with the infamous “gamines,” or street children, of Bogota. Though he frequently fixed jam sandwiches for the beggars who came to the door, several times the street kids stole Steve’s toys as he played outside, threatened to beat him up, and required him to buy his own toys back. There was very little love for the children in his heart! Steve’s family moved to the United States when he was 13 years old, settling in Chula Vista, California, where his parents continued their missions work into Mexico. Two years later, during a youth group soccer game, Steve met Evie, a vivacious “chicana” (Mexican American) with a deep love for children, a gift for compassion, and a call of God to the mission field in Latin America from the time she was 12 years old. Evie had been especially sensitive to the plight of children from broken families, or whose parents really didn’t want to be bothered by their children. As a teenager, Evie often babysat these babies and toddlers for long hours each day, often praying earnestly over them while they were in her care. A summer job with the Youth Conservation Corps, blazing trails in the mountains, felling trees, moving boulders, and killing rattle snakes helped prepare Evie for her future missions work with Steve, often in uncomfortable conditions. When Steve was 19 years old, a challenge from Loren Cunningham led him to a personal altar where God clearly called him to return to Colombia and begin to restore the street children. This was a great surprise! Steve asked God to confirm this call, which He gradually did through a series of events. For several reasons, this call was a secret, unknown even to Evie. That summer, Steve visited the street children in Colombia, asking God to put a true love for them into his heart. God again granted his plea. Returning to university and without breaking the secret to Evie, Steve quietly changed his university major to Education. Ten months later, still without knowing Steve’s calling, Evie herself clearly heard from God in a vision to dedicate her life to restoring the same children! She decided to major in Nursing. (It’s a long and beautiful story). When Steve and Evie married in 1974 they fully expected to pack up and leave for Colombia within a year or two. But God did not allow it until ten years later! During that time Steve taught in Christian and public schools and finished up a Master’s degree in Educational Administration. Evie received her Registered Nurse’s license, and they began work commitments at San Diego Unified School District and Kaiser Hospital. Karisa (born 1977) and Joshua (1980) blessed their home. In 1981, while signing the commitment to buy their third house, God finally released them to the mission field. But even so, Colombia was closed due to the assassination of Chet Bitterman, a Wycliffe missionary. Steve and Evie went to Greece instead, and joined the Anastasis, a mercy ship with Youth With A Mission, while they waited for the opportunities to open up again in Colombia.. The two years aboard the Anastasis were a turning point for Steve and Evie, as they learned life principles that would carry them through the troubled times ahead in Colombia. Through various experiences (the miracles of fish jumping out of the ocean, flies swarming for months disappearing within minutes due to prayer, two “death of a vision” experiences, the love of a community of Christians through the miscarriage of two babies, etc.), Steve and Evie were tempered for a ministry of serving others and mutually submissive leadership. They finally arrived in Colombia in 1984. Over the years, the ministry among the street children has grown until it is now a seven stage fully integrated approach to changing the children’s lives forever, mostly by the ultimate means of the restoration of a long term Christian family for each child. The seven stages, now led and carried out by 25+ mostly Latin American full time staff members, include: street and ghetto evangelism, a drop in center and crisis shelter, a half way house, a transition school, long term re-parenting homes, family restoration, and “follow through” as former street children who’ve grown to be young adults enter mainstream society. Each stage has had it’s own adventure, and is the source of many exciting stories! Being held up at knifepoint, being both victims and friends of gun toting urban gangs, receiving guerilla threats by telephone, missing drug Mafia bomb blasts by minutes, finding themselves again in crossfire of Colombia’s latest civil wars between the guerillas, paramilitaries, and government soldiers, hiding from danger in a house of prostitution, seeing ruined lives changed and worshipping the Lord… all of these keep Steve and Evie, and their team, at the forefront of excitement as they strive to complete God’s will. During this time two more children were born to Steve and Evie: Yohanna (1983) and Luke (1986). David came to their home in 1991 as a three month old, very sick baby, and was joyfully adopted in 1993.  Sara came to live with their family when she was 10 months old and Juana when she was 6 months old. Both girls although a long process were both adopted into their family. Steve and Evie have pioneered and led almost all of the seven stages, though the most costly emotionally has been the one of long term re-parenting. Since 1985, their family home has hosted street children, usually between 8 and 12 kids at a time, from tiny infants to teenagers, living with their own seven children. Steve is now called “Papito Stevan” (little dad Steve), and Evie is called “Mamita Evi” (little mom Evie). Since these children don’t have other families that care for them, Evie, especially, is considered “Mom” by over a hundred grateful “children” of all ages. Because street kids cannot be forever changed with quick fix solutions or short term ministry, Steve and Evie have committed the rest of their lives to restoring the kids… and to facilitating opportunities for other Christians to be able to restore them as well. Among their passions is the recruitment and development of committed staff and associates for theirs and other ministries, especially of Christian families who will permanently adopt sibling groups of street children. Steve is involved in frequent travels to sensitize Christian churches towards the plight of the children and the Biblical mandate to reach them, while pioneering training seminars and schools for Christians with a call of God on their lives to get involved with the kids. He is currently a member of the international training curriculum committee for VIVA Network, (a worldwide network of Christian ministries to children at risk) and is deeply involved in setting up a “Center for Research and Training on Children at Risk” in Bogota, Colombia. Besides training, this center hopes to encourage understanding and advocacy for the children, as well as the questioning and development of church and government policies towards them and their families. To contact Steve and Evie, write to info@colombiastreetkids.org Back to staff page