Changes on the Inside

08:44 AM   //   by Emily Garrett Peña   //   Blog  //  No Comments

“Before, I didn’t really know God like I do now: in a deeper, personal way.”

This is what one mother expressed to me as she dried her tears after a heart-felt prayer to God. This beautiful lady still struggles with drugs, still lives in terrible conditions, still spends her days looking after people’s parked cars for a few coins an hour. Her years of involvement with Formando Vidas have not drastically changed her exterior.

But she has seen her three children growing up healthy and happy. She arrives to the monthly visit to see her youngest (now a teenager) on a red bicycle that her second son – just graduated from technical college – gave her. And the oldest? She calls frequently, although she is living with her husband, overseas.

4 de Julio 086

This mom and dad, despite their difficult circumstances, arrive with a smile, a hug or warm handshake, and often a funny anecdote. The reflection time at today’s visit allowed us all to see some good and bad events in our year and offer up a prayer for ourselves and the others at our table. She didn’t mention a single bad thing! And her husband’s good events outnumbered the bad!

It is an honor to know them, and to share our joys and struggles around a simple cafeteria table. We may not have made any major external advances in their lives, but they addressed God as “Daddy” in their straightforward prayers, with a clear faith. The internal changes outweigh the external.

Their lives have been transformed, forever.

Johana with her biological family/Johana con su familia biológica

Bridging from Friendship into Action

10:16 AM   //   by Emily Garrett Peña   //   Blog  //  No Comments

by Becka Ridgway

In Cazuca we’ve been working closely with young mums.  We believe God has spoken about taking them to another level, both in their spiritual and daily lives.  God has given us various opportunities and strategies to do this.  In the week we have our ‘Bridge of Friendship’ group this is primarily a group for teenage mums, who come on Wednesday mornings to socialize, study the Bible and do various craft activities.  The hope is to then introduce these women into a second project called ‘Women in Action’.


This project has two facets, on Saturdays a Colombian lady from a local church comes and runs a course focused on sales but with a biblical base.  Seven ladies have just successfully completed the first six-week level and in a couple of weeks they shall start the second level.  We have been very encouraged by the changes we have seen in them, they have grown in self-confidence and in their relationship with God.  The second facet of this project is teach practical sewing skills, many of these women have not completed primary school and so finding jobs can be very difficult for them.  The vision we have is to equip them with the skills to use an industrial sewing machine, so they can either find work as machinist or make quality items to sell at one of the artesian fairs.  We are praying for a committed group of women and a legal power source for the house which houses the machines before we start this!

Please join with us in praying for these young mums and their families.

Choosing another path

12:21 PM   //   by Emily Garrett Peña   //   Blog  //  No Comments


“My sister chose that life, but I choose something different for me.”

Hearing those words from a teenage girl at our after-school program can bring tears to our eyes. Her sister was once involved in our ministry as well. Her sister decided to leave, and one of her many choices was getting involved in prostitution.

Now, this young woman and her classmates are researching adolescent prostitution in Colombia for a school project, and dream of starting up a program to help those girls (and boys) find and choose another path in life.

Three glimpses

10:13 AM   //   by Emily Garrett Peña   //   Blog  //  No Comments

We’re happy to have Mary Hutton back from her long visit home to Australia!  She has arrived full of enthusiasm and is “Unstoppable,” in the Spirit!  We look forward to all that God will continue doing this year through the children’s, youth, and single-mom’s programs in Cazuca neighborhood this year.


The Jungle is getting a “facelift”!  The reconstruction of the stairs and bathrooms is almost complete.  The church that meets there is using the nearby “Other Way” house in the meantime, but the kids are too excited to keep waiting… so we just clean up the construction mess and have the Jungle twice a month anyways!  We’re hoping to start a trial-run of opening for a small number of children after-school.


Our work with the families is expanding this year.  We have a small team of 6 people who have “divided up the families” between themselves, to better reach each group.  Our first workshop was a success, with eight parents attending.  We have interactive parents-and-children workshops planned for this year, along with home visits, discipleship and practical help.


Thanks for your prayers!


01:59 PM   //   by Emily Garrett Peña   //   Blog  //  No Comments

“Formando Vidas exists to honor God and share His love through regenerating street and pre-street children, their families and future generations.”  So says our ministerial vision statement.

The most “obvious” of these three levels is the children themselves.  We usually post stories about what God is doing with them.  On a secondary level, we work with their families.  We have also posted blogs referring to the parent workshops, and family days we hold on a regular basis, in addition to personalized home visits and action plans.  The third group mentioned in our vision are the “future generations.”  You don’t often get to hear stories about them, but today we’ll briefly share one.

About 15 years ago, an adolescent girl came to live in one of Formando Vidas’ homes.  She didn’t last more than a few months, deciding to run away with her boyfriend, and refused to come back, even when Steve Bartel went to get her and bring her home.  The years passed, and she had three children by different men.  Around that time, she re-contacted us, asking for help with her baby girl.  The child started coming to stay in Kiwi House part-tim.  A couple of years later, a son was born.  We came to know and love him as well.

During this time, our staff supported this family in many ways besides caring for two of her children.  We sowed and sowed in their lives and also in the mother’s life… on top of the loving foundation she received as a teen.  Sometimes the kids lived full-time with her, for months.  In other seasons, they came regularly on the weekends.  During moments of crisis, they even stayed in Kiwi for a full year, having monthly visits with their parents like the rest of our children. Then, we began to work with this family toward restoration and stability.

It took more than a year of consistent home visits, phone calls, and “social work” type support, but this January, her children moved back in full-time.  They are in school, she is working and studying esthetics (a life-long dream), their father is growing in responsibility as well. Not a week goes by that our staff doesn’t talk with her on the phone, go visit the house, or receive the kids for their twice-a-month weekend visit.  This story is far from over, and there are others like it.  We love these family’s generations, and seek to honor God as brings new spiritual life along with the physical and emotional improvements we see.

Familia Forero Benavides 25 feb


Starting Off

03:59 PM   //   by Emily Garrett Peña   //   Blog  //  No Comments

new year2015 192
This year is off to a great start!  We’d like to give you a little update about the areas of the ministry and invite you to participate with us through prayer for:

Our dedicated staff of volunteers — health, financial provision, family and friend relationships, deepening in relationship with the Father, and clear guidance for the work here.  That we will be so in-tune with the Holy Spirit that we can speak what we hear him saying and do what we see him doing.

Friends Club – Please pray for the dedicated volunteers and the multitudes of children and teens who attend weekly.  This year we’ll be starting “Women in Action” for mothers to gain job skills as well.  Please pray for spiritual growth and fruit this year.

Camp Gozo — There are 6 camps planned for 2015.  Please pray for the counsellors, speakers, and additional personnel needed to make these camps a success!  Pray for the children and teens who will attend, to be deeply impacted by the Father’s love and joy.

The Jungle — we are averaging 50-70 kids per Jungle Club, which meets every 2nd, 4th, and 5th Saturday.  We are repairing the stairs and bathrooms at this facility — a much-needed rennovation!  Pray for deeper involvement with the children and their families this year, for the safety of children and volunteers.
mar24 1017

Light and Life – This year we are starting out with reduced staff, and only opening for after-school lunch, discipleship, and homework help.  Three of our teens (who have been with us their whole academic careers) are in their senior year of high school: a great achievement!  Please pray for the children and teens to make firm decisions to live for Christ, and for the staff to be filled with and compelled by the Father’s love, refreshed each day.

24-Hour Care — The children are back in school now, each with his or her own challenges and joys.  We have also reestablished some of the children with their biological families, which is a success and a new set of challenges for them and for our staff who are walking out the process with their parents.  There are needs for some physical repairs and remodeling at the houses as well.  Please pray for God’s transforming work — from the inside, out — and for our full-time staff to accurately embody the Father-heart (and Mother-heart) of God in the homes.

Families — Our team is looking for new strategies to better reach the kids’ families this year, in a more individualized way.  Please pray for God’s guidance, for a softening and opening of the parents’ hearts to the gospel, and for spiritual transformation and growth in 2015.


04:08 PM   //   by Emily Garrett Peña   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Two little “monkeys” called out to me from their perches in tree branches, laughing.  Another sped by on a bicycle, and yet another waved before slipping down a tall fireman’s pole in the park. Riding the zipline, climbing trees, hiking through the woods, riding bikes, jumping off of swings… nothing seems to scare these kids, not even going to the dentist!  They are so “brave”!



Of course, there are different definitions of “brave.” Another way of demonstrating courage is being oneself, no matter what social pressures are applied.  That is a very important type of bravery, and one we pray that our children will live out, fearlessly following Jesus and being true to who God created them to be.

Another courageous act is being honest, despite the consequences.  Recently, we have seen kids choosing this brave path:  like one boy admitting that it was he who accidentally knocked over the paint that damaged the new tile floor.  Sometimes there might be a discipline or responsibilities because of their actions, but recognizing one’s faults is such a brave step to take, that we choose mercy as much as possible!

We all need a little more bravery and boldness in some areas of our lives.  As the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 6:19-20, “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” This is our prayer for the kids and young people in Formando Vidas, for we the staff, and also for you, dear brothers and sisters.


The best gift I can give my family…

07:54 PM   //   by Emily Garrett Peña   //   Blog  //  No Comments

… is spending time with them!

To finish up the year, the families team invited all of the parents and their kids to Luz y Vida to make pizza! Each family group spread the tomato sauce, cheese, and other yummy ingredients that they chose, to make a delectable combination that was uniquely theirs.

As they enjoyed the fruits of their labor, we shared a short reflection of how each family is comprised of very different members, just like a pizza’s toppings, but the combination is wonderful!

pizza party 2

        IMG_9384     IMG_9506   IMG_9477      IMG_9531

Pumping up the Joy

12:16 PM   //   by Emily Garrett Peña   //   Blog  //  No Comments

By: Ingrid Letendre

Camp was awesome.  We had 25 girls between the ages of 11-13.  I managed to drive my first time ever in Colombia and in Bogota (which is a lot harder then it seems).  We had an amazing staff.  Two of my older teen girls came to help me out and I was so proud of them.  I remember last October they didn’t even want to come to camp and now they can’t get enough.  They were willing to do anything that I needed help with and they did it with cheerful hearts (which a couple of years ago wouldn’t have been the case), and they were so awesome with the girls.  I couldn’t have been prouder of them.

Camp is really close to my heart (I hope that’s obvious), but I just love seeing these girls smiling and laughing. I love seeming them have pure, innocent fun (something that is so lacking in their lives), I even love seeing them cry, knowing that the walls they have built around their hearts are slowly starting to crumble, that their chains are slowly becoming loosened. I love seeing them form new friendships; I love seeing them getting lots of love from the staff. I love hearing them laugh, even when it is at my expense. I love seeing them putting their all into games and getting so excited when they win. I love seeing them experiencing true joy and I love seeing God’s vision and dream for Camp Gozo being completed in all the kids that have passed through and I am so thankful and so humbled to be a part of it. camp gozo 2 girls 11-13  
And it’s funny really, almost every camp I worry about finances, I worry about staff, I worry about all the little details. But every camp, time and time again God has come through. I know that He is a God that provides, I know that He is a God that wants to lavish His love and joy on His children. I know that He is a God that wants to see hearts drawn to Him and to see lives changed. I know Camp Gozo is something that He has had on His heart since the foundation of the earth. I know that faithful is He who calls me and that He will bring it to pass (1 Thessalonians 5:24), but still I worry and still I doubt. My God is the perfect father and He is not going to hold out on His children. So while God works on all the details of Camp Gozo I will work on trusting Him and resting in Him, resting in who He is, resting in His promises and resting in His faithfulness. He never is going to change and He never is going to let me down.

There is just one more camp to go this year. Boys camp (11-13), November 15-17 THIS WEEKEND! If you want to send a boy to camp you can click on the DONATE button at the top of the page and specify that the funds are for Camp Gozo. camp gozo girls 11-13  
Please pray for energy for this camp. It’s the end of the year and I am pretty drained and ready for a break. Also pray for a partner in crime. All the camp work is too much to do on my own and I end up exhausted. I also need to get better at asking for help, but I would love to have someone to work with that is passionate about camp and about the vision of Camp Gozo.


A day for God’s Glory

02:51 PM   //   by cpaez   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Last Friday we had the opportunity to open the Jungle Club for the kids in the “tolerance zone” neighborhood. As all of you know it was Halloween. Although we don’t celebrate Halloween because we know its background, we take advantage of this day as an opportunity to evangelize, bless, and pray for the kids. That night God brought more than 150 kids and 30 parents with whom to share the gospel. We had an amazing time with them. God provided everything we needed to make it posible: we had hamburgers, ice-cream, jell-o, candies, and cupcakes, as well as more than 30 people that were helping out and praying for the Kids. We want to share with you some pictures of the night, but more important is that you please keep these kids in your prayers. Pray that the seed we planted in the kids will remain and that they can remember that 31 of October is a day to honor God, worship Him and give the glory to Him!