Christmas in a Shoe Box

10:54 AM   //   by Joe McWilliams   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Olga, a strong supporter of Formando Vidas and a parent of an adopted Colombian, is trying to make the Christmas of 69 children in the ministry better than ever. She is collecting financial donations but also specific gifts for children. If you happen to get the name of an older child, feel free to enclose a note, picture of you/your family and or a Christmas card. That would add a personal touch. If you are interested in giving, fill out the form below and Olga will contact you with more details about the child you will be buying a gift for and how to get the gift to them.

The deadline is November 18th!


September at Light and Life

08:42 PM   //   by cpaez   //   Blog, Light and Life  //  No Comments

By Annie Blakeslee

September has been a busy month here at Luz y Vida. In Colombia, September is the month of “amor y amistad”- love and friendship, a less romantic, couples’ oriented holiday than the closest American equivalent of Valentine’s day. In the weeks leading up to love and friendship day, we played secret pals and on Friday the 16th, we had a celebration, complete with chocolate cupcakes and a final gift to our secret pal. To help the kids actually live out what it means to be a good friend, and not just give their secret pal a piece of candy every day, in our devotion each morning the theme was how to be a true friend. All of the teachers took turns sharing with the students what the Bible says about friendship and love.

Passing out secret pal gifts/La repartición de los regalos del amigo secreto


Update on Break-In

01:09 PM   //   by Joe McWilliams   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Thank you for your prayers as we work in repairing the house and replacing all the stolen things. The house was made secure again by installing security bars on the inside. The windows now don’t open but it is secure. The locks were changed in both the house and the auditorium. Today the Other way team is praying through the house and started cleaning it. The most urgent things to replace is the gas pipes, the stove and kitchen utensils, microwave, the craft materials and storage boxes. The books on how to teach different crafts and Bible themes are the saddest loss for the team.

Please pray that through this the team can be a witness in the neighbourhood. It is suspected that the main thieves were from the drug house next door.

A U-turn

11:24 AM   //   by cpaez   //   Blog, Visitors  //  No Comments

By Johana Parker and Emily Garrett

My name is Angie Johana Mantilla Parker. I come from a very humble and dysfunctional family. My parents are not from Bogotá; they arrived here in search of a new destiny, but the truth is that, due to drugs and “the easy life,” we ended up living in the run-down city center by the time I was three. My dad spent several years in jail for robbery, but when he was released he returned to the streets, to my mom, and to a chaotic lifestyle.

Johana with her husband and biological family/Johana con su esposo y familia biológica


Pray for The Other Way

06:35 PM   //   by Joe McWilliams   //   The Other Way  //  No Comments

Yesterday thieves broke into The Other Way and stole everything including gas pipes from the walls, books, toys, chairs, tables, kitchen supplies, bookshelves, clothing, school supplies. Windows and security bars were broken as they entered the building. One of the secuirty bars was even stolen.

We are so thankful for God’s protection and provision through this but please continue to pray for the security of the building. The keys to The Jungle and The Other Way were stolen and we are working to change the locks on both as quickly as possible.

God uses all things for good

02:29 PM   //   by Joe McWilliams   //   Blog, Visitors  //  2 Comments

by Scott Smyer

Several years ago I performed at the Bigfoot Comedy night that raised money for Formando Vidas. I love doing comedy so this was an easy and fun way to contribute to missions without actually having to go. Just keeping it real!

I was told that the proceeds went to help pay for a building, called the Jungle, that would serve as a safe place for the kids to come in a play. Basically, it is a safe place for the kids to come and hang out and have the childhood that poverty took away from them.

That’s all I knew.


The Return

09:26 PM   //   by Joe McWilliams   //   Blog, Visitors  //  No Comments

I’m standing at the park the day after I get back from Colombia with my beloved dog, Cooper. It doesn’t smell like Colombia and it certainly doesn’t look like Colombia. The grass is well groomed and each house is kept up to the unspoken standard of my subdivision. I try to reorient myself but this isn’t the place I grew up in. Colombia is still with me. I can still smell the urine and human feces in the less fortunate areas of Bogotá. I can still imagine riding on a bus hearing people next to me talking in Spanish. I can still taste the hot chocolate. My fourth time coming back isn’t any easier than the first.

Joe filming on the streets of Bogotá

Every time I ask somebody about a trip they took to an impoverished area they generally have very little to say. They tell me it’s hard to explain. I couldn’t agree more. Poverty isn’t an occurrence or an event that happens once or twice, it’s a way of life. That’s something that is nearly impossible to grasp until you have experienced it with every sense of your body, even if it’s just for a week. So, for the people who have trouble seeing the point in traveling all over the world when people are hurting in our own country: I hear you. It’s not something everybody has a heart for and I completely respect that. Do whatever you can to help your community. They need you. I’ll do the same as long as I’m here because where I am in the world won’t automatically built more character in me. I have to know how to reach the needy from my heart. That means doing it wherever and whenever. Read more >>

The Tolerance Zone

12:59 AM   //   by Joe McWilliams   //   Blog  //  No Comments

by Stephen Otis

Sara and I get off the Transmi (Bogota bus) stop. The air is cleaner than normal. Yesterday was trash day. Myriads of government workers came out in droves to sweep and bag. Day before that, the recyclers emerged, towing their carts to collect what is earning the most this week: paper. In the city’s eye, they are the necessary vultures. Face to face, they are ignored, but silently their existence is appreciated. Seldom do you see their eyes, hidden beneath a cast down gaze, or sunken into a full head of matted hair.

A Transmilenio bus in Bogotá

We walk a few blocks to the edge of  “Santa Fe” Barrio. I am excitable. I am curious. I check the corners, look down streets. Bums sleep on the sidewalks. Remnants of picked through trash sticks on the gutter gates. The buildings are proud on the outside. Not long ago, the government, in attempts to clean up the city, came through many neighborhoods like this (too many to count) and painted them. A white washed tomb motif best describes them. They look decent on the outside. But on the inside, poverty, disease, prostitution, crack halls, and abuse reigns. People are packed into tiny rooms. Sheets separate doorways. What should be ten people living in a hallway finds thirty, forty, even fifty. The ceilings are leaking. Children rub their noses in filth constantly. They make play dates with the mice. One of Sara’s students at Otro Camino (The Other Way), named Zemeires, is one of eleven children. Her mom is pregnant. The family is eighteen in all. They live in a room in one of these halls. Some of the buildings still lie in rubble from the war.  Would take more than paint to cover these memorials to the violence that happened just a decade ago. Read more >>

Lilia’s Story

09:24 PM   //   by Joe McWilliams   //   Blog  //  1 Comment

Seeing Formando Vidas’ street children’s ministry in  Bogotá, Colombia through the life of one of it’s children.

One day a street girl excitedly told me about a group of Christians who came out in to the streets handing out hot chocolate and sandwiches. When I met them, I couldn’t get over their genuine happiness at being with us!

One of my earliest recollections is of my mother and father fighting… and then my father trying to burn my crib! Even so, when I had to choose between the two, I chose my father, because I’d never remembered my mother spending any time at all with me.

My mother was brutally assassinated on the streets when I was just six years old. Rumor has it that her killers were a death squad, out trying to “clean up the streets.” My Dad, suffering the loss, went deeper into drugs… heavy drugs… from which he’s never recovered. No one else would take care of me, so Dad and I lived, breathed, ate and slept out on the sidewalks and in the inner city alleys of Bogotá, Colombia. Read more >>