Last week, I again traveled back to Villavicencio to work with the school and the church there. Normally, I spend about one week each month working in our old home town. I enjoy working with the children at the school and trying to help the ones who are having some difficulty in school. I work as the school counselor and I help train our teachers in dealing with learning difficulties and behavioral problems.

In keeping with that work plan, I traveled last Monday back down to Villavicencio. Normally the school administration plans out my schedule long before my arrival. That was the case this past week. On Monday afternoon I began with meetings with the parents of the school children. I work as long as there are parents wishing to speak with me. Normally that keeps me busy till ten or eleven at night.

In the mornings, normally I will get up around 4:30 A.M. as the school begins at 6 A.M. and I like to be there early to greet the children as they arrive. I also normally do the daily devotions when school begins, so I have to be there early for that as well. Once devotions are over, they begin sending the students down to meet with me. The teachers and administrators prioritize the cases based on the severity of the problem.

For example, this past week, one meeting was with a little girl who had arrived with her face swollen and badly bruised. She had too black eyes as well as marks on her legs and arms. She certainly appeared to have been severely beaten. I spoke with her about what had happened. She has not always been good a doing her homework and her mother had become angry and beat her when the little girl was dawdling at some homework due the next day.

Cases such as this one are heart-rending, but need to be dealt with. I sent home a citation for the mother to show up the next morning, which she did. The mother denied beating the little girl and claimed she had gotten into a fight with a playmate. The injuries surpassed what a playmate could have been expected to deliver and contradicted the child’s own story.

I made it clear to the mother that we were there to help her as she tried to deal with the frustrations of having been abandoned by her husband and the stress of trying to provide for and rear a family all alone. I worked with her on proper discipline and then left her words of encouragement but also with a clear warning about what the child welfare code stated and what would happen if the little girl again arrived with clear physical signs of mistreatment.

Each day I would deal with children and then take a short break to fill out the required paperwork before moving on the next child. I would work from about 6:30 A.M. until about 1:30 in the afternoon, normally with no breaks or time off. There were too many students wishing to speak with me. School would end at one but then the parents would start showing up and request to speak with me. I would work with them till late in the evening.

Most days I have not time for lunch and make do with an arepa, sort of like a Colombian Johnny cake, and a bottle of pop. That would be my lunch as I worked straight through the lunch hour. There was no time for supper any day that I worked there with the school. I was simply too busy and there were too many parents wishing to meet with me. By keeping at it, I can normally get in about 80 or more hours of working with students and parents from the school in the week I am in Villavicencio.

This trip down had one unusual feature. On Wednesday afternoon, without letting anyone know ahead of time, Martin Sanders and I headed out to the village of Dinamarca. That is where I had presented a Christian values based sex education conference in the government school a few weeks earlier. That program had created significant interest and we wanted to take advantage of that interest for the good of the church there.

We wanted to hold a “mini-revival” for the church as a way to reach out to the town. So we made our trip on Wednesday, leaving shortly after my school day was finished. We arrived in the afternoon and spent the day visiting church members and calling on people who we thought might attend. Martin had the special music and I preached. The church service was a great success and we filled the building.

By then it was too late to head back into town as driving on dark country roads at night is very dangerous. So we spent the night with a family in the church there and headed back to Villavicencio early the next morning after a “country breakfast” and a time of sharing. We arrived back in Villavicencio in time for me to begin my day of working with the students. This was my first night in a prairie village in some fifteen years!

I finished out the week working with the school children and parents and returned to Bogotá on Friday afternoon. I made it back in by early evening and unloaded the car. I was so exhausted after a week of very short nights that I simply went straight to bed. It had been a very long and tiring week but a very enjoyable one as I had been able to get a lot of work done in a fairly short period of time.