When Leo and I were dreaming about our wedding in Colombia, we deeply desired for as many people to attend as possible – including the kids from Ciudad Bolivar. Every 2 weeks we would make the 2-hour bus trek across the city, through traffic, up the steep mountainside and windy roads to the top of the mountain to share life and Jesus with a group of 15 pre-teens. Many of them came from broken families… and almost none of them had ever attended a wedding before.
We asked the director of the foundation where the group met how we could make this possible… what would we need to provide so that they didn’t feel like “less” in the sea of wealthier Colombians and foreigners. He advised us to find dresses and suits, dress shoes, and a van for transportation. He and the other volunteers would be able to pick the kids up, get them all fancy (make-up and nail polish was a MUST for the girls). I was able to find enough pearl-beaded headbands for all of the girls coming from different worlds so that they all matched.
Leo and I spent weeks scouring the city for the best deals on dresses and suits. People from the school willingly donated clothing and shoes for the cause, and the week before our wedding we were able to take everything up the mountain to the kids.
I had never seen girls light up and twirl so much in my life!
Before we gave them these gifts, however, we wanted to make it clear:
“We are giving you these things now because we deeply want you to be involved in our wedding, but it doesn’t mean that you will always just be recipients of good things. There will come a day when you will be able to give as well. That is what the body of Christ is… a group of people committed to giving and receiving from each other.”
We looked into each of their eyes as we gave them their new outfits, and we knew that they understood.
Fast-forward to our wedding day…
Leo had just arrived to the venue in a taxi, dressed to the 9’s, and with his suitcase for the honeymoon. Just as he got out and turned back to pay the fee, the driver sped off, stealing Leo’s suitcase.
Now, living with 3 brothers has its advantages… one being that you can all share clothes. When I realized that Leo moving out would mean taking some of the family wardrobe, I decided that he might need his own, new clothes. Also, he didn’t have much of a “warm weather” wardrobe… so all of the clothes in the suitcase were brand-new. Praise the LORD the only items in the suitcase were clothes and shoes, and not money or our tickets for the honeymoon!
When word of this got around (and word spread very quickly amongst our 200 guests!), they decided to take up an offering for us so that we could buy Leo some new clothes.
I will never forget when Jhan walked up to Leo during the reception:
Jhan: Profe, I want you to have this (pulls out a bill that is now the equivalent of $.30)
Leo: What is this for?
Jhan: Profe, I want to help you buy new clothes. You gave me this suit, it is my turn to give back
Leo and I both hugged him, looked into each other’s eyes and teared up.
We have had many people give us things over the years, but that gift is one of the most treasured!