This post was written by Dottie Kline from Tuscaloosa, AL. Dottie and her husband Harvey were both delegates on the delegation to Colombia in January 2019.
Harvey and I visited a home in a barrio in the southwest of Barranquilla to learn about one of the Presbyterian outreach ministries. Germán drove us in his car, along with Pastor Franklin, and delegates Courtney and J. Herbert. The Saturday afternoon traffic was chaotic, in an area of narrow streets and few traffic signals, filled with motorcycles, pedestrians, and wandering dogs. Along the way, we saw a bus run down a motorcyclist. The cyclist stood up, and we hoped he was okay. We did not stop because others were attending to him. Germán got us to our destination safely, but J. Herbert thought it had something to do with his prayers along the way. Sometimes riding in the front seat is a disadvantage because you can see too much. I have admiration for the people who drive on these dangerous streets every day.
We visited the home of Betty and her mother. Several women from the neighborhood and a few children joined us. We talked on the front porch, where Betty served coffee and sweets. Courtney made friends with the baby who was sitting in her mother’s lap. They told us about the barrio where they live. Betty said that the drug problem was improving because the mayor had increased law enforcement. But people are concerned about the lack of opportunities for young people, because there are not many jobs for them.
The women told us about the small business they have making and selling handicrafts. They divide their work. Some make the items; others sell them. They find that using a middle-man is too costly and cuts into their profits. In anticipation of Barranquilla’s Mardi Gras, they are making necklaces featuring the typical Marimonda character, along with silky turbans that Carnival dancers wear. Members of our group chose turbans to buy, and the ladies presented us with Marimonda necklaces as gifts. I was also given a straw fan, which was welcome in the afternoon heat. The turbans and Marimondas were beautifully constructed. The fabrics filled the living room with color.
We were shown wonderful hospitality and generosity by people who work very hard to earn their living. I don’t know how much money Betty and her friends can make by working on such a small scale. They take pride in their initiative and in their workmanship. And there is a spirit of Christian community among them that must be a reward in itself. It was a blessing to be in their company for the afternoon.