What Are You Doing After High School?

Guest blogger
Editor's Note: We welcome Lydia Sorkness, our guest blogger. Ms. Sorkness is a freshman in college and the daughter of an OPC ruling elder in the Philadelphia area.

Most people my age make the long awaited, bittersweet drive with their parents to college, the car packed full of dorm room accessories and school supplies. After graduation my destination, on a frozen February morning of 2011, was quite different. I had made the decision to take a year "off" before heading to college to get a degree and start my "American Dream" life. I decided to follow the Lord and take a leap of faith into the unknown. I went to the small town of Santa Marta, Colombia and felt the Lord transform me as I was immersed with people who showed me what Jesus meant when he said, "love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:25-37).

Most of us are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. When a certain lawyer put Jesus to the test, asking him what it meant to love the Lord and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:25-28), Jesus told him a story of a poor traveler beaten by robbers. The man was left lying helpless in the streets, passed by prominent religious people who did not want the inconvenience of helping him. The traveler's hope had almost diminished when a hated Samaritan came upon him on the road and had compassion on him, taking him to a home, dressing him, and giving him something to eat (Luke 10:29-35). When the lawyer was asked by Jesus which one of these men proved to be a neighbor of the man who fell among the robbers, the man answered, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise" (Luke 10:37).

I learned how this story applies to my life this past year. I had the  privilege of sharing in the work of those who constantly endeavor to follow Jesus' command to show mercy and love to suffering neighbors in Columbia.  

For over ten months, I worked and lived in a Christian childrens' home  called,Hogar La Providencia. It was established by a small Presbyterian Church, called La Puerta, which is pastored by Jaime Leal. Presently, HLP is used to house and educate sixteen displaced and impoverished indigenous children of the South American tribe Chimila. In addition to these orphans, HLP serves as home for a family from Bogota: thirty-one year old Sandra and her six children, who were discovered barely surviving on the streets of Santa Marta only three years ago.

These children are growing together in the Word of God under the discipleship of adults who have taken on the responsibility of raising them as their own. As you might imagine, everyone has a story. Two of the children, sisters Piedad (age 10) and Yoryanis (age 8) were born in the land of the Chimila tribe, "Oristuna."  They were abandoned at a young age by their parents who, unable to care for them properly, left them to fend for themselves in the wilderness. The older of the two, Piedad, took Yoryanis on her back and walked boldly through the jungle, determined to do whatever it took to defend her little sister.

News traveled to the Hogar that the two sisters were nearby. In God's providence, due to similar situations, siblings and cousins of these two girls had already been brought to HLP and had come to know the Lord. The girls' half-sister, Esther was sent to their rescue from the foundation. Seven-year old Piedad was found at a local billiard hall serving men alcohol in order to buy food for her and her sister, Yoryanis. The sisters were taken in by Pastor Jaime and the loving hands at the Hogar. I am happy to report that both are now eating daily, receiving education and  getting much needed medical attention. Yoryanis arrived at HLP so skinny that she hardly had the strength to recover from a common cold. The two of them are learning and growing in the Word of God and have professed faith in Jesus Christ. Piedad wrote in a letter to her mother, in which she said, "I am happy and have many friends at the Hogar. I hope you know that Jesus loves you and is your Savior. God will take care of you like he has taken care of me." These were the kinds of stories I heard on a daily basis.

Another child of Christ, Nataly, is a beautiful example of the power of the love and compassion of the Lord working at Hogar La Providencia. She was orphaned as a very little girl in Oristuna when her mother and father were murdered due to an invasion of a local drug army. She was left to wander from house to house, begging for food. A distant aunt ended up taking her into her home to work as a servant girl where she was treated with harsh cruelty. As time went by, Nataly was transformed into a hateful and lazy girl unwilling to do anything she was told. When she was almost unbearable to have around the house, her aunt took her to the Hogar in Santa Marta, where a few of her aunt's own children were already living.

Pastor Jaime Leal described Nataly as a like a "wild horse" when she arrived at the Hogar. Uneducated, flea bitten to the most painful degree, and never having been shown an ounce of love, Nataly was received with open arms and open hearts. We were anxious to see what God had in store for such a child. As soon as she was taught to read, Nataly launched into studying and climbed right up the grade chart with the top students. Her arms and legs healed from hundreds of raw oozing bug bites, which still left  scars on top of scars. These were a reminder of how far she has come in the past few years. "I give thanks to God," she wrote to me in a very eloquent letter about two months ago. "He brought me here where I am content and have people like you who take care of me."

Stories like the above have given me something I could not have gained if I had simply gone straight to college. Not that there is anything wrong with doing that, but I wanted something different. Not just to travel, but to serve. And I give thanks to God, for giving me Nataly to take care of, as well as the other precious children living at Hogar La Providencia in Santa Marta, Colombia.

Luke 10:27 tells Christians to love their neighbors as themselves and I am so thankful for the time I was given to love my Christian little brothers and sisters in a place so different from my own home. I remember often what Jesus said in Luke 18:16, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God."It comforts me when I'm worrying about "my kids," now so far away from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but knowing that God loves them so much more than I ever could and continues to provide for them. I am thrilled I got to be a part of God's work in their lives for even a little while. May God bless our care of orphans around the world!