By Kelly Capriotti Burton
Recently, my husband and I were allowed the privilege of traveling to Bogota, Colombia with Compassion International. The life-changing, eye-opening, heart-growing experiences of the four days we spent there are abundant, but here, I write as a mom…
Jeni loves her kids, David and Karol. She is proud of the things they learn at school (David loves math) and what they learn at their Compassion project (Karol recites many Bible verses and teaches them to her Mama). Jeni is studying to work as a secretary while her husband works construction, taking him away from home sometimes for a month. He just left Friday on another job.
Jeni’s house is three clean and well organized rooms: a bedroom filled with loving touches, a kitchen with a table for four, and a living area with curtains around the toilet and a place to wash clothes. Her home is constructed of metal sheets and concrete. For showers, they walk to Jeni’s grandmother’s house at the end of their block.
Jeni has concerns for her children that sound so familiar. When she is at school and her husband is away, she works and stresses to make sure David and Karol are cared for. She is grateful for the Compassion project because it means the children are not sitting around the house watching DVDs or doing nothing, nor are they learning bad words from some less-than-nice people in the neighborhood. She likes that the children are at Compassion learning and studying the Bible, and sometimes, they all go to church there on Sundays as well.
Jeni says her main prayer concern is health. She said whether rich or poor, health is the most important thing. She said no matter where you live, you can be robbed, and sickness can happen to anyone.
I told Jeni, via translator, that her love for her children is a blessing. Her answer: it will continue to be a blessing.
Jeni, I think, is a warrior. She will fight for her kids to be safe, to be healthy, to be educated, to be loved, and to break the curse of poverty. Her love for them is evident on their faces and in the pride they show as they talk about their future careers – Karol, a model, David, a soldier.
One of my greatest lessons during this trip – the furthest I have ever been from home, the furthest I have ever been from my comfort zone, is that the world is not bigger, but rather, much smaller than I thought. The things I had in common with Jeni far outweigh the differences in our lives. We both want a neat house. We both want a challenging, respectful job. And more than any earthly thing, we want our kids to be well, protected, knowledgeable, loved, content, and full of God’s grace.
Likely, I will never see Jeni again on this earth, but she will always remain in my heart and mind. I have thought of her every time in the last two weeks that my kids ask to watch a DVD.. and every time they say something they learned in Sunday School or from the Bible. I think of her right now, as I assess the messiness of my poreclain tiles, knowing that her concrete floor was, quite literally, clean enough to eat off of.
In America, in the American church, we spend so much time focusing on how we are different: our denominations, our style of worship music… you know this list. In Colombia, my eyes were opened to how little time we have for such trivialities. Jeni is my sister, as are the other mothers I met there. More importantly, we are all daughters of God, entrusted with His most precious blessings. It’s no surprise, then, that our goals should be the same. As my friend Martha said to me recently, I want my children standing next to me in eternity.
For information about how you can help a family like Jeni’s, visit Compassion International.
Hailing from Al Capone’s old stomping ground, Chicago Heights, IL, Kelly Capriotti Burton was a stranger to Southern Gospel music until marrying into it! Always a music fan, she discovered a fondness for gospel harmonies, southern hospitality, and road life while traveling with her husband Rod Burton.
Kelly has previously worked as a corporate project manager and a high school English teacher. She has written and taught in a variety of outlets and now spends her time caring for three daughters (two toddlers, one teen), assisting with Rod’s ministry, serving as Editor-in-Chief of SGN Scoops Digital Magazine, and to break up the boredom, working as a partner in YMR Music Productions, which presents the Branson Gospel Music Revival.
She considers life to be one unexpected adventure after another; her biggest so far was having two babies in 15 months after being diagnosed with infertility. She considers laughter (with a side of sarcasm) to be the best strategy, God’s grace to be the greatest gift, and miracles to always be possible.