Child of Bethlehem Refuge – Colombia
As difficult as it is for two parents to raise six children in a poor country, imagine the extreme challenges experienced by such a family when one parent leaves to find work in another country and never returns. This is what happened to the Lopez* family when the father, unable to adequately provide support for his family, left Colombia for Venezuela to find work. He was never heard from again.
If that wasn’t tragedy enough, one day the mother of the family went by bus to her work. When she stepped out of the bus at her stop, the driver started up before she was completely out, and she was killed, leaving her children devastated and orphaned. Grandma, who was 75 years old and frail, took in washings as she could to try to keep food on the table. The older boy and girl in the family took on the role of parents instead of going to school. The younger siblings tried to sell vegetables in the market to earn what they could.
The family barely existed for the next year or two until finally some relief came in the form of assistance from ICC. One day the children heard that a pastor from the US wanted to visit them. Writing of the experience later, two of the children shared their experience. They said, “That day when the pastor came was the day that changed our lives. He not only brought us love and comfort but made arrangements for us to go back to school. This was the day we saw the face of Pastor Kenneth Fleck for the first time. We knew that day that we now had someone to be a father figure in our lives, who not only gave us financial but emotional support. We went to school and studied hard because we now had someone who believed in us. We were proud to say that we had a ‘Padrino’ [sponsor] in the United States. We waited every year for the visit of Papi Fleck who would bring us treats or clothing, and we now had someone who cared about us. Now we can see the difference that ICC has made in our family. There are two pastors, a nurse, [a business] administrator, and a [food] engineer.”
What a blessing ICC has been to this family of children and to other orphaned and vulnerable children in Colombia. Here is how ICC’s work began and developed in Colombia through the years.
After Pastor Ken and Alcyon Fleck had begun ICC projects in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, they began to consider other countries in the region with which they were familiar, countries where there were orphaned or abandoned children needing a loving, Christian home. One of these countries was Colombia. Due to the revolts against the government and civil wars, the people of Colombia were left with a very difficult economy, and very grave poverty. There was a lack of medical care and governmental programs to help take care of the country’s population. These factors combined gave birth to many orphaned and abandoned children who needed loving care.
In 1986 Ken and Alcyon Fleck began an organization for the orphaned and abandoned children of Colombia called “Refugio El Nino De Belen” or the Refuge from the Child of Bethlehem. They found a couple who accepted the challenge of operating the program in Colombia. They rented a big house in Bogota and began receiving children from the government.
The program grew to have anywhere from 30 to 50 children. After about three years it became apparent a children’s village was greatly needed where the children could run and play and have their own family and home. They began the search for land and found something they thought would work well. The village would be modeled after the one in Guatemala. But due to methodology differences between ICC and the Colombian government, the Flecks decided it would be better not to continue with the plans for the village project.
It was in August of 1989 that Rosibel Garcia de Sosa began to operate the project. And a collective decision was made to find Colombian families where the children could live and receive the loving care they needed. Some of the children were able to go to extended family members. Other children were sent to Christian homes that would care for them. To help these families with the extra financial burden, ICC found sponsors for the children and monitored their progress. Through the years, many children in Colombia have been assisted in this way.
More information about the Child of Bethlehem Refuge in Colombia is available
by contacting ICC at (800) 422-7729.
* Name has been changed to protect the child’s privacy