At just 3 years old, Andrea was practically living on the streets. But staff at her local Compassion center took in this lonely little girl and gave her a haven overflowing with love.
She first appeared in the summer of 2017, barely clothed, barefoot and covered in dirt. She was only 3 years old; far too young to roam the violent streets of Cartagena, Colombia, alone.
The staff at the Rios de Agua Viva Compassion Center immediately noticed her. “Did you see that little girl?” they would ask each other, concern in their voices. But she was hard to get close to; skittish and afraid.
Pastor Adela, who was actively involved in the Compassion ministry at her church, was one of the first to learn the little girl’s name: Andrea. And she immediately told her staff, “We must help her.”
When staff first visited Andrea’s home, they were met with desperate poverty. The children were all filthy from sleeping on the dirt floor, their bodies covered in sores and mud. Andrea’s mother was rarely at home, and her grandmother, Fermina, struggled to care for the little girl and her two siblings.
Pastor Adela worked with the family, first helping them secure a birth certificate for Andrea so she could be registered at the center. But registration would merely be the beginning of their difficult journey with Andrea. Neighbors had long thought the little girl was mute, as she rarely spoke. Andrea was aggressive with the other children at the center, and she refused to be touched or hugged.
But Pastor Adela and the rest of the staff were patient. And slowly, Andrea began to warm to them. After a few weeks, a tutor saw Andrea smile for the first time. Soon Andrea let the women at the center comb her hair and wash her face.
“We find children, like Andrea, in vulnerable situations and we help them get ahead,” says Dorelis, one of the Compassion workers who first ministered to Andrea. “We show love not only when preaching the Word of God or teaching a verse, but also in the actions that we as adults take with children.”
Little Andrea has soaked up that love. In less than a year she has transformed before their eyes. She comes to the center every day, telling her friend, “I go to church!” She is slowly overcoming delays she experienced in those first years of life and is learning colors, numbers and letters. And while she still struggles to speak, she loves to sing songs at church.
“In Andrea’s case … she sees love in us,” says Dorelis. “Here she receives love, she feels welcomed, she feels happy, and she receives the affection she does not receive at home. We tell her, ‘You are important. You are beautiful.’”
Pastor Adela is currently working to register Andrea’s younger brother, Lewin, at the center. She wants to see the love of God spread through Andrea’s entire family. And she knows that Andrea will be an instrument of that love.
“When we ask Andrea what she wants to be when she grows up, she always tells us the same thing,” says Pastor Adela. “She says she wants to be a pastor.”