I was born in Santander in north-central Colombia. My husband and I married when he was 17 and I was 15, and we decided to come to Bogotá to look for a better life.
In about 2005, Iglesia Cristiana Hermanos Menonitas El Progreso had an evangelism campaign, and my husband went. That’s how I got to know the church. It was my husband who was at the campaign and wanted to go to the church. I didn’t really want to go. Then, as I began to know the church a little more, it caught my attention. About two years later, I was baptized.
As I got to know the pastor and his wife, they started asking me to teach in the church’s preschool. I said no. At that time, I had a small business making and selling cookies. Also, I was scared of working with children. And my twin girls were just six months old at the time.
They kept inviting us to come for lunch and they’d ask again. Eventually, classes were about to start, someone had left and they needed a temporary teacher to fill in. I think it was God who helped me to feel I could say yes.
At first, I didn’t know how to work with the children. It really stressed me out. A lot of parents knew me and knew I sold cookies, and were saying, “How is this woman selling cookies now in charge of a classroom?”
It was very difficult, but God knows how to walk with us. That formed me, that experience. I kept on working, and the church still didn’t find a replacement. So I stayed.
That first year, along with another teacher, I was receiving a lot of tools to be able to work with the children. We were learning not just how to teach but how to teach the different ages and according to grade, how to manage discipline, how to work at the theme of peace in the school environment. We learned more about the administrative and accounting work. As we went along, Pastor David Bonilla and his wife, Marina Forero, started to turn over different responsibilities to us.
They had this trust in me. They were believing in me even when I didn’t ever believe in myself. I was surprised. It was a time of “can I or can’t I?” I did feel more capable of doing these tasks, so little by little I took on more. It was a journey of learning these different tasks and them working with me in these different tasks and then letting go. Yes, I was fearful, but I had learned to do the tasks. This is part of my faith. I feel this love for God. And because of this love, I want to give, I want to teach.
When I started, all my tasks were inside the school. Now, I’m the one to go out and visit families, and parents come and talk to me about their concerns.
In our Colombian context, like any other, there’s violence, drug trafficking, gangs. But more than anything, in this context, there are people who dream and people who struggle to continue forward. These are the people we bet on for the future.
I give thanks to God every day for this opportunity. I haven’t gotten here by myself. There have been many, many hands that helped. I’ve seen God reflected in many people who have helped me along the way. My family has supported me. And God has been there and opened up different spaces and encouraged me and challenged me.
My prayer is for the people along with me on this journey—my family, the other people being discipled through my leadership—that they have this love to serve and to give.
Sandra Luna is a coordinator for Centro de Capacitación del Niño, which provides early childhood education with support from MCC and Colombia’s Mennonite Brethren Church. Marla Pierson Lester is the publications coordinator for MCC U.S.