There is a reason for the word teammates being in quotation marks, I promise. Keep reading! We will get there.
Our Colombian counterparts are special. Special can be taken in a variety of ways but for us it is special in a deeper way. Their names are Luis Carlos and Maribell Armella (it is Italian in origin and we will get reminded of that time to time as to pronounce the "ll" as an L sound, and not a "y").
Luis Carlos and Maribell are a couple that light up a room. Maribell is quiet, very gentle and thoughtful in all her actions. Luis Carlos is a thinker but passionate and loves to be a part of the conversation. Luis Carlos was born here in Barranquilla to a middle-class family. Maribell was born in Bogota, a much different city and culture. Both started out not knowing much about God or the Gospel movement they would one day be a huge part of here in Colombia.
Both Maribell and Luis Carlos were driven individuals that craved knowledge and learning. Maribell studied to be a doctor and Luis Carlos went to the premiere university in Colombia which opened job opportunities in software engineering. Still, neither had found Christ at this point. One day changed their future and changed the way they would be forever... Maribell and Luis Carlos, including Maribells parents, were driving <somewhere but can't remember>. In 15 seconds their lives changed as their car was involved in a major accident in Bogota leaving Luis Carlos without the use of his legs and Maribell suffered a head injury which still affects her. We are only knowing them 30+ years after so we know no difference. A lot changed that day physically and soon spiritually as well.
Our relationship began a little over two years ago. Our first meeting was when we set foot in Colombia for our vision trip before language school. My Spanish was non-existent and Angel's was impressive to say the least. In that first week together we started forging a bond that no one knew would be so important. We started, from that first week, getting into ministry conversations and sharing our passion for sharing the Gospel with the people of Colombia and Barranquilla. As I think back over those times together I now see how big that time was together. It was the beginning of our time as a family.
We have been developing relationships with them ever since. It started with Skype calls during our time in Costa Rica. It was brutal. Not from a relational standpoint but from a conversation standpoint. I so wanted to share with them, but was limited by language. Then a visit before leaving language school gave us more face to face time with some actual language skills (my language that is!). They were proud of our improvements and changes. It was fun to be a part of that!
They care about our girls and care about our well-being. They have taken on a role of surrogate aunt and uncle. I was in the hospital within the first three weeks of arriving in Barranquilla with appendicitis and they were there. We have had several comments of the unique relationship they have with our girls.
Luis Carlos has been in a wheelchair for all these years and Maribell held off on her medical profession to provide full-time help for him. Luis Carlos came to accept Christ, in a very intellectual way, through a co-worker of Maribells. He was transformed from skeptic to total trust in God. Luis Carlos has been a pastor in different churches, missionary to Peru, and church planter for over 30 years. Maribell has followed Luis Carlos and worked in different capacities with different ministries and flourished in her many different roles and talents. Together they have listened to God's call and made an impact in so many people's lives. The best part is we get to do that together now. We feel God's incredible grace in giving us them as co-laborers for Christ.
Well, I have to bring it back to the reason I put teammates in italics... I know you have waited with baited breath! As we started working together full-time, I would introduce Luis Carlos as my pastor. I had probably done it 5 or 6 times. Little did I know, that wasn't coming across in the same light as meant to Luis Carlos. It was a sign of respect or reverence from my perspective. One day as we were meeting in our favorite café.... he stopped our conversation. He kindly, with mercy in his words, extorted me to change my verbiage in calling him my "pastor." From that moment on I always have referred to him as my teammate. The moment I used the word teammate was important for him and he still smiles when I use it today.