Rasheeda Andrews has always had a deep desire to travel so she joined the United States Air Force immediately after graduating high school. She wanted to see the world while doing something meaningful with her life so she figured serving her country would simultaneously fulfill both desires.
While attending a technical school, Rasheeda scored at the top of her class and her commanding officers saw fit to utilize her services at Randolph Air Force Base, Headquarters in San Antonio, TX. Although she had filled out paperwork requesting 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices of where she wanted to be stationed, all of which were overseas locations, her opportunity to travel never materialized.
Fast forward 20 years, five children, a divorce and many hardships later, Rasheeda began to feel an overwhelming desire to leave the United States and travel to Colombia. The desire within her became more than something she wanted to do, but something she needed to do it. Not only did she need to do it, but she also had to do it immediately. She could not wait for a few years, nor after all of her children had graduated, nor when she would have a partner to travel with her. This feeling was intense!
Rasheeda knew she had to leave now without knowing why the urgency was there. She only knew one thing she had to leave.
To those around her, she may have seemed a bit nuts (single woman, five kids, foreign country, etc) but she didn’t care. Her mind was set.
After extensive research and with only a modest operating budget to support her children on her Air Force pension, she sold everything of value, got rid of the nice SUV and the five-bedroom house which was located in an upscale subdivision and yielded to the overwhelming sense of urgency she felt to travel to Colombia.
She and her children moved into her mother’s two-bedroom apartment for six weeks to save money for airline tickets and lodging. Her mother had decided to travel with them as well to assist with the children and to make sure her grandbabies would be ok in a foreign country she knew absolutely nothing about.
They flew from Atlanta, Georgia to Cartagena, Colombia. For one month they traveled throughout Colombia and decided to settle in Santa Marta as they fell in love with the local flavor of the community, the amazing beauty of the mountains, beaches, sunsets, and the friendly natives. They quickly began to make new friends and learn a new language.
During the political crisis and financial collapse in the neighboring country Venezuela, people were fleeing to Colombia in droves. One of those refugees was Jhon, a 16-year-old boy whose mother had died of cancer and his father had been murdered for his motorcycle. He was living with his grandmother in Venezuela and his hope, like so many others, was to go to Colombia, get a job and send money home to help his grandmother.
Jhon was living in the mountains in deplorable conditions with cousins he had connected with and was working on the beaches trying to get tourists to dine at one of the local restaurants, sometimes working for 12 hours and making little or no money. Distraught that things weren’t working out as he had planned and worried about his grandmother, having no cell phone or means of contact, he often sat on the beach at night praying and crying out to God not knowing how he would make it or what would happen to him, especially with his cousins soon moving to Bogota without him.
Rasheeda’s three oldest kids; Jalen 18, Jamari 16, and Jazmin 14, being extremely talented, would sometimes perform on the beach for entertainment, rapping, singing and dancing and became quite popular and well known as if they were local celebrities! It was during this time after one of their performances that the Andrews kids met Jhon.
When Jhon met the Andrews clan, they clicked instantly! 18-year-old Jalen felt as if Jhon was his Colombian equivalent. With their birthdays being only four days apart, they had so much in common! They would meet and hang out on the beach frequently. They brought Jhon home to meet the rest of the family and all five siblings fell in love with Jhon, it was as if he was their long lost brother. They often invited Jhon to stay over with their mother’s approval.
They brought him to their grandmother’s cabana to play video games and watch movies because she loved him as well. Jhon was such a sincere and sensitive young man with exceptional work ethics and values; the entire family embraced him. He began spending more time staying over with his new found family. But soon there was a concern. The oldest three kids, who now considered him their brother, were scheduled to travel back to the U.S. with their grandmother for the summer very soon.
They asked their mother, Rasheeda, the obvious question on everyone’s mind, what would happen to their newfound brother when they left. Rasheeda took Jhon in and assured him that she would take care of him and would not leave him. They connected with his uncle and grandmother from Venezuela and Rasheeda, with their gratitude and blessings, arranged to file paperwork for legal custody. His uncle came to Colombia to meet the family and the legal process began.
Jhon had longed for a mother and a family and his fervent prayers were finally answered: He’s now part of a loving and supportive family, happy and filled with gratitude! Rasheeda now realizes why she had such an urgency to get to Colombia at all costs! Even though the laws state that she has to be his legal guardian for two years before he can obtain a Visa to come to the U.S., Rasheeda promised Jhon that no matter what she would not abandon him even if it meant that she would not return to the United States until he could come as well.
Rasheeda is now planning to continue her travels to tour ten countries over the next year but she will only travel to countries that Jhon is allowed to travel to with a passport rather than requiring a Visa. Retired grandmom will continue to travel with them. A mother of five, sometimes stretching her budget to the limit, still found it in her heart to take in one more!
An interesting fact: all of Rasheeda’s children’s first names begin with the letter “J” including the newest child Jhon. God is great!
Martha Dowdell (pictured above), who wrote this article and gave me the honor to publish it is also the mother/grandmother of Rasheeda and her kids! Have a wonderful month! God's' Words says "Behold I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me? (kjv) Jeremiah 32:27 Angela Renee Bell