Iquique is such an eclectic city, especially in the downtown area and never more than the current day. Historic wooden homes in varying states of maintenance or disrepair totter next to towering new high rises in various stages of construction. From one visit to the next, we find ourselves constantly commenting on the changes taking place (some for better, some for worse.) But what fascinates us most are the hidden jewels camouflaged in plain sight. Such was the office where we found ourselves the next morning.
|building projects everywhere in Iquique|
Certainly we had walked or driven past the stately old home dozens of times, but without an exterior sign there was nothing to draw attention to it. White walls, white gate, white doors welcomed us, along with the owner and his rescued beagle who was "great with" puppies to be born (that same day, we would later learn!) Inside, the coolness of ancient 18-foot ceilings and a breeze from the back patio's century-old arbor were refreshing. So was the frank and friendly owner who listened to our story and promptly pulled out building plans for two possible locations for FLORECE.
We were surprised to learn he spoke English, having his permanent home and business in Canada as well as a thriving company and multiple real estate investments in Iquique since the mid 1990's. Later we would reflect on the linguistic and cultural connections as yet another evidence of God's hand in this unexpected encounter. Unexpected because after all, we had simply called about an empty lot!
The two properties were within walking distance from his office, so we ventured out in the blazing sun to look at them from the outside. The larger of the two was a bottom-floor apartment directly across from the largest police station in Iquique. Formerly used as the offices for a well-known radio station, the property's biggest drawback was its subterranean feel. The entrance was a small tunnel-like structure and only the grated windows were above-ground. Immediately we felt this would not convey the welcome we wished to offer to future clients, but we snapped some pictures for further consideration before heading around the corner to the next location.
|the tunnel-like entrance was not inviting|
Just as immediately as we knew the first was not a great option for us, we knew the second property was an amazing possibility for FLORECE. Our criteria for a location have always included: (1) close to schools or other gathering places for youth; (2) easy to reach via public transportation; (3) large enough to meet our needs; and (4) safe for our volunteers and clients. The latter need was obviously met by the police station nearby. There was a large high school just 1/2 block from property; almost every major bus line passed in front of it; and though we could not see inside that day, the plans and square footage indicated we would have plenty of space to carry out the ministries we envisioned. We were beyond excited!
|the (blue) property which captured our imagination|
The only question remaining was seeing the inside of the property for ourselves. Currently it was rented (and sub-rented and sub-rented, we would learn) but an appointment could be made. It was Friday and we would have to wait the weekend. With great excitement and anticipation we shared the news with our colleagues, one of whom had spent the morning fasting and in prayer for God to answer in a mighty way. We felt certain He had, but would have to have patience. We prayed and wondered, What would Monday bring?