Jeanene and Richard Sanderson (center) hold Emanuela, who arrived days before Christmas 2009

It started out as a typical day—at least a typical day for those living at the Children’s Vision International (CVI) compound in Bogotá, Colombia. One hundred children got up for school. The babies were fed and played with. Six hundred meals were cooked. And the house parents were home.

At this refuge for homeless children—many rescued from the streets of Bogotá, where almost 13,000 children roam each day without shelter—founder Jeanene Thicke Sanderson and her husband, Richard, are mom and dad to them all. The children, once rescued, become permanent members of the CVI family. Their impoverished parents, who may be addicts or delinquents, are required to visit their children every two weeks to maintain contact.

But on that November afternoon in 2011, all the kids were home from school. Jeanene Thicke Sanderson was in “Mama Jeanene’s kitchen”—her bakery, where she personally prepares birthday cakes for every child in the home.

Suddenly, she heard three loud explosions in the attached factory building next door. Running outside, she found a group of the children screaming and crying, “Our mom! Our mom! She’s in the fire!”

“I looked up, and there was this red ball of fire standing above me,” Sanderson says, her voice breaking.

As the blazing fire quickly spread to the kitchen and beyond, dozens of staff members and neighbors went into action, carrying the frightened children to safety.

Sanderson and her husband were devastated.

“We’re standing there looking at each other with tears running down our faces,” she says. “You have built this whole dream with 20 years of your life, and it’s all melting before you, and there’s nothing you can do.”

If there were angels attending the scene, nobody saw them. Yet firefighters later told Sanderson that two massive kerosene tanks in the factory never exploded during the two hours the buildings burned. The blast of the tanks would have flattened the entire neighborhood, they said.

Nobody was hurt, though the fire destroyed one building and damaged others nearby.

Yet while the flames literally melted the brick wall of the prayer chapel, miraculously the carpeting and wooden ceiling in the chapel were not even burned.

“It was like God put His hand and said, ‘To here, and no more,’” Sanderson says.

Ann Thicke, who handles CVI’s finances and donations stateside, says a shipment of brand-new kitchen items was already on its way to the compound a month before the fire. Mama Jeanene’s kitchen was quickly rebuilt while the daily routines continued.

“We never skipped a beat,” Thicke says.  

This year, as those at CVI prepare for the Christmas holidays, they’re wrapping up presents as well as their 20th year of life-transforming ministry. Since the organization’s humble beginnings, when Sanderson took in her first homeless baby, the ministry has added 60 staff members and built three residential homes, a pre-K-12 school, a medical facility and a guest house. They evangelize, feed and educate hundreds of additional children and provide humanitarian aid from the streets of Colombia to the jungles and beyond.

“Success now is not giving up in a crisis and always believing that God is a god of miracles,” Sanderson says.

Even as shepherds and wise men welcomed a lowly baby born in an obscure stable in Bethlehem, each new child brought into the CVI fold is celebrated as though Christ is being welcomed into their doors.

In fact, just before Christmas 2009, the Sandersons opened their arms and their home to a newborn preemie with medical issues.

“There’s always room at our inn,” Sanderson says.

As the baby’s mother, a prostitute, gave her child over to them, she said, “You name her.”

So they did.

And they called her Emanuela, meaning “God with us.”

Anahid Schweikert is a frequent contributor to Charisma. She lives in Memphis, Tenn., with her husband and their two daughters, who were adopted from China.


Best Magazine Deal. Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Charisma, SpiritLed Woman and Ministry Today, all for $24. YES - I want this deal!

3 Reasons Why you should read Life in the Spirit. 1) Get to know the Holy Spirit. 2) Learn to enter God's presence 3) Hear God's voice clearly! Click Here to draw closer to God!

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
View/Add Comments
  • Roadblock

    6 Roadblocks That Will Stop Your Spiritual Growth

    God wants you to grow in your faith, but many of us get stuck along the way.

  • 2017 is the year that swords will clash.

    Prophetic Word: 2017 Will Bring a Clashing of Heaven and Hell

    "This is a time to cross over and not pull back."

  • Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    I have been puzzled about the subject of inner healing for some time.

  • The devil will try to silence you in any way he can. Don't give him the satisfaction.

    Satan's 2 Most Potent Lies to Render You Ineffective

    There's something in you so powerful that Satan doesn't want it out. Kyle Winkler reveals ...

  • Are you willing to volunteer for God's offensive army?

    Prophetic Word: Preparing for God's World War 3

    God is searching for soldiers of the cross who are willing to volunteer for His offensive army.

  • Cindy Jacobs

    2017: Year of the Breakthrough

    "There will be a significant increase in miracles and signs and wonders."

  • Foot washing

    Shaking the Gates of Hell With a Basin of Water and a Towel

    "When I saw His foot, I knew He had come to take back territory the enemy had stolen from His ...

  • Growing relationship

    2017 Prophetic Word: The Supernatural Key to Growing Your Relationship With God

    It's vital that we understand what comes from God and what comes from the devil.

  • Marriage man and woman

    Why Marriage Is Not Just Between a Man and a Woman

    Marriage is a miracle. Let us treat it like one.

  • Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Follow God on the most fulfilling journey of your life with Encounter the Holy Spirit! Break away from past hurts and press into the One who wants a personal encounter with you.

  • Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Reach your full potential and be led by His Spirit. In His Presence takes you to a deeper understanding of who God is and how he communicates with us.

  • Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Receive the power and gifts that come through the Holy Spirit Baptism. Don’t go empty-handed; accept all that He has for you! His power is available to those who ask.

  • Put on the Full Armor of God

    Put on the Full Armor of God

    Break every stronghold with the power of the Holy Spirit. Use the power of your tongue to declare and decree the Word of God. Witness heaven move on your behalf.

Use Desktop Layout
Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit