“Ok! What are the five things you love most about Colombia?” was the question posed to me after I told him I couldn’t narrow it down to just ONE thing. “Now that’s easy”, I said, “I can do three actually, the people, the beautiful landscape and the food. Probably in that order.” The conversation that I had with the translator while riding in a van to our designated barrio, replayed in my mind that evening as I rested in my hotel room in Pereira. I was trying to get a little sleep in before having to head out to the airport with Alex Lopez to pick up the next team flying in at 11 pm. As I laid there with my eyes closed and the buzzing sound of traffic in my ears I couldn’t help but think how much I love being in Colombia. The sights, the sounds, the aroma of the charcoal and arepas cooking on the flat grills outside of small houses lining the streets filled with people. It has been eleven months since I last walked those streets and I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to be back. Ok, maybe I can. Maybe I just did.
The first three weeks being back has been busy and fulfilling. Two expeditions down and more to come, and we have already seen hundreds of people come to Christ and even more seeds planted. The best part is knowing that these new converts have been connected with healthy churches that have been trained and prepared to disciple them and help them grow in their faith. The love that the local church members pour into their community is something special to see. This year in particular it has been more prevalent to me than in previous years. In both the Armenia and Cali expeditions I have been blessed to witness this in each of the four locations I have served in thus far. It has literally brought me to tears. Even the translators this year have been pouring into their people with extra fervour. More than just once I have seen my own translator’s heart broken over some of the situations we encountered.
As far as my team in Armenia is concerned I don’t think I could have asked for a better one. We were four guys with very different personalities but one solid goal, taking Jesus to the masses. We melded together perfectly, so much so that we were able to take on two additional men half way through the week and not miss a beat. Chris, T.J., Grant and (Paul and Chuck) I count it a privilege to have worked with you. Hope to see you all in Colombia again, soon.
The two locations we served during the Armenian campaign were Buena Vista and Las Colinas. Buena Vista is a beautiful little pueblo nestled on a bluff surrounded by mountains. This community has the standard Catholic Church on the square but really no other evangelical church other than the one we worked with. The feeling put off by this small city was indicative of that fact. Not as open and warm as I am used to experiencing from this size town. I believe I did notice a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses located there though. That could explain the lack of openness. When the Jehovah’s Witnesses are in the area before us, the doors do not open as easily. The residents are more apprehensive about possibly receiving more of the same treatment that they received from them. Interestingly enough though, that is when I have seen God move the most. I have heard from many of the people who have allowed us into their homes, that they were not going to open the door to us because of the rudeness of “those others”. They then go on to tell us, “but I felt like God told me to open the door for you”. It was once reported to me by the mother of an eleven year old boy that he told her to let us in because, in his words, “something special was going to happen today.” They both received Jesus that afternoon.
Las Colinas on the other hand is a barrio of Armenia with a reputation of being pretty dangerous. Yes! Finally! I have heard of this barrio
since the first time I came to Colombia. As if walking the streets of South America weren’t exciting enough, I have been wanting this added adventure of Las Colinas for a long time. When all was said and done, I found the people there equally engaging and warm if not more so than some other less “threatening” locations. We had a great two days with them.
Cali is a very large city about three and a half hours south of Armenia. Last year I found the work there a bit challenging. Just the whole, “big city” thing going on I thought. As I mentioned earlier, this year it felt different. The churches were more prepared for the work that we came to do. That preparation was not by accident, but because of the hard work of the dedicated members of the e3 Colombia team. The locals have been faithfully training and Discipling these churches as part of the Mentor Network and it truly has been paying off in big ways.
I will end with this, whether in Cali or Armenia, Buena Vista or Las Colinas, one of my biggest joys is being able to share Jesus with the little kids who get it. Seeing their faces light up and watching the fire inside be kindled, when they say with enthusiasm, that they want to tell their friends what I just told them, fills me with satisfaction. Thinking that this one young person may have been the whole reason why I came.
To God be the glory!