Much has happened since we last spoke
Very busy, not much down time, two expeditions, new friends, seeing God move, alota fútbol, working on my Spanish, answered prayers, new opportunities. Hmmm, that kind of sums up the couple of weeks since my last blog entry. I believe this post will be a bit longer than what I normally hope to post but I’ll try to just hit the highlights and get you caught up.
Pereida and Armenia, two Colombian cities about an hour apart. Doug Bender, an e3 church planter from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Two weeks and two different teams. Back-to-back expeditions again. First Pereira, (pronounced kind of like pedayda). A new arrival into the “Mentor Network”. Doug mobilized a team from Greenville, South Carolina to hit the streets the first week of July. I didn’t participate on a team that week. I was performing some of the tasks needed to make one of these expeditions hum. Something I enjoy doing, and Alex says is very helpful to him. (Alex Lopez is the e3 regional director in Colombia). The South Carolinians were a great group of people. I enjoyed getting to know them. Now on to Armenia. For this campaign Doug brought in a small group of members from his church in Pittsburgh. Only eight people including Doug. For that reason he asked me to join them and work on the team. It was a new dynamic having so few people but I think it worked really well. I really enjoyed working with them as well. Although, the tension did rise when I saw their translators wearing “the dreaded black and gold”. Yes, they brought jerseys as gifts. RRrrr! I must counteract this injustice with some blue and silver from Dallas next year! But I digress.
So, the week in Armenia started slow, somewhat difficult, not unusual for me. The first day I had many conversations but zero salvations, that was unusual. But the tempo picked up and the week ended with a bang! On Thursday I met a young, man at a house, named Javier Garcia, he didn’t even live there, he had just stopped by for something. He wasn’t the one who answered the door. Another man did, but he soon disappeared back into the house to get his wife. Javier then came out, sat on his motorcycle and asked us what we were doing there. I proceeded to give him my story, then asked if he needed prayer for anything. “YES, I’m addicted to drugs” he quickly said, to my surprise. “And I want a way out!” (Wow, wasn’t expecting that). After praying for him I introduced him to the “Way”, and he eagerly accepted Christ. We then had a good long conversation about what church really is and what it should be, and when I explained to him he could gather friends in his house, read the Bible, worship God and have “church” in his own home, he said he wanted to be a part of something like that. The next step was to get him connected with our friends from the local church to help him facilitate his new goal. He then told us that he had a roommate, also addicted to drugs, and he was going home right now to tell him. The funny thing is, the man who originally answered the door, he never came back. A true divine appointment, a true person of peace. Please pray for Javier!
Friday was also a great day. I have many stories I could tell about this rough, violent barrio we were in but I don’t want this post to become so long that you lose interest and stop reading. I will say this though. There was something about this barrio that was different from all the others I have worked in. I have never felt such darkness and oppression as I did there. We met so many beautiful people who just wanted prayer for their once peaceful neighborhood. It was almost more than I could stand, I felt so helpless. We gathered our team together and stood in the street with tears in our eyes, praying for God to move.
Ok, on a lighter note, some of you may have noticed that in the last couple of weeks there was some little thing going on called “The World Cup”. NOT a little thing in Colombia! Especially with the Colombian team in the finals. I just have to throw this in because of the spectacle that it was. Everywhere you went, fútbol! Every mall, every restaurant, in the airport, on the streets. We had to postpone one morning of evangelizing until after lunch because of the Colombia vs England match. We knew no one would come to the door. So, we had a big screen set up in the hotel and watched the big game with a room full of Colombians. What a treat! What a game! I hated to see Colombia lose in overtime.
Ugh! my brain hurts. This year Alex has committed to “No más inglés!” and he has kept his word. Something I really need though if I am ever going to get this language. I’m learning a lot, but still struggling with the comprehension. It’s very frustrating for me, I’m just not hearing it yet. Oh please, pray for me.
Before I left the U.S. in June, I prayed that God would open up some new opportunities for me this year. Knowing that I was planning a longer stay, I didn’t want the chance of sitting idle after the rush of expeditions was over. Not that I ever really had much idle time in the past years, with all the training and other ministries coming through that Alex hosted. But this year I wanted to see my own “ministry” grow. I asked God to use me in different ways, to stretch me. Well, answered prayer! I love God’s faithfulness.
While working with Jenniffer Ortiz, one of our top translators, she told me about a new church she is working with in a barrio called, Bosques de Gibraltar. She explained that the church is really just a few women meeting on Saturdays, trying to reach this troubled neighborhood. She said the difficulty is that they are just women, and they are only reaching the women and young children. There is a huge need to reach the men and youths (especially young men) of this barrio. She asked if I would be interested in going with her and just checking it out. I said I would. And I did. And my heart was gripped with the HUGE need that met me there.
One thing that I have always noticed working with e3 is the lack of men that we encounter. Our trips to the barrios are during the week days and we are out of the area usually by 5pm. Most of the men are not home and we usually talk to the wives and mothers. With my off-time travels through Colombia I have witnessed the enormous number of men, lost men, who need to hear about the freedom that Jesus offers. I have been feeling the tug at my heart to want to reach some of them. Therefore, after surveying the situation with this church, I told Jenniffer that I wanted to come back and help them and work in this neighborhood on Saturdays with them. Yesterday (Saturday) was my maiden voyage. It started slow, I knew it would. I knew I just had to be there and be a presence, let them see me for a while and get used to me being there. Remember I said this was a troubled neighborhood. A lot of drug abuse among the youth. The pastora walked with me among the apartment buildings and introduced me to some of the youths hanging out at the corners. We made small talk, my translators and I, trying to build up a rapport with them. We witnessed a couple of drug transactions right in front of us while talking to them. It was amazing how us being there didn’t even slow down their activity. I can’t wait to get back next week. There’s a lot of work to be done.
My next amazing opportunity was given to me by my friend/translator Natalia. She asked if I would visit her youth group at her church in Calarcá and speak to them on Saturday evening. She said I could talk about anything I wanted. I was excited and scared. I’m not a pastor, I have never really preached in front of people before. I told her yes. (Because, as anyone who is a member of Midlothian Bible Church knows, “Who are the ministers?” “We are!”) So I prepared a sermon, my first ever, and I chose to talk about two things that I’m familiar with, missions and fear. I think it went pretty well. There was a wider age range than I had expected. I was afraid I would not have enough to fill a whole sermon but I actually went over and had to shorten it up a bit. Thank you God for getting me out of my comfort zone and for standing with me.
Finally, and thank you if you stuck with me this long, I wanted to let you know about an upcomining opportunity that I am thrilled about. I was asked by the founder of a new mission organization started in Colombia called “Mission Go” to travel with him in October. To go down to southern Colombia, to the Amazon, at the three borders of Colombia, Brazil and Peru. This organization builds churches, provides rain water retention tanks for clean water supply, works with children and shares the gospel, and much more. Thank you Lord for such an amazing opportunity.
To God be the glory!
Thanks for reading