Last Week in Colombia

by - January 18, 2016

We arrived in Bogota well past my bedtime several days ago to temperatures in the 70's, sweet friends, and something in the air that made the space between my eyes swell up and my head throb. After a couple of Benadryl that expired in 2012, I was feeling better and ready for the week. Here are some sites as we walked to and from the church and our training events. 

A Market.

It was Sunday lunch time, and still Christmas in Bogota.

There is amazing graffiti in Colombia.   

Bogota out our hotel window.
We had a few days of meetings and training with our partners from around this part of Colombia. I’m so honored to meet and work with these people. These friends. After our first two days of meetings and training we had some free time before our flight to Medellin for the next training. So our friends took us on a road trip to see the Cathedral de Sal Zipaquira. It was an underground salt cavern that has been turned into a walk through the stations of the cross of the Via Dolorosa.  The grand finale is a cross carved out of salt so high I can’t describe it. My first panic attack (in what feels like another life now) was in an underground cavern in Branson, MO (scary place), but this time there was no panic, no attack. I’ve been made new. 

My alarm went off this morning at 3:45. I thought I would dread that, but I was in the middle of a weird nightmare, so the alarm going off was welcome. Actually all three of our alarms went off at 3:45. We didn’t want to oversleep. So a melodic dinging, a buzzer, and the song 10,000 Reasons brought us out of our short nights sleep. We’ve got a flight to catch. The 8 hour drive to Medellin turns into a 45 minute flight when you lift off the roads that wind around the mountains and into the sky where it’s a straight shot. We met another group of pastors in Medellin who flew in from a coastal town in Colombia where they have begun a Hope ministry. Our first stop was a Hope Center near an apartment community. I speak a few words of Spanish, (“donde es el bano” being probably the most vital) but I understand maybe 2 words. So when meeting partners I pray a lot and become an official picture taker, hugger and cliché American trying to speak the few High School Spanish words I remember. We discussed plans for this week that would include a trip far outside cities I’ve heard of. It had already been confirmed a few days before we left the U.S. that I would not go on that portion of the trip. They say I don’t look Latina. (What?!?) A Hope Center counselor looked at me, not knowing I wasn’t planning to go, and said in her broken English “She has to hide her eyes in dark glasses and shut up.” They told her la gringa was not going. We laughed, and in my mind I drifted off to my happy place. Later, I was told the deeper reason why it was best that we not go. The pain that region has experienced is heartbreaking, and stirs up a lot of anger. I’m so thankful God sees their pain and has led the pastor who is now working with Hope to travel there and serve them. He cannot talk about them without crying. His love for them is deep and outloud. He is giving his life to lead them to Jesus so they not only experience life transformation, but they come to know the transforming Savior. Jesus is the point. Jesus is the hope. He is the reason for everything. 

The plan was to drive straight to our hotel (with hot water which is necessary to specify), but they decided we needed to see “el grande piedra.” I thought, a rock? But this is a little more than a big rock. It was worth the drive. We paid for it with a late night again, as it pushed our next meeting back a couple of hours. But, how often would we get to see that rock? I have a new magnet to put on my fridge to commemorate the visit. 

The Rock of Guatape.
Then it was training day. I love training day. It is when I get to experience God’s faithfulness in a different way than any other day. There are language barriers and cultural barriers and He breaks through them all. According to His word, I pray for His word, His leading, His presence, His will, and in ways I cannot always describe He does all of it. He leads the conversations in directions of His planning, because it certainly isn’t mine. It is such a gift to be so incapable (can’t speak their language, can’t relate to their specific cultural histories or perspectives); that we get to experience Him without the clutter of our own expectations through our times together. It grows my faith and courage to see Him work through us, in-spite of us. Sometimes we have language barriers even when we all speak English, and cultural barriers even when we live in the same town. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, (Proverbs 3:5) and cross some barriers.   

The training was in the first Baptist church in Medellin founded by American missionaries many years ago. I was tired, a little emo, and got overwhelmed thinking about the footsteps we were walking in. I am so thankful for their faith and courage. I wonder what God did in their hearts, how he united them, comforted them, provided for them, entrusted them to be there. I hope they get to see a glimpse of the church their faith built and the fruit of their labor there.  

Peeking into the sanctuary.  

View out a window of Hope. 

Medellin is surrounded by mountains, and the mountains are covered with homes.

A historic church in a little town called Santa Fe de Antioquia.
I’m home now. Met my family at church today. Sang “Jesus At The Center Of It All” with the people of the Church I worship with on Sunday. And I deeply rejoiced at who He is; and let those words sink deeper and deeper into my heart, praying they would flow out more and more through my life. Rejoice is a word I’m focused on this year. A woman at our ministry encouraged us to pray for a word, and I did, and this is the one that kept coming at me. I wanted my word to be Divergent, but it wasn't.  Rejoice is a great word.  As the Lord has graciously directed and redirected my life, He has helped me see more clearly and be better at thanksgiving (thankfully).  But, Rejoice is one I think I need to practice.  Rejoice seems like thankfulness kicked up a notch with gladness and maybe a little appropriate dancing.  The Bible discusses rejoicing in trials and suffering for we know the outcome, and also rejoicing in gladness and praise for the good the Lord has done.  Come what may, this will be a year of Rejoicing. Rejoice. He is truly the center of it all. 

I'll let you know how it goes. 

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