Colombia Update

As many of you know, I’ve been in Colombia on a learning, relationship-building, and work trip to Colombia with a team from my church.  We left our homes on October 21 and will return on November 5.  Right now, it’s day 10.  I’ve wanted to update before now but wifi access has been sketchy and when I’ve had it my computer wasn’t with me.  Today, I’m able to update.  For folks at Metamora Mennonite Church, thank you for sending us, we are having a rich time here.  Here is a summary of our trip so far.

Day 1:  We left Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, flew to Houston and then to Bogota, Colombia.  All the flights went well, but it makes for a long day.  At the air port we met our host William Valencia, who has been a constant companion on our journey.  From the first moment, the welcome, hospitality and care have been amazing.

Day 2:  We left Bogota and flew to Barranquilla, Colombia which is on the Caribbean Coast.  We are partners in church planting here through Mennonite Mission Network and a direct relationship with church planters Gamaliel and Amanda Falla.  Gamaliel and Amanda are from Colombia.  They started the work here 9 years ago.  Now there are 5 churches in Barranquilla and 3 additional churches in the Caribbean Coastal region.    They met us at the airport and have been wonderful hosts throughout.    We all went to various host families where we have been well cared for.

Day 3:  Let the visiting begin!  On Sunday we worshipped in the North Church, was the first church planted in Barranquilla.  It has been a key church in the planting of the other churches in the region.  Worship was energetic.  Our group “brought greetings”, pastor Jon gave a children’s story and I preached with the help of a translator.  In the evening we went to Ebenezer church in the south of Barranquilla.  We worshipped outdoors as the church wasn’t big enough for the size of the group.  We experienced a Christian greeting unlike what we do in our church.  We usually shake hands with those near us.  Here everyone shook hands and hugged every other person at the gathering.  It was awesome.   Some children from a nearby church had a percussion ensemble with singing. William and Gamaliel preached.

Day 4 and 5: On day 4 we travelled south west to Sincilejo and Sahagun.  In Sincilejo we met with Ricardo Esquivia who is doing peace and justice work in the region. Ricardo and those who work along side him are working with resistance communities [communities that refused to leave under pressure of violence].  He works with leaders of industry and with local farmers, trying to work at solutions whereby the resources of the region can benefit all in the community.  He has a holistic approach that brings together justice, reconciliation, development, sustainability and ecological responsibility.  Ricardo has a beautiful vision that is working on the ground.  He says “If it exists, it’s possible”.  From there we went to Sahagun where we participated in the baptism of 4 people.  There was an evening service at the church for us.  This wasn’t the usual night they met.  We stayed overnight in the Hotel Emperor.  The next day we had breakfast with a local family and visited a building that had formerly been a brothel which had been given to the church.  There is much to work out in terms of possession and legal ownership, but pastor Manuel has a grand vision for how the building can be used.  After breakfast, we headed back to Barranquilla and rested for the night.

I’ll have more to add in an additional post. I must go to a meeting now and I’m concerned if I don’t post what I’ve already written I won’t get back to it!

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