Colombia Update (Part 3)

When I last posted the team I was with had been in Colombia for 10 days.  Now, we’re home!  We arrived safely in Chicago, Illinois on Saturday, November 5.  Here’s what we covered on the last 6 days.

Day 11 was a travel and tourist day.  We flew from Barranquilla to Bogota in the morning.  Due to internal conflicts and difficult travel routes, we flew instead of drove.  I didn’t quite know what to expect out of Colombia’s airline, Avianca, but I must say that they are an excellent airline.  Both flights we had in Colombia on Avianca were wonderful flights.  Planes were modern and well maintained.  Flights were smooth.  When we arrived in Bogota, we dropped off our stuff at our host home and headed to a town called Zipa.  In Zipa we did the tourist thing by visiting Colombia’s #1 tourist site, the Salt Cathedral.  It’s literally a Cathedral carved into a salt mine.  We learned much about mining, visited the stations of the cross (also carved into the mine walls), and had a good time.  It was a lot of walking and we were pretty beat.  When we were finished at the salt mine, we headed to La Mesa, met our host families and tucked in for the night.  I must say that the drive to La Mesa cured my fear of flying.  Curvy, mountainous roads in the dark aren’t much fun.

Day 12 we were in La Mesa.  We started the day by taking a trip to an amazing lagoon.  It was high up in the mountains where three peaks come together.  The flowers, trees and water were beautiful.  We were introduced to some of the legends concerning the lagoon which were pretty colorful!  We also learned about different plants and their medicinal uses.  After our time at the lagoon, we headed to the church and school in La Mesa.  We had a wonderful lunch with the pastor and leaders from the church and school.  In the afternoon we explored the town and hung out (rested).  In the evening we joined the church in a time of worship.  I had the pleasure of joining their praise team for two tunes (I play the drums).  While I don’t speak Spanish well, playing music doesn’t require much talking, so it was a lot of fun and I fit in pretty well.  After worship, we headed back to our host homes for the night.  My daughter, Julia, and I stayed with a pre-school teacher from the Mennonite school at La Mesa.  Julia actually helped her with some school work while I tucked in early.

Day 13 we are also in La Mesa.  The school was having a cultural festival.  In essence, each classroom did a major project and presented it to the guests at the school.  We learned much about the Colombian culture, agriculture, art, music and dancing.  The teachers and students put on a number of skits and musical pieces that showed off Colombian culture.  After the cultural festival, we had lunch with some of the church workers there before heading to a town called Facatativa.  In Faca we visited the Mennonite church, listened to the pastor share their history and vision, and ate with the pastor and his family.  As always, we were well fed.  After our time in Faca, we headed to Bogata for the last leg of our trip.

Day 14 was spent in Bogota visiting many different offices and churches.  In the morning we headed to South Bogota to visit a fairly rough neighborhood in an invasion community.  The churches are at work helping youth in the community, being church together and feeding children in the neighborhood.  They definitely take a holistic view of ministry, targeting mind, body and soul in what they do.  Education is a key emphasis.  Then we visited the office of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, Mercoldes (Mennonite development group), Justa Paz, the Mennonite Seminary in Bogota and two churches in Bogota.  The info was interesting and informative.  There is much going on in terms of justice work, education and church development. I was impressed by what I saw.

On Day 15 we started the morning by meeting with the National Committee of IMCOL (Mennonite Church of Colombia).  We had time sharing about our experience in Colombia, our reflections of the church and work, and listening to the National Committee explain their work.  The rest of the day was spent in Bogota.  We visited a museum, shopped for coffee and items folks wanted to take home and packed in preparation for our departure.

On Day 16 we were up early and heading to the airport by 6 am.  From Bogota to my front door took 2 flights and some driving, but I arrived safely home at 11:20 pm.  It’s good to be back home.  Still processing much of the trip. I’ll post more as I prepare reflections and reports for Mennonite Mission Network and the Mennonite Church of Colombia.

Thanks for your prayers and support during our trip.

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