What a day!
We saw much of the city today, but honestly we have hardly scratched the surface. We walked around several important neighborhoods, saw huge plazas and big museums, and we were able to go up to Cerro Monserrate, a Catholic church on top of the mountain by the city. We’re finding that the Colombians are very good at their Teleféricos (cable cars) as this is the third one we’ve ridden so far.
Here’s a few things we’ve learned while here in Bogotá, many of which can also be applied to many other cities around the world:
1. People are Religious
This country is over 90% Roman Catholic, and it shows in many parts of their society. The Hotel we stayed at in Bucaramanga even had a chapel and held mass everyday for those traveling through. Catholics aren’t the only ones here, though. There are reports of Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witness, Taoists, Ba’hai, Atheists, several Evangelical denominations and others that claim this as their home. Everybody has religion. It’s that way in the entire world. So, what makes us different? Why would we want to come here when people already have something to believe? Read on…
2. Religion is Empty.
One person defined religion as “Man’s attempt to get to God.” But that’s just it… we can’t get to God. That’s why he came to us. Nearly every religion, including most of those found in this country, are based on works. My good deeds. You know, the scale system. Everything good I ever did is weighed against everything bad I ever did. Whichever is greater determines my eternal fate. If I were sincerely judged on that scale, I’d lose. There’s no doubt. I was talking to one of our taxi drivers about this today as I was explaining the Gospel. He seemed so intrigued that we could actually be saved in spite of who we are. It’s the beauty of God’s salvation. But religion…. religion is empty. It leaves you wanting. That’s because it can only give so much hope. What we need is a relationship. When Jesus Christ becomes not only a figure of our church but our Savior and Lord, that’s when we have hope of life. That’s when things become different. That’s what sets us apart. It’s not what I do, it’s what He has done!
3. People are Searching.
You remember all those religions I listed off just a second ago? You know why those places are filling up? It’s because people want something else. They want hope. The dead faith of their fathers has left them wanting, and they are willing to look elsewhere for the truth that’s missing. Unfortunately, what they find many times, and even what they take a risk on and sometimes change their entire life for, is just another lie. That’s why we need to get the truth in their hands. The harvest is ripe. People are searching!
4. Christ’s Church is Growing.
In spite of all the lies in this place, in spite of all the deception, in spite of all the false prophets, and in spite of the need that still exists, God’s is building his work here. There are quite a few good churches that we’ve found in this city. We hope to visit two of them tomorrow. Be praying though, that God would send more laborers here. Would you pray about coming?
I’ll leave you a few more photos before going to bed. We only have a couple of days left before heading back to Georgia. Pray that God would help us redeem the time. Love you all….
When asking some of my Colombian friends in the States where we should go while in Bucaramanga, many of them recommended a nearby canyon called Chicamocha. So, today we went to Parque Nacional Chicamocha, and let me say, it was spectacular.
The trip there was interesting, to say the least. It took us a total of a couple hours by bus to get to a place called Mesa De Los Santos. From there we grabbed the Teleférico (cable car) across the canyon and up to the park. This cable car system is one of the largest of its kind in the entire world and the view was nothing short of amazing.
Once at the park, we grabbed lunch (I had the goat–forgive me, it was tasty!), walked a bunch, saw some ostriches and other wildlife, and I was stung by a wasp and got highly sunburnt. Overall it was a pretty nice day!
Tonight we also looked around more at some places to live here. The real estate prices and rental prices are incredibly low compared to Medellín and of course the States. Medellín’s prices weren’t bad at all, but housing is dirt cheap here.
Tomorrow we fly out to Bogotá, our last stop before heading back to Georgia. It will be sad leaving this place. We’ve made some friends here already, and we know that the Gospel is highly needed. Will you pray that God sends more laborers to Bucaramanga, Colombia?
Also be praying for a touchy situation in Bogotá. The country’s truckers have been on strike for over 2 weeks over some financial issues, and for the last 3 days they’ve blocked several major intersections in the city. The president said that if an agreement wasn’t met tonight that force would be used to remove them (possibly resulting in violence), and they seem to have just met that agreement. But, even still, there may be a few complications in getting around. We’ve also received emails from the US Embassy warning us about these events. If you want to know more, click here.
Pray that God will be glorified through us as we finish up this last leg of our journey.
We were so blessed today to go to yet another children’s home in Bucaramanga, this one full of only special needs kids (and some adults). There were 82, all with varying chronic healthcare conditions. Although we were met with smiles and hugs that would melt any heart of stone, it was so sad to see many of these children go without some basic needs. Almost all of them were abandoned by their families. Here, maybe even more so than in the States, when a child has special needs, many times they are considered a waste of time and less than a real person. How sad. I’m glad God didn’t think I was a waste. These kids need to know of a God that loves them and has a special plan for their lives.
We were able to take them a few things to help out with the kids’ basic necessities and give a little money toward getting them proper care.
Random Stuff Around The City…
He didn’t even lift his head.
As I squatted down next to him and tried to speak kind words, he heard a slight jingle and slowly opened his hand and pointed it upward. The coins that dropped into his grasp, one of them falling to the ground, didn’t even total a dollar, but it was more than he had seen all day.
Then, I slipped a pamphlet out of my pocket and into his hand. “Good news,” I told him. “Maybe a friend can read this to you. It’s a message from the Bible and from a God that loves you.”
He barely acknowledged me.
The smell of alcohol was so strong. Local businesspeople sneered as they looked on with disgust. Why would I waste such a thing? The money, yes, would probably be used for something that would worsen his situation. I wasn’t sure how he would respond, but I couldn’t just walk by. The fact is, I had already walked by several just like him.
People walked by him all day. Hoards of people walked by him. It’s so easy to write this man off as just another waste of space in our society.
But, how long had he been sitting here?
Where does he call home?
Has he been like this his whole life?
How did this situation start?
What does he live for?
Doesn’t he have anybody that loves him?
These questions filled my mind all day and my heart has been broken. Tears swell up in my eyes even as I write.
The truth is, people are desperate. It might not always manifest itself like it did in this man’s life, but people have no hope.
They need hope.
We all need hope. We have a void that must be filled.
Some fill that void with religion, but its hope is empty.
Some fill that void with possessions, but its hope is empty.
Some fill that void with bodily pleasure, but its hope is empty.
And some give up. The void remains empty. There is no hope. Why even try?
But Christ, through his mercy, gives us a perfect hope. I love Romans 15:13 that says:
“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”
That’s what makes us different. That’s why we can have hope. It’s because our hope comes from the God of hope.
And we keep it to ourselves?
What about the rest of the world?
Are we going to hoard our hope, when Christ died for all?
Our hearts have been broken here. I have been begging God to show me how to best make a difference in this country and in the world. I need his help.
Courage to speak.
Guts to act.
Willingness to be used.
Our hearts are broken.
Several years ago (does that statement make me seem old?), my wife, before she was my wife, told me she wanted to go to Colombia with me. It kind of made me chuckle at first, but it became a mutual dream before long. And that dream wasn’t realized until this month. It has been so special traveling with the love of my life over the past several days in the land that God has laid on our hearts. There’s nothing like it. Aubrie is the most special thing that has ever happened to me, outside of my relationship with Jesus Christ, and I thank the Lord for her every day.
Aubrie, I love you. Thank you for being mine.
Colombians, in contrast with some other Latin American countries, don’t celebrate Valentine’s day in February, but they do have a “Día de Amor y Amistad” in September (Love and Friendship Day). There are some interesting customs associated with that day that we learned about today, but I think I’ll save those for another post.
We flew out today about 1:30 in the afternoon and left behind some new good friends. The Washburns are a wonderful couple and have been so kind to us during the few days we spent in Medellín, Colombia. There is no doubt that God is doing a work through them. Be praying for their ministry. They have a brand new church plant, 4 other works throughout the city that are now led by men that they trained and a couple outside the city also. They have quite a few people in their Bible Institute there as well that are interested in ministry. May God be glorified through them!
The flight to Bucaramanga was only 35 minutes. I’m glad we opted for the flight over the 10 hour bus ride. The price difference wasn’t that big and the convenience was amazing. Though it was a smaller-than-what-I’m-used-to twin engine plane, and it was a little odd looking out our window and seeing a propeller, the ride was nice and they even served us a Dunkin Donut and a drink on our trip. Amen.
Bucaramanga is the capital of the state of Santander in Colombia. Its metropolitan area is made up of both Bucaramanga and the nearby cities of Girón, Floridablanca and Piedecuesta. The population of that area is between 1,500,000 and 2,00,000 (depending on who’s stat you read ). One reason Buca was so appealing to us is that it is growing very quickly. We saw this on the way to our Hotel from the airport, which is 45 minutes outside of town. There was much construction on the roads as they’re working on widening them, more buildings being built, and people everywhere. You can kind of see these four cities connecting before your eyes. That’s the kind of place we want to be. A place that grows around us. And when people are willing to uproot to move to a whole new area of the country, usually they don’t feel as obligated to follow the traditional dead faith of their fathers, for tradition’s sake. They are more open to the Gospel.
And yet, I haven’t been able to find a single like-minded church in this entire area. I have been able to locate a couple of churches that, though we might not agree on everything, might be preaching the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith and they have done very well in reaching the people. I’ll be trying to get in contact with these and others while we’re here.
Tomorrow we’ll be checking out most of the area around town. It seems they have a pretty good Metrolinea, which is the local bus route that connects the city. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Be praying that God gives us clear guidance while we’re in this city. We have a lot on our agenda over the next 4 days before heading out for Bogotá. It seems like there is a great need here!
Here are a couple more pictures of some things we’ve seen.