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.
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.
“Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
Today we went to a new work that was recently started by Missionary Rick Washburn, Comunidad Bautista Amistad En Cristo (Friendship in Christ Baptist Community) and another church that was started years ago, Iglesia Fundamental Bautista Vida en Cristo (Life In Christ Fundamental Baptist Church). The first church is around 1 year old and meets in a rented house on the outskirts of Medellín. It was packed in there. Pray that God gives guidance to find a new building soon.
Praise God for an opportunity to preach his word and for one precious soul that was saved this morning! After preaching on the Power Of The Truth, 13 year old Santiago (the second from the left in the picture below–the one with his eyes closed) decided to place his trust in Jesus Christ. This was his second Sunday coming to the church. Pray that God would work in his life and allow him to grow and to be a witness to his family and friends.
After church and a delicious lunch we decided to go to El Cerro Nutibara. This is a small mountain in the very middle of Medellín, Colombia where you can look out and see the entire city on all sides. At the top they also have a small replica town of the “old days” (Pueblito Paisa) and a few shops. Here’s a picture of Aubrie and I at one of the viewpoints of the city. Sorry about the squinting–the sun was in our eyes just a bit.
So, today was our last full day in Medellín. What a needy city. I believe that God has great plans to glorify himself in this place, but we definitely need more laborers. Would you consider coming here?
Tomorrow afternoon we’ll be flying out to the city of Bucaramanga. This is a smaller city than Medellín, but I haven’t been able to find any likeminded churches there. Pray that God directs us as we endeavor to discover and fulfill his will.
Here are a few more pictures for your viewing enjoyment…
She was 15 years old. She has a two year old and a 4 month old baby, both with different daddies. Her family didn’t offer much support. Her surroundings screamed that a life of utter failure would ensue. The babies didn’t have much hope. It was even questionable if they would live. Then she met Christ and her life was changed. There was suddenly a support group around her giving counsel, help with the baby and instruction in God’s word. Somebody made a difference and invested in her. Now there is hope.
She was 13 years old. Her body had become a dumping ground. It’s the only value she could find. It was the only time anybody thought she was worth anything. Then they would leave and somebody else would come. She was at the mercy of the streets. Drugs, alcohol, sex. This was her life. Then she was introduced to a man called Jesus Christ. He showed her what real love is. He changed everything. He put her in a place where she received love in a pure way from people that actually cared for her.
He was 12 years old. His parents essentially kicked him out of the house. The street became home. Drunks, pimps and druggies became his friends. Food was a luxury. His life was hard. Each day he woke up with fear that it might be his last. And with the gunshots, the yelling, the crying, the hallucinations, it’s not as if sleeping through the night were something easy either. What was the purpose of life? Why even try? But then, God came into his life. He brought him into a home where love abounded, where people cared, and they taught him about a man named Jesus. It wasn’t an overnight process, but after time, this Jesus became HIS Jesus. He became the father that never existed. He became a good friend. He became a personal loving Lord and Savior. Now, after 8 years in the program, this boy is now a leader for other boys coming straight off the streets. The unwanted ones. The scum of the city. The ones for which Jesus died. He now makes a difference in many lives because somebody made a difference in his.
These are real stories we heard today, from the kids themselves. These are real kids who have been saved. Saved from a life of destruction. Saved from a life of failure. Saved from the vicious cycle. Saved from hopelessness. Saved from eternal Hell.
We spent most of the day with the Perrow family, who are good folks from the Open Arms Foundation here in Medellín. They have a wonderful work going on. Their mission statement says it all:
Please watch this touching video that they’ve put together. We met many of these kids today, and it broke our hearts for the need. For every kid saved there are dozens more just like them that need somebody to reach out to them. You can find more info on their website here.
A couple blocks can make a big difference.
It may be the difference in whether a child gets a good education or if he’s pushed into the workforce at 10 years old.
It may be the difference in whether an individual receives excellent medical care or is at the mercy of less-than-adequate public clinics.
It may be the difference in whether someone can expect to live a long and comfortable life or is fearful if they will make it through each day, violence surrounding them.
And, it may be the difference in whether people have access to the Gospel or are drastically separated from it.
We saw this difference today. We saw rich areas and poor areas. We saw people who were wrapped up in materialism (a common sight for us, coming from the US), and some that didn’t have even a tin shack to call home. We walked through elegant malls and cruised through neighborhoods that didn’t even have electricity.
Medellín is a very large city, with a metro population that is near 4 million people, and still growing! Another thing that you’ll notice is that the town is divided up into levels of status they have called “estratos.” They have a scale from 0-6, with 0 being the lowest (the homeless, perhaps), and 6 being the richest of the rich (community leaders and officials). Your “estrato” will determine much of what you do, who you spend time with, how you live life, and even how much you are charged for your water bill. It also determines your access to many community services.
Medellín is a land of contrasts for sure.
One major development they have made here to connect the city is their metro system. In a way, it is similar to the MARTA in Atlanta (for those of you that are familiar with it), but it has its differences. For one, they have two connecting MetroCable systems that take you up to remote parts of the city. Something like a glorified ski-lift. It only cost about 75 cents to go anywhere on the metro, including connections on the MetroCable. Not bad…
Here are a few photos we took throughout the day. As you look at these pictures let them break your heart for the need in Colombia. What more can we be doing to reach the lost?
Our hearts were broken today as we saw these things. There are a few evangelical works around this town, but nowhere near what is needed to give even half of these people access to the Gospel. The harvest truly is plenteous but the laborers are few!
Pray for us tomorrow as we spend most of the day at a 3 different children’s rescue homes. Our evening will be spent with a Colombian man and his family whose sister is a member of our church in Georgia. How exciting!