Category Archives: Random Thoughts

¡Feliz Año Nuevo! ~ Colombia’s [crazy] New Year Traditions

A view from the center of the town where we have moved.

A view from the center of the town where we have moved, Bucaramanga Colombia.

Happy New Year from the Vances in Colombia! I thought I’d share a fun little post of some [interesting] Colombian traditions and New Year’s rituals.

Colombia has a load of these New Year superstitions, and most people pick a couple to practice each year (you couldn’t possibly do all of them… lol). It’s amazing how many more of these I’m finding out about as we go along.


1. Vuelta A La Manzana (Trip Around the Block)

At midnight, many Colombians will grab an empty suitcase take a fast lap with it around the block. They believe this will increase chances of taking a big trip in the upcoming year. PS – our suitcases won’t be getting out again any time soon; moving to Colombia was enough for now! 🙂

2. Las Uvas (The Grapes)

It’s crazy how much I’ve been asked if we have prepared our “New Year’s Grapes.” 🙂 Colombians will get 12 grapes and once the clock strikes midnight, they’ll start eating them one by one (at each strike of the clock), making a wish on each. BUT, they believe you have to eat all 12 grapes before 12:01 to make sure the wishes come true!  

3. Calzón Amarillo (Yellow Underwear)

This ritual is supposed to bring good luck, especially with the lottery. If you really want to be lucky, you’re supposed to wear it inside-out and/or backwards!

4. Dinero En El Zapato (Money In The Shoe)

So, if you want to have a financially prosperous year, you need to stuff some bills in your shoe (then put it back on), or at least have some money in your pocket.

5. Las Lintejas (The Lentils)

Colombians put a few grains, particularly lentils, in their pocket to make sure they have enough food to put on the table for the year.

6. Subir La Escalera (Climb The Ladder)

If there’s no ladder available, a chair can be used, but this ritual takes the figurative saying literally, making sure one climbs the ladder of society and life during the year.

7. El Año Viejo (The Old Year)

Perhaps one of the most interesting, to me at least, is the Old Year doll. Many Colombians carry out this tradition each year, gathering a pair of clothes, stuffing it with paper, cardboard and even explosives, then setting it in the street and incinerating it at midnight. This represents the old year passing and a new year coming. Past mistakes, failures, sins, can be left behind, because it’s a new year. Now there is a new opportunity, another chance at life. The old has gone and the new has come.

By Etienne Le Cocq (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Etienne Le Cocq (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

When I think of the new year traditions, particularly the Old Year doll, I cannot help but to think of the difference Christ makes in one’s life when they receive him as their Savior. When a person is born again, it is just that… they are born again! They really are made new! They really are a new creature! They really do have a different approach to life, a different hope, a different (and BETTER) purpose… What a difference Christ makes! We pray many Colombians come to know this Christ, not just as a religious figure or good luck charm, but on a personal level. On a complete-repentance-and-trusting-faith level.


Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21


This list of 7 New Year’s rituals in Colombia is not near conclusive (I’ve heard of another 7 or 8 more traditions but I thought you’d get bored…lol), but I wanted to give you an idea of what we see here. Our wish for you, our friends and family, as you enter this new year, is that you would be full of God’s love, growing in his grace, and in the knowledge in his Word. We pray for health, prosperity, success, and open doors to serve our great God. We love you all!

Merry Christmas Video from Colombia

Hey y’all! We hope you all are enjoying time with family, opening presents, eating more than ya ought to, and most of all, celebrating Jesus! Christmas really is a wonderful time. This being our first Christmas in Colombia, things are a bit different for us, but we are so excited that God has allowed us to come this far and we trust he does some great things for his Glory!

Here is a little video we put together tonight, just for you!

Just to give you an idea of Christmas in Colombia, here are a few observations we’ve made…

~ Christmas (both the “Jesus” and the “Santa” side) seems to be an even bigger deal here than in the States

~ This city, Bucaramanga, is known as the City Of Parks, and nearly all of the hundreds of parks are completely decked out with pretty lights and nativity scenes

~ Nativity scenes are seen all over: in Buisness places, homes, government, etc. in fact, people pride themselves on how nice their nativity is set up.

~ Although you start seeing nativity sets in November, Jesus isn’t placed in the scene until the 24th

~ Almost as big as Christmas, a couple weeks ago they had a national holiday celebrating the Immaculate Conception (the party starts the night before and goes all day!)

~ Big fireworks aren’t legal here, but somehow people all around the city have lots of them and love to set them off until the wee hours of the morning. They don’t go down quietly, that’s for sure!

– In the first week of January they celebrate the Day of the Magi (“wise men”) and will also give gifts, mostly to extended family and friends

~ All the celebrations, though religious in nature, are big family get-togethers in which everybody practically marinates in beer, and loud music. A very “festive” time for sure.

I say all this to bring attention to something that beings me to tears… Colombia is so close to knowing Jesus–They even throw huge parties around him; BUT, their trust isn’t in Jesus for salvation, it is in their works, their church, their goodness, their family, their tradition… And if one does not abandon all else and trust on Jesus alone, they will not make it to God! (John 14:6). In other words, many don’t know the very one they celebrate. Do you? Will you pray with me that we can introduce Jesus to these precious folks who are so close?

We love y’all and would love to hear from you. How can we be praying for you? May God bless greatly as you magnify Jesus. Don’t forget– it’s all about Him!


* PS – we’ve been given a cat and a bunny. Please pray for us. Lol…

Happy Thanksgiving from Colombia!


Aubrie and I, along with our girls Amira & Anabel, want to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for your friendship, your support, your prayers, and your heart for seeing God receive maximum glory!

Today is just another day in Colombia, but Thanksgiving is special to us for a few reasons. For one, we got engaged on Thanksgiving! I asked, she said yes, and it’s been a blur since then. Lol

But I give thanks most of all to our Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave his all, so that we might have life. We do not deserve his grace & mercy, but oh, what a wonder it is. Thank you, Jesus!

Do you know him today? Do you know where your eternal home will be? If not, there’s no better day than the present to know that you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you’re saved! Click here to read more about this or contact us and we can share God’s Good News with you!

Things That Are Different And Not The Same

Here’s a fun post for you. These are a few adjustments we’ve had to make here in Colombia having to do with daily life. This list is definitely not conclusive, but they are just some things we’ve found interesting and had to learn. 🙂

"¡Mira las monitas!" (Look at the little monkeys!)

“¡Mira las monitas!” (Look at the little monkeys!)

At The Store

  • Fruit is dirt cheap. Just be sure to wash off the dirt.
  • Eggs are not sold nor stored in the refrigerated section but on a room temperature shelf.
  • Milk is not sold in jugs but in bags, also on the non-refrigerated shelf.
  • Cheese is used everywhere, but any type of yellow cheese is rare and expensive, that is if you can find any! (aka “Goodbye, Cheddar”)
  • Mountain Dew and Red Bull both are sometimes available, and are less than a dollar for what costs $2-4 in the States.
  • “Ragu” pasta sauce is imported and costs about $6 per jar.
  • Bottled carbonated water is as common as uncarbonated water.
  • Today we saw a tin of cookies (the same brand Aubrie used to buy for her Grandpa for Christmas at the Dollar Tree) for about $9.50 US.
  • We won’t be eating those cookies.

At Home

  • Hot water heaters are available, but not common. When we asked a real estate agent about this, he asked if the local water was too cold for us. We mentioned that we enjoy a warm/hot shower if we can get it, he gave us a serious look and asked, “But won’t that make you sick?” 🙂
  • Tile instead of carpet, bars on windows instead of screens, and open windows instead of air conditioning (The AC isn’t too much of a problem since it stays moderately warm).
  • Many friendly Colombian neighbors love to play music loudly at night. Salsa, Reggaeton, Mariachi… oh yeah.
  • Rent is a bit cheaper than the US, but buying a house or property is much more expensive!

Around Town

  • Traffic signals, lines, and signs are merely suggestions and often ignored.
  • On a 3 lane road, many times there will be 4 small cars and a couple of motorcycles squeezed in between each car. True story.
  • For a city of 2 million, I’ve only seen 1 small wreck in the week we’ve been here. Not sure how that’s possible as I’ve seen how people drive here. Lol…
  • Seat belts are almost never used. Just hold on for your lives!
  • Many people have multiple cell phones. In fact, there are over 49 million active cell phones and Colombia’s population is only 47 million.
  • On many street corners there are people who carry 50-100 new-release movies with copies of the cover and a burned DVD in a plastic bag, selling them for 1-2 dollars each. Yes, pirated. Right next to the cops. They don’t sell many in stores. I wonder why…
  • Public restrooms are between 25 cents and a dollar to use, toilet paper is rationed, and most public toilets do not have seats.
  • People that are strangers will often stop what they’re doing for hours to help you. I find this unique and refreshing, even coming from the Southern US! 
  • As I mentioned in my last post, our little blonde haired girls are referred to as “Monitas” or, little monkeys. There aren’t many foreigners, even in our big city, so they get lots of attention!
  • Colombians are very proud of their heritage and superiority in society (what people group isn’t?!). I had a taxi driver preach to me for 1/2 hour last night about how terrible each other Latin American county is, and how Colombia and its people, of course, is supreme in all things. I just smiled and said how much I liked Colombia. 😀 Inside I thought how great it would be if this man got the same passion for Christ and his glory… what a difference he could make!

Just because some people do certain things differently, doesn’t make them weird. Actually, it makes us weird, because we are prone to do things differently than them, in their own land. We try to have a student’s eye, watching and learning how people do things. We try to have a servant’s heart, helping and lifting up instead of expecting to be served. We try to have the Savior’s mind, who left it all, came to a different land, and gave his all for us so that we could be with Him.

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

Let us all have the eyes of a student, the heart of a servant and the mind of our Savior!

Feel free to share, comment, or add to any of this. God bless!

4 Steps To Knowing God’s Will (PART 4)

Knowing God's Will Banner


(Click here to see other posts in this series as they’re posted)

As we’ve already looked at being (1) in the Family of God, (2) in Fellowship with God, and (3) Faithful to God, let’s wrap up this study on the Will of God with this:

Be Sure You’re Following God’s Leadership!

“And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-22


When Jesus called his disciples to follow him, he asked of them something huge… He asked them to forsake what they were comfortable with, to leave it behind, and to follow him. But this forsaking wasn’t in vain. He promised to make them something better. Something greater. Something bigger than they had ever dreamed of. He promised to do a work in them, and through them, to eternally impact others.

In this, our last, in the series on Knowing the Will of God, we need to know that there are many voices and noises in life that can call away our attention from what God wants from us. Job opportunities, girlfriends/boyfriends, friends, education, family, and others are always pulling at us. How do we know what is right? How do we know what to listen to?

1. Realize you were made for something greater

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Do you want to spend the rest of your life doing things that lost people can do? We often hear of the “American Dream” but in reality, it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be! What do most people live for? A good education, a good time, a good job, a good family….? They punch a time clock, come home, watch TV, go to bed and do it all again the next day. They exert their effort in getting more riches and “toys” that can never bring true happiness. When is it enough? When does it satisfy? Don’t you want to do something better with your life? Something of eternal impact?

Good. That’s why God made you!! We are his workmanship, his handywork, made for a special purpose. Realize this. Understand this. Give yourself to this.

2. Decide to surrender all

“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” Luke 14:27-30

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

Jesus wants committed disciples. If you want to do God’s will, you need to decide right now that you will not do it “half-way” nor will you get out when it gets tough, but rather that you are in it for the long run. Christ wants to do a work through you, but he cannot do that until you surrender everything to him. Give him total access!

It is a hard step, yet a rewarding step in the life of a believer to say “Jesus, whatever you want for my life, it’s yours!”

3. Watch God open up doors of opportunity

“His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast beenfaithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matthew 25:21

Faithfulness was already mentioned in the last post, but it’s worth bringing up again. If you’re being a good steward of the little things, God will give you opportunities in greater things. Be watching for these opportunities. Don’t expect them if you aren’t faithful now, but if you’re doing what God wants from you today, it just may be that he will open up a door soon for you to have a greater influence and impact. But remember, it’s hard to steer a parked car! Get moving for God. He’ll guide you in His perfect will.

4. Check everything in light of God’s Word & Godly Counsel

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.” Proverbs 3:5-7

“Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” Proverbs 15:22

There are dangers to stepping out to serve God. Many won’t understand. Many will mock you. Many will tell you to go another route with your life. Another danger is doing something based on emotions. This is why you need the counsel of God’s word and the counsel of Godly leaders in your life. You can’t trust how you “feel” because the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, and we can’t know it! (see Jeremiah 17:9).

So, realize that every decision we make ought not to contradict Scripture. That’s why God’s word was given to us; as a roadmap to knowing Him and his Will for our lives. Stay in his Word. Don’t assume you know what his will is because of how you feel. Check it against the Bible.

Second, surround yourself with men and women of God that can help you see things that you may not be able to see. Some call this mentorship. You need a mentor. You need somebody that will be honest with you enough to help you. You need somebody to point out areas in your life that still need improving. You need somebody that has “been there” and can help you avoid common mistakes. This is a biblical model. Jesus mentored the 12 disciples. Paul mentored Timothy, Titus and others. Elijah mentored Elisha. Find somebody to learn from and stick with them like glue.


So, in conclusion, how do we know the Will of God? Is it something mysterious that can’t be known? No. God WANTS us to know his will, and he WANTS to do a work through our lives. For some this might be “full-time” ministry such as being a missionary, a pastor, a wife of such, etc… but for ALL of us, he wants several things from us. In review:

1. Be in the Family of God

2. Be in Fellowship with God

3. Be Faithful to God

4. Be Following God

You can know His will! He can use your life. If I can personally help you with any of this, please let me know. Email me, call me, whatever is best for you. There’s nothing like living in the middle of God’s will. It isn’t always easy, but it is the most blessed, joyful and fulfilling life we could ever hope to live.

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