Friday, January 14, 2011

Colombia Journey Part 4 - Faces

I am always fascinated with people and their stories. Here are some faces that are a good representation of the people we met.

Pastor Edward and his wife from Manizales Baptist Church.
Children of street peddlers that spent their days just outside our hotel room.
Daniel, a new school teacher helped me with items I did not understand during Sunday worship.
Three year old daughter of the minister of worship.
One of he children at Manizales Baptist.
Another of the children at Manizales Baptist.
Angela, whose husband is the worship pastor's wife.
Worship pastor at Manizales Baptist and his daughter.
Daniel, their son.
Indigenous teenager who was running a shop in a local mall.

Most of the people pictured are believers. Some of them are not. They are all precious in the sight of God.

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
Matthew 18: 12-14 NIV

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Colombia Journey Part 3

On Sunday we made it to church. After a weekend of the Festival with all of its commotion I was needing to spend some time with a group of believers. We found the Manizales Baptist Church.

The church is not particularly impressive looking, but there is a lot going on inside.
The worship service started with an extended period of singing contemporary praise songs. As you can see the praise time included a group of interpretive dancers. The songs were interspersed with prayer times and scripture readings.Everyone participated actively in the praise time, including seven year old Santiago.
Then came the offering. Interestingly, after the offertory prayer led by the pastor some of the elders of the church stood at the front with baskets and people came forward and placed their offerings in the baskets. By the way, the pastor's wife, is standing behind the pastor in the gray dress.
At one point a man who is supported by the church as a missionary among some indigenous people shared a brief testimony. He told a powerful story about how God had worked in his life.
The highlight of the service was the sermon by the pastor. He was articulate, biblical and actively engaged the congregation. I did not see anyone looking bored or sleeping.
We were wondering how things would work out for Charlotte since she does not understand Spanish. The pastor's wife enlisted July (pronounced Julie) to interpret. July spent several years growing up in California. She now works as an interpreter for several local companies.
The church has the practice of providing lunch for anyone that comes seven days a week. On Saturdays and Sundays they will have as many as one hundred stay for lunch.
The youth were having a good time while they waited for lunch to be served.

We were a bit concerned when we heard that the services usually last about three hours. Honesty, it did not seem long. We found ourselves engaged. It was a wonderful worship experience.

Visiting the church was a highlight for me. First, it was good to be with a fellowship of believers. Second, we met many beautiful people. Third, there were several people there whose lives have been radically transformed by the gospel. Finally, it was exciting to be a part of a dynamic church that is making a significant difference in the lives of people.

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
Psalms 122:1

"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Matthew 18:20

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Colombia Journey Part 2

On Friday morning we flew over to Manizales. It was a short 40 minute flight due west from Bogota. Manizales is also located in the mountains at only 7,000 feet. They have a small airport, you can see that the runway is sloped upward.

The city has approximately five hundred thousand residents and is located along a mountain ridge. The main street is on top of the ridge, when you get off of the main street you will go down hill.
The picture below was taken from inside the state government building. It is a national historical monument and represents 19th century architecture. In front of the building is the plaza, Simon Bolivar, which includes a statue of the man-condor. Beyond that is the central cathedral in town.
We had heard that the 'Feria of Manizales' (Manizales Fair) would be going on that weekend. What we did not realize was that it would dominate everything going on over the weekend. While getting around we saw four different concert venues. There were parades, bull fights, beauty contests and streets set aside for street peddlers and crowds everywhere!
This picture was taken outside our hotel. Every afternoon the street was turned into a pedestrian mall. The crowds started picking up around 5 PM each night and continued until after midnight.
Manizales is home to six different universities. Pictured above is the National University. Located nearby is the University of Caldas. About five minutes away is the Catholic University.
The church with the floating cross and the red brick stair stepped apartment building seemed to be primary landmarks for me as we traveled around town.
The University of Manizales has several classroom buildings with a courtyard in the middle. It looked welcoming. We learned that there are fifty thousand students attending six different universities in town. Regrettably, it was vacation time so we were not able to meet many students.

Manizales is a nice city. In spite of its size, five hundred thousand, it feels much smaller. The mountain setting was also very attractive. It is in the heart of Colombia's coffee triangle so there is always a good and inexpensive cup of coffee available. The people are known for being among the friendliest in Colombia and we found they lived up to their reputation.

We met the Pastor of the Manizales Baptist Church (subject of tomorrow's blog) and he said that the city is known for being religious. But, he believes there are a lot of churches and superficial spirituality and yet most of the people are lost and without hope.

"When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things." Mark 6:34

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Colombia Journey

Charlotte and I are traveling in Colombia this week. Our first stop was in Bogota, a city of eight million people.
Bogota is located in the Andes mountain at an altitude of 8,000 feet. This picture was taken from Monserrat, a park on a mountain with a great view of the city.
On top of the mountain is a beautiful Catholic church that is still decorated for the Christmas season.

This journey includes retracing some of my roots. I first moved to Bogota with my family when I was six months old. My parents were missionaries in South America for thirty six years. My dad started the Iglesia Bautista Central (pictured above). They started meeting in a room over a bar. In time the bar went out of business but the church thrived. Today, the church is surrounded by high rise buildings and has no parking space.
On the wall, inside the building is a picture of the building as it looked when my family left Bogota to move to Barranquilla a city on the northern coast of Colombia.

Inside the building looks much as it did fifty years ago. The organ in the choir loft on the right looks like the organ my mother played when we were there.

The Colegio Nueva Granada is the school I attended during my kindergarten year. The curriculum is all in English. Today it is considered one of the best schools in the city.

It has been good to reconnect with my Colombian roots. I am thankful for the heritage I have from growing up in this environment. I have some wonderful memories from this period of my life. I am also keenly aware of the legacy that my parents left behind. It also makes me wonder about the legacy I will leave behind some day. I am reminded of a line in a song we used to hear, "May those who come behind us find us faithful."

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every thing that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrew 12: 1

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mustard Seeds

As mentioned in my previous post, we have been a part of a Sunday School class called the Mustard Seeds. The name comes from a metaphor that Jesus used to describe the amount of faith that will yield incredible results.

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matt 17:20

Of course faith is a trust of confidence in something. But faith needs to have an object. For the believer the object of our faith is God and His son Jesus. What we are challenged to do is to have a simple trust and dependence in Him for the issues we face daily and with our eternity. We are challenged to believe that He is who He says He is and He will do what He has promised to do.

Jesus, as quoted in Matthew, is challenging us to grow in our belief and in our trust. The idea is that a very small amount of faith (faith the size of a mustard seed) will yield tremendous results.

So when I hear some bad news or things around me are changing and I can't do anything to change it then I can faith (believe and trust) that God is sovereign. Nothing escapes His attention. Not only that but I am His child and I am secure in Him.

Look at the mustard seed and know that faith as small a mustard seed can move mountains.