Archive for April 15, 2010

This has been an exhausting yet fulfilling final full day of ministry in Medellin Colombia. I started the day off by myself having breakfast (which simply consisted of watermelon, cantaloupe, rice and beans, and sausages accompanied by a simple glass of orange juice.

Doug was running late because he was trying to finish with the barrels he is staining for Mi Casa Azul (and he did finish and met us at the theater at 10:30.) Cheri is running late because … well, I don’t know why because, nonetheless, she is running a little late and asks me to bring her a bottle of water and a couple of bread rolls for the journey.

Adam and Pedro meet us on time and Cheri and I head to the theater to present our final messages to the local pastors.

We have been thrilled with the response we have gotten from all of them; this is a fine group of pastors who really seem hungry for God and who seem to want true unity among themselves.

After a brief time of praise and worship, I spoke the first half of my message regarding the rebuilding of the temple by Ezra and Nehemiah … and I related it to stewardship and integrity. (I am not sure how I came up with that other than to say that it was purely the Holy Spirit.) After an hour, I was exhausted and gave everyone a 15 minute break. (The truth is that I had a sinus headache all day long and it just simply did not seem to want to go away. This greatly affected my ability to focus yet I think that the message came across very well [in spite of the pain.]) When we came back, I finished this almost 2 hour long message and was met with great acceptance to the challenges I presented. In fact, there were pastors in this meeting publicly asking other pastors if they could help them by supplying them with teachers and worship leaders. I was overwhelmed by these responses … as well as the ones to commit to one another to trust one another and to continue to recognize the need for one another.

Cheri then wrapped up the meetings with her encouraging words to submit to God’s process(es) so that proper and healthy growth could come according to God’s plan and purpose. It was wonderful that she and I prepared our messages independent of one another and yet our primary focus scriptures were identical. She gave her illustration of a mariposa that comes out of the cocoon too soon and lives out its existence malformed because it had not allowed the development process to come to completion. She then compared this with pastors that want too much too quickly.

When we prayed over the pastors, Pastor Pedro took a few comments from the pastors and they were all overwhelmingly positive and showed signs that the messages had been received and that the challenges would be received as well.

I made sure that Cheri and I got our pictures made with one of the secretaries. She is a beautiful native Amer-Indian woman named Elis who is a prayer warrior. She seemed delighted to have her picture made with us and I am delighted because she is the epitome (in my mind) of what a Colombian looks like.

We then had lunch where I had a grilled cerdo, a pile of brown rice, and an ensalada accompanied by a glass of jugo de lulo. Cheri and I then changed shoes and sent our backpacks to the car with Adam. We then went to a pay toilet. I have to admit that this is somewhat of a novelty to me so I had to go just for the novelty. Of course, the package of individual toilet paper that we were each given was an added bonus. Boy, I must really live a sheltered life to be amused by such.

We then embarked upon the Metra system where we got to see most of Medellin. It was heart breaking to be standing on the staging area and see a homeless man below rifling through the garbage can and taking drinks out of cups that he found there. Then, while riding the Metra beside the Medellin River, we saw shacks that homeless individuals and families had set up from the nearby garbage. (Oh Lord, continue to break my heart.)

I did get to see an iguana sitting on the concrete shoulders of the river bank. Although I was too far away to accurately tell his size, I can imagine that he was 3-4 feet long. That was kind of cool although we have seen iguanas out in the wild in parts of the Caribbean.

As part of our Metra tour, we also took the cable car Metra that goes on the south side of Medellin up through and over the mountains. There were some spectacular and awesome sights on this part of the tour. For instance, we saw the homes of the very rich as well as the shacks of the poor. The mountains are beautiful in and of themselves but the colors that people painted their houses made the tour even more stunning. ( I really can’t imagine how these people got to town and back prior to the Metra cable system.

We then went to the local Exito store (which is like a Colombian Wal-mart) where we bought some candy to take home as well as some pain medicine for our hips and knees.

We then went to Pastor Pedro and Mabel’s home where a beautiful and lovingly prepared supper awaited us. Again, they made us feel “at home.” We have come to love the Hernandez family and even took the time to bless their son, Alejandro, who was in bed battling Dengue Fever. We also blessed them and their home for their Colombian hospitality. Of course, being the gracious hosts they are, they also blessed us.

We then came back to the hotel where we both are sitting with our computers in our laps as we type up notes from the day and answer e-mails.

Then, a knock comes to our door and we open it to find Erika and her husband, Ellery, who are here to tell us “Chao” and to give us “Mi Casa Azul” ornaments to take back home and raise funds for Palabra Pan y Paz.

We love our Colombian families and we are already dreaming of our return trip here. We, in fact, have already been invited to speak in several local churches and in their youth groups. We actually hope to do another pastor’s seminar like the one we have just completed; but this time in Cartagena.

Hopefully, tomorrow I will have time to give some closing thoughts to this trip as we fly back into Chicago.

Until then, know that this has been one awesome time in Medellin, Colombia

There are now words to adequately express our feeling for this day. I guess to start, however, I might try “phenomenal,” “Extraordinary,” or “WOW!!!”

Of course we started the day off with breakfast which consisted of a cup of cafe con leche, a glass of orange juice, some sausage, and some beans and rice.

Then, Cheri, Doug, and I headed to the Foursquare Church’s sanctuary in the former cinema downtown for round two of our three days of Pastors’ Conferences. After having gotten off to a good start yesterday, the crowd more than tripled today with about 150 in attendance. While more were expected, I must say that this was one hungry and responsive group of pastors and wives. What is truly wonderful is that Cheri and I are ministering to them regarding integrity and ethics … and they are eating this stuff up. What else is really cool is that these men and women are just from Medellin and the surrounding area … and they are seeking unity and anointing for their city and for the Kingdom of God.

I spoke in the first session regarding the importance of trusting the Holy Spirit in our defense of the Gospel … that we should prepare and that we should know of that which we speak … but that we must allow for the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us and to speak through us.

The second session, I also spoke regarding “What Kind of King are You” as I unveiled three biblical Kings, Saul, David, and Absalom, then presented characteristics of each, then challenged the pastors to see which traits of these kings most closely resembled those personal traits of their own. It was a very moving time together as these men and women were deeply challenged and were noticeably moved with introspection and repentance.

After a brief break, Cheri spoke regarding “10 things Pastors’ wives most need from their husbands.” She started off with a brief game similar to the Newlywed Game and immediately gained the attention of her audience by doing so. Again, many were deeply challenged and even asked for copies of her notes and for tapes so that they could share with their congregations in a modified form.

The last session witnessed me teaching this congregation regarding the power and necessity of personal forgiveness. One of my main thrusts was that while forgiveness DOES liberate the one whom we are forgiving, it even more so liberates us who are the forgivers. The challenge went forth to the pastors that they needed to have a place for forgiveness in the own hearts, perhaps even toward another pastor in the room. A great move took place as that very thing took place before our very eyes.

I think that I am most amazed at the receptivity of our audiences. They are simply soaking in everything we are saying. While I take great joy in that fact, I also am deeply challenged with the importance of delivering the pure Word of God to them.

After these sessions, we all gathered in the lobby and had great fellowship. It was wonderful to be there with our friends from Palabra, Pan, y Paz as they had opportunity to share their new project at Mi Casa Azul with all of these pastors.

We then went to a restaurant which specializes in Columbian Coastal Cuisine. I am not sure what kind of fish I had but it was absolutely delicious. (And yes, it still had the head and the eyes on it. Hopefully as I update these blogs a little when we get home, I will post a picture of my fish.) We also had this delicious coconut rice and a smashed banana-bread mixture called a patacone. And of course, the ensalada was fantastic as well as it featured finely cut greens and cantaloupe, papaya, and other fruits. This was all accompanied by a wonderful glass of guanabana con leche and cafe con leche.

Here we ate with the Medellin board of Christ for the City International. We loved seeing their spirits and witnessing their welcome.  WE were made to feel at home. In fact, Pastor Pedro shared his dessert with me. He will never know the significance of that to me BUT, at home, only family shares food together (and yes, I mean eating after one another.) And when Pedro shared his dessert with me, I felt like family. I was awed.

We rested on this hot afternoon in our hotel room for a couple of hours as we also prepared for service tonight.

And this is where it really got good.

The church was a Centre de Fey in Ballo and was awesome. There must have been close to 1,000 people in attendance. (In fact, it was really hard to tell because the congregation poured out into the streets and people were standing all over the place … so I am suggesting 1,000 in the building and I have no idea how many were standing outside and listening.) I do know that there were people taking pictures of Cheri and me and that some were standing and recording us on their cell phones and cameras. Wow, there was such an awesome hunger for God’s Word. I spoke in Offering our Talents back to God and using them for His service and you again could physically see that hunger, the challenge, and the acceptance among the people. In fact, I was amazed at how many came to me afterwards and, in their broken English and in Spanish were telling me how this message was just for them. Another WOW moment was when more than 80 people gave their lives to Christ tonight. I gave the altar call and led them in a sinner’s prayer, and then turned them over the the pastor who prayed with them and sent them to a follow-up room with counselors. WOW.

But perhaps even more WOWing to me was the overflow into the streets of this congregation. You literally could not drive a car through the streets after church because the people were partying and singing the praises of God IN THE STREETS of Ballo. It was awesome. And they all had to have their picture made with these white people. Even little girls would come up to Cheri and me just to touch us, have us pray for them, and to kiss them on the cheek (and them kiss us.) I don’t know when I last felt so loved.

I reminded the congregation … and I reminded myself: we love Colombia. We love the land; we love the flora, and we love the fauna … but most of all, we love the people. This was an awesome night and we are overjoyed at what we have seen God do.