Colombia – an open door for the Gospel
Dear Friend, Colombia is a Spanish-speaking country in South America with a population of 48 million. In the past the country has had major problems with FARC guerrillas and drug dealers, but the situation is improving. However, it is a country where there are deep-rooted family problems. Although Roman Catholicism is the main religion, the evangelical church has doubled in size since the 1970’s. However, Christians are still persecuted for their faith in the more remote areas. Clive Allen and Heather Mercer had the privilege of visiting Colombia at the end of May. The following is their report:-
The aim of our trip was to visit two of Every Home Crusade’s mission partners, Children’s Vision International in Bogota and El Abrigo del Altissimo (The Shelter of the Most High) in Cali. El Abrigo was founded about 20 years ago by Pastor Hendrik Hoere from Holland. Hendrik is now involved in church-planting in Bolivia so the work in Cali is under the care of Pastor Wilmar Gomez. Cali is a city with a population of 2.5 million. It is a city that is experiencing large-scale church growth. Catholicism used to be strong but people realised that it is a religion that does not change a person’s heart whereas Christianity does. 10% of the population is now Christian.
During the past years we have shipped a number of containers of Spanish literature to Cali. On the Saturday of our visit Pastor Wilmar had organised a conference for pastors who use literature from Every Home Crusade. We spoke and showed a powerpoint about the literature ministry. As the pastors heard the story behind the ministry of Every Home Crusade and how the tracts are produced, they realised the need of the mission and gathered round us for prayer. It was a very powerful experience.
After they had spoken, a number of pastors testified as to how they use the literature.
– One pastor had been healed from paralysis. He has used the literature to evangelise many places in Cali where he shares his testimony. He has found the literature very helpful.
– Holy Mountain Church uses the literature and has seen 1,000 people converted recently.
– Another group visits 40 neighbourhoods twice weekly. Their church has experienced revival and most evangelists lead 5-6 people to Christ at a time. They reported that the EHC tracts are the best they have seen.
– One pastor came to know the Lord when he was in prison in the USA. He is now involved in a prison ministry and is leading many to the Lord.
– A professional footballer came to know the Lord in 1998. He now uses the literature in his national and international sports ministry.
– One pastor works in a guerrilla zone.
– Another works with people on the streets. God has given him the strength and wisdom to carry out social outreach among the victims of violence. He works with lawyers to help people know their rights and claim them. He also works in the red light district.
It was a real privilege to meet with members of Pastor Carlos Martinez’ church. They have been in contact with us for many years and use the literature in one of the most dangerous districts of Cali.
On the Sunday morning we took part in the service at El Abrigo church. The church opens out on to the street so passersby can come in. At the end of the service people were invited to come forward for prayer. One young man who had come to the church for the first time trusted the Lord for salvation. Others asked for prayer for various problems. Pastor Wilmar was converted at the age of 20 through the ministry of Pastor Hendrik. His life had been empty even though he had tried to fill it with drink, smoking and drugs. It is evident that the Lord is at work in Cali in answer to prayer. Every year 30,000 Christians meet in the sports stadium in Cali to pray for the city and the nation as a whole.
On Tuesday morning we had the opportunity to visit El Abrigo, a free daycare centre for 156 children aged from 18 months to 6 years. The children arrive at 6.30 am and are given breakfast, dinner and tea. Many of these children’s mothers are teenagers. While they are at work the children would otherwise be locked up at home and left to fend for themselves. On Sundays a service is held in this centre for the parents of these children and our literature is distributed to them. Colombian society describes these type of children as “disposable”. A few years ago they had social cleansing. Notices would be put up warning people to stay inside and then the police would go round shooting children living on the streets. Thankfully this practice has stopped.
El Abrigo also has a dental surgery. A dentist comes in four times a week to care for the children’s teeth. She also provides free dental care for the poor community around El Abrigo. The containers of literature are also stored at El Abrigo.
Children’s Vision International was founded 20 years ago by Jeanene Saunderson from the USA and is now run by Jeanene and her husband, Richard. It is based in Bogota, the capital of Colombia. Bogota has a population of 8 million and has 7 levels – 0 is very poor while 7 is very rich. The district where Children’s Vision is located is level 3. Children’s Vision has three children’s homes catering for 185 children –
Genesis home for children from 0-8 years of age;
Exodus home for boys aged 9-19; and
Numbers home for girls aged 9-19.
In many cases the young people in the homes are the children of prostitutes, drug addicts, people who are HIV positive or who have mental health problems or who live on the streets. For instance in one family a girl of 13 has been made pregnant by an older brother. Social Services wanted to put the younger children in the family up for adoption but agreed that they go to Children’s Vision instead.
Children’s Vision also has a school, the “Beginning of Wisdom School”. Every Home Crusade literature, particularly children’s literature, is used within the school to teach the children. Within the school they have recently set up a small unit for children with behavioural problems in an effort to avoid sending these children to government institutions which would be much more severe.
The work is not without its challenges. One 17 year old girl is having problems. She was due to graduate from the school and go to USA for a year but is not coping. Her mother died at the age of 19 on the streets in a gang fight. She had AIDS. Her grandparents live in a shack on the side of a mountain. The grandad wept with disappointment at the course his granddaughter’s life is taking. One boy had to be expelled because he brought marijuana into the school and tried to pass it on to some girls.
Some of the parents present challenges too. One mother high on drugs and sniffing glue, came to the school and tried to strangle a member of staff. In Colombia there is a culture of fecklessness among men, who have children to a number of women, leaving the women to head up the families when they move on. However, despite this, the children are receiving food, clothing, education and Christian teaching in an environment that is steeped in prayer.
Children’s Vision also holds Medical missions and mountain missions, delivering literature and humanitarian aid to the poor. Before Children’s Vision came in contact with Every Home Crusade, they really had nothing in terms of literature. Richard and Jeanene now make the 12 hour drive to Cali to pick up 60 boxes of literature every couple of months. This literature is shared with other groups including a school for the deaf and an after-schools club for 150 children in a shanty town.
During our visit we met a lady called Miriam who has a ministry to 150 women in the women’s prison in Bogota. She was collecting 800 packs of literature to distribute in the prison. Children can stay with their mothers in prison up until the age of 3. Miriam was hoping that Children’s Vision could accommodate a 2 year old girl. Unfortunately, the home was full.
While at Children’s Vision we had the opportunity to take staff devotions, to speak to the whole school about the work of Every Home Crusade and to take devotions for the older boys and girls.
We also accompanied the evangelism team on a weekend of outreach at La Risaralda, Pereira. On the night before we left the mother of one of the girls had a dream that something dreadful was going to happen. This caused the whole group to pray for divine protection. It was a very long 10 hour journey from Bogota to Pereira through the Andes mountains. There were a couple of close shaves and then the front tyre of the bus went flat right opposite a mechanic’s garage – a real provision of the Lord.
The outreach event was held in a park in the centre of La Risaralda and was organised in conjunction with the local church. The Music group sang a number of pieces and then Richard Saunderson of Children’s Vision preached the Gospel. While the evangelism team presented a number of Bible stories including the parable of the foolish man building his house upon the sand, members of the group began to distribute packs of literature. The first man that Heather spoke to started reading the “7 Steps” section of the Gospel of John. He then asked for prayer and left his name and address for further follow-up. One of those present was Jorge, a former drug addict who had lived on the streets for 18 years. Jorge’s arms are scarred with drug abuse. He trusted the Lord 18 months ago and is now a member of the church. That morning 500 packs of literature were distributed and 30 people left their contact details for follow-up by church members. A further 300 packs were distributed during the afternoon.
In La Risaralda there is a community of displaced people living in very basic accommodation provided by the government. Some of these folk have been driven out of their farms by FARC guerrillas; others were living in slums and when flood waters rose, their homes were washed away. During the afternoon outreach a woman, her 20 year old daughter and baby granddaughter came to the outreach in the park. They were homeless as their shack on the mountainside had been washed away. When they arrived homeless in La Risaralda, an older couple living in the government community gave them a corner of their home to sleep on a mattress on the floor.
Jeanene, Heather and the pastor went to see where these folk were staying. When we arrived, the younger woman was reading through the Gospel pack she had received earlier. As a result of the visit, Children’s Vision bought them bunk beds, mattresses and pillows at a cost of £130. As you can imagine they were absolutely delighted – a real example of practical Christianity. It was, therefore, no surprise next morning at the church service to see these women who had been helped, accompanied by a large contingent of children from the community!
The pastor in La Risaralda is really keen to get more literature from the depot in Cali. He will share this with 15 other pastors. He also intends to take samples of the literature to a conference for 150 pastors at the end of the month. An evangelist who has a Christian radio station is keen to use the literature in his ministry.
On returning to Bogota, we were involved in making up 5,000 literature packs for distribution at the forthcoming medical mission. Children’s Vision feels that the literature makes the medical work much more worthwhile. It is possible to alleviate pain but that might only be temporary whereas the literature can lead a person to know forgiveness of sins and new life with Christ.
One of the abiding feelings on returning from Colombia is the realisation that the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ can raise people up from the depths of sin. As old and young alike have their sins forgiven and receive new life in Christ, the change is remarkable. Our literature, with the blessing of God upon it, is having a profound impact. Sincere appreciation for it was expressed numerous times.
We know that God said that His Word “shall not return unto me void” (Isaiah 55:11).
Thank you each one for your support for this ministry and we trust that, as you hear of the nation of Colombia being reached, it will be a great encouragement to you.
Clive and Heather
Please pray for the many consignments of literature which we are continuing to ship – we have shipped containers of literature to Nigeria, Macau (Chinese), Colombia, South Africa, and Ethiopia, with containers planned for India, Uruguay and the Philippines.
Yours for a Great Revival,
Samuel Adams Clive Allen