Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Cartegena is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever had the pleasure to visit. After a week in a poor barrio, it was a stark contrast. La Central was much poorer than the area we went to last year. Many of the homes did not have paint, just cinder block walls and dirt floors, or cement. One very poor family had a bedroom and their living area had no roof.
All the way home all I could think was, "I don't need."
It is amazing to see such beautiful faces and sweet spirits in such conditions. God has provided food for these indigenous people in this environment. The papayas, bananas, coconuts, coffee, and pineapples just grow. The people shimmy up the trees with their machetes and cut down the luscious fruits. Limes are plentiful. It is common to see donkey drawn carts heavily laden with the most beautiful fruit. The landscape is lush and thickly foliated. Here you do not see starvation even among the poorest people, a stark contrast to the suffering in Africa.
The photo with the million dollar view is from the rooftop of the mission. It is located in Galapa a town that looks a lot like Tijuana Mexico. Most of the little cement block structures have a "razor wire" on the tops of their walls, made from broken bottles and anything sharp to discourage intruders. The poorer neighborhoods have drug and crime problems. We had to be careful to leave by 5pm, and the one night we stayed for an evening, showing the Jesus film in a dirt soccer field we had army protection, soldiers with machine guns. Thankfully we did not need their services. It would have killed me to harm even one of them.
Where do I begin? Each trip has a life of it's own. This one was hard fought. The JW's had been here before us, and we had much work to do. Each house was harder, each place a field of battle, but God prevailed. 583 people chose Jesus Christ, over 800 attended the film. A small church has been started.
Last year we gave a gift for some booklets called, "The Book of Hope," they cost 33cents each in American money. Our national missionaries have worked with this organization to begin to place one copy of this booklet into every child's hands in Barranquilla, the entire region. What started with a very small amount of money $200. has been multiplied into a gift of amazing size. These booklets can be handed out in schools. Our missionary and the organization of "The Book of Hope," are working together to make this happen.
What do you do when faced with the questions raised by other groups? As I went from house to house I felt led to explain that many people are good at argument and debate. It was for each one of them to decide what to believe. I asked them if you were leaving how much weight would you place upon the last thing to be said? So it was that I led them to the last chapter of Revelation, the last few verses. Jesus himself gives a warning against adding to or taking away from his words, no extra books, no new prophets. Jesus said, " I AM the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except by me." An unpopular message today in our culture of affluence, but in this culture it is the water of life. If Jesus were here he would be in places like this.
One woman and her brother had travelled by taxi from the country to visit a friend in the barrio. She told me that she heard a message on the radio in transit that she would meet God this day. She said she had heard of the Mormon's who believe in Joesph Smith, she had heard from the Jehovah Witnesses regarding their beliefs, but she had not accepted them. She said that today she had heard the true gospel and would move to this place to join the Bible study, so great was her joy. Again each one must choose for themselves what to do with Jesus from Nazareth.
Over 500 witnesses saw him after he was raised from the dead. Their are many religions and many books about spiritual matters, but only one man has come back from the dead and has power over death.
We worked very hard. 5 out of the 15 got sick. Medicine in Colombia is very cheap. We took one of our team members to the mission clinic where he received 2 bags of IV fluid and 4 different IV medications. The price for an emergency room visit and treatment? 82,000 pesos about $44
cash. I was impressed with their health care, they LOOK at the patient, their was so much more humanity in their care.
I happened to get sick on the bus on the way back from Cartegena. It's funny now but at the time I thought, maybe I was dead and in hell. We had chartered a nice air conditioned bus for this day that had a very tiny bathroom in the back which was not air conditioned, and perhaps had no air at all. I had NO warning that something was up until a blowout was occurring. As I hurried from the front of the bus to the back all I could say was, "Oh NO!" In the bathroom I struggled to get my pants and underwear off, the underwear would go in the trash, and put the pants back on. The drivers in Colombia drive as fast as possible and the back of the bus was bouncy. Bouncy enough that my big hiney was slapping the seat and at some points I thought I was going to rip the handle right out of the wall. It was not pretty. No toilet paper. But I had a small pack of wipes with me, the things you can be grateful for! Basics. I was the last person off the bus to hide my disaster but the team found out anyway.
On the way to the airport one of the fellas who is an absolute hoot was shuckin and jiving with the taxi driver. He asked to drive and other silly things. The driver liked him and wanted to party. James said, "No cantina." so the driver put on some music by Dairo Gomez and James starts talking about how well we already know "diarreah-go-mez" that Karen had a blowout on the bus. In ENGLISH praise God so maybe he didn't catch on and start worrying about his cab.
After the 5th person got ill I recommended the whole team go on antibiotics prophylactically until we got home. Nobody wanted to get stuck in quarantine so Bactrim for everybody.
It was hot. I have never been so hot. The water kept getting shut off, once while I was in the shower completely soaped up a with a thick shampoo lather in my hair. Their I am hollering, "HELLO!, I need to rinse off!" It was not fun. some of the guys said they would squirt our drinking water on me one tiny bag at a time, very funny. Fortunately the water did come back on and I got the soap off, el pronto! We also lost power. Without fans the heat is sweltering oppressive, like a sauna. I have not ever experienced sweating like that. I was wearing a money belt around my waist that I had to move to my backpack, it was literally drenched and all the money as wet as if it had been through a washing machine. In spite of these drawbacks our trip was incredible. I love the Colombian's. They are a beautiful people. They live in a richly blessed land even if it is on the equator. They treasure their babies, their old and each other. They have generous hearts and beautiful eyes. We can learn from them. They have so little and so much more than we do. They suffer from poverty and crime but are not defeated. Hope and humour beat in their chests, and I hope to return to them again.