Team Columbia 2009

This was our first time ever to go to Colombia. Accordingly, I did not know what to expect. Three guys from La Pine joined me for this trip, so we actually had a small Oregon contingent! Total team size was 20 from several states. We worked with 3 local missionaries who really made it so much easier to keep our schedules.

The assignments varied: preaching in churches, prison visits, neighborhood door to door evangelism, street witnessing, soccer camps and the last 1 ½ days, a seminar on six topics for new believers and church members a like.
First of all let me say that all of us from Oregon (Josh Harpole, Matt Petz, Mike Riffle and I) were amazed at how ‘white the harvest’ is in Colombia!

Door to door evangelism for a new church start

I have been several places in the world and Colombia is right at the top for response to the gospel message. The stories are too numerous to tell them all, but I will tell a few. All of our team was involved in front line evangelism. Usually we were apart, but everywhere God was truly amazing!

One man had been in prison having been part of a vicious gang. When he was released he did not want to join back in. When the gang heard this, their plan was to kill him. They went to his sisters home to find his whereabouts, but she would not tell. They beat her, raped her and dropped her off for dead in a nearby cemetery. When this man learned about his sister, he vowed to kill them all. But she warned him “they’re still looking for you, go into hiding”. He ran into the jungles and during the night was attacked by wild dogs. They were hungry and were going to kill him. He cried out to God “If You are real, if You spare my life I will search for you” The dogs left. He relayed that God impressed on him “Go to the market square early in the morning. I am sending missionaries there.” When the team bus pulled up, he was already sitting there waiting. He gave his heart to Christ and Mike was able to baptize him!

A glorious porch witness, several come to Christ "your telling me my life"

Another man responded to the gospel, but something seemed wrong. He was the 1st of 20 converts to be baptized at that particular meeting. But once in the water, he wanted to baptize himself and would not look at Pastor Tony, who was baptizing that day. “Do you want to be baptized? Yes, then No. Do you believe Jesus is the Savior? Do you trust in Him alone? Yes,” but then cursing. Finally it became obvious he had a demon. The boy wanted to trust Christ, but the demon would interfere. Hence the confusion. Finally another man said “I know the real you is in there. Do you want to trust in Christ? He can deliver you and save you from your sin. Yes, I do” he answered. And he collapsed in Pastor Tonys’ arms. They drug him to the shore where he lay for sometime seemingly dead or unconscious. The Christians gathered around him and prayed to God. He came to, a completely changed man! As he was recovering, he reached in his pocket, took out a piece of paper and tore it into small pieces and threw them into the water. “I don’t need this any more”! It was a prayer he would pray to the devil. Seems there was a sickness in his home and his father had invited spirits into the home for help. The teenager became possessed and would literally have to be chained up at home, so violent were some of his satan fueled tirades! Reminds me of the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5). He went home a new man! The next day his brother came and gave his heart to Christ!!

"I have heard God call me many times, I will not shut my ears again"

I had the privilege to go into the prison. It was a dangerous place. Two inmates killed each other the week before and security was by far the strictest I have encountered. I was suppose to speak to a large group of prisoners and preach the gospel. But there was trouble in that area. Instead I met with 6 men who are being used of God in a powerful way in that prison. We sat in a cell and I shared scripture, and encouraged them to be faithful, committed to Christ’s work. But I was the one encouraged. In the midst of all that violence, God is doing a mighty work. A local Pastor, Franklin, has been visiting that prison for 9 years and now his work is really bearing fruit. These men I met with are inmate converts and the leaders of the church inside the prison. They often go without food and pray all day to be ready to go witness to the other inmates. In a prison of 2000, 300 men have become Christians! The principal leader used to make his living killing white tourists. He would take their money, credit cards, and identity. When he was arrested, there was a body in the trunk of his car!
Other leaders are gang members, rapists, murderers, drug dealers and arms traffickers. One former gang member told me “when I got out, I was going to go back home and start a war with those who hurt my family. But in here was the best place for me. I met Jesus, and now when I get out I will go back to Venezuela and I will war for the souls of men”!

Witnessing to this young man started a sequence of events

There are so many things that happened. For some of my time I traveled by bus 1 ½ hours outside of Cartagena. The main church I had been preaching in back in the city had planted a work in this remote neighborhood. They owned a small house for this new church. There we (2 teams) went door to door for 4 days. Often I had Pastor Winston with me. I enjoyed him very much. He does not draw attention to himself, but he is a man of great faith. He pastors the largest Baptist Church in Cartegena, only 2 pastors in 66 years. At one point I was witnessing to a teenage boy on a motorcycle. His friends rode by and laughed at him several times. I asked him “if you kill yourself on this bike today, do you know where you will spend eternity? No, I don’t” he said. I replied “I see your friends, they are mocking you and me. Let me ask you a question: Do you think Hell is funny? No. I told him, Your free to go, don’t stay here for me. I want to know more, I want to stay” he responded. I shared my testimony, told him why Jesus came and we knelt down in the street and prayed! As I was praying a woman came up to us and said “ Can you tell me what you told him? I only heard a little bit”. So I shared the gospel with her and right in the street we prayed and she received Christ. As we were praying another woman came up and asked “can you come to my home and share with us? I heard you from across the street, but I want to know more”! I went into her home and she trusted in Christ also.

The bible teaches the Holy Spirit is like the wind. He moves on peoples hearts. We don’t know from where, or on whom. He comes when He wills. It is awesome when your on the same street!

We were able to lead nearly 100 people to Christ in that neighborhood. We saw dramatic, tearful, genuine responses. It was not uncommon to spend 1 ½ hour in each home.

All of HIS converts signed up for bible studies in their home beginning the next week, to be conducted by members of the parent church. They would also start attending the ‘small house’ church which was only a 5 to 10 minute walk.

In total our teams saw nearly 300 decisions for Christ. Praise God! We are invited to return, and because of the political power in place, there is a great window of opportunity now.

Please pray for us in 2010 to be able to accomplish all that God has for us to do!

We need His mercy and His supply. God is stirring my heart in a deeper way. We cannot exhaust the contemplation of all that He is. But contemplation must have arms and legs and become ministry.

Thanks for all your prayers and support. May we all ‘run our race’ and finish strong for Jesus. This is the investment that will last!

Your brother in The Lord,