I’ve been a part of Kay and Ken’s life for many years now. They were both single when I met them and I was just learning their heart language. Jane became my tutor. In my tutoring classes we talked about all aspects of life. Literally sharing life together as I’m now considered a family member after all these years.
Kay and Ken married a few years ago and now have a baby. They have been blessed to have multiple older people in their lives to mentor and disciple them. They were sent out last year to start a new Sunday group.
Kay has been a part of 2 other discipleship classes, both just 6 weeks long then the leader went on to other people. She said she felt like a “project” with some foreigners and even their own native leaders.
One of the things I do is discipleship. My approach is to spend 2 years with people. Kay and Ken are both great learners. They are currently using the same discipleship materials with their leadership team that I have used. Each person in their leadership team is now mentoring and discipling others in their Sunday group. The discipleship, mentoring, and coaching that I have done with this couple is now being replicated throughout their Sunday group. Great fruit is being produced from this couple.
– Names have been changed for safety
By: Worker Serving in Asia
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When “Lee” first joined us, he didn’t sing in public, couldn’t play an instrument, and knew nothing about music. Today he’s writing songs, plays multiple instruments, and teaches and leads others in his club.
When we started the music leadership school (a.k.a. how to become a worship leader), people came in droves wanting to learn guitar, piano, drums, and voice. After the first week, however, many dropped out as they learned that music leadership required more than just music ability.
The course was based on the concept that being a worship leader meant being the “first worshipper.” We spent the majority of each session exploring the heart of a worshipper from a biblical perspective. As their musical skills developed, students would take turns leading music sessions. This is when gifted leaders began to separate from the pack.
We’d see people who quickly picked up chords and strumming patterns, but couldn’t lead others in worship. We’d also see the opposite—students that progressed slowly musically, but when they led, people would quickly enter the deeper realms of worship. With Lee, we saw the best of both worlds: he progressed quickly in both technical skill and leadership. He had a heart of worship.
I first noticed Lee at a retreat where I was playing my guitar. As I played, he just smiled looking engaged to the music, but somehow pleasantly distant.
Me: “What’s going through your mind right now?”
Lee: “A song.”
Me: “What song?”
Lee: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Why don’t you sing it?”
Lee: “There’s no words.”
Me: “How about humming it?”
He started humming the most beautiful song that tied perfectly to what I was playing. Within just a couple of weeks, he was playing and humming songs on the piano. After a few more weeks, he was writing lyrics to new songs. With each new skill learned, Lee would beam brighter and brighter. By the end of the semester, we extended an invitation to Lee to lead the next group of leaders. He accepted and is teaching and leading others today.
By: Worker, Serving in Asia
There’s a song that says “Lord, change the world, and let it start with me.” That’s right…it starts in us first. Not only is this my heart’s desire, but it’s also the cry of each Latin American missionary that comes through Corrientes, a mentoring & equipping program in Ecuador that prepares Latin Americans to be Christian leaders around the world, including right in their own country. As we surrender our hearts and our wills to what God is doing, He amazingly does a deep work in each of us and then sends us out to partner with Him as He does a deep work in others’ lives.
During my first year of teaching English at Corrientes, I had two middle-aged Ecuadorian women (Adriana and Natalia) who came to class together every day. They were both missionaries and pastor’s wives who wanted to improve their English so they could better work with international teams that came to work with them.
One day, I’d planned our conversation to center around the topic of education in Ecuador. It was a subject I knew little about and I thought it would be useful vocabulary for them to learn. We could talk about subjects studied, how the educational system is organized, what students & schools must each provide as far as materials, etc. It turned out that God had a whole different idea though, and He hijacked the conversation in order to accomplish HIS agenda for the day.
The conversation turned to how public school teachers treat and talk to their students in Ecuador. I was shocked to hear that throughout grade school, high school, and even university, there are many teachers who are rude and insulting to their students. Adriana and Natalia told me that it was common for teachers to declare to students “You’re stupid!”, “You’re ignorant!”, “You’re good for nothing!”, and “I can’t stand you!” In fact, some teachers have even been known to make these insulting remarks to parents about their children!
As they shared this information with me, the Holy Spirit suddenly reminded me that MY profession was teaching; before coming to the mission field I’d been an elementary teacher for many years. Now years later, God was prompting me to stand in the place of those Ecuadorian teachers who had done so much damage to Adriana and Natalia with their harsh words, so as a teacher, I asked my dear students to forgive me on behalf of those teachers who had spoken such insulting and devaluing words over them. As I asked them for forgiveness, tears streamed down their faces, sobs were released, and God ministered to those deep unhealed wounds in their hearts that they’d been carrying around all these years and hadn’t even realized they were still carrying. God knew though, and He had ordained that THIS specific day in English class would be the day that He would heal those wounded areas of their hearts.
It turned out to be a powerful time of God ministering healing to them, as we all prayed together and they forgave their former teachers for all the negative words they had spoken over them. God then led me to speak specific blessings over each woman…they ARE intelligent, they ARE gifted and skilled, their unique learning styles were created by God, they are not a mistake, etc.
We also spent some time praying together for Adriana’s and Natalia’s children who were still currently in school, praying that God would protect them from hurtful words spoken by teachers, that they would be able to show their teachers the love that they so clearly needed, and that their lives would be a testimony to their teachers rather than a burden.
What an amazing equipping class! This class period turned out totally different than I’d expected, but exactly the way God had intended. God’s timing for healing and freedom is perfect, and His “interruptions” make for the best classes! God’s heart is to bring all of us into wholeness, and I was blessed that He allowed me to partner with Him in releasing healing to Adriana and Natalia. I’m thankful for the Lord’s perfect agenda and timing, and for His great love that He pours out in these classes. Students come to me for English, but they leave with a whole lot more, as I partner with the Holy Spirit in equipping them. Thanks be to God for His mighty work!
(Names have been changed for privacy)
By: Sue Noroña, Serving in Ecuador
It has now been a full year since my wife Aladrian and I flew away from our home, family, church, friends, and our settled California lifestyle. We soon landed in Cape Town to begin the most challenging and incredible year of our lives!
It has taken lots of adjusting for us to get grounded in this beautiful AND heart-breaking country we now call home. But, at the end of the day, we are awestruck by how God has stretched our faith and dependence on him.
We arrived in March 2016 to join the staff of East Mountain, an innovative leadership development mission near Cape Town, South Africa.
East Mountain is a UWM missional community that seeks to advance God’s kingdom on earth by identifying, equipping and multiplying high-impact servant-leaders for Africa’s churches, communities and families.
CREATING TOMORROW’S LEADERS TODAY
Each year we identify young, aspiring leaders with demonstrated leadership potential, passion for Africa, an entrepreneurial spirit, and commitment to multiply more leaders. These exceptional individuals undergo an intensive year-long, live-in learning experience focused on spiritual formation, theological education, and practical skills.
Just over a year ago Aladrian and I were established Sacramento pastors with productive ministries, a comfortable lifestyle, and high hopes of entering into blissful grandparenthood.
So, how did we end up 10,000 miles from home equipping leaders in a foreign culture?
OUR TURNING POINT
From ministry trips to Africa over many years, Aladrian and I had developed a deep love for its people and deep awareness of both its needs and its immense potential.
On each trip we’d been heartbroken when repeatedly asked:
“Why won’t our successful African-American brothers and sisters come help us succeed?”
And, we had noticed how the developed world typically responded to Africa’s massive problems with Band-Aid solutions: more food, more medicine, and more charity dollars. Clearly, charity alone hasn’t produced adequate results.
At some point, Aladrian and I stopped asking God, “Why is Africa like this?” and started asking, “What can we do to make a real difference?”
A NEW VISION
The answer came loud and clear, and, it was in what we had been doing successfully in our own country for years:
Help transform Africa by multiplying godly, well-equipped leaders there.
Very soon after that I became acquainted with East Mountain’s work while casually surfing the web. I was so intrigued by their unique leadership training initiatives that I began Skype conversations with EM senior staffers to learn more.
Those talks quickly led to us flying to Cape Town to see East Mountain for ourselves. We immediately saw that the program and the team behind it were the real deal and that God was doing something very special there. We wanted to be in on it.
It seems the feeling was mutual, as shortly thereafter we were invited to join East Mountain’s staff.
INVESTING IN GODLY LEADERSHIP
I can’t believe how unique and gifted each of our resident-trainees are—and how much of a father’s love and pride I feel toward them. Our program is a difficult process, but God is building them up rapidly. My prayer is that these young people are the next generation of godly change-agents for Africa—and the world.
By: Ronn Elmore, Serving in South Africa
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One of the luxuries of becoming a teacher straight out of college is that you already have roughly 16 years of “in-school” experience to draw from. There have been countless times in my three years of teaching middle school Bible at the International Christian School of Budapest (ICSB) when my teaching was directly influenced by a previous experience – good or bad – as a student. One of those instances was Valentine’s Day of this year, a day when – fittingly for the holiday – God showed me his love in a surprising way.
I will always remember English class on Valentine’s Day 2008, which was my junior year of high school. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, our teacher decided that she would spend the majority of class telling each student what she loved and appreciated about them. I remember expecting something vague, like “You’re always kind to everyone,” because I preferred to stay in the background, and I didn’t feel like teachers paid all that much attention to me. Then my teacher said,
“Brian, I love that you don’t see people on a surface level… when you see people, you see their souls and their deepest spiritual needs.”
I was shocked, because it was true… and not only had she recognized that, but I had never realized that about myself, nor had I ever stopped to think that it was significant or unique. It was a simple sentence, but it still stands as one of the most important things that anyone has ever said to me. It made me feel noticed and appreciated for who I was as the deepest level, and it motivated me to continue seeing people as souls that needed Christ.
So then, as Valentine’s Day approached this year, I remembered my English teacher’s words and decided to give the same words of personalized love and appreciation to my own middle school students. However, the class that I was teaching that morning was seventh grade. While the majority of our students at ICSB are from American missionary families, seventh grade is composed mostly of Hungarian students, and while most of them speak English fluently and a few of them are Christians, it still makes for a very different and sometimes challenging class dynamic. Nevertheless, after two years of teaching them, I had learned to love and appreciate things about all of them.
Mostly because they are middle school students, it is often difficult to hold their attention in class for more than 15 minutes without changing activities. I went around and spoke into each of my 20 seventh-graders for 35 minutes, and it was silent. Every student was locked in and listening, nodding in agreement as I would talk about their classmates. Students I addressed would listen – some making eye contact and some avoiding it – and reactions ranged from smiles to quiet tears. I was already inwardly praising God for what he was doing through this, when they shocked and blessed me in a way I had not expected. As we finished with 10 minutes until the bell and I began to transition to other things, they protested, “we didn’t get to say anything about you!”
Have you ever felt like the time, commitment, and sheer work you put into your ministry is unrecognized at best and unprofitable at worst? I don’t think I’ve met anyone in ministry who’s managed to avoid this nagging feeling. Granted, God does not promise that we will be appreciated and praised for our work in Him; in fact, we are to often expect the opposite (see Col. 3:23, Eph. 6:5-8, and Gal 1:10)!
As a teacher, I don’t expect to hear daily appreciation from students, but it can be exhausting to pour my heart and soul into them over long stretches where it seems they simply do not care. There are a few students who I can count on to encourage and affirm my teaching, but it often happens that those I fight for the most are also the ones who don’t show appreciation.
Before my seventh-grade students asked to share what they loved and appreciated about me, I wasn’t sure if they had even really considered what I did for them. (At one point towards the end of the fall semester, after I had prayed for reduced stress in teachers and students, one of them had asked, “Mr. Dicks, how could teachers get stressed?”) However, I sat and listened for ten minutes as every student raised their hand and shared something they appreciated about me, as a person and as their teacher. Some personal favorites:
- “I feel like when you teach, you’re not just talking through notes. It feels like you have a message from God that he wants you to give to us.”
- “You talk to us and treat us like individuals, not just like a bunch of the same students.”
- “You are willing to change plans or do extra work to help us learn better.”
And so, on a day when I planned on showing love to my students in an intentional way, they – and likewise, God – surprised me with their love towards me. They shared their words out of their own love, but God used them to love me in His own way, affirming my investment in the ministry he had given to me.
I believe we can all learn two major truths from this.
- Make it a habit to tell others what you love and appreciate about them, especially in regards to the work in which God has called them. Do it in a way that is intentional, personal, and sacrificial.
- Pay attention for ways in which God loves you through the words and actions of others.
He does not promise that we will be loved and appreciated by the world around us, but he does promise that his love will never leave us.
By: Brian Dicks, Serving in Hungary at ICSB
Growing up in America, children are taught that relationships are a balance – meeting halfway. Each party has something to offer and each party has equal share in the relationship. I think this has also how I have viewed ministry for a long time. I have something to offer and someone else has something to offer me, which turns out to be a very transactional relationship. While compromise is a healthy aspect of relationships, always compromising fails to allow for unconditional Christ-like love. Relationships shouldn’t be transactional, they should be unconditionally meeting someone where they are, regardless of what it requires from you. My worldview on relationships began to change after being a Summit Intern at East Mountain.
East Mountain Interns are required to live in an intentional community. Everyone lives and does life together all in the same house at the same time. If anyone has had a roommate, they understand the need for grace. Now imagine a dozen roommates of varying gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and language barriers (needless to say, one needs a little divine grace).
Within this context, a transactional compromise-based relationship isn’t enough. Trying to meet someone very different than you halfway does not promote a healthy living situation.
The wealthy white American male can’t have a transactional relationship with the colored Afrikaans woman from a township. There is too much of an unconscious power dynamic. In such an intimate setting, unconditional love is required to build a healthy community. We must be willing to go all the way regardless of what we want to offer or want to give up. The relationship must be one of a love so great that even if all I do is take from her, she must still be willing to offer me more.
Relationships are hard, it’s difficult to love everyone all the time. It takes a lot to even be willing to meet someone half way and even more to meet them where they are. However, Christ met us where we were, not on his way to us. He didn’t love conditionally, he loved selflessly then called us to follow him and do as he did. I’m not perfect in this pursuit of loving unconditionally, but the relationships that have been built and grown from an unconditional love have been so much deeper and richer than I would have ever experienced otherwise.
By: Jameson Coslow, Intern at East Mountain South Africa
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Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.” Winston Churchill said, “I act therefore I am.” Jesus said, “I am.” These are statements about identity. The rationalists tell us that we are the sum of our thoughts, our ideas, our visions and plans. The pragmatists tell us that we are what we do, the sum of our activity and action. But the one true triune God, Father, Son and Spirit says that he is the source of our identity. He is and therefore we are. Our identity, purpose and significance flow out of relationship with our Father in Heaven who loves and invites us to be with him.
I don’t know about you, but this is a hard truth to swallow for a recovering doer like me. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my soul I am so often tempted with the lie “you are what you accomplish”. At times I struggle profoundly to find contentment and rest in the midst of a ministry and life that seems to be so founded on the quantity and quality of my activity.
How refreshing it is to discover that the invitation to be with God is also an invitation to be with God’s people! The triune God who is in his very nature, community, invites us to find our identity in the context of community with himself and one another. For in the communion of saints – unity with and communion with the members of God’s own family, past, present and future – God reveals his glory, his power and his kingdom to a dark and dying world.
The centrality of a doing centered ministry philosophy unravels when we begin to understand that our mission – what we do – emanates from our being – who we are. We are God’s beloved sons and daughters, members of his own household and the very body of Christ. We are a holy, righteous, redeemed, cherished people whose life together reflects the life of God.
This life together constitutes both the beginning and end of our mission. The community is the sacred space where the intermingling of personalities and gifts provide the environment for a person to encounter the living God, repent, believe and grow into spiritual maturity. From this position of affirmation, resource and example we go to exercise our God given assignments in the world.
But the community is not purely instrumental in nature. The fellowship of the saints is not a tool that God uses to accomplish the more important task of evangelism or social justice. Rather, the picture at the end of redemptive history is a community of God’s people living with God glorifying him forever. We are the chosen people, the body of Jesus who will one day participate in the wedding supper of the Lamb, finally, ultimately, made one with the bride groom. Until that day our life together is the space where the presence of God dwells in the world. We are the salt of the earth – the space where the hope of the world is preserved until God returns to reign. We are the light of the world – the place where the world must come to find their identity, worth and significance.
The preeminence of being over doing is one of the truths that guides our life together at East Mountain. The communal disciplines of table fellowship, reading Scripture, sharing authentically, and prayer are central in our weekly rhythms. These rhythms anchor our being and provide a place from which to offer our gifts and life to others. As we enter into a new year I am hopeful that together we will move more deeply into our identity in Christ and ability to be with him and one another.
By: Gabe Smith, Co-Founder/ Lead Visionary at East Mountain
Serving in South Africa
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“But what do you guys get out of this?” A paradigm shift was about to take place in my mind.
Sitting at a table in Kauai in downtown Stellenbosch during late 2013, Gabe Smith (East Mountain Director) was explaining to me what the residency program they are planning to introduce at East Mountain might look like, while inviting me to consider becoming one of the inaugural residents. Staying in community with Christians from other denominations and backgrounds while completing my theological studies; being assisted in covering my living costs while asked to commit myself to intentional engagement with my community. “Ok, what is the catch?”, I wondered. “But what do you guys get out of this?”, I asked Gabe. “Well, we invest in your life during this year and wherever you go from here and whatever you achieve is what we get out of it.”
I understood from the beginning that generosity is one of East Mountain’s core values. In time, I would learn that generosity in community goes beyond that which is material. It is equally a generosity of space, time and essentially one’s person. The fact that East Mountain is an ‘intersection’ where the world meets, concluding that it is possible to encounter and impact the world simply by opening the door to one’s living room.
I would like to quote my grandmother as I consider generosity in terms of time and the self.
“The longest journey for every single person on earth is the journey from his own heart to the heart of his fellow men, or the heart of just one fellow man. That is a journey that lasts a whole lifetime, it can never be completed. Perhaps the answer lies to some extent in a statement a modern psychologist made recently: “We realise now,” he said, “that a person is a process rather than a set of habits”. In a process there is ongoing interchange. In the journey to the heart of another person your starting point and junctions have to change on an ongoing basis as well, because you have to adapt to continual growth and change. Therefore, it requires a whole lifetime…
…We live in an age of technological and scientific development as never before, an age of dramatic change, so dramatic that we could say it is a time of technological and scientific miracles. And yet, one thing remains true, has remained true through all ages of man: all great inventions made by man, great and seemingly immortal works of art, all great deeds done by man, all these can be destroyed, only one thing remains indestructible: the true goodness man has given and invested in his relations with other people. This is handed down from one generation to the other; this has a validity which never diminishes, a spiritual power which never fails, no matter how technology and science change the world. That, I know and believe is the love that St Paul describes as the greatest of all things in the world… …The economic constraints unique to the age we live in, makes people not only more frugal with their livelihood, but also with their time. When I give someone of my time, I give him of the most precious things I have; all I want to own or achieve, I need to buy with my time. Another unique aspect to this age is of course the ‘idiom of violence’, and it makes us all the more cautious and suspicious of one another. The result being that in our dealings with others we often have too little time for and too many prejudices towards one another…
…Establishing proper starting points among a people, a multi-racial country, a miserable world, lies to a large extent in the hands (of those) of us willing to do it because we are open to undertaking the longest journey, from heart to heart, person to person.”
East Mountain was not simply an intersection, a destination through which others entered my world, but also a starting point from which I began some of these ‘longest journeys’ and were shaped as an establisher of proper starting points.
I can easily look back at the journeys I set oﬀ on, to the hearts of those I got to share a house with; people very different from me, not only culturally but also different in terms of personality, gender and age. I also began experiencing South Africa in a very new way, as I was ‘tasked’ with the ‘job’ of showing visitors around the Cape Peninsula and Winelands, and in so doing really got to see the place for myself. Traveling with tourists could be a bit like journeying with small children. Not only because you have to make sure you don’t lose them along the way – which most certainly was part of the deal as well – but also because they question what I deem ordinary, considering it to be fascinating and not all that usual: in reality, extraordinary.
“One of my favourite things is talking to my grandchildren, even if they are still small. In this way one discovers a whole new world you did not know about.” – Alba Bouwer
Becoming more open to embark on these journeys, however, was because I found myself among people open to undertake that journey to my heart. A generous people; willing to give of themselves, their time and at times their possessions. People inviting me to take the journey to their hearts, knowing that ultimately our journeys properly walked together are not merely leading to our own hearts but is the process of being known by and knowing God in a vulnerable manner as His own people whom He calls to Himself.
I have begun to understand that, to a large extent, the journey itself is what we get out of it. The East Mountain community got ‘me’ out of investing in me, and I got each of them and the opportunity to invest in them out of allowing them to invest in me. We get to experience the living God among us as we are being His people.
And because it is at least a life long journey I greet you with, “Totsiens!”* *directly translated would be ‘till seeing (again)’, which is Afrikaans for ‘good bye’.
“Consider friendship. Friends are valued for their own sake; and the benefits of friendship are not what we value, but by- products of the thing that we value, obtainable only by the person who does not pursue them. In the scope of human life, purposeless things like friendship are supremely useful: they are ends, not means, the places of fulfillment and homecoming, the goal of every pilgrimage. Without them our purposes are null and void.” –Roger Scruton
By: Servaas, Served as an East Mountain Resident Advisor and is currently in England pursuing further studies and serving in various communities.
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Many years ago when my wife and I were developing the LAM (now UWM) student ministry in Bogotá, Colombia we met Daniel Salinas, a student of mechanical engineering at the National University.
Daniel came from a Christian home, was an excellent student, and participated with enthusiasm in the activities of the group. He played the guitar, led worship, and formed part of a musical group specializing in Andean music.
As the time of his graduation came close, he confided to us a difficult decision he had to make. His uncle had studied in Europe and had married a German lady. He was impressed with Daniel and said that through his contacts he could secure a scholarship for him to study for a Master’s degree in engineering in Germany. For a Colombian from a poor family, this offer seemed like a gift from heaven!
However, as Daniel had considered this unique opportunity, he remembered that he had promised the Lord to give Him two years of his life following graduation as a symbol of his gratitude for the Lord loving and saving him. So he faced a very difficult decision. How could he turn down such an amazing offer! It could influence his future. Not only what he would learn, but a prestigious master’s degree from a European, above all a German, engineering school! Certainly the Lord must have been in this windfall! But as he laid the matter before the Lord, he recognized that he had made a promise, and a promise had to be kept.
Therefore, upon graduation, he shared with us all that he had decided to serve the Lord for two years. We were all amazed, because we knew of the offer. But, he wanted to Seek God First.
One year he worked in our office using his photographic skills in putting together audiovisual materials. Then, he responded to an invitation to go to Uruguay with two other young university grads to pioneer a university ministry in Montevideo, where there was no Christian witness.
As the years stretch on, Daniel never did make it to Germany. In Uruguay he met Gayna, an American missionary involved in the student ministry. Shortly after they married, he accepted an invitation to work with students in Bolivia, and they have been serving together ever since.
Then followed PhD studies in the U.S., and more missionary service in Paraguay. During the years he has become a recognized Latin America theologian/scholar, has written and published several studies on Latin American historical theology. However, his first book was as a heart wrenching sharing of his and Gayna’s difficult years raising their child, Karis, born with cerebral palsy, who died at only 7 years old.
Daniel is now facing another big decision: whether to teach in a Seminary in Medellín, Colombia or a Seminary just south of the U.S. border in Mexico. Significant and important reasons tug in each direction, but as we chatted the other day when he was visiting us on the way home from observing the situation in Mexico, it was evident to me that he was working through his decision, once again, putting God first.
As I think of Daniel’s difficult decision, so many years ago, I recognize that if he had gone to Germany, his life would undoubtedly have been far different from his experience today. He probably would be a well recognized Colombian engineer, with a lovely home and all the trappings. Life has not been easy as a Latin American missionary, living by raising support from the small churches of Utah, where Gayna was raised. But I am reminded of Jesus’ words: Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Daniel’s unique contributions to the church in Latin America must certainly be part of these “all things”, as well as the Lord’s words to him one day, Well done good and faithful servant. I thank the Lord for him and Gayna, and pray for their continued fruitful ministry.
By: Jack Voelkel, former LAM missionary in Colombia and current UWM Board Member
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Continue to pray for the Salina's family. Click the video below to be in prayer for Colombia.Colombia