A New Hope

After training around Latin America for many years, one of my favorite stories is still the first time I was invited to travel internationally to train church planters. The town was Sincelejo, Colombia, in the heart of the conflict between the paramilitary and the guerillas. There were only a few churches, and all non-Colombian workers had left many years earlier. Persecution was heavy as one group or another infiltrated the churches and demanded loyalty. Failure to do so resulted in kidnapping or death. This made church multiplication very difficult, and there were only around 70 churches across the 3 costal states.

Due to the persecution, it was determined that the house church format would be more successful than the more traditional church that existed. My good friend, Berna Salcedo, a Colombian national, led the vision to the existing churches that if they wanted to reach their area for Christ, they would need to plan a different style of church. Convinced of the need for planting house churches, they just needed to know how. Berna had visited me in Uruguay and had seen the training that we were doing there and asked if I could adapt it to the need in Colombia.

That resulted in one of the greatest adventures of my life. Before I left I was told by a Colombian friend, “Whatever you do don’t travel by land in that region”. My plane landed in Monteria where I was to take a group taxi to Sincelejo (about a 2-hour trip). However, upon arrival there was only one other passenger heading to Sincelejo, so the taxi said it wasn’t worth it and left. The other passenger flagged down a car heading that way and offered  to take us to Sincelejo if we would pay the taxi fee.

We got about halfway when the driver pulled the car over, turned around, looked at me and said, “Get out.” I froze, and the other passenger said to do what he asked.  I got out of the car, and the driver flagged down a motorcycle and told me to get on and put a helmet on me. The car and my luggage took off in one direction, and the motorcycle and I in another. My first thought was, “I wonder if my wife will pay the ransom.” After a windy trip through the city, we came back to the main road where the car was waiting. The driver then explained that there had been a blockade in the road and didn’t think it was good for me to travel through it.  We arrived safely to Sincelejo to find my contact waiting for me, saying, “I can’t believe you were told to travel that way. I didn’t think you were going to make it.”

We began the training the very next day. We had over 100 Colombians who had dedicated themselves to seeing churches planted in their area. Every single one of them had been affected by the conflict in the region. Many had lost a family member. We spent time training on relational evangelism as opposed to big events, how to do a house group as opposed to preaching in a church. After five days of training, they left with a renewed hope, vowing to change their region for Christ. Dawn ministries reported that 200 house groups were started out of that training, and many of those resulted in a church. The region is now much safer. The government is given credit for the change in the region. I like to think a lot of new churches had something to do with it.

By: Worker in the Middle East