Sunday, January 22, 2012

Slow Saturday and Blessed Sunday

Today just a short posting to keep everyone up to date. We had our "off" Saturday and went to visit a village called Guatape about 2 hours away. It was a wonderful trip. The town itself is colourful and wonderful. We had a short boat trip on the lake and ate lunch on a small island. Afterwards we climbed the big Rock of Guatape. 659 steps in total to the top.

On Sunday we joined the Colombian Team in the first ever service of the Sabaneta (El Redil Sur) church for their inauguration. It was a blessed experience and was attended by about 80 - 90 persons. Many of the attendees were existing members that live in Sabaneta and had attended other El Redil churches up to now, but several new faces were noticed, some of them from the ESL classes. A number of non-believers showed up expressing interest in the church and to know more about God.

Updated information from Jairo indicates that about 70 persons has indicated an interest to join the Alpha course.

We heard about several individual accounts of people deciding for the Lord or at least expressing an interest to learn more.

We are getting ready to leave as I am typing this. We have greeted most of the Colombians and the departure will be sad, but we are all happy that we could have met them and worked with them. We are starting to leave our host homes from about 02:30 AM. So we all need a few hours sleep!

Please pray for safe travels.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Final Friday

Today has been two weeks since we started this journey to Colombia. It feels like only a few days has passed. We were so busy and engaged in what we were doing that the time literally flew past.

In the morning we went up to a lookout on one of the mountains overlooking the city of Sabaneta and the whole of Medellin. Here we had some time to relax and lunch. After lunch we prayer from there over the city, claiming God's Kingship and authority over it. We blessed Diego, Jairo and their spouses by symbolically helping them raise their arms over the city while we prayed. We were reminded how Moses was helped and how the Israelites were able to win the battle against their enemy.

Tonight we had our final ESL session in Sabaneta. We continued to serve about 160 students. The students really enjoyed the classes and today it was clear that we developed good relationships with them. As their English has been improving we saw more and more how they opened up spiritually.

Diego made a bold move tonight by having us present the Gospel to our students. This was well received. A number of Colombians wanted prayer afterwards. The students were asked to fill out evaluation sheets afterwards and a quick scan of one table did not show any negative comments. In fact, almost all asked for more Vive El Ingles. Most asked for a longer course. It looks like they really appreciate our effort and methodology.

According to Jairo 65 persons were interested in attending the Alpha Course. Praise God! All the students received a Billy Graham Booklet which explains the Gospel in a concise way. They also received information about how to go about connecting with El Redil Sur.

Tomorrow (Saturday) we have a free day and are going to visit a nearby village.

1. Praise God for the wonderful way we were able to do ESL this week and the good way it was concluded.
2. Thank Him for the new relationships formed.
3. Praise Him that we could openly share his Word and witness for Him.
4. For open hearts to at least hear His Word.
5. For the 65 persons who indicated that they wanted to join the Alpha course.

1. For Sunday's first worship service here in Sabaneta of El Redil Sur. Pray for Jairo and Jennifer as they lead this new church. Pray for Diego and Claudia as they support Jairo and Jennifer in the initial stages.
2. Pray for Rick as he is delivering the first message in the new congregation. Even though it is not an open invitation to everybody yet, it appears that several new people may attend the first service. The official first open service will be on Febr 12.
3. Pray for the team as we are starting to prepare to return home. It will be a sad goodbye.

Getting ready to pray over the city

The Canadian and Colombian Team Members after tonight's ESL

Some of the students after receiving their sertificates

One of the ESL tables during break time.

Rick and Martha Alvarez, one of our hosts.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thundering Thursday

We are taking the time today to look ahead to Friday, our final ESL lesson.  We will focus on English before the break, and at 8:00, hope to use this time to for Eleanor's testimony, and the sharing of the gospel.  We will be using the Steps To Peace with God, by Billy Graham.  Each person will receive one, and we will go through the steps together as a group, and then again together at our tables.  Please pray for us, between 5:00 and 6:00pm in Revelstoke, and between 8:00 and 9:00pm in Ottawa.  This will be an effective time to reach our students and give them the opportunity to receive Christ into their hearts.  When we say good bye to them, we will also be giving them an invitation to come to the opening of the new church on February 12. 

Tomorrow, the team from Ottawa will have discussions with the Alpha course leaders (Jennifer, Jairo, Efren and Martha) amongst the Colombians. These four have received the Alpha training in Bogotá, but is still new to the program. The Ottawa group has lots of experience with Alpha and could provide this small group with much needed advice and encouragement. The program introduces the gospel in a way that encourages the participants to challenge, ask questions, and debate our faith.  It is nondenominational course.  Jennifer will be facilitating the course here in Colombia. 

El Redil Sur (Sabaneta) is the  new church plant and will have their first service for the core group this Sunday. The first open service will be held Febr 12. Rick has been asked to preach here on Sunday. As this is the first ever meeting of this church this is a great privilege and responsibility.

Tonight we had Vive El Ingles and it went very well. Dries shared a part of his life story about broken relationships and broken people, and how God, through prayer was able to heal the persons involved and mend the relationships. It led to good discussions (in English) at the tables and we invited people to come for prayer after the session. Several people responded and received prayer.

1. Praise God for how He helped open the hearts of the students, not just to learn English, but to be open to our spiritual discussion and testimonies. We realise that everybody in the room are open yet, or even likes what is going on, but we continue to pray that God will touch even those hearts. If not now, those will come to Him later.
2. Praise for the continued health of the team, despite minor upsets here and there.
3. For the English Lessons that has been so well received.

1. Tomorrow is going to be an important day at ESL. It is the final day of our week here in Sabaneta and the focus will shift from English to the Gospel during the latter part of the 2 hours session. Pray for open ears and hearts. Please check the times as mentioned above for when we will make the Gospel presentation.
2. Pray that the new church will experience growth from the start.
3. Pray that many of the people will respond to an invitation to visit the church services and church office in the mall. Pray that they will respond to an invitation to join the Alpha Course.
4. Pray for Jennifer, Jairo, Efren Giraldo and Martha Alvarez who will be spearheading the Alpha Course here in Sabaneta. It will be the first time it will be presented in the whole of Medellin, with it's over 4 million people.

Pictures will follow...

Wonderful Wednesday

Eduardo and Clara's house

Beautiful orchids on the farm (wild)

Plantain flowers

More orchids. Columbia has more than 150 species of orchid

Jairo and Rick in discussion before lunch

Dries, Clara, Eduardo and Christine
We apologize for being a bit late with Wednesday's blog post. We had difficulty finding a good WiFi signal and were unable to log on the whole day.

On Wednesday we started the day with devotion and prayer.  Some of the men then continued to work in the new church office to finish the dry-walling and painting. This is not completely done yet and some work is still left to do.
While Rick and Dries worked on their presentation for the evening class of ESL, the women went for a walk to the city centre square of Sabaneta.
At 11:30 we were picked up by bus to go to the finca (small farm) of Eduardo and Clara, two dear and wonderful people who has walked a long road with God. Both came from deep rooted Catholic backgrounds, but felt a deep need and emptiness in their hearts. Many years ago first Clara gave her heart to Jesus and then later Eduardo. Before Eduardo came to Christ this causes much division in their house. Clara demonstrated extraordinary faith by saying to God that Eduardo is His problem, not her's. God saved her husband eventually. Their initial contact with Evangelical Christians is what brought them to Christ, and these were missionaries from Canada. This is why they wanted to entertain us at their farm. They have a deep appreciation for the Canadians that helped them to come to the Lord.

The farm itself is very beautiful with many flowers, orchids, fruit trees. Lunch was excellent as well.

By about 4PM we were back and preparing for the evening's ESL, which started at 7PM. The ESL went really well and we had around 160 students. Dianne shared her life story, with God bringing her back from near death when she was ill. At the tables the students had the opportunity to discuss whether they believe in miracles. We also discussed what miracles we would ask for if we could choose any. We are noticing that many of the students are starting to open up and are starting to discuss deep personal things. It is wonderful to see God working in the hearts and minds of the people.

Prayer Requests:
1. Please pray for God to continue working in the hearts of everybody. Pray that they will be open to discussing spiritual things.
2. For Rick, who is preparing a sermon for Sunday. He has been invited to preach the very first sermon in the new church here in Sabaneta.
3. For the team members who are working to try and finish the work on the new church office. This office is located right here in the Aves Maria Mall. It used to be a store. Drywall divisions has to be installed and finished. This will be the primary area of contact for anybody that is interested to visit the new congregation.
4. Continue to pray for renewed energy and healthy for the team.
5. Pray for Jairo, Jennifer, Diego and Claudia as they prepare to be the new leaders of this new church of El Redil here in Sabaneta.
6. Pray for Friday night's ESL, as we are planning to present the Gospel of Christ to all the students in a concise format, using a Billy Graham Ministries folding tract.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thundering Tuesday

Last night we had total of 180 students come to study English and that did not include around 25 who were preregistered but didn't show up. Even though there were so many people the evening went extremely well with a lot of very positive feedback and the students wanting more. This a tremendous answer to prayer.

This morning all the ladies got together at Envigado church in their kitchen and where we were taught how to prepare a Colombian meal.  We prepared the total meal for the men who were busy preparing the new office of the church in Sabaneta, while Dries and Rick were making changes to our ESL lesson for tonight.  We learned to make arepas, pulled beef, guacamole, empanadas, patacones and salsa.  Even if we say it ourselves it was good and the men agreed.

We came back to thunder. lightening and heavy rain.  We returned to the centre where we sorted out all the material to accommodate the over 200 students which we may have this evening.  At this time we are having a short break before we meet with the Colombian facilitators for prayer.

1. Dianne and the rest of the team are healthy.
2. The successful start to our ESL in Sabaneta.

1.  Prayer for the relationships as they develop at each table.
2. Clarity and good communication and enjoyment between all participants.
3. Pray for good weather as the rain storms may keep people at home.
4. Pray for individual testimonies -Jen tonight.
5. General health of team and Colombian facilitator.

The table laid out after the women were taught how to prepare a Colombian meal. Good job girls!

Arepas and Queso (Cheese) in the foreground

Fried flattened plantains and guacamole!

Diego having his share, and enjoying it!

ESL tonight. Look at the crowd!

The students, and instructors playing a mingling game. Feedback was great!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Midway Monday

Today is the start of our second work week here in Medellin. Gerald, Dries and Luc had to get up early to be at Poblado at 6AM for a meeting with a group of business persons. This group had their first meeting of the year after the December holidays. It is a group of Christian or Seeker persons who have a regular weekly meeting talking about God and the things of God. We were asked to witness to them as there is a large number of people who live their "Christian" life on Sunday, going to church, but then are "free" to do what they want during the week. Also, they wanted to hear how we integrate our faith with our daily work and ordinary lives. There were 19 people there and we had a good opportunity to witness and talk to them about our lives, our work and how our faith in Christ influences our work, our relationships at work and our ethics. Gerald shared about us as Christians being the "salt" in this world. How we need to be the preservative, the flavour in this world.

The rest of the morning was spent doing some shopping for gifts to take back home to our families. Some of us went to downtown Medellin to a gift market, the others walked in downtown Sabaneta in the old part of the city. The women went to see the food market.  It was interesting to see bags and crates full of all the different fruits and vegetables. Then they headed to the mall for something to eat.

After lunch, we all met together to debrief last week's lessons and look for ways that we can improve our performance.  We are presently preparing for our ESL lessons.  This entails setting up and getting organized in a new location.  There will be, to date, 170 people at ESL this week which includes both students and teachers.  Please pray for us, that we may be able to reach each and everyone.

Dianne is now feeling under the weather.  Please continue to pray for continued health and strength of all the teams.

Prayer requests:
1. Pray that we may reach each and everyone at the lessons. 
2. We are praying for God to provide just the right number of students, as 170 is more than we had expected. Pray that all goes well.
3. Pray that God will open the hearts of the students that attend this week, that the seeds of the gospel will be planted.
4. Please pray for continued health for the team members, especially Dianne, as she is not well.


uchuva (gooseberries)

guajaba (guava)




taxi ride to the market

Diego and Tania having ice cream for lunch

Service Sunday

This has been a very busy Sunday with Dries and Dianne taking the service at La Mota, Gerald was at Thirty Three church and Rick preached at Envigata.  Each of the rest of us divided between the three locations.  All the chuches were filled to capacity.  The messages were well recieved by the various congregations and we all felt very welcomed in the services. 

We were transported back to El Poblado and headed off to lunch.  After lunch we returned and prepared for the english service at 5:00.  With little preperation, we relied on the Spirit to lead the service, and it turned out great!  Thanks for your prayers!

Rick and Nicole are back with the team in good health, however, Gerald is now under the weather, and Jen has been hanging on, doing well off and on.

Dries and Luc, and maybe Gerald if he's ok, will be meeting with some buisness men tomorrow morning.  They have questions about faith in the workplace.  Please pray for them. 

Prayer requests

1. Evaluation of our time up until now with a view of improvements for this week.  Meeting at noon Monday.
2. Health for the team.
3. 1st lesson of ESL Monday night at Centro Sabaneta,
4. Prepartation of 1st church service this week on Sunday.  A lot of preparation needed on the part of the Colombians and the Canadians.
5.  Pray for time to do the blog :)

The team all still love each other through all the ups and downs including the many hills going home at night :)

Pictures below:

Gerald preaching at Treinta y Tres

At Treinta y Tres

The Church at Treinta y Tres

Preparing for this week's ESL

Dries preaching at El Redil La Mota, with Natalia Alzate translating

Dianne preaching at La Mota

Christine, Efren, Martha, Natalia and Cesar relaxing after the service at La Mota

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Super Saturday

Today we worked ourselves to a standstill! We did the double session of ESL this morning, at Poblado, starting at 8AM until Noon. By now we have developed very good relationships with our students and participation in the lessons and games were really good. Even Santiago, one of Dries' students, which we thought would not last the week because of his shyness, his lack of English, lasted the whole week, and he was there today. We had a great time!
Joe gave his testimony today, talking about relationships, including in marriage. He talked about how especially men should make more of an effort to please their wife's. He related our relationships to Jesus' love for us and His commitment to us. This provided good opportunity for discussion at the tables.

After the "graduation ceremony" we had a beautiful lunch at Poblado prepared by the ladies of the church. They served a delicious Ajiaco soup with avocado.

In the afternoon the team was divided into two groups. One half went to El Pacifico to visit the daycare center there, in the poor neighborhood there. The other half went to Brazos Abiertos (Open Arms), a house for young unwed mothers and their babies. I reported it yesterday as an orphanage. Forgive me, as it was late at night. Both groups had a wonderful time to spend with some of the children and teenagers. At Brazos Abiertos the visited with some of the young mothers and had good discussions. At Pacifico we had opportunity to see the children sing and dance, we taught them a couple of new English songs and they watched a puppet show about God's Creation. Each child also received a blanket.

After the wild ride in the bus down from Pacifico (this barrio is high in the hills and the road is very steep, at times reaching a 30 degree incline - the buses are specially equipped with extra-low range gearboxes and large braking systems. Even then they have to change break pads about every two weeks), and meeting the other half of the team from Open Arms, some of us had worship practice for our church service at Poblado tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon, which will be held in English only.

But first, in the morning Rick, Dries and Dianne, and Gerald will be preaching/giving testimonies at morning services at three different churches.

Prayer Requests:
1. Please pray for Rick, Gerald, Dries and Dianne for clarity, for leading by the Spirit, for when they speak at the different churches in the morning.
2. Pray for our afternoon service in English
3. Pray for the teenage moms at Brazos Abierta and the children at Pacifico, that God will touch there lives and hearts, The He will bring a permanent change and that Jesus will become the King of there hearts.
4. Pray for the start of our ESL at Sabaneta starting on Monday. Pray that God will provide the right number of students, and that He will prepare their hearts for His Word.
5. Also pray for Gerald, Luc and Dries as they have to witness to a group of business men that meet on Monday morning at 6 AM.

Graduation! End of ESL in Poblado

At El Pacifico. Claudia talking to the kids

Teaching new song and moves

These kids are so great! They just want to touch you...

And they immediately creep into your heart!

The start of foundations of the first house of Menos Basura

Martha, which will be the first recipient of a recycled house. She is going to take care of six of the orphaned children that attend the Pacifico daycare center.