Colombia is a country of contrasts. Medellin is a city of contrasts. We are currently in rainy season, which means it can go from hot and sunny to cold and rainy in a matter of minutes. Contrast is also seen in the disparity between rich and poor. Just take the metro and see how neighborhoods, buildings and environment changes. Statistics show that Colombia, and Medellin in particular, suffers from economic inequality and huge disparity between rich and poor. This weekend we had a chance to see this first hand as we visited a small church in the Santo Domingo neighborhood. Santo Domingo is an impoverished neighborhood up in the hills that surround Medellin. In recent years, the government of Medellin did a radical thing and created the Metro Cable – a cable car – that serves as public transportation, linking these outlying communities to the heart of the city. Amazing!
Where the church is located is beyond the cable car. We got out and took a little bus farther up the mountain. I thought my insides were going to get jumbled up with all of the bumps as the road was unpaved and you can imagine what it was like after all of the rain we’ve had this past week.
We got off of the bus and continued to walk up another couple of hills to get to the neighborhood where the church is located. Needless to say I felt extremely out of shape!
We were greeted by friends who live in the community and by others who helped to begin the church over 7 years ago, when they began with children’s programs and small group Bible studies. They were preparing a huge celebration because it was 4 years that they have been meeting in their own building as a church community. The majority are children and women. It was beautiful to see the way they worshiped together. Julio and I were able to give a greeting and I had the privilege of teaching the children a song. We were extremely touched by a drama that the youth had put together. I looked over at Julio and he had tears running down his cheeks. The young women had prepared a typical dance – cumbia – to a praise song. It was beautiful.
What these women, children, and youth face on a daily basis is challenging to say the least. Many people have settled in this neighborhood after being displaced from other towns and cities because of the violence and unrest. Here they are trying to survive and “seguir adelante” (make a new future). You can imagine the multitude of challenges they face. How important it is to hear their stories, to learn from them, from their perseverance. Pray for our friends in Santo Domingo. Pray for the children that they will come to know God’s love for them and that they will know that there is hope for a better future. Pray for the youth…the pressure to join gangs, to enter a life of prostitution is a constant factor in their lives. Pray for the men and women who are raising their children and sometimes work so hard for very little income. Pray that the church will come alongside of them and support them. Pray for the social project that they are developing with the help of the Association of Covenant Social Projects in Colombia, which seeks to support and empower those who have been displaced.
I thank God for the opportunity that my children will have to visit the Santo Domingo neighborhood, to play with the children and experience what life is like for them. I pray that from a young age their eyes will be open and their hearts made sensitive to the harsh reality of the poverty that surrounds us. That they would be moved by the Spirit of God to seek justice and defend the powerless. Sometimes it seems overwhelming and I can’t quite take it all in and process it. It’s easy to feel helpless when confronted by such huge social issues. But I thank God that I am in Colombia, that my life has been changed because of experiences like those I had yesterday. I pray that I would live out the Biblical call to seek justice and mercy.
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.” Isaiah 58:6-7 (The Message)