This morning I did not attend church here in Colombia, where I am currently living. Instead, I attended and spoke at the Forest Dale Church of Christ, on the northern edge of Cincinnati, Ohio. Thanks to modern technology and specifically Skype, I was able to be present for the missions Sunda, along with Toby and Amy Hill, in Honduras.
For the last two weeks, I have had Gordon Clifford and a member of his church here with me in Colombia. Gordon publishes much of what I write and translate and then makes it available for us and others in Latin America to use in our teaching and leadership training through the Christian Mission Press. Shipping materials into Colombia has become such an expensive and difficult task that it is almost as economical for someone to bring it in.
I arrived back in Colombia on January 20th to begin this period of intensive work. Following my typical pattern of waiting until rates drop after the January 10th “Day of the Three Kings” holiday, which officially ends the Colombian Christmas season, I booked my flight and returned to Colombia. My first week here is always a dizzying flurry of activities, meetings, phone calls, errands, and the like. My first job is getting the apartment set up and supplied with food. I need to make sure all utilities and services are functioning and paid up to date.
This month I am celebrating an important birthday; for my car! It has been eighteen years this month since we purchased the vehicle I drive here in Colombia. The short version of the Mitsubishi Montero (this is a shortened, two door version of the small station wagon sold in the states). Due to the very rough roads I need a four wheel drive vehicle here and the little Mitsubishi has been a very good car.
One major focus of my ministry in recent years has been writing and translating books that will fill the need for training Christian leaders on a higher level. We have sufficient materials for training on the basic level but there has not been a lot available to use at the college level. Last year I finished up Jack Cottrell’s book, “Faith once for All” and then I wrote a couple of small Bible studies on the life of Christ. I have been working in this area because the need is great and there are few people who have dedicated themselves to this type of ministry.
For nearly a year and a half, we have been working on a project to double the size of our church camp from one acre all the way up to two acres. Our postage stamp church camp is often stuffed with fifty to one hundred campers. We really needed to do something to help the Colombian church with this project. So one year ago, we committed ourselves to raising $12,000 to cover the cost of half of this lot and Martin Sanders, another missionary committed himself to raising the other half.
Several years ago, meeting a need of the Colegio Peniel, our Christian Day School, I accepted the request to become the school counselor. In the successive years, my acceptation in that ministry has grown, as has my comfort level in serving in that way. At the same time, the counseling ministry had developed a degree of credibility, not only with our students, but with the general population. I now spend at least one full week a month working in the school full time. I work with the kids in the morning and with the parents and people from the community in the afternoon.
This year a lot that joins our tiny church camp was put on the market. The owner is a Christian and offered us the first chance to buy it. He had many takers as land in that highly secure area near Villavicencio is extremely hard to find. We did not have the money to buy the camp, but the owner gave us some time to raise the money to pay for the lot. He gave us till the end of the year to come up with the money to purchase the lot, with partial payment dates scheduled throughout the year.
As the Colombian church has grown, they have begun to build some of the institutions and infrastructure typical to a mature church. One of the collateral ministries has been a church camp for use by the different congregations. The Colombian church purchased a one acre mini-farm a few years ago and has since supported that and used it extensively. In relatively small house, they have packed in bunk rooms and restrooms and together with tents, frequently have sixty to one hundred people there for different camps, seminars, and retreats.
It has been about one year since we launched our project to increase the size of our one acre church camp. Land here is very expensive, due in part to the insecurity, areas that are secure are quite expensive. Our church camp is located in an area near the end of the runway for the air base, so military patrols keep this section quite safe. As a result, we have been able to use the camp with few concerns for safety. In spite of the very small piece of land we have, we regularly have fifty or more campers for events.