Now I Understand
by Tom Claibourne

Bogota. Villavicencio. Colegio Peniel. Down the mountain. Encroaching jungle. New road at the camp.

Until recently those were just places on a map or words on the page of a newsletter or website. Now they evoke pleasant memories and images of people, ministry, and opportunities.

In April Terry Parker, Darcy Pitts and I represented our southern Ohio congregation in Colombia as we labored alongside Dale (Roberto) Meade and our new Colombian friends for several days.

Over the years I have visited mission stations in numerous countries, but still could not fully understand or appreciate the culture and effective missionary work in Colombia. Every nation is different. Our brief time near the equator gave us a new perspective. Now I better understand the work of CCM.

In the future when Dale writes about making the 45-mile trip “down the mountain” from Bogota to Villavicencio I’ll understand why it likely will take at least three hours. I’ll recall the tunnels, the semi trucks inching up the mountain, the army tanks on the roadside, the motorcycles weaving between other vehicles, and the amazing Andean scenery. Now I understand.

When I see the cost of a CCM work trip in the newsletter I’ll understand how drastically the money exchange rate affects the expenses of Americans serving there. I’ll also see the faces of Colombian Christians who are hired with that money to cook for the crew, thus providing them with much-needed work. Now I understand.

When people from Bethlehem sponsor a child to study at Colegio Peniel I’ll picture the smile on Terry Parker’s face when he got to meet the girls he and other family members have been sponsoring. I’ll also smile at memories of visiting a quality school where Christ is honored, and where we spent an enjoyable morning interacting with students and staff, while Dale counseled several people in the office. Now I understand.

When I read about delays in construction at the camp I will recall helping put in the new road there using shovels and wheel barrows. I’ll also remember our group carrying 2,000 brick blocks inside the camp gate so they wouldn’t be stolen overnight, and unloading another truck before packing roofing boards across the grounds. Neither will I forget the delays in the delivery of more supplies, nor mixing concrete with hoes and shovels. Now I understand.

Where once I had wondered about safety for Colombian children at the camp, now I’ll picture the huge military base down the road, and their random patrols in the area. Now I understand the blessing of the camp’s unique setting.

After preaching outside at the small church in the slums, and to the larger congregation that shares a facility with Colegio Peniel, I have a new appreciation for the long, faithful ministry of the Meades. Their years of evangelizing and training Colombian leaders is bearing much fruit.

In the future as I read about new cabins being added at the camp I will imagine excited Colombians from Bogota, Villavicencio, and other areas singing, praying, laughing, and growing together as lives are changed at the edge of the jungle.

God is good, and He has big plans for evangelism and discipleship in Colombia, and the 2 ½ acre camp will play a central role in that process as you and I continue to partner with the Meades, Martin Sanders, and our Colombian family.

Now I hope you understand that potential a little better too.

Tom Claibourne is preaching minister with Bethlehem Church of Christ, Winchester, Ohio.