The first city I spent time in was Armenia, a smaller city surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. I spent a total of a week there. It was the most beautiful area I have seen in Colombia so far with perfect weather and amazingly kind people. I got to explore the city, meet interesting people, and visit several of the surrounding peaceful, beautiful towns. Some things that I learned here were being be more relaxed about things in my life, letting God make things happen, and being a feather (being available to go and do each day as God leads).
One really cool story is that I attended a church there and saw a guy who used to go to my church and played on the same soccer team as me. I had no idea he was from Armenia, but he happened to sit beside me and invited me to lunch with his family. His family then let me stay with them for three days without charge. Later that day we went to play soccer at a “random” house. Turns out a family who used to attend ECA was there and are well-connected with ministries in Colombia. I also met a bunch of other people and met another guy who told me to send my resume to a school in the city and said there may be an opportunity to work there and in a neighborhood doing soccer ministry. God certainly surprised me that day!
I had the opportunity to pray for a man named Wilson to be healed near the downtown area. He was walking very slowly with a cane and I couldn’t let it go that I was supposed to pray for him. I didn’t witness the result, but I feel God healed him that day. Another cool story involved my camera, which stopped working at the end of my time in Armenia. I was frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to take pictures for the rest of the trip, but the daughter of the family I stayed with offered to lend me hers, and I could mail it back when I returned to Bogotá.
Salento is a small, quiet town about 30 minutes from Armenia up in the mountains where many tourists come to know the town, hike, and explore. I met people from Australia, England, USA, and other countries. I spent four days there. I loved going on long hikes every day by myself with beautiful weather and scenery and spending time with God in the middle of nature without having to worry about being robbed. It was so refreshing! In fact, I spent Christmas day hiking to a waterfall in beautiful, warm, sunny weather. During my time here God gave me several opportunities to talk about my faith – in English and Spanish.
One cool story happened on my hike to the waterfall on Christmas when I stopped to get fresh juice at a stand. I ended up talking to the guy there named Wilmer for around an hour about his life, God, and other things. God also gave me the opportunity to pray for healing for his wrists where he had surgery a while back. On another day I got to play soccer with some kids and also met three adorable kids in the town plaza. They kept making me pretend food from the dirt and sticks there and kept asking me what else I wanted to eat. It was awesome!
The most amazing thing was experiencing God’s profound peace there. I talked to God about many things in my life and about my future. I didn’t get many answers, but I got God’s peace and confidence. I feel I was strengthened to return to Bogotá. I also felt like God told me to really prepare myself while waiting for Him to bring things about in my life.
Peirera is the largest city I spent time in. There wasn’t a whole lot to do there, but I spent three days there visiting a nearby town, spending time in the downtown area, and attending a random church service. The thing here that really struck me was the number of homeless and “crippled” people. They were everywhere. It was so hard to know how to respond. In Peirera, and in the other places I visited (plazas and downtowns), there were so many crippled, homeless, needy, and lonely people whom God longs to touch. I could have done so much more to talk to them, pray for them, and reach out to them, but many times I chose not to. There was a guy named Wilmer there who asked me for food and said his arm didn’t function as it was limp. I said I would pray for God to heal his arm, so I held the limp arm in my hand and prayed over it and gave him food.
My last stop was the city of Manizales, probably the most unique city I have visited in Colombia so far. They say the only flat place there is the soccer field. I ended up being there during the Ferias (an annual festival), so there were so many people everywhere. I spent two days here exploring the city. I met a family there that lives just outside of Bogotá, and they want me to visit them and help them to learn English. God gave me several surprises there such as two adorable kids who kept smiling at me, paying for a stranger’s lunch, praying for God to heal a guy’s (Julian) shoulder, and seeing an amazing sunset the last night before returning home.
Looking back on this experience, I can see God is definitely growing my heart for Colombia and allowing me to learn the language. Before leaving for the trip, there were several things I was wrestling with and answers that I was seeking. For the most part God has been silent and has been allowing me to choose. I know that He is taking me deeper with Him, and I know He used the trip and time with Him to prepare me for some challenging things in my life now. I am convinced that there is no greater feeling in life then when God’s peace washes over you. I felt like God asked me, “Are you ready for what’s coming – things that will change your life, things I am beginning to set in motion?” I am motivated to take more risks, tell more people about Christ, pray for/declare more healings, practice the gifts God has given me, and go deeper with Him. I firmly believe there is a greater reason God has put in my heart to know so many places in Colombia, and my goal is to continue to do whatever He has put in my heart to do, to trust Him, and to walk by faith.
“Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him. For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as He hears it, He answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!” – Isaiah 30: 18-22