To be honest, there's no way of knowing where to start. I feel as though today has been the culmination of the entire trip thus far. It's like everything has been building up and building up and building up until today, where all these thoughts and scattered ideas were given just a bit of clarity.
Church was the first thing on the list. The people at Tabernaculo de la Fe were our congregation of choice, and wow. What a God-filled morning!
We were welcomed heartily by everyone- I couldn't tell who were ushers and who were members. We were given headsets that we could wear during the sermon to hear the English translation. The music began, and the room was filled with the sounds of a passionate worship team (including marimbas, of course), the raised arms and voices of the people in the crowd, and even dancers onstage to help lead in worship. It's always such a neat experience to be able to sing the same songs together, in two different languages. There's something so powerful about the transversal language of music, and specifically worship.
The pastor's sermon hit us all right where we needed. He started off by showing us a video depicting the torture of the early Christians in Rome. It was a 5-minute, very graphic video showing a group of approximately 30 Christian people being beaten and led into the colosseum, and being forced to kneel down in the middle of the arena. It showed people of all ages, men and women, and even a mother holding a baby. It showed the Romans sitting in the crowd in eager anticipation, ready for some entertainment. It showed the lions behind the gate, restless and hungry. As the clip continued to show the chase, the attack, and the bloody deaths of these disciples, the translation in our heads echoed, "The first Christians were not looking for popularity. They were not looking for affirmation or comfort. They were not looking for acceptance. They were not looking for satisfaction or happiness. They were simply in love with Jesus." It was hard to watch, but it was even harder to look away. It was five minutes of total conviction.
The Pastor went on to nail us right where it hurt, but it hurt so good. The quality of the content that he covered was so wholesome. He preached the Gospel, something that I believe should be preached every Sunday in every House of God. It's the point of life, and it's the point of our religion. Without the Gospel, we are nothing. It is the central point of our salvation and relationship with God. Something super interesting He said was pulled from Romans 8:29, which says, "For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters." Have you ever thought about that? Jesus, at one point, was called God's "One and only begotten Son." However, when Jesus was sent to Earth, this verse tells us that He then became the firstborn. He was no longer the only Son, but the first Son, because after He tore the curtain and made a way into God's throne room for all who call on His name, we have the opportunity to become brothers, sisters, and co-heirs with Christ. God wanted us to become His children, children that reflect the light of His firstborn. We have become the sons and daughters of God. It's impossible to imagine without faith, but it's impossible to ignore with it.
He went on to tell us about three of the people that Jesus resurrected during His ministry on earth. One was a young girl. By the time Jesus had reached her, she had just barely died. Her face probably still had colour in it, she may have still been warm, and she probably looked as though she was sleeping. Beautiful and pure, but dead. Another was a young boy, whom Jesus encountered on the way to the burial. This boy would have been dead for at least a few days. His eyes would have been starting to sink in, his skin would be pale, and he certainly would have looked dead. The last one was Lazarus. He was already decaying inside His tomb. The Pastor, after describing the three lifeless people, asked us, "Which of these three was the most dead?" Obviously, the question was hypothetical. All three were dead. It didn't matter how long they had been dead for or how badly they smelled or looked- they were all had the same amount of life- zero.
Look at the world. We are hardly ever aware of the brokenness in our immediate vicinity, but we are conscious of the need and desperation far away. Brokenness cannot be measured. Those who are spiritually dead are all exactly the same- whether they live in the jungles of Africa or in an apartment in Chicago. Those who are spiritually lost in Three Hills are just as spiritually lost as those here in Bogota. The need for Christ is a dire emergency in the heart of every person alive. Circumstances do not change that fact. History does not change that fact. Nothing changes the need for Jesus in every heart.
We drove up the mountain and ate an incredible Colombian Meal in an open air restaurant, and proceeded to explore the river down below. It was a wondrous time of exercising, running, laughing, and enjoying the raw beauty of the Colombian landscape.
After consuming far too much dessert at La Calera, we headed to a YWAM base they had nearby, which operated as a small orphanage, as well. I'm still trying to find the words, but the precious time we spent there impacted me significantly. After chopping veggies for supper, I went outside in search of some kidlets to meet and play with. Right away, I found three beauties. I'm not allowed to name them, but I can share the time we spent together. I knew these girls were without proper families. I knew they were high-risk kids, always in danger. I also knew that they were some of the most loving, excited, joyful kids I've ever met. They taught me rhymes in Spanish, I taught them secret handshakes. We rolled around and tickled each other, played on the swings, climbed the jungle gym, and just had a wild time.
One of these precious girls I had heard described as being "eleven going on twenty-five." The snippets of her story that I heard are more than unbelievable. She knows more about the world than I do. She's got far more experience in the dark workings of this world than I do. Brought to this facility like most street kids are, the then-3-year-old had already been abused and exposed to more than anybody should ever be exposed to. I was told that she had been taught to believe that the only kind of love was sexual love. Her behaviour, even as a 3-year-old toddler, was inappropriate and scandalous. It broke the staff's hearts to see this infant already being so used to being treated in such away, that she expected nothing else. The process has been slow, but they've basically had to re-teach her what love is, and what love is not.
Another one of these girls, I discovered, was in the middle of a crisis. She was a 5-year-old firecracker. She was just the sweetest pumpkin of the batch, and I immediately was captured by her grin. But the social worker has lied. The system is corrupt. Her sister has already been taken back to the dark home from which she came, and this girl and her brother are on the verge of also being taken back to their former home. After living for years in this beautiful shelter at the YWAM, this ordeal is bringing so much grief. The battle going on is not between the social workers and the YWAM staff, but between the forces of Satan and the forces of Light. Satan wants so badly to grab a hold of the lives of the little ones, and claim them for himself. The precarious situation that these innocent children have to go through is sickening. All she wanted to do today was learn a secret handshake. It was harder than anything to hug her and listen to her beautiful giggle, while knowing that she may soon have her light extinguished. Many of these kids come from abusive homes, or have been living on the streets. Some of the girls are rescued from night clubs and brothels and other horrific situations.
Tonight we made a claim in the name of Christ for those girls' souls. The tug of war going on right now between the darkness and the light is real and vivid. Meeting the directors of the YWAM and hearing their inconceivable stories of miracles and survival made me realize how often I take the power of prayer for granted. After hearing how prayer has saved lives, made enemies literally vanish into thin air, provided houses and food and supplies, and other fantastic stories, I have been so compelled to start praying for real. I'm talking on my knees, face down, heart focused on nothing but God.
I realized how often our prayers limit God. We're scared of praying for something and then being disappointed, so we give God a multiple choice prayer. "God, please _________, but if not, then please ___________, and even if not, then please ____________." Is it because of doubt, that we feel the need to assure God that there are options, just in case the best option is too difficult for Him? Tonight we stopped giving God limits. Instead, we made a claim on those little girls' lives. We claimed them in the name of Christ, for better or for worse. We prayed that the lying social worker would be removed from the situation, and replaced with somebody with a thirst for justice, and with the well-being of the children as a priority. We prayed for God to snatch these girls back from the clutches of the devil. We prayed for the ideal, instead of excusing the possibility of struggle.
For a God who created the universe, why are we scared that He might not be able to answer our prayers? Meeting the YWAM director's wife today and hearing story after story of God's faithfulness to prayer, I finally realized how crucial it is to rely on the Word of God, and on talking to Him regularly. Praying and receiving are such natural things to the staff at this YWAM. They pray, and they know that God answers. They have so much faith that He will provide, it's almost unreal. It's not a precaution, it's a way of life.
And it's a way of life that I want. I may have to set an hourly alarm on my phone to remind me to drop what I'm doing, and pray. During the past 9 days, we've met people every day that are in desperate need of prayer. During the past 9 days, our team has opened up and become vulnerable with one another, and the deep prayer requests have surfaced. I have a never-ending list of things that must be taken up to God. It is my utmost intention to work towards becoming a diligent prayer warrior.
John 15:5 says, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."
I think back in Thrills, we're missing the first half of the equation. We ask WHY are Christians bearing fruit in the third world? Why do miracles happen overseas? Why does nothing happen HERE in CANADA? Well, it's exactly what the Bible says. If we don't abide in Christ, we do not bear fruit. If we aren't daily worshiping. If we aren't daily praying. If we aren't daily immersing ourselves in His Word, then How can we claim to be abiding in Him? And if we aren't abiding in Him, why are we expecting to see the fruit?
I'm done being a severed branch pretending to be connected. It's time for a change. It's time to step up to be the prayer warrior that I know He wants me to be. It's time to get out of bed, put down the phone, and open His Word. His Word is what combats darkness, discouragement, temptation, and Satan, himself. His Word is supposed to be my Sword, but I've let it get rusty.
Crazy that it took a trip to Colombia to figure that out, eh?