After several days of ministry lasting all day and then into the evening, the team had a bit of a reprieve and got to squeeze in a few sights during the day and doing ministry primarily in the late afternoons and evenings. On Thursday, the entire team took our YWAM hosts up to a peak overlooking the city to pray over Medellín and Colombia. The transit authority here has actually built a cable car system as a spur off of its Metro rail line. Medellín is situated in a valley that runs north and south between very high Andean mountain ranges. The Metro line follows this north/south route. At one particular station, we simply transferred to the cable car that travelled east up the side of the mountain directly over one of the many barrios that surround the city. At the end of this line was a remarkable library that had been donated to Medellín by the King and Queen of Spain.
At this station, we transferred to yet another cable car that took us over 1,000 feet higher and over the top of the mountain to a huge nature preserve. This entire section of the system, including the nature preserve, is brand new and many areas in the preserve are still under development. This should be a tremendous economic boom to the city since it has the potential of drawing eco-tourists from all over the world who can gain easy access through the transit system.
After spending some time at the preserve, we again loaded up onto the cable car for the trip down. We stopped at the transition point between the two cable car systems and stood at the giant window overlooking the city that was spread out before us like a panorama. It was here that several members of our team prayed for God to continue to show mercy to this beautiful city that has seen so much violence and heartache. We prayed for the people of Medellín and Colombia that they would come to know the Lord in a saving way. We prayed for the government that it would continue to be successful in its fight against the narco-terrorists. We prayed for the YWAM missionaries and their efforts to care for orphans and the poor and to spread the gospel. We prayed for the orphans themselves and for the people we met while doing street ministry the night before.
After this time of prayer, we descended the rest of the way, transferred back onto the train and returned to the hotel. Since only half of the team was able to participate in the street ministry on Wednesday, it was the other half’s turn to go out. That night, we also had an opportunity to give our presentations in another local church. Our greatest challenge was transportation. Since we only had access to the one bus, we chose to send Team Alpha with Matthew, Jeanna and me leading, to the church while Team Bravo stayed behind and ate dinner and prepared for a late night of street ministry.
We travelled to a church that, like the one we attended on Sunday, was a bit more urban. Ben M. and Cameron F. were invited to sing two songs (“Here I am to Worship” and “Breathe”) in English while the church projected the words in Spanish. It was great to hear everyone singing the same tune but with different words. I preached again—this time with Connie as my translator. As usual, she was a tremendous interpreter, matching my voice inflections and energy level exactly. My teaching was very systematic but also included several examples and illustrations and the assembled church remained very engaged even with the back and forth of the translation. As it turns out, the pastor that was at this church, Carlos, was actually the son of the church’s full-time pastor who was away in Atlanta visiting his two daughters who work with Peachtree Presbyterian Church. Carlos informed me that our Friday night ministry would be at the church he serves higher up the mountains in another barrio. He was also very interested in what I had taught and was asking me several questions about how he could learn more theology and biblical interpretation. The church treated us to pastries and drinks and then we had to rush back to the hotel to swap out with the other team who loaded up the bus and headed out for the streets.
Again, our team was led in the street ministry by the “Mother Teresa” of Medellín, Rosita. The team travelled to a different part of the city than we did on Wednesday. This time, the focus would be on reaching out to women (mostly girls) who were being exploited by the sex industry. The following is from Marshall Caudill who accompanied Team Bravo.
It was a dreary night with frequent downpours and constant rain that most likely kept many of the regulars inside their homes. We ministered in an area in Medillin known for drugs, violence, prostitution, homeless people, etc. We were accompanied by Rosita (a true saint), Miguel, and David and we served hot chocolate, bologna sandwiches, lollipops, and cheetos to the women, of which some of the women would take back to their children.
I don’t believe most of us felt in much danger, but it was difficult to keep our team in a group with all of the regulars spread out and people coming from all directions. I was certainly nervous, but did not feel like we were in any danger. It was also very comforting to know that Miguel and David were there for our protection and they were fantastic.
Many people we encountered knew Rosita from her regular visits to the area. Most of the people were excited and very thankful to see us, including most of the women. We had a few people who mocked us, propositioned some of us, and seemed resentful, but overall most of the people appreciated us being there.
There was such a wide variety of women; young, middle aged, pregnant, pretty, worn down, drunk, happy, sad, etc. Some were on the street with kids. Not sure if they were actually their kids or if the kids were working as well.
A beautiful young girl in particular absolutely broke our hearts. She could not have been more than 13 or 14 and as Kyle said, “we could see her walking into Wired on a Sunday evening.” many of our team tried to talk to her and comfort her, but she would shun us away or look the other way.
Rosita was incredible. She walked into the brothels without fear and talked to everyone she encountered. Some of our team would accompany her to the top of the stairs of the building (we could see the top of the stairs from the entrance at the street) and distribute the food.
As previously mentioned, a lot of the people were very nice too us. One lady, in particular, talked to us for a few minutes and she loved God. She said, “God still loves me even in this situation”. That to me is incredible love for our Father and it revealed to me how often I fail to show His love to others.
About 2 hours later, we returned to the bus with little food remaining. The bus was parked where we encountered the young girl that I mentioned above. It was very difficult to sit there and leave her standing there. Just cannot fathom the thought of what she goes through everyday. As we pulled away, I waved at her and she excitedly waved back. I pray that she sees the Lord and he removes her from that hell.
We returned to the hotel and walked into the lobby to debrief. It was obvious everyone was in awe and heartbroken for the people who are jailed in the world of sin.
As we debriefed and prayed for the people of the streets, David shared with us an incredible heartbreaking story. Prior to his departure to Medillin, he spoke with a girl he grew up with in school and church. They had planned to get together on Saturday before he left on Sunday. But, as we were ministering on the streets, David and she encountered one another as she was working the streets. She just turned and walked away as David was in shock.
This was not an evening of chance or coincidences. It was His plan to encounter each and every one of those people who are in dire need of His Son to overcome their bondage to sin. Please pray for the people on streets of Medillin.
Friday morning, we walked to a nearby “Target”-like store to buy coffee and other items. The group walked among the bustling streets to our destination. It was definitely a unique experience for some of the students who had never done urban shopping before. In the afternoon we picked up the three boys that we met at the inner-city minstry (Oscar, Phillipe, and Estephen) as well as the YWAM leaders (including Anith, the director of the orphanage) and took them to the opening match of the 2011 FIFA U-20 (Under age 20) World Cup soccer match between England and North Korea. The game was played in the main 45,000-seat stadium that is normally used for the Medellín professional team. The U-20 world cup is being hosted by several cities in Colombia, including Bogota, Calle, and Cartegena. Outside the stadium, the military and the police were making their presence known. After all the years of violence and unrest, it is comforting to see the Medellín authorities taking seriously the need to provide a sense of security. As we waited to enter the stadium, the students passed out hundreds of tracts to the gathering crowds. Inside, the crowds were a bit thin at first but began to grow as the game went on. It turned out that our tickets were for a double-header with the second game—Mexico vs. Argentina—being the premier match of the day. Our team, our guests, and the YWAM leaders had a great time making a lot of noise and enjoying themselves despite a rather boring 0-0 tie. After the first game ended, Team Alpha had to load up the bus to go up the mountain to the church where Carlos pastors for a full presentation to folks invited to attend from around the community. Several of the members of Team Bravo as well as Kevin and the boys from the inner city ministry stayed for the second game. We learned later that for 17 years, Anith has lived in Medellín working with the orphans and this was the first time she had ever been in the stadium. The day was a real treat for these people. We often forget how the little things can be such a blessing.
See next post for more.