When Words Aren’t Necessary

We’re doing a study on Christian fellowship this quarter. Today, I spent time in Romans 12.15-16 and mainly focused on the second part of 12.15: Weep with those who weep.

Following through on this can be extremely difficult and unpleasant. I don’t know of anyone who is ever excited to run out and cry with someone as they roll through a situation that’s full of grief, betrayal, or extreme pain and sorrow. But, I do know from personal experience what it means for the person who is going through difficulty.

Last week, I was called to help out with a family in our community whose son drowned in the Little Miami River. When I arrived, the mother, two sisters, and a brother were gathered around their car in the parking lot. The emergency trucks and their flashing lights could be seen across the field next to the river bank. The young man’s youngest sister was unconsolable. Everyone else was just staring at the emergency personnel who were going back and forth. They were in stunned disbelief. Also gathered were three teens who jumped in the river to try to save the victim. They almost drowned in the swift muddy water trying to pull him out. One in particular, still barefoot with sand all over his legs and feet, kept holding out his hands as he replayed the events in his mind. What do you say in such a situation? Nothing. You just give a hug where you can and let them know you care.

I am reminded of the story of Job, whose deep and grave trouble came upon him suddenly and with no expectation. Not only did he lose all his material possessions and offspring (Job 1), he lost his health (Job 2.1-10). Upon hearing this, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar came to comfort him. We read:

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”

(Job 2:11–13, ESV)

What is said here is very moving. Just read the words slowly and let them sink in:

  • Job’s condition was so bad, they did not recognize him.
  • His suffering was very great.
  • When they saw him, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads…
  • They sat with Job on the ground, …and no one spoke a word to him.

Sometimes, all you can do is be there. The grief is so overwhelming, astonishing, and stupefying, that no words are adequate. In these situations, there is a reverential awe with which we approach the sufferer and a tender caution with which we address them. It is almost as if any words spoken would be out of place.

The only thing that matters, is your presence.

Last Saturday, I had another opportunity to visit with the family who lost their son. When I walked in, the mom said, “I don’t remember your name, but I do remember your face.” And you know, I realized at that moment she wouldn’t have remembered any words I would have said the previous Tuesday night. But she did know that I was there. And, as we talked on Saturday, you could tell it meant quite a lot.

Never forget that your presence in such situations speaks to them in a language which they cannot but understand and feel. And that, is far more powerful than any carefully crafted words of persuasion could ever be.

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor,” (1 Corinthians 10:24, ESV).

 

God: The God of Deliverance

In Exodus 3.13-14 we are introduced to God’s personal name. Moses is in a discussion with God at the burning bush, who has just commissioned him to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt, 3.10. Moses begins immediately to question his abilities. I believe this would be the natural reaction out of most humble people. Think about yourself and how you would respond. Moses’ first question is probably very similar to what mine would be: basically, “who am I to do this?” God’s reply in 3.12 is not something just to be passed over quickly because in it we learn about one of the great characteristics of God: I will be with you,… God is the ever-present one who is with His people. This is part of His identity. It’s who He is.

Next, Moses asks how he should answer if the people asked who sent him: What is his name? What shall I say to them? God answers: I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”  I AM is the personal name of God. It is commonly expressed with the consonants YHWH in the Hebrew language and is meant to describe the eternality, self-existence, and changelessness that belong to God alone. 

In Exodus 3.17, we learn a little more about God. The verse begins with a promise: I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land …flowing with milk and honey. God is the ever-saving one who lives to redeem His people. Tying this back to 3.7-9, this is the exact message the people of Israel needed to hear from their God: i.e., He has heard their cries and will rescue them.

In Exodus 4, Moses returns to Egypt and along with Aaron explained to the people all that God had told them. Verse 31 marks a very crucial point in the Exodus story: And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. Then comes chapter 5. After moments of faith adversity always comes. Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and demand he let the Hebrews leave Egypt. They are summarily dismissed and directed to get back to your burdens, 5.4. To this, Pharaoh made their burdens harder by withholding straw for brick making (5.10); not lessening their work quotas even though the people had to scatter to find straw (5.12-14); and issuing beatings/violence if tasks were not completed on time (5.16). The foreman met with Moses and Aaron and blamed them for the impossible workload that had been placed on the people. To this, Moses cries out to God: O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all, 5.22-23.

Chapter 6 opens with God’s reassurances to Moses and to the Hebrew people. First God directs His attention to Moses. He tells him that the time will come when Pharaoh will drive the people out with a strong hand, 6.1. Now notice 6.2-5. See the covenant language. Here He uses His personal name again: I AM the Lord. Then he points to his relationship with the patriarchs and the promises he made. He has seen the groaning of His people and has remembered His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15.13-16. Notice how God was personally moved and involved with the problem: I have heard and I have remembered are statements that indicate God is going into action and enforce the covenant made long before. What the patriarchs trusted would one day happen was now underway, and God encouraged Moses here to believe that fact.

Now, notice 6.6-8. These are the words that God wants Moses to use to reassure the people. God uses His personal name again: I am the Lord. He promises freedom  and deliverance. He will demonstrate His great power through the plagues, 6.6. He promises to make them His own possession: “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God,” 6.7a. He is encouraging them to move in trust that He will fulfill the promises He’s making. This is all in fulfillment to the assurances He had previously given to the Patriarchs (Genesis 15.13-20; 35.12; 48.4). And when the Hebrews went to Canaan they would own it, not just live in it: I will give it to you for a possession, 6.8b. The verse concludes with the same statement that began in 6.2: I am the Lord. It’s covenant language. In the ancient Near East it was customary for the giver of a covenant to always identify himself. When God says, I am the Lord, it is as if He is saying, I am Yahweh, your covenant God. But wait, there’s more.

Now, let’s go back to God’s statement in 6.3. “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.” God says previously that He didn’t reveal himself as the I AM to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but only as “God Almighty.” By revealing Himself as the El Shaddai to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they saw Him as “the mighty one,” “the all-powerful one,” and “the One who is eternal.” But now in Exodus, God is going to reveal Himself as the deliverer of His people. When God says I am the Lord in 6.2, 8, He is identifying Himself relationally. He was connected to His people, knowing them personally. Thus the people could say, “He is not just any god, He is my God.”

This is different than what the Patriarchs had previously seen. God is not only the ever-eternal one. He is not only the ever-present one. He is also the one who lives to draw near His people for the purpose of redeeming them. God is the god of deliverance! He is the one who establishes a relationship with His people. This is what makes Him special and unique from every human contrived deity. Our God, the God, lives to love and serve those who choose Him. It’s such a wondrous thing!

Now, reread Exodus 3.7-9 and make the application to your life. Think of God as your deliverer: He sees your affliction. He knows all about your taskmaster. He knows all about your sufferings. He hears the cries of those caught in sin. He knows how Satan oppresses. It is His intention to deliver you out of the hand of Satan and bring you into a place that is good and that flows with His eternal blessings.

Cali | 22 May 2017


Good morning. Well, as of this morning, I can successfully say that the work and objectives for my 2017 trip to Colombia have been successfully accomplished.

On this year’s trip, I was able to visit with all six men we support. I was up close and personally involved in their work, interacting with many or all of the churches they preach for, and got to spend time in their home. It was a great experience of hospitality, encouragement, and partnership. Relationships were definitely strengthened, and everyone of our guys passes along greetings to you, the Kettering family, for your prayers and financial support. For some of them, the majority of their monthly income comes from us. They’re all doing a great work, making many sacrifices, and some of them are taking great risks to preach where they do.

The other objective of my trip was to be here yesterday in Cali to support this local church as they ordain shepherds to serve over them. It was just an incredible day. 15-20 preachers came in from around the country to witness the events. It was standing room only in the meeting place. Both Carlos Julio and Orlando are humble men, whose efforts as spiritual leaders were already evident. If anything, yesterday’s actions confirm what they were already doing – being servant leaders. Thanks to Wes Grushon who posted the YouTube link to the service last night. Most of it is in Spanish, but there are parts in there where Jason & I spoke. (Jason addressed the congregation in Spanish for about 2 minutes. It was great. And, I admire his courage. I’m not quite that brave yet.) The link is here:

After services yesterday, we all came back over to Orlando’s home where we 40-50 of us ate together. We played games. We celebrated. It was just a wonderful time. Many great memories were made.

Today I fly back to Cali, where I will spend time with Daniel Vela’s family. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be on the big plane headed home. Becky is flying in from Tampa and we will be on the same flight with each other to Dayton. Looking forward to seeing you all at church tomorrow night

Cali Update 20 May 2017

Good morning from Cali!
It is a warm morning here. I have enjoyed getting to be in the home of Orlando Quintera. We arrived here Thursday evening after a 5 + hour drive down from Manizales. Both Jaime & I were not feeling well Thursday, and Natalia’s friend Laura was not well either. So, we got a late start on our journey. But, I’m pleased to say that we’re all feeling better now.

Yesterday, I spent a good part of the day visiting with Royce & Hope Chandler who have arrived here with one of their grandsons and a family friend from Arkansas. It was good to get caught up with the Chandlers and share common experiences with Terrence, who lives in one of the suburbs west of Little Rock.

Preachers from around the country are beginning to descend on Cali for tomorrows church service. Oscar Arias, Mauricio Zapata, David & Henry Jerez, and others arrived yesterday. Today, Wilson Valbuena, Rafael Amaya, Andres Lopez, and others arrive. Also, Jason will be here around 7 tonight. Very excited to see him.

We met at 7 last night for a church service. The place was full of people. There are many new coverts since I was here last. The radio program they have is really reaching the lost. Yesterday, Royce joined Carlos Julio on the program. I was invited to speak last night, so I took the opportunity to speak on Galatians 5 and what it means to walk by the Spirit.

I just can’t describe the happiness everyone has that we are here. When we sat down for a late dinner Thursday evening, I told Orlando that I was very happy to be here. I told him that I have been looking forward to this for a long time, to which he responded, “I am happier than you are that you are here.” Over and over again they have all voiced their appreciation for us. Everyone and I mean everyone is going out of their way to make us feel comfortable and well fed.

And, it’s hard to describe the joy everyone has that this church is installing elders. Just about where ever we’ve been (Villavicencio, Lorica, Ibague, & Manizales) it has been announced and prayed about that the Cali church is establishing elders. So, tomorrow will be a big day.

Thanks again for your prayers and encouragement. I’ve been able to speak with several of you. I appreciate you guys very much. After tomorrow, the trip is basically over. I fly from Cali to Bogota Monday afternoon and will be staying with the family of Daniel Vela. On Tuesday morning I hop on the big Delta jet that will bring me home in time for church on Tuesday night. Looking forward to being with you again.

Matt

Manizales 18 May 2017

Manizales Update
Good morning!
This is my last day writing from here as we will be leaving late this morning for the last part of this trip – Cali. It has been a great few days here. I have been able to get some rest – from a very busy first two weeks and am excited and energized to spend the next few days with the brethren in Cali.

On Tuesday, Jaime had a few errands to run, so I took at 2.5 mile walk along the top of the mountain above Jaime’s house. When I started, the clouds had rolled in over the mountain and you could barely see. By the time I got back, everything had cleared. There were some magnificent views to behold. Tuesday afternoon, we all went to a giant waterfall and thermal springs just E of Santa Rosa – about 45 minutes from here. It was a great experience to see.

Yesterday, Jaime took me to his brother’s coffee farm (Juan Valdez). It was a such a great experience. We drove about 45 minutes SW of here to a little village on the side of a mountain. The manager of the coffee farm met us in a jeep and took us for a 30 min ride up to the farm. We got stuck going up and the guy had to work to get the jeep through the giant slick spot. Once we got up to the top, we were fed a fabulous lunch of fresh chicken, soup, and other things. Then it was time to go out into the fields of coffee and pick some beans. I got an up close and personal experience of how they pick the beans by hand, drop them in a bucket, and carry them back to where they are processed. There is a lot of things that happen from the actual coffee plant to the roasted beans that you use every morning to make your coffee.

After we got back to Manizales, it was time to head to Niera, which is about 12 miles N of here. This is where Mauricio Zapata has been preaching for 15 years. The little congregation there has moved to a different location since I was there last. They have a much nicer and larger place to meet. Before the service last night, I was able to visit with Mauricio and his wife and family. They are great people doing a fine work.

I’m just impressed with all the work that has gone on here in this area. Jaime told me yesterday that it is his dream that every little town in the Caldas Department have it’s own local church. And, they’re working on it. When we were high up on the coffee farm yesterday, Jaime pointed to a village you could see in the distance. He mentioned that they have contacts in that town and are working to establish a church there. Over the last 30 years, the Manizales church has helped build works all over a 30-40 mile radius. Most of these congregations are growing. It’s great to see it for yourself and know that Kettering has played a significant role behind the scenes helping it happen. We can all take great satisfaction in this and give God the glory.

Today we’ll be embarking on a 5 hour drive down to Cali. Jason arrives in Bogota tomorrow evening & flies to Cali on Saturday. I will be very happy to see him. And, I’ll be very excited to see all of you when I get home next week.

Thanks again for all of your prayers and words of encouragement. Love you all.

Manizales 15 May 2017

Good morning from the most beautiful city in Colombia! It’s been a busy three days since I’ve been here. Friday was a travel day. Both flights were delayed, the one into Manizales was almost two hours late due to weather.

We got in town long enough to unpack our suitcases, change, and head for a service in Santa Rosa, Risaralda, about an hour south of here. This congregation is growing, and they are reaching out into another city, just south of there, in hopes of starting a new congregation there. I was able to preach for the congregation & afterwards Jaime & I enjoyed a dinner of chorizo & rice at the home of Carlos Henao & family.

On Saturday afternoon we went to Chinchina, which is about 30 minutes from here. I was able to meet with Felipe Torres, whose fathers preaches in this town. Felipe is helping Jaime with printing books, tracts, and workbooks. The equipment they are using is pretty old and is too little for the capacity and type of printing they do. But, I appreciate their efforts, because they want to lessen their dependence on having Americans buy books & songbooks and ship them here. The church in Chinchina had a service Saturday pm. I was able to preach for them.

Sunday was a great day. It was Mother’s Day & I was able to talk to Becky & mom before church. We worshipped at Manizales yesterday. I have met many of the church members there on previous visits. I preached and Jaime translated. After church, Jaime & I had lunch with his brothers & sisters downstairs. Last night I spent time with the church at the Villamaria congregation. This is where Oscar Arias preaches, who visited Kettering in early March. If Jaime could be likened to Paul, Oscar is his Timothy.

Before church Sunday evening, Jaime drove me to the area where landslides affected a large housing area in Manizales. This is where Henry and Elena (the family individuals at Kettering recently helped) live. While their home has not been directly impacted by mud and rock, the mountain is just a few hundred yards away. Hundreds of home in this neighborhood have been condemned and will have to be destroyed, because they are in imminent danger. Police have the area blocked off, and stand guard 24 hours a day. Henry & Elena still owe a mortgage on their home and have no insurance. The city is offering them a home in a poor section of town and will provide a temporary rent subsidy of $90 each month. They have to pay the remainder and still pay for their mortgage on a home they can no longer live in.

Henry led the service for the Lords supper last night. It was my pleasure to meet him before and after the service. He passed along greetings to each one of you & thanked me again for everyone’s help. With their needs so great, I am thinking of using the money individuals gave me for this trip to help them additionally. I should see one or both of them later today. They are the only Christians to have been directly affected by these landslides.

It rains here everyday. All over town there are places where the mountains have washed down on the road. New slides are happening every day smashing cars and motorcycles. Many roads are down to one way traffic as crews have the inside lane closed off cleaning up debris.

So, that is the latest from here. Thanks again for your prayers and encouragement.

Matt

Lorica 12 May 2017

Good Friday morning to everyone.

It’s a little after 5 am. Today is a travel day. I’ll be headed out in about 90 minutes to take the hour + ride to Monteria to catch a plane to Bogota & then up to Manizales. It is always good to be in Manizales.

Last night after the service, Jaime & I sat down with Carlos to visit. He shared a little of the history and background related to the place we went to Wednesday afternoon. And, I think it sheds like into the conditions brother Correa faces on a daily basis.

The work in Guanábano began about 6-7 years ago after someone in Barranquilla got in touch with Carlos in regards to possible contacts in the area. Carlos was warned that that entire area was filled with paramilitaries. He went anyway. He met with the contact(s), baptisms happened, and his twice-weekly trek out there began. These new Christians had to explain to the paramilitaries who Carlos is and why he is coming out there. More on that in a moment…

Here’s a little background into the paramilitaries. You have to understand Colombian politics. Over the last century +, Colombian politics (and S. America in general) has been characterized by corruption and weakness. This prompted various factions on both sides of the political aisle to organize and resist the government. In the late 1950’s leftist communists (FARC) began working to overthrow the Colombian government. The USA, in efforts to stop communism on this continent assisted the Colombians in resisting FARC, which resorted to violence, kidnapping, and extortion in undermining the government. The government, up until the beginning of this year, had been at war with FARC since 1961. On the other side, the far political right, groups emerged that stressed Colombian independence and viewed American intervention as a threat to national sovereignty. Then the drug wars began. Both FARC & the paramilitaries got involved with the drug cartels who have an unlimited supply of money. Here locally, the paramilitaries guard the travel routes for drugs going out of Colombian through the isthmus of Panama. The ensures them of having the necessary resources to buy weapons and supplies to prolong their resistance. You can’t even begin to imagine the level of violence that was here in the 80’s and early 90’s. Everyone was at war with each other. FARC & the paramilitaries were at war with each other. Both were at war with the government. Pablo Escobar was king of the Medellin cartel, and basically at war with the government. No one could trust anyone. Countless people lost their lives.

In NW Colombia, where I am, the paramilitaries still control everything, especially in the rural areas. They have people everywhere, even here in the city. Since they’re moving drugs they’re pretty protective of their territory. Guanábano is the home base for one of the paramilitary groups. Shortly after Carlos Correa began working there, someone knocked on his door late at night. They told him they knew everything about him. His wife, his kids, what his job is, what church he works with here in town, and that they were watching him. This did not faze him.

One of the brothers in the church out there knows some of the paramilitaries and vouched for him. When things “heat up,” one of them will call him in advance and tell him not to come. He used to go out & hold Wednesday evening services around 6.30 pm. Sometimes, he wouldn’t get finished until 8 or 9, eat briefly, and then do the 1.5 or 2 hour trek back here to Lorica. One night about 5 years ago, as the study wrapped up, the brethren urged him to stay the night and not go home. He resisted, saying he’s never had trouble before. So, as he headed home, just out of town he came up on two people on motorcycles, who immediately began tailing him. He sped up. They sped up. They closely followed him for 20-30 minutes. He said it really frightened him. After this happened, he moved the service time up a few hours so that he no longer has to travel back home after dark or late at night.

Just 7 months ago, things with the paramilitaries heated up. Two officers from the Colombian National Police were dispatched to Guanábano. They positioned themselves at the corner of two roads and were checking ID’s and papers of every person who passed by. 18 paramilitaries came out, surrounded them, and killed them both. For the next month, the Colombian military patrolled the area, and then left. Unknowing to me on Wednesday, went drove by the corner of the road where these two officers were murdered.

For Jaime & I to come out with him to Guanábano, Carlos had to inform the small church in advance, so they could clear it with the paramilitaries. Since they know who Carlos is, they had no problem with our coming.

A few months ago the paramilitaries changed leaders. Everyone was really worried that this would make things hard for Carlos. In fact, it was a difficult transition as he couldn’t travel out therefor several weeks until everything was “Ok’d” by the new leader. Now, everything is OK. The brethren have vouched for him and everyone is satisfied.

The place we went to on Tuesday, Palmitto, is controlled by a different paramilitary group. When problems arise, the sister out there will call Carlos and advise him not to come until things settle down.

There have been many times where Carlos’ wife has been worried for his life. He tells her God will take care of him and for her just to pray. Last year on Dec 31, he had been out to Guanábano and got back to the ferry. It was already dark. After he got on the boat, the ferry got stuck in the middle of the river. (The water was very low.) It took several hours to get the vessel unstuck. He actually got to ring in the new year stuck on the ferry in the middle of the river, and missed out on some family events going on here in town. His wife Janeth feared that he had been killed.

I was totally moved by hearing him talk about his experiences. It’s completely unimaginable for Americans. I would ask that you pray for brother Correa and his work in a very difficult place.

Ok, that’s all for now. I have to get packed up & get ready to head to the airport.

Love you all. Thanks for all you prayers & feedback.

Lorica 11 May ’17

Good Thursday morning to you. I hope all of you are well. I have so enjoyed hearing from several of you through email and phone. Thanks for reaching out.

Wednesday was a busy day. Jaime & I started the day meeting with a married couple that is struggling with the sin of adultery. They traveled 4 hours to meet with us. The first part of the meeting was tense, but things changed as the one who committed adultery broke down in tears in sorrow and remorse. Both want to save the marriage and have committed to making things work. After 90 or so minutes, both embraced and made the commitment to move forward together. That was a beautiful thing to see! We certainly pray that they’ll continue to stay together & rebuild their family.

In the afternoon we traveled to a community called Guanábano. It’s probably 30 miles from here. Travel there is difficult, even on the best day. From Lorica, you go several miles along the side of a river, then cross a ferry, travel across a wide lowland, then finally into the hills. As we sat on the side of the river, waiting on the ferry, you couldn’t help but notice two Jehovah’s witnesses sitting in the shade with a tract rack sitting out almost in the muddy road. (You have to admire their dedication.) After we crossed the river, the roads are ungraded and filled with washouts. Carlos found someone who owns a jeep to get us there. This jeep was easily 50 years old. After about 30 min of driving, we’d have to stop and add water to the radiator. I think we stopped 4 times last night. It took us around 2 hours to get to our destination. (Carlos travels this twice each week on his motorcycle.) There aren’t many Americans who visit that area. It’s very isolated, for one, and the entire area is under control by the paramilitaries. Many homes were painted with political slogans and endorsements for leaders and candidates.

The little church got it’s start around 6 years ago with 5-6 people. Yesterday we had around 20 present. The church meets at the home of one of the members, under a grass-roof covering. We sang hymns out of the Psalms and then Jaime presented a lesson. After visiting together for a little while, we took some people home from the service & then began the 2 hour bumpy ride back to the hotel.
I thought we were having a service in Lorica last night, but that changed and we’re having one tonight.

We’ll be leaving the hotel in about an hour or so to head to another village 30-40 minutes from here. We’ll be having a Bible study together with some contacts, then we’ll have lunch together. We have a few hours of free time this afternoon before a service tonight.

Thanks everyone! Appreciate you all.

Lorica 10 May 2017

Lorica Update
Good morning from Colombia! Today begins day 10 on the ground here. Since we’ve been in this hotel, both Jaime & I have had to change hotel rooms due to various issues. My new room has an AC that worked all night. I got a good amount of rest overnight & feel very good today.

Each day has been packed with activities, including yesterday. After breakfast, Carlos, Jaime, and I participated in a Bible study with the neighbor of one of the congregation’s members. Accompanying us was Ruben, who is basically Carlos’ full time assistant in preaching/teaching. We spent an hour or so there, sitting inside the living room. It was pouring outside! At times we could hardly hear each other talk over the rain.

In the afternoon we traveled to Palmitto. This is a small village about 30 miles east of here. Getting there is difficult and takes about an hour and a half. With all the rain we had in the morning, the roads were especially muddy – and the taxi we rode in had bald tires … so as always – it was an adventure – literally sliding around in the mud as we creeped up some of the roads. Once we arrived, there were about 15 persons present. Some came from the neighboring Puebla Nueva church. Others were invited guests that aren’t Christians. I presented a lesson on God’s scheme of redemption and His intentions in saving us.

I visited this place on my 2013 trip. The older sister who owns this property was converted 5-6 years ago. 20 years ago, the paramilitaries tried to take her farm. When she refused, they shot and killed her son right in front of her. She still refused to surrender. Thankfully the violence and lawlessness of those days are behind. Since I’ve been here, other family members of hers have become Christians. Carlos travels here weekly to study and preach. When our study finished, the sister disappeared into her “kitchen” and began to cook a meal. Fresh chicken. Potatoes. Rice. And, some kind of freshly squeezed juice. It was great, except that it was getting dark (6 pm), and we had a 90 minute drive back to Lorica for a service that was to begin at 7. Once we got back, Jaime preached a sermon and we called it a night.

On tap for today is a morning meeting with a couple struggling with consequences and fallout of adultery. We’ll be meeting here at the hotel. Everyone here is excited today to prepare lunch for me. I’ll be eating an iguana. (Oh boy.) I hear it tastes like chicken. Let’s just say that my clothes are starting to fit better. : )

After lunch, we’re supposed to head out to Guabanana. This is another remote area that is difficult to get to. As far as I can tell, we had no rain overnight, so it looks like the visit there will be a “go.” Then it’s back to Lorica tonight for another service.

Thanks again for all of your prayers. I really appreciate it.

Lorica 9 May 2017

Lorica Update
Good morning from Lorica, Córdoba, Colombia. Jamie & I arrived here safely late yesterday afternoon. We landed in Monteria, which is about an hour’s drive west of here. Carlos Correa does not own a car, but rode a bus to the airport to greet us when we arrived. We rented a taxi and made the journey here. There is always adventure when you travel in Colombia. Between the airport & here there are two toll booths on the road. Our taxi driver paid the first one. Then, a few miles out of Lorica, there is another one. As soon as the sign for the toll plaza came up, the driver quickly hit the brakes and drove down the first country road he saw. For the next 30 minutes or so, we wandered through the countryside, going through little villages every so often, but mostly just getting a good look at mud holes, washouts, green fields and cows. Just imagine a little Geo Metro or some similar vehicle with tiny tires bumpily going down the road crammed with 4 people & their luggage inside. After about 20 minutes I looked at Jaime & said “I would have just paid him the $5 for the toll.”

This is very much “the other Colombia.” It is third world and you know it. Motorcycles and bicycles fill the streets. Most of the streets aren’t paved. People sit outside on their porch after the sun goes down because it’s too hot to go inside. The Christians in Lorica don’t have song books so they open their Bibles and sing out of the Psalms, to which they have put melodies to. As I preached last night, very few people had a Bible in their hand. Whereas in Ibague, Villavicencio, Bogota, or Cali, the service has a more “professional” feel, the service here last night was different. Little kids are uncontrolled and run around the building during singing & preaching. People stop by & look in at things going on as the service is going on – because everything is open to circulate as much air as possible. It’s just a totally different feel than what you have in other parts of Colombia.

We have decided to stay in a hotel here. I’m happy to say Carlos Correa has moved to a different house since I’ve been here in 2013, but there are 7 people living inside – so we decided it would be easier to stay in a hotel for $17/night. It has AC. But it quit working in the middle of the night. I’ve been up since 3 when I woke up sweating. I opened the window, but it’s pouring outside. Very humid … and 85 degrees. The hotel has internet & TV. But it doesn’t work. And, instead of cold water for a shower, I have cool water. That is an improvement over the barrel and dipper I used when I was here 4 years ago!

These inconveniences are worth the all the encouragement I received last night. The little church was full. Monday pm is not a normal meeting time. But the whole church showed up. It was great. Jaime & I were received enthusiastically. Several of the brothers and sisters remembered my visit from last time. The building here has been paid off and they’ve recently done a few renovations that make it look new. New roof, new paint, new signage, etc. They are very proud of it. I’m very happy for the church here. We’ll be here through Friday morning, so I’ll have a good amount of time to see things up close with how the work is going here.

Later today, I’ll be with Carlos & Jaime in a men’s Bible study & then this afternoon I’ll be in Palmitto. Palmitto is the place where paramilitaries took over the meeting place last year and stole/destroyed a bunch of stuff. Many of you at Kettering helped financially to repair/replace those things. The paramilitaries are still in that area and in the place where I’m going tomorrow (Guabanana). Carlos speaks as if going into these areas are no big deal as “they know who he is and what he is doing” and they “leave him alone.” So, … there you go. I’ll trust what he says and the Lord’s protection. Correa said last night that if it rains, we won’t be going to Guabanana because the road there will be impassible. We’ll just have to see what happens. Tonight, we’ll be back in Lorica where Jaime will be speaking for the congregation.

As always, I appreciate your prayers. Thanks for making this trip possible for me.