Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Aposento Alto Nuevo Colon

Rooster crowing, children singing, dogs barking are the sounds that join the heartfelt prayer of a man thanking the Lord for sins forgiven. The sun warms our heads through the thin roof of the top floor of a three-story house where we are joining a small group of Colombian Christians to worship on a Sunday morning. As we sing I marvel at the bond of Christ that unites us around the bread and wine with men and women from a very different background than our own. Humanly speaking there is a vast gulf between our culture, education, experience and economic situation. Yet in Jesus we have a common faith and look forward to an eternity together in heaven.

Street view from third floor of Church's house

These men and women are intimately acquainted with violence and hardship. In front of me sits a woman whose son was murdered in front of their house by the son of another woman in the congregation. She has found peace not only with God but also with the other hurting mother. In the midst of the adversities of life in this violent neighborhood people are coming to God.

Cazuca barrio on hillside

Fortunately for Bill and me the church is located at the foot of a hillside community known as "Cazuca" in a somewhat safer neighborhood called Nuevo Colon. It is not recommended for Americans to venture up the hill and we were not allowed to come and go on our own into this area. Years ago Cazuca came into being when a group of squatters coordinated to move onto the hill and thus made it their own. There was nothing the original landowner could do, the land passed to the new occupants who essentially are a law unto themselves. What makes this area dangerous for foreigners is that it is known to be inhabited by city guerillas who would not hesitate to kidnap someone they see as a potential for profit. The sad thing is that it is incredibly dangerous for the locals too. Our friends described a terrifying "justice" system that operates there. If someone is caught stealing or offending they are given a warning. If they repeat the offense they are shot. End of story, end of problem. Many, many young teenagers lose their lives. Life has little value. Sexual abuse is rampant with young and old alike exposed to much perversion.

Yet little by little seeds of hope are sown by courageous and self-less Colombian Christians who go into these neighborhoods to share the message of the good news of Jesus. Over the past several years God has allowed a team of believers to plant a church here. One of the key leaders in this team is Sergio Gomez. This tall, lanky, gray-haired man's heart of compassion for these people led him to move his family and humbly live in this area and thus win the people's trust and be able to effectively pastor the new Christians. We were touched on Sunday to see Sergio baptize his youngest son, Samuel, along with three other new Christians.

Sergio praying with his son, Samuel

Baptizing in small tank made out of wood and lined with thick plastic

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Villa de Leyva

We traveled three hours north of Bogota to a touristy little town called Villa de Leyva for a church camp last weekend. Here's a few pictures of our time there - in the village, at the campgrounds and on a walk in the "desert" area.

Back in Bogota

We arrived in Bogota on October 27th around 9PM. Here's a picture of the airport I took two days later while waiting to pick up the boxes we had sent by cargo.
Traffic is much the same as ever. The streets are too small the number of cars trying to get around. One of the "interesting" laws in the city is that each car is prohibited from being on the streets for two days of each week, determined by the last number of its license plate. So if you own a car there are two days where it has to stay parked from 6am till 8pm. For those that can afford it the solution is to buy a second car! (We don't have that problem yet... we're using buses and taxis to get around!)

We're staying with another missionary family until our apartment is ready, hopefully by mid-December. Here's a view out of our bedroom window.
And here's Bill helping Mike and Andrew put lights on the Christmas tree.
We've been blessed to be able to catch up with some of our friends already. This is each of us with friends we made while studying at Talbot in California. They were also students at the seminary and are now back here living in Bogota. Julian & Diana.
Another couple we saw at a church event the first weekend we were in town. Julio & Erika.
Last Monday we went on a "date" with each other to a fun restaurant - here's the name, you can guess what they serve!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Goodbye USA

Labor day on September 7th marked the beginning of our goodbyes. We drove out of Long Beach with tears streaming down my eyes after hugging Debbie and her sweet family for the last time.

The five weeks away have gone by both quickly and slowly. We have visited a lot of people, reconnected with old friends and made plenty of new ones. Experienced both literal and figurative mountains and valleys along our journey's path. In many ways our trip was a step of faith and we are blown away by how much God has used it to prepare us to move out of from the settled state that we have enjoyed for the past five years.

Our conclusion - God is good, God is faithful, God provides, God hears, God answers. We are blessed.

Enjoy this sample of people and places from our journey from California to Washington to Colorado to Arizona to Wisconsin.

Bill, Sydney, Lillie, Debbie - Chestnut Ave, Long Beach

Bill, Angela, Alexa - Coffee Shop near Wheaton, IL

Karen and Jim (my first math mentor teacher) - Port Townsend, WA

Sonja, Jeremy, John and Bill - Wauwatosa, WI

Karen and Ron - Prescott, AZ

Duckhorn family - Milwaukee, WI

John and Jan - Colorado Springs, CO

SPLICE program - 3 weeks in Palmer Lake, CO

Our instructor, Robin - MTI, CO

My small group - missionary women heading to Czech Rep, Haiti, Japan, Cambodia,Mozambique & Sudan!

Hiking in Colorado with new friends from SPLICE.

Pikes Peak with new friends.

Reservoir - peaceful place to pray - Palmer Lake, CO

San Francisco, CA

Saying goodbye to favorite places and food too!

I posted more pictures on Facebook - search for "Angela Loudon" if you aren't already a "friend"!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

STEP 2009 Team Unity

We were blessed to see a spirit of unity among the 30 team members, despite our varied backgrounds. Here are a few shots of times the team was just hanging out together.

Bilingual t-shirts helped us witness while out and about

STEP 2009 Outreaches

The team split into 3 groups and each group went to a different city in the Los Angeles area to hold daily Children's Bible Classes.

Here's Eric and Brandon with their boys in Westminster
Megan guiding her girls in Gardena through the Bible to learn about Christ
Children on Los Angeles listening to the lesson
Singing songs and learning memory verses were among the activities at the Bible Clubs
Beth, Angie and Kendra with their small group of children in Westminster

Bekkah and Beth with some of the children at the 15th St apartments in Westminster
Bekkah, sharing God's word with her small group
The Westminster outreach where at least 40 children show up every year.