La Cueva, a Beacon of Hope

April 26, 2016 |

La Cueva, Bogotá

Amidst the dark landscape of cyclical abandonment and the resulting orphan crisis shines a beacon of hope in a house called La Cueva. 

The group lets out a whoop of praise and the soft-spoken girl in the corner blushes crimson with unmistakable delight. She repeats her announcement that prompted the praise, making sure the right person gets the credit: “Gracias a Dios—thanks to God, I found a job.” Congratulatory hugs and songs of worship follow—a celebration of God’s provision for Cristal, a sister in Christ.

Cristal is one of the countless twenty-somethings growing up in Colombia without parents. Abandoned as a child and having spent the majority of her adolescent years in the Colombian child welfare system, Cristal now navigates the murky waters of adulthood—except she doesn’t do it alone.

Amidst the dark landscape of cyclical abandonment and the resulting orphan crisis shines a beacon of hope in a house called La Cueva.

La Cueva is a refuge located in the heart of Bogotá for orphans who have aged out of government care and are making the difficult transition into adulthood.

Those accepted into the house gain immediate access to a support network that normally would not be available to them: job opportunities, university loans, affordable rent, spiritual mentors and most importantly, a faith community. The latter is what makes this program so special.

Every Tuesday evening, upwards of 20 people arrive at La Cueva and pull together a hodgepodge of chairs and couches before settling in to a night of worship, prayer, Bible study, and of course, Colombian empanadas.

During this particular gathering, Cristal shares her news of having found a job. The announcement bears so much weight because her group of friends knows where Cristal has been.

Cristal’s Story

Cristal came to La Cueva when she had nowhere else to turn. She spent almost two years battling a life-threatening brain tumor without help or support from relatives. Though doctors feared she wouldn’t survive, Cristal overcame the odds. While searching for employment, Cristal faced rejection and disappointment because of a physical disability resulting from her illness. Yet God provided—not only a job but a community to celebrate it with.

Cristal’s faith community is just one in a larger movement of house churches called Ciudad Corazón (“Heart City”) spreading throughout the greater Bogotá area. The Ciudad Corazón movement, under the leadership of Jorge Enciso, seeks to see the city, country, and continent transformed by the power of the gospel. While the movement comprises small groups of believers and nonbelievers alike who meet in the context of a living room, the impact goes beyond the four walls of a residence. That’s where programs like La Cueva come into play.

La Cueva is just one facet of Fundación Comunidad Viva—a Christian community development foundation (founded by Enciso) that works to empower the local church to be an agent of change in broken neighborhoods through opening community centers and initiating tutoring programs, Bible clubs, sustainable agriculture projects, and Vacation Bible Schools. The house church movement and foundation work together to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the communities across the city.


 

Fundación Comunidad Viva


The momentum of Ciudad Corazón and La Cueva shows no sign of slowing down. The house churches continue to multiply and every month come together from all over the city to celebrate the work God is doing. And there is much to celebrate. Cristal’s story is one of many that gives testimony to lives being shaped and transformed by the gospel manifested through the local church.

View the April edition of FrontPage, in which this article originally appeared. 

Reflecting #Urbana15

January 22, 2016 |

Reflecting #Urbana15

Since 1946 Urbana has been a meeting place for those interested in learning more about missions. Every year it seems that attendance is ever more diverse and far-reaching. There is no better place to observe the diversity of the conference than in the group worship sessions and exhibit hall. During the week we were encouraged to ask ourselves: “Whose story will you tell?” We were directed to learn from and experience the diverse context of the Body of Christ and to recognize our own tiny part in its story.

Led by Erna Hackett we engaged in worship through story and song in a number of forms. Aiming to avoid cultural appropriation and promote understanding we were treated to songs in the context of their stories and singers.

Language and rhythm barriers were broken as we made a joyful noise to God.

In the exhibit hall, five of us staffed the South America Mission booth during the week. We were privileged to speak with students from all walks of life. Some came with impressive credentials: degrees in civil engineering, theological studies, nursing certifications, a pilots’ license, or a life of experience growing up overseas. Others came with wisps of passion and shreds of vision for what God might be calling them into. Still others arrived admitting their own ignorance about Latin America’s people and culture, seeking to learn more about our mission and the people we serve.

One thing that struck us during the week was the amount of students and adults from the countries we served who, after studies or careers in the US, desired to take the Gospel back to their birthplaces. South America Mission has been growing in partnership and membership with Latino missionaries, enabling cultural insiders to speak in ways unique to them in places dear to us.

We strive to be an organization that not only serves Latin America but also serves with Latin America.

It was beautiful to meet people from the places we had served – cities in Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru – who articulated the desires we have for those places, but with a sense of urgent ownership. Others from Guyana, Paraguay, and Uruguay spoke to us of places we have been praying to move into.

One recognized through time in the US that though she had come from a loving church family, the church is so much larger and more dynamic than one building or denomination. She wants to return to her city with her theological and engineering studies to participate in God’s movement in the greater city.

Couples of mixed heritage sought to bring their diverse backgrounds to the mission field. As cross-cultural workers we daily walk in the holy tension of cultural differences and can benefit from the testimony such marriages bring to the conversation.

Their sensitivity to issues of race and culture bring much-needed perspective to the missions conversation.

A few students wandered, overwhelmed by emotion, from one booth to the next, seeking to make sense of their newly awakened convictions in regards to their birthplaces. We were able to pray with them and offer counsel in ways more personal than official. Our own stories of God’s provision and sovereign leadership acted as cups of cool water in the face of their whirling emotions.

It was challenging and humbling to try to encapsulate the collective personality of SAM in just a few minutes, to seek to encompass 100+ years and untold centuries of prayer and labor in a few words. The challenge was to move away from jargon and into truth, into personal connection. The challenge was to listen and discern what God was doing in the life of each person before us, encouraging them in pursuit of that mission whether that meant serving with SAM or one of the other hundreds of organizations represented at the conference.

God’s church is so much larger than our ethnic identity. His movement is greater than one continent. His Spirit is more powerful than our limitations and others’ words. It was exciting to share my own story and hear the stories of others. It was a privilege to share SAM’s story, and remarkably refreshing to experience how SAM’s story fits into God’s story. As each strand is braided together, something marvelous and harmonious is formed.

This is the Body of Christ.

Still Trending: #Urbana15

January 8, 2016 |

#Urbana15

From the day after Christmas until New Year’s day, five of us from SAM were in St. Louis for Urbana, a missions conference held every three years by Intervarsity.

We rubbed shoulders with over 10,000 college students, high schoolers, thousands of additional Intervarsity staff, and thousands more representatives of missions organizations and seminaries around the world. The five of us attended sessions and seminars, and staffed a booth where we met with individuals interested in serving overseas in South America.

Though there was no shortage of big-name speakers and challenging teaching, what spoke most deeply to me came from our morning Bible study in the book of Matthew.

One morning, a few of us from the SAM Urbana team met to study Matthew 20:1-16, a parable Jesus uses to describe the kingdom of heaven. Jesus uses a parable not to be cryptic, but because the reality of heaven is so beyond our comprehension that we can only understand even the smallest facets of his Kingdom by comparing it to something we already know.

In this parable Jesus tells of a landowner who goes early to town to hire workers for his vineyard. They agree upon a salary and get to work. A few hours later, the landowner sees more workers milling about, and offers them a job in his vineyard. He does this two more times during the afternoon. Towards the end of the workday, the landowner goes into town once more and, seeing yet more empty-handed workers, he offers them a job in the vineyard as well.

At the end of the day, the vineyard owner goes to pay his workers. He tells his foreman to first pay those hired last, and each worker gets his wages. The catch is that all the workers are paid the same—the rate agreed upon by those hired first. The ones who worked all day are understandably indignant, but the landowner gently reminds them that they had already agreed on their pay, and that it is his own choice to pay the other workers generously.

Something about being in the diverse, global context of Urbana made the text come alive in a new way.

Usually I identify with the first workers. After all, I have been a Christian since birth. Surely that counts as an “early in the day commitment.” Those who live life without God, coming to the Lord late in life are the late workers. But today the story read a little differently.

Urbana Director Tom Lin, our opening speaker, encouraged us to stop thinking about how to tell our own story, encouraging us to participate telling God’s Story. This Urbana centered around the question, “Whose story will you tell?” If we take up the Great Story as we read this passage, could this parable not be greater than my own puny fable? Greater than the span of one lifetime?

What if we read the parable of the workers within the context of church history?

I am the late worker. I have come to the field in the cool of the evening to put away tools and help carry bunches of grapes and bundles of weeds laboriously cut by those who worked since dawn. I did not choose the tools of the Biblical Cannon or sharpen the knives of reformation and doctrine. I did not cultivate swaths of land untouched by the gospel. Perhaps I have laid a hand to the few remaining patches or gleaned those few fruits left behind. But I certainly have not risen before dawn and missed the comfort of bed and meals. I have not labored in the heat of persecution, and any sweat marking my brow is from shaking off the lethargy and ease of the morning. I only lend the smallest aid and take part in completing what began long before me.

Yet in my small perspective I like to think that I am an early worker. I like to suppose that I deserve a full day’s pay, looking with condescension on those late workers arriving a step behind me.

Are we not a late-in-the-day generation?

But we share more than simple chronological similarity with the late workers. We share the attitude. We spend our extended youth and adulthood waiting for a personal invitation from the landowner, unwilling to step forward with the other groups, or finally “ready” to work long after the true start of the workday. The landowner stands calling workers, but we assume he is talking to someone else. The landowner stands calling workers, but we wait in uncertainty for a personal address and a more appealing offer.

“I’d go Jesus, just make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is me you are calling and not the guy standing next to me. Make me an offer I cannot resist.”

At Urbana, OMF Director Patrick Fung recounted to us how Jesus invited Matthew to leave everything, including a wildly lucrative business and “Come, follow me”. He observed that as terrifying as it would have been to obey the call, it would be much more terrifying to sit in uncertainty as the Son of the Living God turns to walk away.

“Make me an offer I cannot resist, Jesus, then I’ll know you have truly invited me to work in your harvest.”

Christ has called us. The landowner is calling all workers to the field. Are you listening? Will you choose as Matthew did to follow the one who calls us into storm and glory, or will you risk waiting too long and being left in the dust.

Never is it too late. Even late in the day workers are embraced and given their wage. You are not guaranteed a personal call. You are not guaranteed ease and comfort. But you are guaranteed the company of the author and finisher of The Great Story.

Do not tarry, for this might be the 5 o’clock call. Join in the harvest and taste His good fruit.

God With Us

December 23, 2015 |

God with us

Come, Lord Jesus.  Come.

Our plea for God to come reflects our anxiety over the brokenness of the world. It’s an expression of our wanting desire for the culmination of redemptive history in the Messiah. Come, Lord Jesus, come to rescue us. Come to heal us. Restore sight to the blind. Declare the epoch of the Lord’s favor. Set the world aright through your Kingdom here on earth. We wait. Patiently we wait for him.

And then we celebrate the Light of the world who did indeed come…The night, though, was silent. There were no horses. No chariots. Only quietude in a manger. There were lowly shepherds in the distance who knew first. Wise men were on their long journey, following the star, but it would be weeks before the gold and incense and myrrh arrived. There were no gifts or trumpets sounding that night. No fireworks. The King had slipped into the world to be with us. Quietly and humbly. There was no bursting forth on the world’s stage.

At Christmas, we celebrate the arrival of our humble King.

Sent into the world to become man, to be with us, to pound the pavement with us, to suffer with us, incarnate.

To walk alongside us, as close as burrowing under skin.

God. With. Us…three words that should not be able to merge together into one coherent sentence. But they do in Christ. We look our King in the face. He is there. Present. Sent to be present, to know every suffering of humanity so that he could bear the suffering, one day. God is with us in Christ Jesus the Messiah who came to deliver us.

God is indeed with us in Christ Jesus born this day in Bethlehem. He is with us. As we go out into the world we carry the very presence of God with us.

 

Our greatest gift, really the only gift we can give to the world, is God with us in Jesus, so that others may see and know.

Leteveryheart

 

Redemptive Community

December 16, 2015 |

Redemptive

 

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

—2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (ESV)

We are “redemptive” because of our redeemed state in Christ, and because he has made us redeemers.

It is a privilege that God makes his appeal through us, for all creation to be redeemed unto the Creator. It is also a calling for the maturation of our faith. For God to rightly use us to make his appeal to mankind, we must be rooted in Him, abiding in him, joined to his redemptive purposes for the restoration of righteousness, for the healing of brokenness.

As a community of missionaries who actively participate in cross-cultural ministry, we have the opportunity every day to sin against our brothers. We have the opportunity every day to misunderstand, quickly judge, and write-off the opinions and actions of our colleagues. In some ways, it may be easier to forgive the sins of someone outside of our missionary community, as they are the people whom we serve. But to forgive the sins of our fellow missionaries who we assume align with our goals and our expectations is often a humbling and agonizing process.

As we bear the image of God and are ambassadors for Christ, we must emulate His love, authentically in community, such that we “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7, ESV). In the light of the gospel and God’s love for us, we must be agents of redemption: simple preaching will never be enough. We must live out the reconciled way, representing it to the world and building for it.

Being ambassadors for Christ is as much to do with who we are and how we live than what we do and the words we speak.

Year-End GIFTS DOUBLED

November 25, 2015 |

Visit www.southamericamission.org/givingtuesday2015 to give: On December 1, generous donors will help further SAM’s passions for the church “on mission” in the world by matching dollar-for-dollar every gift to SAM’s Vision Fund, up to $5,000.

Would you donate and help us meet our $10,000 goal for this day? All gifts made to SAM on or before Tuesday, December 1, using this URL link will qualify for the match.

#GivingTuesday has become a platform to launch some of our year-end giving campaigns to meet our ministry budgets for the year.


About #GivingTuesday: The first Tuesday after Thanksgiving now has a new name, a new purpose. #GivingTuesday has grown over the last four years into a day to actively resist the precedent for the season otherwise set by Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

That’s right, a day to change the tone, to see the season through the light of a different necessity—what if we busted down doors to find the quickest path to generosity—to swim upstream against the current of our culture, which, finds its downstream momentum this time of year in retail sales benchmarks and in the acquisition of things (that are prone to moths and rust destroying).

How do you actively resist on #GivingTuesday? It’s not easy. It might even feel like your setting up an outpost in the culture wars, but trust that your outpost will be a beacon of hope in the battle, an eventual stronghold that will have its place in turning the tide.

In short, on #GivingTuesday, give it away. Give your money away, your time, give the gospel of grace. Be about sacrifice. Believe that it will matter. Believe that it will change you as much as it makes a difference to others. But you have to get ready now. You have to figure out how you’re going to navigate Friday and Monday in order to be poised for Tuesday. Join the movement. Give it away on #GivingTuesday.

Newer posts Older posts