Martes (Tuesday) July 9, 2019
On the evening of July 9th, 2019 I boarded an airplane headed for Bogota, Colombia. I had a layover in Houston, where I met up with Alfred Irizarry and his mother Pilar. At the airport I was able to practice a little of my poor Spanish with some of the people who were heading to Colombia. As I was boarding I spoke with an oil-field worker about the country of Colombia. He assured me that the people in the country are very Christian minded and talk about the Lord all the time. This helped to alleviate my minor concern about my safety in Colombia. He was happy to receive a copy of my recent booklet, The Source of Love, and the tract, Finding Your Identity. I try to always have literature available to give to people.
On the airplane my seat companions were an outspoken chef and a very nice Catholic man, who were both excited to talk about the Lord and their favorite part of the world, Colombia. The chef asked me how I came to the Lord. I was happy to have the opportunity to share my conversion testimony to such an eager audience. They were glad to receive a written copy of my conversion story, along with The Source of Love, and the tract, Finding Your Identity.
Miércoles (Wednesday) July 10
We arrived just before 5am in Bogota and stayed in the lovely home of Giovanni and Jhanna where we were warmly welcomed by several brethren from various locations. We spent the day getting ready for the upcoming camp meeting. That evening we were happy to participate in an evening meeting that was lively with testimonies from people from many different countries. I was privileged to see some brethren whom I have not seen in years. I also met some people whom I had corresponded with by email. Several of my books have been translated into Spanish which have been widely distributed in many countries in Central and South America, so several people knew me through the books, and I was now privileged to meet them in person. Later, our kind hosts acquired extra mattresses and spread out sleeping areas for about twenty people.
Jueves (Thursday) July 11
Several other brethren from other areas arrived on Thursday. The house nearly reached its maximum capacity. After morning worship we were treated with a variety of local fruits, including guava, granadilla (similar to passion fruit), and tomate de arbol (Tree tomato), pitalla (a bumpy yellow-skinned fruit with pale-white flesh and small black seeds that are soft and pleasant – this was my favorite of the new fruits I tried).
About forty of us boarded a bus and traveled three hours to a beautiful camp meeting area in San Francisco, Colombia at about 5,800 feet elevation. In Bogota we were at 8,400 feet, so it is warmer in San Francisco and it is surrounded by beautiful mountains. The location for the meetings was well maintained and very inviting. For the first meeting there were about 80 people in attendance from about ten different countries. The meeting started with some vibrant singing, after which I spoke on our need to be born again, and shared my testimony of how God delivered me from drugs. The Lord led some to dedicate and rededicate their lives to God.
That evening I had the privilege of sharing a room with three of my brothers in Christ. It cost $10 per person to stay in a tent, and $40 per person to stay in a room. That cost was for three nights and included three meals per day, and the meeting area was available for no additional cost. It was a very beautiful and economical place to have a camp meeting.
Viernes (Friday) July 12
During the day on Friday we were blessed by some great messages about health, country life, and admonishments to give glory to God in preparation for Christ’s soon return (Revelation 14:6-12). After supper I was asked to share a shortened version of the study on being born again with a few people who had not been able to attend the first message. Brother Alfred did a great job translating for me, and it was beautiful to see the Lord softening hearts to receive Christ.
Sábado (Sabbath) July 13
The day was filled with practical studies on working for the Lord, God’s supernatural power to protect the Bible, consecration, and the love God. There were times for small group Bible studies as well. In the evening several people dedicated their lives to God in baptism.
I went to sleep early since I was to preach at 5:30 the next morning.
Domingo (Sunday) July 14
The morning meeting started with songs at 5:30, and my sermon at 6am. I shared the message, The Source of Love, similar to my recent booklet on the topic, demonstrating our need for love and how we can acquire it. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). The Lord really blessed this presentation and several people commented on how much more deeply they could see the incredible love of God.
For the next meeting everyone representing a country or particular regions of Colombia was asked to come to the front as a group and introduce themselves so everyone could be known. It was beautiful to see so many areas represented at the camp meeting. Some had come from very far away.
After lunch everyone was busy packing to get ready for a bus to bring us back to Bogota, but not too busy to pose for a lot of pictures. The weather had been mostly cloudy, but this day it was sunny and mostly clear, which made for some great photos with the mountains in the background.
About forty of us boarded the bus and sang songs the three hours back to Bogota. The theme song that was sung over and over at the camp was sung over and over in the bus as well. It is thoroughly stuck in my mind now, and I like it. The chorus, “Oh, el Rey ya viene, el Rey ya viene!” (The king is coming) was sung with exuberance.
About twenty of us again packed into Giovanni’s home. We had a great evening of fellowship and a peaceful night’s rest.
Lunes (Monday) July 15
We spent Monday getting laundry done and making preparations for our next trip. We were scheduled to leave Tuesday morning to look at a possible piece of property for a school to be located. The local brethren in Colombia have started a medical and missionary training school called “The Madison Foundation,” and they want to expand. They already have a bakery to support the work.
Martes (Tuesday) July 16
We awoke early enough to get packed and out to the road by 6:15 to wait for a taxi to bring us to the bus so we could take a three-hour trip where we would look at the potential property for their school. The property is impressive. There is a lot of work to do to get it up and running, but it has great potential. The property has three large structures along with two houses, many fruit trees, very large bamboo, a raging river running along the edge, and a beautiful view of the mountains on all sides.
The evening was filled with praises to God in song and prayer, along with some beautiful fellowship. The people in Colombia in general are warm and friendly. The weather is very nice, and whatever location you are in, the temperature pretty much remains the same all year because they are so close to the equator.
Miércoles (Wednesday) July 17
We awoke refreshed and got ready for a long trip to visit some brethren in a jungle area near Puerto Rico, Colombia. Before leaving the brethren had a discussion about the new missionary training school they are starting. I didn’t understand everything they said, but enough to be excited about the project. I pray that God will bless it abundantly and cause it to bring many people into His kingdom. If you would like to support this work, contact the brethren at www.juan173.org.
Along the trip back to Bogota, while stopping in the town, Oscar and I walked through the city park, where we met two men to whom we gave a Spanish copy of God’s Love on Trial. Oscar is the man who translated that book into Spanish, so it was a special treat for us to be distributing it together.
Shortly after arriving back in Bogota we loaded up in two van taxis to take the twenty of us and our luggage to a large bus station, where we found out that no busses were going to the city of Puerto Rico that night, and that we would have to stay at the bus station until 4:30 and 5am when we could catch the first two busses in the morning. We tried to sleep, but the bus station has a policy that will not allow you to lay down on the floor, and whenever you did a security guard would wake you up and make you sit up. I got about an hour’s worth of sleep leaning against a large post. Others had similar success at sleeping, while some just stayed awake the whole night.
Jueves (Thursday) July 18
One small bus left at 4:30am and brought half of our crew, while another small bus left at 5am and brought the rest of us on our journey to Puerto Rico, Colombia. The trip consisted of about eighteen hours on a bus followed by a forty-five minute float down a river in a large canoe and about an hour on foot through the jungle. The location is outside of electrical service except for their small solar panels. The reason the trip is so long is because recent rains have caused landslides that destroyed bridges and a large section of a key road. This bus ride was normally a five-hour trip, but on this day it took eighteen hours. We arrived at Brother Jaime’s house near Puerto Rico late in the evening, where we would spend the rest of the night.
Viernes (Friday) July 19
Early in the morning we took two taxis from Jaime’s house to Puerto Rico. As we passed another taxi beside the road that had a flat tire, our taxi driver stopped and provided a jack to get the job done more quickly. It was refreshing to see strangers helping each other like that.
After arriving in Puerto Rico we boarded a larger than usual canoe with a motor mounted on the back to take a 45-minute trip up a river. They also loaded a motorcycle onto the canoe. We were headed to the house of Brother Arnulfo where we would be staying for the next few days. After the canoe trip we began the one hour walk to Arnulfo’s house. Along the walk we saw a large group of small monkeys climbing in the trees. One was carrying a baby, and all were making lots of noise. We also saw some leaf-cutter ants carrying pieces of leaves.
We arrived at Brother Arnulfo’s house which was a simple structure with dirt floors. The people there didn’t have a lot to work with, but they were very hospitable. They served us lunch, water, and fruit drinks. After lunch several brethren from the local area arrived and congregated in the meeting area. At 2pm I shared a study on the importance of being born again, along with my testimony of being delivered from drugs. Some other brothers shared studies on the gospel and righteousness by faith.
After supper brother William and his wife shared with me his testimony of being delivered from drugs. He started drinking, and smoking cigarettes and marijuana at 13, and continued until the age of 27. He was an atheist who did not believe in God at all, and was a guitarist trying to make it big into the music industry. He came to a place where he was in great trouble and, out of nowhere, he called upon God, saying God save me. He thought that was strange since he didn’t believe in God, but that night in his sleep he was overwhelmed by God’s love for him, and in the morning noticed that the marks on his arms from the drugs were gone. He was completely delivered from drugs and never did them again. That is an amazing testimony of God’s power to heal and deliver from addiction.
Sábado (Sabbath) July 20
We were awoken at 4:30am to get ready for a study at 6am by Brother William who shared a message on justification. Several more local brethren joined us in the meeting area after breakfast. Some powerful messages of God’s love were shared, and after lunch I shared a message on The Source of Love focusing on 1 John 4:7, 8, which says, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
After a short break Brother Alfred shared a message encouraging us to treat others with love and respect even when they are difficult. In the evening Brother Jaime shared a message on moving “From Servants to Sons” explaining how God accepts us as His children and does not want us to view ourselves as servants (Galatians 4:6, 7).
Domingo (Sunday) July 21
After breakfast we packed our things to get ready for the long trip back to Bogota. A mule was loaded with a large amount of luggage, and a couple motorcycles carried the ladies along the one-hour walk on a narrow dirt road to the canoe. The large canoe was loaded again with our luggage, a motorcycle, and about twenty of us. I got the privilege to ride at the front of the boat, and it was my job to look for logs or other debris in the river that could be a problem for the motor. It was very peaceful to be riding on a canoe in Colombia enjoying the view. Afterwards, we loaded our things into two taxis to bring us to the bus station where we boarded a large, comfortable bus for the eighteen-hour trip back to Bogota. This was a lot nicer than our first trip. The bus had a bathroom in the back, and we only stopped once or twice to allow people to get food at a restaurant. I was able to get some sleep on this bus. We arrived early the next morning in Bogota.
Lunes (Monday) July 22
We spent the day packing to be ready for our flights home. Several of us also took the bus downtown where we did some shopping and drank some delicious lemonade made from freshly squeezed sugarcane and limes. On one of the busses we were smashed in so tightly that the door barely shut, and there was no room to move around.
Martes (Tuesday) July 23
We awoke at 4am to get ready to leave for the airport at 5am. It was hard to say goodbye to my new friends and brothers in Christ. We made it to the airport with plenty of time to make my flight. I was concerned because my flight back was delayed about an hour, and I was not sure I would be able to make my connecting flight. I had only an hour and 35 minutes scheduled between flights in Houston, and I had to go through US Customs in that time. I learned that I should not be alarmed or concerned, since our heavenly Father is looking out for us (Philippians 4:6). Amazingly, I went through customs very quickly. I only waited in line for about five minutes. I made it to my next flight right before they started boarding, so I had plenty of time. Praise God!
By the grace of God, I arrived home safely. Overall it was a very good trip filled with rich Bible studies, wonderful fellowship, divine protection, and several baptisms. The Lord blessed in so many ways. I have a new appreciation for Colombia and the work the Lord is doing there. If you would like to learn more about the work there, or help with the school they are starting, contact https://juan173.org/. Please pray for more laborers in the harvest to help spread the gospel all over the world.