Merge is the word. Driving down here’s is crazy! They don’t look left or right, they just keep on going. We’re standing in front of our hotel waiting for our ride and right in front of us two motorcycles collided coming down a hill. They barely stopped to check for damage before continuing down the hill!
The cafes are filling, the dance halls are opening and the music is blaring from every building, doorway, cafe and vendor in the city, and it’s only Thursday. We are meeting in a rented room at a nearby hotel.
This afternoon we met with pastor John Sandoval and Diego, the man who picked us up at the airport. Diego is in preparation to become an elder. He sells insurance to support his family but needs more time to help homeschool his children and work in the church so he’s looking at baking and selling artisan bread. He and his wife experimented during Covid and found a recipe that they liked.
We were anxious to meet Pastor Sandoval as we have heard much about him in the years we have been coming. He is a highly respected Presbyterian pastor in Bucaramanga. When we met outside of our hotel I was taken back. I was expecting a much older man! I don’t even think he’s in his mid 30s. He has a wife and two boys ages two and seven. He has a real burden for the expansion of the Reformed church in Colombia. Like Javier, he is committed to mentoring and teaching. His church has planted two others outside of Bucaramanga and is working on a third. The model is to raise up a strong leader and send him off with several families from the church. We understand that the plants themselves are strong. He is also a satellite teacher for SRL.
What we talked a great bit about was his work in Venezuela. To get a better idea of what is going on in Venezuela, just google it. It is worse than we could ever imagine, literally. The government and those who work for it are doing fine. They take all the money. They get their goods from international merchants who also live in Venezuela. They come from China, Germany, the Middle East and Korea. The rest of the people have NOTHING! They are paid $5 for one month of work! You read that correctly. With tears in their eyes the brothers told us that our Venezuelan brothers can only buy what they need to survive from the black market. Literally, they meet in dark places in the night to get food for their families. A lb of rice costs $8; a dozen eggs $6, and a chicken $15. Do the math. How are they surviving? Hundreds of thousands have left the country to go wherever they can get a job and send money back to their families. John goes over with clothes and money and medicine from the church in Colombia. He encourages them with the Word of God and supplies. This endeavor is a dangerous one. They can tell as soon as he opens his mouth that he is from Colombia. People are desperate and godless. He could be kidnapped, robbed, detained. One trip they held him for hours asking him over and over why he was there, he kept telling them that he was a pastor. Finally they asked “what is in Romans 3?” and he was released. He will be leaving tomorrow to minister to them for two weeks. While the Venezuelan boarder is only 4 hours from Bucaramanga, it is far too dangerous to drive there. There are no flights from Colombia to Venezuela. So he has to fly to Panama then three other places to get there. It will take over a day to get there. The two pastors he is going to encourage have engineering degrees and could get jobs in other countries but choose to stay there to minister to the church which, by the way, is growing. “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. Pastor John is a life line to them in many ways. If you are burdened for these brothers and sisters and would like to help them financially, let us know and we will get the funds there.
Yours in the Lord Jesus, Diedre